The HD collection Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix contains an HD remastered version of the original Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories. Also included in this package is a remastering of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. However, unlike the other two parts of the collection, this HD version of 358/2 Days is not a game.
Rather, it is a nearly three-hour movie containing all the cutscenes from the DS game in remastered form. And while it turns out to be a comprehensive abridgment of the events of that game, as a film, it is more than a little lacking.
Good — Still Better Than Playing 358/2 Days
While the plot of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days was a rather interesting Kingdom Hearts side story, actually playing the game was as monotonous as it was repetitive. In between plot points were seemingly endless missions, all taking place in areas we had already seen before in Kingdom Hearts II. In this movie version, by the very absence of gameplay, all this monotony has been cut — as have been the Disney-related story tie-ins. This leaves the movie as a clear cut character piece focusing on Roxas, Axel, and Xion. And while it still drags — especially in the first half — the refocusing of the tale is to the movie's overall benefit.
Mixed — Remastered in HD
Just like the two games in the collection, 358/2 Days has a brand new HD coat of paint. As it was on the DS (and not the PS2 as were the other two games), the improvement is even more marked. But while most of the time the remaster is perfect, every once in a while the remaster reverts back to the DS quality of graphics — specifically whenever there is a crossfade between two scenes. While this degradation only lasts for a second (or however long the transition takes), the sudden change of visual quality is jarring and pulls you out of the film each time it happens.
Bad — Movies Shouldn't Have Loading Times
Pacing is perhaps the biggest problem with the film version of 358/2 Days. Cut down from tens of hours to just three, it still feels overly bloated with filler. However, the biggest contributor to this is not the content of the film, but rather how it is presented. 358/2 Days is not pre-rendered in one giant video file. Instead it is a myriad of small video clips with interspersed text screens. And in between each and every one is a short second or two of loading time. This useless dead air is an anathema to the flow and adds in a stilted and disconnected feel to the film.
Bad — A Lack of Climaxes
As much of the action happens between the cutscenes of 358/2 Days — i.e. when the player would be executing the missions — the film version attempts to compensate by adding in text summaries with an accompanying still picture frame to fill in the gaps. While this is little more than a band-aid on the film's obviously gaping wound, it does its job for the most part — at least until near the ending.
The final two fights of the film — Roxas versus Xion and Roxas versus Riku — really demand to be seen in their entirety. Without these climactic moments, the film feels as if it skipped its most important point — which, let's face it, it did — and I came away from the film feeling somewhat cheated by the lack of a climatic fight scene after watching three hours of conversation. The movie would have been infinitely better with at least a real fight scene or two added to what was originally animated for the DS game.
358/2 Days was not the first movie compiled from game cutscenes I have ever watched — that would be the movie mode from the original Metal Gear Solid. And while it does adequately pass on the plot of the DS game 358/2 Days, it is in no way a good film. That said, if you want to know the ins and outs of 358/2 Days without playing through the whole game, watching this movie is definitely the best way to go about it. As a standalone product, I'd never recommend buying it. But as an extra to the HD version of the original Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, it's a nice little addition.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix was released in Japan on March 14, 2013, for the PlayStation 3. It is scheduled for a Western release sometime later this year.