Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – Long on Title, Short on Game
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue carries on the long tradition of exceptionally ludicrous titles for Square Enix RPGs. It also happens to be more than one game, and a movie, packed into a $60 download for the PS4. It’s essentially a lead-in to the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3, and while there’s fun to be had here, it’s probably best for the die-hard Kingdom Hearts fans.
There are three parts to KH 2.8 (we’ll just call it that, to keep my sanity). The first is a remake/remaster of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD, originally a 3DS title from 2012. Then there’s also Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover, an hour long cinematic told in Unreal 4 that tells the events and those unseen in the original Kingdom Hearts X iOS and Browser game. Then, finally is Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage. The last one is the actual “teaser” of gameplay and visuals that are to come in Kingdom Hearts 3 when it’s finally released.
Dream Drop Distance isn’t a bad little game, but it isn’t a great one either. The gameplay itself is fun enough – action combat, pet raising, decent visuals for an HD upgrade of a 3DS game. But the story, like a lot of Kingdom Hearts’ side stories, goes off into the realm of nonsense. You swap between the series mainstays Sora and Riku, as they go through a “Mastery Exam” which is meant to prepare them for when the bad-dude Xehanort comes back and to make them become Keyblade Masters. Not only is the story hard to follow unless you’ve played a lot of KH, but the strange mixture of game systems makes Dream Drop Distance a bit of a mess.
Similarly, the Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover cinematic is only going to make the most sense to those who’ve played Kingdom Hearts X. Still, it’s beautifully rendered and shot, and for the diehard KH fan, it’s bound to fill in more than a few holes of the earliest parts of the Kingdome Hearts saga.
The real reason to pick up KH 2.8 is for A Fragmentary Passage – the short few hours-long game that tells the story immediately following Dream Drop Distance, from the point of view of Aqua and her time in the Realm of Darkness. Then it shifts forward and takes place after Birth by Sleep Final Mix. It’s only a few hours long, about the length of one world from the main games. What’s important about it isn’t the story – it’s just how beautifully and smoothly it plays in Unreal 4. This is essentially a high-priced demo for Kingdom Hearts 3, and it’s proof positive that the decade long wait will likely be worth it.
Kingdom Hearts is an acquired taste. You have to like Square RPGs and Disney, and you have to like them mixed together. Kingdom Hearts has always been fun, but it’s been a long time since we had a proper release in the series. I can’t recommend that everyone pick KH 2.8 up, but if you’re a fan of the series and haven’t played Dream Drop Distance, then the price of $60 becomes tolerable. If you're just a casual fan of the IP, I'd steer clear and wait for the real Kingdom Hearts 3.