Considering how long ago this game came out, this should already be on your PSP gaming list by now. But if you see the game now, and are very much interested, hopefully this review can help change your mind on things and get you interested. I apologize if this is rushed, but my schedule has been crammed all week; read I lost an opportunity to get a job at Pathmark and am a colossal idiot. But you don’t care about my life, so let’s dive into one of the best PSP games of all time, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep!
The story is surprisingly good, and for those who didn’t enjoy Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days, you may find this one to be more worth your time. For those that don’t know, you take the role of one of three keyblade apprentices: Terra, Ventus, and Aqua, and you can play in any order. Together, you three travel worlds, trying to find one another and the problems that arise within each world, and uncover the mystery behind Vanitas and his master. And the best news about each story is that they do cover it for each character’s perspective, so repeating cut-scenes are few in number, and can help explain what happens in other parts of the story.
You don’t even need to have played the previous games in the series, as this games takes place before all of them. And for those KH veterans, it can help fill in some plot holes, though it does raise a question or two if you really think about some scenes. But if you really listen closely and pay attention, you may notice that the story is eerily similar to Star Wars during the Clone Saga, minus clones. Why? Well, for starters, Terra acts almost like Anakin by disobeying his master and going off while being drawn in by the OBVIOUSLY EVIL KEYBLADE MASTER. Yes, this game has some stupid moments, then again, this isn’t really a problem. But I am amazed at how dark a Disney crossover game is becoming, and loving every minute of it.
Unlike the previous entry in the KH series, 358/2 Days, this game actually features a better line up of music to help set the mood, be it in an emotional cut-scene, or the thrill of a fight. It certainly is an upgrade compared to repeated music from past games. Even the graphics are surprisingly better, nearly leveling with that of a Playstation 2 game. Naturally, graphics can be improved to help better this and enjoy the game. But…there’s a drawback. As you may expect, if you don’t save this game to the memory stick, loading times will be long, and of course that comes with the game being slower as a result.
The gameplay however is by far the best battle system in the Kingdom Hearts series, surpassing even the second one. There is no longer an MP bar, but rather, spells and attacks are recharged over a course of time. You have to set up a deck of commands, and by pressing the triangle button, you can initiate the moves even during combos to maximize damage, and even use them in quick succession, allowing spell-type or sniper players an easier time rather than stocking up on mainly ethers. Naturally, basic moves are excused of course, but even some of these can be enhanced as well. Want a barrier that can stun enemies while repelling damage? Go ahead! Need to dash in the air, but damage foes with some fire? Go ahead! Nearly anything is possible if you put the effort into fusing commands together. And the best part of it all is how it all flows. What is not cool is the camera, and it feels WAY too close to the action quite honestly.
A new addition are Dimension Links, which you form with various characters in the story. Each one possesses unique features and even attack styles, while also providing bonuses and such. These can also be upgraded and leveled up by defeating enemies and gaining a jewel that will upgrade their rank. And there is also a transformation trigger, similar to drive forms, which can be activated in combat. In order to do, there’s a command gauge for combos, which usually ends with a combo. Use it enough with different attacks, you can gain access to a new form that radically changes your game style and attack power. And if you max those out, you can either transform to a more powerful second state, or you can perform an ultimate attack that guarantees large damage to the enemy if it hits. And each one has a use in battle, so careful use is recommended. Moreover, you can also learn new combo finishers for your normal state, which usually either gains more powerful slash moves, more money, or even magical attacks, all of which can be very entertaining and interesting to see just what you can do next.
Shotlocks also make an appearance in this game, and these are basically a character’s limit break of sorts. Simply lock onto an enemy, and once the number gauge is full, you can perform an ultimate attack. And once they are leveled to the max, and if you followed the quick-time events, you can gain an extra attack. Of course, against fast enemies, this is incredibly difficult to use, so you must use it wisely.
Minigames, which have been notoriously bad most of the time in the series, have gotten an upgrade, such as the Command Board, which can help level up skills and gain new ones by playing on different boards that represent other worlds, and can even add more bonuses, complex maps, etc. But others, such as Rumble Racing, do not give such joy simple because of their simplicity, or even lack of control in the case of the dancing minigame with Donald’s nephews. But hey, there are no more gummi-ship missions, which is a welcome despite the upgrade it got in the second game. There is also an online mode, but I could never get it to work thanks to my own internet connection with Comcast, which made it impossible for me to play, but offline is pretty enjoyable itself.
Online mode can only be used for Mirage Arena. While not as entertaining as the coliseum, it does offer a gauntlet of enemies and even unique bosses to it, and in turn, you can actually gain drive forms and items unique to here. And it’s also a great place to level up and improve your skills against a wide-variety of enemies. Moreover, if you can somehow get the online mode to work, you can work cooperatively with other players in the same stages for scores and more EXP, or you can even fight each other as well. And, you can also customize the colors of your armor here. It is a bit of a pain, but a nice addition nonetheless.
Environments are about the only nitpick. While less straightforward than in Kingdom Hearts 2, I would have loved it if the worlds were bigger. Still, they are entertaining, and even require some platforming. Such a shame the game’s camera is a bit on the bad side of things. Another disappointing thing is the lack of party members. Yes, you do technically have them in certain fights, but it would have been more fun to always be fighting with characters like Zack or Hercules.
But is this game worth your time? Well, actually yes. Despite a few problems, and lack of much more better titles, this is definitely the Kingdom Hearts game you have been waiting for. Each character’s storyline may not be too long, but combined, and along with the final level, it’s certainly an enjoyable experience on the PSP and can last for quite some time, especially if you hunt down the extras, and certainly my new favorite. Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep earns a 5 out of 5! It may seem like I am going easy on this game, but it’s hard to find anything to pick apart, if everything else works out great.