Let’s get straight to it–I’m ecstatic to finally talk about one of my favorite series today: Kingdom Hearts.
In what is hopefully a true preparation for the release of Kingdom Hearts III at some point in the future, Square Enix has been releasing HD ports of the Final Mix version of the Kingdom Hearts games for PS3. On top of remastering the two original PS2 games, they pack in one handheld title to play and the cutscenes for another. Last winter I spent more time with the PS3 version than I ever did with the first game—and there is good reason for that.
Back when I played Kingdom Hearts, both main games had already been released. This meant I felt no need to savor the first game. I never realized all of the extra bosses or how fun synthesis can be for someone who likes checklists. This made replaying the game feel like a brand new experience—except for Alice in Wonderland. Fuck Alice in Wonderland.
I think this is because unlike so many JRPGs–at least more modern ones–you are never beaten over the head with what the potential secrets are. I was able to assume this was the way to obtain the Ultima keyblade and able to see that I could make potions, never imagining the wide variety of accessories and materials that came in between the two. It is the same way with the secret bosses. This was a game where I wanted to finish everything in the world on my first visit (a mindset I can’t fathom now). This means I never knew that talking to Wendy at the clock tower in Neverland or the magic carpet in Agrabah would take me to these long, difficult, and detailed boss battles. None of these were ones you could brute force. Each has a specific strategy you had to know to win and that still didn’t guarantee you victory. The only secret boss battles I even knew about were the ones at the Coliseum, and that’s probably because they list it out for you if you win the tournaments.
And the remake doesn’t change any of this. Instead, my friend and I wanted bear hug all of the content this time around, so we looked everything up online. Even with PSN trophies, all of the ones you get for beating secret bosses were hidden. This was just our chance to give the game the time and obsession it deserved back in high school.
What it did add was meant to spice up the more mundane parts of the game, making sure there was something new for everyone, not just people like me who blitz through it. There are multiple new Heartless who resemble the secret bosses. All of them take a certain strategy to be able to beat them. For example, there are these monkeys in Traverse Town that will become invincible if you do not kill each wave of them in a very short amount of time If they become impossible to hit, you better run for the exits; you’re doomed.
But the sneakiest trick this version pulls? These complicated Heartless now are the sole droppers of many synthesis items. This means that you not only have to pull off whatever Herculean feat once, but as many times as it takes to get the stones you need.
Seriously, I don’t even know how many times I went in with a kill or be killed mindset with those monkeys. Spoiler: I died a lot.
But these little tweaks to the main game made sure there was a surprise for anyone. These enemies don’t spawn every time in the same place. This means at some point a veteran player would have to get caught off guard. I mean, unless they imported this version from Japan ten years ago for which I have a lot of respect. I do not have the patience for that.
So no matter how much of a cash grab this release might have been, it did so many things right:
1. This game was old enough that fewer and fewer people had access to it. I also know that some older games–even those on the PS2–don’t look right on modern TVs. This was not a “Definitive Edition” of a game that is one or two years old. It was a chance for a new generation to have the same experience I did as a teenager.
2. It introduced content that was not originally localized here. This was a time a good five years or so before the extra enemies and items could have been sold as DLC. Square had to re-release the entire game even for its customers to experience it.
3. Most of all, even if most sleazy of all, it was a fan service that we wanted. I know I can’t speak for the world, but I do know that as an avid fan, this was the next best thing to a true console sequel. It had been so long since I saw it on the big screen that I was happy to get my hands on it.
So how do you feel? Over the last couple of months, you’ve heard my thoughts on remakes. How about you? Absolutely awesome and actually atrocious? Comment with your pros and cons.
And stay tuned!