The lights are on
Many fans of the Kingdom Hearts series have been rather upset at the fact that Square Enix seems intent on not releasing KH3, and have not been playing the games that explain the finer details of its sometimes confusing story. With Re: Coded and 356/8 Days it is obvious why many people did not want to play them: there was very little innovation, and the with the DS' controls the games were not as good as the first two titles. With KH: Birth by Sleep though, I am pleased to tell you that this game is different. Not only is this game innovative, it is actually the best Kingdom Hearts game in many respects.
The best part of the game in my opinion was the combat. It has been refined to be very fast paced and addictive which makes it a blast to level grind in the diverse worlds, finish the arena's challenges and fight all the different bosses. There is a big part of the combat that relies on skill, and another part, which is also big, that relies on the level of your character, and the abilities and spells that you have acquired throughout the game. For example you might be a great swordsman, timing your blocks and dodges correctly, but if you have so little max HP that one attack from a tough boss will kill you, it is going to be a hellish nightmare doing that battle over and over again. That leads to my main complain about the combat. Even with the fun system sometimes you are forced to grind and keep melding randomly till you are strong enough to fight the next boss. The camera can also be annoying sometimes and the platforming is horrible and frustrating.
Who doesn't want to kill this cat?
Another noteworthy portion of the game is the melding. Taking inspiration from games like Monster Hunter, you go about collecting spells and crystals that you can combine, or meld, as the game puts it, to make even stronger spells and this also unlocks very useful abilities. Obviously, some of these items are harder to get, which makes the hunt for them interesting. Also significant is the amount of content. Like in every other KH there is a lot to do in this game, some of which can only be accessible if you backtrack, and some of which is hidden creatively.
Graphically, this game uses all of the PSP's horsepower, it might even lag for a second, but it is not a big deal. If you were not a fan of the art style however you will probably not like how this one looks either. Granted, some textures and environments could actually look much better.
In terms of story, like always, this game shines when showing the bond between friends. However, also like always, they have many convoluted terms linked to darkness, light and hearts, which is hard to understand. It obviously has some kind of symbolism, but that still does not make up for their storytelling problems.
These three are the bestest of friends
Another big problem with the story was that there are three main story lines for the three different characters. This seems like a good idea right? The problem is that each character has to go through the exact same worlds, making this a very repetitive experience, and it gets worse for those backtrackers. There are areas only available to certain characters, but those are very few.