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Jason Clement posted a article in Monday MusingsMonday Musings is a feature where every Monday, I'll shoot the breeze about what I've been playing and what my thoughts are on various news and events in the game industry. This week I'm back to discussing certain things I've been playing instead of focusing on a single large topic like last week. I'll dive into two topics that have been on my mind as of late: Kingdom Hearts 3 and Yoshi's Woolly World. The long road to Kingdom Hearts 3, and why you should play Kingdom Hearts 2.8 As of last night, I've completely played through all of the content in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. I ended up saving the newest piece of content -- Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep ~A Fragmentary Passage~ -- for last, and it turned out to be a wise choice as it's the direct piece of the collection that literally leads into the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 3. For those not in the know -- KH 0.2 was originally intended to be built into Kingdom Hearts 3 as its prologue, but director Tetsuya Nomura decided it got in the way of the game's pacing, so it was moved to the KH 2.8 collection both to expand the content there and to serve as a playable teaser for KH3 while fans continue to wait for its release. I still plan on writing a review for the whole collection, so expect that sometime in the near future for direct thoughts on all three pieces of content within. I will say right now that KH 0.2 leaves off at a very satisfactory place and will leave you desperately wanting KH3 more than ever. There isn't a big cliffhanger, per se, but what they do address near the end serves as an interesting precursor for what's to come. KH 2.8 bridges a lot of content between Kingdom Hearts 2 and the eventual third title, and some of the revelations in 2.8 are big enough to make you wonder why they revealed those story beats during in-between content instead of the mainline numbered games. Both Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and 0.2 are more like The Empire Strikes Back in this trilogy than even KH2 is (which, I guess makes KH2 more like Shadows of the Empire?). It also ties all of the threads from previous games together in a neat way, not leaving anything hanging. All I can say is that if Kingdom Hearts 3 can put a nice bow on all of the threads Nomura has been weaving so far, it's going to be one heck of a final game for Xehanort's story arc. Go play KH 2.8. Seriously. Can a game's visuals actually be as important as the gameplay? Yoshi's Woolly World certainly makes a strong argument for it You've likely heard it said before that when it comes to games, the most important thing that matters is gameplay. The visuals can be superb, but if the gameplay doesn't stand up then nothing else matters. I certainly believe that's true for many games. But... what if those roles were reversed? What if great gameplay was paired with subpar visuals? Would the game still be compelling enough to play? And to be fair, I'm not talking about a case like Shovel Knight, whose 8-bit-inspired visuals may not be as impressive as another's, like Dragon's Crown. Those 8-bit graphics still have charm and a place for gamers who appreciate those aesthetics. I'm talking poorly designed visuals. Abysmal-looking stuff. Amateur hour. Like, the developer tried to make something look good, but... it doesn't. And when I really think about it -- and that example specifically -- no, I don't think gameplay is the be-all end-all for games. Certainly it's the most important aspect, don't get me wrong there. But if other areas of the game are lacking, I'm not going to pretend that great gameplay makes up for everything, and that includes subpar visuals. Case in point: Yoshi's Woolly World may be one of the first games that keeps me playing because of its brilliant visual style. That's not to say it isn't impressive mechanically -- it's essentially a reskin of Yoshi's Island's mechanics -- but the yarn aesthetic really makes the whole experience. Without it, I may as well be playing a standard Yoshi game, in which case things would be a whole lot less interesting. It's difficult to quantify exactly what it is that makes the yarn visuals so compelling -- perhaps it's because it's so different from the norm, or that we associate the sewing material with warmth and being comfortable. Maybe it's even because it reminds us of childhood where -- for many -- life was easier. Really though, Yoshi's Woolly World is charming as heck, and I can't wait to get back into it. It's one of few games where its visuals directly tie into its gameplay, and both aspects are better for it. If you haven't played it yet, I definitely recommend it; I'll have a more detailed breakdown of the experience in a review soon. So what about you? Have you played Kingdom Hearts 2.8 yet, and are you counting the days until Kingdom Hearts 3 comes out? And what are your thoughts on visuals in games? Do they need to be at a certain level in order for you to be interested in the game, or if a game has great gameplay, will you play it regardless?
Jonathan Higgins posted a article in Industry NewsIt“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 â€œHD ReMIXâ€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 â€œ3.â€ 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: 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 â€œworldsâ€. 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. 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 â€œvisual masterpiecesâ€. You“ll definitely like what you see. Ultimately, if the idea of â€œmore Aqua gameplayâ€ 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 â€œPremium Showcaseâ€ 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.