Along with a decent story, Birth By Sleep features a genuinely fun and interesting iteration of the Kingdom Hearts combat system. Instead of simply whacking away at enemies with the keyblade, players build up a deck of special abilities that is constantly being customized and improved during the game. The player has the chance to slot the order in which the special abilities appear, building up great combos such as gathering all enemies together in the air then unleashing a massive area attack on them. There's even a second layer of special attacks accessed through a powered-up mode. This system makes Birth By Sleep addictive and fun to play. A Monopoly-style side game and the return of platforming challenges add to the mix to create a seriously good game.
Will Kingdom Hearts 3D continue the quality level found in Birth By Sleep? The "Dream Drop Distance" subtitle may be corny, but the basic battle system from Birth By Sleep remains, and a few new systems have been added that look like fun to play with. Give the demo, currently up for download on the 3DS eShop, a spin and see what you think of the combat system and the new features. Run the demo's tutorial before you jump into the main action; it's worth it. While the demo can't tell us what the quality of the game's story will be, you can always look for our review around the time of the game's launch. I promise to tell you the truth, even if it hurts.
As for Kingdom Hearts III, it should be the next Kingdom Hearts title to come out. The bonus ending scene in Kingdom Hearts 3D is said to be the bridge between that game's story and Kingdom Hearts III. We don't know when KH III will actually go into serious development, because Nomura has been tied up in the development Hell that is Final Fantasy Versus XIII. From various interviews, though, it appears that Kingdom Hearts III is his next priority after that, and hopefully it's already being worked on. It might not make this generation of consoles, but it will almost certainly be on the next one.
During and after Kingdom Hearts II, the Kingdom Hearts series went off the Disney Monorail tracks for a while, but it appears to be finding its way back. The development team is making efforts not to recycle Disney worlds, to keep the combat system fresh and fun, and to hopefully bring the story back around to some form of coherency. If you liked the first game even a bit, don't give up on Kingdom Hearts. Birth By Sleep was a return to form, and the next few games just might be great ones.
Date: July 16, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*