Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Review

Publisher

Square Enix

Developer:

Square Enix

Platform: 

PSP

Release Date: 

September 7, 2010

Genre

:

Action RPG 

Rating

:

E

Player:

Single

-

Jovan St. Lawrence

We can thank the PSP for very few games in my honest opinion. I didn’t feel that Sony’s first venture into handheld gaming was the best they could have hoped for. Although, that isn’t to say the PSP is a bad piece of hardware and/or a waste of time. Great games such as Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, The 3rd Birthday, and the PSP version of Little Big Planet with various others have offered dozens of hours worth of great experiences and lasting appeal. However, the PSP has offered very little in terms of worthwhile software to match their amazing hardware. But enough about the negativity. Let’s get into the subject of 

Kingdom Hearts

, a franchise that has spawned as much love & support as frustration and impatience. This is mostly due to the fact that we haven’t seen a proper console sequel to Kingdom Hearts II in six whole years. Although, we should be closing in on the eventual Kingdom Hearts III, the handheld efforts have been satisfying to a certain extent. I did enjoy 358/2 Days, and Chain of Memories (until I got really pissed and decided to wait for the PS2 remake later on), and Re: Coded wasn’t a bad installment either. As we close in on the upcoming 3DS Kingdom Hearts game, Dream Drop Distance, we’re going to talk about the 2010 release of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, the sixth installment in the now 10 year Disney/Final Fantasy crossover action RPG.

Tetsuya Nomura, the creator of Kingdom Hearts, announced Birth By Sleep in 2007, alongside, 358/2 Days and Re:Coded both for the Nintendo DS at Tokyo Game Show September of that year. We were shown that Birth By Sleep has a brand new battle system, which was a fresh new take on the game’s somewhat stale and aging combat from previous games. I personally think this was something Kingdom Hearts needed in all honesty. I have many things to say about Birth By Sleep, so much so that I’m dividing this into three parts. Hope you like memorization kids!

Birth By Sleep is a prequel to the original Kingdom Hearts, taking place ten years prior. Therefore, new characters are added and established in their atmosphere. Terra, Aqua, & Ventus are the three protagonists of the game and the player will get the chance to go through each of them in their own stories from their own points of view. It all starts with the Mark of Mastery exam. Terra & Aqua are eligible to partake and compete in this test which isn’t explained very well, but nonetheless, it happens. Two masters of the Keyblade arts, Eraqus (voiced by Mark Hamill; Luke Skywalker) & Xehanort (voiced by Leonard Nimoy; Mr. Spock) spectate the exam. Their master, Eraqus, sees that Terra is struggling with “the darkness” in his heart and therefore, grants the title of master to Aqua. Not too long after, good ‘ol Yen Sid (we remember that guy from Fantasia, and Kingdom Hearts 2) informs Eraqus that a new enemy known simply as the Unversed are ravaging other worlds and gives Terra & Aqua the task to venture to said worlds and raise hell with their Keyblades on their new enemies. Xehanort immediately leaves without explanation and it surprises me completely that nobody starts to point fingers at Xehanort or at the very least questions whether or not he has anything to do with the Unversed suddenly appearing in other worlds and his own sudden disappearance.

For those who haven’t played Birth By Sleep, Master Xehanort screams pure chaos and absolute evil, however, during Terra’s campaign he openly listens to him and take his word on almost everything he says without questioning his motives or motivations. A few people had this same problem and it made Terra’s story a bit underwhelming and irritating to have to go through because of how gullible he is. As I said earlier, you play through the game as Terra, Aqua, & Ventus. Nomura stated that the correct order is Terra, Ventus & Aqua. However, you can play through the three stories whichever way you like. New Disney worlds such as, Deep Space (Lilo & Stitch), Enchanted Dominion (Sleeping Beauty), Castle of Dreams (Cinderella), and Dwarf Woodlands (Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs) are all introduced in Birth By Sleep.

The game utilizes an overhauled battle system different from previous games with new elements such as The Command Board, Command System, and Dimensional Links or D-Links. This game allows players to customize their “decks” by choosing which techniques and abilities to display. Another new gameplay aspect is the Command System; when the command gauge is filled and requirements have been fulfilled, the Command Style of the character will change. When the gauge fills up and the requirements have been fulfilled for the second time, the character will change to an even higher level Command Style.

A new feature of the game is the Command Board, which appears whenever the player completes a world, and can be accessed from save points and the world map once unlocked. This is basically the Kingdom Hearts version of Mario Party. Each world has its own unique Command Board with its own tricks and mechanisms. The Command Board plays like a regular board game where a die is thrown and the player moves, each space having its own unique effect on the player. Various Disney characters from throughout the game also appear on their respective Command Board to either aid or hinder the player. Special panels in the board game can trigger “special events” when landed on by the player.

There are two levels of Command Styles, the Level One Command Styles, which change your basic attack command with the “Surge” command, which racks up powerful combos depending on what Command Style is activated. When additional commands are activated within the Level One Command Style, and if requirements are fulfilled, it activates a Level Two Command Style, which then changes your “Surge” command with an even more powerful “Storm” command. Each Command Styles have unique finishers by the end of the combo.

The game does not utilize a Magic Points (MP) system for spells or magic casting, unlike in previous games in the series. Instead it uses a new system known as “Focus” which is displayed in a gauge on the interface, involving targeting spells using what is known as the “ShotLock Mode”. It also involves the characters casting spells in a first person mode, where each character is able to cast their own unique magic attacks.

Another new aspect of the game is the Dimension Link (D-Link) which can be used to summon allies to lend their power to aid the player from different worlds. Companions such as Experiment 626 who have been left behind in previous worlds can be called upon once again to temporarily aid the player in his or her, by providing them with an entirely new range of attacks in their command decks replacing the usual ones. At the end, a new powerful finishing move is activated to take out enemies. Each ally used will have a unique set of attacks and finishing moves. Each finishing move has two levels which can render a finishing move more powerful than before, similar to that of the Command System. The D-Link can be activated by pressing right on the directional pad to access the D-Link menu, followed by selecting the chosen ally namely, Experiment 626, Aqua, Ventus, Terra, and several others.

The game supports up to six players at a time in four new multiplayer modes. Players control one of the three main characters suited in armor in a world known as the Mirage Arena. In Versus, players fight against each other in a deathmatch style game, while in Arena players fight co-operatively in a “Survival Mode” style of gameplay against wave after wave of Unversed. In Rumble Racing, players race against each other competitively on their Keyblade vehicles which can also be used to attack rivals. In Command Board, players play a board game on the in-game Command Board mechanic to reach the end first like in traditional board games. Setting records in the Mirage Arena earns players medals which can be exchanged for rare items in-game. Only Ad-Hoc wireless multiplayer is allowed.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is a wonderful experience and a must-have for Kingdom Hearts fans all over. The graphics, music, and gameplay are incredible for a PSP title. The wide variety of customization available to the players in vast to say the least. Boss fights are very unique and can be challenging at times as well. The characterization should have been better though. The fact that the player knows who the villain is before the character does isn’t the bad thing. It’s when the character is too stupid to realize that he is staring the main villain in the face is what gets me. Camera view can be sporadic during prolonged battles especially boss battles and there is a sizable amount of loading times. All in all, Birth By Sleep is an enjoyable experience all Kingdom Hearts fans can have as we wait for that Kingdom Hearts III announcement that will never come.

The Pros

:

  • A new story to fill in necessary plotholes in the Kingdom Hearts universe
  • New likable characters to experience (except for Terra, he is dumb) 
  • Brand new, in-depth battle system with impressive customization
  • Great new voices to add to the already amazing voice acting
  • Three linked character campaigns blend in seamlessly
  • Disney environments feel authentic and not forced at all

The Cons

:

  • Camera issues still plague the Kingdom Hearts franchise
  • Annoyingly long load times, unless you install the full game of course
  • Command Board is overall useless 
  • Rumble Racing is the worst mini-game of all to experience

Verdict

: 90%

Kingdom Heart: Birth By Sleep Opening

With Birth By Sleep being one of the best sellers on the PSP handheld, do you think it deserves the right to stand with the rest of the games?

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