Friday, November 27, 2020

Deep Look: Kingdom Hearts - The Story So Far

Disney and Square-Enix’s Kingdom Hearts series began as a result of an elevator meeting between executives from both companies (when the original was still Squaresoft), with their resultant franchise enjoying plentiful success to the point where they turned it into a franchise by releasing the Game Boy Advance title Chain of Memories to tie into the second numbered game that would see release a few years later, and over a decade passed before the third numeric entry released, with Square-Enix content to release endless HD remasters and ports. Among the latest collections is Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far for the PlayStation 4, which combines prior HD releases leading up to the third official game. Is it a worthwhile experience?

The Story So Far combines the collections numbered I.5, II.5, and II.8, with playable remasters of Kingdom Hearts Final MixRe:Chain of MemoriesKingdom Hearts II Final MixBirth by Sleep, and Dream Drop Distance, along with the mini-game 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage. Also included are HD versions of the cutscenes only for side-games 358/2 Days and Re:Coded, along with distant backstory for the franchise entitled Back Cover. Given that I more enjoyed the narrative of some of the minor titles like 358/2 Days, I would have preferred it to be playable instead of just having the cutscenes, but oh well.

The quality of the playable games included is also somewhat inconsistent, from the high of 0.2 to the low of Re:Chain of Memories. The original Kingdom Hearts, especially on its Beginner difficulty, is definitely a great JRPG for younger audiences, given its forgiving difficulty and bonuses on its easiest challenge setting, though I definitely preferred Kingdom Hearts II, given its more refined mechanics. Dream Drop Distance definitely had the potential to be one of the strongest entries of the franchise, although some glitchiness brought it down in the end, and I had encountered said glitches towards the end, which somewhat irked me.

In the end, while I wouldn’t call my experience with the Kingdom Hearts titles prior to the third numbered entry a waste of time, there are many issues that make me hesitant to recommend it to mainstream videogame audiences such as the general “kiddie” nature of most of the games in the franchise, not to mention the occasional frustrations of titles such as Re:Chain of Memories and the endgame glitches in Dream Drop Distance. A collection including all HD remasters and the official third entry has since released, so interested audiences would definitely be better off purchasing that, if still available.


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