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Birth by Sleep

Japanese Release Date - January 9 2010
North American Release Date - September 7 2010
Australian Release Date - September 9 2010
European Release Date - September 10 2010
System - PlayStation Portable

In the Land of Departure, wielders of weapons ancient in origin and terrible in power train. Tools for salvation and destruction, these ‘Keyblades’ have dealt out the destruction of innocents and monsters alike. Long, long ago, a massive war was fought between Keyblade Masters to gain control of the heart of all worlds, the terrible struggle reshaping or destroying entire worlds as it wore on. At the end of the Keyblade War, Kingdom Hearts was sealed away, and the events faded first into memory, and then into myth, understood by only a few.

~♥~

Many years later, Master Xehanort – a wise Keyblader with particular interest in the Keyblade War – arrives at the Land of Departure with an amnesic boy – Ventus – in tow, to be trained under the resident Keyblade Master, Eraqus. Eraqus’ two current apprentices – Terra and Aqua – are excited by the prospect of gaining a companion, but when they begin questioning Ven about his past, he falls into a coma. Days later, Ven awakes in perfect health, though a guilt-ridden Terra still feels it was his fault Ven fell comatose in the first place. To make it up to him, Terra befriends Ven and later introduces him to Aqua. That day was the inception of a powerful friendship, one that would only grow over coming years, and surely hold strong through any obstacle that met the three.

Events unfold in the background as the three young Keyblade Wielders train and grow closer: another wielder, King Mickey Mouse, undergoes his own training under former Master Yen Sid. Meanwhile, an apparent threat to the worlds emerges, malevolent creatures called the ‘Unversed’, as well as a masked boy that tends to appear wherever they gather in large numbers.

Four years after Ven’s arrival, it is the day of the Mark of Mastery exam for Terra and Aqua – a trial to determine their worthiness to become Keyblade Masters. Aqua passes the test valiantly, but Terra fails, being unable to control the darkness in his heart. After the exam, Xehanort approaches Terra and tells him that he should harness his darkness instead of fear it, at the same time as Ven is visited by the same masked boy associated with the Unversed – Vanitas. While Vanitas is telling Ven that Terra will be forever changed by the darkness in his heart, it seems Master Xehanort has suddenly disappeared, prompting Eraqus to assign Terra the mission of locating him and bringing him back. Vanitas departs, leaving Ven scrambling to find his dear friend, only to discover he has already departed.

Still determined – and against the wishes of Master Eraqus – Ven leaves the Land of Departure to follow Terra and ensure his safety, while Aqua is tasked with finding the two of them and ensuring their safety if she is unable to bring them both home. From that fateful day, the paths of the three wielders diverge as Terra searches for Xehanort, with Ven and Aqua following in their separate ways in the wake of the dark acts Terra seems to be committing. Surely the reports Ven and Aqua receive are mistaken, and even if they weren’t, there must be a very important reason Terra would do such things.

What follows is a powerful journey for all three of them that will test every bit of their skill, and stretch to the limit the friendships they treasure most. As the past threatens to repeat its devastating self, the truth behind enemies – and friends – are revealed, putting all worlds at stake.

[Full Summary]

As is custom with the main Kingdom Hearts titles, Birth by Sleep has its own Japan-exclusive re-release of the original version with changes and additional content to story, gameplay and visuals.

The addition of a Critical difficulty mode ups the ante for those wanting a challenge; new commands, styles, boards, D-links and mini-games allow for greater variety in gameplay; all Unversed have received altered colour schemes.

Arguably the more anticipated additions to the game have been the inclusion of the Keyblade-wielding Armour of the Master and No Heart, as well as Monstro, as bosses in new Mirage Arena battles. Alongside these additional challenges, the cloaked Unknown proves a worthy opponent as the game's secret boss, and drops the No Name key chain as a reward for his defeat.

Most significant to Birth by Sleep's Final Mix - and the biggest departure from tradition - is the game's secret ending, "A fragmentary passage". Players take control of Aqua as she makes her way through the post-game Realm of Darkness. Concluding the additions in Birth by Sleep FINAL MIX is montage of all the characters with significant connections to Sora, and the final text "Birth by Sleep -Volume Two-"

KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep - Official Japanese Website
KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep FINAL MIX - Official Japanese Website
KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep - Official North American Website
KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep - Official PAL Website

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