There are few games that are more anticipated than the much delayed Kingdom Hearts 3. Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (hereafter referred to as KH 2.8) is a compilation of games that serves not only as an opportunity to allow fans play KH Dream Drop Distance, but to serve as an amazing teaser for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3.
But without further ado, the review.
Kingdom Hearts X: Back Cover
I’m starting off the review with probably the weakest point of the collection. Kingdom Hearts X: Back Cover (KHX) is an hour long CG movie that essentially summarizes the story of the mobile game Kingdom Hearts X (chi). While fully animated in Unreal Engine 4 and is visually pleasing, the story within seems both muddled and confusing to those who have never played the mobile game. This review is spoiler free, so it’s safe to move onto the other, bigger games in this collection!
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD
Possibly one the least played entries in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD is an excellent PS4 remaster of the 3DS game. Even if you are a die-hard KH fan who already played KH 3D, the excellent work that has gone into the remaster itself is enough to replay through it. I’ll admit that I only got about halfway through on my first playthrough of KH 3D back on the Nintendo 3DS, only due to the odd control scheme on the handheld console. But here, KH 3D feels like what it always was trying to be: a fully fledged console KH game. Not only do the controls feel well, but the graphical upgrades over the 3DS game are phenomenal.
All of the buttons mapped for KH 3D HD resemble that of the previous console entries in the series, so that fans of the originals can feel right at home. Not only is the button mapping familiar, but the inherent nature of playing on a Dualshock 4 allows the player to feel more deliberate with their movements. This is especially important due to the game’s biggest new gameplay element: Flow Motion. Flow Motion is a new gameplay element that allow players to jump off walls, swing around lamp posts and slide on rails in one kinetic motion. If used correctly, players are able to chain together combos with their attacks by using Flow Motion, which I always found difficult to do on the 3DS. But here in the remaster, Flow Motion is not only fun, but a great addition to the move set in the KH franchise.
Unfortunately, the biggest flaw in KH 3D HD is the biggest flaw in the original KH 3D: Drop Points. In KH 3D, players take the role of both Sora and Riku in parallel universes. Now, instead of allowing you to play through the entire stage as one character and then switch to the other, KH 3D forces players to stop playing as one character when their “Drop Gauge” runs out. While the idea of the Drop Gauge (which runs on a timer, so it runs out after about 15 or so minutes) fits within the story KH 3D is trying to tell, it’s ultimately a frustrating gameplay mechanic that should have been done away with in the remaster. Not only will the Drop Gauge take players out of a mission in mid-combat (even in boss battles when you have a single hit left on the boss, which happened to me several times), but it doesn’t even force you to switch characters! Instead, players have the opportunity to re-drop back into the same mission as the same character. While there are specific “Drop-Me-Not” pick-ups that refill your Drop Gauge while playing, it isn’t enough to warrant why this feature is still present in the remastered game.
But other than that inherent flaw to KH 3D, the remaster is fantastically remade with high-res character models used in both KH 1.5 and 2.5, which really is a reason to play through the game again if you have before. The game runs wonderfully with a smooth 60fps, and never dropped below that. Touch controls are delegated to the touchpad of the Dualshock 4, which are only ever used to pet your Spirits within the game. Spirits, which act as sort of pseudo-Pokémon, are companions that players can collect within the game to assist them in battle.
The story of Kingdom Hearts so far has been a confused one thus far in the series, and KH 3D does little to improve on that. Just like with all of the entries, while many questions are answered, many more are raised. Sitting down and trying to remember the minute details of the story can be daunting at times, even when the game attempts to explain itself. Luckily, many codex entries are found within KH 3D that detail the important plot points throughout all of the entries, so that new KH players can easily catch up and know what the story is.
Overall, KH 3D HD is a wonderful remaster of a 3DS game. The updates to the game, even though the Drop Gauge still exists, warrant a second playthrough for die-hard fans of the series. It’s hard to recommend this game to new players, however, due to the reliance upon story.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage
Now, the real exciting part of this review, and ultimately the most exciting part of Kingdom Hearts 2.8. Kingdom Hearts 0.2 amounts to what is essentially a 2 1/2 hour – 3 hour demo/Prologue for Kingdom Hearts 3. Featuring what I can only assume is the gameplay for Kingdom Hearts 3, KH 0.2 also features the game running on the Unreal Engine, and boy does it show. This game was gorgeous, and as a self-proclaimed Kingdom Hearts fan, it was exactly what I had hoped the game would look and feel like. The biggest relief? It’s actually fun.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 takes place during the secret ending players will get for beating KH: Birth by Sleep. Players will take the role as Aqua as she wonders through the Dark World, trying to find a way out. While I won’t dive into any sort of spoilers for the rest of the story, Kingdom Hearts fans will find plenty to get excited about with the story.
While exploring the World of Darkness, players are introduced to several gameplay mechanics that (once again) I can only assume will be present in Kingdom Hearts 3. The combat is fast-paced and kinetic, in a way that hasn’t really been seen since Kingdom Hearts 2. Magic spells (which have been fully upgraded in this game) explode in a glorious amount of particles that bounce around and really just look and feel epic. Players truly feel a sort of weightlessness that Aqua possesses. And speaking of Aqua, players are given the opportunity to complete various objectives throughout the game that will unlock different cosmetic items they can use to dress up Aqua. This sort of customization is really fantastic, and really makes me wonder what kind of cosmetic items players will get in KH3; Halloween Town headpiece with a Stitch-themed jacket, anyone?
While this game contains mostly spoilery subject material that I won’t dive into, the future is looking very very bright for the series. Since KH 0.2 acts as a sort of demo and teaser for KH 3, there can only be more gameplay elements introduced and improved upon. The objectives (of which there are plenty) encourage replayability in what otherwise would be a one-off sort of game.