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"There is always a way."

"To spend one more night beneath the stars with my best friends..."
Aqua
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Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage- is the ninth game (not counting remakes) in the Kingdom Hearts series. It is a playable episode included in the 2017 compilation Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and not only serves as a direct sequel to the Secret Episode of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (also called A Fragmentary Passage) and the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, but as a lead-in to the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III.

The game is about the length of one Kingdom Hearts III world, and focuses on Aqua, one of the three viewpoint characters of of Birth by Sleep, who is trapped in the Realm of Darkness after her adventures in that game. Aqua investigates worlds trapped alongside her in the dark realm, and struggles to keep going, her hope and faith in jeopardy.

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The game elaborates on some lingering plot threads and teases new ones while demoing III's graphics and gameplay. Several mechanics were saved for a proper debut in III, but this game gives an early introduction to Situation Commands, contextual techniques that appear at the end of certain combos. These can allow Aqua to enter a Style Change, which alters her normal attack combo, or trigger powerful finishing moves. Aqua also retains her Shotlock ability from Birth by Sleep, which will also return in III.


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A Fragmentary Passage includes the following tropes:

  • Action Commands: 0.2 introduces Situation Commands, which are, in practice, a combination between the Command Style and Reaction Command systems. As Aqua performs certain moves in battle, markers will appear over her Command Menu. When you land a combo finisher while at three marks, Situation Commands will be unlocked depending on how you earned those markers; for example, engaging in standard combat will unlock the Spellweaver Style Change, and repeatedly casting Thundaga will unlock Thundaja. Note that you can unlock multiple Situation Commands at the same time and cast them all in succession.
  • Action Girl: Come on, we are talking about MASTER Aqua, who has passed a considerable amount of time alone in a realm filled with dark creatures whose only thought is to turn her into one of them however they can.
  • After the End: Aqua discovers the remains of the Castle of Dreams, Dwarf Woodlands, and Enchanted Dominion after those worlds fell to darkness. Eventually, she ends up on the remains of Destiny Islands in the End of the World.
  • All There in the Manual: In a new standard of obscure side material for the Kingdom Hearts series, it was revealed during a line reading at the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour that Terra appears to talk to Aqua in the Forest of Thorns because Naminé told him to.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: The game offers various objectives to complete, with the prize being accessories and cloth patterns you can use to alter Aqua's outfit.
  • Another Side, Another Story: 0.2 also doubles as an explanation as to what exactly Mickey was up to in the original Kingdom Hearts. Specifically, how he got the Keyblade from the Realm of Darkness, and how he appeared at the end of the original game.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Blizzaga travels up gentle slopes as opposed to colliding with them when not cast at a target, allowing Aqua to slide up slopes without needing to recast Blizzaga to compensate for the change in elevation. That said, it only works on very gentle slopes.
    • This game follows a more modern saving paradigm (granted, the last main game was on PS2 before this kind of thing was common)—the game autosaves, and the main menu features a "Continue" option that will load the most recent save instead of forcing you to select a particular file on the "Load" menu.
  • Arc Words: "May your heart be your guiding key," and variations thereof. Carried over from Back Cover, where it was the motto of the Master of Masters. That they're new to viewers despite being supposedly ancient is lampshaded by Goofy at the end, where he says that Yen Sid always said it to him, Sora, and Donald when they left on adventures, but Sora and Donald don't recognize the phrase at all. It turns out Yen Sid had been saying it in an extremely quiet whisper.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Mickey's A.I. appears much more consistent about healing you than most party members from previous titles. As long as he still has MP left in the tank, Mickey will almost always heal you at low health unless he's currently engaged in combat.
  • Art Evolution: The game's graphics are shown to be a major upgrade from what was seen in previous installments.
  • As You Know: Mentioning how the final battle with Xehanort draws near, Yen Sid reminds Riku, Kairi, and Mickey of the need to assemble the seven guardians of light to protect the seven pure lights (read: the Seven Princesses of Heart) as well as undo the terrible fates of the Birth by Sleep trio, in part recapping Master Xehanort's plans from Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance as well as Birth by Sleep's Final Episode. This is a justified example, though, since Kairi was not around for these events and she needs to be caught up to speed.
  • Bag of Spilling:
    • Aqua keeps the Master's Defender and several of her passive abilities, such as Air Slide and Doubleflight, but loses all her D-Links and most of her offensive abilities, as well as the ability to charge MP for each spell independently, partly due to 0.2 adopting the Command Menu system used by numbered titles instead of Command Decks previously used in Birth by Sleep. She also starts the game at Level 50 instead of 1. Possibly justified by the negative effects of the Realm of Darkness; Ansem the Wise, for instance, nearly went insane and forgot himself during his stay, so who knows what effects it could be having on Aqua.
    • Sora gets hit harder with this as a result of Dream Drop Distance. Not only did he fail his Mark of Mastery exam, and thus couldn't obtain the necessary power to fight Xehanort, but succumbing to darkness and nearly turning into Xehanort's vessel cost him a good deal of the abilities he acquired in the preceding game, which means he'll be starting Kingdom Hearts III at Level 1. He lampshades that this has happened to him thrice before with an offhand "Happens all the time."
    • Thought this trope was limited to characters? Guess again! The world map (which, in this series, means "the map between multiple worlds") gets hit with this, as Goofy notes that all the old highways have disappeared, which nicely sets up Kingdom Hearts III for needing all the worlds traveled to from scratch.
  • Balance Buff: Aqua's running speed is boosted to avoid the old strategy of spamming Cartwheel to move faster that prevailed in Birth by Sleep. Ironically, this gives her the highest grounded speed in the series.
  • Bash Brothers: Near the end of 0.2's story, and around the same time Sora is making his way through the End of the World, Mickey manages to find Aqua in the Realm of Darkness. From that point on, the two Keyblade Masters travel (and fight) together, and Aqua intends to assist Mickey in closing the Door to Darkness.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Bat-like Heartless called Flutterings are encountered late in the game.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • When Aqua, trapped floating in a void, resigns herself to her fate and lets go of her Wayfinder, Mickey appears to put the Wayfinder back in her hand and ask if she's all right.
    • From the opening cinematic, Mickey appears to help Aqua battle Vanitas and Xehanort, possessing Ven and Terra respectively. Also, at the very end of the opening, Sora's hand reaches down from the waters surface and grabs Aqua's as the screen fades to white.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • In the end, Aqua is dragged back into the Realm of Darkness. Though she still continues to fight on knowing she will reunite with Terra and Ven one day, no matter what it takes. Seeing that Sora and Mickey's plan to close the Door to Darkness worked and the worlds are being restored also gives her a measure of hope.
    • The ending cutscenes leading into Kingdom Hearts III also show that Riku and Mickey are heading out on a mission of their own from Yen Sid to find and return Aqua to the Realm of Light.
  • Boss-Only Level: The only thing to do in the Destiny Islands portion of the game is watch a few cutscenes and fight the Demon Tide.
  • Boss Rush: In a New Game+, chests containing Zodiac Relics appear in the game's four areas. If you collect all 12 Relics, a new mirror in The World Within will spawn, leading you to a gauntlet that includes a Darkside, multiple Heartless waves, a Demon Tower, and a super-buffed Phantom Aqua.
  • Broken Bridge: The game opens with the bridge to the Castle of Dreams literally crumbling before Aqua. Aqua must locate five gears in the nearby town to turn back the clock on the tower and restore the castle grounds to proceed.
  • Call-Back:
    • Mickey echoes "May our hearts be our guiding key" at one point, which was initially said by the Master of Masters (and his apprentices) from Back Cover. Even Aqua lampshades how old of a saying it is.
      Mickey: May our hearts be our guiding key.
      Aqua: There's a phrase no one's used in ages.
      Mickey: It's something I like to try and remember.
    • Aqua and Mickey fight a Heartless swarm at the Destiny Islands when they are swallowed by darkness, the same place where Sora and friends fought "Ansem" at the end of Kingdom Hearts.
    • Upon receiving the Kingdom Key D from behind the door at the Secret Place on Destiny Islands, Mickey recites "The door of darkness...tied by two keys. The door to darkness...to seal the light." These same words are part of a longer inscription found at the secret laboratory area of Hollow Bastion accessible only through the World Terminus at the End of the World.
    • Sora learns how to open gateways using the same method shown in Kingdom Hearts χ. Fitting, considering he does this after saying the motto of the Master of Masters from said game and time period.
  • Call-Forward:
    • The Demon Tide that appeared in the reveal trailer for Kingdom Hearts III makes its official debut in 0.2.
    • A presumable example when Terra is taken over by Xehanort in the middle of his chat with Aqua. Though Xehanort seems to have exorcised Terra and sent him packing to parts unknown, a glowing apparition of Terra shows up moments later to subdue Xehanort, mirroring how Riku holds back "Ansem" when the Seeker of Darkness makes his first true appearance at Hollow Bastion following the Riku-Ansem fight.
    • Soon after this event, Aqua resigns herself to becoming one with the darkness until Mickey rescues her. In Kingdom Hearts II, Riku and Sora likewise decide to fade into darkness when stranded at the Dark Margin following their battle with Xemnas until they're saved by Kairi's letter, opening a Door to Light that allows them to return home.
  • The Cameo: Luxu from Kingdom Hearts χ briefly appears in the first cutscene that shows the end of the Keyblade War, tying into the events of Back Cover.
  • Character Customization: For the first time in the series, players can customize Aqua's appearance by equipping Decorations, which add visible gear to Aqua. Several forms of Decorations are available, including headgear, shoulder and back pieces, and whatnot. You can even change the color and pattern of her outfit if you desire.
  • Cheated Angle: The scene where Mickey shows up at the end of the first Kingdom Hearts to lock the Door to Darkness is replicated, down to the proper perspective trick on Mickey's ears.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A whopping eight games later, the door in the hidden alcove on Destiny Islands finally serves a purpose note . In the Realm of Darkness, the room behind it houses the Kingdom Key D.
  • The Chosen One: Mickey explains to Aqua that, in order to seal off the door between realms, they require two Keyblades and someone to help shut the door on both sides. As Mickey has just obtained the Kingdom Key D (and Sora is busy doing his thing on the other side), Aqua offers to fulfill the second part, but the king informs her that the job's already been taken by someone else, that person being Riku.
  • Clothing Damage: Non-fanservice variant. Mickey's clothes are destroyed by a Heartless attack, leaving him in nothing but his cartoon shorts for the finale of Kingdom Hearts.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The Bonus Boss Phantom Aqua has bright orange attacks that can't be blocked.
    • After the first update patch, the Demon Tower and Demon Tide bosses will have their eyes glow red before they attack.
  • Combination Attack: The Wayfinder Style Change involves Aqua and Mickey invoking Teleport Spam to assault enemies with consecutive simultaneous strikes.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Mickey and Yen Sid indirectly confirmed that they knew of Aqua's whereabouts in Re:coded, and this story depicts the moment Mickey located her.
    • Numerous Darksides are seen levitating spheres of darkness towards the same sort of orb of darkness that engulfed the Destiny Islands in the first game, and the scene appears to be the destruction of Enchanted Dominion.
    • One scene shows Mickey losing his shirt, explaining how he appeared in his Classic Disney Shorts red shorts appearance at the end of the first game.
    • Terra once again uses Light 'em Up chains against Xehanort. The same chains that both Eraqus (whose heart Blank Points revealed to be reinforcing Terra's) and the Lingering Will used. Aqua is also seen using these to combat a swarm of Shadows deep within the Realm of Darkness, likely owing to her possession of Eraqus's Master's Defender.
    • One of the ending cutscenes depicts Aqua walking up to the Dark Margin where Ansem the Wise is sitting, leading into the Distant Finale of Blank Points.
    • As with their first meeting in Kingdom Hearts II, Sora, Donald, and Goofy adopt a comically stiff, upright posture when addressed by Yen Sid. Additionally, Yen Sid tells Sora that he should visit Hercules to finish his training, as Herc, much like Sora, lost his strength but found it again during his Olympus Coliseum subplot in Kingdom hearts II.
    • Luxu is seen in the Keyblade Graveyard watching the end of the world with the towering pillars of rock that were formed during Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep still present.
  • Counter Attack: Deflecting any melee attack will cause a prompt to appear onscreen; pressing X immediately will cause Aqua to unleash a counterblast that inflicts damage and blows back enemies surrounding her.
  • Creepy Monotone: In line with her status as a twisted mirage of Aqua meant to push the original past the Despair Event Horizon, Phantom Aqua primarily speaks using a low, dull murmur, the main exceptions being a dark chuckle and her death scream. This only becomes more unnerving when Phantom Aqua litters The World Within with numerous copies of herself, all of which do nothing but stroll around slowly while reciting nihilistic lines in rapid succession.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: The gameplay largely averts this trope, but a few boss fights play it. Used to climbing up a Darkside's arm and attacking its head? Sorry; the arms are no longer platforms, and the head is not targetable until its health is about halfway down. It does help that, unlike Sora, Aqua has a Double Jump to help her get up there.
  • Darker and Edgier: Noticeably so. The game focuses on Aqua's journey through worlds consumed by darkness while struggling to avoid crossing the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Dark Reprise: Aqua's theme gets a more demented-sounding reprise during the battle with her mirror copy.
  • Death from Above: Thundaja calls a flurry of thunderbolts that obliterate everything in the area Judgment Bolt-style. Darksides are also capable of using their darkness-based abilities like this.
  • Degraded Boss: Darksides go up and down this scale throughout the course of the game. While there are boss Darkside, some even stronger than Darksides encountered in past entries, there are Darkside in the Forest of Thorns who appear as regular enemies, with only one big health bar.
  • Didn't Think This Through: This game reveals Mickey still had this problem even during Kingdom Hearts, since he spent so much time trying to crack into the Realm of Darkness that he didn't even consider where or if there was an exit.
    Aqua: You haven't changed at all.
  • Doomed by Canon: Despite their encounter in this game, Mickey is unable to rescue Aqua from the Realm of Darkness by the end of this story since she is still missing from the Realm of Light after Dream Drop Distance. That said, Riku and Mickey both set out to find her after the end of 3D, as shown by the ending.
  • Dungeon Town: While you start in The Lost Woods, most of the Castle of Dreams world is taken up by the town surrounding the castle, now infested by Heartless. The closer you get to the castle, the more torn up the town is.
  • Eldritch Location: The Realm of Darkness. Time doesn't flow there like it does in the other realms, as evidenced by the Castle of Dreams, and worlds that fall into it are gradually subsumed into it by the Heartless.
  • Enemy Without: Aqua believes Phantom Aqua, her mirror counterpart, to be a symptom of the weakness in her heart, all of her doubts and insecurities nursed while aimlessly wandering through the Realm of Darkness given form.
  • Eureka Moment: Aqua has one in the destroyed Castle of Dreams, when the bridge crumbles before she can get to the castle.
    If only I'd made it in time. But, there is no time here, only... the clock.
  • Fake Difficulty: A common complaint upon release regarding the Demon Tower and Demon Tide bosses. While they both have a limited repertoire of attacks, there wasn't much of a pattern to their actions and the time in between each attack was seemingly random. To make matters worse, there was no cue to an attack starting, leading players to either be heavily punished by stun-locking combos or take an excessively conservative approach to avoid the same. This was quickly patched to add noticeable cues.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Terra is still doing this within Terra-Xehanort. To the surprise of several players, he's much more successful at it than he was during the Final Episode of Birth by Sleep; he starts off by physically restraining Xehanort, going as far as to put him into a sleeper hold. When that doesn't work and Terra ends up in a Face Palm Of Doom, he then calls upon some Heroic Resolve to ensnare Xehanort with a set of familiar-looking chains of light.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The game opens with Mickey telling Riku and Kairi about his chance encounter with Aqua in the Realm of Darkness during the events of the original game, letting the player know right off the bat that Aqua remains trapped.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Kairi's reaction to learning her new training partner is Axel (or rather Lea) speaks this, given their less-than-cordial interactions in the past. Riku and Mickey need to reassure her that now that he's whole again, he's definitely nicer and on their side now.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: When Aqua encounters Terra at Enchanted Dominion and is surprised to see that he's not a mirage, Terra responds that while it is him, Aqua's perception of him and Ven are illusions created by the memories of them in her heart. This would also explain why Xehanort manifests in the form of Terra-Xehanort and not Master Xehanort (real life circumstances notwithstanding), as elaborated on in Internal Reveal below. (Unless, of course, this encounter took place while Terra-Xehanort was still whole; the lack of a discernible time lapse between realms muddles things.)
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: The Darkside in this game possess the ability to fire sky lasers at Aqua.
  • Frictionless Ice: Ice that you can make yourself, even. Blizzaga leaves an ice trail behind it that Aqua can board Flowmotion-style to ride on.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Despite the fact that 0.2 takes place right where Birth by Sleep Final Mix's Secret Episode ended (in which Aqua's levels and stats carried over from her Story/Final Episode) and how she's been constantly fighting Heartless as she traverses the Realm of Darkness ever since she was trapped there, she still loses most of her offensive abilities and begins at Level 50. Justified in that, in BBS, most people without heavy grinding would usually end up being around Level 40 by the Secret Episode, so starting off at Level 50 can be seen as pretty accurate to Aqua's level of power at this time of her journey through the Dark Realm.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: Mickey joins Aqua in the last section of the Realm of Darkness.
  • Heroic BSoD: Despite her newfound resolve at the end of Birth by Sleep, Aqua is still understandably down in the dumps during the game as she pines to see her friends again and to go home. Especially when the Realm of Darkness continually messes with her by conjuring up illusions she encounters of her old friends during her travels, only for them to disappear right after, much to her dismay.
  • His Name Is...: Non-fatal and self-given example. Unaware of his true identity, Aqua interrogates Terra-Xehanort, to which Terra-Xehanort replies with a smug "You don't know?" He begins to give his name, only for Terra to jump him from behind. It's all rendered moot anyway, as Terra's very next line reveals to Aqua that it's Xehanort cavorting around in his body.
  • Hope Spot: The opening of 2.8 ends with Sora seemingly arriving to rescue Aqua from the darkness. By the time of Kingdom Hearts III, when Mickey and Riku finally do reach Aqua, she's already succumbed to the darkness and seemingly become one of Xehanort's vessels.
  • Immediate Sequel: Twofold: Aqua's story begins exactly where the Secret Episode of Birth by Sleep Final Mix left off, with her discovering the Castle of Dreams in the Realm of Darkness; the Framing Device of Mickey telling the story to Riku and Kairi takes place right after the secret ending to Dream Drop Distance.
  • Inconsistent Dub:
    • Real minor, but the Dark World, the "world" the game is set in, is really just the realm of darkness (yami no sekai) and is referred to as such in the Japanese version. The world logos are in English in the Japanese version, however, which went with the literal translation of "dark world." The English version opted for calling the level "Dark World" instead of editing the logo. Note however that this is simply what this level is called in menus—all the actual story content still uses the term "realm of darkness".
    • The 4th-tier spell level uses the -ja suffix from the Final Fantasy series, rather than the previous -za or -gun.
  • Interface Screw: One room involves numerous pillars and a mirror floor. Attacking specific pillars will cause Aqua to appear on the other side of the floor, with the screen inverting accordingly.
  • Internal Reveal: Aqua learns from Terra directly that he was subjected to Grand Theft Me at the hands of Master Xehanort. While she knew Terra was taken over by a dark entity during her battle with Terra-Xehanort in the Final Episode of Birth by Sleep, it was never concretely established that she knew the identity of Terra's possessor, hence why she asks Terra-Xehanort who he is. note  Additionally, she discovers that Xehanort is trying to use his connection to her through Terra to find out Ven's whereabouts, which was first implicated as far back as Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix.
  • Interquel: The main story takes place during the events of the first Kingdom Hearts game, right up until Mickey obtains the dark realm's Keyblade and helps close the door to Kingdom Hearts in the first game's climax.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler:
    • With the whole premise of the game being that Aqua is trapped in the Realm of Darkness and is journeying through it on her own, it's safe to say you'll know that things don't end well for her in Birth by Sleep.
    • Kairi's surprise appearance in the secret ending of Dream Drop Distance is given away, as she is present to hear about Aqua's story in preparation of the final showdown against Xehanort.
  • Lip Lock: Lip flaps are edited to match the English dialogue for the most part. There are a couple scenes where this is noticeably not the case, but it's easy to overlook since characters are usually far from the camera... with the conspicuous exception of Yen Sid, who has the camera square on him at several points during the final cutscenes and isn't synced up with his dialogue half the time.
  • Low-Level Run: Beating the game once unlocks the EXP Zero option in the Options menu, so you can attempt playing the game at Level 50.
  • MacGuffin Location: The Kingdom Hearts version of Kingdom Hearts makes another appearance.
  • Magic Mirror: Aqua comes into contact with a few of these during her time in the ruined Dwarf Woodlands. Though vacant, Aqua's interaction with them results in multiple fights against her shadowy doppelganger, Phantom Aqua.
  • Mana Meter: Since 0.2 is built on the Kingdom Hearts III engine, and due to the omission of the Command Deck in III, MP returns as Aqua's local magic resource.
  • Mirror Boss: Literally and figuratively! Once again, Aqua has to battle inside the Magic Mirror—but this time, it's against an evil copy of herself. The copy in question can perform variations of Aqua's own attacks and spells (including Spellweaver), with some Teleport Spam, Doppelgänger Spin, and Doppelgänger Attack thrown in for extra challenge. The copy's theme music is even a darker and more psychotic remix of Aqua's own Leitmotif.
  • Missing Reflection: When Aqua reaches The World Within, she has no reflection in the mirror she came through. When Aqua completes the first mirror room, a blurry, obscure reflection can be seen, becoming more and more clear until it is completely normal after completing every mirror.
  • Mood Whiplash: Right after the first story moment where Aqua reminisces on her friends and adventures in Birth by Sleep — and then notes that not just people, but also beloved pets lost their lives to the darkness — the game pops up with an explanation about the cosmetic dress-up options, complete with an example of Aqua in cat ears.
  • Mundane Solution: Remember that mysterious door in the Secret Place at Destiny Islands? The one with no doorknob and no keyhole? Mickey and Aqua open it just by pushing on it. It goes in, not out.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Once again delivered by Aqua, albeit in the form of an Inner Monologue where she makes a promise to herself to serve as a Wayfinder for those who find themselves lost in the darkness, as well as reunite with Terra and Ven again one day.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Even while trapped in the Realm of Darkness for an indeterminate period of time from her end, Aqua can sense that things are starting to go wrong in the Realm of Light.
  • Mythology Gag: In order to restore the bridge leading to the Castle of Dreams, Aqua must turn back the clock on the clock tower until it reads midnight, the same time when Cinderella's magic would wear off in the original Disney film.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The swarm of Shadow Heartless that forms a tornado is called "Demon Tide". It certainly earns its moniker due to being the final boss in the game and certainly being a force to be reckoned with, especially when it Turns Red. It's also the very reason why Aqua couldn't escape to the Realm of Light at the end of first game.
  • Nerf:
    • Carthweeling no longer has constant invincibility frames like it does in Birth by Sleep. Now you must properly time your dodge on their attacks instead of spamming it all the time and never getting hurt.
    • The Ver. 1.01 patch notably tones down Proud and Critical a little (boosted defense on Proud and boosted attack on Critical) and addresses a major complaint about the Demon Tide; instead of its eyes glowing red when it attacks, they now glow red prior to an attack.
  • New Game+: After completing the game once, you can save a Clear File. Using it to start a New Game will give Aqua all previously-completed Objectives and their appropriate Decorations for her Wardrobe, as well as all her Items that she had on her on the Clear File. In addition, a bunch of new Objectives are unlocked in New Game+, which lets you grab even more Decorations.
  • Nintendo Hard: On Critical Mode. In addition to half HP and Proud Mode enemy settings, Aqua's MP is also halved, item usage in fights is capped at three items, prizes no longer drop, and Leaf Bracer, Second Chance, and Combo Master are disabled. This severely limits Aqua's capabilities and requires the player to play much safer to survive.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: The Demon Tower is a group of Shadows working together to become more powerful. The Demon Tide is a never ending swarm of them and is a pretty powerful Final Boss.
  • Power Floats: Aqua gains the power to freely glide across the floor when casting Magic, similar to Sora's Wisdom Form.
  • Psychic Link: We finally learn the purpose of the Chamber of Repose, and why it houses Aqua's armor and Keyblade: Xemnas is using her gear as a conduit to contact Aqua through Terra's heart and trick her into divulging where she hid Ventus. Given that he already knows that Ven is in Castle Oblivion, he's most likely trying to find a bypass through its "lost in oblivion" defenses. Terra is able to restrain Xehanort from fully taking over the link, though, and cuts it off before Aqua can spill.
  • Recurring Boss:
    • The Demon Tower is fought twice, then appears again as the Demon Tide.
    • Phantom Aqua has two smaller battles where she only has one HP bar. She returns for a third time as a full-on boss battle with 3 HP bars, then again as a Bonus Boss. The reason she's this and not a Sequential Boss is the mirror portals can be accessed in any order — a few are just rooms where Heartless show up — and each mirror portal itself has a puzzle to figure out and some Heartless to fight before reaching her, even though the first and last fight can be within twenty minutes of each other.
    • Two boss-level Darksides with multiple HP bars show up in the Enchanted Dominion. Also counts as Book-Ends.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: When the Demon Tower (and later Demon Tide) is preparing to attack, the eyes of the Shadows comprising it glow red.
  • Scenery Porn: The new graphics completely overhauls the look of the Birth by Sleep worlds to make them look absolutely gorgeous, if not a little messed up.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: After beating the game once, the EXP Gain option is unlocked in Options. Setting it to "Off" is functionally identical to the EXP Zero Ability from previous games, but is now a toggled setting instead of an Ability.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: After II, the last game to use this particular combat system, was derided for being "Mash ▲ to Win: The Video Game," 0.2 took a huge leap forward in terms of difficulty; enemy aggressiveness has been greatly tuned up, the enemies in general are far more annoying and will often break out of stunlock, and on higher difficulties, regular Heartless can quickly chew through all your HP in just three or four attacks.
  • Sequel Escalation: Far more of the Castle of Dreams is explorable in this game than in Birth by Sleep, namely the town surrounding it, which was previously only seen off in the distance.
  • Sequel Hook: The game sets up where all the main characters will be for Kingdom Hearts III: Riku and Mickey set out to rescue Aqua, Kairi prepares to train as a proper Keyblade wielder alongside Lea, and Sora embarks on a journey to Olympus Coliseum with Donald and Goofy to complete his training with Hercules.
  • Shout-Out: The Objective for accomplishing a No-Damage Run against the third Phantom Aqua is called "Flawless Victory."
  • Slow-Motion Drop: While floating downward through the void, Aqua finally resigns herself to her fate and lets go of her Wayfinder.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The final boss theme of the game is an epic melody that takes place against the bright, sunny backdrop of the Destiny Islands.
  • Spell Levels: 0.2 marks the introduction of proper, usable 4th-tier Magic (Zero Graviza aside) via Situation Commands, although this time, yet another suffix for 4th-tier magic is introduced; namely, the "-ja" suffix from the mainline Final Fantasy games is finally borrowed.note 
  • Standard Status Effects: Some of the statuses introduced in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days are added to this game's Magic, such as being able to Freeze enemies with Blizzaga or afflict Jolt with Thundaga.
  • The Swarm: Thought Shadows were harmless, did you? The Demon Tide is a colossal swarm of them that does not go down easily.
  • Taking the Bullet: Non-lethal example. Aqua and Mickey make it to the other side of the door to Kingdom Hearts, just as Riku is rushing to close it from that side. The earlier swarm of Shadows attacks and breaks free of Aqua's restraints. Mickey takes a hit protecting Riku and it somehow dissolves his shirt, while Aqua is dragged by the swarm back into the Realm of Darkness.
  • A Taste of Power: On a meta scale, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 serves as this to Kingdom Hearts III. Aqua starts the game at Level 50 with the Master's Defender and already knows several mid-game skills, including all 3rd-tier Magic, Air Slide, Aerial Recovery, Doubleflight, and Prism Rain.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: "Terra" plays during its namesake's (meta)physical struggle with Xehanort, though it's initially subverted in that Xehanort has a slight advantage until Terra musters up enough willpower out of his concern for Aqua and Ven (as well as his pre-established hatred of Xehanort) to temporarily immobilize his captor.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Some of Aqua's moves have received upgrades. For example, her default finisher now adds an additional pair of orbs that spread across the ground, and the Spellweaver Finish Command adds a giant ice crystal that explodes at the move's end to deal massive area of effect damage. Her Prism Rain Shotlock has also received a buff that increases its maximum Lock count to 28, and Blizzard magic now has homing properties like Fire magic does.
    • A bunch of lowly Shadow Heartless are seen conglomerating into a giant tower of Shadows that proceeds to engage Aqua in a mini-boss battle.
    • Following up on the above example, an even stronger and denser tower of lowly Shadows engage Aqua and Mickey in a fight in a destroyed Destiny Islands later in the game, with 13 bars of health this time and a core of darkness at the center.
    • Terra fares noticeably better in his Fighting from the Inside against Xehanort, starting to make good on the former's Heroic Resolve speech (and, implicitly, The Reveal of Eraqus's heart as a Spanner in the Works) from Blank Points.
  • The Unfought: Aqua's reunion with Terra looks to set up a rematch between her and Terra-Xehanort, with Terra possibly playing a supporting role like he did in their first battle, but it's quickly shut down as soon as it starts: Aqua is grabbed by a Darkside through a Corridor of Darkness and loses consciousness before she's presumably pulled in, right as Terra has incapacitated Xehanort, preventing him from taking further action against Aqua or Ven.
  • Virtual Paper Doll: You can dress up Aqua now with hair, arms, and back accessories, and even recolor and change the patterns of her sleeves and skirt. They're not equipment or anything of the like, however, and they do not affect your stats.
  • Wham Shot: The end of the CG opening, where Aqua looks up to see Sora's hand reaching out to her, and the two grasp hands as the screen fades to white before we get a first person view of someone (presumably Aqua) breaching the water's surface.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Riku calls out Mickey and Yen Sid for not telling them about Aqua before, especially Aqua saving Riku from a Heartless ambush without his knowing, saying that they could have saved her much earlier. However, Yen Sid explains that if they had told the others about Aqua then Riku, or more probably Sora, would have eagerly run into the darkness to save her despite being too weak, not to mention the fact that the heroes still don't have a reliable method for entering and exiting the Realm of Darkness easily.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The majority of the game's events are related by Mickey to Riku and Kairi between the events of Dream Drop Distance and Kingdom Hearts III.
  • Wolfpack Boss: While they each only have one health bar, the Demon Tower and Demon Tide are nothing more than hordes of hundreds of ordinary Shadows attacking all at once. At another point, Aqua fights a horde of Darksides that are all contributing power to a gigantic orb of darkness over their heads. While she only attacks the center one holding the orb up, which is supercharged in its abilities by the orb, doing so overloads the orb and destroys all of the other Darksides in the area. Phantom Aqua also has multiple attacks where she creates numerous copies of herself, though only one is real enough to be attacked. All of this emphasizes just how hostile a place the Realm of Darkness truly is to those from the Realm of Light: literally everyone and everything in the world is your enemy.
  • Word Salad Title: In the series' grand tradition. Especially if you include the title of the collection this appears in: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue: Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Aqua gets hit with this a number of times, just to ensure she never has lasting solace in the Realm of Darkness. The first happens when she sees Terra and Ven in the Castle of Dreams and Dwarf Woodlands, respectively, only to discover they're just illusions. Then she finally manages to reunite with Terra at Enchanted Dominion, but complications surrounding his possession by Xehanort force them to split up, while Ven is present but not even conscious. Finally, it turns out that Aqua was present on the other side of the Door to Darkness with Mickey and Riku during the first game's events, meaning she could've had a chance to reach the Realm of Light together with them had they not been separated by a Heartless ambush (by a swarm of Shadows, no less).
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Time moves oddly in the Realm of Darkness. Aqua's obviously been trapped for a while, but it appears that she hasn't experienced it as ten years like characters in the Realm of Light have.

Alternative Title(s): Kingdom Hearts Zero Point Two Birth By Sleep A Fragmentary Passage

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