Look, I was in a state of vehement avoidance of this franchise since it launched in 2002. But I always wondered in the back of my mind if itLook, I was in a state of vehement avoidance of this franchise since it launched in 2002. But I always wondered in the back of my mind if it was worth playing these games. I just played through the playable games in this collection and watched the 2 "movies", here is an honest assessment after about 100 hours with Kingdom Hearts.
First, good on Squeenix for putting out this collection on one console. All the games look sharp and play smoothly, and there's no need to dig out legacy handhelds in order to play catch up. I'll just briefly touch on each game in the collection here, for those on fence.
Kingdom Hearts 1 is a decent game that is hampered by it's overly confusing quest design. A new player will spend too much time wandering through the levels trying to trigger the next cutscene. The core gameplay and combat is solid though, and I ended up enjoying my time with the game. The boss fights in particular are something special, and the Disney element is implemented well enough. If the series didn't improve from here though, it would be pretty dismal.
Re:Chain of Memories is an extremely frustrating entry, that is important to the story. I suspect this is where a lot of people might fall off, the combat system is not great and the bosses aren't fun at all. After playing all the games in this collection, I think bosses are a key element of a KH game and this is just abysmal. You may find it easier to watch the cutscenes on Youtube, but that wouldn't exactly be thrilling either. Gameplay-wise, this is the weakest. But I'd recommend playing it anyway because the story is actually pretty interesting, and leads directly into KH2.
Kingdom Hearts 2 is probably the most consistent game in this collection. The story is very confusing and convoluted, but is also very unique and has some excellent cutscenes that redeem it in my eyes. The gameplay is borderline excellent, and has aged better than most PS2 games with action-based combat. The quest design is vastly improved, and the player is no longer left chasing their tale trying to figure out what to do next. Great boss fights round it out and make the collection worth buying for this game alone.
358/2 days is not playable. It's just a movie, and a pretty dull one. But it also has a strong emotional core that is lacking somewhat in the mainline games. I recommend watching it, but be advised that it wasn't meant to be a movie and it shows.
Birth by Sleep has my favorite combat system of the bunch, and is a fun prequel with a story that I personally felt was much easier to follow than KH2. There is a clear antagonist with motives that are understandable, and he is voiced by the late, great Leonard Nimoy. It's worth playing this to hear his performance as a truly evil dude, but the combat and Disney worlds are also great. The Disney worlds in this game feel more like a traditional fantasy RPG, and you will end up fighting through castles, sewers, haunted woods, and space (!) with three different characters that all play differently. The battle system with slots for spells is genious, and allows you to directly control what actions you take unlike the system in KH2. You get to cook up your own action abilities and slot them in however you want. Trust me it's good. BBS is a real winner in my book, and has me looking forward to playing the 2.8 collection next.
The Re:Coded movie is hot garbage, but also seems to set up the next game in a big way. Take that for what you will. I hated it, but the ending provided enough payoff for me to not completely regret watching it.
In this player's opinion, Kingdom Hearts is a worthwhile series. It treads a dangerous line between garbage and brilliance, but it is unique enough that I'm willing to cut it some slack. These are ambitious games, and even when they stumble there is an endearing quality to it. Plus KH3 is going to have Toy Story in it, which was enough to get me to buy this collection. I love Toy Story.… Expand