E3 Impressions: Aqua Returns in Kingdom Hearts HD II.8

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

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Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 | Title

So close and yet so far away from Kingdom Hearts III

I have a long and complicated history with Kingdom Hearts. I bought the first game once I finally got myself a PlayStation 2, and then picked up the second game as soon as it came it out. I had skipped Chain of Memories, but when 358/2 days came out I bought that and never finished it. Sadly, that would be kind of the status quo for me and the franchise. As much as I like the premise of the games, the fact we never seemed to be continuing the main story always bugged me. I felt like every game was just a patch to explain some plot hole, rather than a continuation. Then came Birth by Sleep. I was already pretty burnt out with the franchise by this time, but eventually I picked it up and gave it a shot. While I only completed Aqua’s story before I put the game down again, I utterly loved it. Aqua was an amazing character and I once again felt my desire to experience the story of Kingdom Hearts blossom anew. Sadly, life had other plans and currently I’ve yet to get back to the games. Part of that reason though is the continuous delay of Kingdom Hearts III, which feels like it’s still a long way off. The reason I bring this all up is because Kingdom Hearts HD II.8: Final Chapter Prologue is aimed to be the last step before we get to Kingdom Hearts III. It also aims to get players ready with a special side story featuring Aqua. That is what we’ll be discussing here.

Kingdom Hearts HD II.8

That’s right, Aqua’s back, and even being stuck in limbo doesn’t prevent her from being awesome.

It had been a while since I played any Kingdom Hearts game. Even so, I started to remember the controls and began my playthrough. My goal was simple, hunt around the area for five gears that I would have to hit with Aqua’s Keyblade in order to open a path to the Castle of Dreams. I will note that the area Aqua is in is the village outside of the castle and said village has seen better days. The world is in a state of frozen time. You can see that there was some sort of cataclysm that was ripping the world apart, but since time stopped, so did the damage. So you’ll eventually be jumping around pieces of houses and streets that are just floating in the air. This all looks amazing though, and I’m really happy with the graphics. Aqua and the world have never looked better and that includes the combat.

Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 | Clock

My goal during the demo was to get this clock working again. The way to do that? Whack gears with your Keyblade of course!

Combat is still the same, but one neat thing they did with this demo is that for every gear you activated, you’d get another new ability. At first it was a double jump, but quickly I got my air dash, Shotlock, and even Command Style. By the time I opened the way to the Castle of Dreams, Aqua was pretty much how I remembered her at the end of Birth by Sleep and I was ready to take on the boss.

Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 | Boss

This mass of Shadows was the boss. While the thing was fast it’s still no match for the Glass Cannon that is Aqua

The boss itself was a swarm of Shadow heartless that merged together into a tendril. It’s kind of hard to explain, but the thing was crazy, erratic, and a decent challenge. Thankfully Aqua is still a glass cannon. She might not be able to take a lot of punishment, but when she hits something, it dies quickly. This was no exception and after a few uses of the Spell Weaver Style, I had defeated the boss and moved onto the ending cut scene for the demo. I won’t spoil specifics, but the message was for Aqua to not give up hope despite being stuck in the limbo she finds herself in. It was a fitting and emotional note to end on and I enjoyed every bit of the demo. Do I have any complaints? Just one.

Kingdom Hearts HD II.8

Spell Weaver is still a crazy powerful finisher.

I actually ended up getting a bit lost in the area while looking for the gears. I really felt a map would have helped immensely here, but it’s a minor complaint, all things considered. For a demo, it’s very well done and each section layers on top of the next well. I’ll be very interested to see the full version of this side story once the game launches. In addition, if you’re like me and have still yet to play Dream Drop Distance, that will also be included on the disc. So between the three HD Remixes we should finally all be ready for Kingdom Hearts III once it arrives.

Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 | Kingdom Hearts II.8 HD

I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this once the full game drops. Until then I should probably go back and finish the HD ReMIXes at least.

About Benny Carrillo

A gamer since the days of the NES, this professional otaku adores Mega Man, Super Robot Wars, Yuri, Visual Novels, the Slice of Life anime genre, and of course Hyperdimension Neptunia. His mission on oprainfall is to help deliver the news straight to you.