Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue has finally released, and it advanced the series' story for the first time since 2012's Dream Drop Distance. Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage was probably the biggest draw to the newest HD collection of games due to its ties with the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III. It follows Aqua after the events of Birth by Sleep and shows everything that happened to her in the ten years that went by between then and the original Kingdom Hearts. By showing this, Square Enix has set up a huge part of the plot for the series' future, and it couldn't have been more perfect. Just be warned: from here on, there will be spoilers for A Fragmentary Passage.

When talking about Kingdom Hearts III in the past, Tetsuya Nomura has said that Kingdom Hearts 0.2 incorporates many gameplay elements from it. If this is the case, then fans of the series will definitely love where the developers are taking this series.

The game does a fantastic job showing off how the battle system will be improving. Reaction Commands have been replaced with something called "Situation Commands," which are essentially the same thing, offering cooler ways to fight battles depending on what attacks you've used up until that point. Thankfully, it seems Situation Commands do not act as quick time events like the Reaction Commands did in the past.

On top of this, the gameplay is more fluid than ever. Switching between melee attacks, spells, and shotlocks is seamless, and each situation calls for different techniques. The spells now leave environmental effects that you can use to your advantage, such as sliding on a path of ice laid in front of you to get away from enemies. The game also encourages you to use more magic, as doing so unlocks a Situation Command that allows you to cast a much more powerful version of that spell. When using shotlocks, time now slows down to allow you to lock on to enough enemies properly without the frustration of being constantly interrupted.

The worlds themselves are also much larger, which we saw an example of with Mount Olympus at E3 2015. There are only a few loading times here and there, and the worlds never feel broken up into individual rooms like they have been in the past. Nomura has also stated that 0.2 is about as big as a single world in Kingdom Hearts III. Considering just how big and open the environment is in A Fragmentary Passage, this gives us the promise of very large worlds that will feel more alive than ever before. However, they never feel too big, as the game now allows you to warp between save points. This feature will be much needed when exploring the massive worlds of the upcoming sequel.

We've seen all of these gameplay changes in trailers for Kingdom Hearts III already, but 0.2 really lets you understand just how good that improved combat and world design is going to feel. The upcoming sequel promises to deliver bigger worlds with seemingly unlimited options for taking out enemies. If anything is to be taken away from Aqua's adventure, it's that Square Enix is delivering on this promise in a very good way.

But A Fragmentary Passage didn't just give us a taste of III's gameplay; it also provided us with a sneak peak as to where the story is going, and even told us what the first world Sora, Donald, and Goofy visits is going to be. As the game comes to a close, Mickey reveals that he and Riku are going to help get Aqua back from the Realm of Darkness. Kairi is also in the room during this, and fans will remember that the last game teased us that she would become a full fledged keyblade wielder as well. In 0.2, Yen Sid revealed that her and Lea's keyblade training would be handled by Merlin the wizard.

After this, Sora, Donald, and Goofy show up, and Yen Sid tells Sora that he needs to regain his lost strength and learn the "Power of Awakening" after he failed the Mark of Mastery Exam. This is likely so Sora can reawaken Ventus, who has been in a coma since the end of Birth by Sleep. After being briefed on their mission, the trio heads off to Olympus Coliseum, a world we've seen many times in the various trailers for Kingdom Hearts III.

This setup couldn't have been more perfect. We now know what each character is going to be up to in Kingdom Hearts III, we know who the new keyblade wielders will be training under, and we even know which world we'll be able to visit first in the game. Even though 0.2 is only a few hours long, it is probably the biggest love letter that Square Enix has given fans in a long time. It provided us with the amazing gameplay we love from the series and made it the smoothest, flashiest, and most open experience yet, and it showed us a vital piece to the story that will officially close the Xehanort saga.

If you plan on playing Kingdom Hearts III, I definitely recommend you pick up this game and experience it for yourself. I can't say the few hours are worth the $60 price tag, but as a fan of the series, I couldn't have asked for a better final chapter prologue.


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