After Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix, it was inevitable that a sequel was on its way since only half of the Kingdom Hearts franchise had been covered in that collection. The announcement of Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix was no big surprise. As with the first collection, 2.5 covers a specific subset of the franchise. First is the sequel Kingdom Hearts 2, which details Sora's battle against Organization XIII and the Nobodies. It also includes Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, a prequel that follows Keyblade Masters Aqua, Terra and Ventus as they struggle against a new enemy called the Unversed.
The first game in the collection is Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix. For those unfamiliar with it, Final Mix was an improved version of Kingdom Hearts 2 released only in Japan and packed with Re: Chain of Memories. The Final Mix version ofKH2 was one of the more significant upgrades Square Enix has done to one of its games. It includes a number of tweaks, adjustments, rebalancing and new moves that alter the game in subtle and fundamental ways, as well as a new Critical mode challenge for players who find the main game too easy. There are several new cut scenes, many of which hint at the at-the-time unreleased Birth By Sleep or further fleshed out the Organization XIII and its members.
Not all the changes are subtle. The game includes a number of new optional bosses. Every one of the Organization XIII can be battled as "data" versions of themselves, including those who Sora never fought during KH2. They have special gimmicks that made them significantly harder to defeat than they were in the original game. You can fight both lower-level versions of these bosses during the story or visit a special area to fight souped-up super boss versions. Roxas, who was previously a cut scene fight, is replaced with a full-on boss battle. In addition, players can fight one of the most difficult bosses in the franchise's history, the Keyblade Master armor of Birth By Sleep protagonist Terra, which is still possessed by the hero's captured soul.
There are also special Organization XIII mushrooms you can battle for special prizes. Players can access a new drive form, Limit Form, which is based on Kingdom Hearts 1 Sora and gives him access to several moves he only had in that game, including the Dive Roll dodge. It doesn't require you to sacrifice a party member, so it can be used in situations the other Drive forms couldn't. There is also a batch of new weapons for Sora and his friends and new abilities to master.
In comparison, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix is a somewhat less drastic change. It adds Critical mode, a series of commands for your characters to use, and a new style to activate. There are several new bosses, including a battle against a version of Xehanort called "No Heart," the lingering armor of Master Eraqus, and everyone's favorite Disney villain, Monstro. The PSP version also ended with a special playable sequence that ended with a preview for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Volume 2. When I asked the Square Enix representative about this, he said it was unlikely this particular element would be retailed in the HD version of the game.
Both games in the Kingdom Hearts 2.5 collection are otherwise mostly identical to their original versions, aside from visual upgrades. Birth by Sleep HD is noticeably more simplistic in visual style than KH2, owing to its roots as a PSP game instead of a PS2 game. However, the character models have seen a significant and impressive upgrade, and it is mostly the backgrounds that betray its handheld roots. The HD version of Birth by Sleep will also include the ability to use the right analog stick to control the camera; it's a much-needed addition, as anyone who played the PSP version can tell you.
In addition to the two games, the HD Remix also includes a collection of cut scenes from Kingdom Hearts re:Coded, the DS-exclusive Kingdom Hearts title. This was a retelling of the original game through an odd framing device: Players used "Data Sora," a faux version of Data going through digitally altered memories to track down information that had been erased from everyone's memory. The HD Remix will not include gameplay, much like 358/2 Days HD, but a series of new voiced cut scenes showing off some of the important events from that game.
Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix is a must-have collection for Kingdom Hearts fans. There's a boatload of new content between the two games, most of which has never been seen in English. The remastered HD visuals also make it the nicest-looking version of both games to date, and the addition of Re:Coded's story may fill in some gaps for those looking forward to Kingdom Hearts 3. It is due out Dec. 2, 2014, exclusively for the PS3.
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