Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – Cloud Version Review (Switch eShop)

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And so it goes on. With Square Enix uploading all of the past Kingdom Hearts games to The Cloud, naturally the enthusiastically-titled Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue has arrived – another compilation, this time bringing one full game, one four-hour teaser for Kingdom Hearts III and another inscrutable movie comprised of cutscenes. Compared to the majestic 1.5 + 2.5 HD ReMix, this package is frankly threadbare for its price, but fans will have to have it.

That’s not to say what’s included here is bad. The main event, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD, remasters the previously 3DS-exclusive game in a bold and rather vital style. Being the first game in a long while to actually move forward from Kingdom Hearts 2 (at the time of its original release, the first for seven years), it adds a good deal to the proceedings, not least the new “FlowMotion” combat that allows you to spring off walls, spin around poles and generally make an athletic nuisance of yourself, running rings around enemies.

But wait, that’s not all. There’s also a brand new (and frankly unnecessary) virtual pet-style addition that sees you levelling up “Dream Eater” creatures to fight alongside you, two at a time. Increasing the level of said creatures unlocks abilities for you to utilise, but in something of an irritating oversight these aren’t applied unless you have the specific Dream Eater in your squad. It makes a sort of sense that this approach was taken, but it limits your options to whichever is simply the “best” Dream Eater.

You’re also able to play as Riku for the first time since re:Chain of Memories, thanks to the polarising “Dive” feature. Essentially, Sora is on a time limit as the on-screen Drop metre fills – when it reaches the top, you’ll switch over to Riku and play from his perspective. Many found this frustrating back on the 3DS, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a somewhat unnecessary-seeming addition that really just gets in the way a lot of the time. Thankfully, you can use consumables to stave off the Drop. We didn’t find it too irritating; it’s interesting to enforce variety in this way, but maybe not the most player-friendly idea, especially given if you Drop during a boss battle, said boss will regain all its HP.

Despite these quirks it’s still a lot of fun — the Command Deck returns from Birth By Sleep and the various Disney worlds and characters are interesting and different (not to mention the cameo from the cast of The World Ends With You). It’s a good 30 hours or so of game, too, but manages to maintain good pacing throughout. It also runs beautifully (with the usual Cloud Version caveats…) and looks miles better than its 3DS source material.

Elsewhere in the package, the ludicrous nomenclature of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep 0.2 A Fragmentary Passage obscures what is ultimately an enjoyable little micro dose of Kingdom Hearts action, following up on Aqua’s story after the PSP original. At the time of release it was something of a teaser for Kingdom Hearts III, with its beautifully rich visuals and enhanced combat, but nowadays remains an enjoyable little curio. Aqua begins at Level 50 and rapidly gains all her moves so it’s a nice little continuation of her tale, and important series lore. It won’t take you longer than a few hours to experience but there are plenty of additional challenges and secrets to find if you have the urge to revisit.

Finally, you’ve got Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, an hour-long CGI movie that fills in some of the earliest backstory for the series. Unfortunately, the vast majority of it consists of the characters standing around yammering at one another, making it really rather dull stuff. It, again, ties into the next mainline game, but we’d honestly recommend just reading a synopsis than bothering to watch through this.

So, game-wise this is more of a mixed bag, but as we said at the top, the inclusions here are by no means bad, just not up to the standard the first in this trilogy of releases.

It’s a sickener of a thing, though, that we have to experience this package in such a substandard form. All the caveats that generally come along with Cloud Versions are present here; any kind of connection issues or momentary weaknesses can result in input lag, stuttering, out of sync music, freezing or outright crashing out of the game, costing you progress. We have a strong, stable connection and it was still 50/50 on a full reset if we accidentally put the system into sleep mode. The connection would be even more stable if you only played on the TV using an Ethernet cable straight into your Switch dock, but if you’re going to do that you’d do better to investigate versions of these games running natively on other platforms.

Ultimately, there are a ton of potential issues you may or may not run into, and seemingly no real advantages to running this on Switch — unless you simply have no other choice but to play these games on this console. As a fan, and as a player who just wants a consistent gameplay experience, it’s incredibly disappointing.

Conclusion

While both Dream Drop Distance and Fragmentary Passage are good stuff, this is a much more niche product than the previous compilation, and far more difficult to recommend. It’s essential if you’re a fan, but… let’s face it, if you’re a fan, you’ve already played these games. And on a system on which they run natively, rather than this (again!) erratic, temperamental Cloud Version. We feel like it’s our destiny to repeat ourselves on the matter, but if you can buy this package for another system we’d earnestly implore you to do so — it may not be handheld, but at least it would be yours to keep and it would run reliably and consistently. As it stands, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on Nintendo Switch is yet another compromise. If your internet connection is consistent and strong, it runs great… when it’s running great. But, you know, stuff happens. Using Ethernet while docked helps, but it’s still putting a sticking plaster on a glaring wound. So, once again, another good package but presented in the worst way. And slightly less good than the last one.

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