Disney films have captured the hearts and imaginations of people of all ages for generations. From the rotoscoped Snow White to the live action rendition of Beauty and the Beast, the house of mouse has no shortage of beloved characters—a near immeasurable supply of heroes, villains, and narratives that can be transported to the world of video games. Developer Square Enix recognized this potential and brought us Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5.
A Whole New World
Kingdom Hearts first appeared on our console back on the PlayStation 2 in 2002, since then this classic title has spawned many sequels on many different consoles. The latest is Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5, a collection of six cherished games from the series, two of which are merely cinematic scenes cut together to make a movie. Despite this, we still get four fantastic games to venture though.
The story begins on a remote island. There, a group of friends plan to design a raft on which to escape their secluded life and explore the world beyond. Sora, our protagonist, is awoken one night to find his friends missing and strange creatures called heartless overrunning the island. Meanwhile, two familiar Disney staples, Goofy and Donald Duck, discover that king Mickey Mouse has vanished from his throne. These separate stories soon intertwine after Sora, Donald, and Goofy encounter one another by chance. The three heroes decide to work together to find Mickey Mouse and Sora’s missing friends, a journey that will take the trio across the universe and through numerous cherished Disney locals, such as Peter Pan’s Neverland, Alice’s Wonderland, Jack’s Halloween Town, and many more.
Key to Victory
Given that Kingdom Hearts is developed by the makers of—and even includes characters from—the Final Fantasy series, one may be forgiven for thinking that the battles would take place in a traditional turned-based style, yet this could not be further from the truth. Sora and friends fight in real-time, meaning that every jump, sword swing, and magic spell must be timed perfectly in order to overcome enemies. This also means as the player, you will have to master one of the most unique weapons in all of gaming, the keyblade. This iconic sword vanquishes the heartless, unlocks new areas, and is fully upgradeable. When Sora is not hacking and slashing, he is required to aid the native Disney inhabitants of each world he comes across, bringing about bucket loads of nostalgia in the process. While it is always entertaining to see an old face from one’s childhood, the way in which the who’s who of Disney are utilized vary in how well they are implemented. Take Hercules’ world for instance. We pretty much stay in one area for the entirety of our trip. Seeing Hades and Phil is fine, but I felt cheated by the lack of land to explore. This isn’t the case for every level though. In the deep jungle, we can slide down massive tree trunks with Tarzan and help him save the indigenous gorillas from Clayton, a wicked hunter.
The Sights and Sounds of Childhood
Kingdom Hearts’ greatest feature is, in reality, a novelty—the act of revisiting your favorite Disney memories. Despite being a novelty, it is nevertheless spellbinding, made even more so by the return of many of the characters’ original voice actors, like Brian Blessed as Clayton and Gilbert Gottfried as Iago. There is only one downside. Since this is remastered, the graphics are no longer up to par with other recent releases, yet with that being said, I did not find myself cringing at blocky models or uninspired textures. Surprisingly, the eldest game in this collection is nearly two decades old, and still manages to hold up remarkably well.
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 is a trip down memory lane both for gamers and animated movie lovers. A person of any age can grab a controller and revisit these classic stories, just as if they were visiting old friends. Whether you are a parent or just a big kid yourself, this is a must play.