Review by Blkmage
"A decent sequel to a great game"
Kingdom Hearts was certainly overlooked by some because of the Disney characters. Many people wondered what Square was thinking when they made Kingdom Hearts. Despite these negative thoughts, Kingdom hearts was an overwhelming success.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is the sequel the first and very popular Kingdom Hearts. Chain of Memories (CoM) takes place exactly where Kingdom Hearts left off. This game is meant to bridge the gap between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, not unlike a transitional game. Players will learn about a mysterious Organization in which this game revolves around.
Chain of Memories takes place directly where Kingdom Hearts left off. Previously, Riku and the King had been left behind in the Door to Darkness in a [successful] attempt to seal the door. The Keyblade Master Sora, Royal Knights Captain Goofy, and High Court Magician Donald set find Pluto, who is carrying a letter emblazoned with the King's seal. Does Pluto perhaps know the whereabouts of King Mickey and Riku? The group follows Pluto.
Sora is faced with three different paths in which to take. A strange man cloaked in black appears before Sora. He tells the group that "ahead is something you seek, but to gain it you must lose something dear." The paths become one and lead to a large and mysterious castle known as Castle Oblivion. The farther Sora, Donald, and Goofy venture within Castle Oblivion, the more memories they lose. Thus, the group heads off on yet another adventure in search of Sora's childhood friend Riku and the King.
Taking a step away from the original battle system, Chain of Memories introduces a new and unique battle system. The battle systems revolves around cards. That's right, cards! It's not as bad as it sounds actually, and it can be quite enjoyable at times. Upon encountering an enemy, a battle will commence and Sora will be in an "arena-like" area similar to his current environment. You must you cards to defeat your opponents. For example, playing a Keyblade card will have Sora attack the enemy and played a "Thunder" card will summon a thunderbolt to strike down the enemy.
However, the battles still take place in real time. Enemies can strike you at any time while you cycle through your cards. It seems simple at first, but the good part about this game is that it requires less button mashing and more thinking. Simply pressing the attack button won't cut it anymore; you'll find yourself quite frequently at the Game Over screen if that's how you play. Chain of Memories requires you to think before you execute your move. Play a card to low and your opponent might deflect your attack. Play a card to soon and you may find yourself defenseless. Of course, there's much more to it than that but I'll let you find that out for yourself!
Now for the bad parts of the gameplay. While the card battle system is unique and excellent, if I do say so myself, gameplay itself is quite monotonous. Unlike its predecessor, in Chain of Memories, there is no pre-made map. You must synthesize each room in a world with special cards called map cards. In each room, there are roughly 2 to 8 battles, depending on which map cards you use. (Each map card has its own unique feature that changes gameplay in the next room) You could, of course, just skip the battles but you'd have trouble dealing with more difficult enemies later on. In every world, you fight plenty of heartless, move on to the boss(es), and leave the world. It is the same for every world.
Sometimes you have to wonder, is there even any point to this? You play through all of the original worlds for the first Kingdom Hearts and fight the same bosses to those respective worlds, yet there is almost no point to those worlds at all except for filler. In Kingdom Hearts, you learned more about the villains and worlds as you went through each one. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Chain of Memories. The only time anything related to the story really takes place is in between worlds/floors where you learn more about the Organization. Take out the worlds in between each floor and whaddaya know? The story is almost the same.
This is one aspect in which Chain of Memories shines. Despite being made for the GameBoyAdvance (GBA), the graphics are simply stunning, even including an FMV (Full Motion Video) in the beginning and end. While the in-game graphics can't rival Kingdom Hearts, the detail on the characters and environments is still excellent for a GBA game. If only all GBA game graphics were like this! All of the Disney characters look exactly as they appear in their respective movies.
However, graphics aren't all there is to a great game...
Most, if not all of the soundtracks and battle music are reused from Kingdom Hearts. That's doesn't make them bad though. The music in Kingdom Hearts was great, don't get me wrong. They also added a large amount of new soundtracks. Each soundtrack fits its respective world perfectly.
At the end of the game, there's even a full sound blasting out from your GBA. "Simple and Clean," one of my favorite video game songs to date. =)I wasn't even aware that the GBA was capable of playing a song like that until now!
There's never too little to do in Chain of Memories. Once you've finished Sora's story, you can play Riku's story in a new mode called "Reverse/Rebirth." The gameplay is a little different. Riku deck is fixed and cannot be edited. His deck does not use CP and enemy cards that you obtain are automatically added to your deck. As you advance through the worlds, your deck will change accordingly. In addition, Riku can transform into Dark Mode when he reaches certain requirements. In Dark Mode, Riku's attack power is greater and he can now perform sleights (sleights are abilities). Playing through as Riku gives you a greater understanding of the Organization, and that couldn't be too bad, could it?
Throughout most of the game, you'll probably find most of the enemies quite easy. A few of them are more challenging than others, but you certainly shouldn't find yourself at the Game Over screen too frequently because of generic enemies. In fact, I hadn't lost once to in-game enemies in my first playthrough. The only cases in which I lost were against major bosses.
Many of the bosses were quite simple as well. There were only a select few bosses who were hard. The major bosses weren't that difficult but they were tedious. In fact, in some cases, you are only allotted a few chances to attack the boss at once. Combined with large amounts of Hit Points, this is a tedious battle. This does not make a boss difficult, rather just boring.
Overall, the difficulty of the game isn't too high, yet it isn't incredibly easy either.
Overall Score: 6/10
Note that the overall score is not an average. Overall, Chain of Memories is a great game. The gameplay is simple, yet requires a bit of strategy. The story isn't too intricate yet can be confusing at times, especially for a younger audience.
Buy or Rent?
Chain of Memories is definitely very different from Kingdom Hearts. I would rent it first if possible. If you still like it, then buy it. If you've never played a Kingdom Hearts game before, I would recommend trying out Kingdom hearts first. if you like it, rent Chain of Memories.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/06/06
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