Another Kingdom Hearts game is now in the books. Shocking, I know. I managed to start and finish this one even before I had the chance to write an initial impressions post. Maybe because I thought this was a pretty awesome game? Perhaps. I ended up playing the Final Mix version, which was a ROM translated from the Japanese version of the game (I wasn’t going to wait for it to come in KH 2.5 in December).
I’ll start here by summarizing the plot (or at least the best as I can…its a little…complicated). Birth By Sleep takes place about 10 years before the original Kingdom Hearts game, and tells the story of 3 Keyblade wielders named Aqua, Terra and Ventus. Aqua and Terra are to become Keyblade Masters, while Ventus is still a few years away. You actually play through the game 3 times, once as each character in order to get their perspective on the events that happen. The story goes that Aqua and Terra perform the Mark of Mastery, which is needed in order to become a Keyblade Master. This test is administered by their master, Master Eraqus, and watched over by Master Xehanort. Xehanort sabotages the test, which coaxes out Terra’s inner darkness and he fails. They are then told by Eraqus that a terrible danger has arisen (in the form of the main bad guys in the game called the Unversed) and the Princesses of Light might be in danger, which is setting up the first KH game. Terra leaves, which prompts Ventus to take this the wrong way and leaves too (goaded on by Xehonart’s apprentice, Vanitas), which leaves Aqua to track them down (and deal with the Princess problem). They travel to various different worlds (mostly different from the other games), including the Dwarf Woodlands (from Snow White), the Enchanted Dominion (from Sleeping Beauty and where we get to meet Maleficent), Castle of Dreams (from Cinderella), Deep Space (from Lilo & Stitch), Disney Town (which just seems to be a town that exists near to Disney Castle), plus a few returning places like Radiant Garden (before it was turned into Hallow Bastion), Neverland, Olympus Coliseum, Destiny Islands, the Mysterious Tower (where we learn Yen Sid is currently training Mickey to be a Keyblade Master), and the final area called The Keyblade Graveyard (which is seen in the final movie in KH2). Terra and Aqua try to help the 3 princesses (with Ven just wandering and discovering them on their own), which eventually lead them to Radiant Garden on a tip that Xehonart is actually the one wanting the princesses. Aqua also meets Kairi there (which explains where she is actually from, and accidentially gives her the power of the Keyblade).
Eventually Terra & Aqua find themselves at Destiny Islands (at different times), where Terra bestows his power of the keyblade to a young Riku. Aqua wanted to do the same for a young Sora, but after realizing Terra already did so to Riku, she didn’t want the 2 to fight. During this time, Ven discovers that Vanitas is actually the darker side of himself that Xehonart pulled out of him in order to make the fabled X-Blade (pronounced Keyblade). This was Xehonart’s goal all along. Ven & Terra travel to the Land of Departure where Eraqus wants to destroy Ven for what he might become. Terra defends Ven, and in the process kills his master. All 3 meet up at the Keyblade Graveyard where a complicated battle ensues. Xehonart freezes Ven and knocks Aqua out, which prompts Terra to open his heart to darkness, allowing Xehonart to take over and be reborn as a younger version of himself (that we see in the later KH games as Ansem’s apprentice). Ven gets up to battle Vanitas, which causes them to create the X-blade (or at least a lesser version of it). This fails, and the X-blade and Vanitas are destroyed. Aqua wakes up and (with the help of Mickey) takes an unconscious Ven back to the Mysterious Tower to consult Yen Sid. She realizes Ven’s heart might be gone and may never wake up. So, she travels back to the Land of Departure (where they all started), takes her master’s keyblade and turns the whole place into Castle Oblivion, and hides Ven in the Chamber of Waking (which is what Xemnas is searching for in KH2 and 358/2 Days).
And to wrap things up, Aqua travels back to Radiant Garden (where Xehonart-Terra is) for one final battle. After the battle, Xehonart-Terra falls into darkness and Aqua tries to save him, sacrificing herself. Xehonart-Terra wakes up in Radiant Garden, alongside Aqua’s armor and keyblade with no memory of what happened. Ansem finds him and takes him under his wing (along with Braig, which is Xigbar’s human form). Aqua is left to wander the darkness for years until she finally finds Ansem 12 years later (after the events of KH2) and is happy to see that Sora is the one saving the worlds now. Also, we see that Ven’s wandering heart actually found it’s way to a young Sora, which is why he is also able to wield the Keyblade.
Wow…long, I know What I loved about this story is all the awesome tie-ins to the older games. We learn where Xehonart is from (and how he became the younger version of himself), how Maleficent got started on the path to gathering the Princesses of Light’s hearts (which was just Xehonart’s plot all along). We see how Pete and Maleficent become partners, and we even get to see most of the Organization XIII members before they became nobodies (and wow…it took me a while, but I realized that all of the Organization XIII members’ names are anagrams of their human names with an X places there e.g. Axel is Lea, Xigbar is Braig, etc). It really puts into context how the whole situation was set up.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s an action RPG like the other KH games, where you’re running around beating up bad guys with your Keyblade. The skill system this time around are called Commands that you equip (things like Fire or Strike Raid), which can level up and be combined together to create more powerful commands. You also have this concept of D-links where you can call upon the power of people you’ve met along the way (like Cinderella or Snow White). I found it very simple, yet perfect for this game. It just worked. No real need to expand on it any more than that
There’s also the Mirage Arena, which is basically this game’s version of Olympus Coliseum where you battle rounds and rounds of enemies to get some of the best gear in the game. I made it through for Aqua, but for 100% completion, you need to do it for all 3 characters, and I said no to that….way too much time.
That’s pretty much all I have to say about Birth By Sleep. I blasted through this one in a hurry (well, if you consider 30 hours fast), and started right in on the next game, Re:Coded, which you’ll see a post about soon.
Until next time…