With the recent release of Kingdom Hearts 3, it’s time to revisit the enhanced version of the first game in the series, and see if the 2002 classic hack-and-slash crossover of Final Fantasy x Disney characters holds up 17 years later.
Players take on the role of Sora, a teen living a blissful life on a small island with his childhood friends Kairi and Riku. When mindless monsters known as Heartless appear from a dimensional rift and attack, he is separated from them and must team up with new allies Donald Duck and Goofy to search through different worlds and find his friends.
Sora controls smoothly, and the fighting mechanics are relatively simple, with only a single button for attacking. The trigger buttons cast magic spells, and there is a standard jump and dodge button as well. The gameplay may be slightly repetitive, but the real joy of the game comes from meeting, and sometimes fighting alongside, your favourite Disney heroes.
For example, an early stage that players can visit is Wonderland, where you must decipher clues from the Cheshire Cat to help prove Alice’s innocence in the Red Queen’s court. The stage is put together in a creative way, and you must make use of magic potions to grow small and big again to solve the puzzles along the way.
The graphics may look slightly dated now but, thanks to the cartoony Disney setting, it’s not a big distraction. Each world is lovingly recreated and a joy to visit – especially the underwater city of Atlantica from The Little Mermaid and Agrabah from Aladdin. It’s really fun exploring every nook and cranny to find well-hidden secrets, or getting that extra bit of fun dialogue from a well-known Disney character.
Apart from the wonky Gummi Ship spaceship shooter mini-game (that is, unfortunately, not skippable), Kingdom Hearts Final Mix is a great remaster of a delightful and satisfying action role-playing classic. Pick it up and play through it (again) to freshen up on your Kingdom Hearts lore before you tackle the latest instalment.