Review by secret_asianman
"A Great Addition to the Kingdom Hearts Franchise"
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is meant to bridge the gap between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2. Although its not necessary to play it in order to understand the story of Kingdom Hearts 2, it introduces new characters and plot points not seen in Kingdom Hearts 1.
Chain of Memories is similar to the first Kingdom Hearts because you visit many Disney worlds and fight Disney villains. The only problem here is that you're visiting worlds previously visited in the original Kingdom Hearts. It really gives you a feeling of deja vu. However you do visit a couple new locations and battle new foes. IMO, the best parts of the game take place on the floors of Castle Oblivion. The basic gameplay here is you pick which world you wish to visit using a world card. Many of the famous Disney Worlds are here again including Halloween Town, Atlantica, etc. You travel through these worlds with Donald and Goofy and various Disney heroes. Instead of just walking from room to room you must synthesize rooms by picking up map cards you receive from fighting enemies. The basic enemies you fight in this game are the heartless. After defeating the enemies you will receive a map card with a value of 0-9 that will either be colored red, blue, or green. You then use a card on a door to create a new room. Each door will have a requirement in the type of card used to create the room. You can create a room full of enemies or maybe create a room with a save point. This can get frustrating though because if you don't have a card that matches the room's requirement you may end up searching for a while. This leads to rooms where the story unfolds and boss battles occur.
It does get a bit repetitive after a while but the battle system is new and exciting, and it actually involves some strategy. Sora now fights alone and in order to bring a partner into battle he must summon them with a card and they only fight for a short period of time. You have a deck of cards that you battle with, everything from swinging your keyblade to casting magic must be done by using cards. There are keyblade cards, magic cards, summon cards like cloud and bambi, and enemy cards. Your deck can only hold a certain amount of cards though, but through leveling up you can increase your card points(cp) and hold more cards in your deck. You can collect different types of cards from treasure chests and you can buy cards from moogle shops. Every card has a value ranging from 0-9 and the card with the higher value wins and breaks the other card. A card with a value of 0 will break any other card if it is played after that card. You can also combine 3 cards to use a special attack. If you run out of cards you must reload your cards. Some cards can't be reloaded such as premium cards(the shiny ones which require less cp), and the first card used in a sleight. This adds an extra layer of strategy to the game, because if you use only sleights you will soon be left with little to no cards. The combat is strategic and easy to pick up. The new card based battle system definitely makes up for the repetitive levels.
Players hoping to be able to hack and slash their way through the game may be a little disappointed but should be able to adjust to the card based battle system fairly quickly. In other aspects of the game, Chain of Memories doesn't stray too far away from the rest of the RPG genre. You still collect experience points and after collecting enough experience, you level up and have the option to learn a new sleight(special attack), increase your hp, or increase your cp. You can collect many different types of cards so people who enjoy collecting items will be pleased. Overall the gameplay is solid but a little bit repetitive.
The story to Kingdom Hearts focuses on Sora and company continuing on their quest to find King Mickey. They eventually wind up at Castle Oblivion where they begin to lose their old memories and remember forgotten ones. They continue to travel up the many floors of Castle Oblivion in order to regain their memories. The story starts off slow as you are traveling to worlds in Sora's memory but it really picks up at the end. You are introduced to some new characters including a mysterious group of people known as the Organization. The story is interesting and complex and will help set you up for Kingdom Hearts 2.
The graphics are some of the best I have seen on the GBA. There are also some cut scenes that you will be treated to that are PS2 quality graphics. My only gripe with the graphics is the level design which is very bland and seems a bit uninspired, but it doesn't affect the game too much. Also, sometimes if you are fighting a large horde of enemies the game slows down a bit, but not so much that it affects gameplay.
The sound is very good in this game and some of the music in this game is catchy and it matches the feeling of the game excellently. Whether you are in battle or are watching a sad cutscene the music seems to match the mood very well.
This is one of the highlights of this game. After you beat the game you will be able to play Reverse Rebirth mode where you play as Riku. You will meet new members of the Organization and see what happens to Riku and the King after the first Kingdom Hearts. The story focuses on Riku dealing with the darkness within him. King Mickey and Ansem play a big role in Riku's story along with a few members of the Organization. The story is excellent and its very cool knowing what happened to Riku and seeing how Sora's adventure in Castle Oblivion connects with Riku's adventure. The battle system is given some minor tweaks also. You still use cards to battle but you play with a closed deck. Although you don't get to change your deck, Riku's deck changes automatically as you travel to different areas. Riku also has the ability to enter dark mode where he can unleash some devastating new attacks on his enemies. The only problem I have with Reverse Rebirth is that its fairly short(you can beat it in about 5 or 6 hours) and is really easy until you get to the final 2 bosses. It was great of Square-Enix to include it in the game though. For those who like multiplayer, you can link up with a friend and battle them. I've never tried it but you unlock it after beating the game.
This game is pretty difficult and many of the bosses will give you some trouble. The game's difficulty is balanced well though so you wont find yourself throwing your game boy in frustration. This game will last your around 20-25 hours depending on your skill and how much you like to explore and collect new cards. The Reverse Rebirth mode is easier than Sora's story and I wish that Square-Enix would have made it longer and more difficult.
If you enjoyed the original or are a die-hard Kingdom Hearts fan you should definitely pick this game up. If you are just looking for a new RPG to play on your GBA then I suggest you rent this game first or borrow it from a friend and see if you like the battle system and storyline. If you care about story but have never played the first Kingdom Hearts I suggest you play that one first. This game has been out for a little over a year now and you could probably buy it for $20 new somewhere or even cheaper used. Overall the pros definitely outweigh the cons of this game. This is one of the best GBA titles out right now and is a great game to add to any collection.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/27/06
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