Anyone dismayed that Square Enix is dragging its feet on a high production value PS3 release of Kingdom Hearts 3 would be mad to pass up Birth by Sleep just because it is on PSP or that it does not put series hero Sora in a lead role. This installment stands side by side Kingdom Hearts II visually with impressively elaborate characters, on-screen effects and animation. Instead of reworking the same old environment, it introduces brand-new locations such as Snow White’s forest and Stitch’s spaceship prison. And it ultimately explains what the heck is happening inside that crazy secret movie with the bunny armor individuals inside a keyblade graveyard in the end of Kingdom Hearts II.
New characters Ventus, Terra, and Aqua play forerunner roles to Sora, Riku, and Kairi respectively, they all desire to be keyblade masters and have prepared hard for the exclusive right. You can not help but cast comparisons to Star Wars in Birth by Sleep, particularly when one of the three needs to battle versus the dark side, we mean, the darkness. In spite of the arduous borrowing, supplanting Jedi with keyblade masters and the Force with magic matches well.
Battles blend melee combos with easily available magic and keyblade specials. Similar to any RPG, your character levels up as you acquire more experience, but Birth by Sleep allows you gain experience in each ability. One can become addicted to switching abilities when they maxed out and merging them to make more powerful novel ones. While combining abilities, you could also have any perks linked to a maxed ability such as bonus health, fire resistance, or longer combos. This move evolution system does not always let you know what you’re about to make. Scoring a rare powerful spell or a powerful acrobatic move makes it all worth it in the end. Once you recognize what you’re doing you will be able to get stronger rapidly.
Players select one of three protagonists at the beginning and follow every story from one Disney world to the next till the final encounter. In 10 to 12 hours, you have beaten the game and should start over with the next character. You will go to all the same worlds in basically the same order, but you will explore several areas of the map, meet different characters, and combat different bosses. In Cinderella’s world, for instance, Ventus is reduced down to mouse size to help pull together items for her dress, Terra accompanies her to the ball, and Aqua make certain she gets to fit the glass slipper. Although it is an occupying concept, by the time you go around to playing Aqua on your third play through, you had already been everyplace twice and had powered up two characters. It is not fun beginning all over at square one again after you’ve savored ultimate power. It won’t help that Aqua’s story is the weakest of the three, either.
To play the last wrap-up chapter after all three careers, you have to gather all of Xehanort’s reports. If not, you have to get back and grab them and re-beat the game using those specific characters. It’s rather painful that you can’t simply go right to the end, but if you have explored along the way you will perhaps have most of them anyway.
Multiplayer is domestic ad-hoc only, so good luck chancing upon a friend with a PSP and copy of the game. If you do, you will be able to team up or face off in a range of minigames like a Monopoly-esque board game, a kart racer, and various arena matches. It’s always pleasurable to be able beat up a friend in battle or team up with them to tackle waves of enemies.
Overall, it has good combat, leveling, and look of Birth by Sleep, and the bold storytelling approach of having three storylines is commendable.