Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is the latest in the collections/remasters that have been created to catch up players on all of the currently available games in the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Contained within is Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD, Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage, and the animated movie Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover. Delivering a remake of the 3DS title, a movie that delves into the story of the mobile game Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ and the first new piece of story in the Kingdom Hearts universe since the original release of Dream Drop Distance in 2012. A warning going ahead that there may be some minor story spoilers for previous Kingdom Hearts titles.
Picking up from after the events of Kingdom Hearts Coded, Sora and Riku are gathered at Master Yen Sid's tower in preparation of their Mark of Mastery Exam. This exam is required of all apprentice Keyblade wielders before they are able to call themselves Masters. While Sora and Riku haven't had the most traditional training up until now, it is still a requirement for them. Master Yen Sid instructs them that while a lot of the worlds that fell into darkness before and during the events of Kingdom Hearts have returned to the Realm of Light, there are still some that lay sleeping. It is Sora and Riku's job to travel to the seven sleeping worlds and unlock their keyhole to restore them completely. Along the way, some of the worlds that you travel to (like Traverse Town) are familiar, but others (like the Country of Musketeers) are brand new. Yen Sid's hope is that not only will Sora and Riku become masters in their own rights but will also come back from their test with the ability to awaken sleeping hearts.
Once in the world of dreams, Sora and Riku learn that they are both traveling through the same worlds but in different versions of them. This means that while they don't see each other some impacts that they have on one world affect what is happening on the other. On your journey you will encounter a new type of enemy called Nightmares, but you will also have Dream Eaters on your side that you can The story of Dream Drop Distance is the latest chronologically in the Kingdom Hearts timeline and because of this not only does it expand upon the story of Sora and his friends but it also serves to tie together some of the events of other Kingdom Hearts titles and set the premise for Kingdom Hearts 3. For those who know about all the events leading up to Dream Drop Distance this is an integral part of the story, if you don't know what has been happening then you might want to do some research before diving in.
Like a normal Kingdom Hearts game, you travel from world to world here, meeting the inhabitants and trying to correct the issues that are currently plaguing them. Regular combat is mostly the same from previous titles in the franchise but there is a new feature that has been implemented called Flowmotion. Flowmotion is a gravity-defying form of parkour where you can bounce off walls, spin around lamp posts, and grind rails to not only travel around faster but also attack your enemies from a variety of different angles. You can travel around the world faster and attack enemies with instant homing and area of effect attacks. While both of these things are extremely helpful, they also work in their own way to break the game on some level. Any level that requires you to trigger the appearance of a platform to be able to progress can almost be ignored by using Flowmotion, and chaining jumps against walls to get higher and higher. Even worlds that give you ways to attain height like the La Cite des Cloches is useless as you have more freedom and accuracy making the progress on your own.
For battle, the trade-off between attacking one foe at a time against using Flowmotion to hit multiple at a time also seems an obvious one. The big positive of Flowmotion is the speed with which you can get around. When traveling from one side of a large world to another you can chain dashes and be there in no time. Each world also has its own type of Reality Shift, another new mechanic in battle where lowering an enemy's health will give you a chance to deal extra damage by using them in an attack or playing a small mini-game. On the original 3DS version of the game, most of the Reality Shifts were controlled by using the touch screen. For the Dualshock 4 controller, the functionality has been replaced by simple movements with the left analog stick. This change was not only necessary with the difference in hardware but keeps you more involved in the fight as you don't have to take your hand off the controls to perform any action. Using purely controller inputs instead of a touch screen also makes the process less tedious and more enjoyable.
The new enemy that has been introduced for Dream Drop Distance is the Nightmares of the dream worlds. These creatures take the form of a variety of humanoid creatures as well as some based purely on animals such as elephants and horses. For each Nightmare though there is a Dream Eater counterpart, in Dream Drop Distance the Dream Eaters take the role of your companions helping you fight. As you travel you will learn recipes and find components to create your own Dream Eaters, or you can also just attempt to make Dream Eaters from components without knowing what they will become. After being created, you can set out with a party of three Dream Eaters, and battling gives them levels, gains affinity, and helps them earn Link Points. When you want to take a break from the main story, you can access your Spirits menu where you can even interact and play with your Dream Eaters.
When you want to take a break from the main story, you can access your Spirits menu where you can even interact and play with your Dream Eaters. Petting your Dream Eaters is another way to help them gain affinity, and it occasionally rewards them with experience and Link Points as well. Feeding them helps raise individual stats, and there are even a variety of mini-games that you can play with your Dream Eaters to help raise them. This is an example of where the transition between touch screen to DualShock 4 controller has not fared so well. Specifically, the balloon bounce mini-game and others that attempt to have the DS4 touchpad work as a touch screen are playable, but you have no sense of precision, leaving you pressing the touchpad repeatedly hoping that you will hit your target. Link Points can be used on each of your Dream Eaters ability boards, with each Dream Eater having different abilities and spells that you can spend points on to unlock. While most of the abilities that you unlock last only as long as the Dream Eater is in your party, any spells or commands that you unlock are yours to keep using for the rest of the game.
As you travel through alternate versions of the same worlds as both Sora and Riku, you will encounter points where you get to witness the consequences of your actions from one world in another. In an attempt to stop players from progressing too far with one character and not at all with the other, there is a Drop time limit, which acts as a hard stop on whatever character you're playing as. If you're walking down a hallway or in the middle of a boss fight when that timer runs out you get forcibly switched to the other character. Each switch brings you back to the exact point where you left, while it's nice to not have to start from a previous checkpoint to say that this shift is jarring is an understatement. There are a variety of ways that a forced switch could occur such as story triggers and while there are ways to delay the time until you switch characters such as the Drop-me-not item but a hard stop isn't a good one. Depending on the progress you've made as one character, you'll also get to select certain perks that the next character can enjoy until their next drop such as a drop decelerator, attack bonus, or even spells and commands.
As with other remakes of the Kingdom Hearts titles the HD treatment for Dream Drop Distance brings a game that was designed for a 400 x 420 screen up to a sharp 1080p. Character models look sharp, the particle effects of attacks and magic bounce and shine. Each of the worlds embodies a mix of both 3D environments and the 2D source material, giving players a sense of walking through their favorite Disney movies. Dream Drop Distance HD does what some of the best HD remakes for current gen consoles do and they make a game look just as good as you remember seeing it. Just be warned if you decide to try going back to the original edition after witnessing this one.
Dream Drop Distance HD is an excellent way for returning players to remind themselves of the events of that game while also serving as a fantastic way for players to get to experience this adventure for the very first time. Improving upon some of the features of the original version, while leaving something to be desired at other points there's no denying with improved graphics and a better controller that Dream Drop Distance HD is an improved experience. Dream Eater mini-games and petting are what really takes a hit here as the DS4 just isn't a worthy replacement for a touch screen.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage serves as a connection between Birth by Sleep for the PSP and other events in the Kingdom Hearts timeline. At the end of Birth by Sleep, we see that Ventus is lost in a deep slumber hidden away in the Chamber of Waking by Aqua. Terra has had darkness take over his heart and his body is now being controlled by Master Xehanort. Aqua, in an attempt to save Terra, ended up falling in the Realm of Darkness. While there is no sense of time in the Realm of Darkness, we know that 10 years have already passed in the Realm of Light between when Aqua first fell into the Realm of Darkness and when we begin the story of A Fragmentary Passage. After wandering through the Realm of Darkness, Aqua happens upon a destroyed Enchanted Dominion signifying that the world had also fallen to the darkness. This leads her to question whether the powers of Light and Darkness were still waging their war or if Light had already fallen. Over the course of A Fragmentary Passage, the story doesn't revolve around what is happening around Aqua in the world, instead telling an introspective tale as Aqua reflects on her time in the Realm of Darkness and whether she still has the will in her heart to continue fighting off her own darkness.
While this game does not have the epic and somewhat convoluted story that Kingdom Hearts games are known to have for series veterans A Fragmentary Passage sheds new light on previously known events, this is definitely not a good place for a new player to start off though. While there is a lot of action, players can also expect a fair bit of the standard Kingdom Hearts introspective and brooding dialogue with a lot of references to hearts, guiding lights, and the melodramatic unending battle between light and darkness. The writing, while not always the cheeriest, is perfectly suitable for the setting and situation that Aqua has found herself in so you never feel like it's being forced upon you.
With Kingdom Hearts 0.2, the franchise takes its first step onto the Unreal Engine, and the first game to be developed specifically for a current gen console. The last KH game to do this was Kingdom Hearts II way back in 2005, so this is quite a leap forward. From the updated models of known characters like Aqua and Shadow (the enemy, not the lighting effect) and the design of new enemies, the inhabitants of the world look great. One of the characters that does look a bit too high quality is Mickey Mouse. While in previous games of the series he looked like a cartoon mouse built for a 3D world his new model makes him look like something from Playhouse Disney. The work that the designers have done on creating what a world of darkness would look like with vast expanses of nothing, crumbling buildings, and even vortexes give you a sense of how vast and lonely the world is, even if you can only stand on a small part of it. Particle effects from attacking enemies with your Keyblade or spells look beautiful, but there were a couple of times where ending a battle in a large explosion would cause an extremely brief frame rate drop. This drop was noticeable for the half a second or so that it was present but was too infrequent/quick to leave much of a negative impression. While not being developed using their in-house Luminous Engine like Final Fantasy XV, it's clear that the level of quality and attention to detail that Square Enix is known for is present and accounted for.
A Fragementary Passage combines many elements of previous Kingdom Hearts games as well as adding in new ones. When you start playing you will be able to dodge on the ground and single jump but by the time you're past the first area you will be able to air dodge, double jump, and use the shotlock feature from Birth By Sleep. A new addition to fighting is the overdrive mode where after reaching a certain number of combo chains a bar above your commands will fill up and prompt you to press Triangle to activate a special command. What that command is depends on what you have been using to attack with recently, have you been casting Fira? Then you can activate Firaga and set the world on fire. If you have just been attacking normally then you can activate Aqua's Spellweaver mode changing the way she attacks (Think of it a bit like a form change from Kingdom Hearts II). This overdrive can help you turn the tide of battles as you can use it to either change up your attack pattern or really focus in on your enemies weakness. Be careful once you've obtained all of the abilities, as being able to use them all in sync with one another might be complicated as you get used to coordinating all of the buttons at once.
While movement on the ground is extremely fluid, there seem to be an issue of inputs being dropped. While you're able to chain together combos if you decide you wish to perform a midair block or cast a spell you have to be extremely deliberate with your button press or even repeatedly hit it before achieving your goal. There were also instances where attempting a double jump Aqua wouldn't respond with potential causes being dropped inputs or even just an odd window of availability to activate your double jump. A new mechanic that has been added to A Fragmentary Passage is the combination of goals and wardrobe. There are 50 different challenges that all have requirements to be met, they could be something as simple as killing 30 Shadows or as vague as "Watch for a meteor shower". Once you complete each of these requirements you are rewarded with a different wardrobe item allowing you to either customize Aqua's headgear, back, shoulder pauldrons, or dress pattern. While these features do seem tacked on for the purpose of adding replay value to the game, the variety in the missions and the hunt to uncover missions that you might have missed help to have players explore the different mechanics that have been added. Don't worry if you miss any on your first playthough as there is a new game plus mode that not only carries on your level, but also all of your unlocked wardrobe items and goal progression.
As is the tradition in Kingdom Hearts, all of the audio, from the new rendition of Simple and Clean by Utada Hikaru to the satisfying pop an enemy or barrel makes when you break it open, fit perfectly into the universe. You might even find yourself humming along to the worlds background music as you speed around taking on enemies and exploring. The sounds made by your keyblade, spells, and other creatures in the game feel familiar but have been enhanced in this latest entry into the franchise.
While Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage might not be as long as some people were hoping, or even contain as much revealing story it is a worthy addition to the series not only shedding new light on past events but also giving players a tease of what we can expect going forward with the Kingdom Hearts franchise in terms of both story and mechanics.
Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover is a movie retelling of events that transpire during the time of Kingdom Hearts Unchained X and focus' on the five Foretellers; Ira, Invi, Aced, Gula, and Ava. Prior to the movie these five Keyblade masters all studied under the Master of Masters with another student called Luxu. Their master gave each of the Foretellers a Book of Prophecies that he had written allowing them to know what events will transpire in the future. The last passage in the Book of Prophecies foretold of a great Keyblade War where light would lose to the darkness and be expunged. On top of this worrying news the Master also told his apprentices that there might come a time where he would no longer be around, he then spoke to each of the apprentices and gave them tasks to not only carry out in his absence but to also slow the approach of the Keyblade Wars. Picking up a year after the Masters disappearance, Ira has found evidence that has led him to believe that one of the five Foretellers has let their heart fall into darkness, with a potential traitor among them the Foretellers need to find a way to discover the truth while also maintaining the balance of light. The movie switches between present time and a year prior as we see the Master interacting with each of his apprentices and learn what their tasks are.
While players of the mobile game Unchained χ might have learnt small amounts of information about the Foretellers, it is only in this movie that we learn more of their personalities and objectives. Aside from the obvious connection as the precursor to the Keyblade Wars at this time there is no further connection to Sora and the rest of the main series of Kingdom Hearts. If you're someone who enjoys the lore of Kingdom Hearts and wants to learn more about these characters, this movie will satisfy some of your curiosity. The movie was completely created using CGI and is reminiscent of the pre-rendered cutscenes of previous Kingdom Hearts games.
Overall for the Kingdom Hearts fan that is trying to have all of the games fresh in their mind going forward or someone trying to play catch up, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue does a fantastic job of revealing new story from before the Keyblade Wars, after Birth By Sleep, and also ports the last of the handheld Kingdom Hearts games to console. A fact that stands out quite clearly from all of this content though is that this game is exactly as the title states, a prologue to the final chapter. With a reminder of Sora's most recent adventure, an update on what Aqua has been doing for all of these years, and more Keyblade history being revealed it is all setting up to Kingdom Hearts III, said to be the end of the Dark Seeker Saga, also known as the Xahanort Saga. Whether the gameplay and information shared in Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is something that you want to learn right away or whether you might use it as a means to refresh your memory before the release of Kingdom Hearts III it is a worthwhile game to have in your collection.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher.
While giving players the chance to replay Sora's latest adventure in HD and adding important story information through Aqua's story and a movie this game does more to set up Kingdom Hearts III than enjoy it's own worth. A great addition for fans of the franchise that might leave new players scratching their heads.
- New Kingdom Hearts Story
- Dream Drop Distance with a Controller
- Feels Like a Prologue
- Mickey's New Look and Voice Actor
- Feels Like a Prologue