Review by Unkownver2

"It's all in the cards for Kingdom Hearts"

Kingdom Hearts is the fairly new RPG series by Square-Enix. The series focuses on Sora, a 14 year old boy who wants to see other places. He gets the chance when his island is swallowed by the darkness. He finds Donald and Goofy and is bestowed with the power of a "keyblade." The keyblade can lock worlds off from the evil heartless, which were responsible for the destruction of Sora's island. When the series was first announced it was heavily criticized for mixing in elements of Disney in a Square-Enix RPG. After it came out many people changed their minds and the series is one of the best selling series on the market today. Chain of Memories is the first sequel to Kingdom Hearts. Although there is a Kingdom Hearts II (both for the playstation), this one closes the gap between the two games. It can be counted more as Kingdom Hearts 1.5 because it uses many of the events in the first game, while giving a sneak peak of what's to come in the KH2.

Fun Factor - 7/10

The beginning of the game starts off slow. You are introduced to a few new characters, but nothing really happens. The first several levels are all played in the same worlds as the first Kingdom Hearts. If you played through the first one, it comes as no surprise to you who all the bosses are at the end of each level. The actual story of the game is covered up in the first levels of the game, and focus on what's going on in the levels themselves instead of the big picture. Towards the final few levels of the first half of the game the story picks up and finally becomes interesting, with several new cast members and boss battles. The leveling system is interesting and may make going through each level hard for people not already experienced with the system. Each level has a pretty big jump in the enemies, so being able to easily defeat enemies in one level does not mean an easy victory in the next level too. Some bosses can only be defeated by going through each room in the level and taking out all the enemies. After awhile it's fairly easy to predict which enemies will appear when and what attacks they will do. After discovering this pattern the battle are basically the same over and over again. There are many different types of "sleights" or special attacks that you can do in the game, but most of them require some time to pull them off, during which an enemy can cancel your attack. There's really no point of the sleight system, unless you just get tired of beating the enemies the same way over and over again. The only battles that are really fun are the boss battles. They all have several attacks and do different things based on what you are doing or where you are on the field. Some bosses can only be hurt after doing certain things. Oogie Boogie can only be attacked after successfully breaking three of his dice throws.

Getting better cards to power up your deck is hard and annoying. You can either smash objects in the field and hope to get a new card, or you can smash objects in the field and hope you get enough moogle points to buy a card pack, which randomly gives you 5 cards. Hours can be spent trying to get good cards and result in nothing. Going through the actual words can be hard at times too. Every door requires a certain number and color of cards. If you don't have these certain cards, you have to go back and fight enemies until you win these cards. However some worlds need cards of a certain color and it just so happens that non of the enemies in that world carry that color, forcing you to go back and hunt down an enemy that does. If you leave a world and go into another one, all the doors are reset, meaning you have to spend all your cards just to get back to the one door that you couldn't get through before. The fun factor in this game is not based on the battle system and exploration aspect of the game. It's more on how cool everything looks and sounds and the good storyline once you get past the initial levels.

Controls and Gameplay - 8/10

The controls for the game are simple. In the field the B button makes Sora jump and the A button allows you to hit objects in the field or enemies. If you run into a heartless in the field a battle starts. If you hit the heartless with your keyblade first, the heartless that appear in battle are stunned at the beginning of the battle, giving you the chance to cause some damage before your enemies get a chance to attack you. In battle the B button once again allows you to jump. The A button uses whatever card is currently displayed at the lower left corner of the screen. You can cycle through your cards by using the L and R buttons. The select button allows you to switch over to your special ability cards, which include Regain and Card Number +1, which last for a certain amount of time. Pressing the L and R buttons at the same time while selecting a card allows you store a card in the upper left corner. Once three cards are selected a sleight can be unleashed with powerful results. Sleights are special attacks that up the power of the cards you picked. Three Fire cards result in a Firaga attack. Three Cloud cards result in an Omnislash attack. If you use a sleight you lose the first card that was picked to be stored. This means if you only have three Fire cards you can only use Firaga once in a battle. If you use up all your cards normally, you have to reload your deck. This takes time, and the more times you have to reload, the longer it takes. You must stand still and have the reload "card" selected. Once the gauge completely fills up all your cards will return to your deck. Not an overly complex system, but still has limitless possibilities of setting up your deck.

The leveling system allows you to customize Sora in a few different ways. When ever you level up by collecting exp gems from defeated enemies, you get to choose a level bonus. You can either raise Sora's HP by 15 point, Raise Sora's CP (Card Points) by 25, or learn a new sleight. If you choose to, you could max out Sora's HP without ever increasing Sora's CP. You could also go through the whole game without ever gaining a HP increase (unless of course you get to about level 80, where your CP maxes out). Card Points are used similar to the Ability Points system in other Square-Enix games. Instead of equipping different abilities, you can equip different cards. Better cards mean more CP used up, so you need to boost your CP in order to build larger decks with better cards. Once you reach you max CP, no more cards can be added. Sora has no Attack stat, so having more powerful cards is the only way to beat the bosses in a manageable amount of time. You'll find that your deck won't get that much bigger over time, it just gets more powerful, which is good because with the reloading time and the time it takes for every card to come back in the deck you can get hit quite a few times with no defense.

Battles are based on the number a card has. Each card has a number assigned to it from 0 to 9. The numbers don't come into play unless you and your opponent play a card at the same time, in which case the higher card wins. If they are the same number, both attacks are cancelled. If your opponent plays a 3 and you use a 5 after them, you break their attack and leave them defenseless for a short time. The same can happen to you though. 0s are the wild cards. If they are played first, everything beats them. If they are played after another card, it automatically wins. This is a bit confusing at first, but after a few battles it becomes natural. Sleights count as all the numbers added together. If three cards are chosen all with 9s, the values of the attack is 27 and can only be nullified with another sleight of 27 or with a 0 card played right after it. 0s are really more of your defense in the game.

Traveling from world to world can get pretty boring. Each door between two rooms takes a card, and whatever card is choose determines the look of the room and the enemies. If you use the same card over and over again, you'll find very similar looking rooms with the same number of enemies. There's not much difference in some of the cards either. Many of them create big rooms that take a while to cross while others create rooms with big ledges that take a while to climb up a ladder. Some of these rooms create problems with finding a door out. With the multi-ledged rooms the door out could be on any of the levels and the camera angle can make it next to impossible to see it. The camera in the field also makes it hard to determine where some of the airborne enemies are. The battle camera can pan left or right, so you can lose track of some of your enemies.

Storyline - 9/10

Chain of Memories has a wonderful storyline, but it doesn't really develop until towards the ending of the first half. Once the first half is finished, it's all original storyline though. The first half starts with Sora entering Castle Oblivion. As soon as he enters the castle he forgets all his special attacks, abilities and magic. He is approached by a man in a black hood that tells him as he continues in the castle he will forget more, but he will also remember things that he has forgotten. Sora's story takes him through the levels of the castle. Each level in comprised of some memory of Sora, which are just all the levels from the first Kingdom Hearts. Each level has a sub-story where Sora must go through three story scenes and than a boss battle. After each level there is usually a short scene between Sora and Organization. The story continues in this fashion until Sora reaches the final few levels where he enters a new town discovers some important information. The main story really picks up towards the end and becomes quite enjoyable; it's just having to play through all the levels in between that drags the main storyline along.

Graphics - 10/10

The graphics in Chain of Memories are some of the best in any GBA game ever. The colors are vibrant and the characters actually look like people (or ducks, dogs and mice). This is also one of the first GBA games to feature full length CG scenes. Although there's only a few of them at the beginnings and ending of the game, they are still great quality (for the GBA at least). The numbers on the cards are a little small, but are still readable. The only downside of the graphics is a battle that has several enemies. Not just 4 or 5, but 9 or 10 enemies. It's amazing that the game can support that many enemies on the screen at the same time, but as soon as one enemy is defeated and the exp gems fall, the game has a short slow down. Other than this small slow down the graphics all look very good and great to look at.

Sound - 10/10

The music in the game is some of the best that you can find on the GBA. If you played through the first Kingdom Hearts though, you've already heard over half the soundtrack. The music in the levels repeated in CoM from the KH are the same, except arranged for the GBAs equipment. You are even treated to the full length version of the KH theme song, Simple and Clean, simply by beating the game. While the GBA version isn't as good of quality as the playstation version, it still sounds good coming out of that little speaker. There are two original songs per level; one song for exploring and another for fighting. Each level takes about 1 hour to get through, so you get to listen to each song roughly 20 minutes each due to the changing music for cut scenes and boss battles. The sound effects are effective for what they do, but are nothing special. Without music the sound would be boring and repetitive, but the music is slightly louder than the sound effects so they are not annoying. Fire sounds like something burning, blizzard attack sound like ice crashing down, and whenever an enemy is defeated you hear a nice little popping noise. Every attack produces a different noise that all sound different from the last.

Replay Ability - 8/10

Chain of Memories provides a few extras for beating parts of the game. Finishing the first part allows you to play through all the levels again, but with a different character and a continuing plot-line. This second part has a few twists to it. First of all you do not get to select what cards you have. A deck is assigned to you each level, and each one is very different. You can not change the order of the cards and there are no magic cards at all. For many of the levels you will not be able to heal yourself in battle; however you can pick up HP spheres in the field. There are no more moogles because you can't change your deck, so there is no point of buying new cards. All the levels also have a different layout from the first half and most of the levels do not have cut scenes. They are simply go through the rooms and face the boss. Almost all the cut scenes take place in the rooms between the levels. If that's not enough, there are also some new special ability cards that are not available in the first part. To gain access to these cards in the first half you must finish the second half and perform certain actions in the first half. There are also two new keyblade cards to be found in the first half after finishing the second half. Not only do you get new cards by finishing the second half, but you also unlock a new mode allowing you to face a friend in battle. Although you get nothing by facing another player, you do get to test out your deck against a friend's.

Although there are many extras for finishing the game regularly, you won't really want to go back and play through the game again. The maps are always the same and the enemies fight in the same pattern. Bosses can also be beaten much easier a second time around. To play through the game again and collecting every card actually takes only about 2/3 the time it takes to beat the game the first time, without getting everything. A better understanding of the system and how to defeat your enemies without much problem really lessens the amount of playing time. It's fun to go back and collect everything and finish up your first file, but doing it again is almost boring.

Closing Statements

Chain of Memories is definitely an interesting game. By combining cards with a typical RPG style, you have a mix that comes off rather nicely, even though it may sound strange at first. The same thing was said about Square and Disney though. The system works well, as long as you understand the mechanics of it. The storyline is intriguing and the graphics and sound are some of the best in a GBA game. If you're thinking about playing this game, but have never played the original Kingdom Hearts, you'll be a bit confused about the storyline and some of the characters. If you have played the first KH, you may find CoM a little boring at the beginning, since you already beat the levels in the last game. If you're thinking about playing KH2, you need to play this game to understand what's going on in the storyline. While it's not the "official" sequel, it does provide a link between KH 1 and 2 that is essential to the sagas storyline.

Score Recap:

Fun Factor - 7/10
Controls and Gameplay - 8/10
Storyline - 9/10
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Replay Ability - 8/10

Final Score - 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/24/06


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