Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue: A Good Way to Build Hype

JD, Contributing Writer

A few weeks ago, Square Enix released their latest installment to the Kingdom Hearts series, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. Since the series is one of my all-time favorites, I couldn’t wait to jump in and experience what this installment had to offer.

2.8, like the H.D Remixes of the first six games, is essentially a bundle of 2 games and movie wrapped up in one incredible package. With it’s release, we have the games Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage and Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, the latter being an HD remastering of the 3DS title.  And to wrap it up, we are given the movie Kingdom Hearts X(chi): Back Cover, a condensed movie of the free mobile game Kingdom Hearts Unchained X(chi). I’ll be doing the best to look at these games critically without spoiling much of the stories for these titles. For now, let’s begin with 0.2.

As this was the newest game out of the bundle, I naturally moved to it first, excited to see what was up. I was greatly pleased with the results. The game follows the story of Aqua as she journeys throughout the Realm of Darkness, a land filled with Heartless (the games most featured enemies) and generally the worst place to be in, during the time before and during the original Kingdom Hearts game. And for being the worst place to be in, the Realm of Darkness looks incredible. Square really made use of the Unreal 4 Engine the game runs on, making environments, characters and enemies, spells and even particle effects look spectacular. Every world is big and expansive, with just the right amount of lighting to really take in the depressing nature of the entire Realm.

The enemies range from simple to downright menacing, especially when it comes to the design of the Neoshadows and Darksides, series staples. Certain bosses even begin to glow red when aggravated. The spells you have to use are flashy and exciting, and Aqua and other characters look downright beautiful, with the exception of a few Disney characters at times.

Looks are great and all, but how does the gameplay feel? Well, incredible.

Aqua’s strikes are quick and precise, and you even have access to all your old abilities, including her Prism Rain shotlock and SpellWeaver command style from Birth By Sleep. The command system has been removed, giving you your standard attack, magic and item command hud from KH1 and 2. You only have 4 spells, being Thundaga, Firaga, Blizzaga, and Curaga, but they have boosted effects now, and your MP bar recharges like in KH2. Thundaga paralyzes enemies, making them unable to use their flashier attacks and slowing them. Firaga is just your standard attacking spell, but can break certain enemy barriers. Blizzaga, which is the most useful in my book, can freeze enemies and create a little trail for you to slide on with Flowmotion, a mechanic seen in  Dream Drop Distance. And Curaga is your standard healing spell. All of these spells are available to Aqua while moving and even mid-combo, making the game far more fast paced and mobile than any other game in the series yet. Which is good, because you’re constantly moving due to your enemies.

AI has taken a huge upgrade from before. Enemies and bosses are far more aggressive now than ever before. Sometimes coordinating attacks and constantly keeping you on your toes. It gives a far more threat to the Heartless, and provides some incredible and engaging gameplay, where your managing spells and combos to maximize your survivability  and damage throughout the whole game. On top of tough enemy AI, depending on the difficulty you play, your health and magic bars get smaller and smaller. Proud and Critical difficulty are the kings of this, with Aqua’s HP bar barely wrapping around her hud image.

However the game itself is incredible, with only about 3 full worlds. Which is a shame, because the story is really engaging. It’s not lore heavy, mainly focusing on Aqua’s internal struggle with her loneliness in a world without light and enemies always out to attack her. She is constantly seeing remnants of her friends, and the fact that she misses them is a heavy burden on her. There are even times where she seems to give in. And while her arc does end in this short time, I wish I could see more.

Especially since every voice actor in this game it great to hear, some of them coming leaps and bounds from their debuts in earlier games. The whole game is 3-4 hours long if you just play through it. There are little objectives to due that give you customizables for Aqua and even a secret boss after you beat the game once, but that only adds one to two hours at best. The game is criminally short for the masterpiece it is, and is really just a teaser for elements that will hopefully be in Kingdom Hearts 3.

Next up is the remastered Dream Drop Distance. This game offers very little that’s different from the 3DS version save for two changes and a few extra Dream Eaters to make. It’s very much copy-paste from the old 3DS title, just with new button layouts. However, there are aspects that both help and hurt this title.

Starting with the bad new first, Reality Shifts took a massive dive in this game. These mechanics used the 3DS touchscreen to manipulate the environment and enemies you fought and varied from world to world. Most were fun and engaging on the 3DS, but sadly few kept that fun when brought to the PS4. Only about two or three are actually fun to mess around with, the rest being difficult to take full advantage of or just plain boring to play with. I will give Sqaure and Tetsuya Nomura credit for translating touchscreen controls to PS4 ones, but I can’t in full confidence say their worth your time to play with unless you need to, with the exception of the one for Pinnochio’s world, and the last two worlds in the game.

I will give special mention to one Reality Shift though. When you go to a world called The Country of Musketeers, there’s a reality shift that drops cartoon strips from the top of the screen. If you find one with Donald on it, it drops munny and dream points, with you can use to strengthen yourself. It’s incredibly useful, though boring to activate.However, those are optional unlike the good news. The game’s formatting for the PS4 means that now you can see more of your environment, making previous pain-in-the-neck boss fights easier to deal with, thus, making them more fun to actually play now. There are still a few outliers, but for the most part, this is a big improvement, and I would gladly recommend the PS4 version over the 3DS version any day.

Finally, we have the movie Kingdom Hearts X(chi): Back Cover. There isn’t too much to say honestly. The Unreal Engine is back and the movie looks beautiful. The movies is focused on the fortellers, leaders of Unions in the mobile game. However that’s about it. Not much lore aside from introducing The Master of Masters who can see the future and the Book of Prophecies.

However, the characters are the best part of the movie, especially the Master of Masters. You can’t see anyone’s face for the most part, so most of characters show their emotions through movements and voice alone. And the Master of Masters has that in spades. Not only does Ray Charles give an incredible performance of a snarky, charismatic, yet somehow sinister and mysterious character, but his movements are all exaggerated and lively, making him the best part of the movie. However, he’s basically the best part  to see. The rest you can understand by playing the mobile game, and the movie is really something that can be skipped. Especially since a lot of lore is left out.

All in all, the 2.8 is an incredible experience, but it’s mainly just to build hype for fans for KH3. It relies on you knowing most of the lore already, and doesn’t provide too much on it’s own. If you’re new to the series, I would recommend waiting until 1.5 and 2.5 come out for the PS4 in March. It will really provide the best experience of the stories to date, on top of endless hours of contents for you to enjoy as well. So for my final verdict, buy this game, but buy it when you can.

Thank you all for reading this. Enjoy your day!