Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is another compilation of the more recent Kingdom Hearts games for the PS4 console. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is a PS4 port from the 3DS version and Birth By Sleep 0.2 is an original game that serves as a follow up from the previous Birth By Sleep game. Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover is an HD cinematic story that explains more of the lore within the Kingdom Hearts Story.
Like in the HD compilation of 1.5 and 2.5 of Kingdom Hearts, it has journal entries and files to help explain more about the world within the events of that setting. The stories are more accessible to newcomers as there are chronicles in the form of cutscenes from previous Kingdom Hearts games. These help newcomers and veteran players to be current on what has happened previously. It is now more focused on setting up the events for Kingdom Hearts 3 instead of just sticking to multiple different stories happening all at once. The stories are complicated and consequently the game is a fairly long.
Many of the established themes and concepts from the previous kingdom hearts games are furthered explored such as the relationship between light and darkness. It also introduces and builds upon new concepts as well.
The journal is very helpful in detailing strategies to fighting enemies, characters you encountered, types of enemies. It also keeps count of your progress so far like how many chests you found, trophies achieved, enemies killed and and completing the game at a certain difficulty level.
The setting for Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance take place after the events from Kingdom Hearts 2 with the looming threat of the main antagonist from the series Xenahort coming to summon Kingdom Hearts to further his own goals of bringing Darkness throughout the worlds.
Sora and Riku take an exam by Yen Sid to become true keyblade masters called the Mark Of Mastery. In the Mark Of Mastery Exam, they must “wake” the “sleeping worlds” as they are in a different kind of darkness formed after the heartless has left the worlds. The worlds must awaken in order for them to no longer be seeped in darkness from the dream eaters.
However, the Disney Villains are also using the darkness to further their own goals as well so it is up to Sora and Riku to put a stop to them. Sora and Riku explore the worlds during the Mark Of Mastery Exam saving them from Darkness and also from the villains who are using the dream eaters for their own goals.
Time traveling is one concept explored in the game as Sora and Riku explore different events from Mickey Mouse’s past as an apprentice to Yen Sid in Fantasia to his time as a Mousketeer with Goofy and Donald. These are in alternate realties so what is happening during the Mark Of Mastery may have consequences within the real world in Kingdom Hearts.
Meanwhile, things outside of the Mark Of Mastery exam are starting to become more dangerous now with the coming threat of Xenohort and Maleficent’s plans to use the heartless for her own end goals.
You visit many different Disney Worlds this time there is new worlds to explore from Mouseketeer Country and returning ones such as Traverse Town and The Grid. There are new areas to explore in returning worlds. Traverse Town and The Grid have been revamped to reflect its appearance in Tron Legacy.
The retellings and characters are still faithful to the original works and manages to make the interactions of Sora and Riku feel genuine. It feels like you already know how it’s going to play out at times after playing many of the Kingdom Hearts games.
Each world has its own unique mechanics and atmosphere from the sci fi setting of The Grid to the mischievous yet dark setting of Pranksters Paradise. You can fully explore worlds and complete objectives however you see fit. The worlds are nicely detailed and fairly large and are well made to accommodate the flow motion mechanics.
Hidden portals can be discovered as you explore the worlds and there are many kinds of portals. Battle portals give you different objectives during combat with its own parameters to earn dream eater ingredients. Parameters could include beating the enemies within a certain amount of time. You can access secret portals after beating the game where you can fight bosses again but more challenging than before and similar to the final mix of Kingdom Hearts 2 with the digital organization 13 fights in Cavern Of Remberance. Using special portals, you can fight nightmare dream eaters that are not normally seen during regular gameplay. Friendship portals allows you to temporarily borrow dream eaters for a limited amount of time depending on the conditions in which they are placed. Occasionally you will see a very hard dream eater that is a frog dressed up as a knight and defeating one quickly will give you special rewards.
There are chests scattered across the worlds and some are hard to reach conventionally, this is where the flow motion and reality shifts come into play to help reach the hidden chests much quicker.
The controls feel comfortable and familiar to Kingdom Hearts fans and newcomers alike and the camera is as good as before. Flow motion is a new mechanic utilized in the game. This gives Sora and Riku special acrobatic abilities to increase their agility and go through the worlds they visit much quicker. Flow motion gives you the ability to jump on wall to wall, slide on rails and jumping from pole to pole. Flow Motion is used heavily in combat as well you can perform powerful finishing moves such as throwing barrels at enemies or jumping from a high distance to ground slam them.
Each world uses the flow motion mechanic in very creative ways. You can slide from pipe to pipe in the mail room in Traverse Town and you can also attack enemies while sliding or going from pole to pole in midair. Combat has been given more dynamics and a faster pace because of this new feature.
Reality Shifts are moments where during gameplay in which either Sora or Riku uses a special form of magic at either certain objects or enemies by pressing both triangle and circle button together to perform a special action either to cause major damage when an enemy weakness is exploited. It can be used to access a new way to get around locations.
One reality shift would be in the Country Of Mouseketeers boss fight with Pete, you can use the reality shift to take out enemies in comic book style ways with the enemies meeting a very comedic and fatal end. Each world has up to one different kinds of reality shift with its own different function. In The Grid, you have to press the right button to form a sentence for which command you want to have for the turrets either target other enemies or set it to self destruct to open new areas up.
The reality shifts function brings a creative twist into the Kingdom Hearts gameplay formula and the flow motion mechanics are another really creative mechanic.
Dive drops missions is how you get to world to world as Sora or Riku. These are fast paced 3d effect missions that take place in tube like space environments where you glide through the air falling down to the location while completing certain objectives. Each dive drop varies in goal depending on which character you are currently playing as like one character has to collect items while another has to fight a boss. Completing the missions will give you a grade depending on your performance if you took little or no damage or if you reached the highest score possible.
You can pick up special magic spells to use for a limited time that causes massive amounts of damage to enemies. This will give you multitude of rewards based upon your performance.
Drop forecasts are another important aspect of world exploration as it determines the quality of what items you will get and the bonuses you can earn. The difficulty of enemies also varies depending on the conditions of the forecast. Drop forecasts changes frequently depending on how many times either Sora or Riku drops. You can switch as either Sora or Riku at any given moment and you can pass along special powerups and items to each other. This will also allow you to explore the worlds at your own pace as either character. Drops happen after a certain amount of time passes when you play as either Sora or Riku, you switch as either one of the two and it places you in either Sora or Riku’s current location.
Character development for Riku is more focused in Dream Drop Distance as it concentrates on his struggle to remain on the side of light after giving into Darkness in Kingdom Hearts 1. His relationship with Sora is friendlier but the rivalry between them is still there. Sora has matured a lot over the serious but his childlike curiosity, sense of humor and kindness still remain.
Aqua in Birth By Sleep 0.2 is very determined to find Ventus and Terra and she undertakes some dangerous tasks just to find them. She is in is very vulnerable position without any outside help and she has to find a way to reach her friends before it is too late. This provides some insights into Aqua’s character and her motivations. She is much more likable here now than when first introduced and the emotionally driven natures of the Kingdom Hearts stories is very effective. The characters are still likable and the new Disney cast is faithful to the original counterparts.
Each perspective whether you play as Sora or Riku is unique and it feels well connected. Depending on which character you are playing, you can visit and take part in activities exclusive to that character.
There are many entertaining comedic moments in Kingdom Hearts 2.8. The dialogue is still very awkward and quirky as ever but quite entertaining.It introduces main cast Neku, Beat, Joshua, Rhyme and Shiki from The World Ends With You. They are now more fully voiced than on The World Ends With You and the voice cast does a fantastic job in their respective roles.
The Kingdom Hearts script is still as awkward and quirky but still entertaining and balances its dark and lighthearted tone perfectly. Some of the songs from the World Ends With You appear in this game remixed for Kingdom Hearts. The musical score like in other Kingdom Hearts games comprises of remixes of Disney songs and their own personal music and it still maintains its faithfulness to the original song while giving its own personal take for the game. The audio quality has also greatly improved as well.
Like in all of the other Kingdom Hearts games, defeating enemies will give you XP to level up and items like Munny or health/magic points to restore your gauge or health meter. Enemies become more challenging as time goes by. You can still block projectiles and send them back to enemies along with being inflicted and inflict status effects on enemies. Locking onto enemies one at a time is still an option you can turn on and off but in 0.2 Birth By Sleep, it is now a main functional part in the gameplay system along with the health meter and the name of the enemies displayed on the HUD. In Dream Drop Distance, you can play as either Sora or Riku each with their own abilities and playstyles. You can assign many different kinds of commands for either flow motion, battle and magic and it uses a cool down system depending on which command you are using. Leveling up reduces the amount of time it takes to cool down to use the commands again. You can unlock new command moves during your journey and be able to assign more commands later on as you level up.
There is a variety of bosses each with its own reality shift moments and strategies to defeat them. Defeating enemies in certain fights will grant you new abilities to use like in previous Kingdom Hearts games. Combat is very customizable as you can choose many different commands and assigned dream eaters to work with your own personal playstyle and preferences. The combat is complex to follow but easy to learn and once you have learned the mechanics, it becomes more of a fun experience to experiment with it. Some battle commands are exclusive to either Riku or Sora. There is a variety of different magic and combat commands you can use during battles.
You can earn many kinds of Keyblades each with its own abilities and strengths as you travel through the worlds as either Riku or Sora. You can buy and sell different commands and dream eater ingredients in the Moogle Shop. You can still use synthesis to combine two items to create one more power. You are able to unlock many different kinds of special abilities and new commands to help you through spirit linking. For example, with one dream eater, you can increase the amount of damage you can take or learn a new spell like Blizzaga. You can level up your dream eaters in either combat, playing with them or giving them treats.
In Dream drop distance, there are two types of dream eaters, one is nightmares which you fight instead of the heartless. Spirits are the ones that are on your side.
There is a wide variety of spirits to fight and each has its own advantages and personality traits.
You can find recipes and the ingredients all over the worlds to create brand new spirit dream eaters. Ingredients play a key role in the creation of dream eaters as it the determines the temperament and combat playstyles. The relationship you have with your dream eater is very dynamic as they can either be unpredictable and chaotic or more focused on defending you and healing you. This depends on how you interact with them and what kind of breed the dream eater is. You can have dream eaters to serve as your party members and you can have to up 3 at a time while exploring the worlds.
In combat your dream eater has their own special moves to summon and you can combine the power of two dream eaters to summon an even more powerful attack to use. You can switch to which dream eater you want to have at anytime while exploring the worlds. You can pet your dream eater by using the PS4 touchpad and the game makes extensive use of it as it’s a port of from the 3DS.
Playing with your dream eater is very important and you can use many different treats and toys to help improve their mood and skills during combat. There are many different training toys you can use that’s played out as mini games like one game you have to play pinball to get the objects and the other game you have to hit the balloons they throw at you. You can give them different types of treats you find throughout your journey to level them up and unlock new abilities for you to use and this can also change their mood depending on what kind of candy you give them.
In Dream Drop Distance, you can place you dream eaters in flick rush tournaments where up to 3 dream eaters fight against other dream eaters. It utilizes a card system with different command options either offensive or defensive. You can hold up to 4 cards in a flick rush. A card with a higher number value will break the defensive barrier of the rival team. Combining two cards on the other hand can make the number value of your current deck of cards higher and attacks more powerful. Sometimes after you played your opponent, you can get star cards which are powerful cards you can use to get the advantage in battle. It is similar to Chain Of Memories but this time it’s a mini game format and it’s a good way to improve your dream eaters spirits. The card based system is reworked from the touch screen to the control system of the PS4.
The magic system in Birth By Sleep 0.2 has now been upgraded. Each magic spell you cast is already at the maximum level and each spell will leave a different status effect depending on how you use it.
Combat is very customizable to your own personal preferences. In Birth By Sleep 0.2, this version of combat is used in the main series of Kingdom Hearts, in particular this combat system is also used in Kingdom Hearts 3. This combat system is a sample of what is going to appear in Kingdom Hearts 3. It builds upon every other Kingdom Hearts game and refines it to create a more dynamic and free flowing combat system.
Aqua retains all of her special abilities and moves from Birth By Sleep. Her double flight ability where she can jump in midair and glide plays a key part in this game as platforming sections are prevalent and you can attack enemies in midair while you use double flight. Command styles makes a return from the previous Birth By Sleep where after Aqua executes a successful chain of attack, she can use here spell weaver attack style to enhance her magic and physical attacks for a limited amount of time.
When you find save points, you can revisit other locations from the Enchanted Dominion just in case you may have missed certain items or clues. You can use the shotlock to take out enemies from a distance. You start off at a pretty high level and all of the spells you have are at the most powerful level you can use.
It introduces Situation commands which are the successor to the reaction commands from the previous Kingdom hearts games. Situation command happens after a successful chain of attacks similar to Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep where you can bring out a more powerful attack.
The story is short but an effective set up for Kingdom Hearts 3 and it takes only an hour to complete. It also explains more of the backstories and fills in any loose threads that were left off.
There is no Moogle Shop to purchase items in this game and there is no help from your allies at all up until the very end. It is just you alone wandering Cinderella’s realm after it was invaded by the Heartless. This world is now a very dangerous place with death lurking around every corner.
Puzzle solving plays a part in exploration in Birth By Sleep 0.2 where you have to figure things out for yourself and the solutions are not obvious. One puzzle in a hall of mirrors, you have to look at the mirror that was the right chest and see which one had treasure and which one had nothing in it.
Each area in the Enchanted Dominion has its own mechanics and way to progress through, such as the hall of mirrors where you have to visit every mirror and solve each of its sub objective to get through the next area. Items are scarcer in Birth By Sleep 0.2 considering the lack of Moogle shop and the gameplay design so items are to be used wisely.
The anime art style of Tetsuya Nomura and Disney Renaissance era still looks excellent and the character models are well designed. The series animation is just as good as ever especially in 0.2 Birth By Sleep.
As in other Kingdom Hearts games there is a lot of replay value and side activities to take part in. You can revisit worlds and fully explore them and collect items and chests that you may have missed from your first visit. You can complete objectives in Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep and completing them will give you clothing accessories for Aqua to wear with lots of options from which to choose.
In Dream Drop Distance, you can now look at the map in the menu at anytime. The graphics are really well done and the increased detail in resolution and texture looks superb. There is a secret ending to access after you completed the game depending on how much letters you have found during the final sequence during the credits.
You can rewatch cutscenes in theater mode and they look outstanding. When you collect all of the Zodiac Relics in 0.2 Birth By Sleep you can access more powerful versions of the bosses you have fought in 0.2 Birth By Sleep.
Each game has its flaws and shortcomings. The journal oddly has the debut year for the World Ends With You cast and they are from Square Enix’s own intellectual property that’s not Final Fantasy. The final fantasy and Disney characters have the year of their debut appearance. Monstro returns in Birth By Sleep and it is still as harrowing and confusing as in Kingdom Hearts 1.
The rhythm section in Symphony of Magic was poor as it was too fast to respond and barely worked. Chernobog was a disappointment it only takes 3 hits to kill him and you just had to dodge at the right time. In Kingdom Hearts 1 he was a challenging and very destructive boss here he Is massively downgraded.
Dream Drops occurring at the most random of times is one of the most annoying things that can happen to you from fighting a hard boss at one point then randomly selecting either Sora or Riku at the next point. The worse part about it is that you have to continue at the very beginning where you start all over again. You can remedy this by taking drop me not potions and avoiding enemies status inflictions as much as possible. Ventus strangely has no voice lines even though he is a major character in Birth By Sleep.
The realistic style that The Grid uses for the character models has the same problem seen in Kingdom Hearts 2 and looks dated. If you have history of seizures or any eye related health concerns Dream Drop has plenty of flashy 3d effects and bright visuals.
The second part of the Kingdom Hearts compilations is very well made overall. At best it was entertaining, fun to play and challenging.
It gets 4 stars out of 5.
I will do Kingdom Hearts 3 after this and I am still continuing my trial run of Final Fantasy 3 and 4 remake on my DS to further my preparations for Final Fantasy 7 remake and other Final Fantasy games in general.