big red rambling: 018 Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep review & links to get you through the week of 11/15/2010

Welcome all you lucky people to the eighteenth edition of this awesome column. At least hopefully you think the column is awesome. If you do, tell your friends. If you do not, keep your traps shut. 🙂 Seriously though by Thursday I will have finished the last major assignments for my classes. While I still have several weeks of classes left, they mostly consist of exams or quick assignments, and thus will not be particularly time consuming. So, you may be asking, why should I care? Mainly because more free time means more time for me to write this column. So by next week not only will I be definitely going back to twice a week, I even hope to begin a updating three times a week, although we will see. Still that remains in the future, and right now what lays before us is the present, so let us get on with said present and start off this week’s column with a review.

Video Game Review: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Kingdom Hearts has turned into an oddly divisive series over the years, seeming to engender either great love or hate from gamers, with little room for middle ground opinion. In my case, you can definitely count me in the love it group. I am unabashed and unapologetic Disney fanboy from way back, and have a similar love for Square and its many properties, particularly the Final Fantasy games. So you can imagine how a game combining these two great tastes went over with me. I thought Kingdom Hearts was a good game with a few weakness, Chain of Memories a fascinating diversion with unique gameplay, and Kingdom Hearts 2 an absolute triumph, jettisoning much of what marred the first game, while amping everything that did work, especially the story and combat, up to eleven. I even enjoyed 362/2 Days for the side story it was, especially the fairly unrelenting tragic nature that comprised much of its story. Still, I shared the opinion that the game was comprised to much of familiar worlds/levels (if I ever have to play through that oh so familiar Agraba setting again it will be to soon not to mention the utter gratuitous and unnecessary nature of the Nightmare Before Christmas levels in the game) and featured too little interaction with the Disney characters who make up a major component of the franchise’s trippy appeal.

Which brings us to the latest entry in the franchise, the PSP only Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. A prequel to the main series taking place approximately ten years before KH 1, when initially announced, and especially following the actual release of Days, many feared another miss-able side story filled with rehashed content. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every world in this game (with one small exception that only comprises a few screens regardless) is brand new to the series and features some of the Disney cannons herefore unseen biggest guns. The worlds of classic Disney princess Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White are joined by more contemporary characters like Stitch and Hercules. These are all fun locations to explore, with some clever design employed to accommodate the action driven gameplay of Kingdom Hearts in settings that often featured little to know violence.

The game centers on three apprentices, Terra, Aqua, and Ventus, learning the ways of an esoteric weapon known as the Keyblade. They are soon drawn into separate but intertwining journeys out into a larger universe, where they will discover revelations with cosmic implications. The story may be the best in the series so far, with some fun twists and turns amongst the episodic lead up to the climax. And what a climax, featuring some of the best visuals and emotional beats in the entire series. There are images and moments in this game that will stick with me long after I have put the game back on my shelf. While bearing some inescapable echoes of the Star Wars saga, Birth by Sleep has enough originality to ensure it is its own entity, more than capable of standing upon its merits. Your tolerance for the story will likely be proportionate to your enjoyment of the at times bombastic narratives applied by anime and manga.

Birth employs a variation on the series now familiar action RPG driven gameplay. Levels will be gained, stats will improved, and equipment will be chosen between bouts of real time clashes with armies of well designed monsters. This iteration of the series brings some strong new additions, particularly its deck based ability system. Abilities, from attacks to items to movement commands, are now equipable much like armor and accessories in other games. This lets you fully customize what abilities you wield in combat and how exactly you play the game. Add in different battle stances that activate with certain ability combinations and D-Links (bonds formed with other characters encountered over the course of the story that replaces the often underutilized summoning system of previous games), both of which add additional and sometimes dramatically different commands to the menu, and you have an incredibly robust combat system. I found the combat so enjoyable in Birth, that I actually found myself breaking away from the story for large chunks of time to mess around in the arena, a first for me in regards to Kingdom Hearts games.

The graphics are simply beyond reproach, not just matching but often exceeding those of the games PS2 counterparts. These beauty does not come without a cost, as load times can be frequent and long. Installing the game to your PSP will help alleviate much of this problem, but you will find yourself looking at load screen far more often than you would like. The sound is every bit as excellent as you would expect from a Square title, with the voice acting outstanding across the board.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is a remarkably full and deep game. By the time I had viewed the game’s true ending, I had put more than 21 hours into it, and even then I had only unlocked about 60 percent of the games arena based content. A surprisingly compelling board game like mini-game and multi-player (with the latter being unfortunately limited by its ad hoc only nature) round out the game.

If you have played Kingdom Hearts before and hated it, I suspect Birth by Sleep will do little to change your mind. For everyone else, especially if you own a PSP, this is a not miss title, that stands as a true triple A product.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Links to Get You Through the Week of 11/15/2010

Here is an article about ads that are HIGHLY inappropriate by today’s standards. Some of these are so bad it is hard to believe they were considered appropriate even in their original era. Just goes to show how far we have come.

Funny isn’t it how sometimes stars hate so very much the very things that made us love them in the first place.

Nature in action is rarely anything less than breathtaking, yet when you add in manmade elements, the results can be striking. P.S. don’t ever mess with the bear.

I wish more bad movies were THIS entertaining.

A slightly different, and highly entertaining, take on the rest major Batman related developments.

For the metal lovers out there in the audience, here are some redone NES classics with a decidedly more heavy feel to them.

The more I see of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the more excited for this game I get. Here are the trailers for the latest two character reveals so that you may share in the excitement.

A video that fills me equal parts awe and horror, it goes on my list of things I am far too chicken shit to ever seriously consider trying. It is a depressingly long list.

This leaves me amazed, both at the beauty of its content and the artistry of its production. The skill and sheer resourcefulness of independent filmmakers is so often humbling, especially if you have a degree in film and television production like I do I know just how much effort goes into it.

Listen people, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE KITTY CAT! Even alligators know you don’t fuck with Mr. Furrypants.

Webcomic Spotlight: Wayward Sons: Legends
I admit it, I am a sucker for inventively crazy high concept stories. You know what I mean, things like “What if the attack of a giant monster was seen through the perspective and camera of an ordinary person?” or “We take a bunch of Disney characters, we take a bunch of our own characters, and we mix them all together into one epic story.” So when I discover a webcomic whose central premise is “Follow the adventures of a crew of aliens, and the prisoners they are escorting, as they crash land on Earth thousands of years ago, inadvertently gaining superpowers in the process, as they become the inspiration for all of our current day mythology.” I am in. When it turns out the comic not only has this great premise, but excellent writing and gorgeous artwork, well it is a good day for me. Hopefully you will feel the same after you give this lovely series, which is like Hercules the Legendary Journeys/Xena: Warrior Princess meets Star Trek, a try.

Time to get your (Video) game on.

Awww… Is there anything sweeter than the bond between a boy and his dinosaur?

So what is more awesome than a Ninja? A science ninja, of course.

Here is fun little Risk variation/update/remake that is enjoyable alone or with friends.

Excellent controls, functional visuals, and a good, if overly familiar nemesis, make Give Up Robot 2 an Adult Swim produced platformer actually worth your valuable time.

Yeah the title pretty much says it all. Cuboy Facebutt.

And now for this week’s Deliciously Deviant(art).

I feel like showcasing fan art this week. That is all. As in all the explanation you are going to get. Please move along.

Fantasy Street fighter by *GENZOMAN

Zelda – Midna and Wolf Link by *GENZOMAN

pink makes ariel cry by `bri-chan

Evil side – Peach and Zelda by `SigurdHosenfeld

TGWTG Toonize – Linkara by =AndrewDickman

Azula -Im free- by *DarkKenjie

Iroh – Dragon of the West by *DarkKenjie

Lavos Core by ~haikuninja

No Mans Land – Animated by ~ReverendTrigster

Goku Kaiohken VS Vegeta Ozharu by *Javas

Scott Pilgrim vs The Fan Art by *Didj

Batman VS Donkey Kong by *deankotz

Have a good week everyone.


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