The release of the Playstation 4 game Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue is now only a month away. Ahead of that date, and just in time for the holidays, the official Japanese Kingdom Hearts 2.8 site was updated with new screenshots and renders showing off the games included in the package. Some of these images were released in Japanese gaming magazines Dengeki and Famitsu earlier this month, but now they’re available to everyone online.
The HD remake of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance received the most new images, showcasing the higher quality of the graphics in the game. The images mostly serve to highlight the unique gameplay elements, such as the Dream Eaters (and Spirits, the friendly recruitable Dream Eaters) and the Drop system, which allows players to switch between best friends Sora and Riku at will.
The inclusion of Dream Drop Distance in 2.8 is significant, as it represents Square-Enix rectifying a major barrier for new Kingdom Hearts players: the seemingly endless sprawl of games across multiple platforms. Together with the 1.5 + 2.5 HD Remix re-releases coming to Playstation 4 in March, 2.8 ensures that players will be able to experience the full Kingdom Hearts story on one platform. The ability to experience the 3DS game through new lenses should be a significant draw for veteran players as well.
Kingdom Hearts χ [chi] Back Cover received the fewest updates. That’s hardly a surprise, as χ is the most enigmatic inclusion on 2.8. The original Kingdom Hearts χ was a Japanese-only browser game that ran from 2013 to 2016. The story is set before any of the other Kingdom Hearts games and follows the mysterious Foretellers, whose actions eventually lead to the Keyblade War and the state of affairs as seen in the first game.
Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, as it appears on 2.8, will be a collection of cutscenes, similar to how the Nintendo DS games 358/2 Days and Re:coded were rendered on the 1.5 and 2.5 collections, respectively. The few new images tease some of the drama involved between the major characters, as well as showing off new high-definition renders of two important figures: Luxu and Ephemer.
Early press for Back Cover, such as from Game Informer, hinted that the cinematic will also reveal new information that will tie the game to the main series in a big way.
The browser game was replaced by a mobile phone game, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ, which is available worldwide for iOS and Android devices. Unchained χ is preparing to surpass the original browser game’s story (for more information on that, read KHInsider’s transcription of a Tetsuya Nomura interview from Famitsu), but players who don’t have the time or patience for “freemium” mobile games will find all they need to know for Kingdom Hearts 3 contained in Back Cover.
Finally, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage- is the most exciting for veteran Kingdom Hearts players, as this game will follow up on the conclusion of the Sony PSP game Birth By Sleep. (The Final Mix version of that game is included on the 2.5 HD Remix, as well.)
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 has been the thrust of Square-Enix’s marketing for this game; the marketing team has been singling this game out to showcase the new gameplay engine and graphics which will be used in the long-awaited sequel, Kingdom Hearts 3.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 will pick up with Aqua, who was last seen abandoned in the Realm of Darkness. The new screenshots show Aqua in action as she unleashes a flurry of elemental attacks on the enemies. The images also show a newly-rendered King Mickey, who will guide Aqua on her journey.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 and Back Cover are both built on the same engine as the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3 — the Unreal Engine 4. In reporting on this switch, Kotaku noted the assumption made among fans and press alike that the game was being developed using the in-house Luminous Studio, which was used to develop Final Fantasy XV.
The full set of released images for all the games can be found by clicking through the various sections on the official Japanese site.
In addition to these new images, the new remix of Utada Hikaru’s classic Kingdom Hearts theme song “Hikari” (known as “Simple and Clean” in English) is now available for pre-order on iTunes. The EP, which features various iterations of the Ray of Hope Mix used in the trailer for 2.8, will be officially released on January 11, according to the iTunes Store.
Utada’s involvement in Kingdom Hearts 3 is still unknown. Her father/manager has retracted several definitive statements on Twitter about Utada writing a new song for the game, but per Nova Crystallis, Tetsuya Nomura, the creative mastermind behind Kingdom Hearts, provided the artwork for the new EP back in 2014 as a gift for Utada, perhaps indicating that the two still have a cordial work relationship.
The creation of a new “Hikari” mix for 2.8 is also a good sign for a new theme song, which would finally break the cycle of reusing “Hikari” and “Passion” (“Sanctuary,” as it is known in English) for the various games in the series.
— u3music (@u3music) December 22, 2016
one correction. regarding hikaru’s involvement in Kingdom Hearts III, we are eager to do it. however, our decision is not official yet. teru
— u3music (@u3music) December 23, 2016
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue is slated for a January 12, 2017 Japanese release and an international release date of January 24, 2017.
[Featured image by Square-Enix/Disney]