Re:Mind was released to provide a more well-rounded Kingdom Hearts III experience, but does it pull it off?
I’ve been on the Kingdom Hearts roller coaster for almost its entire run. For the uninitiated, that’s about 18 years, approximately eight games across five different platforms (not even counting all the re-releases), technically a movie, and an ongoing mobile game’s worth of my gaming dedicated to this one franchise. The iconic, almost infamous Disney x Square Enix mashup has certainly made its mark on the industry in its long history, and its most recent entry—Kingdom Hearts III—stood out as a highly-anticipated title with 13 years of build-up and six years of development.
While the state of its completion upon launch was rather questionable, a DLC add-on was rolled out almost a year later to fill in some of the gaps. Re:Mind was released on January 23 as a supplemental story that sought to provide further insight into the narrative and paint a more complete picture. It even added some new content and playable elements to boot.
For all intents and purposes, Re:Mind brings the story of KH3 to a close. But how well does it do that? Rather than simply review the DLC, I’d like to take a deep dive (pun intended) into how complete the game feels now. As a hopelessly-devoted Kingdom Hearts fan who wanted so much more out of KH3 initially, I went into Re:Mind hoping for the package to be more substantial. In many ways, Re:Mind delivers on its promise of a fuller experience. But from what I’ve played thus far, I’m still not very confident in saying that the game as a whole is in any way perfect.
But before we even get to Re:Mind, I should talk about my thoughts on the base game. After about a year of careful consideration, my reaction is lukewarm at best.
**MAJOR SPOILERS FOR KINGDOM HEARTS III BELOW**
I have to admit that those first couple of hours were magical. With so many installments touting completely different play styles, KH3 had a strong start. It began as a return to form for the franchise, combining its classic action-RPG gameplay with some of the best mechanics from other games in the series. I felt that my patience, tenuous as it was, was rewarded with a gameplay experience that was both nostalgic and refreshing.
But when that initial charm wore off and the game progressed, it started to take a bit of a nose dive. Its enormous worlds had almost nothing in them and the dazzling gameplay became so broken that I don’t think I got a Game Over throughout the entire story. Not to mention there were fan favorite characters that saw little to no spotlight, and the conclusion to the long-running Xehanort Saga that director Tetsuya Nomura promised us left more questions than answers.
I won’t say I hated it. Seeing characters like Terra, Roxas, and Xion make a comeback during the climax was so emotionally gratifying that I can barely think about those scenes without crying. With so many characters having been resigned to grim fates throughout the series, it was all too satisfying to see some happy endings go around. But even then, it was missing far too much to be among my favorite Kingdom Hearts games.
If you compare it to any other title in the franchise content-wise, KH3 was a barebones and almost empty affair that left much to be desired. The final chapter proved to be lackluster with its shockingly unchallenging clip show of bosses from games past and a last world that was barely explorable. And the bittersweet cherry on top came as Sora disappeared by the end of the Keyblade War while his friends were alive and well, an ending that was far too hard to swallow for a story that has long deserved a real and honest conclusion.
Re:Mind, in its entirety,sought to change at least some of this. This three-part DLC package (three parts that I know of, at least) promised to deliver more playable characters, a deeper insight into the story, more real gameplay challenges, and a glimpse into the future of Kingdom Hearts. I’ve played and struggled through the first two (Re:Mind and Limited Cut), and am currently working on conquering the third (Secret Episode). But I have plenty to say on the matter already.
I’ll go in order, starting with Re:Mind itself. As a retelling of the final chapter, this first episode went into further detail on Sora’s journey to rescue Kairi’s heart after she perished by Xehanort’s hand. His own heart traveled back through time to collect pieces of Kairi, passing through every Keyblade wielder during their final respective battles, which lent itself to allowing the player to take control of different characters and use their abilities.
This was, without a doubt, my favorite part of the DLC. It gave me everything I wanted out of the conclusion of KH3. It wasn’t difficult to get used to any of the new characters (gameplay translates rather consistently between each of them), but it was so exciting to have some of my favorites take an active part in the final conflict and truly helped to raise the emotional impact of their returns.
The big team-up between every Keyblade Master and Mickey Mouse’s unyielding efforts to fight back the darkness with his dwindling strength easily served as some of the most powerful gameplay moments in the entire series. It gave me the same kind of vibes I would get from watching epic anime battles ala Gurren Lagann or My Hero Academia. Characters from across the series overcame severe hardships in order to arrive at one last fight against Xehanort, which resulted in an immensely satisfying conclusion for the supporting cast.
What made this first part work was how it directly addressed some of the flaws of KH3’s denouement. While working its way into the main story, it was able to course correct much of the narrative payoff it tried to achieve the first time around. It was more than just Sora, Donald, and Goofy fighting one more evil person. It gave everyone a chance to shine and allowed its fans to be directly involved in seeing their stories through. Is it a perfect game after Re:Mind’s first chapter? Far from it. Do I lament that this content wasn’t available at launch? You bet I do. But Re:Mind itself was exactly the climax I wanted one year ago, and getting it now certainly counts for something in my book.
The same can hardly be said for what comes after.
Upon completing Re:Mind, you unlock the Limited Cut. Taking place one year after the main story, Riku and company have worked tirelessly trying to track down Sora with nothing to show for it. While trying to compare notes with Radiant Garden’s crew of Final Fantasy characters, they discover a strange collection of old Organization XIII data, and compile a digitized version of Sora to investigate it. This results in a gauntlet of bosses that pits you against beefed-up versions of the Organization members. And these fights are substantially more difficult than anything that the base game had to offer.
This could’ve been a good thing. One of the major complaints I had with the initial KH3 release was that you could very easily unlock combat abilities that were nigh-invincible and easily tore through any enemy the game threw at you, even final bosses and secret enemies. By and large, these new bosses offered no such luxury.
Reminiscent of KH2:FM, each Organization member required their own strategy and featured original gimmicks that you had to overcome. Almost none were so simple as “mashing the X button so you could press the Triangle button so you can mash X better.” This collection of newer bosses would’ve been nice to add as a secret room where you could test your abilities, and I certainly felt like a champion conquering them one by one. But it fails when you include it as a linchpin to the rest of the story.
Limited Cut presents itself as a legitimate continuation of Kingdom Hearts. In other words, surmounting this glut of superbosses was a requirement in order to know the rest of the story. That isn’t how superbosses should work. I enjoy being challenged with sidequests and extra content in any Kingdom Hearts game, but not when it serves as a barrier barring me from actual narrative. In the past, secret bosses were optional challenges that you could take on, where you’d be rewarded with extra scenes if you beat them. What came after Limited Cut hardly felt worth it. There were cutscenes to be had and I did learn something new in terms of what Riku must do to save Sora, but having to tear my hair out through several difficult bosses just for that one fact was the furthest thing from a fair tradeoff.
In fairness, that wasn’t all I got from beating Limited Cut. It granted me access to the Secret Episode, but that’s an entirely different beast as of now.
As the episode begins, we miraculously find Sora alive and well, albeit stranded in the Final World. He soon encounters a mysterious young man named Yozora (who you might remember from the Toy Box gag commercial and the original secret ending). Strangely enough, Yozora had been asked to “save Sora,” though his version of it seemed to involve drawing his weapon against him. So ensues one of the toughest, almost confusing boss battles I’ve ever encountered in Kingdom Hearts.
As of writing, I still have yet to defeat Yozora. I hope to do so soon just to see if anything comes after. If the secret content of previous games is any indication, it probably won’t be too much, but the potential of narrative compels me to see it through to the end. And that simply compounds the problem that the content after the main story seems to have.
There’s a stark difference between beating a regular boss to further the story and beating secret bosses to further the story. This unrelenting test of my skills feels more like a requirement for my KH3 experience rather than just a side challenge. The sense of accomplishment I might get from overcoming these enemies is diminished when you replace hidden content with vague and mandatory narrative as a reward. Of course I want to know more about what’s happening in the story, but having to work this hard for it has proven to be rather unappetizing.
The way I see it, the entire DLC package of Re:Mind worked at its best when it played into the game it’s attached to. The first chapter doesn’t fix all of the base game’s problems, but I found a much greater sense of gratification in seeing characters I’ve followed for years get a redo for their long-deserved epic comebacks. Unfortunately, it began to lose me as soon as the DLC started to stray away from the core experience.
As I mentioned before, Tetsuya Nomura promised us an ending to this saga of the Kingdom Hearts story. Even if the series continues from here, as it undoubtedly will, I still wanted that one decisive ending before moving on. I didn’t get it the first time around, what with the ambiguous final scene and two secret endings in the base game. Limited Cut and Secret Episode brought me even further from it, while kicking my ass to boot.
I wasn’t so naive as to think that Kingdom Hearts was ever going to end. The whole reason why I got the DLC in the first place was because I wanted more of it. When all's said and done, Re:Mind reflected my initial experience with Kingdom Hearts III. The first few moments dazzled me, but despite its best efforts and toughest challenges, there still remains so much more that could be done to salvage this game in its current, seemingly final, iteration.
Have you beaten Re:Mind yet? Which secret boss gave you the most trouble? Let us know in the comments!
Carlos is a freelance features writer for Crunchyroll. Their favorite genres range from magical girls to over-the-top robot action, yet their favorite characters are always the obscure ones. Check out some of their satirical work on The Hard Times.