Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep launched on PlayStation Portable in 2010, and is actually one of the best games in the franchise. Unfortunately, being a PSP title, the game was overlooked by many, which is why its foray into the console space with the recently revealed Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMIX should spark some serious excitement.
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo this week, Examiner was given the chance to try Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix on PlayStation 3, which is where the game is headed on December 2. Once started, we immediately began to reminisce on all the good times we had with our portable adventure. And it didn’t take long for us to realize that the game is even better on PS3.
For starters, all the little problems the original game suffered due to button limitations are no longer existent. Since the PSP does not have a right analog stick, the camera control was originally assigned to the L and R buttons, forcing the lock-on toggle to be triggered by tapping both L and R simultaneously. Also, resetting the camera angle required double tapping either L or R. This could get a bit confusing, and at times annoying, but with Birth By Sleep HD, players no longer need to worry about that.
The HD remake also features an addition that we didn’t even know we wanted: using L2 and R2 to navigate the command menu. In Birth by Sleep, the player’s command menu is filled with customized special commands that the player can create and assign in the start menu. Originally, the d-pad was used to select commands — and it still can be, for players that prefer it that way — but we’ve found it much more simple to use the L2 and R2 buttons. It’s faster, it doesn’t misplace players’ fingers and it just feels right.
Birth by Sleep’s battle system has a ton of depth and is the second best in the series — first would be that of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, which released in 2012 and also used the Command Deck system first seen in Birth by Sleep.
The aforementioned commands are activated with the triangle button and range from magic to physical attacks. Once used, it enters a cool down period and the menu will skip to the next readily available command. Using commands builds up a meter above the menu and once filled the player enters a temporary mode which boosts their ability. There are several different modes depending on the nature of commands you used while building up your meter.
Commands can also be leveled up and melded to create new ones, giving the player a ton of strategical freedom. There’s also the ability to D-Link with allies you meet on your journey, which temporarily gives you the abilities of that individual character.
Birth by Sleep was one of the few titles that looked great on PSP, and it looks a thousand times better on PS3. Okay, we’re over exaggerating, but it still looks awesome. From the character animations to the colorful environments, the game in high definition is gorgeous.
The original also featured a surprisingly solid multiplayer experience, called the Mirage Arena, where players can connect with their friends and tackle boss battles or survive waves of enemies together. They can even battle each other in an epic versus match. We’re not sure if the HD remake will return this feature, but man do we hope so.
As for the story mode, Birth by Sleep’s narrative is a bit weak, at least compared to other entries in the series. However, this is because the game is separated into three short stories, telling the tale of three best friends and their journey to seek out the missing Keyblade master, Xehanort, and his apprentice. For those who are unaware, Birth by Sleep serves as a prequel to the original Kingdom Hearts and also fills in a few gaps in the story.
Birth by Sleep is a remarkable experience and the short demo we played at E3 reminded us of that. Come December, anyone who missed out on the experience the first time should seriously consider picking this little gem up.
Check out the Kingdom Hearts II.5 HD ReMIX E3 2014 trailer above.