Over the weekend at this years EBGames Expo gaming convention, Square Enix and Bandai Namco had a playable build of the latest Kingdom Hearts remake, Kingdom Hearts II.8. This remake, as far as I know, is based on the second Kingdom Hearts game, but presents players with a new control scheme that makes things a bit more fluid and enjoyable. Of course, the core essence of Kingdom Hearts is still there, and you can feel it with every moment that you play.
Our gameplay demo began with the main blue-haired girl, whose name I forget, standing before a castle across a broken bridge. It seems that in order to get across, the player would have to take her hunting for these mechanical gears. These gears, when destroyed, would turn back a nearby clock, reversing time and recreating the bridge moments before it was destroyed.
What was really engaging about this iteration of Kingdom Hearts was how fluid the combat and exploration gameplay felt while playing. Of course, I did play this coming off the back of the clunky gameplay found in Final Fantasy XV, so it could be a bit of a bias because of that. In our gameplay section, we got to run around a small, but interestingly designed, town. In this town were various monsters to battle along the way to finding each of the hidden gears. It was a pretty good area to give the new mechanics a bit of a playthrough.
I really loved running around in KHII.8. It was incredibly great being able to jump up the sides of buildings with a double jump, and having platforming puzzles that took advantage of this. Even more, the environment itself was pretty artistically designed, so it looked as fun as it played.
The combat though, that’s what you’d spend most of your time doing. If you’ve played a hack-and-slash style adventure before, you’ll know what to really expect from this one. Except, in this, you have a bunch of magic spells based on the Final Fantasy universe to add to your arsenal. These spells often make a lot of difference, for example, Blizzaga will freeze enemies, or Firaga will cause massive fire damage.
I initially found the setup for the magic to be a little clunky, but after using it once or twice, it actually felt a little intuitive. I often found myself preferring to use magic while it was available during fights, rather than relying on the keyblade for attacking. Of course, there are downsides to this, as it does deplete your mana quickly, but enemy mobs do drop pickups to help alleviate this a little.
After a short while of adventuring and destroying gears, we eventually unlocked the way into the castle. But just as we were about to cross the bridge, we were jumped by a boss monster comprised of the little black monsters what I can’t remember the names of. The secret to winning this battle was to use this homing magic attack that becomes more and more effective the more filled its gauge on the bottom right becomes.
Unfortunately, I had spent too long messing around trying different things while playing to get a feel of the game to have completed the boss fight. I got it down to 1/3rd of its HP before being kicked off the console. But, from my playthrough of the game, I would have to say that Kingdom Hearts II.8 is probably going to an under-appreciated hit for Square. If I had to choose between this and FFXV, I would choose this anytime.