I know Birth By Sleep Week is all but over, and that we’ve already given you our thoughts in the form of the “IM”pressions you see below. (Aren’t those things brilliant? I think they’re brilliant.) But regardless, I felt the need to give the week a bit of a send-off in the form of some good, old-fashioned written impressions. I’d hoped to have the game nearly finished/reviewed at this point, but, ah… that didn’t really happen, for a variety of reasons.
As I believe I mentioned in the IMpressions, Birth By Sleep is the first “full” Kingdom Hearts game I’ve played since Kingdom Hearts II. That Chain of Memories remake for the PS2 was little more than a bunch of cobbled KH1 environments, and even what I played of Dumb Name felt little more than supplementary. And it’s been four years since Kingdom Hearts II. That’s a long time; a cruelly long time, in fact. So, while Birth By Sleep may not be the big, flashy PS3 relaunch of the series that we’re all still dreaming of, it’s still something that, as Kingdom Hearts fans, we can truly sink our teeth into. And that, alone, makes it worth the price of admission.
Birth By Sleep continues the trend of making us absorb dialog we should normally hate, and care about plotlines that would bore us if they were in any other game. How? The older I get, the less sense it makes, to be honest. But for some reason, in the eight hours I’ve spent with Birth By Sleep, I’ve grown care more about the events and characters than I have with any other RPG since Persona 4. It, for example, beats the living fuck out of Final Fantasy XIII – Disney characters and all.
But then again, I can’t totally discredit the merits of Birth By Sleep, and write it all off to an inexplicable charm. This shit is interesting, simply put. Seeing the history behind the Keyblade and its wielders is just plain interesting. Visiting Radiant Garden before it became Hollow Bastion, with the knowledge that it’s all gonna go to shit, is just a cool feeling. Kinda like the Star Wars prequels, but better. Kingdom Hearts may be a simple story of good versus evil – light versus darkness – but man, does it ever pull off this age-old concept well. Why? Because it doesn’t really try to do much more than that. It’s something to respect, frankly.
But of course, it wouldn’t be Kingdom Hearts without plenty of Heartless to bash around. Eight hours in, I think Birth By Sleep might just have the best combat in the series. Finally, a good balance between button-mashing and strategy has been found. This is instantly evident by the fact that you’ll probably actually die in Birth By Sleep. I have, at least. Multiple times. Boss battles are tough. Y’know, the way they should be. In Kingdom Hearts II, I don’t recall ever dying. And if I did, I doubt I did anything more than mash buttons harder the second time around. In Birth By Sleep, you’ll find yourself challenged to not only mash the X button like a crazy person, but to make sure you’re using defensive commands such as block and dodge, and ensuring you have a proper deck of commands for a given situation. If you don’t, you just might die. Also, I’m a huge fan of new additions such as Combat Stances and D-Links. Combat Stances are essentially what they sound like; for example, if you chain enough Fire-type attacks together, you’ll adopt a stance that grants firepower to all your attacks. It also makes you quite a bit faster and more powerful. It’s essentially the same as the different forms that Sora could take in Kingdom Hearts II. Unfortunately, none of them involve using dual-keyblades. Which kinda sucks. Dual keyblades are badass.
While this hardly needs to be said, Birth By Sleep is quite the looker; with the obligatory “for a PSP game” caveat. But, in perfect honesty, this game looks just as good as Kingdom Hearts II did – just on a smaller screen. The game does seem to suffer from a bit of slowdown when ridiculous numbers of enemies are on-screen, but this is relatively rare, and hardly an annoyance. If Squeenix knows how to do anything right (and this game proves that they can still do several things right) it’s make a pretty game.
I just wish there were Gummi Ship sequences. Where did they go? Just cruising around the map from an isometric view isn’t the same. At all. Oh yeah, and I wish Terra’s voice actor didn’t perpetually sound like he just woke up from a 27-year nap.
Other than that, as a Kingdom Hearts fan, it’s hard for me to complain much about Birth By Sleep. I wish I could review it for you, but suffice to say, I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it for the last few days. If you’re a fan of the series, you absolutely will as well.
And with that, we bid our farewells to the week. ‘Till next time,