This is my review for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, which was published as a User Review on Game Informer.
A Video Game Masterpiece With Astounding Gameplay, Graphics, and Storytelling
I never thought I was going to play Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. The reason for this is because I don’t own a PSP. I may not own one, my sister does. I asked her if I could borrow her PSP if I bought Birth by Sleep, and she said that was okay with her. So eventually, I ended up getting the game. That’s how I was able to play Birth by Sleep. Now you may be wondering why I don’t own a PSP. It’s because I think the gaming library for the PSP isn’t good enough. Sure, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Resistance: Retribution look like some good games, but they didn’t really interest me. But Birth by Sleep got my attention, and therefore, it is the first game I ever truly wanted to play on the PSP. I don’t not own a PSP, and I haven’t played enough games on it, but I firmly believe this is one of the greatest games made for the PSP.
Birth by Sleep is about the tale of three characters: Ventus, Aqua, and Terra. These three pupils all share a common dream to become a Keyblade master. Under the discipline and apprenticeship of Master Eraqus, Aqua accomplished this, but Terra did not. This event changes the lives of these three friends forever, and the only thing they have left to fight for in the end…is each other.
Let’s start out with the gameplay. Birth by Sleep is a third person action RPG. It is by far the funnest Kingdom Hearts yet. Combat is smooth, more diverse, and simple to learn. You have your basic Keyblade attack, but you can also use special moves you can buy at the store or find in treasure chests. In the game, these special moves are called Commands, and you can mix them up in your Command list to use whatever you like on the battlefield. You can even merge certain moves together. For example, lets say you have an attack that allows you to throw your Keyblade at an enemy, and you also have a magic attack like Blizzard. You can meld these together to create a command that not only lets you throw your Keyblade, but also freezes your target into a solid block of ice! There are hundreds of commands you can experiment with, and I had fun doing that. Everything about gameplay is great, I don’t have any complaints about it. Some people may find the combat tedious, but I never got tired of it. Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days is a slightly different story…
Next I will move on to the graphics. Man, I can’t really put it in any other way, so I’ll just say that they are incredible. I was amazed at how beautiful this game was when I popped it in. The graphics surpass the PS2. Facial movements are very believable and realistic…sometimes. Every now and then there will be some impressive graphics with the characters, but I think Square Enix could have done better with the scope of the environments. There aren’t many details with big backdrops, but I didn’t mind it at all. I’m only stating the obvious, but my experience with the game wasn’t affected at all.
The sound in the game is very good. I was most impressed (in order) by the voice acting and music. Two of the voices lent to this game surprised me. Leonard Nimoy voiced Xehanort, and Mark Hamill voiced Master Eraqus. Both of them, as well as the rest of the voice actors, were a treat to listen too. They evoked a lot of emotion and hard work into their part in the game. Another aspect of the sound is the music, and this is one of the defining points of Kingdom Hearts. Yoko Shimomura, as always, outdid herself in Birth by Sleep. Ven’s Theme and Terra’s Theme are two of her greatest songs in the game. The music is like a puzzle piece with Kingdom Hearts, I couldn’t imagine playing the game without her music in the background. There’s not much to talk about actual sound effects (like footsteps, Keyblade clashing, etc.) It’s fine, there’s nothing amazing about it. It’s just…fine. 😛
Birth by Sleep is all about the story for me. It’s exciting, engaging, mysterious, confusing, and complex. If everything I mentioned above was okay or bad, the story alone would still make me want to play the game. It’s one of the factors that keeps you wanting to come back to the game, wondering what’s going to happen next. This specific Kingdom Hearts story is so good at telling about friendship. What it is, how powerful it is, what it can do, what it’s worth, etc. The story is the highlight of Birth by Sleep. Oh, and here’s a tip. You can unlock a secret ending mission if you complete the game on Proud Mode, and if you collect of of Xehanort’s reports. It’s totally worth it, the secret ending shouldn’t be missed.
Overall, I have to say this is probably my favorite Kingdom Hearts game. If you own a PSP, you should get this game. It’s a lot of fun and addicting. Oh, and don’t worry about replay value. Many hours will be spent playing the story mode (I put 30+ hours into it)…and there’s plenty of extra content to dig into. There are mini-games, trophies to earn, and an arena mode that puts you up against several waves of Unversed (the main enemies in the game) that can be played with friends or by yourself. I highly recommend this game. It’s a masterpiece that shouldn’t be passed up.