|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 7, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
October 13, 2008 - Those who played through Kingdom Hearts 2 in its entirety and stayed for the bonus ending saw a dramatic cinema scene that depicted three Keyblade masters in the heat of battle. At the time, many thought the scene was from Kingdom Hearts 3, but it has since been clarified that this scene is actually from the new PSP-exclusive Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. This title is going to be a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series, and though some familiar faces are bound to pop up, the story takes place many years before the events of the first game and will feature a whole new cast of not one, but three heroes.
The storyline in Birth by Sleep revolves around the disappearance of one of the past Keyblade masters, Xehahort and his apprentice. Another master sent his three apprentices to look for Xenahort: Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. You will be able to play as all three of these apprentices through the use of different playable scenarios unique to each character. There has been much speculation around characters Terra and Ventus, as both of them have a striking resemblance to Zack from Final Fantasy VII and Roxas from Kingdom Hearts 2, respectively. And when you put the events of Kingdom Hearts 2 into perspective, especially concerning the existence of nobodies, it is hard to see these resemblances as just a coincidence. But conspiracy theories aside, there seems to be quite a bit of substance to this game, and the plot truly does sound intriguing.
In addition to the new faces, there will be quite a few new locations in Birth by Sleep as well. A Cinderella stage has been confirmed, as well as Sleeping Beauty level. The main antagonist this time around looks like it is still Maleficent, so Im sure several of the other Disney Princesses will be featured again, just as they were in Kingdom Hearts 2. Although not much is known about their context or place in the story, we know that the little bad guys you will be facing will be called unbirths and are little blue creatures with beady red eyes. They look a little like the heartless from previous games, perhaps in an un-evolved form.
But no matter where these bad guys come from, one thing is certain, youre going to have to take them out! Luckily, the gameplay in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is going to seem very familiar to fans of the series, so battle should come effortlessly. The controls are almost completely identical on the PSP to the controls on the PlayStation 2. One big new improvement comes in the form of a new special attack force meter that fills when your character lands a certain amount of hits. Once you achieve a full meter, your characters attack stats will increase temporarily, and you will be able to execute different special attacks. The most powerful of these special attacks will utilize timed button presses to unleash punishing cinematic attacks.
One of the most impressive facets of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is its visuals. Early builds of the game have sported very sharp graphics that are on par with Kingdom Hearts 2 on the PlayStation 2. The character models are highly detailed, and the new anime-stylized characters look fabulous, complete with spiky hair and funky clothes. The different Disney-themed environments also look beautiful and intricate and mesh well with the anime-stylized main characters. From what weve seen, this is probably going to be one of the best-looking PSP games of the coming year.
Although there is no firm release date set for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep in the US, Japan has a tentative release scheduled for late 2009. Many are hoping for a simultaneous US release, but we wont have any details on that until much later. It is also unknown if the game will be related to the Kingdom Hearts title for the DS, 358/2 Days, which is also slated for a 2009 release. For now, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep looks like it is coming along quite nicely and will be a wonderful addition to the already well-established Kingdom Hearts franchise.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor