Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Review

In this stunning prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series, almost everything about this game has been redesigned from the ground up.  The graphics is as good as the PSP can offer. The story for this game really does fill in all of the questions that fans of the series will have after playing all of the other games in the series. The game will offer about 30 hours of storyline playtime, and on top of that, there are many challenges and extra missions to be completed after the initial story mode is done. The story mode is broken up into 3 separate playthrough, one for each of the main character, Terra, Ven, Aqua.

Each character’s story line has to be cleared through at least once, and preferably in the order of Terra, Ven, then Aqua. When cleared in order, it will show a few scenes that isn’t available when played out of order. The story will be very confusing for the first character’s story and even the first two playthroughs, depending on if it was played in order or not. Everything will eventually make sense and, with a little association, this story fits seamlessly into the overall Kingdom Hearts storyline.

This game offers a variety of difficulties for the players to enjoy and to challenge themselves. Unlike in the previous releases, Critical mode, which is the hardest difficulty the game has to offer, is available in the beginning, so there is no need to play through the game just to unlock a difficulty. Also, unlike the last few releases in the series, this game is much more challenging. On Standard difficulty, be prepared to die a few dozen times and spend some time to grind on a few portions of the game just to be able to get pass a certain boss.

The skill system in this game has been completely redesigned. Now players must either find or purchase attacking skills, and level them by gaining experiences for each of the skills. Once a skill is at max level, the players can combine them into other attacking skills that are not previously available, or combine them into support skills that were just given out as boss bonus or level up bonuses in the previous games.

There are plenty of mini-games available in this game for a little rest and relaxation between worlds and story missions. Each character has their own story specific mini-games and also have a shared one. Terra’s story specific game is a mini racing game that is very much like Mario Kart, minus the items and the map variety. Ven’s mini game is a rhythm game that is similar to Elite Beat Agent, but without the complex controls. Aqua’s mini game is a dodgeball-like game that features giant fruits. The common game that is shared between all characters is a game called the Command Board. Command Board is very similar to Monopoly, which we are all familiar with, and as the story progresses, more complex board will be unlocked for the players to try their luck on.

As a post game bonus, if the players have collected the report that is given out through out the story, a final chapter will be unlocked. The final chapter offers a series of boss battles for each of the characters and as the boss battles are cleared, little cut scenes and slices of story will become available, which will help answer more questions fans might have. Also, there is a coliseum world in the game, and it offers different skills and technique that is not available anywhere else. The coliseum also offers multiplayer option. Players can choose between playing through wifi connection, or through ad hoc connection through the internet to play with friends.

There are two major problems with this game. One, there is a horribly bad load time on this game. This game does offer option to install portion of the game onto the memory stick to help and lessen the load time, but even with the best option, which installs about 600mb onto the memory stick, the load time is still very annoying and kind of unbearable. Example, to load a cut scene takes about 10 seconds, and opening a menu the first time in any given map will take anywhere from 3-5 seconds on maximum install. Two, there was no new soundtrack to this game. This game, instead of having a brand new soundtrack for opening and ending, just used a remix version of old songs that are already associated with the franchise. Now let’s just hope that whenever Kingdom Hearts 3 hits the stores, we will have some new score to listen to, instead of these overused remixes that, although good, is getting quite old.

This is a great game to the series, and one that fans of the franchise just absolutely can not pass on. With the fact that it is a PSP game, it still offers roughly 30 hours of story line play time, and at lease 10 more hours on top of that for those of you who wants to go for perfect completion.

Grade: A-

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