Review by RyutheLegend

"A Series Rebirth-even with the flaws"

Major KH fanboy here, so when I heard about BBS coming to america I rushed out and bought a psp within that week. The weeks turned into months which seemed to drag by so slowly. Then finally September came, and with it imo a game that was SO close to topping KH2. (Something I hope Re: Coded can do). However, it does have flaws. Let's break it down and see just what it is about this game that makes it a must have and totally worth the system and game price.

Taking place ten years before KH1, BBS tells the story of Ventus-A boy that looks exactly like Roxas, Aqua-your classic battlemage and Terra-a pure strength character. Three friends looking for the same goal, to become true keyblade masters. The intro story takes about 25-30 minutes if you watch all the clips in between. Unlike all the other games, this one is PURE voice acting. No long storyline plot subtext. You still get the text, but only when deciding something like entering the Games or whatever. Each character has their own story, and they meet up at two points in the game. Roughly in the middle and at the end. You can start playing whichever character you wish, complete their tale and move on or play bits of each tale as you wish. The true end to this game doesn't come however until you clear all three stories and, depending on what setting you played, complete a certain goal. Then you can see the true final ending. Along the way, the characters meet many old favorites including Hades, Hook and other famous villians. Also you see for the first time, the human forms of some of the XIII members, including Saix and Axel. This is a great look into old favorites and see the past that many fans have been wondering about since KH2. Each character also has an interaction with Kairi, Riku and Sora as young children on the Destiny Islands, and gives some amazing insight into the choices they made in KH1. This also would have made me give the story a perfect score. The end plot, especially Ventus's story though is really confusing until you stop and think about it. Not trying to spoil anything, but it kinda goes against what KH2 and 358/2 Days told us. Leaving fans to wonder "Is this game correct, or are the older ones" Other then that, the story is perfectly balanced in all forms and never leaves you bored. Again, just like in 358, not many Final Fantasy characters show up other then Zack-who FF7 fans will know. This dissappoints me, but hopefully it'll be fixed in Coded.

Gameplay and Control:
The control itself, is the best in the series to date. End of story. It's much tighter then in any of the other games and feels so much more balanced. The mini joystick on the psp is a huge pain at the start if you havn't played the system before, but you adjust quickly. One issue I have is the stock rotation is done with the keypad, which in the heat of battle is a problem and can and will lead you to a few retrys. Once again, you adjust but I think it would have worked out better if something had been changed. The game brings bout a new system called D-link, which once you meet certain characters lets you link to them and use some of their powers. This seems nice, but even on proud mode you rarely find a real use for it. Command Melding, the Sys of this game, is a pain unless you have a guide for it. Basically, every skill you get in this game levels up to 3 or 4. Then you combine two skills plus a power up item and it makes a new skill with a power bonus, which when fully leveled your character doesn't need to equip that skill to gain that bonus-such things as longer combos or more powerful magic. The damage balance is fixed thankfully from 358. Now magic doesn't do the massive levels of dmg that it did back in that game. This is interesting, but without knowing the combos can be painful at end game levels. Things like Second Chance, Once More and Renewal Barrier are almost required for the hardest settings on the end game bosses. The lockon is much better then in 358, but still needs work and the horrid camera that has plauged the game since KH1 is still there. It's been years since 1 Sqaure, it's time to fix that broken camera control. My biggest complaint though is the defense programming. If an enemy hits you with a combo move it's next to impossible to break away from it or dodge, some moves are impossible to dodge 99% of the time. Even at high levels, one of these moves can lock you against the wall and kill you in a matter of seconds-seconds that you can't even defend or heal yourself. Even if you manage to block it, many combos still break your block. This results in a huge amount of deaths at the end game content. Overall, this whole thing could have been made alot better.

Not gonna go much into this, because except for some of the new areas this is the same music we've heard through four other games. I can't tell you how sick I am of hearing the arena theme from herc's world every game. In some levels, you can barely hear the music at all. I could easily give the music a 4 or 5, but the end game battles sound so epic that it gains points just for that. That's all.

New Content:
FINALLY we get a look into Snow White, Cinderilla and others stories before KH1. This is something I've been wanting to see for years. It doesn't last though, cause sooner after the story moves off onto another bit that we will never seen again in the games. It's pointless to talk about it, cause it doesn't really keep your interest too much. The insight into the Keyblade War(that thing you've seen bits of if you bought and finished KH2, Final Mix+) is nice, but I wish they could have gone into more detail. Another preview for KH3? We can only hope. There's such a massive story there that it NEEDS to be told. The only re-used areas are herc's world(stop it square, please) and Neverland-which at least is different this time around. I'm not counting Destiny Islands and Yen Sid's tower cause their for story use only. At least it's a massively fresh look on content, something the series actually needed in 358.

This rating is if your playing anything except Proud, in that case bump it up to a 10 just for certain bosses; especially Ventus's end bosses, terra's last boss and the final episode. The enemies themselves aren't too tough, but many are purely annoying and can easily kill you. This is outside of those cheap combo moves. The Mandragoras throw spinning blades at you until you hit them once, and getting locked into three of four of these little buggers doing it every 3 seconds can easily kill you. This isn't a real issue until the last area of the game, since you can basically run away or avoid them. The floating pot enemies are back, but the thunder and ice ones are the real pains. Ice will lock you in place until you get hit, and you can get frozen repeatedly too. Thunder is a 4-5 hit combo that just like ice, they can do one right after another. The bosses range from lulz easy to pull your hair out hard. As I said above, those end story bosses you NEED to master command melding if you wanta have a chance on anything above Standard setting. Many times, especially on the final episode and extra after story bosses you will be staring at a game over screen every few minutes until you study and master the enemy movement patterns. Some repeated bosses like Vanitias are easier with some characters rather then others. There are little tricks on some of em you can use that could be labeled as "cheap" or "cheating", but these vanish by the end game stuff as there's no hiding places. Play it once through on the easy setting, then move on to the harder stuff. Unless your a hardcore player and can beat the others on proud without any real issues, dont start on proud-you will regret it.

Re-play Factor
As with the other games, not much in the way of after story content. There's two or three hidden bosses to fight, but that's about it. You WILL spend hours learning and mastering these guys and well as preparing your command melds. They are no joke and one mistake will end the fight in seconds. I'm not even joking, you will spend more time dead when fighting these guys then alive. You can do the Mirage Arena, which is a great way to level up your skills. It also has internet connection play, but I've yet to see anyone there so I'm assuming it's nearby style wi-fi. There's a few mini games you'll find in one level, but their so dull and not worth the effort. THe command board is a new turn based game which is basically a rush to a certain amount of GP, using various allies and enemies, bonuses and tricks. When you land on certain panels, you can op to capture them for a cost, place a card on them and if anyone else lands on it, you take the amount of gp listed on the panel from them. It's a complex system that I'm not gonna go too indepth with cause it would take forever. The AI though has a nasty habit of gaining GP and avoid bad rolls on a much higher level then you can.

Overall, it's an amazing game with a few flaws; some glaring. If these flaws can be ironed out, fixed or completely removed for Re: Coded and KH3, then that will be perfect. If it is done in time for KH3, we may have the single greatest game ever created. No one knew that Dis and FF characters put together could make such an amazing game, and if you would have suggested it before KH1 was released, you would have been laughed at. Now years later, the series is one of the most loved and successful of all time. No matter what the future holds for Kingdom Hearts, it will age gracefully and become a beloved classic for our childrens' children; and Birth by Sleep will only continue to prove that single fact. Even after the series ends, Kingdom Hearts will still live on in the chains of memories of millions, and in the hearts of even more.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/11/10

Game Release: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (US, 09/07/10)

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