15 years ago, Kingdom Hearts rocked the gaming world. Who knew Mickey Mouse and Cloud Strife would go together like sushi on pizza? It might sound weird, but it’s a delicacy you’ll regret not biting into.
But more complex than the odd blend of worlds is the strange layout of the Kingdom Hearts franchise and its timeline. A timeline delivered out of order and across many devices. This led many to dismiss essential parts of the story as a “spin-off” or “side” games. When KH2.8 was announced, the disdain was tangible. Sweet Chocobos, Nomura, PLEASE just give us Kingdom Hearts 3 already! But is 2.8 worthy of the hate so many “hardcore” fans are throwing out? Here’s a list of why 2.8 is so very essential to the KH franchise:
1. In Dream Drop Distance you can actually follow what is happening.
One of the primary complaints I hear about Kingdom Hearts is that the story is convoluted poppycock. And yes, the story is layered and can be difficult to follow, but that doesn’t make it a sack of Cactuar needles. Up until Dream Drop Distance, remember that Sora, Riku, and King Mickey haven’t had the opportunity to fill each other in on events during their many adventures. Dream Drop Distance provides us with not only a linear storyline, but also the clearest picture of the big picture of Kingdom Hearts so far. You might even call it simple and clean.
Please don’t let the confusion factor stop you from playing a game series you love. Remember, plenty of stories are told in pieces, out of order, and from varying character point of views. I think we forgot to lump Star Wars and Game of Thrones in with this objection. What makes a story satisfying is when all the pieces come together in the end in ways you might not expect.
“A scattered dream that’s like a far-off memory. A far-off memory that’s like a scattered dream. I want to line the pieces up. Yours and Mine.”
2. Kingdom Hearts 3 will make ZERO sense without it.
Speaking of story, in terms of plot, you can think of the three installments of 2.8 as the final pieces of setup for Kingdom Hearts III, which Nomura has stated will be the final chapter of the Sora storyline. The Back Cover movie gives us full-scale lore with a glimpse into the past in order to understand the origin of Kingdom Hearts and the events which led to the Keyblade War. If your thoughts get tangled up all the layers of connection between the various worlds, which is sure to come up in KH3, the film will help fill in the gaps.
In Dream Drop Distance, as Sora and Riku take the Mark of Mastery exam, they thwart another attempt to gain control of Kingdom Hearts by antagonist Master Xehanort. In doing so, they discover the true role of Organization XIII and Master Xehanort’s unfolding plans for our heroes of light. Hint: it involves Kingdom Hearts. And if you don’t play Dream Drop Distance, you will have no clue how a certain red-haired individual has made a surprise return!
0.2 Birth By Sleep, taking place during the events of Kingdom Hearts 1, answers some of the lingering questions about the whereabouts of Aqua and her friends after the events of the prequel (BBS). 0.2 is a quick game, but it packs a punch in terms of long-lost pieces.
3. Fragmentary Passage is a visually stunning preview of KH3.
Fragmentary Passage is a sight to behold. Thanks to the all new game engine, the 0.2 plays as good as it looks. The beauty of the full trailer could not prepare me for the silky smooth combat as Aqua in the Realm of Darkness. One benefit of where the 0.2 picks up in the story is that you don’t have to start from scratch and level grind; Aqua comes equipped with a myriad of spells and abilities perfect for laying waste to hundreds of Heartless.
WARNING: 0.2’s combat and presentation will leave you craving Kingdom Hearts III more than ever!
4. Wait, you mean Dream Drop Distance is a port game?
If I didn’t know better, I would guess Dream Drop Distance was originally designed for the PS3. While the graphics are nowhere nearly as stunning as 0.2, the visuals on the big screen are nothing to sneeze about. The worlds felt as wide as in the original game. From the touchpad minigames to the secret boss battles, Dream Drop Distance gets a seamless port for the PS4 on 2.8.
5. The depth of the gameplay systems and upgrades are phenomenal.
Kingdom Hearts is not afraid to explore avenues of maxing out your stats. With hidden bosses lurking around every corner, you’ll be glad you spent a couple hours playing balloon pop with your little spirits. At first, the spirits, or “Dreameaters”, may seem a little foreign to the KH world, but the little buggers grew on me. The system to level them is somewhere between Nintendogs and Pokemon.
That’s just one of many of the examples between the two games. In 0.2, others include spell combinations for Aqua and outfit customization ranging from hardcore to hilarious (Seriously, Minnie Mouse ears? HA!). Between DDD and 0.2, you can easily invest 50+ hours of gameplay trying to get those upgrades.
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 will leave you PUMPED for what is to come. The build-up for the ultimate showdown is real thanks to the connections coming together! If you’re planning to pick up KH3, you will not want to miss this installment of Kingdom Hearts.
If you’re looking for more thoughts on the game, check out Ben’s review here. Be sure to subscribe to Dashing Nerds—from Sea Salt Ice Cream to spikey-haired heroes, we’re here to share the KH hype with you!