As a long time fan of Kingdom Hearts it’s exciting to be able to sit down with the latest HD collection release as we await Kingdom Hearts 3. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue looks to give us a glimpse into the future of the series as well as more of the series on the PlayStation 4 for the first time. The question to be answered though is if this package is worth your time and if it will really help to fill the gap until Kingdom Hearts 3.
Unlike Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 and 2.5 Remix, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue contains three products in total. Included in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is of course the HD remake of Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, released originally for the Nintendo 3DS. Along with Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover which is a nice looking mini film that helps to expand on the world of Kingdom Hearts. The main draw to the collection however this time is Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage which is our first taste of what Kingdom Hearts 3 might be like.
Dream Drop Distance HD does an ace job of capturing the gameplay from the Nintendo 3DS and bring it over to the PlayStation 4. Now using only one screen and some redesigned mechanics, the game controls just like any other Kingdom Hearts game in the series. It’s flow based movement also allows for some sick moves to be performed throughout your adventure. Sadly the Drop Gauge is still present in this HD remake which sees you switching between Sora and Rikku based on a time limit. This was easily one of the more annoying elements of the game when it was first released but it is fairly manageable. With a number of different ways to extend the Drop Gauge you will soon become accustomed to it’s limits and how to make the most of your time with each character. As a whole, Dream Drop Distance HD plays and feels just how you would hope it would on PlayStation 4, being on pair with other mainline entries in the series such as Kingdom Hearts 2.
Now Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is where the gameplay starts to become interesting. As a taste of what we can expect in Kingdom Hearts 3, the game puts makes use of controls and systems akin to Kingdom Hearts 2 with some Birth by Sleep added to the mix. Auqa will control with ease and have a number of moves available to her including some very powerful, and pretty, magic. The basic combo she has at hand feels damaging and the fluid movements of combat allows for you to unleash a number of powerful attacks. Though limited, the available moves and magic allow for the combat to make you feel in control as well as a force to be feared. More important is that it builds a brilliant, if basic, foundation for what we can expect in Kingdom Hearts 3 and that is very exciting.
Also it is worth noting that Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, though only a few hours long, has plenty of side content. There are a number of objectives that can be completed to unlock more challenges and even customisation options to let you dress Aqua up in a number of ways. You will need to at least play through Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage twice to complete everything but the run through of the story and the interesting gameplay it has to offer will see you enjoy a good three to four hours of gameplay.
Running on the Unreal Engine 4, Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is visually stunning. The developers have done a fantastic job of capturing the style and beauty of Kingdom Hearts and have rendered it in Unreal Engine 4 perfectly. With the new engine comes a number of improvements, visually, that make the series better than ever. Not only do you have the improved lighting, particle effects and general polish, but we have larger environments with a lot more height to them as well as emotion and story. Even though A Fragmentary Passage is not overall that big the locations it takes you to are impressive nonetheless. The castle town for example is a floating ruin of a once lively town now left in darkness. With floating platforms, hidden areas and a good amount of space to fight it. The future of the environments within Kingdom Hearts looks promising.
The visuals in Dream Drop Distance HD are impressive as well because the game has been taken from the Nintendo 3DS to the PlayStation 4. The detail on the models, environments and more is up to a level you would hope on PlayStation 4 and all runs flawlessly as well. A Fragmentary Passage does from time to time have a random frame drop but it is normally during a transformation in combat and does not impact the enjoyment of the game at all. Besides that, it runs as smooth as you would hope and keeps the action flowing. Overall the presentation of all the titles included in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is on pair with Square Enix’s standards and fans will not be disappointed.
Can I also just point out that the sound design in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is fantastic. From the common Kingdom Hearts sounds to the battle effects and even the music. Everything is fitting and keeps up that feeling of being in a part of the Kingdom Hearts universe. Not only that but the latest remix of Simple and Clean that is included in the opening movie for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is the best yet. Seriously give it a listen below.
As with any Kingdom Hearts game the story is as captivating as it is confusing. You will find yourself with more questions rather than answers by the time you finish making your way through Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. That said, you should find you are more excited for Kingdom Hearts 3 thanks to the way that everything starts to come together. The main draw back here is that Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue does not contain any other mainline Kingdom Hearts games in it. The 1.5 and 2.5 HD releases are on PlayStation 3, though a PlayStation 4 release is set for later this year, meaning if you have not played Kingdom Hearts yet you are getting the later end of the current story. Then again, those who are familiar with the world and setting will find a story that relights the fire of Kingdom Hearts and will have you hyped.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is a great collection of products for any Kingdom Hearts fan. The Back Cover cinematics are enjoyable and beautiful, Dream Drop Distance HD is an impressive and flawless port of a Nintendo 3DS game and A Fragmentary Passage is stunning. Sure, the length of the latter might not be more than a few hours but it does not mean it is any less enjoyable. There is a full length game, a movie and a look at the future of the series all in one package. Sure, those jumping in for the first time might be confused by the story but don’t let that put Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue off your radar. It is one that all fans, new and old, should look to enjoy.
If nothing else Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue proves that the future of the series is bright and that the wait for Kingdom Hearts 3 is going to be well worth it. It’s a shame we have to wait longer but we have plenty to keep us busy for now. Now if you don’t mind, I have a boss rush to try and beat.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is available now for PlayStation 4.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the product provided by the publisher.