I write stuff. You may know me as Travis Touchdown, but I'm also called Contra in some places, and my actual name is Christoper Harper.
Keep your expectations low and you'll have a great time. Keep your expectations around the middle and you'll have a good time, but don't have high expectations around me because I am literally incapable of not disappointing you.
Never underestimate how feverishly I watch for Kingdom Hearts news.
Anyways, this article is primarily serving as a placeholder until Destructoid inevitably one-ups me and posts another.
Regardless, I'm gonna skip to the basics as to why Kingdom Hearts fans should be excited about this re-release.
For one, it includes Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, in addition to Birth By Sleep Final Mix. Also coded's cutscenes but that game did pathetically little to progress the plot that BBS and Dream Drop Distance didn't do better. Really, it's skippable and nothing you should at all be excited about.
Kingdom Hearts II marks the point in the franchise where things became about a thousand times more complicated, but the inclusion of Birth By Sleep in this collection will significantly ease the confusion of fans old and new alike. To understand Kingdom Hearts as a series, the only games that're truly necessary to play are the first one, II, BBS, and 3D. Chain of Memories introduces the Organization and expands Riku's character development; II re-introduces them anyways and shows Riku reach a higher level of maturity. 358 expands on Roxas and introduces a new character; 3D and BBS offer more and the same knowledge on both of those matters. Coded is just plain filler between II and 3D, and if at all possible, please, please don't spend your money on it.
If you've already played II and Birth By Sleep, however, you may be wondering why you should be excited for this at all. Beyond the fact that BBS is likely going to see a much-needed graphical boost and control scheme improvement, Final Mix adds a ton of new content. Also more cutscenes. Love me some cutscenes.
Final Mix 2 New Features:
Limit Form, which allows access to all of Sora's best signature moves from the first game, including Sonic Blade. Fucking love Sonic Blade.
Seven new bosses- five of which lifted from Chain of Memories with new fighting styles and two of which advancing the plot- the formerly unplayable battle against Roxas in the Station of Awakening near the end of the game, plus a battle with the Lingering Will, a possesed suit of armor that'll become very familiar when you get to playing Birth By Sleep.
Replayability- every Organization XIII boss can be re-fought as Data Battles- but they'll be much, much stronger than before, meaning you'll have to stretch the level cap as much as humanly possible to even hope to stand a chance on higher difficulties.
Critical Mode! Like Proud (where enemies deal twice as much damage) except you deal half as much yourself.
Also a ton of other relatively minor changes I don't want to delve into.
Birth By Sleep Final Mix New Features:
Three new bosses: the Keyblade Armor of Master Xehanort, Master Eraqus and a weird boss fight against Monstro. Monstro's relatively easy, but the Armors are not- Master Xehanort's armor, No Heart, is considered the toughest boss in the series for good reason.
Another playable secret ending, which includes an encounter with an extremely tough Pureblood Heartless boss.
While BBS Final Mix's list of added features are shorter, remember that Final Mix is Japan-exclusive: International releases tend to get a lot of extra content they never get to touch- players of the International version of Birth By Sleep would be rather surprised to learn that a certain hooded figure didn't appear as a boss at all in the original!
KHII is honestly the gem of this collection, but BBS is a great game in its own right. If you've never played these games before- try out 1.5. It's completely worth your money.
I'm not going to conflict this claim- he's the dev, not me. I don't know how much money and time and resources it takes to make a modern AAA title, much less something on the scale of PS4/Nextbox/PC. I do consider the Wii U a next-generation console, but it's likely going to face downscaled resolutions and graphics compared to its competitors. That, however, is a subject for another time.
The comments for this article have quickly spiraled into a debate, some people all for the idea and some strongly, strongly against it. It's a good thing to note that episodic development has, well, been done before: look at a good amount of independently-developed games, for instance. A set of more mainstream examples could be found in The Walking Dead and Half-Life 2- and that's a perfect place to start in this discussion.
I think you know what's coming.
The pros of episodic development are obvious- publishers get a monetary incentive to stick around, developers get important feedback, and us, the gamers, get good-sized bites of the game.
The Walking Dead quickly found critical acclaim, finding the soft spot in old-fashioned point-and-click adventure-oriented gamers and new fans drawn in by the universe of the Walking Dead. It took an already popular concept and "gamified" it perfectly- the player's choices play a huge factor into the story while still maintaining its identity as a game, instead of, shall we say, an emotional outlet.
This image, uncompressed, contains exactly 244000 emotions. If you think I'm above flogging this dead horse, you're talking to the wrong guy.
Half-Life 2 and its episodic sequels were widely loved, both as technology demonstrations (Steam and the Source Engine, represent) and as wonderful games in their own right, fusing first-person shooter, puzzle and adventure into a cinematic tale told from the eyes of a completely silent protagonist with a frightening penchant for killing things with crowbars and just stone-cold not giving a fuck when encountered with danger.
However, that's where we're encountered with a problem. It's time to ask the question that provokes devoted fanatics and desperate developers alike- Where is Episode Three?
This isn't the blog post to answer that question, though. This is the blog post about why that question was asked to begin with, and why it's a question that should be paid attention to. With episodic development, what happens when the devs hit a standstill, or funding stops? This is "normal" episodic development- what about Mega Man Legends 3, which, as this commenter so helpfully pointed out, never saw a full release even though an episodic prologue had been planned?
Here's the thing about that, though. Half-Life, Mega Man? Those are best sellers. Those franchises bring in a crazy amount of money because they're fucking established intellectual properties.
In the former's case, the developers can't figure out what to do from where they left off, and in the latter's case, the publisher axed things because they thought a portable game based on an established franchise wouldn't make them enough cash.
Now, think of indie hits like Braid (for the record, Jonathan Blow can blow me) and cult hits like Killer7. For these games, what makes you check them out? Impulse buys during severe discount on Steam sales? A lucky happen-by in a bargain bin? Insane amounts of praise from critics, or a single friend's recommendation?
The thing about these games is that there's not much of an incentive for most gamers to even try them out, much less throw their money at them unprovoked. Who wants to invest in an episodic prologue for a game they may not even like? Why not stick with something familiar, like Call of Duty or Uncharted?
Every gamer wants to say that they love the underdog, that they support the little guy through thick and thin. Damn those big publishers, killing our favorite franchises and producing bland sequel after bland sequel!
Episodic development could help in many ways, but it can go horribly, horribly wrong just as easily. Hell, established franchises that sell like hotcakes still get the ax from big publishers- if not enough people try out and like prologue demos or episode ones, what gives the publishers incentive to back it up and what gives the developers incentive to keep pressing forward with the game?
Cult hits like Killer7 wouldn't survive in this kind of arena. Indie games and Triple-A could see some serious damage themselves.
Done right, episodic development can be a wonderful, wonderful thing- but in today's industry and in the future, I don't see it as a viable option.
Don't get me wrong, though, Kojima. I love you.
I want your Naked Snake in my Ground Zero all night long.