Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue mostly retreads on familiar ground, but there's one major exception with A Fragmentary Passage. As an all-new game and a lead-in for Kingdom Hearts 3 (if the decimal point didn't tip you off), A Fragmentary Passage kind of just assumes you’re all caught up both on the narrative and the gameplay mechanics you’ve acquired so far.
For those of you who have taken some time off on the series or are jumping in for the first time, here’s some pointers.
Combat, movement, items and exploration
A Fragmentary Passage puts you in control of Aqua, one of the three primary protagonists of Birth By Sleep. A few mechanics from that entry return, along with a new streamlined control system that we’ll explain here.
Aqua is a jack-of-all-trades type of character with access to a number of different combat abilities such as magic, swift aerial dodges and savage melee attacks assisted by a lock-on mechanic. Locking on is extremely important in Kingdom Hearts, as it also serves as a sort of magnet that draws you toward your prey. Fragmentary Passage has a soft lock-on system (you’ll naturally gravitate towards the nearest enemy), but by using a hard-lock (R1), you can mash the attack button (X) in conjunction with jump (Circle) to carry you upward, almost like a form of flight.
Magic is governed by an MP bar, which is depleted upon use and recharges after you’ve expended your entire meter. Aqua only has access to four spells, but that’s all she needs.
- Firaga is a ranged ability that is the most damaging of the bunch. It's useful in situations where you need to burn down a strong enemy.
- Blizzaga can temporarily take pack leaders out of a fight by freezing them, giving you the opportunity to thin the herd.
- Thundaga is an area-of-effect power that’s mostly meant for groups. Although it doesn’t do a whole lot of damage, it temporarily stuns weaker adversaries.
- Curaga, your heal, is the meat of your toolkit. It restores a large chunk of your health at the cost of your entire MP meter. Outside of sparingly gifted items, it’s the only way to restore your health bar.
You’ll be using Curaga often. Triggering it when your MP is low is a great way to get the most out of it — after you’ve already spent some of your bar casting offensive spells. Speaking of magic, Aqua can tap into some over-the-top special abilities (think Final Fantasy’s Limit Breaks) by constantly attacking enemies, which triggers extra Situational Commands. We’ll discuss those in more detail below in the boss section.
Blocking and countering
Aqua also has access to a block-counter (by pressing Square, which doubles as the dodge button if you’re moving at the same time). This allows for a parry attack if you defend during the roughly one second your shield is up on the screen. The timing is pretty forgiving, so you can mash on the button if you need to.
Getting and using items
Finally, Fragmentary Passage will provide the occasional potion or magic-restoring item during your travels. However, you shouldn’t rely on them as the game lacks a traditional shop as a means to consistently replenish your supply. We recommend you save all your items for boss fights. Reorganize your L1 hotbar commands to include said items because you can’t access the main menu during combat.
Jumping and dashing
Aqua is incredibly nimble, and it’s important that you continuously use her speed and magical prowess, especially on higher difficulty settings.
Two of the most obvious advantages Aqua has access to are her double jump and air dash abilities. If anything is happening on the ground, whether it’s a swarm of enemies or a projectile that takes up a lot of space, you can easily avoid it by leaping into the air and dashing away. While dodging on the ground is a viable option in some cases, some beams or fireballs can’t be avoided or countered, and taking to the air is the fastest way to get away from them.
In fact, you can double-jump or air dash just about anywhere, even when you’re wandering around safe areas, so experiment. Few areas are dangerous, and A Fragmentary Passage doesn't impose any real penalties for dropping into the void. Plus, there are plenty of items stuffed away in hidden corners to satisfy some extra curiosity. The key is to keep dashing continuously, as there’s no limit on the amount of air-dashes you can perform.
While you’re traveling around, you’ll encounter several save points, which actually serve two other purposes. For one, touching a save point restores your health and magic meters, so don’t waste items if one is in reach. It is a gradual restoration though, so make sure you stay in it for a few seconds. Second, once you’ve unlocked multiple areas, they also double as fast travel points for previous zones.
What’s new in Fragmentary Passage?
The above sections pretty much cover everything for newcomers, but even veterans will have to deal with several fresh concepts in A Fragmentary Passage.
Objectives underlie everything
Nearly everything you do contributes to completing objectives, which reward players with pieces of cosmetic content after finishing them. (Think goals like "kill 30 of [x] enemy," or "discover a hidden area.") Cosmetics don’t impact gameplay, but serve as a way to 100% the game and extend your playtime as you work to unlock them.
Since there are so many on offer, this is your opportunity to try new things. Use spells you wouldn’t otherwise think to use. Explore a nook you would have otherwise ignored. Fragmentary Passage is a relatively short ride, so you might as well try to clear as many objectives as you can.
Note, however, that the journey doesn’t have to be a tedious one. You can easily go back to previous locations when you’re stronger to steamroll enemies. For example, the spell-based objectives go much quicker when you can spam spells that one-shot foes.
There are a few tricky objectives to deal with as well. For the lamppost challenge, keep striking at them until you can’t lock on anymore to have them apply toward your total lamppost count. Another one the most out of the way challenges is probably Top of the Town, which tasks players with reaching the highest point of Castle Town (the starting area), but here’s a hint.
While it would seem like all of the cosmetic rewards wouldn’t translate to any advantages, there is one exception. Toward the middle of the game, you’ll encounter multiple fights with clones of Aqua that split into multiple copies. If you happen to have your own avatar geared up with absurd clothes like angel wings, cat ears and giant pauldrons, it’ll be easier to tell your character apart from the crowd when a lot of action is filling up the screen.
Bosses — especially on the jacked-up Proud difficulty that makes them hit harder — can be taxing, but there’s a few strategies that you can use that apply to every confrontation in the game.
The easiest way to bring down bosses is to trigger your Situational Commands. If you constantly attack an enemy, you can queue up a special ability like Spellweaver, which modifies all of your abilities and makes them stronger. If you keep raining down blows in Spellweaver, you can further charge up another Situational Command called Finish, a highly damaging ability that makes you invincible for its duration.
Powering up either of these commands is indicated by arrows on-screen near your ability bar — three arrows denotes that you’re nearly ready, and a hidden fourth arrow will spring the command. You’ll know you’ve reached that hidden arrow after the command pops up on your main menu, with a giant Triangle button prompt. It takes roughly 10 seconds if you’re rapidly attacking.
Learning their patterns
Bosses typically follow a pattern that you can exploit in tandem with your commands to deal the maximum amount of damage in the safest way possible.
When the battle starts, dive in and start attacking until you’ve done enough damage to morph into Spellweaver, then retreat. This should correspond roughly with a boss’s high-damage phase (usually referred to as desperation), which is denoted by a red glow. Here, the big bad does increased damage and is either invulnerable or nigh invulnerable to a reprisal. Once they’ve let up and they’re open, wail on them with Spellweaver and trigger Finish after they’ve started a new desperation attack.
You can actually take this a step further by casting a heal before triggering Finish. Since your MP is recharging the entire time, it’s beneficial to top off your health bar, then come back into the fray with a brand new full meter after your finishing animation is complete. As a bonus, Finish will inherently allow you to avoid all damage during desperation, saving you from having to blow a heal.