Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep: The Best Gameplay in Kingdom Hearts?



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Grono

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Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage- was a title that was long anticipated in the Kingdom Hearts series. It had been teased since Birth by Sleep's infamous "Birth by Sleep Volume 2" ending from the secret episode of the game, and fans of the series waited for years to see what would have become of Aqua. The ending of Birth by Sleep teased a lot; it teased Aqua coming across the Castle of Dreams, King Mickey appearing in his Chain of Memories clothes with the Star Seeker in the Realm of Darkness, and a connection between A Fragmentary Passage and Blank Points that told us that this was all connected to what happened in the Realm of Light during Kingdom Hearts. However, one thing we didn't expect from this title, should it ever come out, was any sort of change of battle system from the original Birth by Sleep.

When the game came out, we got the answers to all of these questions, and raised a couple of more questions in the process. While the game was inexplicably short, demanding approximately 2-4 hours from the gamer depending on the difficulty and/or skill of the gamer in question, one of the things that it seemed to clearly have focused on during development was the clean-up & improvement of the battle system. Here, I'm going to go over the comments and criticisms from the gameplay department that each of the games in the series had, then explain how 0.2 wraps up these problems and improves upon its own system to create a beautiful hybrid battle system that proves to champion some of the best gameplay this series has had.

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Kingdom Hearts

-The original Kingdom Hearts always had fun, explorative level design that encouraged exploration and experimentation with the environment around you. That door has a fireball on it? Try casting fire and see what it does. You see a green trinity mark here? Maybe it will do something unique and open up an area for you. There's an exposed wire in the third district? Try electrocuting it and see what it does. This thing asks for a recipe? Find the recipe cards and make yourself a potion. There's a lock? Stick your keyblade in it and see where it takes you (third district, traverse town). Not to mention the End of the World, with its unique, colorful level design and several expansive areas that were never replicate in any other part of the series. People always say Kingdom Hearts was claustrophobic and littered with loading screens, but I feel like Kingdom Hearts II was worse for this in my humble opinion. 0.2 brings back exploration in the level with puzzles and verticality, such as the rock/mirror puzzles from the mines in The World Within, the secret areas in Forest of Thorns, the highest point from the Castle of Dreams area and the meteor shower you can witness from that height, and the hidden marks and chests post-game all around the worlds, with the Lingering Memories and the 12 pieces of the Zodiac. 0.2 feels like a living, breathing world that I can interact with; I haven't gotten that for a while in this series.
-Not really gameplay, but a remix of Simple and Clean was fresh and nostalgic :)
-Tons of post-game content/ secret content for the explorative gamer. In Kingdom Hearts, you could do tons of things post-game, from fighting secret bosses to getting special items and keyblades if you wanted to. Want an extra challenge? Find out which chest holds the ether in The World Within, or try to strike the candles out in the second mirror and fight hordes of heartless peering from every corner of the room. Find the twelve pieces of the Zodiac and discover a secret boss rush in a center mirror, with a surprise enemy at the end of the boss rush. Combine the rocks in the mines area into a star shape and get an extra item to customize Aqua with, manipulate the mine shaft to reach you to a secret chest protected by several heartless floating in the sky, or to collect the final shiny diamond so that you get a special item. Walk in the direction of your Blizzaga spell and it sets you on a flowmotion trail that sends Aqua into a rail slide, or cast firaga and watch the ground burn in the direction of the fireball. Get to the highest point of the Castle of Dreams area and stare at the castle to witness a meteor shower and get a special item. Explore the Forest of Thorns for tons of extra chests, extra fights, and lingering memories for Aqua. There's lots here for a small game, and this only shows how much post-game potential there is for Kingdom Hearts III.
-Many people preferred the original's command menu over the command deck of Birth by Sleep, so 0.2 switched back to the command menu system to meld with III and its original game.

Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories
-Breakable items. This kind of existed in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, but Chain of Memories brought these to prominence, so it counts.
-New Game + mode. This is where it really started, where if you had a special save file of KHII on your memory card you could start the game with access to special secret chests that had Kingdom Hearts II/ Kingdom Hearts Days.


Kingdom Hearts II

-Despite the fact that lots of people liked the mystery of the original game, many players felt like they didn't know what to do most of the time, so this game introduced the objective bar. Birth by Sleep 0.2 brought this back, like it has been since it became a staple in the series.
-Kingdom Hearts II varied its magic from the original game significantly, but some people still thought that the magic from the original proved to be more functional or easier to understand. To remedy this, 0.2 sets magic back to its basic elements, with fire being a fireball, blizzard being a giant ball of ice, and thunder being a multi-target ranged spell centered around a specific enemy.
-Kingdom Hearts II introduced the MP Bar, replacing the previous MP bar from the original, which set magic at certain values. When all magic had been used up, the MP bar would turn pink and recharge, and replenish itself at full value once it had depleted its pink bar. Cure was the most costly magic, saving your life but depleting your MP bar fully when you used it. This mechanic was generally well received, and Birth by Sleep 0.2 brought this form of magic back, functioning the same as before.
-Kingdom Hearts II was widely criticized as a strictly linear experience. While the final mix of the game sought to remedy this by adding the Cavern of Remembrance, 0.2 leans away from the linear side of gameplay, adding more twists and turns and puzzles to the experience.
-Post-Game tradition was continued from KH, so 0.2 also follows in its footsteps.
-Reaction commands were widely criticized as making the game too spam-heavy and too easy, so Birth by Sleep 0.2 melded this system with its own unique flavor and command styles to create new situational commands.

Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep

-Birth by Sleep's most wonderful aspect, in my opinion, was the mystery and exploration of the Realm of Darkness. It was a place of darkness, devoid of hope, and the new game holds the spirit of the first half of Aqua's journey through the dark realm with the same aire of despair and hopelessness that the environment carried in the secret episode.
-Birth by Sleep introduced command styles that corresponded with certain attacks that you used in your command deck, something that proved quite popular with fans of the game. 0.2 brings this element back, simplifying it to one command style for Aqua but another one given when Mickey is present, introducing a new type of style change not previously seen in the original game.
-Shotlocks proved to be popular in the original release of the game, so 0.2 brings shotlocks back in full fashion and proves that they meld seamlessly with the gameplay elements of the original numbered titles.
-Movement commands were a staple of the gameplay of Birth by Sleep, so this game brings them back in full fashion, with Aqua's barrier reflect, air slide, cartwheel, and doubleflight returning.
-Birth by Sleep's gameplay was criticized by critics for feeling too "floaty" and disconnected, so the new game focuses on Aqua's combos being cleaned up so her keyblade hits don't feel so light and unsatisfying.
-Retry was an option brought to popularity with Birth by Sleep, letting you immediately rematch an enemy if you died in battle, a staple of the series in post that 0.2 brings back.
-Focus gauge is introduced in tandem with shotlocks, and proves to meld seamlessly with the original game's command menu system along with shotlocks.
-Birth by Sleep's level design was praised for being expansive, but criticized for having nothing in the world. 0.2 fills the void by making the environments more interactive with more hidden secrets and verticality to the design.
-Birth by Sleep allowed Terra, Aqua, and Ven's armor to be slightly customized in the Mirage Arena. 0.2 birth by sleep kicks this up a notch by letting Aqua's clothing have a completely different color to it, with gradients and mixes possible.


Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance

-Flowmotion was criticized for making large rooms in Dream Drop Distance feel too small and accessible, as well as for making areas accessible at any point in the game as opposed to letting the player find secrets by revisiting the worlds at a later point. 0.2 reintroduces flowmotion, but at a reduced intensity; this is done by having platforms take a more sly cooper-like approach to flowmotion, letting you daintily float over pointed objects to get from place to place, slide down large slopes that have an incline, or even slide on the trail of ice your Blizzaga spell made.
-Dream Drop Distance was the second game in the series to introduce a true New Game + mode, allowing your progress with your dream eaters be carried over through multiple save files. This feature would be further explored in 0.2, with clothing items, objectives, and even regular items carrying over in your save files.
-Dream Drop Distance also received the criticism of having nothing to do in the expansive areas they provided for the viewer. 0.2 remedied this as previously stated before.
-Nearly no post-game was present in DDD, only having the Julius fight and extra obtainable keyblades be considered "post-game" content. 0.2 remedies this by actually providing a post-game for the gamer to play.


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Now that we've gone over all of the things that 0.2 brings back or improves on within the games that came before it, what does it bring to the table itself?

Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage-

-0.2 introduces multiple shortcut menus, allowing a separate menu for magic and items to exist.
-Magic is given an upgrade in this game, with superpowered Firaja, Blizzaja, and Thundaja magics existing as new situational commands Aqua can pull off after using the spells a certain number of times, mirroring the revamped magic from the command deck games,
-Blizzard now tracks enemies, something that proved to be a flaw in previous games.
-Situational commands now give more balance to the idea of reaction commands, rewarding the player for a certain play style more than simply giving them an opening on a certain enemy due to their play style.
-Party members can initiate situational commands, show in Mickey's wayfinder style change and the special wayfinder style change in the demon tide fight.
-Party AI has drastically improved, with Mickey proving to be a smarter AI than we have previously had in this series. One example of this is Mickey's "are you okay?" as he heals Aqua after the battle ends, at any time he thinks she needs it. I even recall farming in the realm of darkness once when Mickey randomly healed me a minute after he had gotten rid of his keyblade, because his AI determined that I wasn't going to use the spell on myself for a long time. Also, he's really powerful and his style change is great.
-Keyblade and magic attacks now finally feel balanced, proving to be equally useful in certain situations and doing equal damage. There is always a reason to use one or the other, but neither ever feels useless.
-Objectives and the wardrobe option are fun things that pander to fans of the series and completionists, giving the player an incentive to play the game after it has finished, collecting every treasure chest, finishing the the secret bosses, and exploring the world for a reward of a simple customizable item for their character, something that is simple and yet gratifying for the player once they've achieved their objective. Not to mention the fact that players went nuts the minute they found out Aqua was going to be customizable in this game, something that's hotly being contested as one of the most anticipated elements of Kingdom Hearts III, something that fans have been practically begging for ever since this game came out.
-Aqua doesn't start at level 1; she's level 50. Nice touch, Square.
-Aqua now talks mid-battle or mid-exploration about what she's doing, whether it's her phantom casting doubt in Aqua's heart or Aqua exclaiming about how she should go and check if there's a gear in the town.
-Everything that the developers mixed in from the previous games works flawlessly here. I can't even criticize it; maybe the objective bar is a bit unnecessary? And I hate how maps are found in treasure chests again? Otherwise, though, 10/10 in the gameplay department, Square. You did well.

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I'm sure there's stuff that I missed, but that's the gist of why the gameplay of 0.2 is the perfect culmination of every issue and benefit of the gameplay from previous installments of the series. It took what it was given and worked hard to make it the best of every element it borrowed from. This also gives me hope for Kingdom Hearts III; since 0.2 is sort of like the demo for the new gameplay of the new engine, I have faith that attraction flow and keyblade transformations will beautifully mesh with the gameplay of the previous games now that I know that 0.2 was so successful on that front. Let's just see if summons are still practically useless (sorry, had to make one controversial statement in this article :p).

What do you think, is 0.2 the best gameplay in the series so far? Or do you have objections to my article here? Whatever you think, comment below and let me know ^u^

EDIT 1: Also, I guess you could say the customization thing originated with Chi or Mobile or Coded, since people liked the customization aspect in those games. If anyone has suggestions as to what this game borrowed from Days or Coded, please let me know, as I had trouble coming up with anything it seemed to borrow from these two titles in the franchise.
 

Muke

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No, because there are still a lot of Osaka problems in the game. Aqua still feels really slow, combos are kinda slow in comparison to KH2's combos.

KH2 has the best gameplay, even though it's true the levels are very linear -- level design =/= gameplay.
KH2 combos are fun, fast, and very customizable. Sora's growth abilities are really nice.

And while 0.2 is a step into the right direction, it still has a lot to learn from KH2, if you ask me. I do like the magic spells more than KH2's spells.


I really like your analysis post btw, grono!
 

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0.2's gameplay was great, but still nowhere near KH2's.

I think it's really hard to break gameplay down into a form of bullet points. It's much more complex than those surface things, and is dependent on more than simple additions and subtractions to the physical mechanics implemented by the devs. Don't get me wrong, 0.2 did some fantastic things and added some level of skill into KH once again, but it didn't flow nearly as well as KH2. You didn't quite have the breadth of combat options at your disposal in 0.2, whether it be drive forms, summons, or the number and variation of abilities Sora had. Not only was KH2 exceptionally more fluid (and it also ran much better) than 0.2, but it provided the player with many more options, all of which were well crafted and had multiple layers. KH2's combat was special because of the ways it allowed players to experiment and mix those options together. While it looks like KH3 has that, 0.2 didn't.

While the small details are essential, gameplay is deeper than things such as and extra quick select menu, comments made during combat, and wardrobe (which I don't even classify as falling under gameplay). 0.2 was good, but it didn't have the variety or creativity that KH2 did, nor did it come anywhere close in terms of performance to KH2. 0.2 wasn't nearly as fluid, as it was still exceptionally sluggish compared to a few other games in the series.
 

Grono

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No, because there are still a lot of Osaka problems in the game. Aqua still feels really slow, combos are kinda slow in comparison to KH2's combos.

KH2 has the best gameplay, even though it's true the levels are very linear -- level design =/= gameplay.
KH2 combos are fun, fast, and very customizable. Sora's growth abilities are really nice.

And while 0.2 is a step into the right direction, it still has a lot to learn from KH2, if you ask me. I do like the magic spells more than KH2's spells.


I really like your analysis post btw, grono!
Thank you so much! I tried way too hard on this one, haha xD I do personally feel like Aqua's significantly faster in this one, like her combos actually connect compared to her BbS counterpart. Maybe it's just because I've been playing it a lot recently, but I do feel like it has improved.

That being said, KHII does have this game pinned by the fact that it has so many combo modifiers. If there were any other abilities you could gain throughout leveling up in 0.2 Birth by Sleep, I think this problem would be largely remedied. But, sadly, the closest thing we've got is magic and style changes through situational commands. I do disagree on the level design comparison, however; why isn't level design and puzzle solving considered gameplay? I think interactivity, such as vine sliding, puzzle solving, and climbing counts as gameplay as well. I think the more apt statement there is that gameplay =/= purely fighting; but that's just my opinion.

I feel like it overall does more right that Kingdom Hearts II simply because of time. The enemies feel more balanced, keyblade hits and magic feel more balanced, and magic has hit its peak in this series; I feel like this is just because of the natural evolution of the series, and it was only inevitable that the problems this series had would be addressed in a future title. I feel like Kingdom Hearts III is the true test to see if it's better than KHII, however; if combo modifiers, ability slots, varied magic, summons, and drive forms all return in their full glory (which I feel will happen due to what we've seen so far), then I feel like we're going to have something special on our hands.

I should clarify, I have fun playing KHII: I guess it's equal in that sense, since I had pretty much just as much fun shredding up heartless in 0.2. I guess it depends on whatever your preference is (although I think that most people can agree that shotlocks work perfectly with the Kingdom Hearts II gameplay style).
 

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I agree that we should maybe wait for KH3 to really compare KH2 to any other game.

Every game after 2 has been a handheld title, which means that there were probably some restrictions simply because of the system's power. With KH3, it's finally a full-fledged title that we can enjoy, especially considering combo modifiers etc.

I also really hope 3 reintroduces revenge value to ALL bosses and enemies, not only humanoid ones. That's also something KH2 did incredibly well.
 

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Well, of course it's mostly subjective, but just looking at the final battle has me scream NO.

To me personally, KH2 was perfection when it came down to gameplay. Revenge Values, Desperation Moves, summon special effects, drive form abilities, it just had it all. Add that to Sora attacking absolutely smoothly...♥

0.2 went a better way than a lot of other games like BBS (hey look at this super-strong blade that is fucking useless) or Dream Drop Balloonra, but I'm still kinda mad about the way Aqua attacks (and misses) certain enemies, and even if I can accept her fighting style being a bit slower, I can't accept simple stuff like not being able to control your jumps and stuff like that.
 

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I agree that we should maybe wait for KH3 to really compare KH2 to any other game.

Every game after 2 has been a handheld title, which means that there were probably some restrictions simply because of the system's power. With KH3, it's finally a full-fledged title that we can enjoy, especially considering combo modifiers etc.

I also really hope 3 reintroduces revenge value to ALL bosses and enemies, not only humanoid ones. That's also something KH2 did incredibly well.
Agreed! I think revenge value really deserves to have a proper return to form for Kingdom Hearts III. I like how balanced the enemies seemed in 0.2 as compared to II; something that people disagree or agree with depending on if you're talking about the final mix version or the original, I've found. I've just had a fantastic time with 0.2, and really think that this proves to serve as good omens for Kingdom Hearts III. Guess we'll find out more information about gameplay by the time new info comes out (I've heard the game was confirmed for E3 recently).
 

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0.2 is osaka's best game without a doubt. any comparisons to II are a little unfair considering its a demo with story, but its a damn fine one at that. magic, level design and enemy design, difficulty, these elements have never been better in the series and thats where osaka is really giving me hope. they have a better idea of the bigger picture than ever before, moreso than the original team. but 0.2 has its drawbacks, the last mirror aqua and demon wave fights have moments of sheer frustration, but for the most part this is only one or two attacks (except for mirror aqua. so angry).

the framerate is inconsistent and when bundled with a much more substantially long game like DDD HD at 60 fps; it plays at a crawl. aqua walks incredibly floaty and far too fast, which is apparent even for sora when watching the tangled world reveal demo at e3 2015. i'll give them slack considering this is a demo for a new engine and they need to adjust, but a full game should not play like that. and i actually really felt that your attacks had weight to them which i liked, however, the game had this weird delay between guarding and evading before the first patch which felt like salt in the wound.

i may be somewhat biased, as one of the people clammoring for bbs vol 2 since blank points hit the internet, but for the most part i think osaka really knocked it out of the park and i personally loved 0.2 for what it was. this was the best demo i've ever played and i cant wait to see them get it right totally.
 

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I could list tons of reasons why I like and dislike certain games, but more than anything it just comes down to if it feels good to play or not. And for me the only games that actually feel good are KH2, KH1, Re:Coded and 0.2. It's just things like how well the combos flow, are there annoying pauses when alternating between different elements like combos to magic, or combos to commands etc. That honestly in the end is the biggest thing for me that matters a whole lot. And KH2 did that perfectly. You can chain basically everything, you can move in the menu while still doing the combo finisher, everything is so fast and smooth and works together. It just feels so good to play. It just kills me inside when I use commands in DDD and I often have to press the button many times before it even does anything, and then afterwards it takes forever before I can do anything again.

Re:CoM actually feels alright too, not a fan of the cards but it still flows better than BBS or DDD. And while 0.2 is improvement on the handhelds and their HD versions, it's still not as good as KH2 was. It's a bit sad that the gameplay has been going downhill after an amazing peak, but hopefully KH3 will go to a good direction again.
 

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any comparisons to II are a little unfair considering its a demo
Uhh, no, I don't see it. 0.2 is still a game, regardless whether it's a 'demo' or not - this is a finished product and they have decided to release it as it is. Saying it's unfair comparing/criticizing it is just not right.

the last mirror aqua and demon wave fights have moments of sheer frustration, but for the most part this is only one or two attacks (except for mirror aqua. so angry).
Mirror Aqua was an extremely good fight, so I don't see it. She has very good patterns that you can see through after fighting her multiple times, and it's a fun battle, too. Aaand she has revenge value!
Devil's Wave is shit though.
 

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I could list tons of reasons why I like and dislike certain games, but more than anything it just comes down to if it feels good to play or not. And for me the only games that actually feel good are KH2, KH1, Re:Coded and 0.2.
Except for Dumbo, eh?
Okay I'll stop

I can't deny 0.2 doesn't feel too bad most of the time. Like when I play Birth by Sleep or even 3D, I want to KILL something within minutes usually, especially when it's Terra or, for 3D, without using Ballon. 0.2 still didn't quite make me feel like I had to use much skill (except for the Aqua fights, which were comparatively amazing by the way). It was mostly running, spamming magic, kinda blocking a bit maybe, using triangle, rinse and repeat. Some enemies like the water thingies didn't properly react to the spells I used (which btw is an amazing feature as well and I want that to be a relevant gameplay element in KH3) which was kinda sad though.
 

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I also would like to add that the terrible input lag in 0.2 also completely destroyed the experience. When I press circle twice, I want Aqua to immediately jump twice, like Sora does in 2. No, she just jumps once because of reasons I don't understand. Probably because she is so slooow.

I also think they should get rid of the running animation-gets-faster-after-2-seconds method. It destroys everything imo.
 

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I also would like to add that the terrible input lag in 0.2 also completely destroyed the experience. When I press circle twice, I want Aqua to immediately jump twice, like Sora does in 2. No, she just jumps once because of reasons I don't understand. Probably because she is so slooow.
Yeah, that I meant someway up with uhh bad jump controls. It's not only that you can't do a double-jump immediately, you also can't tap it shortly to do a REALLY small jump. Just doesn't work.

I also think they should get rid of the running animation-gets-faster-after-2-seconds method. It destroys everything imo.
I remember when the game released I thought I was just seeing things, then I remembered I had seen that with Sora in KH3 trailers too. That REALLY needs to be fixed, it looks horrible.
 

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As I've said before, the reason I can look past KH2's flat and linear level design is because it doesn't get in the way of the excellent gameplay. I can appreciate 0.2's level design by itself, but it clashes with the game's downright bad programming. Sometimes you'll grab a ledge and sometimes you wont. The context-specific platforming is prioritized over things like jumping or attacking, which results in inputs being dropped. The ice trail can only be done on flat surfaces, making it useless since 90% of these levels are made out of uneven surfaces.
It all works against each other, instead of in tandem.

On magic, they have the right idea, but the execution needs work. There's really no reason to use fire over blizzard in this game unless you're fighting the water heartless. Blizzard acts the same way plus it freezes enemies. In KH2 (and 1), magic was all rounded to fit different situations. Fire was a close range, defensive spell, and Blizzard was a straight projectile spell that could go through multiple enemies.
There's also no magic finishers, moving while casting isn't as fluid as it is with Lion or Final Sora, and you could argue that the magic situation commands are more overpowered than reaction commands since you can stack them. In KH2, you could only spam RCs by actively manipulating the Heartless AI.
 
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