Review by Yami Shuryou

"A disgrace to the original."

Out of common self-interest, I tend to avoid terrible games.

But when terrible games happen to be spin-offs of highly-clamored RPG titles that I liked, then I get suckered into purchasing them. That just happens to be the case with Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, a card-battling side-story to the highly popular Kingdom Hearts.

Oh, sure, the second installment in the Kingdom Hearts franchise starts out OK by pioneering the use of CGIs on GBA cartridges. However, from there on, it treads downhill like melted butter. For one, let's start out with the story. The famous trio of Kingdom Hearts, comprised of the Keyblade Master Sora, Court Magician Donald, and Royal Knights Captain Goofy, have wandered upon a great fortress known as Castle Oblivion. Inside the vast sentinel, they learn that the towering guardian is home to memories. In Castle Oblivion, as you ascend the floors, you lose useless memories and recall crucial pieces of your past. On the way to the top floor of the black bastion, however, members of the covert Organization try to manipulate Sora's memories to their own whims.

This would all be nice and all, if it didn't feel like it was thrown in at the last moment. But surely the worlds of Kingdom Hearts, reintroduced into Chain of Memories, would hold true against the test of time? Surely nostalgia could win the day? Not. If corny plot development were not enough of a slap in the face to fans, then perhaps the complete rehashing of the story each world has could sub for a backstab to the heart. Recollect what happened in Wonderland in Kingdom Hearts; Alice got kidnapped, the queen became rabid and sent her Card Guards after us, we ended up talking to the Cheshire Cat and then went into combat against the Trickmaster. In Chain of Memories, the queen accuses Alice of stealing her memories, the trio battles the Card Guards long enough for Alice to escape, the Cheshire Cat leaves a mysterious hint, and we face off against the Trickmaster. Uh…that's not very dissimilar, now is it?

But what really aggravates me is the path of the cop-out Square-Enix took. Instead of retaining true to it's predecessor, Chain of Memories uses a card-based battle system. Split into five different categories – Keyblades, Magic, Items, Summons, and Enemies – you and your foes strike each other with various cards. The higher-numbered card wins, and using a 0 card just after the opponent starts his attack will also give you a win. You can also create combos out of cards, adding up all their numbers to create one herculean entity, but it can also be stopped by a 0 card.

Unfortunately, that's it. It doesn't get any more complicated than that, and although it might not seem like a flaw at first, couple it with the lack of fluidity. Movement is sluggish, and both friend and foe's cards alike are slow to attacking. Then take note of how some bosses are way too easy, and how some bosses are broken. For the broken category, let us take the example of Captain Hook. In Neverland, you fight Captain Hook on a moving ship, which tip-turves up and down, eliminating stability on the fighting ground. To add to the frustration, Hook will sometimes be able to stay in one spot, and during this time, he will send out bombs that have a wide explosion radius, and do a ton of damage. Ouch. If that weren't enough for your wounded ego, if someone else is watching you play, the lackluster aesthetics and the broken soundtracks would humiliate you. No, if you want to have a chance of defeating Hook, you'll have to grab yourself an insane amount of levels, each which require too much effort. To maintain your chance, you'll also want to get 0 cards from enemies. However, you won't get it that easy, as while some numbers are quite common, others are ridiculously rare, and there is no competent balance.

This brings me to another complaint: the map. Each world is made up of a bunch of poorly-built rooms, and to get between rooms, you will need Map Cards, obtained from enemies. Although the variety they come in isn't something to complain about, they still retain the same unbalance of rarity as battle cards. It also brings about a sense of linearity, since although rooms are randomly generated, the way rooms are connected aren't; that is to say, the door to the next room will always be in the west, there are always 8 rooms to head through, the boss is always in Room 6. What really galls me is the lack of exploration. You just go through the room, bashing in the skulls of whatever enemies decide to slow you down, and that's that. If that were not enough to null any atmosphere the game might offer, the below-average graphics and broken MIDI tracks ported from Kingdom Hearts will.

In the long end, what are we left with? The only thing that Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is is a shoddily thrown-together package with the Kingdom Hearts brand slapped on to sell. It's also an abuse of the oh-so-infallible Square-Enix name, and should be avoided like the Black Plague.

And just in case you decide to not take my advice and avoid this game, here's a present for you:

Square-Enix HQ
2-13-7 Meguro Tokkyu Bldg
4F Shinagawa-ku Tokyo, 141-0021 Japan

Oh, and while you're there, could you please get me a milker? I've been meaning to buy one for my cows, but I just haven't gotten around to doing it.


Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 01/19/05


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