E3 10: Preview: Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

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I’ll say right off that playing Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep seemed to bring back some of the magic I felt when playing the very first Kingdom Hearts game. That’s to say that it feels kind of magical again. That was surprising to me as this great experience was coming through on a PSP game, and not a full-blown console game. I suppose that Birth By Sleep is impressive enough to be looked at as a miniaturized console game.

Birth By Sleep takes place before the first game in a world where the story unfolds through three different characters: Ventus, Aqua, and Terra. You’ll be able to play as all three, giving you different perspectives of the story as it unfolds. In fact, there were situations where I played as one character, and then visited the same world as another, and was able to see the first character in the background, doing the things I did earlier.

It was apparent to me early on that the story for Birth By Sleep is vast. Thankfully, Square Enix had set up several save spots so that I could check out different Disney worlds, characters, and points in the story. I did check out the game’s opening, which features an insanely long series of cutscenes and story elements, all of which looked fantastic on the PSP’s screen.

Starting out with the actual game, I got a crash course on Birth By Sleep‘s control scheme. You’re still swinging Keyblades to attack enemies in this action RPG, chaining moves into combos and such, but some new additions to the formula keep things fresh. 

The new Command Deck introduces a bit of strategy into the action. You’ll preset a deck of ability card prior to combat, and you’ll be able to call upon those powers and eventually build on them. For example, early on I acquired the ability to add a slide to my attacks. After including it in my deck, I could select the move in mid-combat, and after it was charged, I could execute it by simply hitting the triangle button. 

The new Dimension Link ability allows you to connect to the movesets of the two other characters you’re not playing as. Once conditions are met, you’ll be able to hit the Right button and link to another character’s move, essentially adding their unique abilities to yours.

Lastly, one move that I didn’t get to try out more than a couple of times was the Shot Lock move. If you’re swarmed with a lot of enemies that seem to have gathered in one place, you can use this powerful blast (by pressing both the L and R buttons at the same time) to take them all out at once after targeting them. 

Despite all of these additions, I never felt hindered in combat. Actually, I felt the action was fast, responsive and enjoyable, again, kind of taking me back to the first Kingdom Hearts game on PS2. Know that the PSP’s controls (and graphical abilities) are definitely not holding this game back. 

Blasting through several save files that Square Enix made, I was able to check out many different worlds. Disney’s Princesses are in the game and each have worlds. I got to play a bit of Cinderella’s world, called Castle of Dreams,  as a couple of the heroes.

Playing as Terra, I was out to look for a lost Ventus. In looking to meet the prince I ran into Cinderella’s bitter stepsisters. I also was able to check out the Hercules inspired Olympic Coliseum. There I was able to help out Herc himself, as he seemed to be overrun with the game’s recurring enemies, the Universed.

It was her that I was able to try out the Shot Lock blast and help him out a bit. I didn’t have time to fully explore, but I do know that Lilo and Stitch and their world Deep Space are also in Birth By Sleep, as is Peter Pan’s Neverland. I’m sure this game is as packed as previous games were with Disney characters. 

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
is on a portable game system, but it does not feel like a portable game. There seems to be a ton of story here that promises to properly set the stage for the series of games you’ve already played.

Thankfully the battle action is tight and entertaining. Between these aspects and the mountain of Disney fanservice, Kingdom Hearts followers will not be disappointed.


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