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Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue Review

by Dean James

It has been more than a decade since the release of Kingdom Hearts 2 and yet the third mainline game in the series has still yet to come out. Instead, Square Enix has provided fans with a number of prequels and side games, along with the recent HD releases of the series. While Kingdom Hearts 3 isn’t quite ready yet, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is here to bridge that final gap that leads to the much awaited conclusion of the trilogy.

The two previous Kingdom Hearts HD collections both released on PS3, with PS4 releases coming soon, and each included two playable games and a cinematic movie based on another game in the series. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue handles it a little differently though with a completely new “game,” an HD remaster of one game, and a cinematic movie.

Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is the entirely new content found in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8, though it seems to fall somewhere in between a demo and a full game. 0.2: Birth By Sleep follows up on Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, specifically the secret ending that was added to the Final Mix version of the game, which follows Aqua’s journey in the realm of darkness.

Almost serving as a testing ground for Kingdom Hearts 3, 0.2: Birth By Sleep utilizes the Unreal 4 Engine that 3 is also using, which also provides the best looking Kingdom Hearts experience to date by far. Aqua’s character animation and movement around the few worlds found in the game are smooth and seamless, while perfectly blending into the alluring environments that feature varying color tones.

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The combat system builds on the one found in the original Birth By Sleep, which itself was fairly close to the mainline series combat. Command Styles and Shotlocks return with the former playing a very big role throughout the experience, especially near the end. Flowmotion is also introduced as well, though it is used very sparingly compared to its debut in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. Aqua’s double jump attack has her bouncing all over the place in battle, which helps to make the scale of the battles feel larger than ever, especially in a few of the boss fights.

0.2: Birth By Sleep features a few bosses for you to fight, though some are variations of earlier fights. These boss fights definitely have a high level of difficulty, especially when playing on Proud Mode, but they each have a strategy that the player can work to figure out to make it a little easier. Due to the worlds you visit themselves basically being small fractured areas, these bosses are all original to the series, with them really seeming to set the stage for some of the massive boss battles shown in trailers for Kingdom Hearts 3.

Lasting about the length of a full scale world in other Kingdom Hearts games, 0.2: Birth By Sleep will last you somewhere between two to three hours if playing straight through. If playing on Proud Mode and searching for all the treasures available, it can take a little longer, but it definitely isn’t the longest of experiences. What does help to extend the length of the game a bit is the objective system, which has you completing certain tasks that will then unlock cosmetic items that you can equip on Aqua. However, not even including the objectives, the story content and gameplay found here is top notch and serves as an excellent lead-in to Kingdom Hearts 3.

Also included is the full HD remaster for Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, which originally released for the Nintendo 3DS. While this game was on a handheld, it was the closest thing to an actual sequel to Kingdom Hearts 2 that had been released to date. Dream Drop Distance was a first in the series, as it has you controlling Sora and Riku right out the gate, with you alternating between the two throughout the game. The drop meter that counts down the switching between the two can get a little annoying at first, as you are forced to switch from one to the other if it runs out, but it’s still a solid enough mechanic that creates some innovative situations.

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Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance was obviously very limited visually on the 3DS, but the job they did to remaster this for the PS4 looks magnificent. It obviously doesn’t look anywhere near as good as 0.2: Birth By Sleep or the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3, but it still looks superb. The performance is also top notch, as there didn’t seem to be any issues with slowdown in the large crowds of enemies, which is very important in a game such as this.

An excellent lead-in to Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance on 3DS utilized the touchscreen a little bit, with most of it involving the Dream Eaters. This is just integrated into the main menu now, with you able to pull up and train with your Dream Eaters there using the analog stick. The only real downside is that you cannot switch in and out your Dream Eaters quite as easily as before, but it still isn’t much of a problem. In addition, Reality Shifts also had to be adjusted to be used without the touchscreen, which are also still pretty simple to pull off.

The Dream Eater system itself may still be a bit complicated with the Ability Links, but it has a quite a bit of depth and pays off handsomely in how much they can help you in the game. Combining these with the FlowMotion combat that has you bouncing off of enemies and other objects to use special attacks provides the player with a really robust all around battle system that is still just as fun as it was on 3DS.

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As with the previous two Kingdom Hearts HD collections, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 also includes a close to full length cinematic movie. Rather than being based completely on a handheld game like with 358/2 Days and Re:Coded, Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover serves as more of a companion movie alongside Kingdom Hearts χ that initially released as a browser game and was later remade for mobile platforms. χ Back Cover focuses on the five Foretellers, which precede even the Keyblade War told in the other games. While it can be watched straight through, it is also available in chapters for you to enjoy, though is is kind of frustrating that there is no fast forward option. The cinematic movie is rendered using the same technology as in Kingdom Hearts 3 as well, so just like 0.2: Birth By Sleep, it looks absolutely spectacular.

The Verdict

Kingdom Hearts 3 seems as if it may finally be coming in the relatively near future and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue serves as an excellent appetizer for those waiting. Dream Drop Distance is better than ever in its HD remaster here and χ Back Cover is a great representation of the universe of the browser based game in cinematic form. The grand attraction here however is the brand new 0.2: Birth By Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage that, albeit fairly short, gives players a true glimpse into the future, making Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue a must buy for any Kingdom Hearts fan.

 

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Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue

  • Available On: PlayStation 4
  • Published By: Square Enix
  • Developed By: Square Enix
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • US Release Date: January 12th, 2017
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
  • Quote: "Kingdom Hearts 3 seems as if it may finally be coming in the relatively near future and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue serves as an excellent appetizer for those waiting."
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