Tuesday 27 March 2012

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep SE (Square Enix)

As a huge fan of the Kingdom Hearts series, I must say I am disappointed in myself for not reviewing more Kingdom Hearts merch on this blog.  I mean, have a handful Kingdom Hearts books and several imported games!  I even have a lovely collection of doujinshi! (Shame on me, I know)

Since it's the 10th anniversary of Kingdom Hearts, I decided to celebrate by putting up a review for one of the best games in the series! So here it is! The Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Special Edition PSP!

I have to say, I have absolutely no regrets picking this special edition PSP up, despite the fact that it was around 22 000yen (approximately $260.00 CAD) before shipping.  In fact, this was my first special edition console/handheld and I was utterly giddy when I popped open the box.  Giddy, but careful!

For a box that simply houses a handheld system and a game, I must say it almost has a classy feel to it.  I love the black and light blue combination, and I also fancy the pattern hanging from the top left corner.  I'm quite certain the the box is black because it needs to contrast the image of the silver PSP, but I like the overall design, regardless.  In comparison to the North American special edition boxes, the Birth by Sleep one is small, square, portable, and not clunky. Also, the Japanese special editions include actual game boxes/cases and not tiny cardboard boxes that house the UMDs.

The cardboard used for the box feels very smooth, but at the same time it feels a tad flimsy (most likely because it's very thin).  As a collector, I had no intentions of denting this box or even bending the flap.  Then again, that goes for all my games and collectibles.

A box in a box!
Once I opened the box, I discovered another box inside.  A much sturdier one at that!  Boy, did that make me happy.  I honestly take delight in having more protective gear/material around my collector items!  Strange, I know, but that's just how I roll.

So enough about the mighty black box.  Let's take a good look at the amazing little treasures inside!

We've got our lovely PSP 3000 system, the charger, which works perfectly fine with the North American outlets without a converter by the way, and of course, a copy of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.

As much as I adore the overall design of the Kingdom Hearts PSP, I feel it isn't as fancy as the Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII special edition PSP.

Look at those nice designs done by Tetsuya Nomura!
The Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep version just happens to sport a pattern.  Not that I'm complaining.  I love how sparkly and stylish it is. I figure it would have been even more amazing if the three main characters (and Mickey) were etched into the back of my PSP!  Plus I really do like Tetsuya Nomura's designs.

A silver PSP is definitely better than a black PSP in my opinion, mainly because I can't see fingerprints everywhere on the system.  I have simply touched a black PSP before and I immediately found my fingerprints.  Fortunately, I can't find any blemishes on my silver PSP whenever I pick it up.  It also helps that I have a protective case for it, of course.  If you don't want to see fingerprints all over your handheld system, I highly recommend picking any colour besides black. Silver is magificent.

In terms of video quality, I feel as though Birth by Sleep looks a tad better on the PSP 2000.  When I watched the opening sequence on both screens, I realized that the images were smoother on the 2000 than they were on the 3000.  It's peculiar, considering the PSP 3000 is supposed to be an upgrade from the 2000.  The Kingdom Hearts special edition PSP just happens to have some very faint lines going across the screen if you look carefully.

Finally, we have our game. I'm not sure why, but Square Enix decided to tweak the design of the game case that came the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep special edition PSP, but I love it. There is a slight difference but it adds more to the design.  The original design (the image on the right) is nice, but the background is plain and somewhat boring.  Terra (the man with brown hair) is being blocked by the logo too.  However, on the special edition box (left image), Square Enix included a pattern fading in the background and they also moved the logo so it wasn't in the way.  It's definitely a beautiful "upgrade"!  I guess those who purchased the special edition PSP got some pleasant extras.

Standard PSP contents were included with the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep special edition PSP.  You get your Square Enix members code (one in the box and one within the game case), your manual, and your UMD.  Very plain, very simple.  There's nothing fancy about the design on the inside.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (PSP game)

The story of Birth by Sleep takes place 10 years before the first Kingdom Hearts game, so for those of you who have actually played any games within the series, this is one you don't want to miss out on.  It explains a few confusing points in the series, but at the same time it raises more questions, preparing us for the next title in the series (Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance).  Yes, I know it seems weird, but only Square Enix can really pull this stuff off.

The battle system is actually very fun and addictive.  You can customize your deck of attacks and spells, you can use d-link to borrow the abilities of characters you've met throughout the game, shotlocks (pretty much invincibility for a few seconds), and change forms.  Even with my limited ability to read Japanese text, I was able to customize my deck with little struggle. I thoroughly enjoy Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.  The gameplay kept me on my toes (or fingers in this case) and I found myself trying to get 100% on everything in the end.

You play as one of three characters: Terra, Aqua, and Ven, and journey to different worlds at different times.  The interesting thing is that all three characters, and their stories, are connected.  You just have to figure out who visited what world first, or last.  For example, Terra ends up in Dwarf Woodlands world first and is the first to meet Snow White.  Snow White runs away from him and hides in a forest, and that's where she meets Ven, who is the second to arrive in this world.  Afterwards he leaves her with the seven dwarves.  Then she is put under a spell and Aqua finally arrives to help the prince find a cure.  Although all three characters come to this world, they never actually cross paths.  There are only a few instances in the game where the characters cross paths and have actual interactions.

The characters themselves are naive (okay, just Terra, really), charming, quirky, and fun to play with!  They each have their own special abilities, which makes the gameplay all the more interesting.  For example, Aqua specializes in magic so she has spells that neither Terra or Ven has.

There isn't too much Birth by Sleep storytelling until half-way through the game.  You stay in each world for maybe two hours and then you move on, but it doesn't truly connect to the actual story of Birth by Sleep.  Sure, you get some character developments.  Terra has an epiphany when he meets Cinderella, for instance.  Later on the story gets better, and darker, and you just get really sucked into it until the end, but I won't spoil those who haven't played yet, so I'll leave it at that.

I wish they gave us more insight on the past, though.  Terra, Aqua, and Ven are practically family members in this game, but we don't know much about their past together. We only get to catch a glimpse of when Ven first met Terra and Aqua.  Then we get to see Ven train with Terra and Aqua, but there isn't much else.  Square Enix loves to make us think (or buy the Ultimania guidebooks which have actual answers that should have been included in the game.)

The music is gorgeous in this game.  Yoko Shimomura really stepped up her game when she started including pianos and strings in the scores.  Sure, the music in the Kingdom Hearts series is generally good, but Birth by Sleep sits at the top of my list.  I gladly picked up the soundtrack.

Company: Square Enix
Price: 22 000 yen

Even after two years, my PSP is still in mint condition.  I've got it tucked away in its original box with some plastic cases around it.  Then again, I pretty much put it away after I finished Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix.

The Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep: Special Edition PSP, and the game, are lovely.  Do I want to collect more special edition handheld systems?  Heck yeah!

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance special edition 3DS, I'm coming for ya!


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