Kingdom Hearts has a special place in many Action-RPG gamers’… well, hearts, and they have been awaiting the third installment for a long while now. In the meantime, Square Enix has pushed out many titles set in the KH worlds but on a range of platforms from the PlayStation Portable to the Nintendo 3DS that gave a broader view of the story — oftentimes complicating it more! The hype created from collections of classics being pushed out on new-generation consoles brought us the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix and HD 2.5 Remix which combined up the titles into a neat package for fans and youngsters to finally play in one sitting.
Now players will get to get their hands on the HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue which houses an HD version of Dream Drop Distance that originally featured on the 3DS; the Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, that includes cinematics redone from the mobile game; and Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, a whole new story featuring Aqua stuck in the Dark World after the events of the original Birth by Sleep.
This review will cover all content in three segments featuring their own Upsides and Downsides. The score offered at the end, however, will be for the overall package.
Magnificent graphics and designs: Every moment, from the cut-scenes to the fluid motion and auras spouting from Aqua, look gorgeous and well-animated. While past titles had the plain model faces talking in quick scenes to save on development time, this 0.2 episode really shows off the effort Square Enix is putting into the upcoming titles. It’s not just the cinematics that will catch the players’ eyes, but the world itself is crafted in a way that both chills to the bone yet mystifies with its complicated and twisted scenery. The Dark World is clearly warping whatever lands that have been swallowed by the darkness, transforming Aqua’s landscape into evil versions of what she’s encountered previously and more. It really sets the mood and spooks the player, more so than any of the past KH games have ever done.
Imitative & innovative: The game-play not only immolates traditional Kingdom Hearts but also builds on it (as any sequel should). This could be a taste of what’s to come in the anticipated sequel as it introduces so many unique additions to how you battle. Aqua is a Keyblade Master, being able to not only wield her Keyblade with skill and precision but also conjuring spells in powerful bursts. The difference in this title from the last is that each type of magic builds in strength the more it’s used consecutively. This is a fantastic quality that really makes Aqua and, in conjunction, the player feel like a total bad-ass as you pull off fluid moves and chain combos.
Short but to the point: If not focusing on the extra objectives or any collectibles then it can easily be finished in 3-4 hours time, however, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t a well-told story, at all. In fact, Aqua’s adventure through the Dark World feels serious and ominous as she dives further into the darkness and faces off against Heartless for the first time (she’s only encountered knock-off versions called Unversed). This is one of the factors about KH that pulls players in: the twisted versions of traditional Disney worlds and its lore. It delivers a magnificent story with an ending that won’t disappoint to lead up to the imminent KH3.
Not good for newcomers: Attempting to pick this game up out of the blue is like jumping into God of War III without prior experience and will be lost in the complicated plot and setting that Aqua is currently in. Players can explore journal entries to shed more light on the matter but if the player has not played Birth by Sleep then it will be lost on them as to exactly who Ventus and Terra are and why they should care. This may seem like nit-picking but players will soon realize that they have no emotional connection to any of these characters unless they have gone through the franchise at least once.
Difficulty isn’t particularly there: If this reviewer is saying that the difficulty isn’t that bad than it’s really saying something! Previous games in the series were tough and tedious, usually with hair-pulling and screaming involved as Ansem or Sephiroth destroyed you. This title lacks, even on the harder mode, a serious challenge for RPG enthusiasts out there and KH fans who have beaten each of them on Pride/Critical Mode. Hopefully this doesn’t transfer to the upcoming title in the series as it could hamper the enjoyment of hardcore button-mashers out there.
Important connecting story to KH3: Although journals generally do a good job at explaining the events that have led the characters up to this point, it’s always recommended to try out previous KHs first. That being said, this was a significant addition to the series that not only started building an even more complex plot with the addition of time-travel that plays a big part in what is to come. It also contains an in-depth journal, probably the most detailed ever, explaining not only enemies, characters, and worlds that are visited but also providing a summary of previous titles to assist in understanding how each person got to where they are.
Leagues better on console than handheld: As someone who’s tried the title out on the 3DS first, it feels way better than it did on its original platform. Sure, the player won’t get the touchscreen at the bottom while playing with their Spirits but Square Enix did a splendid job at transferring it to the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 touch pad. While some players — such as me — would develop hand cramps during tedious moments on handheld, it’s easier while using the controller.
Really is HD: The hi-rez version of the title looks more substantial than its 3DS counterpart as textures appear more defined and smoothed out. It’s still evident where the developers saved money in terms of the models and environments but other than that the areas look polished to match each of the Disney worlds they were based on.
Nothing special added: This is a straight-up port of the title with graphical enhancements only and nothing else; this is sad as Square Enix could have easily added in some special features that would be great nods to the future or more. Flowmotion is still the same, as well, which not only wasn’t given enough love as a mechanic but didn’t have enough creativity with the maps as it had in worlds like Traverse Town. While generally having solid mechanics and layout, KH3D could have used more flare and extras added to make it worth the full AAA price.
Some graphics issues: It’s been noted that during certain times, whether or not it has to do with the up-rezzed graphics or not, that black splotches cut-in at points. It’s occurred enough to warrant a Downside as it becomes distracting when its overwhelmed with Sora/Riku pulling off flashy moves while a horde of enemies load up the screen. It’s not enough to say that it isn’t fun overall because of it but it’s still an annoyance that persists at times.
Different from 0.2: While this doesn’t make a huge impact on the Downside it still becomes annoying if you switch from one to the other often, as many players might do to replay for harder modes. The way the menus are set up and how to navigate through it is altered from the other. Players also need to adjust to the buddy system with the Dream Eaters in KH3D opposed to KH0.2 as Aqua ventures alone. They’re both completely enjoyable on their own but when packaged together like this it doesn’t feel like a collection for a series.
English dialogue synced and good cast: Many times during cutscenes that are Westernized the company won’t care much for syncing English audio with the graphics but this time around Square Enix seemed to really make an effort for ensuring that it feels authentic. The cinematics look fantastic and there didn’t seem to be any noticeable issues in them. The Foretellers and their “Master of Masters” were cast well when it came to English voice actors, as they each did their best to convey the feelings of the masked beings such as Aved’s frustration or the Master’s whimsical attitude towards life.
Choreography in scenes are superb: Although escalation in events feels rushed due to missing dialogue (more on this later), the battle scenes between the Masters does not disappoint in the least. It feels like an animated movie while watching them duke it out, as they run off walls and unleash their individual Keyblade attacks at one another. It’s disappointing that there weren’t more battles such as these but what happens during these events will awe the watcher. The sound effects from Keyblades clashing together and spells performed will leave you lost for words.
Lost at points: While the story unfurls for the watcher, they’ll learn more about past events and how the Keyblade War came to be. Sadly, without the dialogue featured during play viewers will be lost when events escalate quickly or a character is introduced without having actually seen where they’re from. We’re set up to assume that some of these characters have a heartfelt connection with one another but we don’t see any of that since it wasn’t animated, such as Foreteller Ava and her connection to a member of her Union. This occurred in the last collections, as well, when we didn’t understand what was happening after watching the 358/2 Days cut-scenes. It leaves the player lost if they haven’t gotten around to the original game. Usually these video-only segments in collections answer questions but instead it adds more as we want to know about “what’s in the box” at the end of it!
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 is, in its entirety, a must-buy for Kingdom Hearts fans out there. This goes especially for those that only have a PlayStation 4 and never got their hands on a Nintendo 3DS to experience Dream Drop Distance. The χ Back Cover and Aqua chapter only added more to the lore and explained more on how events came to be while also driving a huge knot of complication to be explained in the future. Another aspect to mention is that 2.8 has hours of game-play in the story, objectives, mini-games, and some unique features. It’s not recommended to just jump in here for the series, as the universe will confound with its complexity. There are details about each title that might irk the nit-picky players out there but other than that they really do offer a lot to invest your time into.
- Graphics - 94%94%
- Gameplay - 75%75%
- Controls - 72%72%
- Sound - 89%89%
- Replay Value - 63%63%
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Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue was developed and published by Square Enix. It was released for the PlayStation 4 on January 24th, 2017. A press review copy was purchased for review by The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.