The biggest problem Kingdom Hearts has faced thus far is the convoluted way these games have been named and presented to the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the series since 2002, I have finished both main games to completion, and played everything in between them, as well as after. The series has been fragmented (ha!) spanning various consoles in the 15 years since the series began. This is the final compilation that will lead us to Kingdom Hearts 3.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue brings to console the last full title in the Kingdom Hearts series, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, new original content in form of Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, and Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover. What made me interested in this package was that we were getting what I believe to be the best versions of the combat system the series has featured thus far, as I immediately was impressed by the changes made to combat when I demoed A Fragmentary Passage in November in Toronto.
I’ll be the first to admit that I immediately launched A Fragmentary Passage, as I couldn’t wait to get the full experience since my time was limited before. The sweeping changes brought to the series, including an engine switch to Unreal Engine 4, as well as new visuals, once being called “Disney’s 2D brushwork in 3D.” This has been a quality Nomura has wanted since the inception of Kingdom Hearts, but the PlayStation 2 wasn’t able to allow him to reach that goal.
The continuation of the secret movie from Dream Drop Distance picks up with Aqua, slowly losing herself to the darkness. While I wasn’t necessarily enthralled as the credits came to a close, I was satisfied with what we learned from the teaser. It’s good, and Aqua solidifies herself as a favourite of mine as she proves herself to be a true warrior in the face of danger.
The basic story is Aqua is stuck in the fragmented world of Disney’s Cinderella, and Aqua must get to the castle, the world is beautiful even when it’s so tragically broken. The change to Unreal Engine 4 shines here as there is a high level of detail to the world around Aqua. Particles are realistic, the way rocks look, the way magic reacts when you cast it on enemies, damaging the environment, and allowing for clever ways to experience the magic in the game.
Like mentioned above, the tech demo is roughly three hours start to finish the first time, but will vary due to difficulty, and you unlock Critical Mode after clearing the game once. There’s also objectives to complete that allow access to dress-up Aqua with cosmetic items to equip her with.
As for Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, the port is well done, especially considering that the original game launched back in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS. The PlayStation 4 rerelease provides the best version of KH3D, with improved aesthetics, as well as 60 fps. If you haven’t played the original because you skipped out due to being a portable title, this is your chance to play what I consider to be a proper sequel to Kingdom Hearts II.
KH3D is a meaty game as is providing dozens of hours of entertainment, the port doesn’t have any new content and while the worlds feel bigger on a console they also feel much emptier, the added power of the PlayStation 4 is more than capable of adding more enemies, it feels like a wasted opportunity.
Flow Motion combat was meant for console and four years later, while a bit dated, still plays like butter. There’s just something about the way the combat opens up combat possibilities. The only downside to the KH3D is still the Drop System, a timed-based meter that slowly drains as you are forced to switch between Sora and Riku. Eventually, though, you’ll overcome the timers as the game continues on alleviating the need to involuntarily tap out.
The final piece of the compilation is an hour-long CGI movie based on the mobile game, Kingdom Hearts χ. The short movie centers around a set of characters that pre-dates the Keyblade War. While the movie is lathered with lore and insight in the bigger universe that envelopes Kingdom Hearts, feels out of place. Playing the mobile game will certainly help fill in gaps that might pop up while watching χ Back Cover, but isn’t necessary.
I can’t say I paid attention to the short movie, it felt like an unnecessary addition to an already great compilation. There isn’t enough for me to invest in the goings on of these new characters, why they are at ends, and what their purpose is. The movie looks good however, it’s created in Unreal Engine 4 and has a ton of quality behind it.
The final piece of ever-growing compilation series that is Kingdom Hearts is upon us. We’re nearing the final entry in the Dark Seeker Saga, and the short but sweet taste of what’s to come is reason enough to pick this game up. Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance is as fun as it was on handheld, despite the unwelcome Drop System. Watching Kingdom Hearts: χ Back Cover isn’t necessary but is there to fill in gaps otherwise to be missed if you don’t play Kingdom Hearts χ.