Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep

Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep -A fragmentary passage- - PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Switch (2017)

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts 0.2-A Fragmentary Passage- is an odd duck even beyond its ridiculous title.  Released as part of the Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD collection, it contains a short scenario starring Aqua after the events of Birth by Sleep‘s “Secret Episode,” possibly stitched together out of ideas left over from the dead “Birth by Sleep vol 2”.  Mechanically, the game serves as a sort of demo for Kingdom Hearts 3 with unique story and levels, and sure enough, there are parts in Kingdom Hearts 3 where you can play as Aqua, virtually unmodified from this prototype. But the game features a few elements of its own, even outside of mechanics updated in the finalized Kingdom Hearts 3.

Still, a pseudo-demo is a pseudo-demo.  Players get to gawk at Kingdom Hearts 3‘s impressive graphics tech, and fight using early versions of its combat mechanics.  Aqua retains her Shotlocks from Birth by Sleep, and can activate her starting Command Style from Birth by Sleep using a feature that would be expanded in Kingdom Hearts 3.  Her spells (all top-tier “-ga” spells to reflect her continuing off of the end of Birth by Sleep) are used in a fashion reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts 2, complete with magic meter that drops to 0 when you use Cure.  Enemies are a mix of old and new, and all the new ones, including the bosses, would all appear in Kingdom Hearts 3.

What helps Kingdom Hearts 0.2 stand out even after the release of Kingdom Hearts 3 are its surreal, nightmare levels, like nothing seen in the series before. Aqua is trapped in the Realm of Darkness, where the Heartless live, a place often witnessed throughout the series, but only experienced briefly in the Secret Episode, and this is well beyond anything we saw there. Here, she visits three worlds banished to the dark during the events of Kingdom Hearts 1.  The Cinderella world is stopped in time, with platforms floating in a strange, immobile vortex, while galaxies spiral overhead.  The Snow White world plays cruel and clever mirror games with you.  The Sleeping Beauty world is full of twisted plant life, and climaxes with an army of one of Kingdom Hearts‘ most iconic boss monster.  One can only hope Kingdom Hearts is willing to take these kinds of risks in the future, because it’s a shame to leave them all in this tiny obscurity.

In addition to the main challenges, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 features a number of achievement-style challenges, including several environmental secrets and bonus puzzles. These can be used to unlock costume changes for Aqua (including Minnie Mouse ears and yes, cat ears named after famous Disney cats).  To keep these from undermining the drama, they don’t appear in cutscenes.  The developers were apparently surprised by the positive response to these costumes and challenges, since they had added them for fun at the last minute! In a patch, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 was later given a set of additional challenges, a new harder difficulty, and a ruthless, secret boss rush.

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