Status: Primary game complete, finished Traverse Town in Chain of Memories before getting disgusted, 358/2 Days (properly) ignored
Most Intriguing Idea: Fanfic, the video game!
Best Design Decision: Orbs! Billions of orbs!
Worst Design Decision: The special Heartless.
Although action RPG design has seen a lot of iteration since its release, Kingdom Hearts holds up surprisingly well. The action is a little stiff by current standards, and the battle action menu still feels janky, but fighting remains a lot of fun and the incredibly satisfying cascade of orbs that pops out of defeated foes is a very rewarding expression of the concept of hitting an enemy until loot pops out. The Final Mix doesn’t do the game any favors, though. The difficulty seems more herky-jerky here than in the original, although this may be the golden fog of nostalgia speaking. Trickmaster, always a bit too technical of a battle for so early in the game, but never one that gave me trouble in the original, seemed especially poorly recalibrated. Worse are the new special monsters that must be fought to obtain the various “Stone” materials for synthesis. While some of these are fun, most of them represent the worst sort of FAQ-baiting RPG nonsense, and the relatively low drop percentage leads to some stultifying grinding. As a result, the synthesis system goes from an attainable struggle to a forbidding grind.
As for the HD upgrade, the less said the better. Highly animated character models in some machinima have been upgraded, but in others the same pixellated faces from the original seem to be employed. Blurry images and textures are everywhere, from the world names in the pause menu to in-game art (e.g. the Mad Hatter and March Hare). The main problem isn’t so much that the HD upgrade is bad (although it is), it’s that it’s so inconsistent that jarring new errors are constantly popping into view amidst the renewed splendor. This shows even in the game’s final post-credits cutscene, where the characters and grass have been updated, but the skybox clearly hasn’t. The whole thing has the feel of an upgrade put together by interns, and as a result I am rather concerned that the coming update for Final Fantasy X/X-2 will be of similarly low quality. There’s still time to cancel your pre-order for that, though.
As for the other inclusions, Chain of Memories’ card-based combat system really doesn’t appeal to me, and 358/2 Days has the worst story of any series entry I’ve played. Sitting through those cutscenes without being able to whack some Heartless to alleviate the boredom seems horrible to me.
I’m sure that Kingdom Hearts and its sequel will eventually be streaming on Gaikai, so KH1.5 is really only for Disney/Square fans who have A) a PS3 and B) no intention of getting a PS4.
Verdict: See above, but mainly avoid.