Kingdom Hearts 3 Re:Mind’s title doesn’t lie. It’s more of an addendum to Kingdom Hearts 3 than a meaningful addition. In some ways, it’s fitting that a franchise as labyrinthine as Kingdom Hearts received such a strange expansion. Re:Mind is a brief but laborious retread of events we already experienced last year, dressed up with new details that only make the already maddeningly elaborate story all the more obtuse. The DLC also brings back Replica Data bosses, which provide a ridiculous challenge that requires inordinate level grinding. [Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers for the ending boss and area in Kingdom Hearts 3.]
Kingdom Hearts 3 ended with Sora going off on his own to search for Kairi. Re:Mind takes you on that quest in typical Kingdom Hearts fashion: neither simply nor cleanly. It runs synchronously with the events at the Keyblade Graveyard, meaning you actually have to replay the climax again from the Keyblade Graveyard maze all the way to the showdown with Xehanort. Though the explanation for how this is possible is very silly, Re:Mind is essentially a director’s cut.
As a reminder, the Keyblade Graveyard doesn’t really feature any exploration. It’s a series of boss fights separated by lengthy cutscenes. Luxord still hides behind a playing card taunting Sora, and cutscenes stop the action in similar spots. Some of the dialogue and cutscenes are reworked while others are new, but the biggest difference is the option to play as Riku, Roxas, Kairi, or Aqua in several fights. Unfortunately, playing as these characters actually makes the slick and stylish combat less fun. All of them feel like weaker versions of Sora with limited movesets, and it also doesn’t help that the Keyblade Graveyard itself is the blandest world in Kingdom Hearts 3, devoid of the colorful and pleasant trappings of the Disney worlds that made the majority of original campaign hum.
Even the new content that’s spliced into the repeated events largely fails to make the journey worthwhile. Scala ad Caelum opens up to reveal a new section before you square off against Xehanort. Though the area is fairly big, it’s desolate and exists only as a space to complete a rather banal fetch quest. It’s filler content in a story filled with recycled fights. There’s a fan service sequence that’s actually pretty enjoyable, however. Without spoiling it, it’s the type of scene that will make fans fondly remember the decades-long journey that brought us to this point. It’s a brief event that doesn’t make up for five hours of deja vu, but it still stands out.
For die-hard fans, the Limit Cut Episode that unlocks after watching the same closing cutscene from the base game is the meat of the package. Those who played Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix will be familiar with the mode, which sees Sora in a computer simulation fighting data versions of Organization XIII members like Xigbar, Ansem, and Xehanort. It even features cameos from the long-lost Final Fantasy characters.
Unfortunately, the barrier for entry is extraordinarily high, because Limit Cut bosses are exponentially more challenging than any of the fights in the base game. If you didn’t grind near or all the way to the level 99 cap in the main campaign–and there was no need to–Limit Cut will probably feel like an insurmountable challenge. I’m still working my way through the bosses, and I seriously doubt that I’ll ever actually beat them all. The ocean that exists between the difficulty of the base game and the data bosses is jarring.
It’s of course impossible to separate the DLC from the game it builds off of, and Kingdom Hearts 3’s best moments came in the Disney and Pixar worlds–the individual stories of friendship and love and good conquering evil that could almost be appreciated as self-contained short stories. Re:Mind seeks to tell a very specific story, but along the way it becomes blindingly clear that Kingdom Hearts’ strengths lie in its pieces and parts, not its convoluted sum that threads through and disrupts the franchise’s magical moments.
Even as a longtime fan of the series who adored Kingdom Hearts 3, it’s hard to muster up any sort of enthusiasm for Re:Mind. What’s more, Re:Mind made me understand Kingdom Hearts 3’s story even less, which is a testament to how bonkers it really is. It’s not all that surprising this happened; after all, it’s Kingdom Hearts. Nevertheless, Re:Mind is an incredibly peculiar expansion that simultaneously falls flat and partially obscures the brilliance of Kingdom Hearts 3.