Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (PlayStation 4) Review

By Az Elias 28.01.2017

Review for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on PlayStation 4

Ahh, Kingdom Hearts. Beloved to many, and a convoluted mess of a series to plenty of others, what started as a cute Disney and Squaresoft collaboration that had fans of animated movies and Final Fantasy jumping all over the first entry in 2002 has developed into quite the confusing affair. In a bid to allow fans and potential newcomers to the long overdue Kingdom Hearts III to play the full series and at least try to make sense of it all before its arrival, Square Enix has been releasing a few HD remastering packages, with 1.5 ReMIX and 2.5 ReMIX incorporating the majority of entries. Roping in the last remaining puzzle pieces and introducing some new segments, the mouthful of a title Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue steps in to whet the appetite for the fabled third mainline episode.

This one is a difficult sell. Compared to the previous HD collections, which each contained two full games and a series of remastered cutscenes that recapped events from certain spinoff entries, this PlayStation 4 debut for Kingdom Hearts is a bit of a step back, certainly when taking into account the price tag attached to it.

KH 2.8 features an HD overhaul of the Nintendo 3DS' Dream Drop Distance, a small prologue chapter to Kingdom Hearts III in the form of 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage, and Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, a fully-voiced, original CG movie that covers the mobile title and centres around the events of the Keyblade War origins.

Dedicated fans that are keen to lap up every little bit of Kingdom Hearts juice that Square Enix drip feeds might well find this to be worth every penny, but to be realistic about the collection, this is an overpriced bundle that should really be thought carefully about purchasing until a price drop.

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It's best to start with the main draw to Kingdom Hearts 2.8, and that is the Aqua-focused 0.2 Birth by Sleep. The honest truth is that this is essentially a two-hour preview demo for Kingdom Hearts III, offering a glimpse at what can be expected when it finally arrives in the year 20XX. Whilst serving as somewhat of a prologue and setting up future events, it also acts as a Birth by Sleep epilogue, covering what happens to Aqua in the Realm of Darkness.

It is quite possible that Square Enix is treating 0.2 as KHIII's Episode Duscae—the free demo for Final Fantasy XV that was gradually updated with user feedback prior to its release the following year. Since 0.2 has already received a patch that adjusts Aqua's mechanics in relation to the battle system, this sounds plausible. Okay, there are a few story cutscenes here and there that make this a new title in the series itself, but it is such a small game that it can only be viewed as a taster for the main course.

Screenshot for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on PlayStation 4

Should fans be excited for Kingdom Hearts III based off of Aqua's brief screen time here, though? Actually, yes, but there remain plenty of reasons to be cautious. No doubt, KH 0.2 looks the part, with the series having skipped an entire generation exemplifying the graphical leap from Kingdom Hearts II. Although there isn't much level variety, with plenty of dark and brooding areas, which should be expected in a place called the Realm of Darkness, the style works wonders to push out CG quality in-game graphics, with particle and other special effects really standing out, in particular.

Gameplay is something of a mixed bag, though. Aqua's moveset is somewhat clunky and doesn't quite fit into the platforming and combat situations she finds herself in when moving around and battling the heartless. She doesn't turn freely, magic doesn't seem to register and can result in multiple spells being cast when trying to activate one, there are occasional lock-on issues, and some enemies have quick, almost unreadable moves that can trap Aqua into a stun that is difficult to break out of, or even has her unable to recover if hit in mid-air and renders her susceptible to multiple attacks at once.

The latest patch has taken feedback on board and improved certain areas, such as the ability to activate the defend move much quicker after a jump, and has made damage dealt and taken fairer in harder difficulties, as well as made improvements to the final boss, which is one of the worst parts of the game, and might even be a contender for worst boss in the series. It is more manageable now, but it is incredibly hard to track and lay attacks on the thing, with it seemingly able to hit Aqua whenever it wants at random.

The Devil's Tower boss takes the shape of what looks like hundreds of little heartless creatures, creating a snake-like tornado of a foe that is visually impressive, but again is difficult to get a reading on. KH 0.2 fares much better when Aqua is faced with human-like opponents, which make for engaging and more tactful battles, and this is where there is promise of some good fights for KHIII. There are occasional camera problems, as it can be tough to see what is lurking behind Aqua, so being able to keep the camera panned out or above her would do wonders.

Familiar abilities return, and switching into her various Command Styles brings much more flair and visual splendour to battles, with Aqua pulling out more stunning moves that track opponents better. Some specific powerful commands do make it difficult to see whether Aqua is actually making contact with enemies, which is part of the problem with the camera, particularly when battling larger bosses or enemies high up in the air.

Magic is especially cool, though, and can even be used as a finisher in a combo, throwing some variety into attacks. With magic now having surrounding effects, the Blizzard spell, for example, creates streams of ice that allow Aqua to grind along for a quick escape or dash across a room. Shotlock also makes a comeback, allowing Aqua to target and fire off energy at multiple enemies, but a grievance is that even after inverting the camera, the Shotlock controls won't invert. This definitely needs fixing for those that live and die by inverted controls.

Screenshot for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on PlayStation 4

There is really good, flashy stuff here that forms the basis of what could be a great battle system for Kingdom Hearts III, but there are definitely improvements still required in terms of controls, movesets and the enemies themselves.

Platforming is also another area that is cause for concern, because it feels incredibly slow and dodgy in terms of accepting inputs. There are times where hitting the jump button simply won't cause Aqua to jump at all, and there is such a delay on her stiff glide technique that mashing to activate it will often end up causing her to merely do a short glide at the behest of a long one, further throwing everything off and causing platforms to be missed.

Frame rate issues aside (there doesn't seem to be a reason why this couldn't be a locked 30 fps on the standard PS4), there are some huge stuttering issues in 0.2 cutscenes that cause some to be almost unwatchable, with audio going out of sync entirely. This was personally experienced only in 0.2, and after doing some forum posting, it seems many others have had the same problems, although it is not entirely clear what the causes are, with reports of it happening in both physical and digital format, different regional versions, and on both standard and Pro versions of the PS4. Oddly, the cutscenes will play back perfectly in the theatre mode. Not everyone is having to go through these unfortunate situations, but hopefully Square Enix can look into it.

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A lot can be said for KH 0.2, as it is indeed the first proper new game on HD hardware for Kingdom Hearts, and offers a lovely appetiser for KHIII, but it still feels wrong to call it a totally new entry in the series. This really is demo material, and when you consider what Square Enix was doing with Episode Duscae and the Platinum Demo for FFXV—which were entirely free for users to play—it is poor service to be charging such a high price for this collection, because the contents don't make it worth it.

What of that fuller title in the package that got a remastering, though? Dream Drop Distance runs at 60 fps, and is certainly noticeable if coming off the back of 0.2 or even the other ports in the 1.5 and 2.5 collections on PS3; it may even take some getting used to. It's quite a contrast to 0.2, though, in that this is a much more colourful game, with Sora and Riku exploring many familiar Disney worlds in their bid to pass the Mark of Mastery exam and become accepted Keyblade wielders.

Screenshot for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on PlayStation 4

Dream Drop Distance is one of the weakest games in the franchise, however, and loses points on numerous occasions. The premise is a bit of a strange one, anyway, and where the story tries to go feels too unnecessary and shoehorned into the overall arc when it didn't need to be. Sora's character is reduced to that of a generic and one-dimensional dummy, and some of the writing throughout the story can be quite tragic. Perhaps the one thing that will really appeal is the fact that The World Ends with You characters are the cameo stars here, instead of the usual Final Fantasy lot. They don't really add much to the core boring narrative theme that keeps getting shovelled in everywhere—friendship—but they may appeal for those desperate for anything related to Square's oft-forgotten Nintendo DS title featuring Neku and pals. The cool music returns in remixed form, too, so there is that.

With no Donald and Goofy at Sora's side, which is regrettable, the Dream Eaters are introduced as some sort of Pokémon-like mechanic. Breed monsters that fight as partners, feed them items and teach them new abilities, and pull off special moves with Sora, or absorb them for new and stronger attacks with Riku. It is weird how only the red abilities that are created from raising these spirits are kept permanently for the two protagonists, so it seems a waste of time to level them up if they aren't producing these goods. Suffice to say, it just isn't as fun to make do with the Dream Eaters over the likes of good ol' Donald and Goofy.

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There is a redeeming factor to Dream Drop Distance, and that is in the form of Flowmotion. It lets Sora and Riku zip about maps with ease, spinning around lampposts, wall kicking to reach higher places, grinding on rails, and just generally traversing entire areas at speed. It is worked into the combat really well, and whilst it can be a pain to get Sora or Riku to do what you want at times, a range of unique moves can be unleashed by using the environment and enemies to your own gain. It can, in a sense, seem like Flowmotion breaks the game somewhat, granting access to the tops of levels, skipping the proper paths down below, but the game is better for it, letting you breeze through sections at pace. It can be difficult jumping between DDD and 0.2, though, as the speed and controls are quite different from one another.

Rounding out this collection is the Unreal Engine 4-rendered Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover. This is effectively the starting point of the entire franchise, introducing characters never seen before, and throwing in a few curveballs, as expected of any Kingdom Hearts title. It is essential viewing for the fan base, but doesn't offer much in the way of attachment to the characters, since their faces can't really be seen. The voice acting is relied upon to convey an interesting hour of cinematics, and it succeeds. It isn't particularly exciting, and it does once again create more questions than answers, but it carries itself well throughout, with a certain cloaked figure providing the amusement in nearly every scene they are in. Some may find the lack of any familiar characters unappealing, but if the goal is to get fans talking, debating and assuming about the future of the series' story, Back Cover manages to do exactly that.

Screenshot for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


It is tough to recommend this collection to even the biggest KH fan at its current price tag, because what Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 consists of is one of the weakest games in the series, a glorified demo and extremely short teaser of what to expect in Kingdom Hearts III, and a movie that many may find difficult to care about its characters. At a much lower price, however, this will be worth the investment, as the small story pieces in KH 0.2 alone set the stage and clear some things up. It is visually beautiful, and whilst the controls and combat need work, there is still a solid foundation there for fun and flashy gameplay. Anyone yet to dive into the franchise, wait for the PS4 combined bundle of 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX, then pick 2.8 up after it has reduced.


Square Enix


Square Enix


Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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