Game Rant went hands on with a demo for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and it's a title that is ready-made to please fans of the series.
Some games make their name in the subtlety of their storytelling, employing a simple, easy-to-follow narrative while squeezing out scenes that evoke emotional responses. Then there's the Kingdom Hearts series, a collection of games that is no less capable of conjuring empathy in its fans but chooses to go about that process in an extremely convoluted manner. The difficulty in tracking just what sort of story Kingdom Hearts is telling stems from its multi-platform releases alongside a dependence on prologues and side-stories that can be confusing for some and downright impossible to parse through for others.
Kingdom Hearts, despite all of its success, is a series that demands its fans play through entries multiple times in order to grasp the greater narrative. That's why releases like Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, despite the fact that it is mostly treading familiar ground, should be welcome among fans of the series. Beyond the fact that the upcoming HD compilation will feature a newly gorgeous rendition of Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, it will also show the world a new story in Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage -. The latter expands on the story of Aqua and contains new information that is, apparently, crucially linked to the story of Kingdom Hearts 3.
Although little is known about just how long Kingdom Hearts 0.2 will be as a stand-alone game, Game Rant was recently able to go hands-on with a 20-minute demo of the title and document our first impressions. Fans will be pleased to know that the audio and visual components of the game are as good as Kingdom Hearts has ever looked, and the world Aqua explores inside the demo is a gorgeous rendition of a fragmented and physics-defying landscape. There's a clock tower that, as it moves forward in time, disintegrates the bridge towards it, while not too far away lays a town splintered and frozen in time. It's a sight to behold, and it contains all of the brilliant weirdness that has carried Kingdom Hearts this far.
While the demo didn't elaborate much on why Aqua finds herself in this setting - or why the Heartless have infested it - that doesn't mean a full play through will better inform the story. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 will be just as tantalizingly vague as all of its predecessors, and that's one of the appealing things about the HD remaster from the perspective of fans.
That sentiment - about Kingdom Hearts fans appreciating a game like Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 - is at the heart of why the compilation has been made in the first place. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 is a game aimed at the core fans who make up the series' large playerbase, and it is a demographic that Square Enix has attempted to cater to in every regard it can. To that end, Square Enix has successfully presented a video game that is largely accessible for pre-existing fans of the Kingdom Hearts series, and it has been executed well. The level layout was fun and scaled both horizontally and vertically, while the focus on Aqua is a welcome vessel through which to bridge the gap between Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 and the release of Kingdom Hearts 3.
Make no mistake, however, as fun as Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 looks to be, no aesthetic improvements or new gameplay segments can save it from being made entirely for gamers already invested in Square Enix and Disney's entrancing fantasy world. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 is a celebration of what makes Kingdom Hearts so compelling and strange, and in that regard, it has wholly succeeded - but gamers will need to seriously examine just how much they love the series before buying, because Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 seems like it will be a hostile title towards the uninitiated.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue will release for PS4 on January 24, 2017.