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Gamer Tuesday

February 1, 2011

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

System: PSP

Developed by: Square Enix

What started out as a quirky experiment in crossover storylines ended up becoming one of Disney and Square's most popular video game franchises. Since 2002, the Kingdom Hearts franchise has delighted both Disney and RPG fans with its deep, emotional storylines that pay tribute to some the best stories both companies have ever told. Players get to do battle against enemies called the heartless in a wide variety of worlds, each based on a different Disney film, as well as explore original ones.

Despite being the fifth game released under the Kingdom Hearts name, Birth by Sleep is actually the first in the timeline, featuring Terra, Ventus, and Aqua as its main characters. The game tells the story of how the events in the entire franchise came to be as the characters travel through each world in hopes of finding Master Xenahort, a man who is playing with the powers of darkness for his own selfish needs. This is the first Kingdom Hearts game where you get to play as three different characters, each telling their own side of the story. Together they form a huge narrative where friendships are questioned and fought for, danger lurks around every corner and the balance between the light and darkness must be obtained at any cost.

Kingdom Hearts fancies itself for being an action style-RPG, and Birth by Sleep follows that tradition proudly. Using a lock on system seen in games like Nintendo's Ocarina of Time you can lock onto an enemy and attack it using the keyblade, the series' weapon of choice. In Birth by Sleep you can unleash a flurry of special attacks such as a target lock attack. To add more depth to the gameplay, you can equip different commands and abilities to create your own personal character as well as fighting style, depending on the situation you are about to face. Finally, you can link up with the other characters and use their abilities and attacks. Disney characters like Cinderella, Stitch, Snow White and even Maleficent can lend their powers should you need them.

Speaking of which, Disney's first three princess films are highlighted in Birth by Sleep. You will get to follow the storylines of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, from the minute they yearn from for their dreams to be real until they experience true love's kiss (though to accommodate the original storyline, some scenes were altered). Other Disney films such as Peter Pan and Lilo and Stitch are represented in the game's levels.

Square Enix is a company that fancies itself for being able to get the most out of the system they are working on, and Birth by Sleep is no exception. All Disney worlds and characters are faithfully rendered to resemble the look of the original movie. Small details such as the size of the Dwarf's cottage to the grim, dirty look of Maleficent's dungeon, no expense was spared when bringing such colorful universes together.

To add even more Disney magic to the game, Disney and Square Enix have hired the original voice actors to reprise their famous roles. Even the animation of the characters stay true to the hand drawn animation done on them years ago.

The music, composed by Yoko Shimomura, also pays tribute to the timeless collection of Disney songs, while creating its own themes with a Disney flavor. Hits such as “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo,” “It's a small world,” and “The Mickey Mouse Club Theme” adorn some of the game's worlds. This adds a grand level of authenticity to the game, and thus it becomes more valuable for the Disney fan in sheer nostalgia alone.

The Kingdom Hearts franchise is one that is aimed at the Disney gamer rather than the regular Disney fan thanks to its high level of challenge and RPG mechanics, and Birth by Sleep adds even more mystery to a plot already brimming with it. But everyone can appreciate all the effort that went into creating a game that pays a deep tribute to the Disney legacy while creating a polished RPG experience that is synonymous with Square Enix.



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