Square Enix released another installment for one of their biggest gaming franchises - Kingdom Hearts 2.8: The Final Chapter Prologue. Quite a mouthful isn't it? And, if you're wondering what's up with the title, then buckle up because you're in for a doozy.

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is another one of Square Enix's "bundled releases". Similar to Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and Kingdom Hearts 2.5, 2.8 features both new and remastered content, all neatly wrapped in a nice package. It contains Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD, Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage, and Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover.

Wow. That's a lot of stuff!

Be ready to brace yourselves, because there's going to be a lot of Kingdom Hearts mumbo jumbo coming up in this review.

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance

Dream Drop Distance is a remastered version of the game that was released on the 3DS back in 2012. It follows the chronological events of Kingdom Hearts 2, and has the story center on Sora and Riku as they try to achieve the level of a Keyblade master in order to take on the forces of darkness in one final fight.

The game, initially developed for handheld devices, is pretty solid as another Kingdom Hearts entry, as it sets up all the main characters for the supposed final chapter of the series.

Is it essential to the Kingdom Hearts storyline?

Absolutely. Dream Drop Distance bridges every Kingdom Hearts storyline before it and adds a bit more depth to the characters we all know and love. It has major character arcs and storyline repercussions while also revealing some of the biggest motivations that will come into play for the final Kingdom Hearts game. Without it, you'll probably be wandering into Kingdom Hearts 3 without a clue of what is going on.

No extra content was added for this remastered edition, sadly. Apart from the replacement of the 3DS touch screen functions with a totally different card-based system, there is nothing new with this version of Dream Drop Distance.

Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage

Really, Square Enix? What's with the title?

A Fragmentary Passage occurs after the secret level of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.

Keyblade Master Aqua is trapped in the world of darkness and you join her as she wrestles with the darkness that is beginning to creep into her heart.

A Fragmentary Passage isn't a full game. It basically plays as one world in a normal Kingdom Hearts game and would take you around an hour or two to complete. Yup, that's it.

Is it essential to the Kingdom Hearts storyline?

Not really. Beyond a few tidbits that concern the original Kingdom Hearts, the game does nothing to advance the plot of the main storyline. This is more of a character development arc for Aqua (something I thought wasn't even necessary because everyone knows Aqua is a total badass) than a vital entry to the series.

The biggest takeaway from A Fragmentary Passage though is the look and feel of the game. Square Enix essentially gave us a sneak peek of what Kingdom Hearts 3 is going to be, and guess what?

It is gorgeous.

The whole experience, from the details to the controls, is incredible. It is everything one would expect from a current generation Kingdom Hearts console game. I could've played this game for hours on end if this wasn't woefully short.

If A Fragmentary Passage was meant to get me excited for Kingdom Hearts 3, it did its job and then some. The game reminded me why 10 years of waiting for Kingdom Hearts 3 is going to be worth it.

Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover

Back Cover is essentially a 60+ minute cutscene rendered in the Unreal engine - the same engine used for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3 game.

It tells a story that occurred before the Keyblade Wars, during what is called the Age of Fairytales, and can be seen as a precursor to the main Kingdom Hearts storyline. In essence, Back Cover is where it all began.

In essence, the idea of a movie about the mysterious events leading to the much mythologized Keyblade Wars makes sense. It would help bring more depth into the main stories by giving context to some of the obscure yet often mentioned events of the past.

But Back Cover never does this. It actually felt like it provided more questions than answers. And with the already headache-inducing, overly complicated plotlines that the main story has, I felt that this content was very much a miss on Square Enix's part.

Even if the events of Back Cover eventually come into play during Kingdom Hearts 3, this 60-minute boring cutscene felt extremely unnecessary.

P.S. I know that Kingdom Hearts: Unchained is a companion game for Back Cover, but seeing as I have download restrictions for the game in my country, I'm going to stand by  my thoughts on this one.

The Verdict

If you haven't played Dream Drop Distance on the 3DS, then this is probably the only instance that you would barely get your money's worth (although in that scenario, paying a full console game's worth for a ported handheld title with a few bonus features doesn't seem like a good deal). Objectively, it's really not worth your money.  

On the flip side, if you're a Kingdom Hearts sucker like myself, chances are you already bought the game and are eagerly waiting for a release date for Kingdom Hearts 3, all while ignoring the fact that Square Enix just bamboozled you (again!) out of your hard-earned cash. Yep, Kingdom Hearts 2.8: The Final Chapter Prologue is a quick cash grab by Square Enix. However it also serves a nice entry point for the younger audience who has never played the rest of the KH games beyond the first two.

Still undecided after that surprisingly lengthy read? Well, I've got a few words of advice to help you decide, my fellow Kingdom Hearts nerd:

"May your heart be your guiding key."

About the author: Don Cabuhat

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