When I first heard that there was going to be a mash-up game of Final Fantasy and Disney, it seemed an insane prospect. But eleven years on from the release of Kingdom Hearts, it's a thriving series with a huge following, and deservedly so.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix revisits the original title that spawned this theme, and it is spectacular. The bright, colourful environments really shine with this new HD perspective, shaving years off and making them look genuinely beautiful. The enhancements to the soundtrack are subtle, but you really can hear the difference, and it's marvellous.
The gameplay is great, but doesn't do as good a job at hiding its age. The combat is fun, but lacks fluidity. If you're stuck in a mid-air animation when the boss charges his lasers, you're unlikely to be able to dodge in time. Platforming is very fiddly too, with Sora seemingly sliding off platforms and missing arbitrary grabs. The addition of some new abilities help ameliorate this, but there's no mistaking that this is a ten-year-old game.
In addition to the original game, HD 1.5 also contains two other titles. The first, Chain of Memories, was originally a Gameboy Advance spin-off. It's now in full 3D, but the plot is still much simplified compared to the numbered games in the series. It retreads all the same worlds as the first game, and many similar environments. Particularly in this package, there's a real sense of déja vu. Its card-based gameplay offers a welcome shift of pace from the core series, although its strategy is somewhat stunted by its clumsiness.
Finally, 358/2 Days retreads the strangely-titled DS game as a three-hour non-playable film. And it's not as bad as it sounds! It suffers some janky pacing early on, where there's clearly some exposition missing, but manages to be a great retelling of a story that many people may have missed (I certainly did). It doesn't look as flattering in HD as the other titles, but it's perfectly adequate.
Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days are really just side-shows. They're the icing on the cake. The heart (*ahem*) of HD 1.5 is the enhanced version of the series' first outing, which provides both a great nostalgia trip for KH veterans and a great entry point for those who missed it first time round.