Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep

Birth By Sleep – The Newest Kingdom Hearts Title

The sixth in the series does previous titles some justice, but it doesn't take the cake.
Author: Andy Curtiss
Published: September 23, 2010
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In day-to-day life there are times when we are reminded that we are aging. We find ourselves saying things like, “Those darn kids need to turn that music down!” Or, “I don’t understand teenagers these days.” Or even, “I remember when Kingdom Hearts 1 was the hot shit… when did 5 more games come out?” I’m being a tad dramatic there, but when I started the process of playing/reviewing Birth By Sleep, I found myself thinking that this was the 3rd game in the series, not realizing it was the 6th. I suddenly felt old, realizing how long ago KH1 hit the shelves and wowed gamers.

Birth By Sleep is definitely a Kingdom Hearts game… and I say this as both a pro and a con. As a “pro,” Kingdom Hearts has always been cool for including both Final Fantasy characters and Disney characters. And who doesn't want to see some butt kicking Final Fantasy people shoulder to shoulder with Mickey Mouse! Also in the pro column is the action / RPG combo that the series seems to pull off. As a “con” though, since it's Kingdom Hearts you know there's going to be a certain amount of cheesiness. When did the developers decide that your keyblade turning into a space scooter would be a good idea? And the concept of a keyblade was cute for awhile… now it feels downright silly. And call me a buzz kill, but a keyblade that has Cinderella’s castle and coach on it seems pretty childish.

Let’s break it down though. Starting with the story. Birth By Sleep is a prequel to the past Kingdom Hearts games. This means that you don’t necessarily need to have played the past games to understand this game… though it certainly doesn’t hurt. I couldn’t imagine this being a first Kingdom Hearts game though – you’d probably be confused. “Why am I beating these people with a large key-shaped thing??” The story centers around three keyblade trainees (the lady Aqua, big and buff Terra and young impulsive Ventus) and their Keyblade Master, Eraqus. After a few minutes of storyline starting you'll select which of the three trainees you'd like to play through as.

Without giving anything away, the beginning of the story sets up our three trainees each with their own separate arcs that over the course of the game will intersect here and there. But this, perhaps, is one of the little things that doesn’t fit. As Aqua, when you visit your first world (a mere 60 seconds after leaving home) both Terra and Ventus have apparently come and gone from here already. But they left home just seconds ahead of Aqua?! This is a little detail but it’s little things like this that disappoint me. Some of the Disney characters included also feel a bit out of place. Okay – VERY out of place. Scrooge McDuck and Merlin together? What? Even that aside, the story as whole felt pretty contrived. Of the three characters and their separate storylines, Ventus was downright boring, Aqua was tying up loose ends and not really anything special, but the Terra was actually interesting. I could tell within 30 seconds of the opening sequence that Master Xehanort and his masked student would be the primary antagonists. And while in Terra's game you get a good idea of who you're fighting against - there is no feeling like that for Aqua.

I wish I hadn't played through her story first because it didn't do the game's story ANY justice at all. It felt like at this point they’re just putting out another Kingdom Hearts game simply for the sake of putting out a Kingdom Hearts game. Sure - this game gives you some education on what came "before." But unless you're a big fan of the other games in the series, you find yourself wondering, "Why do I care?" The primary enemies, the Unversed, are very simliar to the Heartless we know from KH1. But BBS did far less to set you up with a reason to fight them. The game actually gives you far less reason to even start your adventure - a mere comment that Master Xehanort is missing and you need to find him (wait... didn't he just leave? Play the opening sequence and you'll see what I mean) When it's said and done, I can't say that the storyline really kept my attention, but it should be noted (also) that I haven't played the other KH games (in depth) since the first one.
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