Is the latest side story of the series up to scratch?
January 2017 was a very exciting month for Kingdom Hearts fans as it was the release of (stick with me, I know it’s confusing) the 9th game in the series! Technically it’s a sequel to the prequel of the original game which leads up to the events of Kingdom Hearts 3. (spoiler warning if you haven’t played Birth By Sleep) The story centers on Aqua (originally introduced in KH Birth By Sleep for the PSP in 2010) trying to make her way out of the Realm of Darkness where she becomes trapped at the end of BBS. This is also exciting for fans as it’s the first game in the franchise that has made it’s way to the PS4, shinier faces all round! This meant, slightly different game mechanics, different worlds and new backstory to uncover.
I received the game on the 24th January at around 10/11am I went straight to 0.2 over the other games stored on the disc: the HD PS4 remake of the previous Kingdom Hearts 3DS game: Dream Drop Distance and the hour long film based on the events that had previously happened in the Kingdom Hearts mobile game: Unchained X (chi). I set to work on the Birth By Sleep sequel and then completed the story by around 2pm so this is a short game, only about 3 hours long, none the less though I really did enjoy it (and that's not just because I’m a fan of this franchise, ask me about Dream Drop distance, I dare you).
Straight away you could see a remarkable difference in the game's visuals, even if you compare the HD remakes of previous games to it, you could see the step up that Square Enix have given the franchise. Other than everything being super glossy and textured beautifully, I also noticed the small details that have changed from the previous instalments like particle effects, the tiny sparkles that bounce off Aqua’s keyblade as she swings it, the little blades of grass that tilted and swayed when she walked through them and her hair that bounced when she took a step, all things that I feel make up a PS4 RPG.
As for the gameplay, it felt so much smoother. Aqua ran faster than in previous games and I almost felt as if the response time was quicker? This may have been perhaps because it was the first game I had properly played on a PS4. Some of the things I liked that hadn’t been seen in previous games include: parkour Aqua, she now has the ability to hop from one pointy surface to another, customisable outfits! That’s never been put in a Kingdom Hearts game if I remember rightly. The only thing that I can remember seeming off to me is having flashbacks from the previous PSP game, even with their HD remake, to me; they looked weird incorporated in with the new PS4 graphics.
Overall, this was a really insightful game, I’ve been so excited for this for a while now so it was so great to finally uncover some previously unexplained backstory and to have that new game feeling again - where you’re desperate to beat that boss so you can delve deeper into the story. It was a great tester for what the future of Kingdom Hearts could be with the sharper images and more responsive gameplay, it really did tide me over during the wait for Kingdom Hearts 3… until I completed it and it came rushing back (reminder: KH3 was announced in 2013 and now in 2017, there still hasn’t been a release date announced) Definitely worth picking up if you are up to date with the previous games, if not you will get very lost with the story.