Review by ShapeQuest

"Play if you're a fan of the series"

There is occasionally some confusion regarding where Chain of Memories falls in the Kingdom Hearts timeline, especially because the second PS2 game is called Kingdom Hearts II. This game is more like Kingdom Hearts one-and-a-half. In KH2, the makers hardly explain what happened during the events between the two games, so unless you play this game, major plot-holes cannot be avoided. However, that is mostly your only incentive to play this game. The gameplay itself is sub par at best. Well, maybe. I liken this game to Marmalade: chances are high you'll either enjoy it or you won't.

You'll start out in front of a weird tower, cleverly named Castle Oblivion. Inside, Sora will strangely find himself trekking through the worlds from KH1. Each “floor” in the castle basically equals a world in Sora's memories. As he climbs further and further up the tower, Sora's memories will gradually become replaced with other memories (hence the whole idea behind the game's title). Unfortunately, since these worlds are only in memory-form (so to speak), we must go through the same plots from the Disney worlds as the first game—so nothing new there. Only the Square-based characters make the plot interesting.

Anyway, the real crux of the game lies in the battle system. It works like this: while you're walking around on the field, you'll see a Heartless. Once you walk into the Heartless or press the Attack button near it, a battle is initiated. You'll switch over to a battle screen, so there is no fluid transition from field to battle.

Then, a deck of your cards will display on the screen. But it's not what you think. There are a few different card types—Attack, Magic (magic AND summons), Item (reload the deck with different cards), Friend (this is basically the equivalent of calling for help), and Enemy cards (another deck of cards you can call with various abilities). Attack is self-explanatory. There's a new stat in this game, called CP (card points). This leaves a cap on the amount of cards you can have (which you can increase when you level up—I'll delve more into that later).

Additionally, each card has a set value on it (can be zero through nine). This is the most important piece of the puzzle. When you and the enemy use a card at the same moment, the card with the higher number causes the action to go through, while the person with the lower card must have their deck reshuffled, leading him or her wide open to attacks during this period. So then, you might be wondering, what use does a card with a value of zero have? Well, the zero cards are special:

There's another game element, called combos, or sleights. Basically that's when you combine three cards to perform super-powerful moves. Unfortunately, your opponent can do the same. That's why the zero cards come in handy! See, playing a zero card while a combo is happening will cause your opponent's combo to break, leaving them open to attack. I know that this probably saved my neck more than once. Also, when you perform a combo, one of the cards used will not be available again until after the battle is over. So use them wisely! If you don't, you may just run dangerously low on cards.

You might be wondering, what if I want to use a card, but it's way back there in the deck? Well, you can reshuffle everything if you wish. However, each time you reshuffle, you'll need to spend more and more time waiting for everything to load, leaving you susceptible. So it's allllll about card strategy in this game.

Sometimes, the game will mix up the enemy elements for you. Sometimes you'll need to be standing in a certain direction from the enemy (like those big belly monster guys). You can also roll, jump, etc, so that adds to the strategy.

You can open chests on the field, just like KH1. Let me explain. Cards are king in this game. Each room you enter in the different levels is the same basic, box-like shape. Yeah, they'll vary in appearance slightly. But generally it's a box. In order to access a different room, you must present a certain card to open that door. It will have a number corresponding with it. You must have a card with that same number to open the door. The problem is that if you DON'T have the same number (remember, the card must be specifically a map card, not a battle card you might be able to supply), you must run all around and fight enemies just to find the one card you might need. This happened to me on one of the very last doors.

Additionally, you can present different kinds of map cards. The map card types include a regular room, a room with a treasure chest, an enemy room (where enemies will spawn), mushroom rooms (the mushroom enemies from the first game will appear), and several variances of these. There are also special cards that are yellow, used for opening plot-advancing doors only. You can also find cards that will present a save point or a moogle (the shopkeeper in this game) in the next room.

As I said earlier, when you level up, you can choose from different bonuses. These include HP boosts, CP boosts, and sleights. There's also another element in this game, called Moogle Points, that will enable you to buy different decks.

The graphics for this game are GREAT considering it's the GBA. I'm mostly talking about the FMV sequences. The rest are all sprites. Still, I have no complaints.

The sound quality has its ups and downs. The songs are mostly rehashed, MIDI versions of the regular KH1 game. The battle noises are about on par with what a GBA game should sound like, I think.

Lastly, once you beat the game as Sora, you can replay the ENTIRE thing as Riku! This is probably to compensate for the fact that there really isn't much for sidequests in this game. I won't go into his version of the story very deeply, but basically the major difference is this—you have NO control over the placement of his cards in the deck!! Want to heal? Too bad, the heal card (Mickey) is somewhere else. This will give the game an even greater challenge than before. So this could be a plus or a minus, depending on who you talk to. So, because of this, the replay value is huge, mostly because Chain of Memories is basically two games in one. And there is no reward for completing the game 100%, such as a secret movie clip, in case you were wondering.

As I said in the beginning, you will mostly want to play this game if you're a fan of Kingdom Hearts I and wish to find out where the plot leads next. The battle system will probably take some getting used to, but if you play until the way at the end of the game, you will feel like a pro at it. If anything else, this is NOT your typical button mashing, choose from attack, magic, and item RPG.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 07/15/09, Updated 07/15/09

Game Release: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (US, 12/07/04)

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