|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: Sept. 7, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Both of these new elements make the battle system in Birth by Sleep feel completely new, and I hope if a Kingdom Hearts III comes to fruition in the near future that they will incorporate these elements. The customization elements encourage experimentation, and finding out what works for you with each character is a rewarding experience. I often found myself tinkering with the battle system several times per level just to try out new attacks and build up different style-based combos and finishing moves.
In addition to the single-player mode, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep also includes a robust multiplayer mode. However, the downside here is the multiplayer modes can only be accessed using the PSP's Ad-Hoc connection mode, which means you'll need a friend with the game and their own PSP in range in order to check these modes out. If you do fit these criteria, you'll be able to battle friends in a standard Versus mode, battle against a common enemy in Arena mode, and even go kart-racing in Rumble Racing. Though none of the multiplayer modes are particularly memorable, they can be fun in small bursts if you have a friend around.
As far as production values go, Birth by Sleep is yet another solid portable title from Square Enix. The background music features the same orchestral mix of original tunes and Disney themes we've come to expect, and the game's voiceover features standout performances by plenty of famous names including Leonard Nimoy, Mark Hamill, and Jesse McCartney.
The visuals are also quite the standout, and look absolutely stunning on the PSP. Cutscenes look amazing, and the animations, both in these scenes and in regular gameplay, are seamless and nicely executed. Like its predecessors, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep includes some amazing environments based on Disney franchises, and represents the individual look of each area almost perfectly. From the colorful whimsy of Stitch's area to the dark and haunting woods where you encounter Snow White, the visuals nail the Disney elements. Of course, there are some unique areas to explore as well, and those are also brought to life with an amazing amount of care and detail.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep may not have been the game fans of the series were initially hoping for, but that doesn't stop it from being the best entry in the series yet. The cohesive plotline (which ties together threads from all the other Kingdom Hearts game, but most notably Kingdom Hearts II and 358/2 Days), the improvements to the battle system, and extremely high production values make this a must-buy for fans of the series. Would I have preferred this game on a home console? Sure, but as a handheld title and a "missing piece" of sorts in the Kingdom Hearts mythos, Birth by Sleep works perfectly well and is worth experiencing for fans eagerly anticipating that much-rumored third entry.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor