Moving on from Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is the other main game in the HD collection, and a huge part of my later teen years, Kingdom Hearts II. The main focus of the collection to many, the game saw many upgrades in the collection.
Much like in Kingdom Hearts I, the Kingdom Hearts II soundtrack got a massive overhaul. Many of these are for the better, though I still prefer some of the older tracks. The biggest change (and the one I kept constantly hearing about) takes place within Port Royal. Previously, the battle music wasn’t very much like Pirates of the Caribbean. Well, never fear, for that has been changed! The music sounds absolutely amazing in combat there now, and considering I’ve been hearing that track for the past several months now I hadn’t gotten tired of it when it finally came to playing through that world! Other tracks also received a fantastic overhaul, though as mentioned there are some I prefer from the original game still.
Kingdom Hearts II’s HD treatment doesn’t feel nearly as noticeable as it did in Birth by Sleep. Well, okay, it is definitely noticeable in actual FMVs (such as the opening and ending) but not so much in regular gameplay or normal cutscenes. That’s fine though, as Kingdom Hearts II was already a pretty fantastic looking game on the PS2.
Kingdom Hearts II also features the Final Mix content that was previously unavailable outside of Japan. This include a massive host of new bosses (some of the toughest in the series even), a new difficulty mode, new mini-game missions, and reskinned heartless! Heck, there’s even an entirely new dungeon to check out in Final Mix! Oh, and not to mention there’s also a new drive form! Oh hey, and like puzzles? Well, it’s got that too!
The new bosses? Well… they are challenging. Like I said, some of these new fights are some of the hardest fights in the series! While a good majority of them do require some work to unlock, they’re well worth it even if you will end up dying many, many times to them. These are definitely the biggest highlight, to me anyways, of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix.
The new mini-game missions are much like the ones I described for Birth by Sleep Final Mix, though they don’t go into quite the same types of mini-games. Regardless of that, they’re still a great challenge and hey if you manage to beat them all you might even get something out of it…
Speaking of like in Birth by Sleep, Kingdom Hearts II also suffers from one of the same serious issues – major loading. Unlike in Birth by Sleep though, when you hit these major loading periods the battles don’t pause quite as much. Get used to seeing Sora floating there should you go into drive forms a lot! And yes, you’ll be doing that a lot most likely (especially in the new dungeon).
I previously mentioned that there’s a new drive form in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. Meet Limit Form, your throwback to Kingdom Hearts I in a few ways. One of the best things this form adds is dodge roll. Oh dodge roll how I missed you when I came to Kingdom Hearts II from Birth by Sleep… The entire form is based around executing limits from Kingdom Hearts I and is a pretty good form overall once you figure out how to use it properly.
Final Mix also added new cutscenes which enhanced the story and filled in some of the blanks. When it originally released on PS2 these were unvoiced. However, with the transition over to 2.5 they received voices! They even managed to bring in most of the original voice actors! Though you may hear a slight difference with Namine in one scene – she has received a new voice actor since the original Kingdom Hearts II released in North America. Regardless, was a very nice surprise to hear these voiced and it makes it that much harder to recognize which ones are new (which isn’t a bad thing)!
One of the biggest things they did right compared to 1.5 HD though? The difficulty trophies actually stack this time! Which is good, even though there’s only two – one for Proud, and one for Critical (the new difficulty to Kingdom Hearts II). It sure felt nice to see that Proud mode trophy come up after I had finished on Critical, knowing I wouldn’t have to replay the game just to get it…
While Kingdom Hearts II didn’t leave nearly the same “wow this looks absolutely amazing” impression on me as Birth by Sleep, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like I mentioned before, the game already looked really good on PS2 and still looks really good on PS3. Unfortunately, like in Birth by Sleep, the major loading times seriously hamper the gameplay. How loading times keep being an issue time and time again in these remasters I don’t know, but we can only hope that someday they won’t be…
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX: Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix Review Score
I would like to thank Square Enix for providing me with a copy of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX for review.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX is available for purchase now from Amazon.