REVIEW: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
Kingdom Hearts, that bizarre series with an anime boy, a big key and whole ton of Disney characters. It's one of the games a lot of people love because it's Kingdom Hearts, and hate... well, because it's Kingdom Hearts. Be it story, characters, combat, and so on, I'm sure most gamers know what a Keyblade is.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Playstation Portable
If you've been following the Kingdom Hearts franchise, you'd know that most of them (besides 358/2 Days) lets you control a young boy named Sora. Fighting the evil beings called heartless and visiting various Disney worlds. That is not the case in Birth By Sleep, well to a degree. You have control over three protagonists this time around, each with their own story which connect to each other forming the over all events of the game.
Terra, the power type. Donning his, what I like to call, samurai pants is a very noble character seeking the approval of his master. What he lacks in speed and magic ability makes up for in brute force. His slow but powerful strikes eat away at enemy hit points like a hot knife through butter.
Ventus, the speed type. Ventus plays pretty much like the characters from previous Kingdom Hearts games, namely Sora and Roxas. His youth and agility let him pull off dodge rolls and quick strikes with decent attack power. Probably the most balanced character out of the three and is usually the obvious starter choice for most players.
And then we have Aqua, the magic type. Aqua can land speedy hits with her Keyblade but lacks the physical strength to actually get the job done. Though she may not have the arm strength to make foes quiver with fear, she definitely has the magical prowess to clear the screen of badiess in a flash. Fire, ice or thunder, Aqua can cast spells while cartwheeling around the field.
The story starts off with Terra and Aqua going through a trial to become Keyblade master. With Aqua being the only one awarded with the title. Shortly after this, their master is alerted of trouble occurring in other worlds and the cause of it being creatures formed from fledgling emotions. They have been labeled as "the unversed". Terra is ordered to travel to those worlds to deal with the unversed and prove to himself to his master.
I won't delve deeper into the story as it gets pretty lengthy from there. The main gist of it is the typical "there's evil roaming about and the heroes have to stop it yadda yadda". The story is pretty good with each character taking at least 8 to 10 hours to complete on the standard difficulty. Of course to appreciate the story more you'd need to have played the previous Kingdom Hearts games as this is a prequel and ties up a lot of loose ends.
Gameplay and Features:
Gameplay is your typical KH flair, exploration combined with mild platforming and battles with the unversed. I do like the combat in Birth By Sleep over past KH titles. It feels less floaty and more skill based, button mashing can only get you so far.
Aside from your normal keyblade attacks you have commands which you can customize in your command deck. Battle commands range from attack commands, magic, items and friendship (for multiplayer). Attack and magic commands level up, when a certain command reaches a certain level, usually when it's maxed out, you can meld them with other commands. You can also add a crystal when melding commands to form abilities to strengthen your character.
Action commands are were you set your physical actions like jumping, rolling, dashing, blocking, etc. These also level up. The higher the level, the better the performance.
Shotlock commands are executed by holding down both L and R shoulder buttons. A green target ring will appear and it will lock on enemies to release either a rush or projectile attacks. Shotlocks drain your focus meter which can be replenished by attacking enemies with either your keyblade or with battle commands.
Finish commands occur when you fill up the command gauge about your list of battle commands. As the name states, these are powerful finishing moves to you flurry of attacks onto your foes.
Command styles activate if you use elemental battle commands during you combos before the command gauge is filled. When this happens, your character goes into overdrive and this affects your physical attacks like adding fire to you strikes or zapping lightning to you foes with every stab. Each command style has their own specific finish commands.
As you go on your adventure, you meet new characters. You form a D-Link with characters you befriend through out the game. By activating D-Link, you have access to their own command decks to use in battle. Each character's D-Link will have unique finish commands, some of which are pretty bad ass. the D-Link has its own gauge and depletes as long as a D-link. This can be replenished by defeating enemies as they can drop D-Link points which are seen as small light blue stars.
The in game currency, called "munny", can be obtained by enemy drops, These can be seen as small gold diamonds. Aside from munny and D-Link points, fallen enemies can also drop green health orbs which heal you instantly when absorbed. Enemies can also drop items or even battle commands.
There is a board game included called command board wherein you compete to obtain the maximum required GP to win, this is a very addicting minigame as it can also level up your battle commands and even obtain new ones. Command boards vary from a Keyblade shaped board to Cinderella's glass slipper and even Winnie the Pooh's honey pot.
Honestly I could have done w/o this mini game. Rumble Racing is a racing minigame where you race against others to reach the finish line first. You have your typical accelerate and brake buttons as well as an attack and defend button. The should buttons lets you looks behind you to see approaching opponents. I'm not at all fond of this gimmick because I find it frustrating and boring for the most part.
Despite Birth By Sleep being an RPG, there is indeed an incentive to play with other people. There is a world named "Mirage Arena" which is essentially an online lobby (ad-hoc only) where you can join missions with others, participate in races and command board or even duke it out in versus mode.
Mirage Arena can also be an easy grind area if you need a few extra levels to beat a boss. Farming munny is also easy in Mirage Arena.
Overall Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is a very well made action RPG with it's engaging and fairly lengthy story, great combat, addicting minigames, good multiplayer options and tons of unlockables. Even after beating the story, it will leave you hungry for the "rare battle command" or that "secret boss I have yet to beat". Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep was said to be "the best Kingdom Hearts game to date" and I can whole heartedly agree.
(Original post by Migoy)