Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – Tokyo Game Show 2016
Ok, let’s get a couple of things straight before we begin this preview. First, I am a Kingdom Hearts fan. Second, the Kingdom Hearts story makes absolutely no sense. Come on. Stop kidding yourselves. Tetsuya Nomura is clearly, and has clearly, by his own admission, been making this shit up as he goes since the beginning. We are so far past anything resembling an actual narrative at this point, that the games have literally swapped titles for decimal points. The last time this story made any sense at all was in 2005. Gwen Stefani‘s ‘Hollaback Girl’ came out that year too. We’ve all thankfully grown up since.
Gearing up to the release of Kingdom Hearts 3 at some unspecified point in the next twenty years (hopefully), Square-Enix have kind of copped on to the fact that “hey, no one knows what the hell’s going on here”, and have spent the last three years re-packaging and re-releasing every ounce of KH they can find to try get everyone up to speed. In January 2017, the well will finally run dry, with the release of the actually titled Kingdom Hearts HD2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. Never change, Square-Enix. Never change.
KHHD2.8FCP comes in two main parts. The first is an HD version of 3DS title Dream Drop Distance, which has apparently been remade from the ground up rather than simply glazed with HD shine. Unfortunately, this section of the game was pretty unremarkable. It played almost exactly the same as it did on 3DS (without the use of dual or touch screens, obviously), for better and for worse. Gameplay was very fluid, but also very twitchy. Visually, it moves nicely and clearly takes advantage of its hardware. It’s noticeably smoother than either of the PS3 re-masters, but never achieves much more than that. If you missed out on Dream Drop Distance first time around, this will be a good chance to tick that box, but it’s not the real reason you’re going to want to pick up KHHD2.8FCP.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage was instantly and infinitely more intriguing. The sequence, a prologue to KH3, took place in a fragmented vision of the Cinderella world from the original Birth By Sleep. As Aqua, I was tasked with undoing all the damage done by literally reversing time. As I explored my surroundings, I would occasionally come across a cluster of gears which, when attacked, would set the clock in Cinderella’s castle back by one hour and rebuild the next part of the world. 0.2 is, apparently, related to something Mickey says at the end of Dream Drop Distance about what Aqua was up to after BBS, but as we previously established, KH‘s story is batshit bonkers so who knows? Thankfully, story wasn’t necessary for me to be wowed by what I saw.
0.2 is built using the same tech that KH3 will (eventually, maybe) run on. It’s beautiful to watch. Aqua’s attack movements are lithe and balletic, smoother than anything KH has ever given us before. My enemies, the heartless, were mostly of the standard KH1 Shadow type, and barely even registered as Aqua danced and slashed her way through them. Occasionally, a mage type would appear and force me to up my game a little. Magic in 0.2 works a lot like it always has in KH, but this time almost always hit multiple targets. Each of the elemental spells dealt damage to every target within a small radius. It felt like a natural extension of the system, and proved pretty useful as the fights got tougher. The world itself was equally stunning, glistening and sparkling while the music lulled behind, ominous and morose. It was the perfect blend of maturity and wide-eyed wonder that KH3 needs to be to work, and gave me a lot of reassurance that Square-Enix might actually be able to deliver.
Honestly, I was so taken with 0.2 that at some point i stopped taking notes. High on my list of concerns however, is how this good first impression will be maintained going forward. Will we ever actually get to play Kingdom Hearts 3? Honestly, I don’t know. I reckon there’s a pool in the Square-Enix offices with many bets on this game never seeing the light of day. For now, come January, you can at least get a glimpse of what KH3 might one day feel like. Just don’t expect the story to make any more sense afterwards.