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Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
PlayStation Potable® cover of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (Japanese: キングダム ハーツ バース バイ スリープ) is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation Portable, serving as the sixth installment in the Kingdom Hearts series. The game was released on UMD in Japan on January 9th, 2010, in North America on September 7th, 2010 and in the PAL regions on September 10, 2010. An international version of the game titled Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix was released in Japan in January 2011 featuring the changes made in the non-Japanese versions.The game utilizes an overhauled battle system different from previous games in the series with new elements. It is a prequel to the original Kingdom Hearts, taking place ten years before. The game centers on the journeys of Terra, Aqua, and Ventus, characters briefly featured in Kingdom Hearts II, in their quest to locate the missing Master Xehanort and protect the worlds from creatures known as the Unversed. The player has access to the three characters' different scenarios when playing.
Development of the game began in June 2005 with parts of the game Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix meant to bring clues of Birth by Sleep. The game was directed by Tetsuya Nomura and co-directed by Tai Yasue. Nomura has referred to the game as "Episode 0" saying that the game is on the same scale and plays as big an importance as Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. The game has been well-received, selling 1.27 million copies worldwide as of November 2010, and receiving positive comments by video game publications.
In the Land of Departure, Terra and Aqua take an exam to achieve the Mark of Mastery, which will allow them to become Keyblade Masters. However, only Aqua passes while Terra fails due to the abundant darkness in his heart. Shortly after the test, Master Xehanort disappears and a horde of mysterious creatures called the Unversed begin to appear throughout the worlds in pursuit of the Princesses of Heart. Learning of these developments from Yen Sid, Master Eraqus sends Terra and Aqua to destroy the Unversed and find Xehanort. Meanwhile, Ventus is coaxed by Xehanort's apprentice Vanitas into following Terra against Eraqus' wishes, while Eraqus orders Aqua to watch over Terra and bring Ventus back to the Land of Departure.As the three travel through several worlds, Terra attracts the attention of several villains who offer him the whereabouts of Xehanort in exchange for assistance in their own agendas. He eventually finds Xehanort, who instructs him to destroy Vanitas, revealed to be the source of the Unversed created from the darkness extracted from Ventus' heart. The three friends briefly reunite at Radiant Garden where Aqua and Ventus confront Terra about his actions, but he dismisses them.
Ventus later encounters Xehanort, who reveals his intentions to fuse the hearts of Ventus and Vanitas to create an all-powerful Keyblade called the χ-blade. Xehanort sends Ventus to the Land of Departure to confront Eraqus, who tries to kill Ventus to foil Xehanort's plans. However, Terra, who has also been sent to the Land of Departure by Xehanort, faces Eraqus to protect Ventus. Upon his defeat, Eraqus is vanquished by Xehanort, who covers the Land of Departure in darkness and tells Terra to go to a world known as the Keyblade Graveyard. Ventus is similarly instructed to do the same by Vanitas, as is Aqua by Yen Sid after he informs her of Eraqus' fate. Terra, Aqua, and Ventus gather at the Keyblade Graveyard, where Xehanort appears with Vanitas and reveals his plan to use the χ-blade to unlock Kingdom Hearts and start a Keyblade War, an apocalyptic event that nearly destroyed the world in the past. Terra's heart is swallowed by darkness in the ensuing battle, allowing Xehanort to take over his body, but Terra's mind remains within his discarded suit of armor, which comes to life and defeats Xehanort. Meanwhile, Ventus is forced to fuse with Vanitas to create the χ-blade and battles Aqua alongside Mickey, Yen Sid's apprentice, while he engages Vanitas in a metaphysical battle within his mind. Aqua destroys the χ-blade as Ventus defeats Vanitas from within, though Ventus loses his heart and falls into a deep sleep as a result.
After learning of Ventus' state, Aqua brings his body to the Land of Departure, where she transforms it into Castle Oblivion to ensure Ventus will not be disturbed. She then goes to Radiant Garden where she fights Xehanort, who still possesses Terra's body. The battle rages until Xehanort unlocks his own heart after Terra's heart tries to regain control of his body, and falls into the Realm of Darkness. Aqua saves Terra, but becomes trapped in the Realm of Darkness in the process; Xehanort, who remains in Terra's body, loses his memories and is found by Ansem the Wise, ruler of Radiant Garden; and Ventus' heart reconnects to the heart of a young Sora where it is able to rest. After the events of Kingdom Hearts II, Aqua meets Ansem the Wise in the Realm of Darkness and learns from him about Sora, who has the power to save those connected to his heart, including Terra, Ventus, and Aqua herself. Sora, having learned of their fates from King Mickey's letter, undertakes another quest to save them.