Review | Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
Format: PSP | Genre: Action RPG | Publisher: Square Enix | Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: 10/09/10 | Price: £34.99
Daniel Lipscombe wishes upon a star and hopes his dreams are fulfilled with KINGDOM HEARTS: BIRTH BY SLEEP.
I WAS rather excited when I was asked to review Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. As an avid Disney fan, a Square Enix follower and general Kingdom Hearts bore, I was in my element. There’s something about the franchise that brings back the bygone days of childhood, the series is akin to a fairytale for grownups. And releasing the latest iteration on PSP fits into that mantra, as I settle into my sofa, as if reading a good book.
A series that has been with us for eight years and one that has spawned a number of spin offs, it’s safe to say that my excitement abated a little after some time with the game. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the title other than it’s just more of the same. Same old convoluted story, similar environments and too many spiky haired protagonists.
Starting off you must choose one of three characters, Aqua, Ventus and Terra. Upon choosing a member of the cast, it’s then time to journey through their personal story. It’s actually a very nice idea, to begin with, but much like other areas of the game (which I’ll come to) it becomes a flaw. According to the developers, the game should be played in a certain order to fully appreciate the story; this seems rather silly after creating such a unique way to play the game in the first place. My biggest issue with this structure was that it became a little boring to follow just one character, particularly the less than enigmatic and horribly voice acted, Aqua.
Once upon a time…
So, here we are again. There’s plenty of darkness about and it’s up to the wielders of the Key Blades to save the day. And off we jaunt to many wonderful and colourful worlds to interact with more Disney characters than you can possibly imagine. This is possibly the first time I’ve ever wanted a Kingdom Hearts game to revolve solely around Walt’s creations.
The animated sidekicks are marvellously animated and even voiced very well. There’s such a connection with the likes of Cinderella and Mickey Mouse that there’s a pang of sadness when they leave the screen. Moments with our leading cast feel stilted and lifeless, almost as if they are getting in the way. But it’s a testament to the Disney world that Square Enix have created.
Each planet (yes the space travel is back, but it’s bearable this time) is themed to the character that you will meet there, such as a vibrant forest for Snow White or the wacky colours of Disneytown when meeting Pete the cat. Sadly the environments are rather sparse. In fact if you took away the enemies there would be very little to interact with, at all.
There are two large problems with Birth by Sleep, one of which I have just mentioned. The emptiness of the worlds is like seeing behind the scenes of ‘It’s a Small World’, suddenly the magic is losing its grasp. The second issue is that this is a PSP game. I really don’t want to knock the handheld but the hardware gets in the way of some of the enjoyment.
As an example: the battles are fantastic and the system is flawless. Using ‘command boards’ to structure your abilities and magic works well. As you unlock, say, Fira you can attach it to your command board to use in a fight. Starting with only a few and then working up to a long list of spells. But herein lays the problem – to select a spell while fighting you must remove your thumb from the analogue nub and select your spell via the D-Pad. This leaves your character standing still as you accidentally press the button one too many times and miss your desired action.
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