With Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days being the first ever Square Enix and Kingdom Hearts game I ever played, I decided to learn more about the story and gameplay using a hands-on approach with the PS4 compilations. As I mentioned in the Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days review, the series is a crossover between Square Enix IPS from Final Fantasy and The World Ends With You to Disney Franchises from Mickey Mouse to The Lion King. This is a PS4 remaster of the previous games released Kingdom Hearts 1, 2, Chain Of Memories and Birth By Sleep. 358/2 days and Recoded are fully voiced high definition cutscenes only and are played out as a movie. But there are extras such as Character Profiles and Chronicles detailing the events of what has happened.
The control system is familiar to previous players and accessible to new players of the game. In later games, you can change the control system from either the current game you are playing or other previous Kingdom Hearts games 1 and 2 as seen in Birth By Sleep. The camera system for the most part is comfortable and easy to use as well and you can switch to first person and third person view at any time. Loading times were pretty quick transitions and for the most part I never really encountered any glitches.
The games combat is one of its biggest highlights. Throughout the games, combat utilizes hack and slash mechanics with JRPG elements and its fast paced. You level gain experience points after defeating enemies and in important battles, you could even receive bonuses such as new abilities or increasing health/magic points. You can also collect items enemies drop sometimes.
During the early parts of Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, you can choose which skill you want to master. Do you want to focus on magic, defense or just combat only. You can either take or deal more damage based upon which set of skills you are focused on. Depending on the questions you answer in Kingdom Hearts 1 you can either level up quicker but slower later on, slower but quicker later on or to choose a more balanced approach to leveling up. Combat in the game is also customizable to your own personal preferences in playstyle.
In Birth By Sleep, one other way to level up outside of combat is the command board which is a in game board game where players can land on different squares to get different kinds of prizes. The user interface is very detailed and easy to learn and the worlds you visit they have creative designs based on the world you are in such as the spooky design of Halloweentown and the edgy graffiti design while using a skateboard. You can change the hud commands back to the original design of Kingdom Hearts 1 if you like.
Each game has its own mechanics and variations of its gameplay system. In Kingdom Hearts 2, Mickey Mouse can revive you at anytime in case you are downed at certain points in the game. Later games have you the ability to exit the battle or retry challenges to avoid having to go through the same paths just to face the boss over and over again.In Kingdom Hearts 1 you could earn tech points after defending yourself from attacks or using enemies weaknesses against them and this helps you level up along the way.
A cards system is utilized in Kingdom Hearts Chain Of Memories in order to work with the system limitations for the gameboy advance. The cards system is where you can assign different cards with each card having its own special trick such as increased reload time or damage. Once you have used up all your cards, you have to reload them and the more you reload the longer it takes. Cards are also given numeric orders and if an enemy has a higher numeric value than your card, then it will break and vice versa. You use cards for many different purposes, from summoning allies, casting spells to launching keyblade attacks. In addition, key cards are used to open doors and there are different kind of cards to find to unlock doors such as finding save points or treasure. You need to find the right number and the right color for the doors in order to open them. You can use up to 3 sets of cards to summon a sleight ability like strike raid or use 3 of the same cards to have a more powerful version of the card you are using. You can also mix cards up together to have different combinations of abilities as well.
You have to visit different floors as you pass through Castle Oblivion in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, and you can choose whatever world you want to visit depending on what card you have. Each world in Castle Oblivion operates like a deadly maze with its own traps and hazards some of which can be used to stun or put enemies to sleep. You can explore the maze like worlds however you see fit as its quite non linear.
Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep combat is heavily overhauled and introduces a command system. This is where you are able to customize by adding or removing different abilities, spells or items and choose what kind of strategic layout you want to have for the attack system. You can level up your commands the more you use them and they become more powerful such as when the fire spell becomes fira, a more powerful variant of fire. In addition, you are able to meld commands to learn new abilities, along with having a synthesis item and with frequent use, it will become an auto ability so even when you remove whatever skill you have at the moment, the beneficial effect that comes with the ability you had will still be counted as equipped.
Dimension links or d-links gives you the powers of the many of the characters you encountered in Birth By Sleep to your combat move set. This will also restore your health fully and you can increase the sync rate as well the more you utilize it. The more you attack enemies, the more it fills up your finisher gauge that unleashes a powerful attack and you can equip different kinds of finisher attacks and increase the power of it. Focus attacks in Birth By Sleep by holding down the l1 and r1 buttons. You can lock onto enemies and release a series of deadly attacks to them.
In Chain Of Memories, once you level up you can choose to have additional card slots, health or a new ability sleight for the cards. There is a variety of Heartless too, many are exclusive to the worlds they appear in such as the Ghostly design of Heartless In HalloweenTown to the Middle Eastern Bandits design in Agrabah.
Sometimes rare Heartless may appear in locations and defeating them will give you rare items to use across your journey. Heartless can inflict status effects on you such as poison or sleep. You can stun enemies and use spells to put status inflictions in return. You utilize a weapon known as the keyblade to defeat the Heartless.
There is a wide variety of keyblades with its own special abilities from critical rate increasement or increased magic points. You can block and send projectiles back to enemies. You can fight multiple enemies at a time and you can lock onto them.
You can fight waves of different kinds of enemies in the Coliseum in Olympus and win trophies. You can also practice your combat skills in the Coliseum. Eventually, you can decide to choose which part of the rounds you want to take in the Coliseum. Instead of doing all 10, you can just select to round 10 or start off at round 5 instead of round one. The Coliseum in Olympus is a great way to level up Sora, Donald and Goofy and you can earn rare prizes once you finished them.
Kingdom Hearts 2 combat has been tweaked. In competition, instead of just fighting waves of enemies, there is also certain conditions such as fighting enemies in the dark or clear them before the time runs out. In addition, you also can have either increased recharge rate for your drive gauge for limit forms or decreases the amount of time it takes to recharge for magic.
In Birth By Sleep, you can fight in the Moogle arena where you can earn medals and prizes. You can choose what kind of fights you want to be in and the more challenging the fight, the rarer the prize and you can use medals to obtain different prizes you earn in the Moogle arena. You can customize your own armor by changing the colors in the Moogle arena. In Arena mode, you can also rank up to fight more difficult types of enemies later on.
One battle in Kingdom Hearts, you fight over 1000 Heartless all by yourself. They are relentless and will not stop attacking as the stakes are raised and the situation becomes increasingly dangerous and chaotic. Boss fights are challenging, creative and unique and never feels boring. You fight many Disney villains such as Maleficent or Hades and each fight has its own strategy to defeat the enemy.
You can learn many different magical spells to utilize throughout the game such as cure to heal yourself or gravity to set enemies down to the ground. Spells are eventually upgraded into more powerful versions as the game progresses. The magic gauge is reduced the more you use magic, but you can increase it by leveling up and refill it with ether. In later games, the magic gauge can refill itself.
You can equip various abilities to help you throughout your journey. Glide helps you fly for a limited time and strike raid allows you to use your keyblade like a boomerang to hit enemies. Some abilities can be shared between you and your party mates.
You can only equip a certain amount of abilities at a time in Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 but as you progress you can find AP points which allows you to increase the amount of abilities you have. Simialiry, you can also find magic points and attack and defense points which increases your magic, strength and defense in combat.
Other than just abilities, you can find many different armor and accessories to increase your stats and resistance to certain elements like fire or lighting. You can also equip different kinds of armor and accessories foe your party members and change their weapons. You are able to also share your items like potions between teammates as well. Kingdom Hearts 2 introduces limit attacks and during this, you can use your keyblade as a gun or dual wield them. Party members also have their own limit attacks you can use and this protects you from damage most of the time. Limit attacks are very powerful and can only be used for a limited time. The allow for higher scoring combos but consume your magic guage. Special limit forms can be leveled up. They give you greatly increased speed, agility, and power but can also be used for a limited amount of time. You can refill the drive gauge by finding drive points after defeating enemies. You can increase the time you can use the drive limit by winning certain fights.
Reaction command is a feature introduced in Kingdom Hearts Chain Of Memories where Sora has to perform a certain action in order to strike at enemies in order to get the upper hand at the right time.
Throughout the world, there is different save points and once you find them you, can fast travel to that area in the map before you enter a new location while recharging your health and magic gauges. It’s also how you are able to leave worlds or access the main menu or title screen.
Moogles from the Final Fantasy series serves as the shopkeepers in the game. You use the in game currency “munny” to purchase and sell items such as potions, weapons and accessories. Synthesis is where you can use the items you have found across the worlds in order to create a more powerful item such as a mega potion or ultima weapon. You can level up the moogle crafter in the synthesis shop to create more powerful items. As you keep creating synthesis items in Kingdom Hearts 2, you are even able to cut the required items in half or upgraded into an even more powerful item depending on the right crystal you found for synthesis. Completing lists of synthesis items will unlock new rewards such as defense boost or attack boosts. Recipes can be found in many different worlds in order to create new synthesis items.
In Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, you can trade in and buy new packs and earn moogle points to purchase different sets of cards to help you explore the mazes in Castle Oblivion. After completing floors in Castle Oblivion, you can fast travel to different floors to revisit any worlds to collect stuff you may have missed.
You can buy and sell different combat abilities and items in your command menu in Birth By Sleep. Summons such as Genie or Mushu can be used during many combat encounters to help you and each summon has its own powerful ability and way to use them. Tinkerbell can be used to recover health greatly overtime.
You can unlock more Summons as you progress through the game. They are available for a limited time but can be reused once you have a full magic gauge.
Jiminy Cricket serves as an observer keeping an eye on Donald, Goofy and Soras actions throughout the journey over the series.
The journal is a very comprehensive guide to the entire game with the year the characters debuted, how to defeat different types of Heartless and diary entries that chronicle the backstory events of the game to help you understand more of the overall main story and its lore. It details your current progress as well, like how many chests you have found, enemies killed and side activities like mini games that are completed. You can view the full 3d body models of the characters in the journal too while reading it.
The games combined stories are very long, complicated and not easy to follow. If you had not played the previous games as the game expects you to already know what has happened previously, you will be confused. You are introduced to a brand new set of characters in the beginning hours of Kingdom Hearts 2 without even establishing who they are unless you played 358/2 days beforehand.
Throughout the games the focus is on a young boy named Sora who is chosen to be the newest keyblade master after being stranded in Traverse town and meeting Goofy and Donald who are looking for Mickey Mouse. Meanwhile elsewhere the heartless are appearing all over the Disney Worlds and the villains are taking advantage of the situation for their own goals. As the story progresses, Sora and company learn more about an even bigger plan hatched by the Heartless and the Disney villains, the return of Kingdom Hearts which will bring the worlds in entire darkness and without any balance.
The stories of the series cover many different themes notably friendship and light and darkness. Light and Darkness has very little common ground in the games and both cannot exist without one another and in the games, you mostly fight for the side of light. Those whose hearts are corrupted by darkness become creatures known as Heartless. The Disney Villains are using the darkness in order to further their own nefarious agendas.
The bond between Sora, Donald and Goofy becomes very strong and the chemistry they have with each other is great. Sora deeply values the friendship he makes with other characters and always refers to it as his strength. Sea salt ice cream is a symbol of friendship and bonds between the characters and the characters go through a lot of challenges in the story yet they still come out on top most of the time.
In the Kingdom Hearts universe, bodies are comprised of three different parts body, soul and heart. Bodies hold the vessels for the soul and heart. The heart contains many different elements from a variety of emotions and whether the morality aligns to darkness and light. Memories are another important concept as well as there are many different mysteries hidden within the memories of others and memories can be altered easily and make it hard to remember who the person really is.
In Birth By Sleep, which takes place ten years before the main events, you play as 3 different characters Ventus, Terra and Aqua. Each has their own combat system and individual perspectives on the story and by playing all of them you gain a better understanding of the overall main story in Birth By Sleep. The scenarios in Birth By Sleep are based upon the characters personalities and it does a great job differentiating from each other.
Chain Of Memories takes place between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 358/2 days and it focuses on Sora exploring a mysterious castle where Mickey Mouse is said to be. Instead he finds out what is really within the castle and organization XIIIs plans against Sora, Donald and Goofy.
Kingdom Hearts 2 takes place a year later where Sora, Goofy and Donald wake up and they are called again to fight against the Heartless. Sora continues his adventure with his friends to find Riku and stop the Heartless. The Heartless and the Disney villains are not just the only threats Sora and his friends have to worry about. One secretive group Organization XIII is also after the Heartless for their own reasons. Their agenda is never clear and they always have a mysterious aura around them. Organization XIII are a group of Nobodies, those who have lost their hearts but wills were strong enough to overcome it and then become Nobodies. Each member has their own specialization and element related to their personality and skillset.
In Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, instead of the heartless, you fight a very similar creature, the Unversed which are based off the negative emotions from others.
They were created before the Heartless and Nobodies and they serve as the prototype creation of the Heartless.
Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 starts slowly and this is mainly to give you an introduction to the world and how the game works before picking up the pace as the game progresses. The first game starts off with Sora and his friends Riku and Kairi who live on the Twilight Island. One day, they planned to go exploring to different worlds when suddenly, they are engulfed in a severe storm and then a mysterious group of enemies appear on the island and Sora ends up being separated from his group of friends and gets stranded in Traverse Town. Meanwhile, Donald Duck who is on his way to visit Mickey Mouse, encounters Pluto who gives him a special letter. The letter states that he and Goofy are assigned to investigate the darkness seeping through other worlds and to find the next keyblade wielder. While wandering around Traverse Town looking for his friends, Sora meets up with Goofy and Donald and they decide to team up together. Sora, Donald and Goofy travel together across the worlds to stop the Heartless while also helping Disney Heroes.
Gummi ship missions are how you travel to worlds and are played out similar to the gameplay in the Star Fox series. You can customize your Gummi ship by buying and collecting various parts during the Gummi missions. The stages of the Gummi ships missions are colorful and varied with their own unique obstacles and enemies. Customizing your ship allows you to fly faster and take or deal more damage to enemies. You can equip special items like a net to help catch parts that may be too away.
Gummi missions are pretty fast paced and arcade like and can get pretty intense.
In Kingdom Hearts 1, you can go through wormholes during Gummi missions which are shortcuts to other parts of the world in case you are in a hurry.
You can even build your own Gummi ship with blueprints you find. Teeny ships are mini ships that assist you in the Gummi ship missions by providing additional fire power.
The character development for characters like Sora is really great and the story, while lighthearted initially, becomes more serious as it progresses. Sora is very kind hearted and curious, and he is very helpful to other characters. He is always willing to make sacrifices in order to stop threats be it from the Heartless, organization XIII or any of the Disney Villains. He always enjoys exploring the worlds he visits and he takes his time into helping others in need. He and his friends learn many different things thoughout the story like in Halloweentown where Christmas is more than just gifts. Another good character development in the series is Riku and his path to redemption by being on the side of light after being manipulated by darkness.
In Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep takes place ten years prior to the mainline stories. You play as Ventus, Aqua and Terra. The game also elaborates more on the previous lore of the series such as explaining how the Radiant Garden became the Hollow Bastion and how many of the other events are set up in later games like how Cinderella’s world became engulfed in darkness. Birth By Sleep also shows more on the pasts of series antagonist Xenohort and Sora and how Sora was chosen to be the next keyblade master.
Many of the original surviving voice actors reprise their respective characters from either Square Enix IPs to Disneys own IPs. Steve Burton and George Newbern, Cloud Strife’s and Sephiroth’s voice actor reprises their roles from Final Fantasy 7 respectively. The voice acting for the most part is really well done and the sound alikes do a good job giving their own takes to the characters while remaining true to the original creations.
The Disney characters and their worlds are highly faithful to their original film counterparts along with their main goals as well and the character interactions between Sora and other Disney characters works for the game while still maintaining its overall original story and it never feels forced. Many of Disney and Final Fantasy’s music and the games own original music appears in the game.