Reed Pake ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Another year, another strangely titled Kingdom Hearts game that isn’t Kingdom Hearts 3. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (yes, it’s really called that) is the final compilation of games in the HD remix series to catch fans and newcomers alike up with the story leading up to the highly-anticipated third installment.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue consists of three adventures with our favorite spiky-haired Keyblade wielders. The collection contains an HD remake of the former 3DS exclusive Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, the brand-new Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage mini-episode that ties Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep: Final Mix with the original Kingdom Hearts and finally, Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover which is an hour long HD cinematic that serves as the backstory for the Kingdom Hearts Unchained X mobile game.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Although not the very best in the series, Dream Drop Distance is a very enjoyable game in its own right. The story continues from Kingdom Hearts 2 and stars protagonists Sora and Riku as they complete their Mark of Mastery exam to become true Keyblade masters.
The gameplay in Dream Drop Distance continues the of trend excellence that the Kingdom Hearts series in known for. The combat is fast and flashy, the movement with the parkour-influenced “Flow-Motion” makes traversal a blast, and the Pokemon-inspired Dream Eaters are a joy to collect and fight alongside with. The worlds featured in Dream Drop Distance are among the best in the series consisting of underrated Disney movies such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tron and Fantasia. Unfortunately, some hiccups from the original game still exist in this HD remaster. The “Drop System” which forces players to switch between Sora and Riku is annoying and useless. There is nothing worse than being “dropped” out during a boss fight, prompting the player to restart the battle.
Lastly, the HD remaster is very good. The colors are vivid and really pop, the picture quality is clean and sharp, and the game runs at a silky-smooth 60 frames-per-second. All of the features that utilized that 3DS’s touchscreen functionality have also been reconfigured for the DualShock 4. Square Enix deserves commendation for really putting time and effort into making this game feel like it was originally made with the PS4 in mind.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage
The main selling point of this collection. Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is a brilliant prologue to Kingdom Hearts 3 and continues Aqua’s plight to escape the Realm of Darkness that began at the end of the original Birth by Sleep title.
The first thing players will notice are the graphics. This mini-episode runs on Unreal Engine 4 and it truly looks like a Disney animated movie. Everything from the highly expressive character models, hyper-detailed environments, and beautiful lighting and particle effects bring the Kingdom Hearts universe to life. The gameplay is also exceptional as the combat blends the best elements of previous games together to create a “greatest-hits”-like experience.
Unfortunately, this game is very short. The game can be beat on Standard difficulty in less than three hours, even if the player takes their time. It’s a very linear experience and doesn’t offer as much as other Kingdom Hearts games do. The game also ends on a very unsatisfying cliff-hanger. If you are buying this collection just for this small little taste of what Kingdom Hearts 3 will eventually offer, steer clear. However, this is an excellent showcase for the future of the series.
Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover
The weakest addition to this collection is the short Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover movie. It is a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series and takes place around the time of the mobile game Kingdom Hearts: Unchained X. Outside of the stunning visuals, it’s fairly unimpressive. The story is essential for diehard fans of the series’ lore but for many causal fans, it may be very boring. It’s still worth a watch to learn more about the fascinating world of Kingdom Hearts, if nothing else.
Final Verdict Epilogue
Although the content in this collection is excellent, there simply isn’t enough of it to justify Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8’s $60 price tag. For fans of the series itching to play the next chapter in the Kingdom Hearts series, consider renting it or waiting for a price drop before delving into this compilation (unless you haven’t played Dream Drop Distance yet.) For those waiting to get into the series, make sure to pick up the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix and 2.5 Remix coming to PlayStation 4 in late March to catch-up on the story. Regardless of price, this compilation is a solid addition to the Kingdom Hearts library and makes the eventual Kingdom Hearts 3 even more exciting.
May your heart be your guiding key.