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E3 2014: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix Adds A New Coat of Paint and Not Much Else

Square Enix

I really want to tell you that Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix is more than just another visually upgraded package of Kingdom Hearts games we’ve played before. I’d like to say that if you’re a Kingdom Hearts aficionado, that this game is worth considering for more than just “condense three games’ worth of shelf space into one” reasons. Based on what I played at the Square Enix booth at E3 last week, neither of those things are true, but there’s plenty of time between now and Dec. 2 release, so perhaps more will be added to the package soon.

My demo consisted of the boss fight from the first trip to Beast’s Castle in Kingdom Hearts II. It’s a two-part fight against the round Shadow Stalker and the massive Dark Thorn, for those who don’t recall. It starts with the same cutscene as before; we see Belle running from the Beast, who has made her angry, then the orb-like Stalker drops from the ceiling of the Ballroom and the battle begins.

All of the enhancements from the original Kingdom Hearts to the sequel are intact, including the quick-time action sequences mid-boss for extra damage (here we fling up to the chandelier and drop it on the boss). The game plays exactly as Kingdom Hearts II did in 2006, without any control changes or modifications. Some might see this as a good thing, as they’ll be able to jump right back in where they left off, but I was sort of hoping for some kind of enhancement in control.

I will say this: the game looks fantastic. The HD upgrades really make colors pop and backgrounds look even more detailed than before. The visual upgrade did not hurt any other of the game, thankfully, as the action still raged on as quickly as before. Unfortunately the move to HD and a more advanced system did nothing for the dopey partner A.I., as both Goofy and Beast were seen swatting at the air long after the boss had moved to another part of the map. I’m glad Donald wasn’t part of this demo, or I’d have seen Fire spells being thrown across the room at nothing.

As much as I’m griping about what hasn’t been changed, I’m wondering if that’s a bad thing. Kingdom Hearts II was lauded as a terrific game back in 2006, so not fixing what isn’t broken definitely makes sense. Those who missed out on the game (or the series) before will now have the entire franchise and its wacky, hard-to-follow story condensed into two HD remake releases, giving ample time to get caught up before Kingdom Hearts III comes out whenever Square decides to launch it.

Square Enix

Still, just slapping a coat of HD paint and pushing it out the door seems a bit lazy, as Square had the opportunity to really fine-tune the game for the PS3 and seemingly hasn’t done it. I suppose Kingdom Hearts fans won’t mind just a graphics retouch, and those who weren’t fans before wouldn’t know the difference anyway, so I guess I just better end with this: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix does for the second half of the series what 1.5 HD did for the first half, bringing three epic stories on one disc to life with beautifully enhanced visuals.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix will be available on Dec. 2 for the PlayStation 3.

Next: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: E3 2014 Preview

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