Ronan Jennings reviews the latest in gaming, including Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil VII and Minecraft ‘Education Edition’.
THE Kingdom Hearts series is a little goofy. Well, it’s a lot of Goofy.
He’s not alone either, with Mickey and Donald for company, along with dozens of other Disney legends.
They, in turn, mingle with the stars of Square Enix, creators of Final Fantasy. It’s video game fan fiction, written in the boardroom.
Considering how tightly Disney controls its properties, it’s amazing that Kingdom Hearts ever happened, but we’re glad it did.
The first game, released in 2002, was far better than anyone could have expected, combining Square’s expertise in storytelling and combat with Disney’s unrivalled treasure trove of colourful worlds to explore.
We’re not ashamed to admit it was amazing, right down to The Little Mermaid’s world.
A decent sequel was released in 2005, but since then the series has squandered much of its goodwill, culminating in this week’s Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue.
Just one look at the name tells you everything you need to know about how this franchise has developed.
Ten years after the last true sequel, we are getting ‘2.8’ versions of a ‘final chapter prologue’. It’s nonsensical in the extreme.
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is actually a collection, boasting a remaster of Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance, a 60-minute story called Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover, and an entirely new experience, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep.
Dream Drop Distance was first released on the Nintendo 3DS and, as such, is a handheld game now ported to the PlayStation 4.
It tells the story of Sora and Riku’s Mark of Mastery exam and gives a glimpse into the gameplay and plot we can expect from Kingdom Hearts 3.
It’s a fine game, with some fun worlds to explore (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pinnochio’s world, Tron: Legacy, and Symphony of Sorcery from Fantastia) and really great combat.
Nonetheless, it is a handheld game and limited by the power and design of the medium.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep is completely new and was built in the same engine that Kingdom Hearts 3 will use.
It tells the story of Aqua, who has been trapped in the realm of darkness, a place without time. Not only is it a beautiful-looking game, but it also weaves an emotional story of how Aqua has dealt with extreme isolation and become her own worst enemy.
At five hours, however, it’s a truly brief glimpse into what a modern Kingdom Hearts could achieve. The ‘cinematic story’, meanwhile, is a 60-minute film that only hardcore fans will watch.
If, while reading this article, you have been nodding your head in approval, understanding every word and reference, then maybe Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (that’s the last time we type that) is perfect for you.
On the other hand, if this article has left you with a headache, then the Kingdom Hearts series has probably left you behind. Way behind. A little goofy is OK, but this is where Goofy starts taking the Mickey.
Virtual reality is a bit goofy too, but those headsets can bring some amazing experiences.
A fascinating fact has emerged this week, linked to the release of Resident Evil VII.
At the time of writing, more than 650,000 people were playing the game, according to Capcom’s own live statistics.
To the surprise of many, 10% of those players were playing in virtual reality.
That’s a huge percentage for such a high profile release.
We’ll have our review of Resident Evil VII next week, so check back to see if virtual has finally found its mainstream champion.
Finally, most people know Minecraft as the game that children play between sleeping and sometimes eating.
But you may not know that Microsoft released an ‘Education Edition’ last year, specifically designed to help students and educators work together.
Modules in Education Edition include Empathy Education, to help children learn empathy skills, Boolean Logic, and an Urban Planning Project.
Minecraft was already deeply educational from social, engineering, and creative perspectives, but it’s great to see the game’s popularity being used in a more focused manner.
Minecraft Education Edition just got a massive update, adding many requested features to the experience, which will no doubt please the 75,000 students (from 100 countries) who Microsoft claim to use the application.
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