Review: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue
By the end of March, the entirety of the Kingdom Hearts series will be playable or viewable on PS4, which is pretty exciting just for the sake of convenience. It also puts the series in a position to be a little more accessible, Kingdom Hearts is known for its convoluted story across multiple platforms, having everything in one place will make it easier for anyone trying to refresh themselves on the story in time for Kingdom Hearts 3. All of this starts with Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, which includes: 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage, χ Back Cover, and an enhanced port of Dream Drop Distance. Yeah, that’s quite the mouthful.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage
One of the most exciting pieces of this collection comes in the form of 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage. This ~3 hour prologue chapter to Kingdom Hearts 3 is running on Unreal Engine 4 and serves as a pretty good basis for what to expect from that game when it releases sometime in the future. Here, Aqua seeks a way out of the dark world and in doing so must confront the darkness within her own heart. There’s actually a little more to the story than you might expect considering the length, it’s cool to see how certain events are connected, and ultimately the major setup for Kingdom Hearts 3 just serves the make the wait that much harder.
This is also the first chance to see Kingdom Hearts running on UE4. The environments look fantastic and the special effects (magic in particular) are really impressive. It also runs quite well, PS4 Pro in particular is definitely above 30FPS, though I’m not sure exactly where it comes in at. If this is indeed representative of how Kingdom Hearts 3 will look and feel, consider me very optimistic.
Combat brings with it many of the returning mechanics that series veterans should be used to by now, with it falling closer in line with Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix. Shotlock, Situation Commands, Shortcuts, and Flow Motion (Dream Drop Distance) are all present here. Aqua begins the game at Level 50 and due to that has a number of high level magic abilities unlocked, leaving A Fragmentary Passage to be a really good tease of some relatively high level abilities.
Boss encounters do tend to repeat throughout the game, which is a tad disappointing, but they do slightly change with each new encounter. I’m not particularly crazy about the boss design here, although one does stick out as a particularly great and incredibly challenging fight. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say there’s still more to do after the credits roll.
There are also objectives (in-game trophies) included with A Fragmentary Passage that, when completed, unlock a number of customizable options for Aqua. For instance, I put Minnie Mouse ears on Aqua as soon as I possibly could. These objectives and outfit options provide good incentive to continue playing post-credits and actually added a good bit to my overall enjoyment. I would have liked to see more Disney specific customizations, but I’m sure that’s probably a tough thing to include with any number of weird licensing issues. Regardless, it’s a small inclusion here that I’m hoping somehow makes its way into KH3.
0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage is about as good as its name is weird. There’s a lot more to it than I was expecting and it will likely satisfy my thirst for KH3 news for at least a little while.
Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover
Back Cover is a 60 minute movie that retells the story from the Kingdom Hearts mobile game. Specifically, it’s a story about the Foretellers, their mysterious Master, and a Book of Prophecy. This all takes place at the very beginning of the Kingdom Hearts timeline and contains some interesting bits of lore, teases for KH3, and very few actual answers.
The entirety of this is set-up, it’s about getting people invested in the Kingdom Hearts story (like me) to sit and speculate about what certain vague events might mean. It sets things up that will likely be major events during the story of KH3, which means it’s probably pretty important to watch, just don’t expect to be satisfied with it. It also sets up a greater mystery that, I’m not sure we’ll really understand once the current Xehanort saga has ended. This is more than just set-up for the next game, it feels like there’s at least some level of intention to build up a larger universe outside of the current arc we’ve been in since the very first game. It’s just all so vague that it can be a bit hard to get excited about the smallest bits of information Back Cover presents.
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance
Finally, we have the HD remaster of the 3DS game, Dream Drop Distance. In this Sora and Riku take the Mark of Mastery exam in hopes of becoming true Keyblade Masters, which hopefully will prepare them for the final battle against Xehanort. This, as it will be the case with many others, marks the first time I’ve been able to experience Kingdom Hearts in 60FPS. Needless to say, it’s pretty spectacular. It’s also a game that benefits greatly moving from handheld to console, many of my issues around how it controls are completely resolved now that it’s playable on DualShock 4.
In Dream Drop Distance you’ll switch control between Sora and Riku after each character’s “Drop Gauge” has fully depleted. (This version slows the speed at which the gauge drops and still grants the ability to further slow the speed through the use of Drop Points – points collected through regular play.) Both Sora and Riku play slightly differently and each has certain exclusive abilities that you’ll unlock through play. Both explore the same Disney worlds (Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tron, Pinocchio, etc.) and see events play out from different angles. It’s a system that worked well for short play sessions on a handheld, but the extended time in this console release certainly helps for extended sessions. I also just like switching things up every 20-30 minutes, though I wish the game wouldn’t cut your session short during a boss fight or lengthy cutscene.
Dream Drop Distance introduced Dream Eaters and with it came the ability to recruit special Dream Eaters to your party as pets. On the 3DS you could pet, train, and feed these creatures to boost stats and affinity levels. That’s still here, mapped to analog sticks and the touchpad, but I’ve oddly found myself appreciating it much more this time. It’s easy to get invested in training, fighting alongside, and crafting stronger versions of Dream Eaters you meet in battle. Your party makeup also impacts what kinds of stat boosts you get from each Dream Eater, which requires a bit of strategic planning. I really enjoy thinking up different party lineups, checking out new Link attacks, and playing mini-games with my little Dream Eater buddies. None of these things are particularly improved from the 3DS version, but once again, I’m much more willing to get invested in different mechanics because the game plays so well on a DualShock, especially compared to the 3DS.
Much like every other Kingdom Hearts game that’s been remastered, Dream Drop Distance holds up really well; in fact, it might be one of the most improved games of the bunch. I enjoyed it on the 3DS, but it wasn’t very comfortable to play. Now, it controls just as you’d want it to and almost everything about the game has improved because of it.
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, as is the case with the other two parts of this collection, plays a pretty important role in setting up the events of Kingdom Hearts 3. Which is to say, that there’s some pretty important story beats from this game that you’ll want to be familiar with. In that case, the entire collection is a great way to get excited for the next entry in the series. It’s not the best place to start, that’ll come in March with the Kingdom Heart 1.5 + 2.5 Collection.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 features three solid entries into the Kingdom Hearts series and, while there’s plenty of setup for the future, what’s here is mostly fantastic. Back Cover might be the weak point of this collection, but even that is worth checking out if you’re really into the crazy lore in this series. Simply put, Kingdom Hearts in 60FPS is wonderful and the little taste of Kingdom Hearts 3 is even better than I had hoped.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Dream Drop Distance: 60FPS
- Dream Drop Distance: New appreciation thanks to a more comfortable controller
- 0.2: Looks and feels great. Exciting first look at what to expect from KH3
- Back Cover: Some interesting new bits of lore to chew on.
What I Dislike:
- 0.2: Repeat bosses. Not crazy about the final boss.
- Back Cover: Not much there, a bit too vague and unwilling to answer any questions.