Kingdom Hearts series is famous for its unique blend of Final Fantasy characters with the characters of various Disney Worlds, however this remained true mostly for the first entry which had a strong ensemble of Final Fantasy cast members. The series has since seen 2 mainline games and numerous spin-offs that makes it harder to follow the story in a coherent way.
The latest game in the series, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue is a continuation of the story presented in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix. If you are confused by the naming convention used here, don’t be. The series is famous for its weird names including some titles like ‘Dream Drop Distance’, ‘358/2 Days’, ‘Birth By Sleep’ among others.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue features the remaster of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, originally released for the Nintendo 3DS, along with a brand new fully animated movie made using the game engine for Kingdom Hearts 3, called Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover. This movie runs for around 60 minutes and provides further insight on events before the famous Keyblade War. The final and perhaps the most important part of this collection is a brand new story featuring Aqua. This is called Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage.
‘A Fragmentary Passage’ not only serves as the prequel and prologue to Kingdom Hearts 3, it also dives further on the backstory of Aqua in the world of Darkness. The game has also been prominently called out for featuring the combat system that will be a part of the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3, so we can say that this is essentially a demo that offers us a taste of what to expect in the upcoming sequel.
While the idea of such a prologue sounds interesting on paper, it is a disappointing short game which can take between 2 to 3 hours to complete the first time around. It also lacks variety in its environment making for some bland locations in the world of Darkness. During my time playing around this prologue chapter, while I enjoyed the combat and the freedom of movement, I still had to battle my way with the camera which often behaved erratically during some of the fast paced boss battles. This makes it harder for us to dodge and attack the enemies resulting in some frustrating encounters.
In term of story, there isn’t much happening for the majority of this prologue chapter, which is another disappointing aspect of it. The only big events that occur or move the story forward is right near the end, when the credits roll. Aside from that, we are often left wondering in a world which feels like it was an afterthought instead of something well designed. It mostly comes across as a technical demonstration of the game engine for the upcoming sequel.
The combat for Kingdom Hearts series has evolved a lot since the release of the first game, and now it features more options to kill a group of heartless. Aqua is particularly equipped with strong attacks but since we are mostly stuck with a single weapon and lack abilities, the combat can often feel repetitive after going through the horde of Heartless one after another. The game does offer magic as well as ‘situation commands’ that result in some flashy attacks, but the combat as a whole never feels like it reaches its full potential. While I am sure that the final game will offer a lot more variety, the prologue unfortunately is severely limited in that sense and along with the camera, it often lacks the excitement of a full fledged Kingdom Hearts game.
However, this is not the most disappointing part of this collection as this honor belongs to Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover. This movie tells us the story of the animal-masked Foretellers. It is essentially a story that focuses on the mobile game, Kingdom Hearts χ[chi]. If you have spent some time in the game’s world, then perhaps you might enjoy the story on offer here. However in my case, the movie was a boring mess that doesn’t really explain much in term of the backstory and only adds more confusion to it. Perhaps it is made more for the fans of the mobile game, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience for me.
The final part of this collection is the HD remaster of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. It was originally released as a Nintendo 3DS exclusive and it can be finally played in HD on a console. Just like the previous HD remasters, it offers crispy visuals at native 1080p resolution and even improves some of the original gameplay mechanics, particularly the Dream Drop aspect which swapped characters depending on an in-game timer. This feature proved to be annoying and has been rectified somewhat as the timer limit is now double that of the original for this HD remaster. The story in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance continues from the events presented in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 2, and it is an essential chapter to experience before playing the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3.
While Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue is a solid package as a whole, it does have some flaws. My main issue and disappointment was mostly related to the ‘A Fragmentary Passage’ which was supposed to be a promising teaser for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3. Unfortunately while it does show potential, the disappointing boss fights, confusing level design and bland environment really dampens it as a whole. Still it is a neat addition for those who can’t wait to try out some of the combat mechanics being implemented for the next mainline game.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 Final Chapter Prologue is a collection of the Kingdom Hearts series, developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 features a well made remaster and gives further insight into the backstory for the series with an animated movie as well as the prologue to Kingdom Hearts 3.