K is for Kingdom Hearts Final Mix

Last fall I purchased the collected Kingdom Hearts games with the optimistic hope that I’d be able to complete them all before Kingdom Hearts III released last month. I severely underestimated how long that would take me, meaning I barely finished Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, the HD remaster of the first game in the series. Perhaps consider this as the first in a longer series of reviews, as I do plan on completing the series.

Kingdom Hearts mashes up worlds and characters from various Disney properties and Square Enix’s own Final Fantasy games, along with new characters, including the protagonist. You play as Sora, a tweenager with anime hair, who lives on an island with his friends Riku and Kairi. Growing up, they’ve longed to see what’s beyond the vast ocean surrounding their island, and even if there are ‘other worlds’ out there. One day, dark beings known as the Heartless show up on their island, and Riku and Kairi disappear. After darkness consumes their home, Sora is gifted with a magical weapon called the Keyblade and sets off to defeat the Heartless and find his friends.

Sora, Kairi, and Riku

Kingdom Hearts mixes RPG-lite mechanics and real-time action-oriented combat. You gain experience and level up, and you can modify your equipment and special abilities. Both you and your allies and enemies move, attack, defend, and dodge in real time. Speaking of allies, Donald and Goofy are available as party members and travel with you from world to world. Each world (with a few exceptions) is based on one Disney world, and each alternative companion belongs to one of those worlds. For example, Aladdin can be in your party if you are in Agrabah, or Tarzan if you are in Deep Jungle.

♫ We can live like Jack and Sally if we want ♫

I enjoyed most of the gameplay. However, there is one aspect that was obtuse and convoluted. I simply couldn’t get around the controls for constructing Gummi Ships. Until you get an upgrade maybe a third of the way through the story, you have to fly what is essentially a spaceship in between the worlds every time you want to travel. You can collect pieces and build your own, more powerful custom ship, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Fortunately, the base ship will work fine throughout the game, unless you’re a real achievement hunter.

All in all, this is a promising start to the series, and as I wrote in the open, I do plan on continuing to follow the adventures of Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they search for King Micky and fight the Heartless. Despite some of the dated mechanics and the occasionally sopa-opera-esque story, I would definitely recommend playing Kingdom Hearts Final Mix.

(All screenshots from the Kingdom Hearts Facebook album.)

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