Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue Review — Well At Least It’s Pretty

Also, I really like this opening sequence in terms of visuals and music.

  • It’s pretty much open season on Japanese/anime gaming this year with so many big releases coming out, and my usual credit card bill increasing by two hundred dollars each month. Even if you exclude the games I have no interest in like Fate/Extella and Digimon World: Next Order, let’s just say that the wait for the new Zelda feels even shorter now that I’ve got all this other stuff to keep me occupied. And that’s not even getting into my huge video game backlog, which I won’t bore you too much with, especially since I’m spending that potential time playing fucking Kingdom Hearts.
  • Yes, that new 2.8 game came out a few weeks ago and I figured I’d get through that one first because it seemed to be the least enjoyable whilst also the most spoiler-heavy one at the same time. For those of you who don’t know, Kingdom Hearts 3 has been in a longer development limbo than Final Fantasy XV with no planned release date in sight, not helped by how Square Enix continues to milk the franchise constantly by making spinoff games that are all canon and do nothing but act as sneak previews for what’s to come. It’s kind of like all those MCU movies that focus on an individual superhero for no other reason than to whet people’s appetites for the next Avengers film.
  • 2.8 is a collection of three different Kingdom Hearts entries: an HD remake of Dream Drop Distance – which is that 3DS game from 2012, a CG movie (to use the word loosely) called Kingdom Hearts X detailing some stuff from that mobile game no one in the States has ever played, and Fragmentary Birth By Sleep 0.2 – the actual reason most fans pay sixty bucks for this thing due to wanting to know what happened to Aqua after getting trapped in the dark realm almost seven years ago (ten in the actual game universe). Since I’ve never played DDD or even know what it’s in it besides some vague descriptions regarding Dream Eaters, I had to go through that first before I could experience Kingdom Hearts in Unreal Engine 4.

I saw this movie as a kid and thought it was really cheesy in a bad way

  • Dream Drop Distance is considered by a large number of fans to be one of their favorites next to Birth By Sleep and Kingdom Hearts II. Not really sure why. It’s very token and lacking in inspiration, and while I know there’s trouble in regards to transferring the 3DS gameplay to the PS4, DDD’s problems run a lot deeper than just gameplay mechanics.
  • I should point out that for the most part, DDD’s gameplay is fine. It’s the same fast-paced action/command system that characterized Birth By Sleep, except now they’ve added a mechanic called Flowmotion where you can grind on rails by jumping on them, swing large enemies around by rolling into them, and basically act like a freestyler the entire time you’re in combat or traveling. There’s also a Reality Shift mechanic that’s optional in some levels and required in others where you press the triangle and circles buttons to execute a special move unique to that world like hacking or dueling under certain conditions, and while it’s a little awkward at first, I was pretty used to it by the time I got to the third level.

So what monsters are going to show up next? The Brain Matters?

  • What I’m less positive towards is the whole monster-raising aspect, which wasn’t a good idea when that Tales of Symphonia sequel did it either. Donald, Goofy, and pretty much every other possible party member are out this time, so you have to breed friendly versions of the enemies you face in order to help you out in battle. Raising them up is the new way to achieve all the special commands that’ll help you out against the tough bad guys from offensive spells like Blizzaga to live-saving skills like Second Chance, but it takes a lot of time to do so, you have to find all the necessary crafting information to get a monster in the first place, and the game doesn’t tell you what each monster provides until you make it yourself. It’s basically one of the most trial-and-error/guide dangit methods of gameplay I’ve ever seen.
  • It doesn’t exactly help that your partners’ AI is even more useless than the one in the first Kingdom Hearts. Way too many times when I’m getting stampeded by a bunch of elephants, my seal monster was bouncing around in a corner, confused at what color the wall was painted. But I suppose that works out in the game’s favor a little because partner death is permanent, and every time they tried to pull their own weight, I’d often have to waste cure spells to make sure I don’t lose a future opportunity to gain that necessary defensive ability.
  • In addition to battle, you also gain the points necessary to buy commands by petting them or playing a tedious mini game. I found the former to be awkward on the touch screen-less PS4, and there was no way I was playing that mini game when I could just be leveling up Sora or Riku at the same time. And you’ll want to level them up, because the enemy difficulty ramps up fast in DDD to the point that the later common enemies sucked up more damage than most of the mini-bosses, and they always come in packs.

This dude is more trouble than he’s worth

  • Also, whoever designed Riku’s boss fight near the end, which is a three-stage battle against enemies with incredibly accurate gatling gun-like moves that can knock off all your health in just two hits from the equivalent of shooting a thousand bullets in five seconds obviously needs to go to his room and think about what he’s done. And he wasn’t even the final boss – who I’ve heard was even harder, but I beat him on the second try in Normal difficulty with little problem whatsoever.
  • But let’s get into my real problem…well, third-real problem because fuck those boss battles along with the Drop system where you have to switch characters and the story you’re playing after a certain amount of time, and if you’re forced to do it during boss battles, they’ll regain all their health when you go back to them…with DDD: the story is boring. It takes place during Sora and Riku’s exam to become true Keyblade masters, and in order to do so, they must go to different worlds and unlock seven keyholes in order to gain a new power.

One of these guys is not like the other

  • This time around, you’re exploring the more obscure side of the Disney/Square universe with worlds from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tron Legacy, and The Three Musketeers making it into the game, along with characters from The World Ends With You showing up for good measure. Kingdom Hearts has always had a problem with trying to combine western animated storytelling with the eastern kind, but DDD mostly just threw up its hands and went “fuck it. Let’s have these characters just guest star in the films we’re badly recreating this time”.
  • The Hunchback world is basically just the movie except with the usual Kingdom Hearts problem of nobody existing besides certain named characters, meaning you’ll see Quasimodo doing his “Sanctuary” scene to an empty square after rescuing Esmerelda from a public execution that only Frollo showed up to. And you don’t even get to fight Frollo in this game. He pretty much dies on his own and Sora’s/Riku’s only purpose in the narrative is to meet the characters and beat up the supernatural monsters that the villains are using to gain an advantage over their movie counterparts.
  • I thought the big appeal of Kingdom Hearts was to control generic anime heroes teaming up with your favorite Disney heroes in order to beat the shit out of those Disney villains and emo Final Fantasy characters you all hated so much growing up, but there’s very little of that here. Discounting that Julius special boss, you only fight Ursula (who pretty much just shows up out of nowhere in order to tutorialize the controls) from The Little Mermaid, Rinzler from Tron Legacy, Pete and the Beagle Boys from Three Musketeers, and everyone else is pretty much an original creation.

I should really play The World Ends With You sometime

  • And on the Square side of things, all the TWEWY characters are completely useless. They never do anything, you wouldn’t know who they are if you never played that game (which I haven’t, but I read their Wiki summaries way back in the day, so I knew of Neku’s emoness and Shiki’s short skirt beforehand), and there’s no sense of finality when you finish their stories. The only reason Joshua made it in was to remind players that no matter what happens, he is Jesus.
  • As for the connecting story tying everything together, it’s mostly a load of setup, and time travel makes it into the narrative in the most unnecessary way possible. I refuse to go into any more detail than that, especially since I’m spending a lot of words talking about a lackluster game that isn’t even the main draw of this package.

Darkness has never looked so beautiful

  • No, the true main draw is when you’re controlling Aqua in some of the most glorious HD graphics the PS4 is capable of – although in exchange, the Disney characters look unnaturally plasticky. 0.2 Fragmentary Passage has you following everyone’s favorite blueberry waifu for 2-3 hours as she tries to survive in the dark realm she ended up imprisoning herself in in an effort to save Terra – whose original voice actor apparently took classes in the six years since because he can actually emote now. Said events happen right after Birth By Sleep, but before the ending to Kingdom Hearts 1 in an effort to explain why it took ten years for Mickey to realize where she was and why she has yet to be rescued even then.
  • The gameplay in this section is much better than pretty much any of the other entries, combining the best aspects of Kingdom Hearts II, Birth By Sleep, and Dream Drop Distance into a pretty versatile package. Plus my god the animation/effectiveness of the magic spells is gorgeously awesome. You can actually use Blizzaga to make homemade rails to grind onto, plus Aqua’s reflexes aid in a lot in removing the floatiness that plagued some of the previous games.
  • There’s also a mechanic where if you fulfill certain objectives, you can make Aqua do cosplay. Personally, I never did, but I’m sure most fanboys will get a kick out of it.

Looking kinda unnatural there, Yen Sid

  • But given that this is Kingdom Hearts, the story just doesn’t match the gameplay in terms of effectiveness. You basically explore the ruined versions of worlds from Cinderella, Snow White, and such for the entire game, and the only things alive in there are Heartless, towers of Heartless, or giant Heartless. The only other character who shows up is Mickey, and he’s always fun to be around as well as a great asset in fights, but if the next Kingdom Hearts game continues the tradition of having no NPCs at all, I’m going to chuck it into a fireplace.
  • Bad guys are pretty much the same Heartless types as the previous games with Shadows and Neo Shadows galore. The game has three unique boss fights, including Darkside because he’s in everything nowadays, and you have to fight them a minimum of three times throughout the entire campaign. On normal difficulty, I didn’t have too much trouble until the final boss fight, who had a massive health bar and uses attacks that were so cheap the creators had to patch in some warning signs right when he’s about to do one. It did feel good when I actually beat him though, so I guess you can consider that a plus in a Dark Souls-y kind of way.
  • 0.2 basically ends with explaining why Aqua wasn’t at the finale of Kingdom Hearts 1 as well as setting up what the characters are going to be doing for Kingdom Hearts III. Without spoiling too much, the events of Dream Drop Distance caused Sora to lose all of his abilities for the third time, so now he has to go meet a certain Disney friend who I won’t spoil in order to level up again. As everyone else prepares to set out on a new journey, the game ends and so does my interest in playing 2.8 any further.

I think I understood Kingslaive better than this

  • On a side note, that Kingdom Hearts thing that’s also include with these games? Impenetrable. Not even worth me giving attention given how I’ve never played the cell phone game it apparently sheds light on.
  • Okay, so how does 2.8 fare as a game? Well, it’s not really horrible and aside from some questionable final boss choices, there wasn’t anything that tempted me to stop playing and just watch other people get through the game on Youtube. However, it’s not newcomer-friendly, the actual new stuff is not worth the sixty bucks, and the 20-hour 3DS port that’s supposed to justify the price is bogged down by an overcomplicated plot along with its good game mechanics being outnumbered by shit ones and very little of the Disney/Square Enix magic that made this franchise the multimedia hit it was back in the PS2 days.

They’re back!

  • If you’re a fan of Kingdom Hearts, it’s probably worth putting down money for. Those who haven’t even started on the franchise will do well to postpone the investment and wait for that 1.5 + 2.5 Remix thing coming out on the PS4 in a month or so.

Minor Quips

  • Whose third installment is going to be released first? Half-Life’s or Kingdom Hearts’?
  • Can you please include Ratigan in the next game? I’ve always wanted to set that dude on fire.

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