PSP Review: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Can this prequel breathe fresh life into the series?

A prequel to the mega-hit series, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep uncovers the beginnings of the Kingdom Hearts saga, long before Sora was chosen by his Keyblade. Developed exclusively for the PSP, this pivotal instalment takes players through iconic Disney worlds in a unique gaming experience that unfolds through the perspectives of three different main characters: Terra, Ventus and Aqua. With more than 14 million copies shipped worldwide, Kingdom Hearts is one of the most beloved video game series. Discover the origins of its captivating story with Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.

I must confess, this is my first time playing a Kingdom Hearts game. I avoided the others because the idea of a Square-Enix/Disney cross-over didn’t exactly entice me as a hardcore gamer. Having said that, Birth by Sleep is a deep and engaging RPG that almost anyone will enjoy. I like RPGs and was sceptical that Birth by Sleep wouldn’t have what it takes to compete with its rivals, but I was wrong.

The story is engaging but takes a while to develop fully, and the slow nature of the game isn’t helped by the consistent load screens that pop up every few minutes and take about a minute or so to load the next cutscene or moment where you take control. The game is split up into 3 different campaigns but each feel familiar in their own way; you’ll need to play each of them and on a tough difficulty to see the real ending.

Combat is done in real-time and works well. Traditional RPG elements do make an appearance and they fit well in the context of the game. Each story can take anywhere from 15-20 hours to complete, so there’s a lot of replay value to be found. There are also mini-games and multiplayer modes to be found, although multiplayer is only accessible through local wi-fi and not online. It would have been nice to take on people across the world, but it isn’t that big of a problem.

Visually, Birth by Sleep is a good looking game for the PSP. Having said that, the framerate takes a dive when there’s too much action on-screen and some areas are lacking in detail. Voice-acting is brilliant and this is one of the better English dubs. The soundtrack is a mixture of classic Disney and Square-Enix tunes, which seem to blend well together.

The Verdict

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is a thoroughly fun and engaging game that any PSP owning RPG fan must get. It’ll take you a while to do and it can be very difficult at times, which adds to the replay value. The combat system may not be perfect, but it does an effective job nonetheless. This is definitely one cross-over that works well.