Title: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
Release Date: 7th September 2010
Genre: Action RPG, Open World
Developer: Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
– Great story
– Fun combat system
– Stunning graphics, similar to PS2 version
– Hectic fighting
– Fun multiplayer
– Camera and Lock-on system doesn’t work well
Reviewed by FrontalSpy
Kingdom Hearts, one of the many RPGs that have bamboozled us with a confusing story, a fun combat system, one of the weirdest weapons; a Keyblade and something heaps different from other RPGs, being able to play and vs Disney characters in their own worlds. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is set ten years before the original so it won’t star any of the major characters from the first like Sora, but you will be playing three characters with their own different stories.
The game starts off traditional Kingdom Hearts, with an “Awakening” with Ventus or Ven. After a tutorial you’ll meet to the two other main characters; Terra and Aqua who will be competing in the Mark of Mastery exam, where whoever proves themselves worthy and become a Keyblade Master, picked by their master, Master Eraqus. Although Ventus is not old enough he too fights in the test. Only Aqua becomes a Keyblade Master and Terra didn’t because he had darkness in his heart. Master Xehanort, an old acquaintance of Eraqus, appears before Terra telling him he can control the darkness. But a then suddenly Terra and Aqua are being called to see Eraqus because Master Xehanort is missing and Yen Sid also told him that the worlds are in danger of being overrun by darkness. Eraqus sends Terra to look for Xehanort while defeating the darkness that is called “unversed”. Aqua has been commanded by Eraqus to look after Terra so that when he becomes closer to the darkness, she would bring him back to Master Eraqus. When Terra is about to take off, Ventus meets him and tells ask him if he could follow. Terra declines and leaves, but Ven follows him nevertheless. At this surprise Eraqus also pleads Aqua to bring Ven back as well. Will the Keyblade users save the world’s from darkness or will Terra become it instead?
The game is split into 3 stories; Terra, Ven and Aqua each can be played in any order and lasting about 10 hours each. But for the best experience play it as Terra then Ven and finally Aqua or the way it already is. Each story has its own save so you can switch to each at any time. Of course each story will be different, but you’ll visit the same worlds and characters and at some times meet either of the main characters. Each character has a unique fighting style, Terra- is slow but powerful, Ven- is weak but fast and Aqua- is all about magic. Each character has their share of the story, but only you will understand when you complete all three stories. Once and if you understand, it is just a great and impacting story. Just like Jimmy’s Journal, you’ll have a detailed understanding of what happened so far in your report. This also contains all your game’s progress on how many treasures have you found or the amount of stickers found. This can be addictive trying to get 100%, but it is difficult.
Just like other Kingdom Heart games you will be able to visit Disney worlds. Instead of traveling in-between planets with the gumiship you will be using your Keyblade Glider. There are 12 worlds to visit in Birth by Sleep, 7 of which are Disney worlds. You will be traveling to worlds and Disney classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella. You will have to interact with the characters like Stitch, Hercules and Peter Pan just like what would happen without you or the Unversed in the Disney films. The worlds like in the original looks and sound as real as the films. The characters sound like they should; the environments and epic boss battles remind you of your childhood watching Disney films. The voices are generally great but two of the main characters; Terra and Aqua were just bad. They lacked heart and emotion, and since you’ll be controlling them you will laugh at how pathetic it is. But after a while you will get use to them. Leonard Nimoy does a great job at voicing Xehanort as well as Mark Hamill voicing Master Eraqus.
The combat is similar to Kingdom Hearts 2 but it has improved and made it more fun. You have your usual health bar but now there are two new things: D-Links and Focus gauge. The D-Link is very similar to summons, using the characters you met you can use their abilities to help you in fight and use their finishing moves to give you an advantage. Also similar with summons you can level D-Links up to give you newer and stronger abilities and attacks. The Focus gauge is like a special and is used for the ‘Shot Lock’ ability. Shot Locks let you target enemies until it reaches the max number and you unleash a fury of attacks depending on the Shot Lock. There isn’t any MP in BBS, so all magic attacks are the same as attack skills. Using the same mechanic as Chain of Memories, you create decks of commands filled with magic attacks, melee attacks and even items. This system requires you to press Triangle to use the ability and unlike CoM you don’t have to shuffle your cards again, it will reload simultaneously. This takes a twist on the usual button mashing as using these commands are useful and great looking. These can also be leveled up, making them stronger and once they reach max level, you can fuse them with other commands. Just like in Crisis Core fusing command will grant you stronger ones but there are also crystals that give the fused ability passive abilities for the character like Life Bracer or Last Chance. One final thing about the combat are Command Styles, which once charged will let you change into a more powerful form, this is like Drive forms from KH 2.
The graphics in BBS are just as good as the PS2 counterparts. There will be some slow down on more intense action but this can be avoided by changing the settings from 16bit color to 32 bit and Accelerating the game speed to 333. All the characters and worlds look amazing for the PSP, considering how many games don’t look too good. BBS pushes the PSP to its limit. One major problem is the camera and lock-on system. Controlling the camera on default uses the bumper buttons, and taping both locks-on to the nearest enemy. While this sounds good on paper, it is quite messy and bad. The camera is mostly in a bad position and the lock-on doesn’t always respond, locking on the wrong opponent or just not targeting altogether.
There are many minigames in BBS ranging from racing, to a rhythm game to the epic Monopoly like game. These are all on one planet and some are quite boring but the rest are fun, breaking down the flow of the hectic game to a slow standstill. Most of these games are playable online. The singleplayer of Birth by Sleep is almost perfect aside from the camera issue.
Singleplayer Score- 95/100
Now this isn’t the first Kingdom Hearts to have multiplayer but it is the most fun (out of the two). There is a world called Mirage Arena, where you can go online or offline battling in many modes. Once your on Mirage Arena you can customize your character (only in amour) by changing the color. This is used to distinguish your pink friend. There are 4 multiplayer modes in total; VS. Arena which is a three player competitive game to find out who is the best, Arena Mode which lets you and your friends defeat waves of enemies, Rumble Racing which is just a racing mode and Command Board the Monopoly type game. For the arena modes you can use your character’s stats and abilities from the Singleplayer to help and defeat your friends. There are also commands available for Mirage Arena that help your teammates like Group Cure or team attacks like Trinity Limit. In order to get these you need to acquire medals which are earned after each event depending on the difficulty and position of the outcome. But not all events are unlocked at first; you need to level up your Arena Level by completing the different modes and achievements according to your report. One small complaint is the lag of it, some frame rate issues are quite constant but as long as you have your data installed, its fine. The multiplayer is just plain fun, hectic and awesome, but shame it is only Ad Hoc.
Multiplayer score 95/100
Overall Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is one if not the best in the series. After a few average Kingdom Heart releases, Square has finally perfected its successor to Final Fantasy. The graphics are on par with the PS2 Kingdom Hearts, the sound and environments are all true to the Disney films so are the characters and their voices and a long 30 hour campaign and great story. The combat has been hugely improved in favor of using commands, Shot Locks and D-Links to make the game more hectic, fun, fast and actiony. The multiplayer is just not what I expected, it is something way better, taking on bosses with your friends or knocking them out with a key. Though you will need a few friends with PSPs and copies of the game to experience the full Kingdom Hearts treatment or it will be less fun. One last tip is to install the game, it is 650mb but it is worth it, cutting down loading times and frame rate issues by heaps. Birth by Sleep is just brilliant.