This year I’ve been playing through all of the Kingdom Hearts games in preparation of Kingdom Hearts 3 – At the moment I’m on Birth By Sleep, and I just love how different it is to the main Kingdom Hearts games.

First off I’ve got to say that I’ve really enjoyed going back to all of these games; I don’t remember a whole lot from when I played them as a kid and I’ve done a lot more on them than ever before, such as the secret bosses on KH1. The full remastered package is such good value for money considering you get 3 full games and playing them immediately one after another makes it easy to compare them.

In case you haven’t played Birth By Sleep (BBS from now on), I’ll do a quick break down. There are 3 storylines, Terra, Ven and Aqua – Each is apparently about 12 hours long (I’m 10.5 into Terra’s), and they all link up a little. There are the usual Disney links in it, but obviously you don’t have Donald and Goofy supporting you and you still visit Disney settings (Snow white, Cinderella, Peter Pan).

The bigger differences are as follows…

Firstly the commands are very different and I really enjoyed using this combat system. Instead of having typical attack and magic commands you have a Command Deck, which acts almost like a card deck which has a mix of magic and attack commands. X is attack as normal but Δ takes a command from the deck, and it can be either a physical attack, an item or magic, and even cure – You build your deck and then choose triangle to load from the deck (Which you can cycle through mid combat); at first it’s strange to get used to but really works once you’re used to it. My main issue with other KH games is that you don’t really get a choice of which attack comes out apart from hitting attack or other buttons at certain parts of a combo, whereas this gives you a lot more to attack with and you can link up badass combos like Poison Edge > Fire Dash > Blizzara etc…

As well as all this fucking awesome stuff, during this whole time there’s a ‘command’ bar which builds up with every attack you make and allows a special move. What’s really cool is that this special changes depending on what moves are used in the build up, so fire moves unleash a kind of ‘fire power’ mode where you chain a fuck load of fire loaded moves and a powerful finisher, ice moves create an ice mode etc.

What’s also cool is how you acquire new moves, as it’s more of a command/card deck these aren’t earned by levelling up. Firstly you can buy moves from Moogles… But mainly you can combine other moves to create better ones (Random outcomes until you acquire recipes). As you use a move, it levels up, and when at a certain level you can combine it with another to create a better move, or magic ability. It’s like having a constant alchemy table and I absolutely love it.

Lastly on moves there’s a kind of targeting mode where you press the trigger button and target the enemy a lot and unleash a move, called Shotlocks – There’s a big mix of these such as a constant flash/slashing attack (Very anime-esque), an onslaught of fireballs, lightning chains and so on. Again this can be levelled up.

As you progress through the story you’ll eventually unlock a brand new mode, known as the Command Board; it reminded me of Mario Party – You have a board with different squares and roll a dice to move around, and the idea is to collect a set level of points than your opponents and make it back to the key (Home) square and win. The points are then converted in to XP – You compete against various Disney characters as you unlock their boards in each of their worlds; as is expected, not only is this really fun, it’s a really good way to level up.

The worlds are more compact than usual, i guess because there are 3 x 12 hour stories to fit in and it was originally a PSP title… But it works; you go in hit a few different areas, take on the boss and leave. Job done. Now for me the bosses are fun and very challenging (FYI i’m playing on Proud mode), and overall I think it’s taught me to be a better Kingdom Hearts player as you need to block so goddamn much – I’ll be honest before I never really blocked with Sora, I just went in Keyblade a’swinging, but you can’t do that here. Much like the secret bosses before, you need to anticipate the moves and work around it. Although they’re short they are a lot more technical, and you have to get your attacks right to stand a chance, it forces a need to be a lot more patient. I don’t think I’ve done any of the bosses on the first attempt – So although shorter they’ll keep you occupied for a lot longer.

So there we have it, 3 storylines, much different commands and attacks, tighter boss fights and a fun levelling up mini game. Birth by Sleep is a very different game to it’s predecessors and is one I’d highly recommend to anybody.