Kingdom Hearts II.8 Final Chapter Prologue Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Action RPG
 
Rating: PG
 
Release Date: Available Now
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


User Rating
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Positives


- Dream Drop Distance is an excellent remaster
- Magic in A Fragmentary Passage is incredibly bombastic
- Combat has been improved as a whole
- The future of Kingdom Hearts looks bright

Negatives


- Voice over quality in Dream Drop Distance is low
- Camera issues persist in A Fragmentary Passage
- Airborne enemies can still be frustrating


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Posted February 6, 2017 by

 
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It’s been so long since the first Kingdom Hearts game debuted for the PlayStation 2 that I no longer remember what motivated me to pick it up for the first time. What I do remember is the sense of wonder and excitement that opening cutscene brought out, a feeling that I am reminded of every time I hear Simple and Clean play. The melding of Disney and Square Enix, along with a smattering of new characters, made me both nostalgic for my old favourite characters and helped me discover some new ones that I hadn’t met before. Since the PlayStation 2 was left behind by developers and gamers alike there hasn’t been a Kingdom Hearts experience that has quite hit the same notes that the originals did, although Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep for the PlayStation Portable came close. With Kingdom Hearts II.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Square Enix has developed and released the first new Kingdom Hearts experience for a home console since the PlayStation 2, along with an excellent remaster of a 3DS classic.

Ever since it was announced that Kingdom Hearts [Dream Drop Distance] would be included in the package I was skeptical of how it would turn out. A game originally developed for the Nintendo 3DS being remastered for the PlayStation 4 brought with it the potential for an experience that looked atrocious on a 1080p or higher screen. Imagine my surprise when I booted up the game and found that it looked better than a lot of games developed exclusively for the PlayStation 4. There is no doubt that the environmental textures are more simplistic than your usual fare, but they look cleaner and look incredibly pleasing to the eye. Character models look great, as do the game’s many Dream Eaters and Nightmare Eaters. The cartoonish art-style of [Dream Drop Distance] translated perfectly to higher resolution, but the audio didn’t fare quite as well. There is a certain tinny quality that comes through the speakers as characters talk that makes me feel like they have used the original 3DS audio recordings instead of higher quality original recordings. This issue does only affect vocal work and the music itself within the game is beautiful and perfectly matches each world that you travel to.

KINGDOM HEARTS HD 2_8 FINAL CHAPTER PROLOGUE

If you haven’t played [Dream Drop Distance] before, the game follows Sora and Riku as they attempt to pass their Keyblade Mastery exams. This involves you being split off from each other and your past allies, as you go from world to world to awaken their sleeping hearts. During the game, you will continually switch between Sora and Riku as you both explore the same world, but with different characters and stories. This switch can be triggered manually at any point, but will also automatically occur once your Drop meter runs out and your character falls asleep. The system makes you feel isolated, but also provides a crucial driver in the story as you catch ghostly glimpses of your friend and work towards being reunited with them again. This sense of isolation permeates large portions of the story, which is a somewhat more contained affair than in many Kingdom Hearts titles before it.

Along the way, you’ll take advantage of the Dream Eaters, a range of friendly monsters that you can create and level up, who will fight beside you. The large variety of Dream Eaters and the different ways they fight allow you to heavily customise your team as well as your character, as their unlocked abilities also change your own stats and bonuses. Further customisation comes in the form of the Command Deck system. Unlike in past games, you assign a limited number of commands to yourself, which have a cooldown before they can be used. This allows you to pick specific abilities and outfit your character to match whatever style you want to play in. You also have access to a brand new traversal system that can be utilised during combat. You can bounce off walls to do a spinning keyblade attack, grind along bars and perform a leaping attack off them, and even use some enemies themselves as a platform for attacks.

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It’s an interesting system and it can be fun bouncing off enemies and walls, although it can sometimes be frustrating to trigger. The camera system and movement controls are just sluggish enough that it can sometimes be hard to hit that one specific lamppost you need to trigger your attack. They also lead to some problems during the game’s more platform-focused sections, as the controls are just imprecise enough to cause problems as you try and land on specific platforms. It’s not game breaking, but it can certainly get frustrating at points.

While the remaster of Kingdom Hearts [Dream Drop Distance] is excellent, the real treat of Kingdom Hearts II.8 Final Chapter Prologue comes in the form of Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage. Beyond having Square Enix’s most convoluted title yet, A Fragmentary Passage is both a sequel to Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and a prequel to Kingdom Hearts 3, linking them together and fully tying their separate worlds together. The game follows Aqua, stranded in the land of Darkness, as she attempts to finds her friends Terra and Ventus. The story is highly personal, focusing on the self-doubt and despair that are gradually growing inside her as she journeys deeper into the Darkness without a sign of the light. Her soliloquys are filled with reminiscences of her past and sentimental feelings of what she has lost. Her voice acting perfectly portrays these emotions and creates a wholly engaging experience.

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A Fragmentary Passage is a short game, only lasting a couple of hours in all, but it provides a glimpse at an incredibly exciting future for Kingdom Hearts. If you’ve played a Kingdom Hearts game before you might be used to the slow, deliberate combat of the games. Unlike current action-RPGs, the combat of Kingdom Hearts didn’t evolve to match the faster paced games of the future. That has changed in A Fragmentary Passage, with Aqua feeling faster and significantly more competent than past Kingdom Heart’s protagonists. Keyblade swings feel faster, dodges are more responsive and the magic included is more bombastic and visually appealing than ever. The Command Style from Birth by Sleep makes a return as well, with Aqua’s attacks and magic gradually unlocking different combat styles and destructive magics. These can range from Aqua’s Spellweaver style, which allows her to deliver more powerful blows and a final finishing blow of ice magic, to Firaja – delivering a massive explosion of fire that fills your screen. Combat in A Fragmentary Passage is more exciting than it has ever been in Kingdom Hearts.

This is all aided by better movement mechanics and more responsive controls. Aqua responds quickly to movements of the analog stick and quickly glides along the ground. Her air dashes and leaping double jump make you feel incredibly mobile and make exploring the world more fun than ever. There are still a few issues with the camera, which can get in the way at times, and targeting airborne enemies is still a point of frustration, but overall combat and movement are better than ever.

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A Fragmentary Passage is the first Kingdom Hearts title to use Unreal Engine 4 as its engine and the visual upgrade compared to past titles is plain to see. Characters like Aqua look incredible, with detailed clothes and hair, as do the familiar Heartless. The environments are more detailed than ever, with individual brick work visible on buildings, and light bouncing off surfaces beautifully. Visual effects during combat, like fiery explosions and bolts of lightning falling from the sky, light up the screen and are amazing to see. The move to Unreal Engine 4 and the PlayStation 4 have created a Kingdom Hearts experience that is one of the best-looking games I’ve seen.

The one real disappointment of Kingdom Hearts II.8 Final Chapter Prologue comes from the last inclusion in the package, Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover. Back Cover is a short 1-hour film that is included as part of the package and is meant to introduce more history to the Kingdom Hearts universe, portraying a new story featuring the Foretellers, a group of Keyblade masters tasked with leading five unions who protect the world. Despite being made to provide more history and explanation of the general Kingdom Hearts world, the film introduces more questions than it answers, resulting in more confusion in an already convoluted world. The dialogue and script is standard fare, but its let down by some sub-par, stilted voice acting that leads you to disconnect from the characters. The one thing the film really has going for it are its visuals, which are based on the tech powering Kingdom Hearts 3 and are a pleasure to look at. I would only advise the most ardent Kingdom Hearts lore fans to watch Back Cover.

Kingdom Hearts II.8 Final Chapter Prologue provides both a look at the past and a glimpse of the future, and comes away as a compelling package. Dream Drop Distance is a surprisingly strong remaster, considering the game was originally released for the 3DS and A Fragmentary Passage is the most visually appealing Kingdom Hearts game and makes great strides in combat and movement. If you’re a fan of Kingdom Hearts that wants to play the best version of Dream Drop Distance or see the future or the franchise, then I highly recommend buying this.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.


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