Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue: catchup review

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Depending on how tightly you wear your trousers of cynicism, Square Enix are (a) allowing fans and newcomers a chance to catch up on the world of Kingdom Hearts before the release of the highly-anticipated Kingdom Hearts 3, or (b) milking fans for all they’re worth in order to cash in before the release of the highly-anticipated Kingdom Hearts 3. Unlike the looming 1.5 Remix & 2.5 Remix release, the preposterously-named Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue only includes one previously released game. It also includes a movie and a brand new game; which sounds suspiciously generous, doesn’t it?

If you are suspicious, you’re right to be so. Let’s start with the remaster. Former 3DS exclusive Dream Drop Distance 3D has had the ‘3D’ swapped for ‘HD’ before being plonked into this collection. To be fair, this has indeed been remastered rather than simply ported. Things look better than they ever did on the 3DS, with a lovely smooth frame rate and everything being in shiny high definition. Even the touchscreen elements have been retained, adapted for traditional controllers.

DDD is, ultimately, little more than running around and hitting things over the head with your keyblade in between cutscenes. You also have one-shot magic attacks, each on a cooldown for use, but they’re disappointingly ineffective (and the UI, unchanged from the 3DS original, makes it too easy to accidentally use a health potion instead of – say – throwing a fireball). Your enemies are almost exclusively ‘Dream Eaters’, in appearance something very much like rainbow-coloured Pokémon. Interestingly you’ll be fighting alongside Dream Eaters too; you can create them from ‘recipes’, or experiment with ingredients you get from combat to see what you come up with. Gotta catch – er, create ‘em all! You can have a good ol’collection going, and choose which ones are fighting in the field with you.

Aqua, wondering why her hands are so utterly enormous.

The aforementioned adaptation of touchscreen features includes the poking and stroking of your abominations against God to make them happy and help level them up. Given that this is a PS4 exclusive, you might’ve thought that the DualShock touchpad was used for this, but nope. Does anybody even remember that the PS4 controllers have that thing?

Anyway, DDD as a whole is competent but not great. There’s lots of storytelling, which fans will appreciate (though if you try playing this as your first Kingdom Hearts game, you’re probably just going to end up a bit confused). Graphics, while noticeably improved over the original release, very much have their handheld roots showing. The one visual aspect that really needed changing from the original – yet remains – is the camera, which tends to work against both you and the (very) basic lock-on system.

The eponymous Drop mechanic remains… and continues to frustrate. Two characters (Sora and Riku) play though the adventure in tandem, and you alternate between the two. You can switch from one to the other by ‘dropping’ at any time and, as they play through slightly different versions of the same levels – or even different worlds at the same time – this is fair enough. However, while you play, a ‘drop meter’ is constantly trickling down to zero; and when it runs out you’re force-switched to the other character. If you don’t manage to keep a stock of the consumable that delays this, you can be thrown out of the current character’s session at the most inopportune moments – including, say, when you’re fighting a boss that only has a sliver of energy left, which means you have to start the long and drawn-out fight all over again when you drop back in.

The main attraction in the package is “Kingdom Hearts 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage”, a game built ground-up for the PS4 which is exclusive to this collection. This (very briefly) continues Aqua’s tale from when we last saw her, building a little bridge to – and further building hype for – Kingdom Hearts 3. It looks nice enough, although it’s perhaps ironic that this suffers from frame rate issues the 3DS port seems to be free of. The music… oh, the music. A sumptuous orchestral score that makes up three quarters of the surreal atmosphere, it’s almost (but not quite) worth buying the game to experience this alone.

The included movie isn’t nearly as exciting as this picture may possibly make you think for a second.

The basic structure of AFP remains the same as previous games which, depending on your perspective, is disappointing/reassuring. Combat largely consists of repeatedly hitting the X button, with triangle used for consumables and recharging magic attacks. There’s also Shotlock with a gauge of its own; hold down R1 to lock onto groups of enemies for multiple hits and, if used when the gauge is at maximum, time button presses for bonus damage. There are some smart ideas in there using magic mirrors, but the experience is essentially still all about combat; which, as always, drags on a little too long and relies on an imperfect lock-on system.

The final part of the package is the mini-movie Back Cover, with the look of a not-bad cutscene and a running time of about an hour. Containing no Disney characters whatsoever, it is instead centred on the Foretellers and their alliance. One purely for the hardcore fans, it won’t mean much to those not up to speed on the history of Kingdom Hearts. Even then, there’s not really anything in there to have you begging for more.

Although a fair amount of effort has gone into the 3DS port/remaster, and the inclusion of a mini-movie is a nice touch, we can’t help but feel that these have essentially been kicked out of the door and onto the disc in order to justify charging full price for access to A Fragmentary Passage – which can be completed in little over two hours. Definitely one for existing fans until it hits the bargain bins.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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