HANDS ON: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 gives me hope for the future

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After years of HD remakes, Square Enix announced their next instalment to the Kingdom Hearts series, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue a few months ago; and we were fortunate to have the chance to try one of the games in the collection at PAX Australia: Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage. Note, this hands on experience will feature spoilers from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

The game is a continuation of Aqua’s story, a Keyblade Master who is trapped in the World of Darkness at the conclusion of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and her adventures. The demo takes place immediately after the conclusion of the bonus scene from Birth by Sleep – with Aqua staring in front of the Castle of Dreams – based from Disney’s Cinderella. In the demo, Aqua must repair the adjoining bridge connecting her and the castle – which just happened to collapse right in front of her. In order to repair the bridge, the player must find five time gears in the nearby town, rewinding time before the bridge collapsed and enter the castle.

While locating these gears, the demo slowly introduce new and returning mechanics that will be included in Kingdom Hearts III, such as Command Styles and Shotlock – first introduced in Birth by Sleep, double-jumping; and introducing a new air-dashing mechanic. While exploring the demo, you could see the how aesthetics was very similar to Disney’s Cinderella – expect with the fact that the town was mostly in ruins, with roads and sections floating in mid air.

For any veteran players of Birth by Sleep, Aqua was a magic-focus character – excelling in spells. For the demo, the player was given max level spells – Firaga, Blizzaraga, Thundaraga, and Curaga – fitting with where the story and the demo took place. However, I felt that the spells were slightly overpowered throughout the demo. Due to the large amount of Heartless per wave, I was just constantly spamming Thundaraga – for it’s area of effect damage. Also, with mana regeneration approximately every thirty seconds to a minute, the demo slowly became very trivial: Thundaraga, Thundaraga, Wait and Repeat.

However, this was not the case for the final boss battle. Once all the time gears were located and the bridge restored, the player is immediately thrown into a boss battle – in classic RPG games. For the final battle, it was a tornado of Heartless, constantly attacking you. Because of that, I couldn’t just result in my tactic above – highlighting the updated AI; focusing myself to change tactics.

The demo closed with a short, but heartwarming cutscene where Aqua is reminded of those she left behind, which bought a tear to my eye. All and all, the demo showed potential on the direction where Square Enix with Kingdom Hearts, focusing on strong story and gameplay mechanics.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue will be released early next year for the Playstation 4.

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