The lights are on
I'll admit it. I'm a total fangirl when it comes to the Kingdom Hearts series. When I first found trailers and gameplay footage of Birth by Sleep, my initial reactions involved high pitched incomprehensible noises and flailing limbs. It didn't help quell my excitement to know that the game was being released the day before my birthday. Sure enough, I was bought the Birth by Sleep/ PSP combo pack, prompting more squealing and flailing. Having said all that, I will try to rate and review this game without my fangirl biases and without spoiling too much of the game for those who haven't played.
Using the least amount of words, my overall opinion of BBS is this: ***.
The game follows three original characters: Aqua, an older-sister figure of sorts to the two boys; Terra, an earnest young man(not to mention perhaps the first playable character with meat on his bones) and my favorite out of the three; and Ventus/Ven, the youngest of the group who, at a glance, will undoubtedly be mistaken for a certain character from previous games. The player must make their way through each characters' storylines; each of them overlap and ultimately have the same ending. While it may seem tedious to have to replay each world with the different characters, all the work is ultimately worth it by the end of the game.
I'll admit that my expectations were not high of this game. As seemed the case with the other handheld entries in the series, at a glance BBS looked like a ton of fanservice, and undoubtedly, there was quite a bunch throughout. Most of it was select characters making appearances. Perhaps the most squeal worthy moments are of little Sora, Riku, and Kairi. That being said, I was suprised to find that only one Final Fantasy character (if you don't count the moggles) made a cameo.
There is very little I have to complain about this game, and because of that fact, I will get it out of the way early on. While the character designs were excellent, the environments were a bit dissapointing, lacking the beauty of previous titles. Slightly more dissapointing was the voice acting of Aqua. I try to overlook the mediocre performance, seeing as Willa Holland, the VA for the above, doesn't really have as awesome of a resume as the other VA's; however, seeing as Jason Dohring, who lends his voice to Terra, has no voice acting experience at all and does quite the better job, I can only sigh at the diservice which was done to such a great character such as Aqua.
What sets this game very much apart from the other entries in the KH series is the battle system. Along with the familiar hack and slash aspects, each character comes with finishing moves and command styles that help make fighting reoccuring enemies alot funner. You always are given the choice (which often becomes a neccesity) to "meld" or combine certain magics and attacks to make even more powerful attacks. As a whole, battles are fluid and fun and offer a refreshing system. Hell, even the forever faultly camera seems to work alot smoother.
As expected in any of the KH titles, the storyline and character development make playing the game a beautiful experience. The plot essentially sets in motion the events of each of the other games and, as a certain character says at the very end of the game, makes the beloved main character from the original KH, Sora, the character who he is. By the time one has completed this game, many, if not all, questions and mysteries from previous games should be resolved; at the same time, debates are bound to be sparked by diehard fans. The character development is also notable and sure to have many players sympathizing with each character. This seems to be especially true with Terra; as I played through his story, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Anakin Skywalker, as the two try their hardest to choose what is right and wrong yet end up falling deeper into the darkside (or darkness). However, it hurt me even more, as I was more or less first-handedly experiencing his fall from grace. Indeed, Terra struck me as the tragic hero of the game.
Finally, the musician in me must note something of this game that I'm sure many others would not: the music. Yoko Shimomura has an inexplicable talent when it comes to using music to bring out the emotions of characters or events. She does not fail to do so in BBS and, in my opinion, composes some of her best work. "Dearly Beloved", probably the most recognizable piece of the KH games, is presented in a lovely orchestrated arrangement and is, what I think, the best arrangement of the piece. "Ventu's Theme" and "Terra's Theme" are perfectly fitting for each character, highlighting their trials and tribulations. "Aqua's Luck Charms" easily acts as the main theme of the three main Keyblade wielders. In short, Miss Shimomura presents us with another handful of easily memorable music that's sure to add to anyone's experience of this game.
In conclusion, BBS is definately one of the better Kindom Hearts titles, and may just be the best game that is not a numbered entry. If there are any die hard fans who have a PSP, this game is a must. I wouldn't go as far as saying one should buy a PSP just to play this game, but it wouldn't really be a bad idea either. Another excellent addition to an excellent series.
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