written in the stars
- Jul 13, 2008
Today marks the official start of E3 2016, which means endless news about all of the demos available on the showroom floor. A few weeks back ahead of E3, I was given the chance to try out Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue with my fellow staff member Mike at DisneyExaminer. Both Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD and Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep — A fragmentary passage — were available to play, so check out my impressions below:
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD
The demo station for Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD had three different option to choose from: Riku - La Cité des Cloches, Riku - The Grid, and Sora - Traverse Town.
La Cité des Cloches is based on Disney’s 1996 animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and begins with Riku in the courtyard outside of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Riku arrives just as Quasimodo rescues Esmerelda from being executed by the ruthless, god-fearing Judge Frollo. Players have full access to roam the outside courtyard and the interior of Notre Dame before rushing in to fight Wargoyle in the skies above the courtyard.
In the second demo available for Riku, players are given access to the Grid from 2011’s TRON: Legacy. The demo starts right from the beginning of the world when Riku is captured by a Recognizer and forced to into the Games. After breaking out of the Games, Riku runs into Sam Flynn who tells him about an exit from the digital world they are trapped in. As Riku explores the city, it finally leads to Riku fighting off against a ton of enemy Dream Eaters.
As Sora, players can explore the Fourth District of Traverse Town and fight against hordes of adorable Dream Eaters leading up to the boss battle against Hockomonkey in the Fifth District.
Immediately it is obvious from all of these different fragments of Dream Drop Distance that a considerable amount of work has been done to update the visuals in Dream Drop Distance HD. No longer is the game riddled with jagged edges caused by the low quality output on the Nintendo 3DS, instead feeling as though the game should have always been released on a home console. The characters look smooth and crisp, allowing for all of the detailed texturing done to them to finally be fully appreciated. The large areas from Dream Drop Distance also translate very well to a larger screen due to a brand new camera that allows you full view of everything around Riku and Sora.
Despite having over 100 hours clocked in on my copy of Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], I actually found it hard to adjust to playing Dream Drop Distance HD with the Dualshock 4 due to the buttons commands being remapped to match up with the standard controls for Kingdom Hearts in the west.
I don’t even want to begin to mention an unfortunate inverted camera which I was assured could be changed in the final version of the game. Much of my time trying out the demo was me rolling into a wall and Flowmotioning into enemies and healing constantly because I couldn’t get my bearings with the camera.
For anybody who was worried about the touch controls that were prominent on the Nintendo 3DS not translating well to the Playstation 4, plenty of them have been reworked and are just as intuitive as they were originally. On the Dualshock 4, you can press the touch pad to bring up a full map of the area you are. When you press right on the D-pad from the command deck, players have the option of swapping out their Dream Eaters, and left from the command deck allows you to activate your a single or dual link with your Dream Eaters. Reality Shifts have been changed to work with a standard Cross button and the right direction stick input.
The controls aren’t the only thing that have been updated for this HD remaster. We had been told before that there would be nothing new in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD, but in Sora’s demo there was a brand new Dream Eater available to play with. Catnuki, a strange Meow Wow-tanuki hybrid with a green leaf on its forehead, plump brown body, and cute striped tail charmed its way around the screen. Sadly, there was no way to tell what kind of skills Catnuki had due to the demo not granting full access to the main menu.
When I found Catnuki, a Square Enix rep told us that there were more new Dream Eaters to discover in the full edition of Dream Drop Distance HD. Although this remaster is not a Final Mix version of the game, it is exciting to know that the developers found time while completely rebuilding Dream Drop Distance for the PlayStation 4 to make additions.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep – A fragmentary passage –
Spoiler warning: Details about Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep – A fragmentary passage – will be discussed in-depth.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep – A fragmentary passage – is probably one of the most highly anticipated games inside of this collection due to being the prologue to Kingdom Hearts III. For years fans had been asking for a continuation of Aqua’s time in the Realm of Darkness, and 0.2 Birth By Sleep delivers just that as Aqua searches for a way out. As she crosses the wastelands filled with Heartless, she comes across a familiar sight: Castle of Dreams, the home of Cinderella.
Aqua begins to cross the expansive threshold of the land leading up to the gates of the castle. Suddenly a clock strikes, and the ground just before Aqua’s feet crumbles. Although time does not move in the Realm of Darkness, it seems that every time the clock moves, time moves forward and a fragment of the world is lost. With her curiosity piqued, Aqua sees a glowing gold gear in the distance. Once she finds the gear, she hits it with her Keyblade and suddenly a fragment of the ground rebuilds part of the pathway to the castle. With the gears, time can be reversed in order to repair the pathway. Aqua sets out to find five gears which can be found in the town just behind her.
The game gives you control of Aqua after that, and already you can see just how drastically different Aqua’s model in 0.2 Birth By Sleep is from her model in Birth By Sleep Final Mix. Her walking and running animations are so much more fluid than they ever were in Birth By Sleep.
As Aqua walks up the path into town, Heartless appear to block Aqua’s way. Shadows make a return alongside a brand-new inky bat Heartless. This is where players get their first taste of the combat system, marking the return to the basic command menu system present in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. The available commands are “Attack,” “Magic,” and “Items” as our three available choices. Under “Magic”, we have access to Firaga, Blizzaga, Thundaga, and Cura. Magic points (MP) return in 0.2 Birth By Sleep and works like Kingdom Hearts II’s system where the bar reloads after all MP is consumed. Items available to Aqua in the demo are Hi-Potions. There is also a Focus bar, which will be discussed later on.
In the R1 shortcuts, there are multiple pages which seems to imply that there might be a lot of spells and items to be consumed in the game. Each page links your spells to a specific face button on the controller.
For battle commands, Square is used to block and dodge, Circle is used to jump and recover from attacks, Cross is used to attack, and Triangle is used to interact with the environment like opening chests.
When I tried out the available spells, I was absolutely blown away by everything about them. Fire looks extremely explosive, thunder makes the field sizzle with electricity, and blizzard expands in extremely realistic looking ice spikes. It isn’t just the visuals that the development team has nailed, but also the effects that they have on the field and on enemies as well.
As Aqua explores the town, she reacts to points of interest in the distance. The camera pans to the area we are meant to focus on and Aqua will provide a remark about the area (i.e. “I think I can see something on that bridge” and “Interesting, there seems to be an underground passage over there”).
The town itself is massive and beautifully rendered in Unreal Engine 4, with blue crystals glowing from the cracks and broken bits of Cinderella’s world. The world expands vertically and horizontally, and almost every rooftop can be climbed on, returning us to the expansive platforming found in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]. There were times when I fell off very high-up pathway to a gear and fell off, causing me to have to climb all the way back around and up again. Thankfully, the new “Free Run” mechanic is available in the demo so a lot of the tedious aspects of needing to be precise when jumping onto lampposts that serve as a path is gone because it will automatically move Aqua across as players push the direction stick in a desired direction.
As you find more gears, new functions are unlocked including Shotlocks and Command Styles. Shotlocks are much more fluid than their Birth By Sleep counterpart. It takes a few seconds of holding R2 to wait for it to appear, but once the Shotlock focus appears on screen you can easily aim it on the enemies you need to defeat. In this demo, you could use Prism Rain to shoot enemies with well-timed light beams. You consume Focus every time you use Prism Rain, but orbs to refill the bar are dropped by enemies or can be found through hitting lampposts.
For Command Styles, they do not activate instantly and instead must be triggered by pressing the Triangle button once the gauge for it appears. Players have a limited time to activate the available Command Style, a much-wanted improvement to the way it was in Birth By Sleep. For the demo I played, only Spellweaver was available to use. It should be noted that this appears to be how Attraction Flow works in Kingdom Hearts III.
There is another brand-new Heartless in this demo that goes aggro when you hit it enough times. Once it is in an aggro-state, its entire body turns into fire and the Heartless zooms across the field to attack. In this state, it is invincible and can only be hit by using Blizzard magic.
Once Aqua finds all five gears, the ground is completely repaired so she returns to the pathway to the castle. Just as she approaches the gate before the castle courtyard, she is attacked by a tornado of Shadows. The first thing that is apparent is that these enemies have more orange-colored eyes than the standard gold they used to be in previous games. There are stray Shadows that can attack you independent from the giant cyclone horde, but when you defeat them they drop HP/MP/Focus orbs to help Aqua in a pinch.
The horde enemy has multiple attacks, including a swipe attack that can knock Aqua off of her feet. Another is a basic push attack, and then there is an attack where the Shadows spread out and regroup right under Aqua’s feet to throw her into the air. Any of these attacks can trap Aqua into a combo that can easily kill her, do players must do their best to dodge at the appropriate times.
Once the enemy is defeated and Aqua continues her journey into the courtyard, Aqua begins to talk about how she wishes she could rewind time just like the gears did to fix the past and spend another night under the stars with Terra and Ventus. Just as she is telling herself that she is getting depressed again, Terra appears out of nowhere on the steps leading up to the castle doors.
Understandably, Aqua begins to freak out as she begins asking Terra why he is there in the Realm of Darkness, worrying that something has happened in the Realm of Light. Just as Aqua reaches her hand out to touch Terra’s hand, her hand passes through his.
Aqua becomes visibly upset, remarking that he must be some kind of illusion to convince herself not to give up, but Terra merely smiles and disappears in gold sparkles. Dissappointed, Aqua shakes her head and continues heading up the steps, bringing the demo to a close.
For being just a demo, it was some of the best work I’ve seen from the Kingdom Hearts team. The game runs like butter, marking itself as the ultimate form of Kingdom Hearts we have all been waiting for over the years. Fans should be excited for the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue when it releases this December worldwide.
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