Review by Etrurianmage
"At times, you will love this game, and at times, you will despise this game."
Well let's start off here: I loved the first Kingdom Hearts game on the Playstation 2. That game probably places among my fifteen favorite games ever, possibly ten. I was about ready to start the second one when I received a recommendation from a friend that the plot of the second game would make a lot more sense if I played Chain of Memories first. Well I took my friend's advice and gave this game a shot. And that's about where this review starts...
Can you do that on the Game Boy Advance?
The first thing to note about the game is that the presentation value is wonderful. Full motion videos are used during certain parts of the game, which I don't believe is in any other GBA game on the market. A nice little addition that goes well with the scenes in which they are used. The in-game visuals are nothing bad either. For the most part, it's what you would expect from a GBA game. However, the graphics have a sort of top-down view mixed with a 3-D view used when travelling worlds that allows complete movement that is very convenient. The animations in battles are very well done. And thanks to that, you will feel, at times, the exact same enjoyment you received from doing combo attacks on enemies in the first Kingdom Hearts game.
The audio for this game is very well done as well. Worlds from the first game all have the same tunes that you loved (yes, that also means that Atlantica still has that instrumental version on "Under the Sea" that drove you crazy repeating over and over again, sorry. At least you don't have to swim this time.) Obviously, the songs are all scaled down a bit due to the GBA hardware, but more than anything else, that just adds a extra little charm to it. I was also really impressed that they got "Simple and Clean", the theme song of the first game to play in the credits of both stories. A very nice touch.
Welcome to Castle Oblivion...
As said before, the story of this game is reason alone to play it. It's far from the unimportant filler story that I thought it would be. The game takes place in Castle Oblivion. Sora, Donald, and Goofy enter the castle looking for their friends. There they are met by a group of strange people. While I won't spoil anything for you, my understanding is that these people are very important antagonists in Kingdom Hearts II, if not the main bad guys. However, I haven't quite gotten to that game yet, so I may be wrong. The main game centers around Sora's group travelling through their memories from the first game while trying to discover what exactly is going on inside this castle. It should be noted that these memories aren't always as accurate as they could be, but I suppose it makes sense since the memories are supposed to be fading away from the group as they continue their journey. Plus, you probably don't want the exact same story from the first game. The story plays a very important part in the game and is very interesting. Once you finish Sora's story, you can start a new game, this time playing as Riku. Riku's story includes very important character development as Riku struggles to battle the darkness inside him. Overall, the story of this game is important, both as a part of the continuation from Kingdom Hearts to Kingdom Hearts II, and as a good story on it's own.
Sahry Sora! Doin dis Brooklyn accent makes it really hahrd tuh concehntrate on cahrd games!
I'm sure you've heard about it before reading this review, Chain of Memories features a card battle system in place of the traditional "Press A to Attack" style gameplay. The card battling system is bittersweet. Essentially, each card has an assigned value from 0 to 9. 1 through 9 indicate the power of a card compared to other cards, while 0 serves a special purpose. As far as the power is concerned, if two cards are used at the same time, a card break will occur. This means that whoever used the stronger card can go again, while whoever used the weaker card is wide open for attack. Three cards can also be combined to perform a combo of powerful attacks with the combined value of these cards. However, by doing this, you will lose the first card used (you might lose all of them, I can't quite recall). All of your favorite attacks, spells, summons (including Donald and Goofy, Sora's at it alone by default), and items have become cards. This system can be very much fun as it will require a good bit of strategy at times to master. However, it also relies pretty heavily on just plain luck. Remember how much you always depended on the "Cure" spell in the first Kingdom Hearts? I know I do. Well you will soon discover how unbelievably frustrating it is to lose because decently-leveled cure spells just happened to be used at the same time that a boss got to a really high-levelled part of his deck. This is only worse in Riku's story, in which you have a fixed deck that doesn't even allow you to change the order of the cards. I mean, they give you five or six consecutive "1" cards at times. Seriously? Which brings me to my next point. Nearly every enemy in the game has some reason or another that you just don't want to fight them. Whether it be you hate dodge rolling behind them only to have them turn around over and over, an incessant attack that will deal several cheap blows once it connects, or disappearing into the ground leaving you to waste time waiting for them to re-appear. Very few enemies are actually fun to fight. However, the gameplay isn't all bad. As said before, the card system does actually have some strategy to it and most bosses have some good strategy for taking them down...combined with the button mashing and luck. Also, you will find yourself getting the same enjoyment you got from the PS2 games at some point of this game. In conclusion, the gameplay has it's ups and downs, so overall it's average.
Length and Replay
The total length of the two stories is a little over twenty hours. Not the longest time, but by the end, you'll probably be glad it's over. If you want to replay the game, there's shops that you can buy cards from to perfect your deck, or you can always level grind some more and try to get your level as high as you can. I didn't see any side-quests or anything of the sort, so the replay value seems a bit limited. I suppose you could always just replay the game if you really want to get your money's worth. But you probably wouldn't be enjoying yourself too much.
+Gameplay can be very strategic, and sometimes recaptures that enjoyment from the PS2 games
+Should help you understand Kingdom Hearts II a bit more
+Amazing graphics and music for the GBA
-Gameplay can be button-mashy and often based on luck
-Very little reason to replay
Rent or Buy
It's probably only really worth your money for collection purposes if you're into that. I'd recommend trying to borrow or rent a copy, as the game is worth playing, but not worth spending much money for.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/01/08
Game Release: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (US, 12/07/04)
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