Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue is, according to series director Tetsuya Nomura, the final piece of the complex and beloved series before Kingdom Hearts III wraps up this epic saga. No more side stories, no more prequels, and no more HD remasters, since they’ve all been remastered by now.
With the game set to launch in just over a month and a half, on January 24, the compilation’s final trailer dropped yesterday. The trailer itself is lovely and exciting to watch, but there are so many moments that fly by so fast that you could watch it a dozen times and still not see everything it has to offer.
As such, we’ve whipped up a handy breakdown of the most noteworthy pieces of the trailer that you may have missed, trailer timestamps for convenience, explanations of the more confusing pieces to the puzzle, and some speculation on mysteries that have yet to be solved.
The trailer begins 8 seconds in, kicking things off with a clip from the opening cinematic for Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage (AFP), followed by some scenes from KH Dream Drop Distance HD (KH3D) and KH X: Back Cover, just to remind you what games are included in the package. Nothing to write home about yet.
At 0:22 is when things start getting exciting, with over 30 seconds of new footage from AFP. After seeing a quick flash of Aqua fighting a mirror image of herself it flicks to our heroine standing before a myriad of Darkside Heartless as a glowing orange orb floats in the sky. Ominous is an understatement. We then see flashes of the Keyblade Graveyard, Kairi talking to Riku in Yen Sid’s tower, then Ventus and Terra walking into a cursed forest; possibly the Enchanted Dominion from Sleeping Beauty. All of this takes us to 0:25, just three seconds later.
Following a few seconds of Aqua fighting her way through the cursed forest to reach her friends, we’re shown a brand new element to the series: outfit customization. Sure, you can unlock new outfits in the mobile game Kingdom Hearts Unchained X, but this is the first time we’re seeing such a thing with established characters to the franchise, as opposed to blank-slate avatars that you create from scratch.
You are able to customise her headgear, arm and back accessories, and the pattern and color scheme of her clothes. The outfit itself remains the same design, but you can spice up the look, at least. Some of the options shown off are cat ears, Minnie Mouse ears with a bow tie, wings for her arms, wings for her back, and arm guards. There are several other items that are listed that we don’t get to see, but nothing that seems overly special.
Once a few customization items have been selected we get a brief look at the pause menu (0:33), which holds multiple points worth noting. The list of options on the left should be pretty self-explanatory - Objectives tells you what to do, Story is basically Jiminy’s Journal, and Wardrobe lets you play Pretty Keyblade Master Dress-Up - but check out the play time on the bottom left, then look at Aqua’s level to her right.
There’s only four and a half hours clocked, yet this badass is already level 57. The most likely explanation is that Aqua begins this game at or around level 50, and levels up normally from there as you play. The time stamp may also give us a better indication as to just how much larger the worlds will be in Kingdom Hearts III, as Nomura has previously stated that AFP in its entirety will be of comparable length to a single Disney world in KHIII, which he promises will be a decent length. For added perspective, even after returning to each world two or more times in Kingdom Hearts II, you still only spend around three hours in each place; four if you’re hunting for collectibles. If they’ve got over four hours put into this playthrough and they’re still going, this bodes well indeed for KHIII.
Just two seconds later in the trailer, at 0:35, Aqua is seen running around in her custom gear with Mickey trotting along beside her. His face appears in the HUD next to hers, complete with HP and MP bars, confirming that he will accompany her for part of this chapter.
From 0:36 to 0:40 we watch Aqua slide along some tree branches (memories of Deep Jungle, anyone?), avoiding constant attacks from several Darksides. Then from 0:41 to 0:44 she’s attacking them head-on, equipped with top-tier magic spells Firaga, Blizzaga, Thundaga, and Curaga. This lends more credibility to the theory that she begins the game at a high level, already equipped with the knowledge and power she had at the end of Birth by Sleep.
Now then, you remember the Shadow Heartless tornado that attacks Sora as a group in the very first Kingdom Hearts trailer, from E3 2013? That idea of many small enemies working together as one has made its way into AFP, as from 0:45 to 0:56 we see Aqua and Mickey fighting hordes of Shadows moving and attacking together. We see a pretty spectacular display of power from the duo from 0:49, and at 0:54 the Wayfinder placard pops up over the Command Menu in the bottom left. The card has Mickey’s glove and Aqua’s handmade Wayfinder trinket on it, and looks similar to Birth by Sleep’s Command Styles. Whatever it’s actually called, it looks like a pretty rad limit break-style attack!
After all that we catch a couple scenes from KH3D. While the game will look better than ever on the PS4, so far there has been nothing new or worth mentioning here, so let’s skip on forward to 1:12, and some new footage from Back Cover.
It wouldn’t be Kingdom Hearts without someone skulking around with their face hidden in a hood, and so our new hooded friend opens by saying, “What’s written in the last page of the book is gonna happen” as he walks away from Daybreak Town - a new world, familiar to players of KH Unchained X. This book he mentions could be a book of prophecies, it that which is written will come to pass. Master Ira continues at 1:16, reading from a book with pictures of keyblades and Heartless in it as he utters, “We’re here to make sure that light lives on.” Part of the aforementioned prophecy, perhaps?
Next up we hear Master Aced as he appears to be preparing to face off against Masters Invi, Ava, and Gula. He says, “If we don’t do something, light will expire.” Finally it switches over to Master Ava, kneeling by some flowers and asking, “But Master, isn’t there anything we can do?” It’s difficult to make sense of these disjointed scenes and snippets of dialogue, so unfortunately there’s not much we can piece together at this time.
At 1:28 we jump back to A Fragmentary Passage for a couple more scenes with Aqua. She seems to have caught up with Terra and Ven on the other side of the cursed forest, and Terra is surprised that she can see him. She replies that she can see Ven as well, though he doesn’t move; not even to look up at her. Since Aqua is traveling through the Realm of Darkness during this chapter while her best friends are actually nowhere near there, the most likely explanation for their being present is that they are representations of Aqua’s memories of them. Ventus just stares at the ground away from her, emotionless, because his heart is asleep inside of Sora with no way to get out. This series has never shied away from red herrings like memory-beings in the past, so this seems likely.
At 1:35 Aqua and Mickey are together on Destiny Island, and she tells Mickey of the time she visited there in the past and met two boys (Sora and Riku) who she considered passing the keyblade on to.
From 1:43 to 1:58 there are two more scenes from KH3D, with Riku and Roxas talking about how important Sora is. Again, nothing new to report here.
More standalone lines of dialogue from Back Cover are up next: at 1:59 Master Gula states that “Everyone wants to know about the lost page,” while at 2:01 Master Ava trails off without finishing her statement: “If everyone is collecting light solely for themselves…”
The next line, uttered by the mysterious hooded man, seems to be a pretty important one, as Mickey repeats it in a scene immediately following: “May your heart be your guiding key. I say it all the time. Ultimately what you need to do is what your heart feels is right.”
As the hooded man speaks from 2:06 to 2:13 we’re presented with several quick flashes including Master Invi kneeling in front of the hooded man, Chirithy trapped in a container (presumably by the hooded man), the man tearing a page out of the book mentioned earlier, and the man running away with a large suitcase. If you look closely at the diamond-shaped insignia on the case (at 2:13) you can see that a word is written, but even on the highest definition setting it is difficult to make out what it says. The case itself looks incredibly important, but it seems we will have to wait for the game to release to find out what secrets it holds.
The remainder of the trailer (2:14 to 2:29) returns again to A Fragmentary Passage, offering several more lightning-fast glimpses at random moments from the game. As previously mentioned, Mickey repeats the hooded man’s line from Back Cover and tells Aqua, “May our hearts be our guiding key.” She comments that no one has used that phrase in ages, indicating that it is a motto of sorts that has been passed down through many generations of Keyblade Masters. Then from 2:18 it’s quick-fire round, offering the following:
2:18 - Terra and Terranort are battling, possibly for control over Terra’s body. This is probably Aqua getting a look at the struggles Terra has had to endure with Xehanort’s heart residing in his body.
2:19 - Shadowy hands have got the still-stoic Ventus ensnared, as Aqua looks worriedly on, unable to help. Another illusion in the Realm of Darkness.
2:20 - Riku, with his original Kingdom Hearts hairstyle and outfit, runs through endless darkness. This might take place after the end of the first game, when he and Mickey are trapped together in the Realm of Darkness, but before he wakes up in Castle Oblivion in Chain of Memories. Which leads us to the next scene...
2:20 - Mickey is on the ground, and his shirt has dissolved away! Classic Mickey Mouse used to only wear a pair of shorts, white gloves, and large shoes, so this likely a callback to his olden days, but there’s more to it than that. The only time we see that version of him in the Kingdom Hearts series is in the very first game, during the finale. Remember when Sora and Riku are closing the door to darkness, and Mickey pops up out of nowhere to help them seal it? He’s wearing his classic duds there. It is unclear just what causes Mickey’s shirt to disappear like this, but it could very well be a clever way of tying it all together, explaining why Mickey is in the Realm of Darkness to help the boys, and why he’s not wearing the fancy clothes he had on before. Something (or someone) could have attacked him and Aqua, splitting them up. Perhaps the attack was so powerful that it took away a chunk of Mickey’s power, thus ridding him of his shirt (if it feels like this makes no sense, remember that the power for Sora’s Drive Forms in KHII is in his clothes - some apparel can hold great surprises!).
2:21 - You’d be forgiven for thinking one of the suitcases Riku is holding is the same as the one seen being lugged by the hooded man in Back Cover, since both scenes flash by so quickly in the trailer, and it’s not exactly a common item seen in the series. However, a closer look reveals that these appear to be normal, everyday pieces up luggage. In contrast to the prior scenes of Riku and Mickey in AFP, these seem to be more current, chronologically speaking, what with both of them in their post-KH3D attire. Maybe the explanation is as simple as Riku has decided to officially move from Destiny Island to Yen Sid’s tower, as least temporarily, in order to train and prepare for the upcoming Keyblade War.
Finally, to close out the trailer we see Sora in his Kingdom Hearts II threads, running up the stairs of Yen Sid’s tower to meet Donald and Goofy at the top, as Goofy asks him where he’s been. To those who played through KH3D on the 3DS, you’ll recall that at the end Riku is named the Keyblade Master, and Sora tells everyone he’s got to go away for a little bit to take care of a few things.
We see him return to Traverse Town to find all his Dream Eater friends who assisted him during that journey, to thank them for their help. That seems like a quick trip to make on its own, so it is likely that he made another stop or two in addition. Of course we can’t know what else he did just yet, so in response to Goofy’s question he chuckles and replies, “Secret!”
The final shot of the trailer before the game’s title card comes up is the perfect encapsulation of Sora as a character, and the best way to hype up the fanbase who is basically rabid for Kingdom Hearts III at this point. Sora bursts through the door, his companions by his side, grins real wide, and exclaims--
Whew! Did you happen to catch something we missed? Agree or disagree with our speculations and theories? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and look forward to our continued coverage of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue. The game launches exclusively for PS4 on January 24, 2017.