Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue Review – A Small Taste of What is to Come
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (this title sure is a mouthful), is the latest installment in a series of Kingdom Hearts remasters and it is the first to be released on the PlayStation 4. I think it is safe to conclude that Square Enix has been releasing these remasters to keep the Kingdom Hearts series alive and build tons of hype for Kingdom Hearts III. I also believe that Square Enix has been releasing these remasters to help fans catch up with the lore of the series, which is all over the place at this point. 2.8 includes three pieces of Kingdom Hearts content: Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep 0.2 – A Fragmentary Passage, and Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover. Dream Drop Distance is a remaster of the 3DS game of the same name while 0.2 and Back Cover are brand new additions to the series.
Like I mentioned before Dream Drop Distance HD is a remastering of the 3DS game of the same name. I actually had the pleasure to play the 3DS version back its heyday so there is plenty of room to draw comparisons between the two. Obviously, the big difference is that one is in HD, meaning that all the textures on character models and environments have been enhanced dramatically in high definition. In addition, certain aspects of the gameplay have been tweaked to accommodate the console switch. No matter the console, Dream Drop Distance introduces a lot of new gameplay mechanics to the Kingdom Hearts series. I only enjoyed one mechanic and felt that the others fell flat. One mechanic that falls flat the most is Dropping, Dropping is when the game forcefully switches or “Drops” you between our protagonists Sora and Riku. It is tracked through a Drop Gauge and when this gauge fully depletes your characters will switch off. I find it pointless because it is disrupts the game’s flow and temporarily halts all of the progress you have made with one character. What is worse is that it contributes nothing to the gameplay aside from a few stat boosts; it would have been easier to play as the two characters separately, at least then the game would have more replay value.
I also found the inclusion of Dream Eaters to be less than stellar. Dream Eaters come in two variations: Spirits and Nightmares, Spirits serve as party members to our heroes and Nightmares are antagonists to them. I found the Spirits to be excessive because the dumb things have to be micromanaged constantly, distracting me from focusing my attention on powering up Sora and Riku. Spirits would have worked better as summons rather than party members or better yet take out the pointless busy work of petting them and retain the option to power-up their skill grids instead. The sole part of the Spirits that I enjoyed was the ability to link them together with Sora and Riku to perform special attacks. Each of these moves vary with the Spirits you use and can be used as devastating finishers to enemy Nightmares.
One feature of Dream Drop Distance that I actually enjoyed was Flowmotion. Flowmotion allows Sora and Riku to slide, jump, and bounce around their surroundings to navigate levels with ease. It can also be used to start combos during combat, thus making every battle diverse in how you approach it.Perhaps the biggest game on this remastering is Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep 0.2 – A Fragmentary Passage (another mouthful of a title) because it is actually a brand new piece of Kingdom Hearts material that leads into Kingdom Hearts III. It stars Aqua as she jumps and slides her way across the walls of castle towns and maze-like forests to find her friends Terra and Ventus. Who are Terra, Aqua, and Ventus you might ask, well they are the protagonists of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, the prequel to the first Kingdom Hearts game that barely anyone played due to it being released for the PSP. Don’t worry though 0.2 is considerate enough to provide you with the entire summary of Birth By Sleep so you can procure some idea of what is going on in 0.2. 0.2 is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and its beautiful look is identical to what was shown off in the Kingdom Hearts III trailers. The gameplay system is the same one used for Kingdom Hearts II but unlike Dream Drop Distance that adds to many alterations, 0.2 brings the right amount of subtly to its gameplay to make it fresh, yet familiar. It does this by meshing the best elements from Birth by Sleep and the other Kingdom Hearts spin-offs together. For example, it integrates the Flowmotion from Dream Drop Distance and Shotlocking from Birth By Sleep; Shotlocking uses the Focus Meter and lets you blast enemies away with flashy swirls of magic. The game also introduces some welcome additions like extra Shortcut menus and situation commands that enable Aqua to execute amplified versions of magic spells depending how often she uses a certain spell during combat. There is really nothing much to say about Back Cover other than it is a long movie that details even more lore. It details the events of an event known as the Keyblade War or something like that and the entire movie is rendered with the Unreal Engine as well. Back Cover demonstrates on a visual level that the Kingdom Hearts series can be extremely bright and lively on current generation consoles. Final Chapter Prologue is a pretty decent remastering with the only big highlights for me being Dream Drop Distance and 0.2 as they serve as the perfect appetizers for Kingdom Hearts III. I would not recommend this remaster to anyone unless you are dying to get glimpse of what is to come in the highly anticipated third game. Dream Drop Distance is not terrible and it is not amazing, it is a nice little in-between that goes a bit overboard with its confusing plot and tremendous amount of gameplay changes. The problem with 0.2 is that it is very short and Back Cover seems tacked on, besides you can probably watch the whole thing on Youtube rather than spending $60 to watch it on the remastering.