Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Review

I hear a lot of people say "I love Kingdom Hearts, but I don’t want any parts of Birth by Sleep because it’s on the PSP, so it’ll never compare!" The only phrase you’ll hear out of KH fans more than that is "Where’s number 3?!" While I can’t say when we’ll see a true third game, I can say that anyone who avoids Birth by Sleep because of its platform is missing out on a great Kingdom Hearts game; one that definitely holds its own when compared to its PS2 brethren.

The gameplay is everything you’d expect from a Kingdom Hearts title (well, except for Chain of Memories). Players move the character with the analog stick and the camera with the D-Pad. Attacks are launched either with the X button (for Keyblade strikes) or Triangle (for special attacks like magic). What is new to the series is the Dimensional Link system, or D-Link. With this, the player can have access to other characters’ abilities while keeping the character they chose. Are you a magic fan that chose to start with Terra? D-Link Aqua and launch some Fire spells. Ventus too fast with a Keyblade for you? D-Link Terra and slow things down for yourself. It’s a seamless transition that’s easy to access, making adapting to it simple and clean (a-hyuck).

Aqua, Ventus, Terra

The story is not as easy to follow, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Right from the beginning it answers a major question from fans of the series: the origin of those bunny-looking knights in the secret video of KH2. Those bunnies are the three main characters of this game: Ventus (who seems as a direct parallel to Sora/Roxas), Aqua (Kairi), and Terra (Riku, right down to the inner struggle between light and darkness). The story unfolds in three stages, a prologue, the main game, and the epilogue. The main game, though, is a bit convoluted. Before you start, you choose one of the three and play their side of the story. In order to reach the epilogue, all three must be completed. It’s like going back to square one twice and visiting the same places over again, just different parts of it. I found the progression to be a bit over-complicated, which takes away from the otherwise excellent story.

Square-Enix was very smart to put Birth by Sleep on the PSP, because graphically it kicks the crap out of the PS2 versions, but wouldn’t be up to snuff on the PS3. The game flows very well with nary a graphical glitch to be found, and the CGI cutscenes are incredible. The game also keeps the series’ trend of excellent music going. There’s nothing like starting up a Kingdom Hearts game and hearing the soft piano strokes of "Dearly Beloved," though I would have preferred a different opening CGI song than the recycled "Simple and Clean" from the first game.

Is this the Kingdom Hearts game that fans have been drooling for? No, because it doesn’t have a "3" in the title. Is it any less of a KH game because of the platform it’s on? Absolutely not, and I’d even go so far as to say that fans might even like this game more than the PS2 iterations. The story can get confusing, and some of the music is recycled, but the game looks great, sounds great, and plays great. If you like Kingdom Hearts, then get over your aversion to the PSP and play this game. You’ll be glad you did.

4 out of 5


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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