Last month, the final installment to the Kingdom Hearts series before the heavily anticipated Kingdom Hearts 3 was released on Playstation 4. Kingdom Hearts is a wildly popular series that has been one of the more notable gaming franchises over the last fifteen years and has become known for its absurdly convoluted story. Now, the final pieces are in place for the conclusion of the storyline… I think.
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue consists of three titles in its collection. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is a new console version of the Nintendo 3DS exclusive title, Kingdom Hearts: χ Back Cover is a cinematic that explains some of the details surrounding Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ and Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is a small little bit of story that sets the table for Kingdom Hearts 3.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep –A Fragmentary Passage
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 is really the star of the centerpiece of this collection. If you don’t already know, this is a short story about Aqua’s time in the Realm of Darkness after the conclusion of Birth by Sleep that is recited by Master Yen Sid after the conclusion of Dream Drop Distance. I know, it’s a mouthful. Basically, it’s just a quick little story to fill in a small hole here or there and set the stage for the events to come.
There really isn’t too much to say about Kingdom Hearts 0.2. It’s effectively a three hour tech demo for Kingdom Hearts 3. You’ll get a good grasp of what Kingdom Hearts 3 is going to look and feel like. It’s a fairly linear and straight forward gameplay experience.
Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover
Admittedly, χ is easily my least understood area in Kingdom Hearts. I played Unchained χ for all of maybe fifteen minutes and haven’t paid any attention to it since. However, I don’t think that held me back when watching χ Back Cover. The cinematic is about an hour long and it was pretty easy to follow and understand what was going on with the story and how it relates to Unchained χ. It also sets the stage for what appears to be a rather significant mystery heading into Kingdom Hearts 3.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Fair warning, I have not played Dream Drop Distance in Kingdom Hearts 2.8 yet. I played it several years ago on the Nintendo 3DS and it was pretty good. I would definitely say that it’s a worthwhile play if you’re a big fan of the Kingdom Hearts series and I have read that it performs very well at 60 FPS, which is a good sign for Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX.
At the moment, I am roughly halfway through a critical mode playthrough of Kingdom Hearts 0.2 and the difficulty isn’t too bad. The only real complaint I have is that your MP is limited on critical mode, for some reason, which impacts your ability to use magic but it’s been pretty good overall. I believe proud difficulty was touched up a little bit in a recent patch but I have not played it.
The mechanics and gameplay of the game are fairly standard. The boss fights are repetitive and the last boss was a mess at launch, but it was favorably updated in the game’s most recent patch. Again, the game is basically a tech demo so there’s really not too much enrichment in the form of gameplay. However, the game’s secret boss was a great and challenging fight which was almost worth playing the game entirely on its own (video here if you’re interested in seeing someone really good destroy it).
Now this is really where Kingdom Hearts 2.8 has its value. Kingdom Hearts 0.2 gives you a little background information related to the ending of the original Kingdom Hearts but what’s most important is that it sets the stage for Kingdom Hearts 3. It’s fairly basic, you’ll find out exactly where each character is heading and what their current objective will be at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 3.
The implications that χ Back Cover is going to have on the story is really cool. You’ll get an understanding of how the whole Keyblade/Kingdom Hearts thing began from the very beginning and you’ll meet a rather interesting character and, you guessed it, this interesting character has thrown a gigantic mystery right into the heart of this completely convoluted storyline, because who didn’t think we needed more questions to be answered?
Dream Drop Distance will tell you what Sora and Riku are doing right before the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 3. Yen Sid has some stuff for them to do and along the way; you got it, more wacko stuff happens. Dream Drop Distance gives you a clearer understanding of what exactly the objective of Kingdom Hearts 3 is going to be and how all of the different storylines are finally going to come together.
I joked that playing Kingdom Hearts 0.2 is like playing depression simulator but it’s kind of true. Aqua’s in the Realm of Darkness, she’s all alone and she’s haunted by her memories. At one point, I distinctly remember putting my controller down for a second just to remind myself that I’m not playing a character doomed to everlasting darkness, I don’t think anyway. So you definitely get a good sense for how Aqua feels roaming the Realm of Darkness, which is pretty sad.
I shouldn’t even have to tell you about this one. Of course the sound in Kingdom Hearts is great. Just looking at Kingdom Hearts 0.2; from the menu music to the opening music to the final boss music, it’s all amazing. The music in Kingdom Hearts games has always been top notch and the music in Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is no different.
I think the graphics in Kingdom Hearts 2.8 were about as good as I could have expected. I’ve seen some people have a gripe about the look of a couple spots here and there but I really liked it. The area around Cinderella’s Castle in the Realm of Darkness, in particular, was beautiful. The cutscenes looked great and the actual gameplay looks gorgeous. It’s definitely much more polished and clean than past entries, which shouldn’t be unexpected.
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is really smooth. As noted earlier, I’ve read that Dream Drop Distance runs at a pretty solid 60 fps, which is what is expected of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 so you can get a little taste of that. I had no problems with Kingdom Hearts 0.2 but I do know that there was a crashing issue with it on the Playstation 4 Pro that seems to have been corrected in a patch but it was there for a while at launch.
If you want a tremendous breakdown of the controls for Kingdom Hearts 0.2, I would suggest you take a visit over to Bizkit047’s YouTube channel. Bizkit is an insanely good Kingdom Hearts player who can tell you all about the ins and outs of the gameplay in these games. He does an excellent job explaining the nuances of the controls in his first impressions video and his post-patch video (Note: the audio is spoiler free but the videos are full speedruns of the game).
I would definitely recommend looking into the gameplay for Dream Drop Distance as it was originally designed for the touch screen of the Nintendo 3DS so I’m curious how it plays on Playstation 4. I have read that the flowmotion gameplay mechanic at the heart of the game is a little wonky on console, so just make note of that.
This is going to be a real subjective area. Kingdom Hearts 0.2 is a three hour game that you can squeeze maybe twelve or so hours out of if you’re a completionist and you want to 100% it while χ Back Cover is just a one hour cinematic that you really don’t have to watch more than once. Dream Drop Distance is a full release game so you’ll get much more of a return on the gameplay there than with the other components of the collection. The real replayability here, in my opinion, is going to be for series replays if you like to do that sort of thing.
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is a good not great addition to the Kingdom Hearts series. There’s a lot to like here and it not only serves as a preview for what’s to come in Kingdom Hearts 3 but it’ll satisfy your Kingdom Hearts fix while you wait. I certainly enjoyed myself, as a major fan of the series for the past fifteen years.
If you’re a big fan of the series and you’ve played all of the installments to this point, you’re effectively paying $60 for about four to twelve hours of content. Now unless you’re like me and are planning on replaying the entire series before Kingdom Hearts 3 comes out or you just don’t care about the price point, I would recommend holding off on this purchase until you find a deal or if you have some old games to trade in to neutralize the price a bit. You can watch a Let’s Play on YouTube for Kingdom Hearts 0.2 and an upload of χ Back Cover and be just fine without spending a penny.
If you’re new to the series, don’t start here. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5, a collection of every game in the series not including these three, is being released for $50 on March 28th for Playstation 4. That’s four full games and two HD cinematics for $50, which is as good a value as you’re ever going to find and is totally worth it, by the way. Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is more about the end of the series so you should play through the rest of the series first before diving into it.