Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD: Final Chapter Prologue Review – Still Terrible Titles (PS4)
Square Enix seems to enjoy abusing their Kingdom Hearts fans. In order to get the full story behind the game, you need to purchase all of the various sequels that appear on various devices. Some were on PS2, one was on the Game Boy Advance, two made their way to the DS, one to the 3DS, two to mobile, and one to the PSP. Do note that none of these were “official” sequels to the series, but offshoots that were crucial to understanding the main line of games. If you were brand loyal to the PlayStation, well, you had to wait until the 1.5 and 2.5 ReMixes in order to play most of them. Even then, the DS titles weren’t playable and were only presented as movies of their cut scenes. It’s hard being a Kingdom Hearts fan at times, and it requires a lot of patience.
We’re still waiting for Kingdom Hearts III. We’re tired of these offshoots, even though they are fun. Who knows when KH3 will grace us with its presence, but in the meantime, here’s another port/offshoot compilation called (wait for it) Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD: Final Chapter Prologue. It contains a port of the 3DS game Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance (it’s 3 Ds…as in 3DS…ain’t they clever?), a new chapter from Birth by Sleep that supposedly bridges 2.8 to the upcoming KH3, and a movie that also supposedly bridges to KH3. While it’s quite nice to play KH3DS on a big TV with a comfortable controller and better control scheme, the new content available on KH2.8 leaves a bit to be desired. Oh sure, plenty of story has been set up and clarified (a little) for KH3, but there’s not enough gaming, period, to warrant the full sticker price.
Dream Drop Distance
KH3DS was a fun game on many levels, but it wasn’t perfect and definitely needed some improvements. Namely, the Drop system needed an overhaul, if not scratched from the game entirely. With the Drop system, Sora and Riku have a time limit for game time. When the timer is up, they fall asleep, and play is passed to the other character. Imagine the fun when you forget about the timer and fall asleep in the middle of a boss fight. It’s not pleasant. This HD port of the title neither overhauled nor cut the Drop system. It’s exactly how it was, down to passing on stat boosts to the other character depending on Drop bonuses you earn.
Everything else is exactly the same as well. You can still construct your own Spirits to fight with you in battle. You can bond with them, raise your link ability with them, and then spend the ability points earned from them to learn new Commands for your Command Deck. The Command Deck is another unwelcome return. This menu system operates as a pseudo-card system, where players have so many cards in their hands and can only play these cards when their gauge is full. Once a card is played, it takes time for the gauge to refill and become available again. The order you set these commands is crucial in a fight, as flipping through your deck leaves you quite vulnerable to attack, especially when you’re looking for a potion or Cure spell. My main beef with the Command Deck is that d-pad buttons you use to scroll through the Deck are the opposite of what I think they would be. If only I could remap these, or really any of the buttons on the controller. I could use X to mean jump instead of attack, and I’d save myself so much grief and frustration.
Fortunately, you do gain a rhythm while playing. After a couple of worlds, it becomes second nature to manipulate your Command Deck, link with your Spirits, and Drop to the other character at the proper time. Playing on the big screen instead of my tiny 3DS screen also helps immensely, particularly with the Flowmotion movement and combat. Not to mention, the characters look and sound rather amazing on a proper console. Like Chain of Memories from the GBA era, this was meant to be played on a TV. I’m really glad they ported the game instead of creating a movie out of the cut scenes, as they have done with their other DS games.
It really helps if you’ve already played the game before, but KH3DS HD does a great job explaining the controls. It also provides an in-game notebook to give background info on where this game takes place in the KH timeline. Those who have never played the 3DS game can step into this title with ease.
0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage
Now these titles are getting downright laughable. That said, the title is rather accurate in terms of game time. On the Standard Difficulty setting (Normal), it took me less than 3 hours to finish it. I suppose I could replay for Trophy Hunting, but the lack of a Platinum Trophy has removed a lot of that desire.
At the end of Birth by Sleep, Aqua sacrificed herself to stay in the Dark World to give hope to Ventus and Terra. With her strength and her heart, she knew she would find a way out of the darkness eventually. It’s been ten years since the end of BBS, and she’s still rather trapped. This is her story of not how she escaped the darkness, but how she helped King Mickey find the Key of Darkness and help Sora close the door to Kingdom Hearts at the end of the first Kingdom Hearts game.
Gameplay is a simpler version of the combat style from BBS and KH3DS, and it’s twice as welcome as those overly complex systems. Don’t get me wrong; 0.2BBS has its complicated moments, but the battle menu system is far easier to manipulate. Instead of a rotating menu that forces players to flip through a Command Deck to find what they’re looking for, the menu reverts back to the original system that only had Attack, Magic, and Items. However, it still has some of the combat from BBS, including the style changes, grand finishers, and the multi-attack. With the simpler menu, it’s far easier to navigate the various forms of combat without running around in a panic trying to find where your potions are in the Command Deck. I shouldn’t have played this game first, because going back to KH3DS was a beating after this.
Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover
I had no idea what to expect with this animated feature. I did not expect it to be a backstory for the mobile game, Kingdom Hearts Unchained X. I haven’t played this game, because I’m not a fan of mobile games in general and it didn’t appear to have much to do with the overall story. Consider me standing corrected.
I had to stop the movie after about 15 minutes and research the mobile game before continuing. Thanks to a synopsis I found online, I was able to understand where this film takes place in the timeline, and a little bit of who these characters are. The main characters, the Foretellers, aren’t as present in Unchained X, which is why Square Enix developed a movie to explain who they are and how they got there. But without the mobile game knowledge, it’s nearly impossible to understand Back Cover.
I watched this movie first before I did anything else, and I have to strongly recommend everyone do the same. This story, as ridiculous as it seems with its Deadpool-wannabe Master, sets the ground for everything that happens in Birth by Sleep as well as the other games. Back Cover additionally gives a clue as to who the cloaked character is at the beginning of KH3DS, who was on the beach in the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II, and who talked with Aqua at the end of BBS.
The film is only 80 minutes long, and yet it provides so much information that is sure to be vital for Kingdom Hearts III. Or perhaps the next offshoot that is supposed to placate fans as KH3 is delayed again.
Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.
2.8 Is Great-ish?
It’s great to have Dream Drop Distance off the handheld and on a TV, especially with the DualShock controls. The game plays better on a console than it ever did on the 3DS. The extra background provided by both Fragmentary Passage and Back Cover is fascinating and sets up the next KH chapter rather beautifully. The overall story in Kingdom Hearts is overly convoluted as it is, so any background info is always an immense help. Nevertheless, even as plot important as these last two entries are, there simply is not enough game time to justify the price.
I’d heartily recommend this for KH fans, although I caution that perhaps they should wait for the price to drop. Newcomers to the franchise entirely should avoid this title until the first two anthologies are under the belt. This is definitely not an installment that is easy to jump into.
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD: Final Chapter Prologue review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.