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E3 2016 Hands-on: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue


Jonathan Higgins

It“s not quite Kingdom Hearts III, but 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is the closest series fans are going to get to the real thing, for a while. I“m not sure where to begin when trying to describe this game (particularly its naming conventions) to folks trying to come into the series for the first time.

 

Suffice to say: newcomers should probably pick up the two prior “HD ReMIX”es that came out on the PlayStation 3 to not feel entirely lost when playing this one. Because this collection in particular is going to, collectively, help set up the stage for the third game in the series -- hence its odd numbering conventions being wildly close to “3.”

 

Enter: Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -- A Fragmentary Passage. Hereafter, I“ll just refer to it as 0.2. It“s the part of this collection that features brand new content that fans have never seen before, that aims to tell the story of how Keyblade Master Aqua wound up... wherever she“ll be in Kingdom Hearts III. That portion of the game, along with gooey graphically upgraded Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, was playable on the show floor at E3. Since that“s the part that“s new and exciting... without further ado:

 

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As far as story goes, there wasn“t a lot revealed in the 30 minute gameplay demo. You do see the meaning behind the spoilery bits of

, so I won“t tell you what happens. But Aqua is isolated, and spends the game talking to herself (and thus addressing the player). She“s very much reflecting on the passage of time -- since the point of the demo is to reconstruct the destroyed path to the Castle of Dreams [Cinderella“s World] in the Realm of Darkness by literally turning back time.

 

The player, as Aqua, is tasked with collecting 5 gears that turn back the big clock on the castle through a very much ravaged town. Bits of buildings are floating in the air, making for a visual sense that Kingdom Hearts fans might recognize from The End of the World from the first game, for example. The scenery was most definitely interesting, and should make for a bit of a different twist on conventional Kingdom Hearts “worlds”.

 

But, the demo lacked a map or any real sign-posting, so finding where the dang gears were took me a long-while. In the meantime, I re-familiarized myself with Aqua“s combat, which hasn“t changed or evolved much since Birth by Sleep. The new visual flairs were definitely there when it came to how Aqua used spells and what have you, but controlling her felt largely the same as it did in Birth by Sleep.

 

It“s definitely the enemies and environments that were new. The boss of the demo was a Shadow Tornado like you see in

. There wasn“t any new music showcased in the demo, and I“m not even sure if the featured songs -- "
," "
," and "Aqua“s Theme" -- were re-recorded at all.

 

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Where the game shines is definitely its visuals. My gracious, they“ve gone above and beyond to make Kingdom Hearts games look as pretty as Uncharted 4 or any of PlayStation“s “visual masterpieces”. You“ll definitely like what you see.

 

Ultimately, if the idea of “more Aqua gameplay” excites you, this particular portion of the newest Kingdom Hearts collection will meet or exceed your expectations. I can“t really judge the final product based on a slightly-larger-than-normal “Premium Showcase” meant for E3 audiences -- but I can say that more Birth by Sleep is probably not a bad thing, if you“re a fan of the series. It seems like the plot may involve a lot of monologues, though. Get ready for a little soul-searching.

 

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue will be available exclusively for the PlayStation 4 this December. We“ll offer more information as it comes. And hey, if you have any specific questions about how Dream Drop Distance plays in HD, be sure to let me know below. Not a lot has changed (beyond visuals) from what you“ve played on Nintendo 3DS.

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