PSP Game Reviews: Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Review

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Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Review

More Game Info (Print This Article)

Graphics:

 

7.8

Gameplay:

 

8.2

Sound:

 

8.1

Control:

 

7.7

Replay Value:

 

8.4

Online Gameplay:

 

7.5

Overall Rating:       8.0

 

 

Publisher:

Square-Enix

Developer:

Square-Enix

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

Action/RPG

Yes, yes, I know; we all want Kingdom Hearts III for the PlayStation 3. But in the meantime, there’s a pretty solid and entertaining installment on the PSP, called Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Featuring three separate storylines that greatly amp up the longevity and overall appeal, a satisfying and appropriately deep combat mechanic, and that patented flair achieved by combining the worlds of Disney and Final Fantasy, this one is well worth your time. The only disappointing part of the entire production is the fact that Square-Enix can’t seem to shake off past downfalls and mistakes, and I kept thinking our surroundings should’ve exhibited more lush detail. I know the PSP is a bit more limited but I have seen instances of unbelievable detail (‘cough’ God of War ‘cough’) so it isn’t impossible.

This leads me to the graphics, which are loaded with that attractive color and design fans of the franchise adore. To their credit, the developers bring out the highlights and provide us with a truly engaging world, thanks to impressive special effects and cut-scenes. The character modeling is superb, too, so you’ll spend most of your time marveling at the inherent beauty in Birth by Sleep. But there will be times when you can’t help but notice how barren some of the backdrops really are; they lack a certain vibrancy, which sort of shifts the focus to battles. Those are much more appealing from a visual standpoint and while I must reiterate that the Kingdom Hearts world is a treat, I have to remain firm on the lack of environmental depth. Maybe it wouldn’t be so obvious if everything else wasn’t so wonderfully energetic.

Supported by fantastic voice acting – Leonard Nimoy is the man – and sharp, accurate sound effects, the game delivers in the sound category. Past entries in the series have boasted similar pluses; the voiceover cast always consists of a who’s who of Hollywood talent, which helps the dialogue succeed throughout. The effects can be a little repetitive, though, and I wish they had constructed a few more original music compositions for this new adventure. I mean, it’s nice to know that “hey, I’m playing Kingdom Hearts,” but that nostalgic recognition wears off over time. Even so, I shouldn’t take anything away from the soundtrack, which is pretty great from top to bottom. It’s not the most diverse selection in the world but it still fits, and the effects are plenty effective. When we step back and check out the bigger audio picture, we have to be satisfied.

This is actually a prequel so the events in Birth by Sleep take place before the original Kingdom Hearts. From the start, you will choose between Terra, Ventus and Aqua; all three wield a Keyblade and all of them have their own particular story, and as I said in the intro, this is one of the primary reasons to purchase and enjoy the game. Everyone cares about longevity; i.e., bang for their buck, and having three complete and fulfilling plot lines to experience is an immediate bonus. You will move through the mystical world, attempting to take down the Unserved and uncover a number of pressing mysteries. The pacing of this adventure is good, because it really feels exactly like the action/RPG it is: between the micromanagement, exploration, and mastering the in-depth battle system, fans will receive almost exactly what they want, and what they deserve. It all works quite well despite one or two major drawbacks, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Beside the story, which I won’t spoil, the emphasis remains fixed on the fighting. Before heading out, though, that role-playing mentality needs to come into play- you must buy and equip what you need, and make sure you’ve got a healthy assortment of items. When you enter battle, you give orders to your character via the d-pad, which flows into a series of current and already-executed commands. Once selected, that command will move over and you’ll shift to the next on the list. This means the action always remains fast, and you never feel outmatched due to overly intricate and inaccessible control. There is, however, a level of depth that might seem a little overwhelming at first, and this involves the leveling up and combination of certain special commands. It can be complicated but hey, do you want the RPG part or not?

Then you have to toss in abilities called “Shotlocks” and the meter that fills up as you unleash combos on your foes. The latter will let particular characters enter into a battle style that could prove to be immensely effective; the former are best reserved for large groups of enemies. Then there are D-Links, which lets one character adopt the traits/skills of another for a brief period. This is quite the detailed combat setup and if you’re willing to dive in and learn every facet of it, you will be justly rewarded. That being said, the combat trips and stumbles due to an imperfect control setup that includes a problematic camera. This is one of those issues that just never seems to get fixed in KH; when backed into a corner or fighting in a tight spot, the camera wacks out and it’s hard to find your target. And it still wants to target a breakable environmental object rather than an enemy…can’t tell you how frustrating that is.

I’m also not the biggest fan of the mini-games and again, that isn’t anything new. I do admit that these are better designed and more important than in past iterations, but I’m still not sure they need to be in the game. But it’s the adventure itself that matters and in this respect, the gameplay is greater than the sum of its parts. One can get past the iffy camera and lock-on issues because for the majority of the time, fighting and exploring is fun. You always want to keep playing, and that’s an undeniable positive trait. The story unfolds nicely, the voice acting is awesome, the flashy and crazy deep combat mechanic can be immensely rewarding, and the bottom line is if you enjoyed other KH games, you’ll like this one. You might even like the multiplayer, where you fight against other players (or battle oncoming waves of foes) in the Mirage Arena. This can be quite entertaining as well, even if it feels a little bare.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is a game that sticks to its roots and expands upon a winning formula. It still can’t quite put long-standing problems to rest (or sleep, whatever) but it presents fans with a cohesive, satisfying adventure and in truth, there are three of them.

The Good: Classic and appreciated KH atmosphere. Super in-depth and fulfilling battle system(s). Solid story pacing and excellent voice acting. Great character modeling. Three separate and complete storylines greatly enhance longevity.

The Bad: Camera can be problematic. Lock-on system fails too often. Lack of environmental luster. Questionable mini-games.

The Ugly: If the camera gets jammed up, the visual and gameplay result ain’t pretty.

10/27/2010 Ben Dutka

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Comments (20 posts)

Jawknee
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 @ 10:13:04 PM
Reply

Sweet review. My copy arrived in the mail today. I'm about to take it for a spin in T-Minus..3..2..1...

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spiderboi
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 @ 10:24:32 PM
Reply

Same sentiments as I had when I played it. And at times, some command styles seem too powerful coz I just mow down on the hapless enemies. But yeah, some bosses do tend to be cheap, as they constantly pound on you, never giving you a time to heal so dodging and blocking is a must here.

Just gotta say this: Aqua is really powerful! just try using magnega then raging storm. pure unverse madness! just don't try it at the bosses....

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 @ 10:30:36 PM
Reply

Even Leonard Nimoy can't make me like this series. I curse the day they mixed up FF and Disney. It sounds like you had a good time playing it, but I'm still sorry you had to. Ish.

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Jawknee
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 @ 10:42:09 PM

Oh c'mon now. They are pure cheese buy have been fun to play. I liked seeing the Final Fantasy crew rendered in PS2 polygons. In fact, wanting to see all the Final Fantasy characters in their remastered glory was the only think that kept me interested in the series.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 @ 11:16:07 PM

They are the only reason I tried to play the series, but after a while I was like "Nothing is worth this" and gave up. How'm I sposeda fight somebody with Goofy and company coming along for the ride?

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Banky A
Saturday, October 30, 2010 @ 4:49:16 PM

You hater

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Victor321
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 @ 10:37:36 PM
Reply

Yay a review for BBS =D! I hope this entices people to get the latest entry, if they haven't already.

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Victor321
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 @ 11:32:03 PM
Reply

Oh, and it's Unversed, not Unserved Ben ;)

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___________
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @ 2:18:28 AM
Reply

got to play this today, its completely what i expected but not really quite there yet.
i wish $E would stop wasting there time with the PSP and do a full fledged ps3 game, the psp cant do this series justice!
Neir is still and probably always will be my favorite next gen RPG!

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Vivi_Gamer
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @ 5:07:15 AM
Reply

Nice review, i intend to get round to this at some point. I have to admit the reason i am more hesistant to continue is due to the fact that one game is on the DS so i have been able to play it, which means i will not understand parts of the game, just like with Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II. The fact its a prequel i am trying to over look that matter.

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Orvisman
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @ 8:48:13 AM

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was released on the PS2 on 12/2/08.

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Vivi_Gamer
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @ 10:41:19 AM

Not in the UK it wasn't >:(

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WeaponKnight
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @ 6:38:40 AM
Reply

Good review, except for the combat system description that makes it look like you have a party and can give orders. This is a solo game.

When you said:
"When you enter battle, you give orders to your party members via the d-pad, which flows into a series of current and already-executed commands. Once selected, that command will move over and you’ll shift to the next character."

It should be something like:
"You have a series of commands, wich can be special attacks, magic and items, that can be equiped in the Command Deck. When you enter battle, you can scroll through your Command Deck with the d-pad and use one with the triangle button, making the list scroll to the next command while you wait for the cooldown time of the one you just used."

I think this is the best combat system in the entire series. Having extra shoulder buttons to fix the lock on clunkyness and some balancing would make it even better. Here's hoping for KH3 on PS3 with that system =]

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bigrailer19
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @ 9:45:21 AM

Sounds to me like you said the same thing, but with way more detail that doesn't need to be there necessarily. Some people like in depth reviews, and need more info to visualize. I am not one of those people weather I issue commands via a "command deck" or just by press of a button, it doesn't matter, theres no reason to point out every step of how to issue a command their...

I understand where your coming from, being able to visualize or run through what the review is explaining sometimes can be very helpful, then other times its too much.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @ 10:14:12 AM

No, I know. I just always have "party" on the brain when I write an RPG review.

Fixed now.

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WeaponKnight
Friday, October 29, 2010 @ 12:32:32 PM

@Ben
Much better now, thanks =]

@bigrailer19
I am one of those people that like in-depth reviews, so I kinda got carried away...

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bigrailer19
Thursday, October 28, 2010 @ 9:41:19 AM
Reply

I havn't had the opportunity to play the kingdom heart games, let alone a PSP, KH. I always wanted to and I really hope one day they either end up on the PSN or HD remakes...

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Ninja_WafflesXD
Friday, October 29, 2010 @ 7:50:38 AM
Reply

I still have yet to buy this game....money is really tight at the moment :( This review just made me want BBS even more *sob*
Why must my wallet torment me so....

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Banky A
Saturday, October 30, 2010 @ 4:50:18 PM
Reply

I need this game in my life. No matter what reviews say.

Thanks for your input Ben ;)

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Gamer46
Sunday, October 31, 2010 @ 4:10:10 AM
Reply

Nice to see a review here for this game. I'd rate it a little higher, 8.5 or maybe even a 9, but I do agree the camera can be a big annoyance at times. Really enjoyed the gameplay overall though as well as the characters and story. Seeing what SE did with the PSP hardware, it really has me looking forward to KH 3 for PS3 but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon. SE is caught up in too many other projects.

Last edited by Gamer46 on 10/31/2010 4:10:28 AM

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