Saturday, 28 January 2017 18:59

REVIEW: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (PS4)

Written by Stacefacemayhem
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Circle of truth people. Kingdom Hearts. As a friend once told me “It’s not a game for everyone... Stace, you’ll either love it or hate it”. I will confess I'm not a seasoned Kingdom Hearts player or fan, to be honest it looks childish, so I avoided it. I know what kind of gamer am I? Naïve probably. So I was quite nervous booting up the PS4 to write this review.

Kingdom Hearts Final Chapter Prologue HD 2.8 (yes that is it’s ridiculously, long, absurd title) is the newest addition to the award winning franchise by Square Enix. This collection has three very different elements that help create the yellow brick road towards the greatly anticipated, title that shone at E3, ‘Kingdom Heart's 3’. The first title is ‘Dream Drop Distance’ a HD remastered copy of the 2012 release on Nintendo 3DS . Secondly, the collection includes a bridging episode called ‘Birth by Sleep 0.2 – A fragmentary passage’ that links to the upcoming third game. Lastly the collection is rounded off with a movie ‘Kingdom Hearts X - Back Cover’.

It makes sense, to play them in order as the remastered is set after the events of 2 and is the guts of the collection, taking the longest to complete. Straight out the door, I was blown away by the music. Even in the long introduction of Dream Drop Distance, the full blown orchestral production was very reminiscent of Disney’s Fantasia setting the scene before the game had even started. While we are truth talking, the intro credits blew me away before even clicking new game.

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Now I had to research A LOT of the backstory on my lord and saviour, the mighty Google, to understand what was going on in the story and even then it’s still wishy washy. It’s not a good pick up and play game. Riku and Sora are Keyblade masters and the wizard Yen Sid strips them of their skills, retesting them against ancient enemies in many Disney themed worlds. Along the way you'll meet many other clique characters, with Neku being particularly memorable for his obnoxiously zero frigs attitude. Most of the enemies are creatures called Dream Eaters. Defeating Dream Eaters rewards you with materials or if you are lucky recipes. These can be used to build spirit allies that will fight alongside you in battle. All well and good but these allies are time consuming if you want them to have any real effect. You need to pet and play training mini games regularly to level them up and gain abilities via link points. These exploit the touchpad quite well but after a while it felt like a cheesy Tamagotchi add on. Kids born 2000 or later can ask Siri about that reference.

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The game opens with Riku and Sora deserted on a beach, when suddenly that misunderstood, tentacley, babe Ursula from the Little Mermaid attacks. This acts as the tutorial to all the moves and controls. Thank god, as this leads to my second concern. I understand and appreciate the work it must have been for Square Enix to convert a 3DS game to a remastered PS4 version, and they’ve done a bloody good job too, however the controls are slightly finicky. You can use magic abilities that are clumsy to switch too and also have a cool down which moves you onto the next spell, but the problem is the health potions are also lumped in there too. During combat I often found myself using them when I didn’t need them, then having none left when entering a boss battle. Mildly frustrating. The flow-motion combat system is a unique attacking style to overcome enemies quickly and encourages you to utilise the environment, because truthfully not much else does in the game. The environments are quite bland giving me no urge to explore, because graphically it isn’t overwhelmingly good. I wouldn’t expect more though from a DS remaster.

What was the saving grace for me was infact the mini games that you play in the portals that link different worlds. Speeding through the tunnel collecting items and defeating air born enemies was a good timewaster and I felt more strategic gameplay. Another interesting feature added to mechanics was the dead drop play. Dead drop play means you can only play as a certain character for so long before they fall exhaustedly. This added pace to the game, as you madly fought your way to a decent checkpoint, and had the dire urge to complete tasks in time. After playing about 14 hrs of this game, circle of truth... I still wasn’t convinced why these games were so popular.

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Now this is where my interests actually peaked. The second title in the collection is Birth by Sleep 0.2 – A fragmentary passage and is the episode that acts as a precursor for the upcoming release. This game is the moment my attitude completely changed. If the remastered was the meat of the collection then this was definitely the drawcard.

You play as the ever so kawaii ‘Aqua’ as she battles her way through hordes of Heartless in the Darkworld, trying to find her other keymaster friends and in essence, herself. This story was still sketchy at best but a well needed link to the standalone Kingdom’s Heart 3. Aqua is the star of the show and finally a character that seems somewhat mature and relatable to. The game plays out sort of like a demo with limited but more finely tuned controls and basic attack and magic combos that often or not have you floating about the enemies attacking from above. I didn’t mind this, sometimes simple is more.

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To draw your attention from the lacking skills they have opted to include customisation to the character and I fell for it hook line and sinker. Yes I spent ages decking Aqua with cool armor, cat ears, fibre optic wings and constantly adjusting the colour scheme on her outfit and yes I often tried to unlock more gear through mini challenges.

The environments were gorgeously constructed and detailed. Every paver on the road, petal on a flower had been rendered to be as lifelike in this anime-ish world as possible. I even often found myself looking longer than humanly comfortable at the character’s eyelashes or strands of hair. I was really sad at the 3 hr conclusion of this episode as it finally shed some light to and why this has such a huge fan base. I definitely have an increased interest in what Kingdom Hearts 3 has to offer, and fans would be salivating.

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The last component on this collect is the animated movie ‘X Back Cover’. Now like I said before, I’ve reluctantly donated a considerable chunk of my time to researching the events leading up to this assortment of I suppose you could call them ...fillers. If you had questions now as an actual huge fan of Kingdom Hearts, then this movie will leave you with a considerable amount more, and if you are not a fan well.... Don’t even go there. I believe the movie is trying to give some information of the Keyblade wars mentioned in many of the previous games, but is very vague and features faceless unknown characters in masks throughout the one hour. Definitely bizarre, definitely a must watch for avid fans only.

So verdict? Still not sold on the hype that is Kingdom Hearts but I did start my journey deep into the middle, so the verdict is still out. 2.8 has definitely made me curious enough to consider playing previous games and Fragmentary Passage has unquestionably shown that Kingdom Heart 3 is not going to be a let down for fans and even noobs like myself alike.

Additional Info

  • Review Score: 3.5 / 5.0
  • Release Date: Out Now
  • Platform: PS4
  • Genre: Action / Adventure, Fighting, Adventure, Misc