Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (キングダム ハーツ バース バイ スリープ Kingudamu Hātsu Bāsu bai Surīpu?) is an action roleplaying game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation Portable, serving as the sixth installment in the Kingdom Hearts series. The game was released in Japan on January 9, 2010,[4] in North America on September 7, 2010 and in Europe on September 10, 2010.[5] However, it was not released for the PSP Go. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep was also released with a limited edition PSP-3000 as a bundle in Japan featuring designs from the Kingdom Hearts series on its back.[6] Nomura has referred to the game as "Episode 0"[7] saying that the game is on the same scale and plays as big an importance as Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.[8]

The game is a prequel to the original Kingdom Hearts, taking place ten years before. The game centers on the journeys of Terra, Aqua, and Ventus, characters briefly featured in Kingdom Hearts II, in their quest to locate the missing Master Xehanort. The game also utilizes an overhauled battle system different from previous games in the series with new elements such as the Command Board, Command System and Dimension Links added in.

Gameplay Edit

Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Gameplay

Terra battling the Trinity Armor with Aqua and Ventus.[9]

Birth by Sleep is an action roleplaying game. This game allows players to customize their "deck" by choosing which techniques and abilities to display.[10][11]

Another new gameplay aspect is the Command System; when the command gauge is filled and requirements have been fulfilled, the Command Style of the character will change. When the gauge fills up and the requirements have been fulfilled for the second time, the character will change to an even higher level Command Style.[12]

A new feature of the game is the Command Board, which appears whenever the player completes a world, and can be accessed from save points and the world map once unlocked. Each world has its own unique Command Board with its own tricks and mechanisms. The Command Board plays like a regular board game where a dice is thrown and the player moves, each space having its own unique effect on the player. Various Disney characters from throughout the game also appear on their respective Command Board to either aid or hinder the player. Special panels in the board game can trigger "special events" when landed on by the player.

The game does not utilize a Magic Points (MP) system for spells or magic casting, unlike in previous games in the series. Instead it uses a new system known as "Focus" which is displayed in a gauge on the interface, involving targeting spells using what is known as the "ShotLock Mode". It also involves the characters casting spells in a first person mode, where each character is able to cast their own unique magic attacks.[13]

Another new aspect of the game is the Dimension Link (D-Link) which can be used to summon allies to lend their power to aid the player from different worlds. Companions such as Experiment 626 who have been left behind in previous worlds can be called upon once again to temporarily aid the player in his or her, by providing player with an entirely new range of new attacks in their command decks replacing the usual ones. At the end, a new powerful finishing move is activated to take out enemies. Each ally used will have a unique set of attacks and finishing move. Each finishing move has two levels which can render a finishing move more powerful than before, similar to that of the Command System. The D-Link can be activated by pressing right on the directional pad to access the D-Link menu, followed by selecting the chosen ally namely, Experiment 626, Aqua, Ventus, Terra, and several others.[12]

Scenarios Edit

The game is divided into three separate scenarios, with each scenario surrounding the story of the three main characters: Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. Each scenario is related to the other. The gameplay of each scenario differs based on the personalities and abilities of each character such as power, speed and magic. Players are able to choose which of the three scenarios to begin with and are able to switch to another scenario, midway through playing a scenario.[2] The scenario's recommended order of play by Nomura is Terra, followed by Ventus, and lastly Aqua, allowing the player to best understand the story.[8] In addition, the three scenarios are very different and only share the same story-line for the first ten minutes of the story.[8]

Multiplayer Edit

The game supports up to six players at a time[14] in four new multiplayer modes. Players control one of the three main characters suited in armor in a world known as the Mirage Arena. In Versus, players fight against each other in a deathmatch style game, while in Arena players fight co-operatively in a "Survival Mode" style of gameplay against wave after wave of Unversed. In Rumble Racing, players race against each other competitively on their Keyblade vehicles which can also be used to attack rivals. In Command Board, players play a board game on the in-game Command Board mechanic to reach the end first like in traditional board games.[15] Setting records in the Mirage Arena earns players medals which can be exchanged for rare items in-game.[16] Only Ad-Hoc wireless multiplayer is allowed.[17]

Plot Edit

Template:Kingdom Hearts chronology

Setting Edit

Birth by Sleep is a prequel to the first Kingdom Hearts game, taking place ten years prior.[18][19] Like the other games in the series, the player progresses through a collection of various worlds, based on various locales from the Disney animated features canon: Dwarf Woodlands from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Enchanted Dominion from Sleeping Beauty; Castle of Dreams from Cinderella; Olympus Coliseum from Hercules; Deep Space from Lilo & Stitch; Neverland from Peter Pan (featuring for the first time most of the main island setting new to the series rather than Captain Hook's pirate ship and Big Ben from the first game and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days); and Mysterious Tower from Fantasia.[14] The game also features various new worlds specially created for the series by Square Enix such as the Land of Departure and Radiant Garden.[20] Disney Town, which is the town that surrounds the castle grounds of Disney Castle, serves as the game's minigame world. Worlds such as Destiny Islands and Castle Oblivion also appear in the form of cutscenes, while the 100 Acre Wood from the Winnie the Pooh franchise, which had appeared in most other games of the series, only appears as a Command Board in Birth by Sleep.

Characters Edit

The three main characters are Terra, Aqua, and Ventus, a trio of close friends and apprentice Keyblade-wielders under Master Eraqus who aspire to become Masters themselves. Another Keyblade Master, Xehanort, and his mysterious apprentice, Vanitas, serve as the game's antagonists. Other characters from the previous games return, such as Sora, Riku, and Kairi, though they are younger than their original incarnations and given less prominent roles. A number of characters who later come to form Organization XIII also appear, particularly the first five apprentices of Ansem the Wise (Braig, Dilan, Even, Aeleus, and Ienzo) as well as Lea and Isa, who were previously unaffiliated with the former five.[21] As with the Heartless in Kingdom Hearts and the Nobodies in Kingdom Hearts II, Birth by Sleep introduces a new type of enemy: the Unversed, beings who oppose human life and feed from negative emotions, created from those who are not well-versed in their own existences.

As with the other games in the series, Birth by Sleep features an extensive cast of Disney characters.[11] The most prominent of these characters is King Mickey,[10] who serves as a student under Yen Sid at this point in the series chronology. Donald Duck and Goofy, who served the main protagonist Sora in most other games, appear in smaller roles. Most other Disney characters remain in their respective worlds regardless of their overall importance to the story in previous installments, such as Maleficent and Pete, who served as major antagonists between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, and a number of the Princesses of Heart. Some characters (such as Experiment 626, Prince Phillip, and King Mickey) occasionally fight alongside the player characters in battles as partners similar to the other games, providing assistance and performing combos to help the player proceed. However, they do not follow the player around constantly like Donald and Goofy in the other games. Unlike the other major installments, which also featured casts of various characters throughout the Final Fantasy series, Birth by Sleep only features two of these characters: Zack from Final Fantasy VII, and Moogles, from several of the Final Fantasy games.[22] As Birth by Sleep is a prequel of the first Kingdom Hearts title, the staff decided to add Zack to the title as he is protagonist from the Final Fantasy prequel, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.[23]

Story Edit

The story begins in the Land of Departure, where a trio of friends and Keyblade wielders—Terra, Aqua, and Ventus (Ven for short)—train under the Keyblade Master Eraqus to become Keyblade Masters themselves. Terra and Aqua take an exam to achieve the Mark of Mastery, but only Aqua passes while Terra fails due to the abundant darkness in his heart. Shortly after the test, Master Xehanort disappears, and a horde of mysterious creatures called the Unversed begin to appear throughout the worlds. Eraqus orders Terra and Aqua to destroy the Unversed and find Xehanort. Ven is goaded into following Terra against Eraqus' wishes by Vanitas, Xehanort's enigmatic apprentice, and Aqua is sent to watch over Terra and bring Ven back to the Land of Departure.

Upon arriving in several worlds, Terra, Aqua, and Ven encounter various Disney characters, fighting off many Unversed along the way. Among the characters they meet is Mickey Mouse, the apprentice of the sorcerer Yen Sid, who is also on a mission to destroy the Unversed. Terra ends up attracting the attention of several Disney villains, who offer him the whereabouts of Xehanort in exchange for assistance in their own dark agendas. The three briefly reunite at Radiant Garden where Aqua and Ven confront Terra about his actions, which only shakes his trust in them and his master and, upon finding Xehanort, leads him to become his new disciple.

Ven comes across Xehanort, who reveals his intentions to use Ven's heart to create a final Keyblade known as the χ-blade and sends him to the Land of Departure to confront Eraqus, saying he knows the truth about him. Eraqus tries to kill Ven to prevent Xehanort's plans from succeeding, but Terra, who was also sent to the Land of Departure by Xehanort, faces Eraqus to protect Ven. Upon his defeat, Eraqus is vanquished by Xehanort, who enshrouds the Land of Departure in darkness and tells Terra to go to a world known as the Keyblade Graveyard, where the ruins of a mysterious event known as the Keyblade War are found. Ven is similarly instructed to do the same by Vanitas, as is Aqua by Yen Sid after he informs her of Eraqus' death.

Terra, Aqua, and Ventus gather at the Keyblade Graveyard where Xehanort appears with Vanitas and reveals his plan to use the χ-blade to unlock Kingdom Hearts and unleash the forbidden secrets of the Keyblade War onto the various worlds. In the following battle, Xehanort takes over Terra's body as his heart is swallowed by darkness, but Terra's mind remains within his discarded suit of armor, which comes to life and defeats Xehanort. Meanwhile, Vanitas fuses with Ven to create the χ-blade and battles Aqua alongside Mickey. Aqua shatters the χ-blade as Ven destroys Vanitas within his mind, though Ven's heart is lost as a result, sending him into a deep sleep.

After learning that Ven will not awaken until his heart returns, Aqua brings his body to the ruins of Land of Departure, where she seals the world's keyhole and transforms it into Castle Oblivion to ensure Ven will not be disturbed. Aqua then goes to Radiant Garden where she fights Xehanort, who has lost his memories but still possesses Terra's body. Terra uses the last of his consciousness to stop Xehanort by locking his own heart, but is saved from sinking into the World of Darkness by Aqua, who becomes trapped there in the process. Xehanort is discovered and taken in by Ansem the Wise, ruler of Radiant Garden, as his apprentice. Ven's heart then finds its way to a young Sora and is able to rest within the boy's heart.

In the game's secret ending, which takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts II, Aqua comes across Ansem the Wise in the Realm of Darkness and learns from him about Sora, who has the power to save those connected to his heart, including Terra, Ventus, and Aqua herself. Sora, having learned of this plight from King Mickey, decides to undertake another quest in order to save them.

Development Edit

Development of the game began in June 2005 and was originally intended for the PlayStation 2 with Sora as the prototype protagonist of the game.[24] Birth by Sleep was developed by Square Enix's fifth Product Development Division, based in Osaka,[1] the same team behind Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, and uses the same graphical engine as both Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Dissidia: Final Fantasy.[25] During development of Kingdom Hearts II, the Osaka-based team had requested to be involved in a spin-off if one were to be made.[1] Development of the game began before the release of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+. The plot was completed, but development was halted six months after it began due to development of Re:Chain of Memories. The development team changed the platform to the PlayStation Portable so as to make use of the PSP's functions such as co-operative and competitive multiplayer gameplay.[23] The title of the game is based on Final Mix+'s secret ending, "Birth by Sleep", a title which director Tetsuya Nomura developed as he wanted a phrase having "by" as well as to use an English title like previous games.[23]

Birth by Sleep was directed by Nomura and co-directed by Tai Yasue.[2] In 2007, Nomura mentioned a desire to create a spin-off Kingdom Hearts game on a mobile platform and for it to feature gameplay slightly different than other titles in the series.[26] It was announced alongside Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts coded at the Tokyo Game Show on September 20, 2007, where a trailer was shown in a photo-prohibited theater.[27] New trailers were shown at the 2008 Jump Festa in December 2007 and the DKΣ3713 Private party in August 2008—a playable demo was also available at DKΣ3713.[28][29]

The June 5, 2009 issue of Famitsu covered an interview with Tetsuya Nomura, where he said that the game was, at the time, at the voice recording stage. It also speculated that the game would be showcased at Tokyo Game Show 2009.[30] In August 2009, new Famitsu scans revealed a revamped User Interface (having been revamped twice before) as well as new worlds after a lack of news for close to a year. It was also revealed that the official names for the new enemies were the Unversed. Nomura also confirmed in an interview that Birth by Sleep would contain a secret ending like in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II for the next game in the Kingdom Hearts series, which he confirmed to be a main game and the one which Nomura stated would link up Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days and coded. He also confirmed that a Birth by Sleep demo would indeed be playable at the 2009 Tokyo Games Show together with a new trailer.[4]

In early October 2009, Square Enix released their Tokyo Game Show 2009 trailer to the public on the official website. Nomura revealed that the concept of the Command Board originated from when he was in elementary school as at that time he was very fascinated with board games and even made his own; hence he wanted to incorporate a fun board game into the game. He also revealed that the name Eraqus came from an anagram of Square, and said that both Master Eraqus and Vanitas would be voiced by voice actors who are very difficult to hire. The official release date was also confirmed as being January 9, 2010.[17]

In late October 2009, Nomura updated the official Kingdom Hearts blog, "Message from the Kingdom", with a status report about Birth by Sleep. He revealed that he was currently designing the cover art for Birth by Sleep as well as editing the staff rolls due to there being three main characters in Birth by Sleep. He also revealed that they were editing the new opening movie for the game, though he did not mention if a new opening song would be used or a previous one would be re-used like with 358/2 Days. He also noted that they were also editing the promotional video and commercials for the game at the time.[31] As with coded, 358/2 Days, Yoko Shimomura, the series' main composer, composed the most prominent themes, while the rest was created by other composers.[32] Like Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, Birth by Sleep uses Hikaru Utada's theme song "Hikari" for the Japanese version and its English version, "Simple and Clean", in the overseas releases.

The game made its final public appearance before its Japanese release at Jump Festa 2010 on December 19, 2009 where a playable demo as well as new footage from the game were present and shown.[33] The trailer shown during the event was finally unveiled to the public on December 28, 2009 as part of an update to the official site. Like previous console titles in the series, the game contains a secret movie at the end, which had been described as being more like a "true ending" rather than a teaser for the future like previous ones.[8] Development of the movie began in October where Nomura noted in the blog that the game would contain a teaser to the next major Kingdom Hearts game similar to the teasers Deep Dive and Birth by Sleep.[31]

Localization Edit

On March 16, 2010, Square Enix announced the English version of Birth By Sleep, which was released on September 7, 2010 in North America, and on September 10, 2010 in Europe.[15] The overseas version of the game contains some adjustments from the original version, such as a new difficulty setting called Critical Mode, and additional songs for the Ice Cream Beat minigame. A new boss known only as the Mysterious Figure appears in the overseas versions, as well as a new gameplay element called "Crown Stickers", which act much the same way as the Puzzle Pieces from Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+.[23] The game also has an all-star voice-acting cast of returning members such as Jesse McCartney and James Woods as well as numerous new actors such as Willa Holland, Leonard Nimoy, and Mark Hamill.[34] On July 2, 2010, a "Collector's Edition Set" was announced for release in Germany, which includes a 48-page art book and art prints in a special packaging; this set was later confirmed for release in the United Kingdom, other selected parts of Europe, and Australia.[citation needed] The European versions, however, was not be dubbed into various European languages, instead only translating the texts.[citation needed]

Final MixEdit

In early 2010, Nomura was asked in an interview if Square Enix would release an international Final Mix of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep to which he replied he would like to as he enjoyed the work from the English voice casting done in the previous games. However, he stated that one of the main reasons for the popularity of the Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts II was due to the fact that it was released alongside the PlayStation 2 remake of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, so he and the staff would think on it more.[23] On September 15, 2010, Square Enix announced that Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix will be released in the winter of 2010 in Japan. Like all Final Mix releases, it will combine English audio with Japanese game text and subtitles, and include all additional features implemented in the Western versions as well as brand new content,[35] such as a new secret episode. Alongside The 3rd Birthday, Final Mix will include a code that will allow players from the upcoming Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy to get new downloadable content, with Final Mix featuring the Kingdom Hearts outfit for the character Cloud Strife.[36]

Reception Edit

Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 81.17%[37]
(12 reviews)
Metacritic 82/100[38]
(24 reviews)
Review scores
Publication Score B+[39]
Eurogamer 7/10[40]
Famitsu 37/40[41]
Game Informer 8.50/10[42]
GameSpot 7.5/10[43]
GamesRadar 8/10[44]
GameTrailers 8.8/10[45]
IGN 8.5/10[46]
PSM Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[47]
X-Play 4/5[48]

The game sold very well during its first two days of release with over 500,000 copies of the game sold in Japan.[49] As of February 14, 2010 the game has sold a total of 800,551 copies of the game solely in Japan.[50] Sales in North America and Europe have also been good, with the game taking high places in various categories.[51]

Prior to the game's release, IGN expressed their excitement at the release of the game in 2010 having played the demo.[28] echoed similar statements, praising the visuals and stating it "plays better" than the previous Kingdom Hearts games. They had some complaints regarding to Ven's demo due to constant jumping. They further stated that Ven's demo gave them an idea of "how the game is going to feel", and predicted the game would improve the series.[13] 1UP also put it on their article "Top 10 PSP Games of 2010",[52] IGN featured it as nominated of 2010's "Best of E3 Award" in the category Best PSP Games.[53] GameTrailers also had praise for the new title and gave it a nomination for Best PSP Game of E3 2010.[54]

The game has been highly praised by Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu, which gave a score of 10/9/9/9 for a total of 37 out of 40. It praised the game's graphics and music, calling them "superb", as well as praising the wide variety of customization available to the players due to the three unique playable characters. It also praised the design of boss battles, calling them "lively and exciting".[41] English websites have also given praise to the game. Two RPG-focused websites, RPGamer and RPG Land, both looked upon Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep as the series' best title since its first outing for PS2. RPGamer noted in its 4/5 review, "The story is the most enjoyable since the original, and the gameplay has evolved quite nicely,"[55] while RPG Land rated it "Great" and declared bluntly, "This is the best Kingdom Hearts game since the original."[56] IGN gave Birth by Sleep an 8.5 out of 10 praising the game for its unique battle system and having a campaign story, but complained on the targeting system, long loading times, and the fact that the worlds feel hollow.[46]

See also Edit

References Edit

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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 A New Chapter In The Kingdom Hearts Series Delivers Three Brand-New Titles To The Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, And Mobile Phones. Square Enix (September 21, 2007). Retrieved on September 24, 2007
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  4. 4.0 4.1 Famitsu (August 28, 2009). マルチプレイの情報も飛び出した『キングダム ハーツ バース バイ スリープ』. Famitsu. Retrieved on September 25, 2009
  5. Kingdom Hearts PSP hits September 7. GameSpot (May 17, 2010). Retrieved on September 17, 2010
  6. Luke Plunkett (November 17, 2009). New Kingdom Hearts PSP Fit For Japan. Kotaku. Retrieved on December 12, 2009
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  12. 12.0 12.1 『キングダム ハーツ バース バイ スリープ』でディズニーキャラクターなどの仲間とリンク!. Famitsu (October 2, 2009). Retrieved on November 3, 2009
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  15. 15.0 15.1 KINGDOM HEARTS BIRTH BY SLEEP OPENS THE DOORS TO AN UNTOLD WORLD THIS SUMMER. Square Enix (2010-03-16). Retrieved on 2010-03-16
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  17. 17.0 17.1 Famitsu Staff (2009-11-05). (in Japanese)Weekly Famitsu (Enterbrain): 262–267. 
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  20. KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep TGS 2009 Trailer. Square Enix. Retrieved on November 3, 2009
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  22. Jump Staff (2009-12-01). (in Japanese)Weekly Shōnen Jump (Kazuhiko Torishima): 20. 
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  49. Tsutaya (January 12, 2010). MD松尾のヒット解析:「キングダム ハーツ」50万本の好スタート 「バイオ」人気か. 每日 Retrieved on January 13, 2010
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  52. Top 10 PSP Games of 2010. Retrieved on March 2, 2010
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  56. RPG Land Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep review. Retrieved on September 5, 2010

External links Edit