7 Problems With Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX [Hands-on Preview]

He's Been Having These Weird Thoughts Lately…

PS3-exclusive Kingdom Hearts II.5 HD ReMIX (ugh, it's hard to make myself type "II.5") is overall a great package for longtime fans and complete newcomers alike. With its HD upgrades, rearranged soundtrack, and inclusion of "Final Mix" content never before seen outside of Japan, it's going to make a lot of folks happy when it's released on December 2.


There are, however, some problems that bear discussion, most notably in how it treats the time, experience level, and skill of you, the player.

Forced Tutorials

Some players are going into these games for the first time. Some, however, will be playing for the second, third, or twenty-third time. I've already played the games in this package and I don't need the tutorials; the same might be true for you. Still, we're all required to sit through them and trudge forward through each game's slow-moving early content, even on Critical difficulty.

Yes, Critical difficulty, which is a new addition above Proud difficulty and almost certainly aimed at players who've already cleared this game (perhaps multiple times), still makes players waste their precious time jumping through hoops to "learn" the system. It's not a huge amount in all honesty, but fuck, I'm getting old; death could be at my door and I gotta go, go, go, man.


You know how, when company's coming over really soon, you sweep stuff under the rug and throw stuff where it doesn't belong just to get it hidden? I'm like that with death. It's gonna be here any time, so every wasted moment just makes me think about how much I want to avoid wasting the next one. And when the next one gets wasted as well, then I guess I'm playing the beginning of a Kingdom Hearts game.

I Get No Respect, I Tell Ya, No respect At All!
People love trophies (well, not me, but other people) and leader boards because they like confirmation of how awesome they are. These games, however, do not understand how awesome I am.

Honestly, these learning segments add little if any characterization and aren't essential to the story. In a re-release, they should be treated like cutscenes. Story sequences can be skipped, why not tutorial segments as well? Just add a dialogue box:


You're playing on Critical Difficulty. You are probably a badass. Roxas runs up a hill and fights some "boss," the point of which is to teach you to use those triangle commands. You probably already know your shit though. Wanna skip this?
-> Yes
-> No

Problem (and time) solved! Giant segments of Kingdom Hearts II's early going were thinly veiled tutorials that could've been cut. Players who just want to get to the good parts should be able to, after having handed over money for these games twice each.

Kingdom Hearts II's Botched Opening

Before buying this game, I remembered and dreaded Kingdom Hearts II's opening moments with Roxas in Twilight Town. Nonetheless, I started it up, thinking that it couldn't possibly be as bad as I remembered.

Imagine packing up a car and being told by your parents that you're going to Disney World, but then your parents stopping in Gettysburg and Washington D.C. for days of battlefield and war memorial tours first.

"But if all these wars had turned out differently," they say when you ask impatiently when the promised Disney trip will finally happen, "There might be no Disney and no Final Fantasy at all!"


I don't care. Okay, yes, I do care, but I want to think about that part later. Let me think about the fun part now, because that's what I bought. I bought a fun game supposedly drowning in Disney and Final Fantasy stuff. At least give me engaging gameplay and/or characters from the first game if those other things aren't here. That's what you sold me. That's what you sold me and I bought. I bought it because you were selling it that way. The way that you sold it. It was that way. That way that I thought it was going to be, because of the way you were selling it. Sentence fragments.


Notice how Disney and Sora are all over the place in Kingdom Hearts II promos? Yeah. Not nearly as much Roxas, and there's a reason for that. His actual game content is awful, spent mostly on busywork like errands and subplots that have little to do with the overlying story.

I understand that Roxas is an important part of the Kingdom Hearts universe, and an interesting one at that. But his gameplay bits are poorly constructed. They could have been structured a lot better. I feel like Square Enix and/or Tetsuya Nomura must have wanted players to like Roxas, so they asked something like "How can we make players care about this guy? More time with him," and then went ahead with making his entire intro into little more than hours of fluff, filler, fluffy fluffy filler filler, which fills and fills the voids with its fluffy flufferificness.


You don't reach the Kingdom Hearts II endgame and go "Oooooh, shiiiiit, that's such a surprise, because earlier in the game I had to smack a ball around with a blue bat!" or "Man, this really puts the flier posting into perspective. Mmmm hmmm, yes indeed." No. Little of this matters.

It's three to five hours of gameplay that could have been boiled down into about one.


Twilight Town: Embracing the Bare Minimum Since 2005

While Traverse Town felt endearing and a lot like Disneyland's own Toon Town, Twilight Town suffers from a lack of flair. There's no personality here. It's big, wide, and empty — a giant boring place. Having to drag ass around its blandscapes only adds to the chore that is Kingdom Hearts II's opening hours.


RE: Coded is a Terrible Movie

Kingdom Hearts: Coded was a Japan-only mobile phone game that later got a port to the Nintendo DS under its new title Kingdom Hearts RE: Coded. It's included in KH 2.5 HD ReMIX as a movie.
The problem with RE: Coded as a movie is that movies and mobile games are designed from entirely different angles. Mobile games, especially cellphone games are designed for quick fixes. Play one mission on the train, another waiting for the dentist, another on the way home and you're done. Interruptions may come at any time, and the game design is built around this. A movie is generally produced with the expectation that a viewer can (and usually will) sit down and watch it in one go.

Kingdom Hearts RE: Coded's story, however, wasn't exactly a highlight moment in series history.

So a three-hour movie that removes any of the jumping, puzzle solving, and keyblade smashing, gets, frankly, kind of boring. Kingdom Hearts has a world I like and story I can't help but enjoy, but yikes, the RE: Coded video here wasn't even a step up from the boring 358/2 Days video that the first HD package contained.


Birth by Sleeping Through the First Parts of a Game


More of that tutorial problem shows up in the PSP-gone-PS3 game Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Having beaten and loved the PSP version, I'm well aware that you have to get used to each character's different play style. Allowing the players to get a handle on combat is a great, necessary inclusion, but again, I feel this should have been skippable like a cutscene. Yet it's mandatory, even when selecting Critical difficulty.


Just ask if we've played the game already. If we say yes, boom, let us skip.

Yeah, that's the only bad thing I can say about Birth by Sleep though. If you never played it on PSP — and statistically speaking, especially outside of Japan, you probably didn't — then that game is the biggest reason to pick up the second HD ReMIX of the series.


It's Not the End of the HD Milk Man


If Square Enix gonna Square Enix, you can expect that this bundle's release brings fans no closer to Kingdom Hearts III. The popular rumor is that Dream Drop Distance is next in line for HD treatment. Whether that means a playable game or just included as a movie alongside something else is as much a mystery as everything else about the franchise's future right now. Square Enix's pattern, however, tends to push back sequel progress in favor of getting out the ports and remakes first.

Stay aesthetically pleasing, my friends.