Review: Kingdom Hearts Final Mix (Steam Deck)

Yes! We are doing this. A complete review collection of all the titles featured in the Final Mix 1.5 & 2.5 collection + the latest bundle featuring everything not in the original two bundles. So, 13 games will be reviewed on this platform, and I’m playing them all in the order given to me. I am a total newbie to the Kingdom Hearts series since I never owned a Playstation console or handheld. I played some of the first Kingdom Hearts on a borrowed PS2 console but never made it past Wonderland, so I’m going in blanc! I will review the Final Mix (or Kingdom Hearts 1) separately from the non-main-line titles (1/2/3). So keep an eye out for the others.

What’s a Kingdom Hearts?

For those unfamiliar with ‘Kingdom Hearts,’ it’s not just some slang term. It’s a top-rated game developed by Square Enix. The first game was released in 2002 and marked the beginning of the Kingdom Hearts series. The game results from Square Enix and The Walt Disney Company collaborating. A version of the game with additional content, Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, was released exclusively in Japan in December 2002. This version was later remastered in high definition and made available worldwide in the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix collection for the PlayStation 3. The game was also included in the bundled Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix collection for PlayStation 4 in March 2017, Xbox One in February 2020, Windows in March 2021, and Nintendo Switch in February 2022. I’m really happy they made it available on so many platforms!

 

 

What makes Kingdom Hearts Kingdom Hearts is that the game combines characters and settings from Disney animated features with those from Square’s Final Fantasy series, in addition to original characters and worlds created for the game. It follows the adventures of Sora, a cheerful teenager who fights against the forces of darkness alongside his allies, including Donald Duck, Goofy, and other Disney characters. The game departed from Square’s standard role-playing games, introducing a substantial action and hack-and-slash element. The score was composed by Yoko Shimomura. Kingdom Hearts has an all-star voice cast and includes many of the Disney characters’ official actors. It scrapped everything I was terrible at with the Final Fantasy games and added everything I love from A-RPG-type games.

Plot

I’ll try to give you a summary that’s spoiler-free-ish. I spoiler-tagged parts in the rest of the review so you can find out on your own (like I did). Kingdom Hearts starts us off with Sora, Riku, and Kairi building a raft to leave their home world of Destiny Islands to explore new worlds. On the night before the planned voyage, the Heartless attack the islands, and Riku and Kairi disappear. Before the Heartless consume the islands, Sora mysteriously obtains the Keyblade, a weapon effective against the Heartless. Meanwhile, King Mickey (Mouse) has left his own world to deal with the increasing number of Heartless, leaving instructions for Donald and Goofy to find the “key” to protect the worlds from the encroaching darkness. Donald and Goofy use the Gummi Ship to travel to Traverse Town, where they find Sora after he wound up there following the destruction of his world. The three decide to travel together – Donald and Goofy to find Mickey and Sora to find Kairi and Riku – traveling to various worlds and sealing their “Keyholes” to prevent their “heart” from being consumed by the Heartless. And scene – I’ll let you figure out the rest yourselves.

 

Gameplay

So, since it’s developed by Square Enix, Kingdom Hearts is influenced by its parent franchise, Final Fantasy, and carries gameplay elements over into its own action-based, hack-and-slash system. The main battle party consists of three characters: Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy. You directly control Sora from a third-person camera angle, while the others are computer-controlled. Donald and Goofy comprise the party in most areas, but nearly every level features a character who may replace them. For instance, Jack Skellington can join Sora’s party in Halloween Town but can’t accompany the player elsewhere. In some worlds, the party changes its appearance, has abilities unique to that world, or both; the characters can fly in Neverland, acquire aquatic forms in Atlantica, which enable them to survive underwater and gain Halloween costumes in Halloween Town to blend in with the locals.

 

 

Kingdom Hearts has an experience point system just like in traditional role-playing games. When you defeat enemies, the characters get experience and become stronger, gaining new abilities. In this game, you can customize the development of the main character, Sora, right at the beginning by choosing one of three main attributes to excel in—strength, defense, or magic—and one to lack in. This affects how Sora learns abilities, improves his stats, and gains levels. Donald, Goofy, and other party members also have specific strengths from the start: Donald is great at magic, while Goofy is good at defense and special attacks.

Real-Time Final Fantasy

The game progresses linearly from one story event to the next, usually presented in cutscenes, though numerous side quests are available that benefit the characters. And I implore you to do these sidequests. You will need the experience. But next to the sidequests, you can also choose the order in which they tackle some areas. Most of the gameplay occurs on interconnected field maps where battles take place. Combat in Kingdom Hearts occurs in real-time and involves pressing buttons to initiate attacks by the on-screen character. An action menu at the bottom left of the screen, similar to those found in Final Fantasy games, provides other combat options, such as magic and items. However, players can also assign selected magic spells that can be instantly used while holding the shoulder button. As players progress through the game, they can receive certain Disney characters as summons, such as Dumbo and Tinker Bell, each with their unique abilities. There is also a context-sensitive option at the bottom of the menu, usually used for interacting with the environment or performing special attacks.

Gummi Gummi no Shippu

Sorry, I had to throw at least one One Piece reference there. The Gummi Ship is the mode of travel between the various worlds in the game – and quite an interesting one. Let me give you a headstart. Don’t save over the original blueprint when you start tinkering with a new Gummi Ship. And no, you can’t eat them.

The Gummi Ship gameplay differs from the rest of the game, as it takes on a rail shooter format. In this mode, the player controls the Gummi Ship from a rear third-person perspective as it travels through outer space. During the journey, the player must avoid obstacles and defend against enemy ships that try to destroy the vessel by firing missiles or ramming it. Successfully navigating the route grants access to the next world. If the player’s Gummi Ship is destroyed, they can either return to the world selection menu or retry the level. At the beginning of the game, limited options are available to customize the ship. However, new weapons, engines, and armor become available as the game progresses. You can find pre-designed blueprints to construct Gummi Ships quickly throughout the game. Geppetto also offers you different Gummi Ship designs based on the number of Heartless defeated.

Initially, players can travel between worlds using “Normal Drive,” which starts the rail shooter-like minigame. Later in the game, Sora can acquire a “Warp Drive,” enabling instant travel between previously visited worlds without playing the minigame. However, worlds that have not been visited cannot be accessed with Warp Drive and must be discovered first.

 

Final Mixclusion?

The Final Mix was released only in Japan on December 26, 2002, and included several events and gameplay tweaks that were not in previous releases. With the addition of new scenes, specific plot points, such as Riku’s journey and foreshadowing of Kingdom Hearts II, were included, but no new dialogue was recorded. Another good gameplay option was added, which allows the player to skip cutscenes after seeing them once. Other new secret additions were the optional bosses first included in the English version, which was introduced to Japanese players for the first time, along with a new fight against “Unknown Man” to raise interest for the sequel. With the 1.5 Remix version, we got an upscaled high-definition remake of the Final Mix game. It looks incredible and plays like a charm on the Steam Deck. It even got achievement support, which can be overwhelming initially since all the games included in the 1.5 mix bundle are packed together in the achievement list on Steam (with almost 200). I had no crashes, bugs, or other problems that people often encounter with ‘older’ games emulated on newer systems. So, if you haven’t played this title before and don’t want to settle for the cloud versions other platforms provide, pick this one up! I still can’t believe this is a 2002 game. On to the next one! Chained Memories!

8.5/10

Tested on the Steam Deck (256 GB version)

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