Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep was developed by Square-Enix Osaka and Disney for the Sony Playstation Portable. It was the 6th installment for the series, and dubbed as Kingdom Hearts Episode 0 by Nomura because it serves as a prequel for the Kingdom Hearts series. Nomura said that this game has the same importance as the 2 mainline games in the series, Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.
Kingdom Hearts:Birth by Sleep was originally planned for the Sony Playstation 2, with Sora as the protagonist. The development began in 2005, before the release of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ but the development team changed the platform to the PSP to take advantage of the PSP functionality such as co-operative and competitive gameplay. Nomura was still acting as a director, and co-directed by Tai-Yasue.
The development team used the engine from previous Square-Enix game, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core for the game. The titled of the game was inspired by the unlockable trailer shown in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+.
Nomura said in an interview that an unlockable secret ending will be in the game, and a new kind of monsters will be introduced in the game, The Unversed. Nomura also implemented a new feature in the game, the Command Board system that was inspired by his primary school experiences playing board games.
The game features an revamped battle system, and follows the story of Terra, Aqua and Ventus in their quest to locate Master Xehanort. It comprised of 3 parts: Terra, Aqua and Ventus where players will have to finish all 3 parts of the game to understand the story of the game from 3 different perspectives. The 3 characters would be played differently: Terra the brute character, Ventus the agile character and Aqua the magic focused character. The game made some public appearances on the 2009 Tokyo Game Show and 2010 Jump Fiesta before it being released.
The game was released in Japan on January 9th, 2010 and September 10th in North America the same year. The game was received very well by the critics, with praised on the game’s graphics, music and improved battle system. The 3 different perspectives provide a fresh and unique gameplay for the franchise, but the camera controls (due to the lack of second analog nub on PSP) and the loading times was being the common complaints. The game received an aggregate of 82% in metacritic, the third highest aggregate score of the franchise behind Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. The game sold extremely well, with 500,000 copies sold in two days times in Japan. It was also the sixth bestselling video games in North America at the month of October 2010.
So what the future holds for the franchise? Endless possibbilites.With the 10th anniversary for the franchise coming up this year and the latest installment for the franchise, Kingdom Hearts:Dream Drop Distance that will be released on March 29th in Japan, and in North America and Europe later this year, the future still looks bright for the franchise. Nomura said that the voice recording session for the English version of Kingdom Hearts:DDD was already underway, and the storyline would progress in preparation for the long overdue, but still inevitable Kingdom Hearts III. After nearly 10 years since it was first conceivable, the amount of hype for the franchise is still going strong. Nomura hinted that Kingdom Hearts III would concludes the Xehonart saga, but when the game would be announced or what platform it would be on is still a mystery for the fans….