Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Q&A

Game director Tetsuya Nomura talks about the new modes and gameplay changes to the upcoming Square and Disney collaboration on the PlayStation Portable.


Described as "Episode 0," Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is the prequel to the series set 10 years before the events of the first game, which features characters from various Disney animated movies and Final Fantasy games. The sixth game in the series follows three separate protagonists who are apprentices to Master Eraqus: Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. Birth by Sleep has several new features added to the battle system, as well as multiplayer. Game director Tetsuya Nomura answered our questions regarding the game, which is set to be released on September 7.

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GameSpot: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is a prequel to the original game. Was this idea already planned from the beginning? What made you decide to go back and make a prequel?

Tetsuya Nomura: There was a possibility that Kingdom Hearts would only have one installment, so Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep was not something that we had planned from the get-go. However, by the time we were working on Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II, we had already started to piece together Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days [and] coded and Birth by Sleep. Ultimately, we wanted to resolve the mysteries that have been scattered thus far, and to clarify what mysteries lay ahead in the series. Right now, you could say that we've entered the preparation stage, heading toward the conclusion of Xehanort's tale. I hope everyone gets to see the secret ending.

GS: Could you tell us more about the story of Birth by Sleep?

TN: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is set the furthest in the past in the series. You could even call it "Kingdom Hearts 0." Players will unravel mysteries in the Kingdom Hearts storyline by playing through the perspectives of each of the three new characters.

GS: What was the decision behind making it for the PSP? How did this platform change the design approach and how it would play?

TN: The three Kingdom Hearts games currently available for handheld platforms are compressed in terms of the story's volume; crafted so that a single session of gameplay does not consume too much time. Because the Kingdom Hearts I and II were developed for the PlayStation 2, we felt that the PSP platform would be fitting for an entry that is equally compelling, contentwise, to a numbered title. There are fewer buttons on a PSP system, of course, so I think that our efforts to streamline the controls resulted in a more intuitive, fast-paced system overall.

GS: How has the gameplay changed? What was the decision behind the changes?

TN: Playing Kingdom Hearts often turns into a button-mashing session, so we took that tendency into account when designing this new system. The character's actions change continuously leading up to the finishing move, and with command styles, the command deck itself changes to reveal a whole new set of actions. Aside from this, there is a greater selection of moves to choose from during battle, which increases the player's freedom to strategize. The system keeps you constantly engaged in a speedy, satisfying, and flashy battle experience. I think that this is an evolution made possible by the Kingdom Hearts fans who have demonstrated a distinct style of gameplay throughout the years.

Rock that ukelele.
Rock that ukelele.

GS: How did you decide what locations and Disney and Final Fantasy characters were to be included?

TN: The process of choosing worlds has been the same with every entry. First, we select the worlds that are essential based on the scenario; in this title's case, the three princesses worlds. Then, to add some variety to the locations, we decided to include Deep Space (Lilo & Stitch) and Neverland (Peter Pan). Since Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep takes place before the rest of the games in the series, we decided to include Olympus Coliseum (Hercules) to show the contrast between past and present. We were able to incorporate more locations because of the hardware's capacity and also because this title carries the same weight as a numbered Kingdom Hearts title. Zack makes an appearance in this game because he, himself, is a character from the Final Fantasy series' past, making him a good fit for a title that portrays the Kingdom Hearts series' past.

GS: Could you talk about the multiplayer modes? What was the reasoning behind including multiplayer?

TN: In Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, you could venture to different worlds to accomplish missions, but this time around, players can gather in a world called the Mirage Arena to defeat target enemies. Up to three players can play co-op or against each other three on three. There are also minigame battles that are new to the series; Command Board and Rumble Racing. We utilized the hardware's wireless capabilities and capacity to the fullest to offer minigames that people can jump right in and out of. This way, players can enjoy the variety of battles and worlds that the game has to offer.

GS: What was the inspiration behind the new characters and their designs?

TN: The "master and apprentice" relationship portrayed in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep was inspired by Japanese tradition, so Japanese-inspired designs have been incorporated into Terra, Aqua, and their master Eraqus' outfits. The other designs are all related to the mysteries presented throughout the Kingdom Hearts series, so I will leave it up to the players to figure out the connection.

GS: Will new players be able to enjoy Birth by Sleep without having played any other Kingdom Hearts game before? What will fans be looking forward to?

TN: We, of course, consider first-time players when developing each installment, but the games were always part of a single timeline, and some players couldn't quite get into the games because they felt out of touch with the rest of the story. Because Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is positioned at the very beginning of the storyline and introduces all-new characters, I personally felt a sense of freedom much like when I was developing Kingdom Hearts. I think this is great timing for those who are looking for a way into the series.

No matter which entry you start with, the story is always heading in the same direction. Much like players can choose to complete the three characters' stories in any order in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, no matter which Kingdom Hearts game you pick up first, the overarching story never changes. It's only a matter of finding things out in a different order, and I think it's great that the series can be enjoyed from so many perspectives.

He looks oddly familiar.
He looks oddly familiar.

GS: How will the North American version be different from the Japanese version?

TN: There are a variety of new elements, including Critical mode, which takes the difficulty level beyond Proud mode, key blades, abilities, minigame maps and songs. We're also unleashing a mystery enemy for North American fans, so hopefully everyone will enjoy the challenge.

GS: Thank you for your time!

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Avatar image for freddquadros

As I will get my PSP by this days, this game will wait a while for me to buy...

Avatar image for OmegaWeaponGean

for all those who have a Go a regret to tell you this will NOT be on the psn so we are officially screwed. And square said they have no intention on making a digital version of the game.

Avatar image for ubfsi

i have been waiting forever for a game of kh{kingdom hearts} to come to psp.

Avatar image for TheGreaper666

everytime i see an update on gamespot about this, my heart stops. im more excited about this game then seeing my girlfriend for the first time in 3 months tommorow!!!

Avatar image for faridmx

kingdom hearts!its been a while since i finished KH2.can't wait for this!

Avatar image for jrterfan

this is beast !!!!!!!!!!!!! i already pre-order it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for Xerjak

When the announced this game, I was hoping gilgamesh would be in it. He wasn't. Now this interview says there's a new enemy for NA fans. If gilgamesh isnt in here, I will be very angry, Square Enix. Very Angry. You won't like me when I'm angry.

Avatar image for isaiah26

I'm so excited to get this game..!

Avatar image for manslayer2010

I absolutely love the KH games and I was already incredibly excited for this. The fact that they are including zack from final fantasy (crystal chronicles was my fav. game on the psp) is just amazing

Avatar image for gummiguy12

@koolyoe yes, all future PSP games will be sold through PSN as well as in retailers.

Avatar image for koolyoe

Is this going to be available to PSP Go users via PSN ?

Avatar image for davonas


Avatar image for jokerman_28

so hyped for this

Avatar image for Lucarioboyx

September 7 WTF rite when school starts

Avatar image for Notelessinferno

good that Zack is making an entrance :D. to bad the game comes after summer vacation here but better late than never :D.

Avatar image for Vegna871

@VidGamAnonymous Not necessarily, it's just continuing a theme set by the original KH. although they do seem to have more powerful magics of the element they are named for (Aqua being ice, since KH doesn't have water) Sora, Riku, and Kairi also fit the theme, meaning Sky, Land, and Sea (or ocean, i don't remember) respectively.

Avatar image for SMOKiiBANDiT

this is gonna be amazing i just need to play the old games again to refresh my weak memory =D

Avatar image for master_06

@galapago10 i didnt know that, thnx!

Avatar image for GameGirl624

@MaddogQ80- He mentioned the mystery enemy in a Degenki interview: “The new secret boss will be like how Lingering Sentiment was to KH2FM. You will think it’s impossible that that can happen at that time of the story, but it actually happens.” Can't remember what trailer, but I noticed someone who looks like an organization XIII member so I'm guessing that might be who the mystery enemy is, but not totally sure about that.

Avatar image for MaddogQ80

mystery enemy? hopefully a final fantasy character since zach is the only one :P

Avatar image for galapago10

@master_06 he already answered that question in a previous interview. He said that even though Square Enix and Disney is pressuring him to do so, he's not ready to make a 3rd yet.

Avatar image for master_06

u missed the most important question, is there goin to be a KH3???

Avatar image for Tullerman

(I saw these questions in the comments) BBS will not come to PSP GO and for the id*ots who still don't get it: They have not begun to work on KH III because "Final Fantasy versus XIII" gotta be finished first and it's not because of sidegames

Avatar image for nhadglz19

birth by sleep will be available in digital copy?? i hope so... i have psp go.. ill buy this one!!!!!!!!!! please in NA put in digital copy...

Avatar image for Nozizaki

Finally! NA gets a "Final Mix" game. I can't wait to play Critical mode for myself. I wonder if the secret movie will be easier to see on Critical Mode? This will also give me a good reason to immerse myslef into a game on the PSP. I bought it last Black Friday, and I've managed to play 3 games, Crisis Core, Patapon 1 and Patapon 2

Avatar image for Sirbobislost

@ sssb You havnt touched it since crisis core? Go get FF:dissidia it's a great game

Avatar image for VidGamAnonymous

Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. Doesnt that mean they control Earth, Wind, and Water respectivly?

Avatar image for AznKSor

Hey you forgot to ask him "Where's Kingdom Hearts 3!!?!"

Avatar image for BIGKAYPIMP

i need to buy a new psp pronto mgs peace walker ff dissidia kh birth by sleep what a line up

Avatar image for soulless4now

I'm buying a psp especially for this game. I can't wait for it!

Avatar image for addictedgamer10

Man, can't wait for this. Going to buy a PSP the same day this game comes out and won't put it down even when im learning on my first days of college. lol, not really, but whenever i have free time, its going to be spent on this, no question what so ever, i'll even give up sleep for it.

Avatar image for nintendo-naut

This game is shaping up to be the best KH game yet.

Avatar image for Kingdom_fighter

why does ven want to die?

Avatar image for charlie_bm

This is an example of a good interview; a great game, good questions and direct answers.

Avatar image for FlamesofIblis

@darkcloaked I agree with you. this will be an epic game and yay for Stitch!

Avatar image for darkcloaked

Man, I felt like I was watching a trailer for a epic movie! I can't wait to play this! :) And it has Lilo & Stitch!

Avatar image for Sindri0x

On topic of Birth by Sleep..... Looks great, I've already seen a couple of my friends playing imported (Japanese) versions on their PSPs.....looks like another worthy title for the Kingdom Hearts mantra.

Avatar image for Sindri0x

Don't worry zombiewombat. They've confirmed Kingdom Hearts 3, which will definitely be released this generation, and more than likely on PS3. Imagine a Kingdom Hearts game with Final Fantasy XIII (or better!) graphics.......*drools*......

Avatar image for zombiewombat

(weep weep) why not the ps3? WHY?

Avatar image for JetKey

This game will help save psp.

Avatar image for fkbwii

Great questions! Can't wait for this!

Avatar image for datboiiscoe

never been a fan of kingdom hearts...but this looks good...

Avatar image for MAILER_DAEMON

freefadi: The same team that makes the console KH games is the team working on Versus XIII right now. Nothing of substance will be talked about until that game and Birth By Sleep are finished. Also, just as Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days bridge KH1 with KH2, ReCoded bridges KH2 with KH3.

Avatar image for freefadi

Awsome, time to charge up the PSP again. Oh, but please give us some information on Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Kingdom Hearts III.....prrrrrrrreeeeeeeeease!

Avatar image for sssb

it been 2 years since i touched my psp when i was playing CC:FFVII, now is time 4 my psp to get work again :)

Avatar image for MAILER_DAEMON

Gah... once again GS failed to ask about why the Final Mix versions of KH1 and 2 never came out, and whether or not there are any ports planned. :(

Avatar image for dylan417

"Caption goes here." :lol: This game looks so awesome, I havent played my PSP in years.

Avatar image for TeenGamer92

I am absolutely psyched for this game! I'm so happy they finally added extra stuff to the NA version, instead of how they did the opposite with KH1 and 2. And I gotta agree with jigglebilly1983.

Avatar image for flash_drive

I see no signs of the Gummi ship. I am satisfied.

Avatar image for Ringx55

I just can't wait any longer for his game!

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