The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
various spin-offs and re-releases, the buildup to Kingdom Hearts III has been
nothing if not drawn out. Kingdom Hearts II launched more than a decade ago,
and a whole new generation of gamers can play the early entries thanks to HD
remasters on PS3 (and later this year on the PS4). Final Chapter Prologue
should be the last new remaster before Kingdom Hearts III; it includes Dream
Drop Distance (originally a 3DS exclusive) for the first time on the big
screen. Additionally, an episode starring Aqua and a mini-movie, which shows
how this crazy journey all began, are both new for this entry. As convoluted as
the Kingdom Hearts storyline is, after playing through this collection, I have
a clearer understanding of the narrative leading into Kingdom Hearts III. Even
without the extra story context, Final Chapter Prologue is fun on its own, and
Square Enix did a wonderful job making this a worthwhile collection and not
just a port of Dream Drop Distance.
The most appealing part
of the collection is A Fragmentary Passage, which follows Aqua after the events
of Birth By Sleep. The episode took me about three hours to complete, but if
you collect every treasure, you can extend that an extra hour. Aqua is one of
my favorite characters due to her selflessness and determination to save the
world, and getting some resolution to her story was satisfying. I won't spoil
anything, but playing the episode only makes me more excited for what potential
role she might play in Kingdom Hearts III.
A Fragmentary Passage
takes you through various levels, each with its own gimmick. For instance, in
the first world, Aqua must locate five clock gears, platforming on high ledges
and rooftops, while battling enemies to achieve them. In another, she must go
through mirrors and uses their reflections to create ledges or manipulate
gravity. Square Enix says A Fragmentary Passage uses development tools similar
to Kingdom Hearts III, showing off more expansive environments and the ease of
getting around them using the air slide and a powerful double jump, so it's
almost a first look at how the tech has advanced for the upcoming entry. It
makes me excited for Kingdom Hearts III's exploration. The episode also shows
off the smoothest combat I've experienced in the series, playing out in a
faster, more fluid pace. Camera issues didn't plague me as much as past entries
While some cool boss
fights, like a titan that takes up most of the landscape and a tower of
Heartless that morph into different shapes, test your skills, these baddies
often repeat through the short levels, and a lot of the objectives feel like
busy work. You're never just locating one thing – it's usually five, or
backtracking to get what you need. The journey is breezy, so if you're looking
for a challenge, I recommend starting on Proud Mode. You can unlock Critical
Mode after completing A Fragmentary Passage on any mode for the highest
challenge, which really tests your combat prowess.
A Fragmentary Passage isn't perfect, but I'm
glad Square Enix included completely new content, and dressing up Aqua by
completing challenges is a fun bonus. My Aqua ended up wearing Minnie Mouse
ears and having a red-and-white dress with ribbons to match. At the end of the
episode, a lengthy scene (presumably from Kingdom Hearts III) allows you to
finally see the characters embark on the next part of their journey, which is
really what we've been waiting all this time for – to see that Kingdom Hearts'
plot is moving forward instead of explaining past elements.
The collection also features an HD movie, Kingdom
Hearts Back Cover, which runs a little
over an hour. The movies in these collections haven't always been that
impressive, and I was skeptical knowing that this was based on a mobile game's
story, but Square Enix really spruced it up. It's the best movie featured in
all the HD collections up to this point, and sheds worthwhile light on the
series' early history and how the prophecy of darkness affected the
Foretellers. The movie is a good look at what set the events of Kingdom Hearts
into motion, and has some memorable betrayals and action sequences, as everyone
tries to do what they think is right to save the world from its dark fate.
Dream Drop Distance HD is the part of the
collection you can sink the most time into, and Square Enix has made plenty of
enhancements and changes to get the 3DS game running smoothly on console. The
battles are faster-paced, the camera benefits from a larger screen, and load
times are improved from the original handheld version. The controls are also
better on the PS4, feeling less clunky. Square Enix updated the minigames and
abilities that previously used the 3DS' touchscreen, although it's not always
an improvement. For instance, the reality-shift slingshot worked much better
with touch controls, and petting your Dreameaters felt more natural with a
stylus. Still, this version is far from just a visual upgrade (although it does
look fantastic on PS4). For those who haven't played Dream Drop Distance, or
want a refresher, this is the best way to go.
Final Chapter Prologue is a solid collection that I
enjoyed playing, and got me more excited for Kingdom Hearts III due to how it
sets up everything so wonderfully. I wish I were playing Kingdom Hearts III
instead of another remaster, but this is the best collection for getting you
prepped for what's ahead.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.