Once upon a time, Disney and Final Fantasy teamed up to create an amalgamation of real time battles, RPG mechanics and a universe littered with characters and locations from the mighty Disney empire to meet and greet. Now, three games, all presented in HD, make their appearance onto this gen.
Straight from the off, you’re given that all important choice of which one to play first; having never partaken in a ‘boy with a key meets a duck and a dog’ adventure before. I logically opted for the furthest left selection on the main screen. So began my journey into the world of rabbit holes, jungles and confusion.
Jumping in, I landed hard, this was a PS2 game in looks, design, mechanics and feel. After being initiated into the game via answering some seemingly important questions regarding whether I’m in it for myself or just the money, I was off. Immediately seeing Wakka from my personal favourite Final Fantasy game brought upon a smile. That wore off rather quickly however due to the games inordinately slow start. Generic fetch quests were my reward for completing the preceding generic fetch quests. In between these, I caught some respite by sparring with the locals, competing in a frustratingly awkward platforming ‘race’ and generally exploring. Not so soon after that, the story decides to kick in; the serene island our hero Sora calls home, comes under attack from the heartless, the shadowy beings of unknown origin that we should probably put a stop to.
Eventually, after losing contact with your friends, you end up in the hub-like Traverse Town where upon you’ll join forces with the fabled Donald Duck and Goofy. From here on out, the game starts to open up a little; doing battle with the seemingly never ending waves of the same enemies starts to feel less like a chore and more like levelling. The combat engine soon relents it’s generic, one combo, hack and slash feel, to incorporate magic spells, dodges and even enemies that require different tactics to just mashing ‘x’ in their faces. Bosses often present a slightly different approach, they usually require you to jump and attack them. Now, I don’t know whether it’s the wonky jumping mechanic, the tankard of ale that the camera had previously consumed, or perhaps just Sora’s comically large shoes (and perhaps feet) that make this so infuriating. What I can say, is that it looks disjointed, it never feels fluid and it comes across as a weak attempt to extend the fight.
Once out of Traverse Town, you’re introduced to the ‘gummi ship’, essentially yours, you use it to fly from one fantasy location to the next, and it’s constructed of gummies. According to the tutorial, you can create your own ship from bits and pieces you’ll find along your quest, but due to the archaic UI and traumatic effort required, you’ll find it’s easier not to bother and instead think, ‘that’s pretty cool, that this was on a PS2’.
The second game, Chain of memories, adds an interesting card game battle system involving everything from items to Goofy in the form of a numerical card value. A case of the higher the card the better, save for the cheeky wildcards however, that can throw the proverbial spanner in. Sleights can be performed by chaining combinations together as a sort of special move, letting you easily destroy most things that you come across with satisfaction. Despite the somewhat interesting combat, the entire game is marred solely by essentially being a carbon copy of the first game. Locales, characters and situations are simply watered down rehashes with the excuse being the plot. Sora, Donald and Goofy, still on the quest to find their missing companions, enter the dreaded Castle Oblivion in an attempt to rescue them. The problem being that it erases your memory as you enter, leaving Sora on a predictable journey of trying to recreate versions of the worlds he’d previously visited. It perks up a little towards the end but washing the soured taste of repetition out is an impossible task; pales in comparison to it’s predecessor.
Well, I hope you really enjoy cutscenes as 358/2 Days, the third and final game, is just that. Originally released on the Nintendo DS, we are ‘treat’ to an HD offering of all the cutscenes in the game. Player interaction is limited to either individually selecting which scene to watch next or, if your fingers need a break, perhaps the old classic ‘play all’ option will suit you better. Following a character from the second game, it feels decidedly disconnected and unfortunately, ultimately pointless as it offers no closure to the events in the other titles. Taking around three hours to ‘complete’ is all you really need to know!
Due to them being HD updates of, mostly, PS2 games, they look crisp and colourful if not a tad out dated. The art style of the areas still appeal as do the charm inducing characters, both Disney and those from Final Fantasy. The music still holds strong and is probably one of the stand out features that will stick in your mind long after completion. Voice work and acting is taken from the PS2 game; features some real Disney voice actors which is a nice touch despite Mr Donald Duck’s slightly grating speech impediment.
If you fancy taking an adventure down memory lane, then this Square Enix collection should suffice, yet, if you’re new to the franchise, you’re probably better off with a more recent iteration unless you can stomach the old ways of the PS2’s limitations. With each of the main games clocking in at around 25 hours a piece, plus an extra 3 hours from the cutscene game, you’ll get your moneys worth if you’re a fan. One thing to keep in mind is that after an extended period of time with ‘that camera’, somehow even Goofy’s inane, lolling smile will eventually start to grate. And that shouldn’t ever really happen.
Reviewed on PS3. Available only on PS3.