Finally, a Kingdom Hearts title made for the PS4, but you’d be a fool to think Square Enix were ready to give you the long promised, long awaited third addition to the series. No, not yet. Whatever the hold-up is on their end, they’re certainly riding out prologues and epilogues, buying themselves a good amount of time, while also running out of decimal points to put titles against.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely already up to scratch on the backend of the franchise, so I won’t delve too far into the past. If you’re new or just looking around, this game is well and truly a great starting point, but you should definitely do a quick Google on Sora.
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (take a breath) bridges the gap between Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix, a 3-game HD rehash between the mobile game Kingdom Hearts χ Unchained, and the up-and- (probably never) coming Kingdom Hearts 3.
It’s been a potholed road for the Kingdom Hearts franchise over the last couple of years, setting the bar for itself impossibly high with it’s beautiful storytelling in its two main games. I gave this franchise up after feeling betrayed at E3 in 2015, where new worlds and promises were shown to me and cemented the fact that this would indeed be the year that we’d finally see the next major chapter in the franchise. Since then it’s basically been radio silence, until now. Finally hearing that some new, albeit small amount of new content was being released in KH 2.8, I decided to give Sora and his gang another shot.
KH 2.8 is a three-part release that I’ll break down in brief below. It’s surprisingly big, with more content than the previous 3-part builds. I’d also completely forgotten that this would be the first time I’d seen Sora rendered through the roaring processors of the PS4, and the new graphics engine that will also, in time, draw Kingdom Hearts 3. The graphics are worlds apart from my 3DS, or my now 8 year old PS3, where all of the previous titles live; oh, and everything is in crispy 60fps.
First stop in KH 2.8 is another mouthful of words, Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD. If you’re a freshie to Kingdom Hearts and still reading, this is a great piece to dive into the storyline and introduce yourself to the worlds and characters. Originally named Kingdom Hearts 3D (an arguably daft play on Dream Drop Distance and the 3DS’s new 3D feature), it’s a remake for the PS4, with completely overhauled gameplay mechanics to deal with the original touchscreen controls. It’s not often that games nail cross-over controls when porting from one proprietary hardware to another, but the team at Square Enix have done an impeccable job. Oh yes, and this time round, the introduction of dream eater pets was made, meaning you get a companion everywhere you go. I much prefer this remake; the 3DS version has aged terribly, and its fiddly controls ensured I never picked up my 3DS again.
Next up is one of my favourite side-plots of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and probably I suspect, the main reason fans will purchase KH 2.8 – Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage. The story of Birth By Sleep, originally a PSP title, and then remade in KH 2.5 Remix, tells of the events that took place ten years prior to the first Kingdom Hearts game, featuring a whole bunch of Disney worlds and introducing Organization XIII. KH 0.2 is an all-new mini episode that takes place after the events of Birth By Sleep following Aqua around the Disney film Cinderella. It’s a short ep, but it gives the players a good feel to how Kingdom Hearts 3 is going to play.
In order of my playthrough, the last part of KH 2.8 is Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, a follow-up to the mobile KH Unchained as previously mentioned. However, KH Back Cover isn’t even a game; it’s a movie around an hour long that focuses on unseen events that helped create the world’s we see in the games today. It’s an easily digestible piece of content for any fan, old or new. It’s a pretty incredible story that you’ll want to stay engaged with until the very end.
Don’t think for a second that Square Enix just threw together a few games to keep their fans happy. Everything is wonderfully curated in the lead-up to Kingdom Hearts 3.Not only is the content of the new chapters great, but the graphics. Oh the graphics! Everything plays in gorgeous 1080p HD at 60fps, and based on what I’ve experienced, Kingdom Hearts was always intended for it. The gameplay is much smoother, one thousand percent more accurate against enemies, and everything just looks brand new. If you’re looking for the ultimate experience, try KH 0.2 on a PS4 Pro and it’ll activate the eye-wateringly beautiful 4K gameplay.
As with what I’ve come to expect over the years with Kingdom Hearts titles, the beauty really lies within its incredible story and how it’s told – there’s a much deeper layer into what’s going on that goes far beyond the remarkable cocktail of Disney worlds that you get to play through. What I most appreciate though, is that you have the choice to take in every word, or just cruise through the game; KH 2.8 is no different and still keeps you in the deadlock of one of the most confusing and infuriating, yet perfectly composed storylines in videogame history.
In the end, seeing everything come to life on the PS4 through KH 2.8 left me pining for future releases, and some are just on the horizon, or so we hope. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 should be with us in March, if Square Enix can be bothered to keep to a set date. The engine that’s drawing everything utilises the power of the PS4 in ground-breaking ways, and as for Kingdom Hearts 3, one can only pray that we’ll get to see it in all it’s glory sometime during the PS4’s lifespan.
Kermath received a digital copy of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 from Square Enix for review.