Back to Reviews

Reviews Comments: Level design and combat system make the game Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep game review by Bonsai Forest

Although I personally like the original Kingdom Hearts the best, I think it's good that Square-Enix is trying different things with each game. The battle system has gone through slight changes from game to game, such as having magic refill upon depletion (KH2), be treated as finite items (358/2 Days), or use a World Of Warcraft-esque cooldown system (Birth by Sleep).

The level design has also changed from game to game. I still think the first game did it best, with levels that had a good amount of platforming, and a lot of hidden out-of-the-way items that have to be searched for, and sometimes can't be reached until you return later with new abilities such as jumping higher or gliding. KH2 tossed just about all of that.

After 358/2 Days heavily emphasized the platforming and hidden items, even rearranging things with each mission, Birth by Sleep is somewhere between the first two games in terms of level design. But it's handled a little unusually.

Which character you choose determines which part of each level you visit. Terra's levels are by far the most linear, and I was very disappointed with them, as well as his lower-than-expected level of interaction with the Disney characters who are a large part of what makes Kingdom Hearts so charming.

But Ven and Aqua visit totally different parts of the levels, which tend to be more platforming oriented, and they also end up performing more diverse tasks, and meeting more Disney characters. When Ven visits Cinderella's world, for example, he is tasked with finding 5 things needed to make a dress, which turns out to be a fun exploration and platforming challenge that added a nice change of pace. Terra has nothing of the sort occur in his quest.

Breaking up the levels so each character experiences it a different way means that the levels don't feel as big as in KH1, even though they probably are. Rather, Terra visits the queen's castle in the Snow White world, but can't enter the dwarven mines, and vice versa for Ven. While this means that you get to see new areas with each character, it means the experience is divided. It also means each character's story feels short.

But I appreciate the experimentation Square-Enix is doing, and overall, I enjoy this game a lot.


  • ManwiththePlan
  • 13th Sep 10
I still have my fears about the future of the KH Series (Nomura's comments in the BBS Ultimania about the continuation of the series are just crazy') but I do agree that Birth By Sleep'' is more awesome than not. Ignoring stuff like that damn secret ending, I like just about all of it.
  • BonsaiForest
  • 14th Sep 10
The story involving the non-Disney characters continues to make less and less sense. I just kinda let it slide and enjoy the gameplay and the Disney character interaction and the Square stuff that does make sense.
  • 14th Sep 10
I think BBS had the best battle system in the series. It was deeper than KH 1's and not button-mashy like KH 2's. And it was actually challenging! KH games haven't been very difficult since the first game so I'm glad they went back to that! I'm on the fence weather i like KH 1 of BBS better but there's no doubt SE is heading in the right direction. I just hope they improve upon it for KH 3 D and KH 3. And I loved the secret ending!
  • BonsaiForest
  • 15th Sep 10
I really want to see them bring Disney teammates back. I loved fighting alongside Donald and Goofy, and the heroes of different movies, in KH1 and KH2 (although I wasn't too happy with KH2 overall for both level design and battle design reasons). It's disappointing to see the heroes fight alone, though at least you still interact with the Disney characters a lot during Ven and Aqua's quests.
  • ManwiththePlan
  • 15th Sep 10
^^ I hated the secret ending. The idea of Sora saving everyone who died and had perfect closure to their characters (like Axel or Ansem the Wise) just rubs me completely the wrong way, especially when all these characters are basically seen praying to Sora like he's literatelly The Messiah!

^ YES. Screw the AI complaints; fighting alongside Donald, Goofy, and the world party members was one of the best parts of the series. KH 3DS does not interest me if it's just going to be Sora and Riku, and no Disney characters to join in the fight at times like in BBS (such as Prince Philp, Stitch, Hercules, etc.)
  • SoRiku
  • 27th Sep 10
@Bonzai Forest If you think the plot is making less and less sense, you obviously aren't getting something. The plot continues to thicken and become richer with each installment. It's all unfolding beautifully into the climax that will be the third game.

And I don't understand the commotion with the Disney characters, they were always the parts I hated most about the games. I want to know about Sora and Riku, I dont care if Cinderella makes it to the ball.
  • BonsaiForest
  • 29th Sep 10
Kingdom Hearts was originally a Square/Disney project created when execs from the two companies talked to each other. Of course it's about Disney just as much as it's about Square. If you don't like Disney, well, that's a large chunk of what Kingdom Hearts is about. It's one of its major selling points. I personally see a lot of charm in seeing Scrooge McDuck in Radiant Garden and actually seeing Ven and Aqua have a nice chat with him. Hell, I haven't seen Scrooge in years, and he's one of my favorite characters!

I guess it's kinda like how when I was a kid, I watched Inspector Gadget and didn't care much for the comedy of the show. The show is a comedy. But I enjoyed seeing his niece Penny snoop around, get into danger, and stop the bad guys. As such, I focused on those elements, and was genuinely baffled years later when people said they didn't like Penny, or found Gadget actually funny.

If I was missing (or ignoring) the main point of Inspector Gadget and focusing on an element that I really enjoyed and preferred, then I could say the same about you and Kingdom Hearts. It's about Disney AND the original Square characters. If you dislike the commotion about the Disney characters, fine. But you don't "understand" it? Then maybe you are like I was about Inspector Gadget. Try understanding other people's perspectives. I ended up having to.

Anyway, I've noticed there's a split between the people who like the charm of the Disney characters, and the people who like the metaphysical Square story (hearts, darkness, nobodies, etc.) and the Square characters. I actually did like the relationship between Aqua, Ven and Terra, and found myself liking Ven and Aqua as characters. It's possible to enjoy both sides of Kingdom Hearts. But please, don't forget that there ARE two sides. Zealous fans who swing one way or the other sometimes tend to ignore that there are people who like the same series for the "other" reason.
  • ManwiththePlan
  • 30th Sep 10
^^.............................BERSERK BUTTON ACTIVATED.

If you think the plot is making less and less sense, you obviously aren't getting something. The plot continues to thicken and become richer with each installment. It's all unfolding beautifully into the climax that will be the third game.

Or alternatively you're a willfully blind fanboy or fangirl. Yeah, let's go with that.

And FYI, the third game (really the NINTH freaking game) isn't even the climax of the series, just of the "Xehanort Saga", so we get more Nomura-made BS plotlines afterwards, and I don't think any of it's unfolding "beautifully" or getting "richer" at all.

they were always the parts I hated most about the games. I want to know about Sora and Riku, I dont care if Cinderella makes it to the ball.

.........The series from the start was advertised as a series where you play in Disney worlds alongside Disney characters. Why the hell did you even start or continue playing if you hate Disney so much? And personally, I care more about if Cinderella makes it to the ball than how much gayer Sora and Riku can get, thank you very much.

And Sora's friendship with Donald and Goofy >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> his friendship with Riku anyway.

Of course it's about Disney just as much as it's about Square.

Exactly. I'd dare to say that it SHOULD be moreso about Disney, since it was the Disney exec in the elevator who thought up the idea in the first place. The series owes it's existance to Disney, much moreso than it owes it to Nomura.

Sorry if this comment makes me come across as a Fan Hater, it's just...well, I hate fans like these. I guess I'm on "the other side" that Bonsai is speaking of (though I do like some of the original characters and elements, but my liking for them lessens with each game.) In general, I think Disney holds up and attracts more of the audience that matters than confusng, hackneyed-written JRPG crap.
  • Falcos
  • 1st Oct 10
^You see, Manwiththe Plan, you come off as just as extreme and fandumb-ish as the person you were referring to, just to the other extreme. I personally like the original storylines more then the disney ones, but on the other hand, I dislike 90% of the original characters. Also, the accused gayness? I went through the whole series so far, and haven't noticed any such thing. I see the friendships for what they're supposed to be: FRIENDSHIPS. Anyway. Getting off topic here. All in all, I'm tossing up if this one or KHII is the best so far... I prefer the deep stories that you actually need to think to figure out, not the simple Disney stuff. Also, what you said about it "should" be about Disney? No. It shouldn't. Ask yourself, who put in more effort here, Square, or Disney? Who writes all the original stories, characters, etc?
  • BonsaiForest
  • 4th Oct 10
I have to add something here. While you could say that Square put in more effort because they made the game, bear in mind it's still a licensed product, only with tons of licenses instead of just one.

Imagine if a game company used the Batman license. Now imagine if that company decided the game should be less about Batman himself and more about their own original characters. Would that be appropriate? Technically, they could "do whatever they want", and who's to say it "should" be about Batman? See the reasoning there? Apply it to this series.

Kingdom Hearts is about Disney and Square. Disney owns the rights to it. It is a Disney licensed product, with original characters as well. Disney is also a big part of the appeal for many people, even if other people ignore it or wish it wasn't there. Let's not forget that, even if not all of us like it.

I don't care much about the heartless, nobodies, unversed, darkness, etc., though I do like a number of the original Square characters and their personalities. I also like the Disney characters and their personalities. I do recognize that the series is about all this stuff, though, so even if I don't care about the metaphysics and backstory, I recognize it as valid. Just like seeing my man Scrooge McDuck show up in the Square-created non-Disney locale of Radiant Garden is valid.
  • Falcos
  • 7th Oct 10
Okay, I feel I didn't make my point well enough. Allow me to expand: Say, you and I decided to work together on a project. Say, you came up with the original idea, but I did most of the work. say that it was even listed as your project, with my name tacked on. Does this mean that it should be all about you, that you should get all the credit, etc? No. Yes, you should get some, and by no means am I saying that Disney should not be in KH. I like the Disney worlds and characters, as I like the Square ones. However, I like the original characters. The ones that are new. The ones I haven't seen before. If Square did more work (Which, evidently, they did. Look how much original Disney content there is in the game. I think you'd be lucky to find 30 seconds worth, all up) then Square should get more credit. Anyway. Getting off-topic. It should be about both. There. Rant over.
  • ManwiththePlan
  • 7th Oct 10
I prefer the deep stories that you actually need to think to figure out, not the simple Disney stuff.

Wow...and you actually believe that by thinking you can figure out the crap going on in this story.

I'm sorry, but throwing in plot point after plot twist after retcon after character connection after metaphysical terms and garbage like that is NOT deep, IMO. It's shallowness pretending to be deep.
  • Falcos
  • 8th Oct 10
Really? I worked it all out just fine, by thinking. So yes, I believe that. And that second bit is your opinion, so I'm not going to touch it. Maybe, though, you think differently to me? I mean, this all seems pretty simple to me.
  • Shroomy
  • 10th Oct 10
Man With The Plan, I've seen your comments here and on the forums, and I think I speak for most (if not all) of us when I say: STFU. Yes you have a valid opinion, but just because someone says "I liked the secret ending" or "I don't like the Disney worlds" doesn't mean YOU need to just pop in and correct their opinion with your hard solid facts. Your opinion is no more correct than theirs so stop berating them for it. And you call them the Fan Dumb! Why not try taking a look in the mirror sometime?
  • Falcos
  • 11th Oct 10
No idea who you are, but thanks, Shroomy. Also, I feel obligated to say one last thing, Manwiththe Plan: So, stories that use plot points, plot twists, character connections etc aren't deep, hmm? Then tell me, what stories are? Last I checked ALL stories had plot points, twists, and character connections, as well as a good portion of them having ret cons of some description and quite a few having metaphysical aspects.
  • LostHero
  • 21st Oct 10
  • As far as the review goes, thank God the levels get better after Terra. I just hope the story gets better, too.

Honestly, after Days, the pace of the game seems almost breakneck. Terra goes to school. He doesn't pass the test. Whoops, Xenahort's gone, better go find him! Cue three Disney levels interspersed by brief attempts at characterization.

I mean, Days isn't gonna win any awards any time soon, but at the very least it gave you time to know the characters, to explore their personalities, and build towards a (mostly) satisfying climax. With BBS (at least so far), we've got no time to waste on silly "characterization." We've got a thousand Disney worlds to go, and only three stories to explain them!

  • As far as the argument with MWTP goes, I can see where he's going. I understand KH pretty well, from what I understand, but I can see how it could be frustrating. SE's basic strategy with the series has been "Tie up a few threads, drop a bomb, and start as many threads as you can without explaining too much. Rinse and repeat." Sure, almost all plots have twists, but KH goes about it by only explaining half the twist and then asking you to buy the next game to figure out the rest.

And Shroomy, that burn was pretty lame. Sorry man, but it needs more wit and less potholes.
  • ArcVaranus
  • 31st Oct 10
I liked that KH 1 managed to tie the Disney storylines into the overarching plot.

KH 2 had less of that focus, which disappointed me.

BBS brought the storylines of the Disney worlds and weaved them into the characters stories even better than KH 1, imo, by letting each character experience the parts of the story most relevant to them.

Between Disney and Square worlds, there is no simple answer. I think that there needs to be a balance. I like the overall story more than the Disney worlds, but because of that disconnection of Story-World in KH 2 there was something... lacking about the game. The bulk of it didn't measure up to the awesome middle (1000 heartless battle) and end (TWTNW). The worlds felt like sidequests unrelated to Sora's search for Riku and fight against the Organisation. The only worlds that didn't suffer from this were Beast's Castle... actually, yeah. Just Beast's Castle. Although Olympus was cool too, what with Auron and all. But ultimately, Sora doesn't take anything from them. He leaves the same character he was when he entered.

BBS far improved on that formula. The worlds weren't tacked on, they actually had relevance. Take Terra, for instance. In the Snow White world, Terra acted as the hunter, which played well with his fears over what he had done to Aurora. He was there in the Castle of Dreams to see Cinderella get her wish granted, and personally escorted her to the ball so he could see that there is hope even when things at first seem hopeless. Call it lame if you like, but it's a good lesson for anyone struggling to achieve recognition and overcome doubts like he is. Olympus, he seeks help from others to control his darkness before realizing he is the only one who gets a say in how he uses it, and in Deep Space his realization that his friends are important to him despite their falling out galvanizes Stitch's own attempts to understand friendship, which is of course the main concept of his movie.

As long as they hold onto this aspect, I really don't think they can do much wrong, REGARDLESS of what either side of the fan dumb says.

In order to post comments, you need to

Get Known