Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories
Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Card Games

Graphics & Sound:
Just to clear up any misconceptions going in, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories is not a brand-new entry in the series, nor does it add much to the series mythology. Rather, Re: Chain of Memories is an upgraded port of the 2004 GBA game with upgraded visuals, but not much else.

Re: Chain of Memories gets the most out of the PS2's hardware and shows how comfortable Square Enix is with the hardware. The visuals aren't a massive leap over Kingdom Hearts II, though there are a few touch-ups that help shine things up a bit. All of the worlds from the first game appear, but the "build as you go" dungeon system isn't the best showpiece. Worlds have a disjointed, blocky feel that make them feel more like differently textured dungeons than fully realized worlds. In a sense, this works for the story, but at the same time, it leaves a lot on the table as far as presentation.

Voicework has been added to most of the story sequences. Most of the Disney voices are on board, though many of the Disney sequences go unvoiced. Haley Joel Osment also returns as the voice of Sora, though it probably wouldn't be that much of a stretch to say he's getting a little too old for the job. Regardless, he does a good job.

Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories bridges the gap between Kingdom Hearts and the sequel. As Sora and the group continue on their search for King Mickey, they stumble across Castle Oblivion. Once Sora enters the castle, his memory slowly begins to disappear. When Chain of Memories was released in 2004, the plot worked better than it does now. The story is, as I put it back then, little more than a clip-show retelling of the first game's plot. However, the original GBA adventure had a bit of a mystery attached that, with the release of Kingdom Hearts II, isn't much of a mystery anymore.

For the most part, Re: Chain of Memories feels more like a dungeon crawl than an Action RPG. Each floor of the castle represents a different Disney world that Sora must explore fully before unlocking the next one, as well as unraveling Castle Oblivion's secrets. Each floor follows a specific layout, though you have control over what appears in each section by placing cards in certain spots. Some cards will unlock hordes of Heartless, while others create treasure. The overall idea works, though the implementation leaves a lot on the table. Dungeons feel disjointed and there doesn't seem to be much cohesion between battles, dungeons or even the story.

What a difference a dimension makes. Getting a hang of the card battling system on the GBA wasn't a cinch then, but with the addition of a 3D battle space, it becomes next to impossible. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an over exaggeration, but managing card-based attacks and combos along with the uncooperative camera and enemies that like to slip behind it forces you to be on your toes in every battle.

As far as the card-system goes, it looks really easy when it is first explained, but quickly ramps up. If you're not down with learning the little nuances the system requires, expect a 90-degree slope when it comes to the difficulty curve. Failing to plan out your deck to fit each situation can come back and sting you hard... probably harder with the added complications. There's no way to "card mash" your way through battles (believe me, I've tried).

I'd also be remised if I didn't mention the boss battles. Even if you manage to master the combat system, numerous bosses are still able to spring cheap attacks that defy even the best-laid tactics.

Game Mechanics:
Battles are carried out using a CCG-styled system. Whereas most CCGs use a turn-based system, Kingdom Hearts: Re: Chain of Memories folds card attacks into the action-based system used in the two console games. At the start of each battle, Sora is dealt a hand of cards which can be cycled by pressing the shoulder buttons. Each card relates to battle actions such as a Keyblade (attack), spell, item, or summon. Cards can be played as single actions or in combination, which unlock combos or special attacks (called Sleights). Casting spells in combination will result in more powerful spells (Firaga, Blizzaga...).

Each card also has a number on it, ranging from 0 to 9. These numbers indicate how strong the card is in relation to the cards that your opponent can play. Higher numbers beat lower numbers, with "0" acting as a wild card that beats anything. Numbers also determine which Sleights are used in battle.

Similar to the card-based dungeon exploration, the combat system is an interesting concept, especially in how it manages to combine systems that are, at a gameplay level, completely different. Yet, as already mentioned, it doesn't come together as well as it could. With a good hand, you can easily blast through a simple battle, but when it comes to thinking strategically (a key trait in any CCG), the pacing doesn't cooperate. Blowing through cards in combat also leads to numerous shuffles, adding another hitch to the pacing. Deciding to play a more strategic hand also works, but requires near mastery of the system and a lot of luck.

Back in 2004, I said that despite its problems, Chain of Memories was still worth playing through, but now I'm not so sure. With time, most of the allure has been lost; nearly all of the game's mysteries have been unlocked, adding little incentive for a play through. Even for the most die-hard of Kingdom Hearts fans, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories probably isn't worth your time unless you really need more time with Sora or just like complicated game mechanics.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.