I’ll keep this brief, since I’ve already talked at length about Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, two-thirds of the entries that make up Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX. They’re fantastic games in their own right, and the remastered versions included in this compilation are without a doubt the best way to experience them. Instead, I’ll turn my focus towards Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, which rounds out this compilation in cinematic form, and the Limited Edition release itself.
Originally released for the Nintendo DS, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days debuted in Japan on May 30, 2009 and in the west about four months later. Like Chain of Memories before it, development responsibilities were outsourced, this time to frequent Square Enix collaborator h.a.n.d. It was the first entry in the series to be released for Nintendo’s dual-screened handheld, and presumably because of the difficulty of porting a game tailor-made for this platform to the PlayStation 3, only the cinematics made the transition. They did get the same high definition treatment as the other games however, and look wonderful.
The story revolved around Roxas, the “Nobody” of Sora and a character that figured prominently in Kingdom Hearts II, a game I haven’t played yet. For your reference and mine, a Nobody is, according to the Kingdom Hearts Wiki, “the body and soul of a strong-willed individual who has lost their heart.” So, Roxas is Sora… kind of. Regardless, his backstory was fleshed out in this release, specifically his time with Organization XIII and his relationship with fellow members Axel and Xion. The events that took place ran concurrently with Chain of Memories, and much attention was paid to the Organization’s attempts to control Sora in Castle Oblivion.
I relished the opportunity to learn more about Organization XIII and the members who made up the mysterious cabal. Totaling nearly three hours, these cinematics and text dumps relayed much information in an entertaining CliffsNotes fashion. At the risk of double-dipping and losing interest, I wouldn’t mind actually playing the original release, just to fight alongside the Organization members and get a better sense of their personalities.
Although he was one of Sora’s opponents in Chain of Memories, and as a Nobody lacked a heart, Axel displayed shades of humanity towards the end of that game, or at least, a compassionate anarchism. His actions made more sense to me after witnessing his relationship with Roxas and Xion. His was a standout role and I found it hard not to empathize with Axel’s confusion and search for self. Xion’s tragic role was illuminating as well, hinting at the nature of the Organization and their antagonism towards Sora.
When Square Enix published this compilation in North America, a Limited Edition variant was released for those who pre-ordered. Rather than a typical Blu-ray styled case, the Limited Edition release was packaged in a hardcover art book, complete with slipcover, roughly the size of a Dr. Seuss book. It’s nice to have and features a brief note of thanks from Tetsuya Nomura, one of the primary architects for the series. The art book features some interesting conceptual sketches of an anthropomorphized Sora, but is otherwise light on content. Additionally, unlockable themes are available when each title has been completed and are present in both the PS3 and PS4 releases of this compilation. This is a cool collector’s item but truth be told, one of the PS4 versions would offer a better value at this point.