Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Review

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Review

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, for the PlayStation Portable, takes place 10 years before the events of the first game. The world of Departure is the initial setting, where the three main characters; Ventus, Aqua and Terra train to become a keyblade master. Master Eraqus and Master Xehanort are their mentors but as the plot unfolds, we find out that Xehanort is a being of darkness while Eraqus is the being of light. Terra, as he tries to muster his own skills, tries to decide which path to take; light or darkness. Meanwhile, Ventus tries to find Terra as he searches the worlds to find information on his whereabouts. Aqua, in turn, under Eraqus’ orders, is on a mission to search for Ventus so he can come back home in safety. The downfall of the story, however is the lack of new characters other than a particular Final Fantasy character and he, in fact, is the only one in this entire game; Disney have a monopoly over this one, Final Fantasy fans. It would have been great to see new Disney films or Final Fantasy games get the Kingdom Hearts treatment but alas, they replicate the worlds from series’ past. Overall, the worlds chosen for the game are, let’s face it, have a weak plot line but as a general experience, the game deserves praise for blending the deep saga of Kingdom Hearts games and filling a majority of the holes left in the story.

Fans of the series were worried about the game being too much of the same but fans, be rest assured! This game indeed has fundamental changes from its predecessors despite a few setbacks. Firstly, the command system has been totally revamped with a new layout. From the beginning of the game, you have three slots to enter commands with. These commands, in the form of regular attacks, spells and potions can be bought, blended together and sold. In addition, commands are leveled up as you fight the heartless. In the process of progressing through the game, you can obtain recipes for stronger blending options. Unlock new abilities such as HP Boost and finishing moves which upgrade as you fight the Unversed. Secondly, a new game play mechanic twists the strategy of the game called the shot lock commands which can cause bars of damage when used correctly. They are essentially super moves and can devastate large groups of enemies when he or she is in a tight situation. This is very useful but can be catastrophic because when the player finishes the move, your character tries to regain their composure before being able to move. At this crucial point,  an enemy may find a chance to strike against you. The difficulty, which was criticized in Kingdom Hearts 2, has been revamped and it now has a deep sense of challenge. From time to time, the player will scratch their heads as they get defeated time and time again by the bosses of each world. I played the game on Proud Mode and the challenge of Birth By Sleep gives me nostalgia of the first Kingdom Hearts. The Unversed, however, are the flip side . Birth By Sleep’s weak point is the lack of common enemies you can face and they rarely change as the story progresses. They are very bland and they are rehashes of the previous games. No innovation has been implemented in this department but the bosses of this Kingdom Hearts prequel definitely smooth out this rigid task of killing common enemies. Overall, the game feels smooth, fast paced and there are enough new mechanics to make it feel fresh to the veteran Kingdom Hearts junkie.

There are various modes for you and your friends to play with but the problem is the lack of true online gameplay. It could be easily fitted into the structure of BBS’ Mirage Arena…So, what can you play with your friends and how many people can play? The structure of Mirage Arena is set into 4 modes with the offering of 3 player capability ; Battle (where you can fight your friends), Arena (a co-op “survival” mode), Command Board (players play a Monopoly-esque game) and Rumble Racing (A hoverboard racing mode). These 4 modes work very well into the Kingdom Hearts formula for “online” play and while Battle and Arena are pretty obvious to have and work very well, the Command Board surprisingly establishes a great game mechanic. The Command Board is a fun addicting twist of using your abilities for placing spots on a board. However, the game plunges into the darkness with the one mini game called Rumble Racing.  The controls are sloppy and the hover board or the keyboard gets stuck on the edges of the track. Each of the tracks’ layouts felt like they were slapped on by an amateur game designer in Modnation Racers or LittleBigPlanet. Like each of these games’ catchphrases, this game definitely felt like it was “created in minutes” rather than hundreds of hours. It is very obvious that Square did not take this mini game as seriously as the other stellar modes available in the Mirage Arena. The aspect of leveling up is clear in the Mirage Arena as well in the form of ranks and medals. Medals allow you to obtain group commands such as Trinity, new recipes for your command mixing and also crystals which are added when you mesh commands together to create power ups (or abilities); for example, the Thunder Boost. The multiplayer game play is an engaging aspect of Birth By Sleep but alas, the racing implement of the multiplayer is a shameful waste of time for you and your friends.
You may, on the other hand waste many minutes listening to the game’s soundtrack. As soon as you boot the UMD for the first time, you know that you are in for a treat to the ears, as the melancholy sound of Dearly Beloved lifts you up and greets you to start your next quest in the epic saga of Kingdom Hearts! The worlds, beautifully composed by Yoko Shimomura, lighten up with personality and it helps the player feel immersed into this engaging tale. The voice acting, particularly by Jesse McCartney, is top notch and the emotions invoked by the characters feel believable. Jesse McCartney, without spoiling the story, provides a great twist to Ventus’ voice, meshing two characters’ voices together and that, my friends, is a great showing of creative voice acting. The voice actors for Disney characters sound exactly like their original counterparts as well, giving the Disney worlds, an extra sense of believability. The sounds of keyblades swinging, magic spells whirling and the grunts and cries of the characters when they flinch match the exact movements of the character. The sound, as always in the history of Kingdom Hearts, is magnificent through its alluring soundtrack, the natural sounding voice acting and the sound effects which help immerse the gamer through this excellently told story.

The PlayStation Portable, year by year, confounds the Nintendo DS with its superior graphics and in comparison to 358/2 Days, Birth By Sleep finally gives the Kingdom Hearts fans something to smile about, graphics wise. The cut scenes of Birth by Sleep arguably look sharper than its older brother, Kingdom Hearts 2 and have been revised over the past 4 years. One aspect of the graphics which is startling are the clouds. The way they move among the landscapes of the worlds look great and whirl around in different fashions. In The Land of Departure, the clouds whirl around a mountain and in one world, I cannot say because of spoilers, the clouds race along the dirty auburn sky. This yet falls short because the worlds feel awkwardly empty. An example of this would be the town of Thebes, where, according to the film “Hercules”, it is bustling and distressing to walk around with salesmen homing down your back but in “Birth By Sleep”, there is nothing but an empty square. The worlds do not feel as vibrant as the movies they are inspired by. The bland atmosphere of the worlds despite the game’s beauty lets down the game presentation wise but it is an improvement over 358/2 Days.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep does not fail to deliver as the hours steadily go up as you finish every feature of this PlayStation Portable exclusive. The main story on each character lasts up to 10 hours and collectively bump to 30 hours. This is a heavy PSP title and plenty of replay ability is found here. He or she can take part in the Mirage Arena on offline or the so called “online” modes, play the mini games of Disney Town or  level up while collecting everything in the game. This can total up to more than 4 times the original playtime and possibly much higher, which is an astounding value for the consumer.
Despite the minor hiccups of the game, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is easily one of the most unparalleled experiences on the Playstation Portable and if this gaming device, like many others, is collecting dust, liven it back up with this deep, story driven title.


NOTE: The rating is usually out of 50 with 10 being the score for each category; Presentation, Story, Gameplay, Replayability and Sound. This is what has totaled the score of 89%. If you have any comments or complaints, please email me at or go to my YouTube accounts, chrispen9 and thecanukgamer. Check out more Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Reviews at