HD remakes and remasters have been trending lately, especially as newer generations of gamers want to try out the classics. But, let’s be honest, younger players are a little spoiled. They’re used to the crisp high-definition graphics of today — smooth edges, bright colors, that sort of thing.
No company has been embracing this trend moreÂ fervently than Square Enix. At E3 2013,Â Square was showing off two separate titles, both remastered, from two of its most beloved series:Â Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX and Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster.Â Each title contains at least two games, so there is plenty of HD bang for your buck. We gave both of them a whirl to see how they’ve held up after all these years. Will the HDÂ facelifts enticeÂ younger players to pick these games up and old-schoolers to experience them all over again? Read on for our impressions.
While the graphics are clearly what Square is marketing, the good stuff isn’t just found on the surface.Â Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD RemasterÂ will feature the International Version of both games, something new to those outside of Japan. ForÂ Final Fantasy X, that means new bosses and a few other new features, such as new Sphere Grids. ForÂ Final Fantasy X-2,Â gamers will be able to snag new Dress Spheres, experiment with the Creature Create system and face an entirely new final boss, which comes complete with a new ending and expanded story.
The demo available at the Square Enix booth didn’t give us a chance to try out any of these new features, but it did give us an opportunity to play through certain parts of the game, including Final Fantasy X‘s remastered opening, which is even more stunning than we remember it — so much so that we hardly even noticed Tidus’ infamous voice. Beauty is only skin deep, however, and the real appeal comes from the new features that players, both old and new, will beÂ experiencingÂ for the first time.
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIXÂ will do a lot of the same in that it will also include three games, two of which are playable (Kingdom HeartsÂ andÂ Re: Chain of Memories), and one that has been condensed into a remastered cinematic (358/2 Days). The original Kingdom Hearts, like Final Fantasy,Â will be the international version, which includes new scenes, plot points, weapons, items and a number of gameplay adjustments. Music lovers will be able to appreciate the sounds as well as the sights, thanks to a large number of re-recorded tracks featuring live orchestral arrangements which replace some of the original PlayStation 2 music.
The original games were never terrible graphically, but the remastering significantly improves them. Like with the previous game, most of the new features were not available in the demos, but what was available was enough to grab people’s attention — at least visually. Unfortunately, what little new content we did play (a new enemy type) broke the game. Not that we’re worried, though. These things happen. It was just nice to explore the game once again with a little spit shine.
As someone who has personally wanted to introduce theÂ Kingdom HeartsÂ series to friends, this title will make a great jumping off point and acts as the perfect primer for the sequel. However, it’s hard not to wonder whyÂ Kingdom Hearts IIÂ wasn’t included, especially withÂ Kingdom Hearts IIIÂ being announced. Since gamers have been waiting eight solid years for even a peep of a proper third installment, it would be nice to have a complete refresher because, as fans of the series will tell you, the story is a little convoluted. We’ll have to wait and see if Square Enix has plans to remaster it.
Both games have a clear mission: to reinvigorate adoration from fans, attract new ones and drum up excitement for recently announced sequels. If these were straight up HD remasters I would recommend sticking with the originals, as they are still fantastic games, but with the multitude of new features, inclusion of multiple games and the fantastic $39.99 price tag, they will be absolutely worth the investment.
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIXÂ will launch in North America on September 10, 2013, exclusively for the PS3.
Final Fantasy X/x-2 HD RemasterÂ will launch on December 31, 2013, for the PS3 and Vita.
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