e3 2016

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue

Wonderfully Paving The Way For Kingdom Hearts III
by Kimberley Wallace on Jun 14, 2016 at 09:01 AM
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release:
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is setting the stage for Kingdom Hearts III. When it was announced last September, I expected that Square Enix would provide fans one last remaster, allowing them to get caught up with the series before its new, long-awaited entry. What I didn’t expect, however, was that it would include a new episode that would give us a taste of some of Kingdom Hearts III’s gameplay.

Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is what I’m most looking forward to out of the collection. Sure, it’s nice to have it also include Dream Drop Distance (especially since it only released previously on 3DS) and Kingdom Hearts χ [chi] Back Cover (a movie shedding light on the Foretellers), but A Fragmentary Passage is completely new content and stars Aqua (one of my favorite characters). I was lucky enough to get hands-on with a beginning portion of this episode, and I enjoyed what I played.

For those not in the know, A Fragmentary Passage is set to answer questions left lingering about keyblade-wielder Aqua and be a good lead in to Kingdom Hearts III. The duration of the episode should only be a few hours, but it was created using similar development tools to Kingdom Hearts III. Consider it a brief preview to Kingdom Hearts III’s gameplay.

I start my demo, and after spotting a massive clock, the path to it destructs and I’m told, “The world collapsed when the clock advanced.” Then I’m alerted that there’s no time in this place; the clock spins backwards. My job as Aqua is simple: to fix the clock by finding gears scattered about this broken world, which has chunks of debris in the air and plenty of heartless to battle. Is Aqua destined for a world of darkness? 

I’m then introduced to “double flight,” which allows Aqua to leap higher and even do a mid-air double jump, allowing her to reach greater heights. If you tilt the left stick and press square mid-jump, you also get a burst of speed. Platforming my way to locate gears is a heavy component of the demo, and it all works fluidly and helps me navigate the world with the ease. Rooftops and other obstacles require this method of travel. 

Soon enough, I’m in battle as a wave of heartless try to deter my progress. This is my first taste of the combat, and Kingdom Hearts fans will still feel right at home. Battles are a bit faster and smoother than in previous entries, but the controls remain familiar. I find I’m chaining up combos with ease, and launching cool attacks that send Aqua spinning around in a frenzy knocking groups of heartless out with her keyblade. It definitely feels on par with Birth by Sleep's gameplay, but faster and smoother, and that's not a bad thing. As I beat up more heartless, messages like, “Not even memories are safe from the darkness,” bombard me. Aqua also speaks some harsh truths about what she wouldn’t give to turn back time and spend another day with her best friends. I don’t want to spoil what happened when I finally track down all the gears, but I will say there’s both sadness and hopefulness in Aqua’s journey, and I can’t wait to see where it all leads. 

I also played Dream Drop Distance, and its gameplay is fairly faithful to its predecessor. Everything feels great with the PS4 version. I was able to directly compare it to the 3DS iteration, and combat plays out so much smoother and quicker. Everything just moves better, and loading time is improved as well. The whole game feels like it got a worthwhile upgrade from the 3DS.

So far I like that combat feels all-around better in both games. My time was brief so it’s too early to tell much about the battle system from A Fragmentary Passage other than the combat feels noticeably better. The camera, which has been problematic in past entries, wasn’t even an issue. I’m optimistic, but I think at the end of the day, I want what everyone does – to know more about Kingdom Hearts III. I’ll gladly play through Kingdom Hearts 2.8 when it launches, but I still feel like I’m stabbing in the dark at what Kingdom Hearts III will actually be like, although trailers look great. Maybe  A Fragmentary Passage offers more about Kingdom Hearts III; I just didn’t feel like I had a huge revelation about it from playing this demo, but maybe that will come when the full game releases in December for PlayStation 4.