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Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Review

September 18, 2010

When the first Kingdom Hearts was released it had a big effect on me, in a way no game has ever done before. So once KHII came out, I didn’t feel the same feeling as the first Kingdom Hearts. With Birth By Sleep a new entry to the series that combines all the good features from all the Kingdom Hearts games and puts them to the test & does it very well. With Disney worlds, flashy Keyblades, light versus darkness and an engaging story.

KH: Birth By Sleep acts as a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series and it takes place 10 years before the events of Kingdom Hearts. The game allows you to play as 3 different characters with each their own adventure. Although the 3 stories do intertwined during some parts of the game and you might have to see a cutscene more than once which occasionally happens. Our 3 hero’s do cross paths, but they do battle different bosses, play different mini games and go through different sections in some Disney worlds. That’s pretty much the basic outline of the games story. 3 stories, 3 characters, 1 main story.

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King Mickey showing off to the girls.

The games visuals are really impressive if compared to its older brother KHII and especially for a handheld. Also knowing that having it on the PSP will come with limitations, sometimes I would forget I’m playing this on a handheld or sometimes I would even ask myself, how much more can the developers actually cram into the UMD? Every Disney character is parallel to their animated counterpart. The game also captures each film’s atmosphere perfectly and give the player some sense of nostalgia. Yet some level designs come packed with interactive features, yet many come as dull and very empty and are just made to walk right through them. What Square Enix need to focus on in their next entry in the series is the level design. The levels are split into sections with most having minimum interaction. Most have only enemies appearing, slay them and move onto the next section of the area and to my surprise, more emptiness. The only level design I thought was done really well is Disney Town. Now in each area of this world it contains a mini game of some kind or platforming elements the player can interact with. From kart racing, to ice cream making to, pinball (you’re the ball). When compared to the other worlds in the game which are all battle oriented, it wouldn’t hurt inserting a puzzle or some platforming elements here or there. This game does it, only just in a world or two.

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Terra & Aqua battling it out!

The camera deserves a whole section on its own. It’s a nuisance. While in an intense battle, I click R & L at the same time to lock on an enemy and instead it locks onto the closest object next to me…a vase or something as ridiculous as an enemy behind a wall beyond your reach. The camera in the series has its flaws and these flaws remain to be unfixed. I actually think they’ve become worse in this game. To lock off the object, it takes you a number of tries and by that time you’d be dead if playing on the harder difficulties. Plus the long loading times could slow down the pace of the game and even after the full data installation, they’re still long.

Gameplay is very fun and engaging. You’d find yourself repeating the same thing over and over but never getting bored. The battle system itself is really fun, I’d say it’s the best in the series. You have a deck just like in Chain of Memories. In each deck slot you can insert an ability and it could be used by pressing triangle, although you can still unleash your normal combo’s by attacking with X. The game allows you to level up your abilities and meld them together to create a even stronger ability or sometimes to even create a new ability altogether if melded with the right items. Magic is much more useful in this game that it can actually be a life saver and for once in the KH series, I found myself using it frequently which is really surprising since the game’s magic was pretty weak and useless in the previous KH entries.

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The trio combining forces.

In battle you will have a command gauge and the more combos you unleash and land, the more your command gauge will fill up and depending on what abilities or attacks you’ve used to charge it up, you will transform to an elemental form such as Diamond Dust (ice) or Thunderbolt (electricity) and others to use their unique abilties. This is just a different way of forming just like in KHII where you can form with your party members and become in Final Form, Wisdom Form and so on. Dimensional-Link is a feature where you can can use another characters abilities. So if you’re playing with Ventus and would like to use Aqua’s command deck, you can forge a D-Link with her and many other characters such as Stich, Peter Pan, Terra, Zack and many more.

Another plus for this title is that it’s packed with content. 3 campaigns with each to take you around 8-10 hours to complete. Then you have the Mirage Arena which acts as the Olympus Collisseum. In the arena you can you play each challenge online(not really online but is actually local play) with someone to help or offline. You can also challenge other players in Versus mode. For winning you receive medals which can be exchanged at the Mirage Arena shop for team based abilities and other goodies. The multiplayer in this game is fun and challenging yet its downside is it cannot be played online and only locally with a friend, although the modes are disguised as online. The game also has command boards which are board games. Think of it as Monopoly. Winning allows you to level up your abilities that you’ve used and also discover new abilities.

Aqua playing Fruitball in Disney Town.
Aqua playing Fruitball in Disney Town.

The voice acting and music in the game is excellent just like we’re used to. With each world having its own theme music and a reprised Dearly Beloved playing at the main menu, what could be better? What I would have improved with the game’s music is by making each track longer. You play in a world for more than an hour and all you keep hearing is a track that is replayed every 10 seconds or so.  Moving on to Terra’s voice which is a total let down. Terra’s voice shows no emotion in the lines he delivers and this effects the story as I, as a player couldn’t seem to be able to connect with him. I couldn’t even take him seriously, because of his…voice. Good thing he fights better than he talks.

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Ventus becomes mouse sized.

KH: Birth By Sleep has its few share of flaws yet this doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth checking out or nor does it draw away from what made the Kingdom Hearts games fun and engaging. I would go as far as saying I had more fun with Birth By Sleep than KHII and that’s saying a lot. If you want a bang for your buck or if you’re a KH fan, get this game because you won’t be disappointed.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo!

Score: 8.5

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