We love
Varied combat and simple, fun gameplay, plus a well executed narrative
We hate
Some of the earlier worlds are a little on the easy side
If you love RPGs you'll be sure to feel the same way about Birth By Sleep
Launch Price
6 Pages

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep review

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep brings the popular Kingdom Hearts RPG franchise to the PSP in a prequel to the events of the original games. Despite being shrunk down to handheld proportions, it does the fantastical adventure more than enough justice. This is one Disney ride you won’t find in a theme park – read on for more in our full Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep review.

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep review: Combat
Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep review: Characters and story
Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep review: Gameplay

Those new to the franchise can’t be blamed for being intimidated. RPG titles aren’t always the most welcoming to newcomers, especially ones which appear to mix manga characters with Disney animals. Being a prequel though, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep offers up the perfect opportunity to hop into the Kingdom Hearts World.

Initially some players will find themselves waiting for things to kick off because there’s a lot of dialogue and fade outs between scenes leading up to the initial events. Not all of it seems relevant, but it’s all character building stuff before the three characters you get to control separately veer off on their quest.

As we mentioned in our Setting, characters and story part of this four-pronged Kingdom Hearts review, to delve into the story too much would take the fun and surprise of it, so we’ll give as much a taster as possible.

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Your characters Terra and Aqua are taking an exam to become Keyblade masters, but before long a group of creatures called the Unversed appear and a master Xenahort goes missing. Still with us? Terra is sent to destroy the creatures, with Aqua and a boy called Ventus (who you also control) following Terra into the new and mysterious worlds they’ll find themselves in. It is these worlds where the action takes place. The rest of the story in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is well put together thankfully, and sizable. Expect plenty of dramatic dialogue, cut-scenes and lots of appearances from your favourite Disney characters.

Each character has their own story, so to get the complete version of events you’ll need to clear Kingdom of Hearts: Birth By Sleep with Terra, Aqua and Ventus. It means there’s plenty of playtime to be had. That’s the beauty with RPGs, and Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is no different, despite ditching the home console for handheld territory. It’s hardly bite-size.

Jumping into the game the worlds players encounter will be familiar even to non Kingdom Hearts fans, as they’re based on Disney films. You’ll find yourself in the world of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella’s house, Peter Pan’s Neverland and lots more. They’re all well designed, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Some are larger than others, but in general they’re just about the right size to keep you entertained for long enough to accomplish something on a 45-minute train journey.

The big game changing alterations in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep arrive in the form of new combat additions. One of the major changes is the ability to customise your Command Deck. Each player has their own set of abilities they can trigger by pressing triangle. Rather than be stuck with the same it’s possible to select which three you want to have equipped, making sure combat – the meat of the gameplay, is always kept fresh.

Other new combative features include Command Styles giving you a supercharged attack when your command gauge is full, or Shotlock – letting you target a wide radius of enemies, or D-Link letting you call upon the abilities of some of the other characters you’ll meet. Those averse to the turn-based RPG combat of other franchises (Final Fantasy) have plenty to be relieved about, with all the combat options adding extra spice to each new battle.

Adding further variety to the main story mode in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is the addition of a Command Board. It takes the form of a board game where players travel across squares after a die is rolled. These boards are placed at the start of each world. You don’t have to enter, but your motivation is that you can use it to level up your deck abilities by taking control of certain panels on the board.

Visually Kingdom of Hearts: Birth By Sleep looks very PS2-ish. That’s a good thing for the PSP title. It means you’ll get the occasional out of place jagged edge, or over-blockiness in areas, notably in the cutscenes, but the action is very well presented throughout that you’ll barely notice the irregularities. There are some fabulous moments though, and some of the special magic abilities look positively ravishing.

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep combines a well told story with approachable gameplay and characters you want to succeed, along with a few well known Disney faces to deliver one of the few titles to make RPG fans say they’re glad to own a PSP for. With three protagonists to play as, and a different story for each, backed up by flexible combat options Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is worth dusting down your PSP for.

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep review: Combat
Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep review: Characters and story
Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep review: Gameplay

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