The Newbie-and-Experienced-Friendly Review of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue
Are you ready to prove yourself as the Keyblade Master you claim to be? Get ready for one of the biggest tests you’ll face!
The awkwardly named Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, developed and published by Square Enix in partnership with Disney Interactive Studios, is a collection of the Kingdom Hearts series that was released world-wide on 24 January 2017, featuring Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, a cinematic that details events not covered in the original game, an HD-remaster of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, and Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, an original game, the length of a chapter, detailing the events that occur after Birth by Sleep from Aqua’s perspective. (Back Cover and Birth by Sleep were the tenth and eleventh installments to the franchise).
Im new here!
Admittedly, I’m a total and utter newbie to the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and felt a little intimidated when pushing the “Play” button for the first time on a game that is supposedly the seventh installment to the franchise, which is ironic because of how friendly and non-threatening the game itself appears to be. That being said, anybody who hasn’t touched a Kingdom Hearts game and is wanting to give this a try, you’d better be prepared to do some research like I needed to – to be able to give the game a little bit more credit than if I had known nothing. I attempted to try it out without knowing anything and was somewhat confused to the context and story line, which is to be expected I guess. (Haha!)
After doing my research, and much to my satisfaction, I learned that the story line is quite complicated, and intricate to say the least, and honestly, I would expect nothing less from Square Enix, who are in my opinion, story-telling masters! Not only that, but the order in which the games were released are also slightly confusing. Using Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage as an example, it’s technically (from my perspective) the twelfth original game in the franchise, but in the timeline of the series, is the sequel to the prequel of the original Kingdom Hearts. (Uhm, what?) Yeah, you’re in for a lot of that, but once you’ve got a grasp of the story line, it all makes sense… kinda! I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to figure out what Mickey Mouse has to do with characters from Final Fantasy and such, but I digress.
Let the Adventure Begin
Starting off with my experience of the remaster of Dream Drop Distance, my initial approach was skeptical but hopeful, expecting to enjoy it regardless of any pre-conceived notions. The story revolves around Sora and Riku being tasked by Yen Sid, the Great Sorceror, to pass a Mark of Mastery exam to deem them worthy of the title Keyblade Masters, in anticipation of the return of Master Xehanort after defeating his Nobody Xemnas, and Heartless Ansem. They are sent to what seems to be a “Sleeping Realm” where the worlds that were restored at the end of the original Kingdom Hearts, albeit in a “sleep-like state”, disconnected from other worlds.
The two are tasked with “reawakening” the world by unlocking the seven Keyholes of Sleep and returning them to the Realm of light, while fighting against Dream Eaters, creatures born from darkness and that are seeking out the Keyholes of Sleep as well. Sora and Riku are advised to create “benevolent” Dream Eaters to guide them and help them on their quest, as you are able to find good and evil Dream Eaters. I have to say, I was unsure at first, but ended up liking the little weirdos you create. My favorite was “Little Derp”. (Yes, you can name them whatever you like, up to 11 characters!)
The mechanic to “Bond” with them felt like a bit of a copy of Pokémon Amie from the the Pokémon games, and a little unnecessary, but I enjoyed the customization of the little party members, like giving them different colours. Leveling up felt a bit tedious and frustrating, but maybe that was because it felt like the story was having a tough time finding its footing in the beginning. I have to say that when I wasn’t feeling frustrated with the leveling, I was impressed with the combat system. The free-flowing real-time combat was smooth and quite frankly is a blast when not having to enter a battle every 15 seconds. Everything else aside, I really enjoyed the magical visuals in every world that I got to explore.
Not all Dreams are a Nightmare
Now comes Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage; I was a bit more expectant this time round. The game starts of with King Mickey admitting to have held some secrets regarding Aqua’s experience in the Dark Realm and the story picks up from Birth by Sleep Final Mix. Like I mentioned before, it’s a short game, lasting about the same length as a world from the main series. Give or take 2-3 hours? Anyway, you play as Aqua trapped in the Dark Realm and trying to escape. I was most impressed by this installment. The visuals were a lot more impressive, ranging from seamlessly smoothed out textures on the characters, to the incredibly structured design and visually pleasing levels found within the “Disney-gone-dark” environments. I even enjoyed exploring the nooks and crannies of the beginning stage and jumping around the floating rocks surrounded by dark energies, or haunted forests.
A Fragmentary Passage ties into Kingdom Hearts III and even uses the same technology from it. The combat mechanics were even smoother and funner than that found in Dream Drop Distance’s Remaster. The “double flight” ability returns where Aqua is able to leap higher into the air, and even do a mid-air double jump while also gaining a burst of speed mid-jump. Aqua is a powerful fighter, able to chain magic and physical attacks together to cause massive damage to her foes, the Situational spells and abilities being the funnest of her arsenal in my opinion.
And finally Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, the animated movie that fills in some details of the story, dating back before the earliest bits of the Kingdom Hearts storyline. I have to admit, the animations were really well done, and the voice cast did a great job. Some of you may even recognize one of the voices. (eg. Ray Chase, who voiced Noctis in FFXV!) However, being new to the series, I admittedly could not appreciate it as much as I know I should have. I felt the movie filled in some answers while leaving a whole lot more questions. Some people may say the story had a slow start, but I generally don’t mind that type of thing, but I felt it necessary to mention, just in case some of you have the same opinion as the others. Regardless, I enjoyed the visuals.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue has been a very interesting experience. I can tell the storyline is deep and has a lot more in store for avid fans of the series. As I said before, I have never played any Kingdom Hearts games, so from a personal perspective, I wasn’t in awe, however, I can tell that this will be enjoyable for long-time fans of the series. Admittedly, Kingdom Hearts has a certain charm to it that I can’t quite put my finger on. I adored the landscapes and environments, especially in A Fragmentary Passage, and even enjoyed the music. The game retails for R825.00 at BT-Games, which is about R20 or so cheaper than on the PlayStation Store. I’m willing to say that this collection has made me curious to explore the franchise a little bit more.
Bonus Info (Spoiler Warning)
I found this video while doing my research. (Be warned, there are loads of spoilers in this video!) Youtube Video Link (The Entire Story of Kingdom Hearts in Under 20 Minutes) The guy does a good job summarizing the main storyline, with some added humour.