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Kingdom Hearts finally on its way

Kyle Wynen | Interrobang | Lifestyles | September 29th, 2008

Long time fans of the Square- Enix and Disney series Kingdom Hearts can now throw a fist of celebration into the air as Square-Enix this week announced that previously Japan-only Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories for the Playstation 2 will be released in North America December 2. Re: Chain of Memories was originally not planned for release in North America as it was released in Japan over a year-and-a-half ago.

Kingdom Hearts, for those who don't know, is the surprisingly successful action-role playing series that is the result of Square-Enix's Final Fantasy series crossed with Disney characters and stories. The games have their own original story line and lead characters, including protagonist Sora, which are intertwined with the heavy handed helping of Disney and Final Fantasy. The series has sold more than 10 million units worldwide to date.

Re: Chain of Memories for the Playstation 2 is actually a port of the second title in the series, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. As Square-Enix put it in their press release, “Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories is the essential piece that bridges the gap between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Originally released in 2004 for Game Boy Advance [in 2D], this full 3D rendition on the PlayStation 2 has never been released in North America - this is an entry in the Kingdom Hearts saga that fans of the series can't miss!”

What drove fans crazy was that in the special edition re-release of Kingdom Hearts II in Japan, dubbed Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix +, Square Enix included Re: Chain of Memories completely remade in 3D for the Playstation 2, complete with new cutscenes and voice acting. Quite the bonus, and thousands upon thousands of English speaking fans have been clamouring for it ever since. Also quite bizarre to be Japan only considering half the content in the game is Disney related.

Undoubtedly it is the cry of fans that helped bring the title across the Pacific, as typically Square-Enix releases in North America are roughly six months after their Japanese debut. Re: Chain of Memories being at a year-and-a half now is a fair sign of a video games company actually listening to their fans in regards to an entire game. What fans were not expecting is to see the title released on its own. Most rumors surrounding the title have been in regards to the Japanese special edition of Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix + making it to North American shores.

Critics of Square-Enix have long accused the company of not catering to fans, but instead, of milking their wallets. Re: Chain of Memories is among a large change in Square-Enix's business plan since Squaresoft initially merged with Enix in 2003. Since then, many titles have been developed, ported or remade with fan demand presumably in mind. The largest of the efforts, the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII has not straddled the debate well as the overall quality of the titles, said to be developed for fans, more or less did not deliver on hopes of something on par with the original Final Fantasy VII.

Re: Chain of Memories on the other hand is quite the unique piece. It was developed originally for the Gameboy Advance with tiny 2D graphics, and has been ported to the PS2, with the graphics and game engine being completely scrapped. In perspective, it is like trying to port a Playstation 1 game to the Playstation 3. The game is not considered a remake as it only originally debuted four years ago, but to many it might as well be. Whether fans consider the sheer technical upgrade when playing and reviewing the game is anyone's guess.
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