After I played and reviewed Kingdom Hearts (which I enjoyed), Re: Chain of Memories (which I mostly liked), and Kingdom Hearts II (which I loved), I watched the cutscenes for 358/2 Days and then took a short break…
…and spent the whole break waiting to play Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep.
Verdict? I have a new favorite Kingdom Hearts game.
One of my criticisms of Kingdom Hearts II was that its worlds felt much more linear than the worlds in the first game. While I’d still say Birth By Sleep’s worlds suffer from that a little, it was more fun to explore them and some had secrets to discover.
The gameplay also introduced the Command Deck, which fortunately is nothing like Chain of Memories’ card deck. Instead, it’s how you use all of your special moves, magic, etc. It’s fantastic!
Not only is it nice to set up your special commands and be able to use them with one button (which is the button Kingdom Hearts II used for opening treasure chests, so my early Birth By Sleep hours included many wild attacks on treasure chests), but commands also level up as you use them. Commands at their maximum level can be melded to form new ones.
Command melding is a lot of fun, especially when you end up with a powerful new command. Special items let you attach abilities to them, which you keep permanently if you max out the command, which makes it even better.
It’s like a streamlined Mario Party played against other Birth By Sleep hours, and I never got tired of it. In fact, I wanted more boards and more characters!
A few other features distinguish Birth By Sleep’s combat from that of the previous games. First, D-Links, where you channel the power of other characters to temporarily use their commands and special attacks. It wasn’t my favorite feature, but it helped me out on a few occasions.
Second, shotlocks, where you essentially aim a powerful attack that can either hit multiple enemies or do a ton of damage to one. Shotlocks were fantastic to use, especially my favorite, Meteor Shower.
The D-Link gauge is replenished by orbs dropped by enemies, and the shotlock gauge refills as you attack enemies.
Attacking enemies also fills your command gauge, which ends with either a finishing move (which you learn more of as you play) or a transition to a Command Style, which gives you different attacks and has its own special finishing move. Some Command Styles can be transitioned into different ones, and they are usually really cool.
That’s already a lot of stuff to love about Birth By Sleep, and we haven’t even gotten to my favorite parts: the story and characters.
Birth By Sleep has three protagonists, Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. Each has a separate story to play through, although the three stories intersect and overlap. If you’ve played Kingdom Hearts II, Ventus should look familiar. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not as confusing as you might fear.
I’ve heard people say Birth By Sleep is where Kingdom Hearts’s story goes crazy. If so, then it’s my kind of crazy, because I loved it.
The plot, the characters, I loved them all. Some of my old favorites from previous games even returned, which delighted me to no end. And while the Disney worlds sometimes felt separate from the main plot, they tied in fairly well to the protagonists’ character development, and some were just plain fun.
Terra’s story was my favorite, even if I sometimes wanted to shake him. (That’s him to the right. Look into his eyes. These are the eyes of a man who will trust anyone, no matter how obviously evil, until their villainy becomes explicit. It’s rather endearing, really… if frustrating.)
Speaking of villains, I finally got to see Master Xehanort, who claimed a spot on my list of favorite characters almost immediately for being horrible and manipulative in the most entertaining of ways.
I went into Birth By Sleep wondering how the game would handle him. Kingdom Hearts II already attached the name Xehanort to a villain, and Birth By Sleep’s intro showed him being pretty obviously evil, so it could have been painful if they tried to pretend he wasn’t bad. To my relief and amusement, it doesn’t try at all, and Master Xehanort spends the game’s early scenes giving the camera evil smirks at every possible opportunity.
(To be honest, the sheer amount of Xehanort is one of the reasons Terra’s story is my favorite. The villain can make or break a story for me, and he definitely makes it.)
The only criticism I have of Birth By Sleep’s story is that Aqua doesn’t really have one. She’s following Terra and Ventus, but she lacks her own plot, which made her story duller than the others. Since she’s a Keyblade Master, I actually expected Master Eraqus to have a stronger role in her story.
He doesn’t, which is a shame. He’d actually grown on me quite a bit by the time I got to Aqua’s story, so I was looking forward to seeing more of him.
Still, one dull story (and a lack of Eraqus) is a small complaint, and really the only complaint I have about Birth By Sleep except that the mini-games felt repetitive since they were the same for all three characters. Besides, the Final Episode made up for Aqua’s lackluster story.
Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, which I played as part of the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix has everything I ask for in a video game: an exciting plot, enjoyable and memorable characters, and fun gameplay. Toss in a great mini-game like the Command Board, and you can’t go wrong.
If you’re catching up on the series or you just never got around to Birth By Sleep, I highly recommend it.
And now it’s over. Once I watch the cutcenes for Re:coded, I’ll have nothing to do except wait for Kingdom Hearts 2.8. No more Kingdom Hearts to play. Well…
*glances at my copy of 358/2 Days*
If you’ve played Birth By Sleep, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below! And if you haven’t played it, what are you waiting for?
If you want posts like this delivered straight to your inbox, enter your email in the box below to subscribe!