Review by Mechakucha
"An Honest Review of Square's Latest"
Y'all probably all ready know what Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is. It's the squeal to the popular Kingdom Hearts for the PlayStation 2, and is supposed to act as a bridge between KH 1 and Kingdom Hearts 2, which comes out sometime next year. Now, on with the show.
Story - 6/10
The story in this game really didn't impress me at all. Sure, there's a lot of it, and it can go on for dozens of minutes at a time, but it's mostly fluff to fill up the world levels. It follows a very strict formula, too. Part One: Introduce a conflict between Disney Character X and Y. This conflict is loosely based on the movie that each world is from, with the Villain doing something evil and the Hero helpless to stop it. Of course, Sora, Donald and Goofy step up without fail to offer their assistance. Part Two: Elaborate on the conflict. The Villain looks unstoppable. He/She usually does something evil and disappears right before Sora and the Gang show up to stop him/her. Part Three: Have Sora fight the Villain and win, which saves Everything and Everyone from certain death/destruction/unpleasantness etc. Everyone is happy, and it's off to the next world to do the exact same thing. The only time the story varies and becomes mildly interesting is in between worlds in the halls of Castle Oblivion. But even then, it doesn't really satisfy. The biggest thing for me is that there is no character development at all. Sora is exactly the same at the end of the game as he is at the beginning. No change at all. Part of what makes a good story is seeing the characters change. Even the Disney characters in Kingdom Hearts 1 changed a little in their respective worlds. But in this game everything, even the main characters, are flat and unoriginal. The story is really plain and, dare I say, boring.
Gameplay - 6/10
To the development team's credit, they tried to give the gameplay, namely the battle engine, depth by creating a system based on entirely on cards. Cards are used for everything, including opening doors and creating rooms. But the main idea behind them is for battle. Basically you and your enemy both attack with a card. Each card has a number, and the one with the highest number wins' and scores a hit. There are different types of cards, ranging from basic attack cards, to item cards such as potion and hi-potion, to summon cards that call Disney or Square characters to help Sora in battle for a few seconds. You can customize your deck, mixing attack, item, and summon cards any way you see fit. After the first four levels, however, you get enough good cards to just press A over and over until you win, eliminating any need for strategy.
The actual game itself is repetitive. From the first level to the last, you'll be doing the exact same thing with almost no variety. Each world is set up as a bunch of rooms. There are usually around 10 rooms, 3 being marked with an ! where story parts One, Two, and Three take place. The other 7 or so rooms are blank, and have to be synthesized with a card. These cards you receive after battle, and usually create rooms filled with Heartless, the main enemy of the game. That means that in each world, you clear out about 7 rooms of monsters by pressing A over and over again. It takes little over an hour to clear out a world and watch its story, before being sent back to Castle Oblivion to watch some more cutscenes, and then be forced into the next world to do the whole thing over again. As you can imagine, twenty hours of this becomes a bit much.
Graphics - 9/10
Where this game lacks in gameplay and story, it shines in graphics. Supporting an impressive amount of FMV, as well as some very well drawn and animated 2D graphics, Kingdom Hearts: CoM is one of the best looking 2D GBA games out there. Like a lot of RPGs, when characters talk, a picture of them is displayed next to the text. The character portraits in this game have had special attention paid to them. Each character's image is about 1.5 times bigger then average, with the character displaying a full range of emotions, from surprised, happy, sad, dejected, angry, etc, complete with animations such as moving lips, blinking eyes, and a whole range of other character-specific traits, such as the flames on Hades' head on the Coliseum level. Colors are bright and crisp, and each Disney character or world has been detailed to fit the source material perfectly. There is constant motion on almost all levels, with trees, grass, and other vegetation swaying in the wind. All in all a very pleasing game to look at.
Sound - 5/10
From what I can tell, every piece of music, with MAYBE the exception of the Castle Oblivion theme, is recycled from Kingdom Hearts 1. That would be okay if the music was good in the first place, but I found the original Kingdom Heart's music a tad lacking. It wasn't bad, not at all, but unlike the Chrono games, or Final Fantasy, it just didn't stick in my head and grab me. After 50 hours of it in the original game, I just found it tedious to hear it again through small speakers of the GBA. The sound effects are also recycled from the first game, with the character's little grunts and groans exactly the same as they were before. The fact that there is no voice acting during the FMV is a negative in my book, though some may argue that it would create a discontinuity to go from text to voice to text again. Overall the audio quality is good, with minimal distortion, but it isn't original. When a game retails for 35 bucks, there's gonna be enough revenue to hire someone to create some new music/sound effects. Even if it was just a new theme or two, new music would be extremely welcomed.
OVERALL - 7/10
This game could have been great. With the graphics engine the game has, and the writing and sound crews Squanix has at its disposal, this game could have been right up there with the original. It's not a bad game, and if was anything other then a Square game, I would've given it an 8 or a 9. But it is a Square game, and it is a sequel to one of their best efforts this generation. Sometimes it's not one particular thing that makes a game great, it's everything working together. In this case it isn't one thing that makes this game mediocre, it's just the less-than-usual quality in every department except the graphics. This game should only be played by hardcore Kingdom Hearts fans, who HAVE to know every little thing that goes on in the Disney universe. Everyone else is best suited to look elsewhere for their action-RPG fill, because there are certainly better titles out there then this.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/05, Updated 01/04/05
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