Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Description official description

Ten years before the events in Kingdom Hearts, the universe is still how one remembers it. Maleficent from the Disney-movie Sleeping Beauty is only a threat to Princess Aurora, Peter Pan is still fighting Captain Hook and Experiment 626 has yet to escape the clutches of the Universal Police - all enclosed in their own little worlds with no contact to the outside. In-between on the Isle of Departure are Terra, Ventus and Aqua - a trio of friends and Keyblade wielders who want to become masters. While Terra and Aqua are already ready to take the exam of mastery, Ventus still has a long way ahead of himself. During the exam however it turns out that even Terra isn't ready yet, unable to control the darkness within his heart. At the same time the universe is suddenly threatened by the Unversed - creatures of pure darkness who appeared on the different worlds and wreck havoc under the Disney-characters. To make things worse, Master Xehanort disappears. So Terra and Aqua are tasked with destroying the Unversed and finding the missing Master. Unknown to Terra however, Aqua has a secret mission: watching Terra in order to find out if he can control the darkness within him. Ventus on the other hand is goaded into following Terra by a mysterious other character...and so the adventure begins.

In its core Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep follows the same principles as the other iterations of the series. The game still mixes gameplay-elements from the Final Fantasy series with characters and locations from Disney-properties like Mickey Mouse. To that end the player visits the Dwarf Woodlands to help Snow White escape the evil Queen, fights in the Olympus Coliseum with Hercules and helps Element 626 (Stich) flee from Deep Space while always being confronted with the forces of darkness including boss fights against formerly inanimated and now possessed objects, other Keyblade warriors and even Disney-characters like the already mentioned Maleficent. The story however is told from the three different viewpoints of the main characters. So to fully understand everything, the player will need to play through the game with all three (he makes his selection at the start). Each character will also see and experience different parts of the levels. While Terra will be send out by the Queen to kill Snow White, Aqua will actually be the one who has to protect her from the evil queen after Terra has already left the world. In addition each of the characters is specialised in different commands at the start of the game with Aqua being more of a mage and Terra more of a warrior.

As opposed to the previous installments of the series, the player now travels the land mostly by himself. Only during a few boss-fights he will join forces with his friends or when he needs to protect another character. He is however not really alone out there in the vast universe thanks to a new mechanic in the overhauled combat system called "Dimension Link". If enough energy is available, the player can activate the D-Link to a friendly character, giving him full access to that characters command deck basically trading the current character for the other one. Additional D-Links are automatically unlocked by successfully completing the different worlds. And while the player can't choose the contents of the other characters deck or level those commands up, killed enemies will occasionally drop, in addition to money, crafting crystals and health- and D-Link-energy bubbles, an effect when a D-Link is active. Up to two can be collected for each character which will not only increase the deck size but also if both are collected give the player access to an additional form allowing him to use Maleficent's Dragon Breath for example.

The command deck contains up to eight techniques, abilities and spells - all simply called commands - which allows the character e.g. to heal himself or throw his keyblade at the enemy. After the current command is used, the deck automatically switches to the next one while the previous one regenerates until it can be used again. So instead of mana, the only resource is time. Each of the commands will automatically level up just by using it up to five times depending on the command increasing the damage it deals and unlocking additional command styles and finishing commands. The character itself also earns experience points and gains levels making him stronger and increasing his survivability. In addition successfully hitting an enemy fills up the command gauge, changing the Command Style of the character and making him more powerful. If the player keeps hitting the enemy, this bar will also fill up and unleash a devastating attack at the end (or unlock an even higher level Command Style if available). The last way to unleash hell upon enemies is the ShotLock Mode with which the player can aim at multiple enemies in first person mode and then start a series of attacks during which he's invulnerable.

New Commands can either be bought at shops, created through crafting or by playing some of the five included mini-games. Crafting involves merging two higher level commands using a crystal into a new command. One of the mini-games, simply called Command Board, is a Monopoly-knock-off in which the players place commands on a bought field instead of buying streets and planting hotels. Each time an enemy player hits the field, the owner earns points as well as the command on the field itself. Buying fields from other players or landing on a bonus field will earn the player the chance to earn a new command. The winner of the mini-game is the one who first hits the points limit.

The game features a multiplayer-mode for up to six players via ad-hoc-wifi allowing them to play "Command Board", fight each other in death match, play the mini-game "Rumble Racing" (a Mario Kart-clone) or fight side by side in Survival Modes against hordes and hordes of enemies including boss fights. Multiplayer even features additional commands not available in the normal game.


  • キングダム ハーツ バース バむ γ‚ΉγƒͺγƒΌγƒ— - Japanese spelling

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Credits (PSP version)

665 People (607 developers, 58 thanks) · View all

Concept Design
Main Programmers
Art Director
Planning Director: Maps
Cut-Scene Director
Animation Directors
Art Directors: Textures
Art Director: VFX
Animation Supervisor
3D Modeling Supervisor: Characters
Planning Supervisor: Maps
3D Modeling Supervisor: Maps
Art Supervisor: Characters
Art Supervisor: Interface
Art Supervisor: VFX
Cinematics Movie Director
Dialogue Editor
Sound Designer
[ full credits ]



Average score: 82% (based on 23 ratings)


Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 9 ratings with 1 reviews)

A fascinating game that I had to stop playing because of the PSP

The Good
Birth by Sleep takes a very interesting approach to storytelling: Instead of just one story, you get to pick between three different characters with a similar goal, but who perform different actions to reach it. This means that all three characters visit the same worlds, but at different times and locations. One of the characters might start in a castle and tell a person to go into the forest, where another character is waiting to meet up with that person. The overall length of the story has also been cut down to about eight hours, to make it easier for players to play all three characters and get the full picture.

The game turns around three friends; Ventus, Terra and Aqua and takes place about ten years before the events of Kingdom Hearts 1, meaning it's a prequel to the entire franchise. Aside from the player-characters, there is also their teacher and the antagonist Xenahort, accompanied by his loyal minion. The cast is very enjoyable and I especially found Xenahort to be a very entertaining villain, which is because he really knows how to manipulate people. Of course no Kingdom Hearts game is complete without Disney Characters and there are a number of new entries here too. However, I am not going to spoil who they are.

Part of what makes Birth by Sleep so interesting is that it allows the players to see how things were before the story of Sora even started. Not just in terms of how the Hallow Bastion and other locations have changed over the years, but also how the characters looked before we first met them. A good example is in the Radiant Garden where we (SPOILER ALERT) meet Xigbar from before he joined the organization. Same situations apply to Disney characters too, but once again, I won't spoil that.

Because this is a prequel, this installment in the franchise is also accessible to new players. Other installments in the franchise, such as 358/2 Days and Re:coded have had the problem that the plot is very impenetrable to newcomers. However, because nothing has really happened yet, there are no events to reference or characters the player is supposed to know by now. There are some moments that newcomers might find a bit strange, such as a meeting with Sora and Riku, but overall they should have no problem following the story.

So, what is new on the gameplay side? Well nothing really, seeing as how the combat mechanics are directly ported from Re:coded (or vise versa, I don't know really). You simply hit X to hit enemies, Square to dodge or block and Triangle to perform special moves. The smaller assortment of abilities makes it easier to find exactly what you like and since attacks no longer level endlessly, there is no reason to put your precious abilities to the gamble.

What is new however, are a good number of worlds the player will be visiting. Though there are some old familiars in new jackets, the user is treated on a large batch of fresh content. While I would still like to see more modern Disney movies join the list, I can't say that I am disappointed with getting to visit the worlds of the classic Snow-white and Sleeping Beauty movies, just to name a few early examples.

While the PSP was mostly a massive disappointment, it did really impress me with the graphical power it's capable off. Birth by Sleep looks beautiful, almost as if I am watching the best of the Playstation 2 on a small screen. The colors are fantastic too. I am not normally one to praise graphics, but after seeing what this franchise had to make do with on the DS and Gameboy, I think a little praise is appropriate here.

The Bad
Okay, quick story here: I don't actually own a PSP, but since Birth by Sleep was the only Kingdom Hearts game I haven't played yet, I decided to borrow my cousin's copy of the game with system and all. However, I am not sure if I have to blame the software or the hardware, but KH runs like a brick on this system. The load times are unacceptably long, which was doubly unfair when I had the intention of skipping the cut-scene it was loading. Even something as basic as opening a save-menu takes pretty long. The worst thing however, has to be the battery. Say about the 3DS what you want, but at least that system can hold out for more than two hours without a charger, I lost count of how many times he system would shut off mid-boss, in fact, that's the sole reason I stopped playing it: because the game kept turning off in the middle of the final boss-fight.

More related to the game though, is the structure of the menus and their functions. I had no idea what half the features in this game did, I never once looked through the ability screen or command deck, nor did I ever care for mixing abilities together. The game also lacks the incentive to actually start doing such things, just keep pressing X and you'll get very far in combat.

The difficulty curve is also kind of wonky, for the entire first six or seven levels I would cut through enemies like a machine, but just one level later and I would need multiple combos to take just one lad down. I had no idea (and still don't) what I have been doing wrong, but I can't say it was a lot of fun to spend three minutes on every single monster.

The weird difficulty curve is also aided by the return of the ability-cancellation (as I like to call it). Basically, it means that when you get hit while casting a spell or using a special attack, that ability is instantly stopped and you have to wait for it to recharge again. The last time I saw this was in the very first Kingdom Hearts game (not counting Chain of Memories) and it was annoying there as well. The big issue I have with it, is that if you are in a boss-fight and have to heal, all the boss needs is one lost projectile and you are pretty much screwed. In later installments of the franchise, casting a spell would only leave you open for attack, been hit didn't move you, but that was balanced by the fact you had no means of defending yourself for a crucial moment. In a game where half the enemies can teleport, it seems very cruel to use a system like this.

While been able to play as three characters sounds fun enough, I find it hard to believe that most will be taking this option. The differences are not that great and once you have played it through once, you can actually predict plot-twists in this title. Plus, three eight hour campaigns might be a little too much for a casual player.

Finally, I'd like to end on saying that I rather miss the old inventory screens, the ones where you could micro-manage everything into exactly the right position for you. Re:coded had one, 358/2 Days had one, so why doesn't Birth by Sleep have one? A better questions would be "where are my items to begin with" because I certainly couldn't find them. I went through the entire game without ever using a single item, there was no longer a visible menu for it.

The Bottom Line
Birth by Sleep is a very entertaining entry into the franchise, one with a fun story, decent characters and entertaining gameplay. Also one that deserves a prize for been actually approachable for new fans. However, there are some problems that prevented me from finishing this game, and the biggest one is the fact that the PSP randomly dies during boss-battles and the overall low-quality of gaming on this system. I am also not too fond of some minor details (menu structure, difficulty, etc.).

Both new players and old fans can appreciate this game, but I think the fans would get the most enjoyment out of this. If you are a fan of classic Disney movies or if you want to buy this game for your kiddo, then I can also recommend it. However, if you have no real love for Disney, then this series as a whole might be worth skipping.

PSP · by Asinine (957) · 2012

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  • MobyGames ID: 48085


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Sicarius.

Additional contributors: Fred VT.

Game added September 29th, 2010. Last modified April 20th, 2023.