Review by MythrilCrystal

"Chain of Memories conforms to Kingdom Hearts' formula, but it only ends up as a decent game overall."

Chain of Memories is the GBA sequel to Kingdom Hearts for the PS2. It is the direct sequel to it, and it contains a lot of the magic of the first Kingdom Hearts game. The game has some serious flaws as far as development is concerned, but it's decent overall.

Story - 7/10
I'd like to first start of with the story. The game kicks off right where Kingdom Hearts left off. Sora, Donald, and Goofy are looking for King Mickey and Riku. They find Pluto with a letter from the king in his mouth and chase him through a field. After a little while, our heroes find themselves at the gates to Castle Oblivion, a castle consisting of many floors. As soon as they set foot in the castle, they begin to forget things. And as they progress through the castle, they find out that they will continue to forget things.

That's the basic outline of the story. As far as in-game story, you don't learn much in the levels. They are copies of Sora's memories that you must play through. The only time the story progresses is between the levels in Castle Oblivion, where we learn about a group that calls themselves Organization XIII. Here, they need Sora for whatever reason, and are the bad guys in this game.

The overall story is pretty good. I feel they could have added some story content in the levels, but those were just meant as fillers for the game. Using them as fillers was a bit of a disappointment, as they are basically the whole game. The only original level in this game was the final level. That's about it. The story is great, but there's some important substance missing from it that makes it a little incomplete.

Controls - 8/10

The control system is pretty straight-forward, to say the least. There are two main control mechanisms for the game. Since the GBA has very few buttons, it's not that hard to figure out. You have battle controls, and you also have your out of battle controls. The out of battle controls are the simpler of the two. You use the control pad to move Sora, B to Jump, and A to swing the Keyblade.

The battle controls are a little more thoughtful, so to speak. You can perform the same actions in battle as you can out of battle; however, there are a few twists to this. You play with cards in battle, so you are using the A button to execute your cards. When you run out of cards, you hold in A to reload; I'll get into more detail with this system later. B is your jump button, and you can dodge roll out of the way by double pressing left or right on the control pad. L and R are used to cycle through your cards, and they can also be used simultaneously to stack your cards into combos. Again, I'll get into this later.

As simple as the controls are, there are few problems with them. Some commands cause lag between them and your next move. This isn't a good thing in battle, which is when the lag is experienced. Now, the lag doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is when you are fighting someone like Captain Hook. Overall, the controls are smooth with the addition of the lag problem.

Graphics - 5/10
This is the first thing I've come across that isn't really good. This game has some terrible graphics at parts, but they also have some redeeming graphics as well. Let's get the bad out of the way first. First of all, the design for the levels wasn't thought out very well. They do look good and very appropriate for their themes, but the box-shaped rooms kind of ruin the greatness of it. Basically, the good graphics for the levels get overshadowed by the poor level design.

Now that the bad flaw with the graphics is out of the way, let's get to the good. As I said above, the animations and levels were designed graphically well look-wise, but the overall design in the dungeons is poor. They could have thought out the levels better.

Music/Sounds -10/10
Without a doubt, the best part of Chain of Memories. The music is top-notch and beautifully executed. All of the classic tunes from the levels in Kingdom Hearts make their appearance in the levels of Chain of Memories. There's really not much more to say because the track is excellent and on par.

Content- 5/10
This is where the good, the bad, and the in between present themselves in Chain of Memories. The content is split between good and bad, and I have both criticisms and praises for each content design.

First of all, the battle system. I commend the battle system for being unique and involving more strategy, but this is one of my criticisms. Kingdom Hearts is not meant to be a strategic series. You run forward and beat the heck out of the enemy. That is the type of series it was intended as, and Chain of Memories really broke that tradition. Like I said, it's very creative; however, but it's just out of place.

Let me explain a little bit about the battle system. First of all, you get a deck of cards that can have anywhere from 1 card to 99 cards max. How many cards you can put in depends on the amount of CP (Card Power) you have. Each card costs a numbered amount of CP. When constructing your deck, it is important to make sure you have enough cards that don't all use up your CP. Next, there are actions you can do with your cards. You can play your cards, or you can stack them with L+R to do a combo.

No matter which action you do, each card has a number on it, and this number determines whose action gets done. Whoever played the highest numbered card will card break their opponent and get the chance to strike. 0 is the best card, but only if you play it after your opponents card; it's like an Ace in a regular game of cards. So that's about it. Whoever plays the higher card gets to strike their opponent. When you run out of cards, you must reload by holding in A. Each time you reload, the longer the next batch of cards will take to reload.

Second of all, I'd like to talk about the actual levels. As I've said above, the level design was pretty poor with the box-shaped rooms. To add insult to injury, the levels are very redundant and offer no new content whatsoever. Every single level from KH is in this game, and you do the exact same thing. Let's take for example Wonderland. You show up, Alice is on trial, you fight the cards, Alice escapes, you find her, and you fight Trickmaster. Deja vu anyone? That's exactly what you did in Kingdom Hearts. The lack of new content in the levels was very disappointing, and it's just not fun to do the same thing over. Luckily, there's a point to doing all this work again, as you'll find out later.

The third thing is another criticism I have. Everything is controlled by cards. You must use map cards to open the doors in the levels. Each card has a number value, and the doors show the number card value to open the door. Here's the problem. In order to get these cards, you have to fight the ridiculous amount of enemies that are in each room. Now, they can be skipped, but if you do that, you can't progress through the game. Therefore, you are basically forced to fight all the enemies. Also, doors reset their numbers each floor. If you return to a previous floor, you have to open the doors again. This means, you are wasting cards that could, potentially, open a door that you haven't been through yet.

Overall, the game has more negative content points than positive. To sum it up, level design is poorly done, the battle system is flawed in some ways, and you are forced to fight a ridiculous amount of enemies that just drag out the game and make it longer. I'm sorry, but you shouldn't have to add in a load of enemies to drag out the game. That's just plain awful to do that.

Replay Value - 5/10
Not an important aspect of the game as content, but there's just not a lot of replay value. There's really no reason to play this game through a second time. There are no collectables, quests, or nothing like that. The only thing that saves the replay value is the Reverse Rebirth part of the game. This allows you to play through the game as Riku and fight additional Organization XIII members. That's about it.

Fun Factor - 6/10
The game is fun, but frustrating. The awful content elements and adding in all the extra monsters doesn't make it fun; it makes it tedious. It wouldn't have been so bad if you could skip the enemies, which you can, but if you do, you can't progress through the game. Like I said, you shouldn't be forced to fight the enemies to complete the game. I've never played a game that required you to do that, and I hope I never see another game that requires you to do that.

Challenge - 3/10
What makes the mega load of enemies worse, is the fact that there is no challenge when it comes to fighting them. Okay, yeah, some enemies and bosses will give you a hard time; however, they lack in numbers. There are so few challenging enemies/bosses that it makes the game a little too easy and very quick to progress through. I've gotten to last level clocked at 10 hours. 10 hours. That's horrible for an RPG and shows the lack of challenge in the game.

Rent or Buy?
I would seriously consider renting Chain of Memories before buying it. If it's not possible to rent Chain of Memories, go ahead and buy it if you really want to. That's all there is to say. If you can rent it, do so before buying. I made the mistake of not doing that first.

Overall - 6/10
I'm giving this game a 6 because I truly feel that's what Chain of Memories deserves. I've seen too many positive reviews about how great it is, and it's the best game ever, but there's nothing remarkable about it imo. Chain of Memories is fair. It's an okay game, but there are many better, the definition of a 6.

Recap
Story - 7/10
Controls - 8/10
Graphics - 5/10
Music/Sound - 10/10
Content - 5/10
Replay Value - 5/10
Fun Factor - 6/10
Challenge - 3/10


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/17/08

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


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