This is a special guest review by user suzukiwillow of Square’s PSP exclusive, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. You can see the original at: http://lemoncity.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/birthbysleepreview/
If anybody’s interested, I’ll do a counter-review that talks more about the gameplay and other such points that were kinda glossed over here. Hell, I might do that anyway.
The version shown here has been slightly edited for profanity, length and to keep it more in line with what I’m trying to do here.
It’s 3:15AM. Why am I awake, you ask? Well, I have just played two hours of Birth By Sleep (BBS) for the PSP. There are no spoilers in this.
Now, Let me first state before I go any further, I am not an avid Kingdom Hearts (KH) fan; but I have seriously been trying to like it for the past however many years. If you’re a fan, know this entry will end positively, if you’re not, enjoy my reasons for KH-hate.
I have tried to play KH1. I tried, honest to God, I tried; in fact, I’m still trying to play it. Every so often I’ll feel a bought of zeal like, ‘yeah let’s love this game!’ but omg. The battle system is horrid. The gummie-ship is a joke. The travelling-between-worlds-experience is the shittiest navigation system since Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars (except Star Fox was fun). The levels are stupidly, stupidly hard for simpletons like me who play RPGs for the, you know, role-playing and not constant hack and slash. And last but not least, I could not give a flying frack about any of the characters. Well, except Riku, but he’s not in it enough for me to want to keep playing.
Therein lies the biggest fault. Riku, Squall (his name is not Leon) and Cloud are the only ones I care about in KH1 – Cloud and Squall slightly redundant because I know and love them from Final Fantasy (FF) VII and VIII (here be the FF nerd). Also, Squall has hysterically dirty lines in KH if you read them wrong.
So moving on…
KH2, again, I’ve watched some gameplay because I thought: at least I personally won’t have to deal with the crappy battlesystem. Nah, I didn’t have a clue what was going on and I still didn’t care.
Which brings me to Birth By Sleep (cause let’s be honest. There’s no way I was going to, or ever will, touch Chain of Memories or 358/2 Days). I saw the trailers and thought, ‘well, it’s definitely pretty and the producers/animators have been watching gmvs for scene transitions, but there is no way I’m attempting to play it,’ when – hold on – ‘did I just see Zack Fair?’
Good. Heavens. Don’t get me started on how much I love Zack Fair, from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. I would travel the world, steal the Enterprise, defeat the Cylons and heal all the Nobodies just meet Zack-freakin-Fair. My heart; it’s throbbing.
When I found out that not only is Zack Fair in BBS but that BBS is the prequel to the series (so I don’t have to know the KH plots) I bought it as soon as I could.
The scenes draw great parallels from the original games (mind-screw) and the artwork is super smooth. I guess this is even more enjoyable to die-hard fans because I can tell the game makes a lot of hints at Sora, Roxas and Riku, but I don’t know enough to appreciate these moments. Meh. Roxas: who? Ansem: never met the first one let alone the alleged others! But I digress.
As pointed out by my cousin (a die-hard fan), who watched me play the first 25 minutes over my shoulder, the music is slightly jazzed up but very nostalgic, which works well. My cousin left before the music got super good, but believe me, it has a bouncy, enrapturing quality. The boss battle music, so far, is hilariously J-Pop. J’adore.
The main characters themselves are, at first glance, an imitation of the original three; but! they are thankfully not the same after all. Sure, the same archetypes have been churned out and Terra is wanking on about the same tripe as Riku – but you know what, I care about him – and that’s all I’ve ever wanted from KH in the first place. I know there’s a good story to be told (somewhere) but who is Sora and why should I care? >_O
Aqua. Damn. Not only is she hot but she is A GREAT, NOT IRRITATING, FEMALE LEAD – OMGWHUT? Her voice actress, Willa Holland, is also fantastic. She has a real earthy, mature voice, which definitely helps.
Terra, on the other hand, geeeh… His voice actor, Jason Dohring, is not bad but I personally know amateur voice actors who could do a better job. Dohring has potential, that’s for sure. Ven, however…
Jesse McCartney voices Ventus. Well, I guess I got used to it. At first, I was concerned because his diction was so poor, but either I got used to it quick or McCartney improved between recording the prologue and the opening chapter. I’d like to think it was the latter.
The set-up is divided into three chunks so far, but I’m guessing it will eventually be four. You play each character from the beginning of their story to the end, no swapping in between, and then figure out the plot holes by slotting all three storylines together; which I personally love the idea of and am keen to amalgamate. I’ve started with Terra’s story because I hate, well, no, dislikeVentus and adore Aqua, so I’m saving her for last. Despite the familiar Riku-characteristics, I am becoming quite fond of Terra in his own right.
Onto gameplay: super fun. Enough said. I enjoy it, and that’s a first. Also, save points restore all health – YES! One thing though, I’m still confused as to how you are meant to level up, equip and ‘meld’ abilities. I feel they looked at Final Fantasy X and thought, “we can do that; but sleeker!” Well, it’s definitely shiny but the simplicity of the design was lost somewhere… Maybe I’m just a moron.
Travelling between worlds: freaking bliss. I gasped with glee at how clean, simple, wooshy and fun space travel is in this instalment. Good God, it’s wonderful. You can whizz around space storms for as long or as little as you like, and not get lost.
So to wrap this up: the battle system, like any game, requires a little getting used to but certainly works. Space travel no longer makes me stressed. The new enemy designs are familiar but nicely redone. The voice acting is as balanced with good and bad actors/lines as it ever was. The music is wonderful and the plot actually progresses. But best of all, I love the new characters; Aqua still at the top.
It looks like I’m not just playing this for baby-Zack anymore. Well done, Squeenix. It’s now 4:30AM.
Come back next time to see Willow kick herself in the mouth for everything she said in this amateur review! *thumbs up*
So there you have it, my new editor’s grand entrance. It is, however up to me to finish this review off by answering the question, should I buy this? Yes. If you have a PSP this is one of the richest games available on the tragically under-served system. You don’t have to be a Kingdom Hearts fan to enjoy this game, but it certainly helps and its my personal favourite of the series. This is an action-RPG that’s a bit on the pricey side, but definitely worth it as the story is very replayable and caps out at anywhere from 30-40 hours. And considering the amount of people that’ll pay full price for a shooter with an 8 hour campaign, I’d say the price is definitely worth it.
Price: £15-£20 (multiple sources)