Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Hands-On Impressions

We take a spin through this portable prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series.

TOKYO--The Kingdom Hearts franchise thus far has been a story about the two protagonists, Sora and Riku, who find themselves holding the keyblade and going on an adventure in the Disney Kingdom. The upcoming PSP release, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, will go in a different direction and will be somewhat of a prequel that focuses more on the keyblade itself. The game tells the story of keyblade warriors who existed before Sora and Riku's time, and it will be centered on three keyblade apprentices: Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. If you've beaten Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, you've probably seen the secret movie that gives a sneak peek at the three characters. The movie was done in a realistic-looking CG sequence that didn't match up with the Kingdom Hearts universe, but for fans who are wondering if Birth by Sleep is going to go in that direction, don't worry. The actual game felt very similar to previous installments in terms of both visual style and gameplay.

At Square Enix's DK Sigma 3173 event, we were given a chance to try out two short demos of Birth by Sleep. One let us play as Terra, and the other let us play as Ventus, also known as Ven. We started off with Terra's demo, which was more or less meant for showing us how the battle is played. As soon as the game began, Terra was surrounded by enemies that were different from the Heartless or Nobodies that we've seen in previous installments. These new enemies are called Anbaasu in Japanese, and the English meaning is something like "Unbirth." Terra's demo starts out in a grassy area, where he gets assaulted by Unbirths of different sizes. After he beats them, he fights against more on his way across a bridge to the castle of the Enchanted Kingdom. Once he makes his way to the castle, a colossal red machine awaits him as the boss. Aside from making huge jumps to stomp on Terra, the boss occasionally shoots out a white string, which captures Terra and pulls him close. Similar to other bosses in previous Kingdom Hearts games, the red machine has multiple attack points.

If you've played a previous Kingdom Hearts game, you'll probably get used to the controls in Birth by Sleep pretty quickly. You use the analog stick for controlling your character. Jumping is done with the X button, attacking is done with the circle button, and the square button lets you guard (or quick-evade, if you're holding on a direction). You use the D pad to pick menu commands, such as magic, special moves, and potion, and you use the triangle button to execute them. You'll have to be careful about using your command moves, though, because once you use one, you'll have to wait a while before you can use it again. The camera movements were pretty good from the demo we played, though if you want to move the camera around manually, you can do so by holding the L button and using the analog stick.

In Birth by Sleep, there's a cool new feature that adds spice to your traditional attacks. When you attack your enemies, you increase a command meter that's located on the top of your command menu. When it fills up, you can go into command-style mode, which is a special mode that gives you some extra firepower for a limited time. There are various modes you can switch to, such as fire blazer, which gives your normal attacks a fire attribute, and thunder bolt, which gives you a lightning attribute.

Another nifty addition to the battle is the shoot-lock system, which makes this new Kingdom Hearts game feel a bit like a shooter. If you hold down the R button, the screen turns into a green first-person-shooter-like mode for a short time. A crosshair appears on the screen, and by controlling it with the analog stick, you can trace it on multiple enemies and then hit the circle button to release a multihit move on them. What's more, if you lock on to a lot of enemies, you can execute an additional special move that hits them even more. The shoot-lock system has its own meter, which drains when you use the system. It doesn't recover automatically over time; instead, you need to beat enemies and collect an item to replenish the meter.

During Ventus' demo, called Castle of Dreams, we got more of a feel for how you'll be venturing in Birth by Sleep. Unlike Terra's demo, which was pretty straightforward but required us to fight (all we had to do was keep beating enemies to keep going), Ven's demo let us avoid combat, but we needed to do some searching through multiple maps to find items required for advancing the storyline. The demo starts off with Ven and Jaq Mouse on an open porch, talking about Cinderella and the spiteful Lady Tremaine. The subject soon changes, and Ven decides to find materials to make a dress for Cinderella so she can make it to the ball. As the camera zooms out, we find out that Ven and Jaq were actually talking on a windowsill and they're extremely small. During the rest of the game, you'll go around jumping on top of books and yarn, and sometimes you'll even hop on a fork that's stuck to the wall and use it as sort of a spring to jump to higher places. We found ourselves using techniques we didn't use in Terra's demo, such as tilting the analog stick just a little so we could walk instead of dash in order not to fall from high locations.

At the end of the demo, we fought against Lucifer the cat, who looked extremely mean, particularly because he was a couple of times larger than Ven. Our normal attacks did only minor damage, while Lucifer would pounce on us from high places, like the top of a closet, and really damage us. We soon learned that he's vulnerable after he lands, and you can ride on him like in a rodeo to make him charge into walls for damage.

The gameplay in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep felt solid, and we're looking forward to seeing more of the game in the future, particularly since we didn't get to play with the third keyblade apprentice, Aqua. The graphics are just as good as those in the PlayStation 2 releases. The game is slated for release in 2009 in Japan.

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Discussion

122 comments
dannybeast1
dannybeast1

I need a ps2. I want to play KH 1 but I don't have a ps2. Anybody know where I could find one for cheap. I would love to actually be able to get into this series sounds cool.

TheGameTripleH9
TheGameTripleH9

Another thing,i belive that ventus is soras father.he cant be roxas father because of him being a nobody.when sora released his heart for kairi,he made roxas,he joind the organization,did what he had to do,now Bbs is coming and a new character "ventus"looks just like roxas.why is that?

TheGameTripleH9
TheGameTripleH9

I am only 13 and for christmas i am getting a PSP just for this game.The story line looks much better than past games but i like kh 2 final mix+ the best....for now

SkyeGuardian
SkyeGuardian

OMG. I am a massive KH fan and I would almost buy a PSP just for this game.

Azure_Legend
Azure_Legend

I wonder... If Terra's still alive in KH 2 FM+, then where are Ven and Aqua?

SuperSoraKH2
SuperSoraKH2

I think roxas and ventus have a connection

Bryankusman
Bryankusman

I can't wait for this game come to Indonesia!! Kingdom Hearts is the Best series of game i ever played... The story, character design, and the others are great!! (Eventually i'm a KH big fan)

RazzaFrazz
RazzaFrazz

Cant wait for this one. Kingdom Hearts is the best series I've ever played and I know this one ain't gonna be no worse.

Mewt2021
Mewt2021

So I must have missed something, why is Roxas in a screenshot if the game is a prequel and Roxas only becomes existent in the second game?

Vrygar777
Vrygar777

I agree with WarblazerTM, the PSP does need better games. I hope this comes to the US soon, even though i'm not that huge of a KH fan.

Twili01
Twili01

i cant wait that long!!

SethAdam
SethAdam

i heard it is going to come out later this year in japan and come to america in 2009

scorpia991
scorpia991

this game ....wow....too much for me to handle in one day...im gonna have to play this with long term gaps...this game is just toooooo good...oh yh i dont think its gonna be released in us...but im still gonna get it even if i dont understand it....its amazing!!!

atrofiado
atrofiado

damn it another game that's going to make me spend some money :D

rachkovsky
rachkovsky

I have never played it and never really understood anything too. But if I get the chance I would play it. I heard its very popular for anime fans. I'm more of a nar uto fanatic. This sounds quite good I expect.

ilkakad
ilkakad

im so exited but i still rather have it about sora and them because it gets u interested about it and they should atleast make sora and kiari get together

WarblazerTM
WarblazerTM

Sweet hopefully this game will be just as good as the previous titles. The psp needs some new (actually good) titles.

isaac_van-mosly
isaac_van-mosly

to burstlimit514 where did you hear that kh3 would be announced at this years tokyo game show is it reallt true

burstlimit514
burstlimit514

ive seen the demo and the graphics are WOW! And KH3 to be announced at tokyo game show so be sure to watch it on G4

Zeldasboy_12
Zeldasboy_12

ill be there day one ( US release, i know no japenese)

Zeldasboy_12
Zeldasboy_12

ill be there day one ( US release, i know no japenese)

kawaiininja007
kawaiininja007

could it be? cinderella in a kh game?! the demo sounds like fun!

bunnies4ever
bunnies4ever

Wahooo!!!Kingdom Hearts!!!!I sure hope they have a release date soon cuz I gonna count down the days!!!!!Kingdom Hearts 4ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

to ShinraSOLDIER93 Why does the US have to wait? pffft. I live in Australia and we have to wait twice as long as you guys even though we're practically the same distance from Japan.We haven't even got Rock Band yet and Rock Band 2 is coming out cos EA are bastards.Don't talk about waiting to me.

EnaVRi
EnaVRi

I'm waiting for this... Looks good... Waiting for PSP 3000 to come up... I need KH III for PS3...

ShinraSOLDIER93
ShinraSOLDIER93

why does the u.s half to wait so long WHY GOD WHY !!!!!!!!!!!

ZookGuy
ZookGuy

I wish I had a PSP...

Brunopereira14
Brunopereira14

i have played all KHs and completed them in less of 4days and got everything.... so im waiting for my new psp challenge which should be cool

cjothom
cjothom

I can't wait for this! It's going to be great to be able to play Kingdom Hearts on the go.

Adel4
Adel4

yeah it should only be for psp, i mean if they did that more people would buy the psp but if they put it on ps2 they wont bother

yousif_aj2000
yousif_aj2000

The First and Second Part of the Game is Fantastic , But i am waiting for another one in the PS3 .... not on the PSP ..........

screath
screath

The actual game will have o for jumping and x for attack. I know this because the Japanese PSP's swap the functions of x and o. I read it in the 2008 PSP guide by the makers of Playstation Magazine.

MacSap
MacSap

Can't wait for this to come out!

dolfan928
dolfan928

This game should NOT ever come out for PS2 or anything else. Story driven games especially should never go multiplatform. *cough*FFXIII*cough* Exclusive games are what have driven the gaming industry since NES, and have produced the best games of all time. Put a game like an RPG on two systems and one of two things happens. Either the game is held back for everyone because one console has more limitations(i.e. every sports game on 360 and PS3), or one version gets more content and features or better graphics and those who don't have the better platform miss out. If a game is great people will buy a system to play it. Go get a PSP you won't regret it. Easily the best handheld ever in my opinion.

90420
90420

They've ported a few games from the psp to ps2 a few months after release on the psp,liberty city stories and vice city stories, and more recently silent hill origins. So the potential to make more money is definitely there for them

thelegendislink
thelegendislink

Imight get a PSP just for this game deffinitely getting 358/2 days on DS tho

chad28_69
chad28_69

I would like so much that they release this game for the ps2, but i don't see that happening. And sense I don't have a psp and i won´t be having one I guess the only thing i can do is drool over the info i can get about the game :(

wogboypaul
wogboypaul

i want a psppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp