These last few years have seen the re-release of the fan-favorite Kingdom Hearts series. Possibly as small recompense that the series proper hasn’t been given another true installment in over a decade and thus skipped over this entire last generation of major home console, these games are bundled Remastered versions of PS2/PSP classics. The graphical enhancements are notable, but are they worth the full purchase? Are these not the same games we’ve already played? For us Americans, yes and no. You see, these are the Final Mix versions of these games, which until these releases, have never seen the light of day on Western shores, having previously been Japan exclusives. So then, there are some elements of these games that are certain to have never been experienced by most American games. So what do these changes add? What do they take away? Do they warrant the new purchase price and time investment? Since most of us have already played the original version of this game, I’ll focus on the new version for this review.
Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Fix does a lot of what Kingdom Hearts Final Mix did. Nearly all basic Heartless get a palate swap, some more visually appealing or sensible than others, but still essentially the same. There are additional cutscenes, fully voiced in English, which explore more of the goings-on with the game’s antagonists, Organization XIII, and fill-in a few more gaps between this sequel and the first installment. They fill time mostly well, although some drag out longer than they are welcome.
Another minor addition is a new puzzle sidequest. Simple in its execution, there are several crown-shaped piece scattered around the worlds. They are not hard to find, but somewhat difficult to acquire, with most requiring Sora to max out his Drive Abilities. It’s a nice distractive additional quest for the collector types.
Sora also gets an additional Drive Form, Limit Form. His clothes resemble the color scheme he had in the last game, and he can preform the special Limit abilities he could last game. Because they take the place of Magic Commands and can be difficult to time right and be blocked, they are not very useful outside of being the experience needed to level up this Form. Still, the sheer power of this Form’s combo finishing moves make this Form very valuable in combat, especially since Sora can trigger it alone without any allies.
There are new synthesis materials that are quite powerful, but difficult to obtain. Most come from a new section of the game, the Cavern of Remembrance, in Hollow Bastion/Radiant Garden. In it, there are new Heartless, palate swaps of other Heartless that are much stronger than their counterparts. They drop the new synthesis type materials, Remembrance, and some strong weapons for Donald and Goofy. They are not earned lightly, but they do provide a good challenge and excellent means of grinding high levels.
There is also another group of additional special Heartless, called Mushroom XIII. As you could guess, they resemble the members of Organization XIII. They are scattered throughout the Worlds, and their powers faintly resemble their Organization counterparts. They are the only source for another synthesis material needed for unique items, Tranquility, and they drop extra staves and shields for Donald and Goofy, but they are mostly too weak to be effective. And sadly, these new enemies are where the game loses some of its traction: the difficulty. Each of these encounters plays like a mini-game, and the challenges you are expected to complete range from doable if you know how to downright nigh-impossible. Trying over and over again, with no apparent progress can suck some of the fun out of the game and replace it with frustration.
This trend continues to an even greater extent with the final addition the Final Mix makes: extra boss fights. And there’s a LOT of them. There are fights against Absent Silhouettes, rematches against the Organization XIII members defeated during the mid-quel Chain of Memories, with reworked mechanics to include KH2’s battle system. These can be very challenging, particularly at lower levels. There is also an additional fight with Roxas toward the end of game, replacing what was just a cutscene before. At the end of the Cavern of Remembrance is the Garden of Remembrance, where Sora can fight Data Rematches against the greatly power-up members of Organization XIII. These fights are mostly identical to their previous encounters, but their stats are maxed out and some condition mechanics are made much harder. And to top it all off, there is after-game fight with a foe called Lingering Will, to set the stage for Birth By Sleep. His combos are unbreakable, his Strength, Defense, and HP enormous, and he can lock Commands. These fights can be downright insane, impossible to beat at lower levels, and possibly even difficulties. They are extremely trying on even the lowest game difficulty setting, to say nothing of Normal or Proud Mode. This kind of difficultly greatly harms the game in my opinion, require ridiculous amounts of practice, grinding, and farming to be able to complete for 100% game completion. Victory seems to come more from luck than perseverance, and that’s not a good point in my book.
In sum, Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix is still a phenomenally good game, in terms of story, gameplay, battle mechanics, and character. While the new edition adds much to this release, it can suffer a bit from much higher difficulty. Sure, it’s all optional in theory, but not for us completionists. A new purchase is easily warranted for the die-hard fans of the series, but for those who might want to try it out, it may be better to wait for a price drop. Final score: 8.5/10.