Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD Final Chapter Prologue review for PS4

Platform: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I will get this out of the way and say the single worst part of Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD Final Chapter Prologue is that it makes the wait for Kingdom Hearts 3 that much harder. This release is hands down the best of the three HD releases because each entry included is not only vital to the story leading up to KH3, but also has an entirely new entry that shows off the potential engine being used for KH3.

The other two releases, which will be releasing in March for PS4 have the original and sequel respectively. The part that made each release a bit stale in my opinion was the bundled DS games, that instead of including them in playable form, were instead compilations of the cinematic scenes made into movie form. The problem was they were entirely too long and showed their age.

Now, with KH2.8, the third entry in the release is tied to the mobile game Kingdom Hearts X Unchained. As you would expect, the mobile game isn’t included. However, we are given the next best thing. KHXBC is a fully CGI mini movie that is the perfect length and really digs into the history of the series, before the Keyblade War.

I would assume, anyone playing this game is already a fan of the series to a degree. If not, you may want to wait until March for the 1.5 and 2.5; if you don’t own a PS3, as they were released on it. The Movie, which is called Kingdom Hearts X {chi} Back Cover is a great gateway into the series for a newcomer and includes loads of new story for the series.

The one issue I had with KHXBC was the voiceover work. It seemed unbalanced and didn’t flow with the tone of the movie, including the score. Some of the characters were done well, where others just seemed out of place. For example, you’re introduced to the Master of Masters. He is the one that the unions from Unchained X follow. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you would think based on his role and dialog from the other characters, his voice over just seems out of place. The movie is still worth watching and would watch it before playing KH3D or KH0.2.

The two playable releases, KH Dream Drop Distance and KH 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage is some of the best in the series. First, let’s talk about KH3D. This was originally a 3DS exclusive that was built for the handheld, focusing on the use of the 3D, cleverly tying the name to it, as well as the touch screen. Check out our review here.

Sometimes, games with gimmicks on a handheld don’t port over well. This isn’t the case with KH3D. Playing it on the PS4 makes it feel like a full release, not only aesthetically, but with the improved framerate. Based on my experience, Kingdom Hearts was meant for 60 fps. The series is known for high energy and quick moving battles that would only improve with a higher framerate.

As most of the games in the series, gameplay mechanics are slightly different this time around and include some aerial traversing moves, which I love, and the introduction to pets called Dream Eaters. The game doesn’t have any other extras added, but it’s not necessary because the port over from the 3DS is astounding and simply one of the best in the series.

KH0.2 on the other hand is a new episode that was created for this collection. It features Aqua from Birth by Sleep and directly ties into not only KH3D, but KH3. This is the best gauge we have toward what we can expect from KH3 because based on the little footage we’ve seen, many of the mechanics and even some of the enemies are strikingly similar. You start off with Aqua in the realm of darkness as she tries to find a way to escape and/or find her friends Terra and Ventus.

What KH0.2 does best is giving us a taste of what is to come with KH3. The gameplay is refined, blending components from each of the games, all while adding some visual flare, high framerates and quick and energetic combat that has become a staple in the series. It also supports 4K on the PS4 Pro. As you traverse through the 2-3 hour episode, you’ll fight hordes of heartless, meet with familiar characters and dig deeper into one of the most confusing storylines in video game history.

What makes KH 2.8HD enjoyable more than most would expect is how it properly comes full circle with the story. Playing 1.5 and 2.5 leaves many questions that don’t get answered until KH3D. This may come as a bit of a shock considering KH3D was a 3DS exclusive prior. Because of that, some fans haven’t fully experienced what’s out there for Sora and Riku’s journey leading up to KH3. As a fan, this was a great way to start the New Year. As a gamer, watching a series like Kingdom Hearts evolve into what’s included in this release is what we could hope for in other franchises.

The wait for KH3 has gotten that much longer. It looks like I will be revisiting KH 1.5 and 2.5 once again in March to continue to hold me off. Here’s hoping for an E3 update! Maybe it will release before my 8 month old son’s 5th birthday.

Grade: A