TGS 2008: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Hands-On

Kingdom Hearts continues its Renaissance with this prequel, and we got some time with a playable version on the Tokyo Game Show floor.

TOKYO--Earlier this year, we got a brief look at Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep at Square Enix's DK Sigma 3173 event, and it looks like the demo available on the floor of the 2008 Tokyo Game Show was the same that we saw in August. But it never hurts to take a second look, especially when surrounded by throngs of press members eager to get their own mitts on the upcoming PSP game. Fortunately, the trailer for the game we'd just seen in Square Enix's Mega Theater had already whetted our voracious Disney-hungry appetites, so we were glad to take the game for a second spin.

Fatal mode, appropriately, delivers the kills.

The trailer showed several shots of Sleeping Beauty's wicked queen, Maleficent. She seems to be the game's main antagonist, but sadly, none of the playable demo showcased her wily ways. However, the first level we played took place in "Enchanted Dominion," aka The Enchanted Kingdom, which is Sleeping Beauty's world. Our own character was no princess, though: His name was Terra, and he's a newcomer to the Kingdom Hearts universe. The level began with a short scene in which the camera panned across a green meadow and focused on the spiked raven locks of our hero. From here, we pushed forward, eager to learn more about Birth By Sleep's combat system.

It didn't take long, as we quickly encountered a number of enemies known as unbirths; like the heartless and nobodies from the other games in the series, the unbirths come in a variety of types. The most common one was a beak-nosed blue foe with a sharply angular body. Other types we encountered were batlike creatures and winged cauldrons, but the main methods of attacking them were the same: By pounding on the circle button, you execute standard attack moves with your keyblade, while the square button lets you block and X causes you to jump. The triangle button initiates magic attacks or other actions, such as drinking a potion, and you can cycle through the options easily using the D pad.

The twist is that by landing enough attacks and filling your command meter, you can actually enter different combat states--and within those states, you can access different levels of attack power. For example, we entered "fatal mode," in which our attacks gained power the more we pummeled our foes; by the time we reached the third level of this mode, we executed a multihit attack followed by a fiery blast, all by simply hitting the circle button. "Fire blazer" was another attack mode we entered, and it caused, appropriately, a number of fiery attacks to emanate from Terra's blade. And in yet another twist, single-button quicktime prompts appeared here and there, which prompted powerful-looking aerial attacks.

The level was totally combat oriented, and ended with a giant mechanical boss that wielded a thin tractor beam of sorts on one arm, and rotating spiked wheel on the other. The energy string proved to be a bit tricky, since it would pull us inward and keep us from being able to attack, though another button-pressing event (hammering on the circle button) extricated Terra from its grip. Sadly, the boss went down quickly and we were met with a short blurb thanking us for playing.

No, this isn't Roxas, it's Ventus. Coincidental resemblance? Talk amongst yourselves.

Fortunately, there was more to check out. A second level let us play as Ventus, who bears more than a striking resemblance to series star Roxas (and the protagonist of the upcoming DS game, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days). This took place in Cinderella's Castle of Dreams, and included more platforming and puzzling elements. We did get a chance to pound on a number of enemies with Ventus' unusual-looking keyblade, however. Enemies included boots (yes, boots) hopping around, more winged cauldrons and beak-nosed blue dudes, flop-eared rabbitlike creatures, and our favorite, bouncing unbirths with jiggling bellies and demonic red eyes. Special attack modes included "speed race," a quick and dirty attack that was particularly dramatic on its third level. The quick-press attack we performed unleashed bolts of lightning on all nearby enemies. The most powerful blow we landed, however, was in "cyclone" mode. For the first time, we reached an attack level of four, at which point Ventus became, essentially, a whirling whirlwind of death, destroying every unbirth in his path for a few seconds.

In this particular level, Ventus had been shrunk to the size of a mouse, so in order to reach certain heights, we had to use the environments creatively. At one point we had to jump on a fork sticking out from the wall, which then propelled us to a ledge above. Sadly, we had to leave the booth, so we never defeated the end boss, Lucifer the cat. On the other hand, we got to knock around giant balls of yarn, so that must count for something. Regardless, we're happy to report that the game is lovely to look at, and we had fun with the limited amount of time we spent with Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. We'll bring you more information, including an exact release date, as soon as it is available.

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Discussion

291 comments
Linseisen
Linseisen

i really love the style of the more recent kingdom hearts games like 358/2, and this. I just disliked the strong happy vibes of the main storyline.

mitchnahas
mitchnahas

Yo they got a release date for this game, isn't it wonderful

viotyers
viotyers

Will there be a demo for this?!

frostbite46
frostbite46

Not sure if it's true or not but Game Informer had this game's release date for 6/1/2010. I would assume/hope that it's the English version.

CapedCod
CapedCod

@Megasus: Yeah, I didn't count that one. Cell phone games don't count.

Megasus_
Megasus_

btw, I agree. CoM was okay for the GBA, but failed to leave a lasting impact with Re: on the PS2.

Megasus_
Megasus_

@CapedCod I heard that Kingdom Hearts: Coded will be mostly about King Mickey and Riku, and their adventures during the first part of Kingdom Hearts II. Unfortunately, however, the game is for cell phones. L-A-M-E.

Zerosumgame
Zerosumgame

You are not making sense either. FF! the first F is @#$, second F stands for face.

heavensfantasy
heavensfantasy

The story line does too make sense, its yes confusing with all the detail, but if you look it up on Google or actually play through the games, and pay close attention to the story it flows well and not in a predictable cheesy way. Tetsuya Nomura even states here in this interview - "If the player is interested in exploring the characters roles in the tale more closely, they can then move on to other games in the series. So there's fun to be had both if you know the series and if you don't know it at all. Besides, Kingdom Hearts' story is all about reading between the lines and filling in the blanks for yourself, you won't understand everything even if you're fully versed in the series." He wanted it to be more than just a story, he wanted it to be a constant guessing game and keep people on their toes. Personally I believe the man is a genius, but that's just me :) I love KH!!!

cutemama22
cutemama22

i cant wait til it comes out. i love kingdom hearts. i didnt care for chain of memories.....fighting with the cards annoyed me. i liked the fighting from the first 2. 358/2 days wasnt too bad but it was somewhat repetitive with the missions. ne ways..............I CANT WAIT

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

YES Quinzark! That's what i thought! (nice pic)

Quinzark
Quinzark

I wish this was multi-platform. why limit the audience of such a widely received franchise? It makes no sense to me.

peek-a-booh
peek-a-booh

it's always unfair! After beating the game of japanese people, that's the time when we just starting to play it!

CapedCod
CapedCod

When do we get a straight up Riku game? Without fighting with cards. I was hoping 358/2 Days would fill in his story arc a bit more than it did.

ruhinder
ruhinder

I totallyy cant wait till this game comes out. but it sucks that its on psp even though i have one. i wish it was on ps3.

SHADOW_FORCE_X
SHADOW_FORCE_X

This is going to be one of the best PSP games of all time.

Ly_neku_ly
Ly_neku_ly

I Miss the times where goofys health was giagantic compared to yours' WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPEND TO SORA WAS HE ON DRUGS :( the storys out of track where do these ppl come in to place

Zidane_11
Zidane_11

who are the protagonists in the game?

najeeb12
najeeb12

roxas looks like ventus because ventus is related to sora and i think nobodies can look like their old selves or a some one from their family tree

turkeylegs123
turkeylegs123

Well ventes not roxas but roxas still rules and so does his look alike ventes THEY BOTH RULE

turkeylegs123
turkeylegs123

what are you talking about megasus roxas rocks hes better then sora and how can you play asd sora hes like five when this game takes place ROXAS RULES

Megasus_
Megasus_

BTW, I'm sick of playing as Roxas and his look-alike. I want SORA NOW

Megasus_
Megasus_

This looks promising. Just look at the graphics on those photos! If we're not going to get it for a while, it can only get better.

normpap
normpap

ps. this may sound dumb but this isnt a japanese only release is it? cuz some ppl i know were sayin it is...

normpap
normpap

Yay i get to play as roxas (not really roxas) in this game. I wanted to get a psp for assassins creed bloodlines, peace walker and MAYBE dessidia (if thats how u spell it) but this just sold it for me.

arrohon
arrohon

To Dud7: just a minor correction Sora would be 4 because Riku is a year older. Let's look at this logically about Ventus being Roxas. Roxas is half of Sora since he is a nobody. Namine also said Roxas wasn't supposed to exist. So since Sora is a 4 year old during the game that means he can't be Ventus too unless KH decided to include freakish cloning where the clone looks different. Berthon15 Terra can't be Xemnas because that is Xehanort. Xehanort is supposed to be a keyblade master in this game as well. Terra becomes evil so he can't keep his keyblade. The same thing must happen to Xehanort because we all know the KH1 and KH2 is evil and doesn't have a keyblade (in KH1 it woud be wierd for a heartless to have a keyblade anyway). The most confusing thing is that Ansem raises Xehanort who becomes a scientist and him being a keyblade master is not mentioned at all. Aqua being Xion is one of the most reasonable speclations out there so far. I haven't seen a pic of aqua yet so I will remain neutral in this. I might very well be wrong in these ideas but truely only the creators and testers know the answers to these questions. So we will just have to wait for a US release to find all the answers contained in the game.

SuperfastSonic
SuperfastSonic

I want more coverage! If this game is coming out in January 2010 then where is the coverage?! I want to see more of those sweet graphics!

Angel-sin-miedo
Angel-sin-miedo

Lemme' break it down right quick for ya'. Stop giving yourselves headaches trying to figure out how Roxas/Ventus/Sora are the same person, because it actually does not make any sense. So if you go back, play all the games, read every detail, all you will figure out; None of it adds up, none of it makes sense. Too busy trying to make fan fare and a quick buck, squaresoft forgot to cover soooooo many plotholes in this game series. But they actually won by actually selling millions of copies. Dont get me wrong, I like the games, but it's too obvious to deny that the story does not work. It's a failed formula

berthon15
berthon15

ventus is roxas didn't you play 358/2 days? terra is xemnas and aqua is Xion. don't say that it isn't roxas because his shirt is different you can always change your shirt. the only real nobody of the three was xemnas. the other two weren't turned into nobodies. but because terra/ xemnas was their freind he let them into organization XIII to hide something but that is a much as i know. read every ansem report in KH one and two. play 358/2 days then you will know what i'm talking about.

crentbrent
crentbrent

Ven's bracelet is very similar to Roxas's. The difference is that Ven's bracelet has a white outline, Roxas's has a black outline.

FusionRain
FusionRain

KH in my hand with deeper kombat and new characters = awesome idk bout u guys but i think this game will rock the psp... lets hope they had enough time to make this game nothing short of perfect because i've been w8ing and i want it to be the best it can... please take all the time u need. just make a great game plz. KH NEEDS A REBOOT

hemoleech
hemoleech

The Ventus being Roxas theory thing could give a whole different perspective of who Nobody's really are. It's a little odd that Sora's Nobody (and Kairi's) looks so different, yet Ventus looks exactly like Roxas. Maybe they just reincarnate into Nobody's after tragic events.

Tobikun
Tobikun

You know with this being a prequel anything could happen with the whole Ventus resembling Roxas thing. However I am an author of Fan Fiction so I am going to use my creative juices to create a theory. As we all know Roxas is different from other Organization members and he has no memories of his life before Organization XIII. I think it is possible that Ventus was Roxas as a human and by some freak incident of nature he becomes Sora's nobody so many years later and becomes Roxas. Again just a theory. Also I cannot wait for this game it will be awesome.

ricosuave84
ricosuave84

this is gunna b great definatly buying it cant wait thanx square enix :)

chocomomiji
chocomomiji

Hallelujah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Freakin' Hallelujah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

g6cli
g6cli

this is just a random guess but i think Ventus is roxas!! He could have became roxas after sora became a heartless! so like Ventus is his real name!! i dont no just something i was thinking!!

LMS24
LMS24

wen will it be available?

dud7
dud7

actually its set 10 years before the first game because theres a flashback that shows sora and riku when they were 5.

ChidoriBoyU
ChidoriBoyU

the graphics look awesome for a psp game

senpepe
senpepe

Yeah its not Roxas his shirt is different :P

orochi_master
orochi_master

Im sure that is Ventus Cause they say this game takes place15 years before KH1 so Sora would not be born yet. So no Sora NO Roxas (ruck Sacks)

odoyle420
odoyle420

square has said that they are releasing the game in other parts of the world and last I checked NA is part of the world and kingdom hearts is pretty big here too so yes it is comming here.