Review by Mr Sparda
"Even more surprising than the original."
When the original Kingdom Hearts was announced, I had little hope for it. I figured the combination of Disney and Square was a horrid idea, and would be Square's worst mistake (aside from The Spirits Within). Well, I was definitely wrong, and very happy to have been so. KH is still one of my favorite PS2 games. Anyway, as info of the GBA version started appearing, I hated the idea of it being a card-battle game. So, how did it turn out? Keep reading.
The game starts as Sora and co. enter a mysterious place called Castle Oblivion. while searching for Riku and the King. As they continue, they meet a man in a black hooded cloak. Eventually, the group is reduced to fighting with cards instead of their normal weapons; and things only get worse from there.
The "memory" theme was an interesting idea. Unfortunately, the story could use more work. The biggest example of this happens late in the game, at which it appeared that Square Enix suddenly threw together an excuse for what was going on. The idea they had been leading up to was much more interesting. Sadly, they decided to not go with that. It's really not that big of a deal, but I thought it could have been much better.
Another problem is nearly all the worlds you go to aren't original, or really interesting. I felt that the rooms could have been more interesting, and interactive.
The sprites in this game are well designed and animated. Battle animations look great. Also, there are a few nearly-PS2 quality FMVs scattered throughout the game. These look good, but are a little slow. Nevertheless, they are quite impressive for a GBA game.
Then there are the worlds. The different rooms of the worlds are box-like and uninteresting. Graphically, they don't look that bad. They appear to be quite well-rendered. It would have been nice, however, for more depth in these rooms.
Now, we get to the core part of the game: the gameplay. Sora battles his way through legions of Heartless with his trusty deck of cards. There are 4 types of cards: Attack, Magic, Item, and Enemy. Attack cards are the different Keyblades you can use damage enemies. Magic cards allow you to cast the standard RPG spells (Fire, Ice, Thunder, Cure) along with a few others. They also allow you to summon certain characters. Item cards let you manage your deck, or let you use your allies (Donald, Goofy, etc.) to attack. Enemy cards are dropped by some foes. These cards, when activated, have abilities that can really help you in battles. Combining cards for a single attack results in a sleight. These have a much greater effect, as one might imagine. These will become extremely helpful in battle.
Each card (except for enemy cards) has a value of 0-9. This becomes very important, because of Card Break. When your opponent plays a card, playing a higher value card can stop the opponent's attack. (Cards with values of 0 can break any card). Be careful, as the opponent can do the same thing to you.
That being said, here's where the problems start. Many of the enemies are far better at card breaking than you are, and they will do this A LOT. It gets really irritating when it seems like every time you get a sleight going, the enemy effortlessly cancels it. Also, I didn't like the fact that the stronger level Keyblades don't seem to make much of an impact. As long as you can Card Break, the weakest cards can work wonders. One of the biggest problems I found was that aside from Card Breaking, you have no way to defend yourself. A Guard move of some sort , like the one in the original KH, would have been nice.
As for control, it works quite well. The controls are responsive, and are relatively easy to get used to.
This game had impressive sound. The MIDI-esque versions of the music in the first game work well for this version. Many of the sound effects also return from the original. Overall, it sounds great.
After you beat the game, a new mode called Reverse Rebirth is unlocked. In this mode, you play as a different character (I don't want to give it away, although its probably well-known info by now) and learn a little more about what happened after the first KH. It's a great reason to play again, as long as you don't mind the card-battling.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories was a surprisingly good game. Aside from power balance issues and boring rooms, this game is worth playing. It looks and sounds great for a GBA game, and Reverse Rebirth allows for a much longer experience.
If you didn't like the original, its doubtful you will like KH:COM. If you don't mind card battles, or Disney characters, however, you'll find a great RPG experience.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/05
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