The Future of Kingdom Hearts: 0.2 Birth By Sleep Review

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Posted November 21, 2017 by Haley Schojbert in Video Games

Developed by: Square Enix

Published by: Square Enix

Release Date: January 2017

Available on: PlayStation 4

Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is a short game–only about two hours long–in the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (I still can’t believe it’s really called that). The story is told from Aqua’s perspective and is set in the Realm of Darkness. Since time does not pass the same in the Realm of Darkness as it does in the Realm of Light,  the few hours that we play as Aqua exploring the worlds that succumbed to darkness actually amount to the ten years that separate Birth by Sleep from the original Kingdom Hearts. In addition to bridging the two titles together, 0.2 Birth by Sleep contextualizes Aqua’s character role in Kingdom Hearts III, as well as showcases the technology and battle mechanics that will make up the future of the series. And well, it is fantastic.

For a game that is only two hours long, it fosters such unique, diverse environments for worlds that we have already seen before. The Castle of Dreams expands outside of Cinderella’s castle to a macabre town filled with heartless, thorn vines block your path in the dark forest of the Enchanted Dominion, and the eerie hall of mirrors takes elements from Dwarf Woodlands. I am amazed at how seamlessly the game transitioned from battle into cutscene. 

I have been a little skeptical of the realistic graphics in the Kingdom Hearts III trailer, (war flashbacks to the contrasting art styles of Port Royal and anything Tron) but this game is just plain beautiful. It has the same loveable, cartoony aesthetic as the other games and fits well into the rest of the series–it is just more impressive. I enjoyed the character customization elements that they added, even more because those outfits and accessories are not carried into cutscenes. Certain scenes might’ve lost their suspense if Aqua had been wearing cat ears, but hey, that’s just me.

The command menu in 0.2 is the same as the original Kingdom Hearts but borrows mechanics from other games. Naturally, they take elements from Birth by Sleep. The game uses situational commands (similar to reaction commands) to trigger more powerful magic and Aqua’s various command styles like Spell Weaver. Kingdom Hearts III will have Sora taking new forms, as well. The game also takes aspects of flow motion from Dream Drop Distance; if you cast blizzard, you can glide on it. This game employs positive aspects of the flawed or exploitable battle systems of the past, all the while making magic easily accessible and fun to use in combat. The magic in the first and second games, in my experience, was dichotomous in that the spells were either extremely powerful or somewhat useless. I found that 0.2 revitalized magic. Improving the animations and particle effects definitely gives us a sense of Aqua’s strength and pure gusto. She is level 50 at the start of the game, after all.

The artificial intelligence seems to improve, as well. Mickey is more helpful than the party members of old *cough, Donald, cough.* To counter this, the heartless also seems more responsive. For my first run, I played on standard mode, and the difficulty felt right. Fighting enemies was never tiring, the combat felt fluid and natural, and each of the boss battles felt epic and exciting, especially the heartless swarms. Square did a great job of showing what was at stake by including these enemies in such vast quantities, as well as having those Darksides stand in a foreboding way, looking down on Aqua. 

Kingdom Hearts has had issues with threading all of its plot together because all of their damn games are on different systems. Square attempts to amend that by taking all of their games scattered across consoles and putting them into these collections: 1.5, 2.5, and 2.8. It is easier now than ever before to become a fan of the series, and the future looks bright, now in HD! 0.2 Birth by Sleep does not serve to complicate the story, but rather, clears up some details. In the final cutscene of the game, we see all of the pieces lining up for the end of the Xehanort Saga. Riku and Mickey are going to find Aqua, whose main goal will be to wake up Ven and save Terra. Kairi and Lea are going to train with Merlin to use their keyblades, and Sora, Donald and Goofy are headed to Olympus Coliseum. We even get meta commentary about Sora having to relearn all of his abilities, “whatever, happens all the time!”

The setup for the beginning of Kingdom Heart III is well done here; I don’t dislike Yen Sid’s exposition because with a convoluted story such as this one, it seems necessary, especially because the games have spanned more than a decade. The final cutscene is called “2.9 –The First Volume” because of course it is, and as well as serving as an introduction to III, we now know they don’t have any more numbers to work with. 0.2 Birth by Sleep is, as the title indicates, a fragmentary passage. Regardless, it stands strong as its own game. The only problem was that it left me wanting more. By marrying the new and the old, this title gives me hope for Kingdom Hearts III and the future of the franchise.

 


About the Author

Haley Schojbert

Haley is an editor, writer, and avid reader that enjoys role-playing games and having a lot of opinions about fictional characters.