February 7, 2017
Starting with the only true remaster in this HD Collection, Kingdom Hearts HD Dream Drop Distance, the game has benefited from the transition from Nintendo 3DS to PS4. This remastered version includes new Dream Eaters, creatures who fight at your side throughout the game, and enemy Dream Eaters are also less aggressive when compared to the 3DS version. Aside for this, the PS4 version is basically the same as the 3DS version. It’s just a shame that the 'Drop' system hasn’t been removed or changed in some form, as it continues to be annoying when you are forced to change characters mid battle.
While it’s basically the same game without any additions or changes in terms of content, Dream Drop Distance HD has been polished and looks surprisingly clean on the big screen. Running at 60 FPS on PS4, battles are a lot smoother and the camera, which was terrible on the 3DS, now works a lot better. The touch-based systems present on the 3DS version have been changed, and although the use of the DualShock 4’s touchpad to interact with your Dream Eaters doesn’t work as well as it did on 3DS, for the most part this gameplay aspect has translated well enough to PS4.
Moving on to Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover, this is an animated movie that will help fans understand more about the Keyblade War, which took place many years before the events of all other Kingdom Hearts titles. While the phone game Kingdom Hearts X lets you experience where it all began from the perspective of the player, the movie tells these events from the perspective of the foretellers, the leaders of the Unions.
Over an hour long, the movie is well animated and looks just as amazing as Kingdom Hearts 0.2 – A Fragmentary Passage and Kingdom Hearts III. Without spoiling much of the story, the movie revolves around a prophecy that tells there’s a traitor among the Foretellers, which creates suspicions and doubts among the group. While it looks like simple plot, there’s certainly enough action moments, and several twists and turns to make this an interesting tale to watch. However, as a movie that was meant to clarify and explain a bit more about the overall lore of Kingdom Hearts, I was a bit disappointed as I was left with more questions than answers by the end of the movie.
Moving on to the most appealing title in this package, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, this game explores what happened to Aqua after she fell in the realm of darkness at the end of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. As Aqua explores this realm, she will find several worlds which she visited in the past that fell to darkness, such as the Castle of Dreams and Enchanted Dominion.
The combat system in Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage – is very similar to Birth by Sleep, with the major difference being that the Command System was replaced by a MP bar like Kingdom Hearts II. From Aqua’s powerful and fast combos, to how easily you can chain together magic and physical attacks, the game offers some the smoothest and fluid battles in the series so far. In addition, if you chain attacks quickly enough you will be able to use stronger spells or new fighting styles for a limited time.
The Shotlock system also makes a return and works a lot better than it did on Birth by Sleep, as time now slows down when you use Shotlock, allowing you to more easily lock on to enemies without getting attacked in the process. Despite all these improvements, I still felt like the camera needed some work, as it was nuisance in some battles and small rooms.
While it’s a short experience that can be completed in 2-3 hours, there’s a lot of optional objectives and collectables, and a few puzzles to solve, which will add a few hours of play time should you wish to complete everything. Completing these optional objectives unlocks cosmetic items for Aqua, and although these don’t affect the gameplay and don’t appear during cutscenes, they are always a nice addition.
Visually, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage looks stunning. Not only the environments are a lot bigger and open, probably more than any Kingdom Hearts title before, but also the attention to detail, and the particle and lighting effects makes this a treat for the eyes. In short, this game is a very enjoyable experience, one that showcases a bit of what we expect of Kingdom Hearts III may be in terms of gameplay and visuals.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue might not be the perfect starting point for newcomers, but it is a must have for fans of the series. Unlike the two previous HD collections, this includes brand new content that not only explains more about the overall lore of the series but also connects directly to Kingdom Hearts III. In addition, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, while a short experience, it allows fans to get a taste of what Kingdom Hearts III will be like while we wait for the game to finally release.