Review by LeonMcRosia

"A fantastic remake, but it's missing something..."

Overview:
Before I begin, I must say that I was excited the day that I found out that the Chain of Memories remake was on its way to be released in the U.S. I've always been a fan of remakes because they've yet to disappoint, and Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories definitely helped with that as well. There were a few gripes that I had, but overall the game was nicely done and fun to play throughout.

Story:
For those of you who've never played the original Chain of Memories, this game had a very unique and slightly unpredictable story going throughout the entire game. The game begins where Kingdom Hearts left off; the trio of Sora, Donald, and Goofy are walking along the road, having just finished closing the door to Kingdom Hearts. They stop for a rest, where Sora is awakened by something, only to find a hooded figure guiding him towards Castle Oblivion. Upon entering, Sora and the gang are confronted by the hooded figure, who tell them simply that "To find is to lose, and to lose is to find," and give them the impression that Riku and the King are somewhere in the Castle. But they're soon to find out that Castle Oblivion has its name for a reason...

Gameplay:
This game took the original Kingdom Hearts style of fighting, and made it even more difficult with the new card system. In the game, everything is driven by cards, whether it's going to a new world, opening a door, or even fighting. Whatever the case is, you're going to need a card to get through. The cards themselves are divided into three categories; World Cards, Door Cards, and of course, your cards you use to battle with. Door cards are split into; Room cards (which determine how much battling you want to do, and the conditions the heartless are going to appear, card giving/affecting, etc...), Status+ cards (where some aspect of you will be boosted in that room, whether it be the number on your Attack cards, the damage your initiative attack does, etc...), Reward/Safe cards (where you can get treasure with or without the presence of heartless, save, or access Moogle shops, etc...), the occasional Random Joker card (which fulfills any card requirement except Keycards. Imagine, a 30 or higher card-type requirement filled by a Random Joker), and the Keycards (Cards that get you into rooms to progress the story, or in the Key to Rewards case, to get you better treasure than you'd ever get with the other treasure cards).

With your basic cards, you have the Attack Cards (your keyblade cards, each level introduces you to a new keyblade, minus 100 Acre Wood), Magic Cards (cards used to either hurt or stop your opponent, or to heal to help you. Summoning Cards are in this category), you have your Item Cards (Potions, Ethers, etc... These cards are used to quickly reload your Attack cards, Magic Cards, or both), and finally your Friend cards (these are dropped at random during battle, and can't be reloaded, and don't stay in your deck after the battle).

Battling is fairly simply, yet at the same time, incredibly difficult. Card bases go from 0-9; 9 being the highest, 0 being able to cancel anything, but can also be canceled right away by the next card. You can stock 3 cards by hitting triangle, and use those cards by hitting triangle. By doing this, you can either perform sleights (Special attacks like Sora's Strike Raid), upgraded magic attacks (IE: stocking 2 cures next to each other will allow you to cast Cura, etc...), as well as upgraded summon and friend attacks. You don't have to perform attacks with all 3 cards though; by simply hitting L1+R1 before stocking the last card, you can perform a combo or upgraded magic/summon/friend attack with those two cards. There is however, a downside; the first card used in the stock will be removed from battle indefinitely. But don't worry; it comes back after the battle is over.

Sound simple enough? Well, it's almost that easy, except when card breaks and guarding get involved. In card breaks, the person with the higher card (or the 0 card) can completely cancel and temporarily (for like, a second or so) stun their opponent. This can be both good, and painful depending on which side you're on. Guarding, however, is incredibly painful throughout (especially with Vexen). Like the other games, there are enemies that require you to go behind them to attack, otherwise it'll bounce right off, and you'll see the word "Guard" appear above them.

Graphics:
I was both happy, and disappointed mildly with the way this game was done. I was glad to see that the game continued to flourish in the way Kingdom Hearts always has when it came to the graphics. The characters were nicely done as always, and you could really see the wickedness in the faces of the Organization. However, two things really got to me, although one was just my own expectations not being satisfied. First we have the intro of the game. In the last two games, we're treated to a beautiful FMV, either describing something about the game, or giving us a really quick play-through of the game. Chain of memories however, gave us nothing more than a complete short summary of Kingdom Hearts 1. It didn't have any of its own essence to it at all, and it just ended up not meeting up to my expectations.

The other thing was the movement of the lips going with the voice. There were many moments that the character's lips didn't go with what they were saying, which actually surprised me since they had been really good at getting the movements spot on, or insanely close in the last games. It actually made me wonder if the US remake was nothing more than taking the Japanese remake, changing the voices, and releasing it without tweaking it so it looked completely in place, rather than it being something where a character is saying something like "Don't worry, you'll find it" but their lips are saying "I like fried chicken."

There is one thing I liked more about the GBA version though; the characters actually had expressions throughout the ENTIRE game when they were talking.

Sound, Music, and Voice:
This was another point in where I was equally satisfied, yet disappointed with the game. The sounds were fine throughout the game, those I didn't have a gripe with. Everything fit as it should have, and the menu sounds were just the same as the last games. I liked how there were some KH2 sounds used, as well as level music remakes that were used.

The music, as always, was fantastic. I was a tad disappointed that they had stuck to Agrabah's KH1 style, since I had fallen in love with the KH2 style of it more. Though, I was happy with 100 Acre Woods, and of course, Castle Oblivion's music was very nicely done. The music played during moments such as Belle trying to push the Beast away was beautifully done, and made me fall much more into the moment than when I had played the GBA version.

However, something was missing quite a lot in the game, and that was voice. I loved the voices when they WERE in the game, but I found myself missing them quite a lot during times when you were in somewhere other than Castle Oblivion. Yes, we're exploring worlds we've been to before, but the events in each are different, and I felt it difficult to get into some places in the story with just the text. I say that because with the absence of voice, it felt like the people working on the graphics had decided to get lazy and not put any effort into giving the characters emotions for the moment. Alright for text, but it really only works best when the characters are actually talking.

Difficulty:
I'll say one thing. Even on beginner mode, this game can be mildly challenging because of two things; learning how to set up your deck and adapting it wherever you are, and learning how to distinguish what to level up, and what level you need to be at. If you're having trouble on any of those, then you're in trouble. Unlike past games, it's not even guaranteed you'll make it even halfway through this game if you don't learn how to effectively do the two listed things above. This ends up making the game nice and challenging, but in the same sense, incredibly frustrating. Mainly because unlike the last two games, this game gives you absolutely no indication of the recommended level you should be to continue on, and if things could get better, you can only upgrade your CP, HP, and learn new sleights. Or in Riku's case, his AP, Dark Power, and once again, his Sleights. For those who play the Reverse/Rebirth, there's an added bonus difficulty of not being able to choose the cards that you want to use to play each world. Instead, the cards are incredibly random when going to each world, and change on their own.

Replay Value:
Despite the fact that this game can be somewhat frustrating at parts, it definitely has a fair replay value. Especially considering the fact that you can replay the game through Riku's story, and learn about what Riku has been up to, and some things about him that he has to confront. But even after that, this game will most likely make you want to play more, if not for the entertainment, then for the interest in seeing just how far you can get in Proud Mode.

Overall:
This game had its ups and downs, as most games do. It had points that made me shake my head because it was lacking something, but at the same time, kept me incredibly entertained with its difficulty, as well as the eagerness to see what was going to happen next. I'd highly recommend this game to anyone that's ever played the previous KH releases (especially if they've played the GBA Chain of Memories), and to anyone that has a love for challenging games.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/05/09

Game Release: Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories (US, 12/02/08)


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