Release Date: 01/09/2010
Company: Square Enix
Birth by Sleep is a prequel to the first Kingdom Hearts game, taking place ten years prior, and focusing on the story of three apprentices who wield Keyblades before the series' main protagonist Sora could wield one. The game will take place in various Disney-themed worlds both new and old, and will only partially reflect the time difference between this game and the previous Kingdom Hearts games; for example, a younger Sora, Riku and Kairi, but other characters like Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora retaining their age from the first Kingdom Hearts.
The game's story focuses on the three main characters'—Terra, Ven, and Aqua—efforts to find the missing Keyblade master, Master Xehanort. The story is split into three separate scenarios each focusing on one of the character's efforts to locate Master Xehanort. While the characters will be alone most of the time during their journey there will be times when the characters' paths will cross. Nomura has stated that all three of the characters are equally important storywise, with neither scenario being more important than the other. The game will focus on several main themes such as Ven's identity and connection with Sora as well as the mystery behind the memories of the original series' primary villain, Xehanort. Each character's story will take about 15 hours, hence the total amount of gameplay hours would be 45 hours (including deck-editing and retries) making Birth By Sleep the longest game in the series to date.
- Birth by Sleep is an action role-playing game. Its battle system has received an overhaul of that from previous Kingdom Hearts games and slightly resembles that of Re:Chain of Memories. The game allows players to customize their "deck" by choosing which techniques and abilities to display.
- Another new gameplay aspect is the Command System; when the command gauge is filled and requirements have been fulfilled the Command Style of the character will change. When the gauge fills up and the requirements have been fulfilled for the second time, the character will change to an even higher level Command Style. Yet another new aspect of the game would be a new character growth system where the characters would grow rather than just level up like in previous games, however this aspect of the game has not been shown yet.
- A new feature of the game is the Command Board; it appears whenever the player completes a world. Each world has its own unique Command Board which has its own tricks and mechanisms, players can access the Command Board during save points and on the world map after unlocking the Command Board. The Command Board plays like a regular board game where a dice is thrown and the player moves, each space will have its own unique effect on the player. Various Disney characters both heroes and villains from throughout the game will also appear on their respective Command Board to either aid or hinder the player. Special panels in the board game can trigger "special events" when landed on by the player.
- The game does not utilize a Magic Points (MP) system for spell or magic casting, unlike in previous games in the series. Instead it uses a new system known as "Focus" which is displayed in a gauge on the interface, it involves targeting spells using what is known as the "Shoot Lock Mode". It also involves the characters casting spells in a first person mode, where each character is able to cast their own unique magic attacks.
- A new aspect of the game is the Dimension Link or D-Link for short which would be used to summon allies to lend their power to aid the player from different worlds, no matter how far away. Companions such as Experiment 626 who have been left behind in previous worlds can be called upon once again to temporarily aid the player in his journey, by providing the player with a whole new range of new attacks in his command deck replacing the usual ones. At the end a new powerful finishing move would be activated to take out enemies, each ally used will have a unique set of attacks and finishing move. Each finishing move has two levels which can render a finishing move more powerful than before similar to that of the Command System. The D-Link can be activated by filling up the D-Link gauge which is done through collecting "Prize Boxes" which have been left behind by defeated enemies. So far, there are only three characters that will be D-Link for the three keyblade warriors. Mickey for Aqua, Stitch for Ven, & Cinderella for Terra.