Why You Should Play Kingdom Hearts 2.8

A far off dream.

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Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is set to launch this December. It's another compilation package, similar to 1.5 and 2.5 HD Remix, including three separate experiences that are all part of the Kingdom Hearts universe. The first is a remastered console version of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, which launched for the Nintendo 3DS in 2012. It also include Back Cover, a one-hour film encompassing the events of Kingdom Hearts Unchained X, and 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage, a several-hour narrative-driven experience.

It's this final piece, 0.2, that is perhaps the most important to players who are looking to jump right into Kingdom Hearts 3 when it's finally released. 0.2 follows Aqua, a Keyblade Master introduced in PSP game Birth by Sleep, as she struggles to find a way out of the Dark World in which she is trapped. At the end of Birth by Sleep, Aqua sacrifices herself to save her friends, sealing herself in the Dark World and allowing Terra--possessed by the evil madman Xehanort--to escape and put into motion the events of the Kingdom Hearts series.

According to longtime Kingdom Hearts game designer and Kingdom Hearts 3 co-director Tai Yasue, Aqua's struggle ties in to all other Kingdom Hearts games, and experiencing it will be vital to players' understanding of Kingdom Hearts 3.

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"In the Kingdom Hearts universe there's a complex story with a lot of threads," Yasue explained. "And I think from Kingdom Hearts 2.8, as the numbering suggests, it's really necessary before you play Kingdom Hearts 3. 0.2, with you playing with Aqua, who is trapped inside the Dark World, that connects to Birth by Sleep. You experience her sorrow and torment. And she's a Keyblade Master, and her destiny is really intertwined with Sora's in Kingdom Hearts 3, so learning about her adventure, and her pain, really gives meaning to when you start Kingdom Hearts 3."

Aqua, according to Yasue, is a very special character. She is very much like Sora: selfless, always diving headfirst into danger to save her friends, and tormented by her separation from them.

"She's the one that's always caring about her friends, Terra and Ventus, and at the very end of Birth by Sleep she saves her friends," he said. "Players get the feeling that they want to help her out, and I think in that respect that in playing 0.2 you really get that sense. You want to help her, and that feeling will lead into future Kingdom Hearts games."

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In addition to serving up some juicy narrative content, 0.2 will also function as a sort of playable tech demo for Kingdom Hearts 3. Yasue said the game will play with the concept of time--but not in as extreme ways as in 3D. 0.2 will take about as much time to play as one Disney-themed world in a mainline Kingdom Hearts game, but Yasue said that besides the Cinderella world seen in the most recent trailer, there will be a few other worlds for Aqua to explore. Combat and traversal will make frequent use of the environment, with Aqua being able to utilize and react to changes around her, and she'll be able to jump, slide, and maneuver around dynamically in the same ways you will in Kingdom Hearts 3.

0.2 is also being built in Unreal Engine, the engine used for Kingdom Hearts 3, and will showcase the lighting, shadow, and other effects being used in the final game of the series.

Additionally, Kingdom Hearts Back Cover--the aforementioned cinematic film--will also shed light on Kingdom Hearts universe history prior to the start of the Xehanort Dark Seeker Saga. It also gives more meaning to what you will encounter in Kingdom Hearts 3, and tells a story more grounded in human drama than magical turmoil as it recounts the events of the Keyblade War that led to Sora's adventures.

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 will launch this December, while Kingdom Hearts 3 still does not have a release date.

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