Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep started it all

Overview
And when I say started it all, I mean that it’s a prequel to all of the previous Kingdom Hearts games that were released before it. This game has been long awaited by new and old fans alike, and now the biggest question is: does this newest game in the Kingdom Hearts series satiate the hunger fans have acquired since it was announced?

In my humble opinion I’m going to go ahead and assume yes! :)

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep was originally released by Square Enix in Japan January 9, 2010. US gamers were lucky enough to see it the same year Sept 7th, 2010 and Europe got a hold of it just 3 days later after the US (Sept 10, 2010).

Word on the interwebs is that gamers who couldn’t wait for its US release were importing the game like crazy, and for good reason too. This is the 6th installment in the Kingdom Hearts series. It has very well done action rpg elements, and it strives to tell how everything started before the previous Kingdom Hearts titles like I stated before, and you will even see old favorites like: Riku, Sora, and Kairi. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to play them as they are just a part of the story.

You will however get to enjoy the game in 3 scenarios that tell a whole new story with Aqua, Ventus, and Terra.
So let’s take a look at the important aspects of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep for the PsP.

Story

Story

As you already know Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is the prequel to the original Kingdom Hearts game on the Ps2.
It tells the story of the 3 Keyblade users: Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. Each with their own personalities and different aspects on how their own storylines unfold.

Never trust a man with yellow eyes...

In the beginning of the game, 2 of the characters are testing to become Keyblade masters. Their teacher Master Eraqus gets word from Yen Sid that the Princesses of Heart are in danger by new monsters called the unversed, and Master Xehanort all of a sudden disappears. This leads our heroes on a search to find him and also figure out how to defeat the Unversed.

In all honesty you could start the game off in any way that you please. But the best way to experience the game would be in the chronological order that events unfold. Meaning: Terra, Ventus, and then Aqua last.
Terra’s Storyline has him moving from world to world looking for Master Xehanort, and dealing with his own personal demons. Then Ventus, for the most part is following right after Terra trying to find him. Then Aqua’s storyline has her coming to the same worlds at the end and seeing how the actions of Terra/Ventus have affected the worlds…and somewhat cleaning up after them. :)

It all comes together once you’ve finished all three scenarios. (Especially when you start catching glimpses of characters from previous Kingdom Hearts titles.) ;)

Characters

Terra

Ventus

Aqua

Gameplay

Gameplay

The gameplay in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is totally on par, if not better then past Kingdom Hearts titles.
The 1st big thing that you will notice when playing KH:BBS is the absense of the 2 extra party members to assist you. This actually isn’t that big of deal with the sheer amount of attacks and abilities you gain throughout the game, and also it’s most likely due to the fact that the game is being played on the Playstation Portable. So that’s understandable.

What the devs at Square Enix were able to accomplish on the PsP though was to give this game graphics on par with its Ps2 predecessors. It’s pretty amazing how well this game plays. Although in the beginning it may not look as good graphically, as soon as you get a chance make sure you go into the options and change the games colors to its highest setting and put the PsP up to 333MHz. With these settings, you will not experience too much slowdown if any and it makes loading faster. Just keep in mind these settings will drain your battery quicker. ;)

~Combat~

As I stated before combat is a single player affair for the most part. There are usually lots of enemies on screen, but only the character you are currently playing with, will be shown on screen attacking the monsters.

There are two big things of note here though concerning combat. They are Commands and the new D-Link system.

Commands are the skills that you use in combat when you’re not doing normal attacks. They range anywhere from physical keyblade attacks, to Thundaga or Curaga magic type Commands.
The main Combat Commands can be used once, then your skill set moves to the next available Combat Command that is not recharging.
When you initially start the game you will only have 3 command slots for regular attacks in combat.

As you level up though you will eventually get more slots thus allowing you to ‘Equip’ more Command skills.
Now one thing that I personally like is the fact that the more you use a certain command the more it levels up!

With this feature you will get some good use out of your favorite Commands or the best Commands for a particular stage in the game. Once a Command gets to a certain level you can also try your hand at Melding two Commands together to get a new one.

Besides playing the mini-game Command Board, melding commands is the best way to get new, stronger commands earlier in the game. It does require a little bit of grinding for CP to level the commands, and trial and error, but it really does pay off when you have Curaga early for some of the tougher fights. Like the Mysterious Figure fight!

Now as the picture above shows when you are Melding Commands, if you use a synthesis item to meld with the commands sometimes you will get extra abilities linked with that particular Command. These abilities are helpful things like Scan to tell you how much HP the boss has left, or allowing you to do a longer Combo Chain while you are doing normal attacks.
Once the Command that you have equipped gets to its max level that ability becomes yours to keep.

The last thing about Commands that I wanted to mention involves the way you use them in combat.
As you attack in combat a gauge fills up over your Command skill list. Once that gauge fills up your character goes into his/her default special attacking mode, (called Command Style) allowing them to do more magic/physical attacks. Eventually by the time you make the gauge fill up to its max level you will do a Finisher move.

Now depending on what Commands you have used, these Finishers will change accordingly. Like if you continuously use Fire Attacks on enemies, you will go into FireStorm ‘Command Style’, and your finisher will resemble a Fire Area of Effect attack.

Just keep using new commands in different orders and you will find new Command Styles and cool Finishers. I think its a neat touch by Square Enix, and it doesn’t make combat too repetitive. :)

Now as far as D-Links are concerned in the very beginning of the game you will have the option to D-Link with your friends and other people you meet throughout your adventures. All this means is that you will summon their skills to your character and you can use them.

D-Links are neat to use especially if you aren’t taking the time to level and meld commands, or if you forget to equip the Cure spell or a Potion as a Command. Besides that however they aren’t really needed in the game for completion.

The only time I used D-Link heavily was when I played Terra’s scenario, and I used the Ventus D-Link because of the haste buff. (Terra moves really slow)
I will say that it is neat to see what skills specific Disney characters give you when you D-Link in combat with them though. :)


Other then those two main points, combat in KH:BBS is pretty smooth. You will notice the slight differences in play-style when you choose your next character from your starting one. It shouldn’t throw you off too much. ;)

The one thing that will annoy some, will be the fact that you have to grind some of the exact same Commands to get some of the new ones, since none of the things you did previously switches to your new character. So that in itself is a pain.

~Mini-Games~
There are a lot of mini-games in KH:BBS. A couple of them are pure evil in regards to fairness when playing them. And some are actually a nice break from the game such as the racing one in Disney Town. That is if you are any good at it.

The one that is most important to the game however is the Command Board.

The best way to explain the Command Board would be monopoly with your Commands as your game pieces, and your current character the person you move.
The main purpose of the Command Board is to obtain new commands without melding, so if you’re bored, and tired of melding go take a break at the Command Board. Just don’t set the Points on the game win to high, because some of the games can take a while.

Other mini-games are a soccer like game called fruitball, a music game, and Sticker Crowns.

~Multiplayer?~
Yes this is the last thing I’ll be talking about in gameplay. The infamous Multiplayer Features in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.
The game uses Ad-Hoc mode and allows anywhere from 2-6 players to play in different mini-games with each other.
The things you can do for Multiplayer are as follows:

  1. Create your own character
  2. Arena Match: Beat up enemies in Co-op.
  3. Racing
  4. Command Board
  5. And once you’ve played with friends you can actually D-Link their skills! :D


I personally haven’t gotten a chance (yet) to experience the Multiplayer feature yet, but for those of you who have, please let me know if you enjoyed it.

Noteworthy

  • When you first start up the game you will be given the choice of the above difficulty levels. Standard is normal mode, Proud and Critical are slightly harder. To unlock the secret movie in Standard mode you have to get 100% completion on the Reports and finish the final scenario. To get the secret movie in Proud mode and Critical mode all you have to do is finish the final scenario. Believe it or not it’s harder to get 100% completion for the Reports then it is to play in Proud mode so I would just play Proud mode. :)
  • Even though I didn’t talk about it much the Focus gauge on your screen allows you to use the Shotlock Skill and it’s used for special QTE (Quick Time Event) attacks. Shotlock is hard to use in combat because enemies like to slap you when you stand still for too long so just remember that.
  • If you’ve ever played Kingdom Hearts 1 and/or 2 you will notice that Terra represents Goofy with his strong, slow attacks. Ventus represents Sora with his quick agile attacks, and of course Aqua represents Donald with her pure focus on magic.
  • Kingdom Hearts 2 and KH2: Final Mix had the secret movie that showed these same characters in it.
  • There are 12 Worlds that you will visit overall with ~7 of them being Disney type worlds so you can expect to see:
  1. Neverland (Peter Pan)
  2. Stitch (Lilo & Stitch)
  3. Cinderella
  4. Snow White (& the 7 Dwarves)
  5. Disney Town
  6. Hercules (Olympus Coliseum)
  7. Sleeping Beauty
  • Terra’s scenario is about 20 hours long.
  • Ventus’s scenario is about 15 hours long.
  • Aqua’s scenario is about 10 hours long.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is about 50+ hours long for the average gamer.
  • There is no gummi ship to travel between worlds :(
  • But you do get a neat Keyblade Glider to travel. :)
  • As of this review, the game has only been released on UMD, so if you own a PsP Go. You are out of luck for acquiring this game until Sony/Square Enix decide to make it downloadable on PSN.
  • There are actually 4 scenarios.

Image Gallery
This image gallery contains screenshots, fan art, and art for Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. Enjoy! :)

Videos

Kingdom Hearts: BBS Preview pt1

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Kingdom Hearts: BBS Preview pt2

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Kingdom Hearts: BBS Preview pt3

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Kingdom Hearts: BBS Preview pt4

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Pros & Cons
Here is a list of Pros and Cons for Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.
Pros:

  • Terra and Aqua’s storyline are the best ones to play.
  • Combat gameplay is fast, fun, and hectic.
  • The 3 main scenarios gives you three insights into the full storyline, and answers some big questions about previous KH titles.
  • The graphics are on par with the Ps2 graphics.

Cons:

  • Command Grinding in each scenario can get annoying.
  • Minigames in each scenario are definitely repetitive.
  • Aqua’s voice actress sounds like she is bored sometimes.
  • Some questions in the Kingdom Hearts universe are still left unanswered.

Words From Z
Overall I think this is by far one of the best game in the Kingdom Hearts series. The combat in the game is amazing, and the storyline is definitely interesting. If you are a long time fan this is truly one to add to your collection, and if you are a newcomer to the series make sure to check out the other games first because this game’s combat system might spoil you.

So what are you waiting for?
Have you played it yet?

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