Review by recollectmusic
By far, the best Kingdom Hearts game so far.
I have been playing games of this series for awhile now. I didn't know it when it was originally released, however, when I got my PS3, I immediately bought the original. To my surprise, it was one of the worst games I had ever played. Bad graphically, even for the time. Bad gameplay riddled with annoying platforming, ridiculously hard enemies, mandatory grinding, and glitchy mechanics. Bad storytelling, where the majority of the game would ignore the main plot, instead relying on sub-plots from old Disney movies as a distraction. These problems have continued throughout the series and many fans continue to somehow love these characteristics. I don't quite understand it but I will do my best to review this as a gamer and an RPG-lover. (By the way, most of the aforementioned problems with the series have been solved by now, especially in this particular game.)
First, gameplay is mainly a hack-and-slash based system with combos you can set up yourself. The hack-and-slash has been there throughout the series. However, I do like how you can personalize the combos that can be done. It gives some variety and strategy to the simple hack-and-slash formula and gives good reason to try to level your character. Besides this battle system, there are some simple platforming elements and puzzles, but they are not glitchy like they had once been. The puzzles offer interesting new challenges (and sometimes enemies) that they had never had previously. The ideas are very fresh and flow well in the game. Besides these gameplay elements, they have included many new ways to play. They are sidescrolling, shooter, and turn-based RPG gameplay elements that show up within certain worlds. They are fun to play and offer a much-needed change of pace from the traditional hack-and-slash so repetitively prevalent in Kingdom Hearts games. There was also many extra things you could do in the games to get special items and other things. There were quests as well as a scoring method for the glitched areas. This became very addicting, although the quests had very little importance (they were fetch quests for the most part). Overall, it seemed to have a lot of content for a handheld DS title.
As far as music goes, the Kingdom Hearts series has always had great music. This game is obviously no exception and the sound effects and music are great here. The cutscenes come to life with voice-acting and the game was over-all very well executed in terms of music.
Graphically, this game is a step up from 358/2 Days. It offers a few more areas than 358/2 Days and these areas generally look cleaner than in the previous games. The animations and motions of the characters have also been made a bit smoother, which is nice. As far as the glitch areas go, they may look cool at first, but they do have a lot of the same color, and after seeing them for awhile, some may get bored. (I personally never did though).
Finally, the story was much different than in previous games. Without giving much away, I will say this game seems to offer much less than it really does in terms of story. It actually reveals a lot of information and does a very good job at paving the way for a 3rd Kingdom Hearts. It actually added a lot of depth and I loved it. However, if you hadn't played either Kingdom Hearts 1 or 2, it may seem a bit boring to you. Also, the stories within each area have been reduced significantly, being replaced by, who would have guessed it, a main plot! This is by far the best thing about this game. There is much less annoying subplot and much more true story-based events. The game also had a great flow throughout. Unlike 358/2 Days, the story was told nearly constantly, instead of leaving big gaps with little of the story being told. The story, having so much content and so many cutscenes, was very enjoyable and left me wishing the rest of these games were the same. The story was told perfectly.
There are some minor downsides to this game. I will say the sidescrolling levels left a bit to be desired. They didn't do much with it and they looked pretty bland. Still, they were decent. Also, much of the dialogue was reverted to a storyboard type system (Flat background sprite with character images switching in and out of the screen based on who was talking. No animations at all.). This was pretty annoying sometimes, but it luckily wasn't too overused, so I didn't mind too much. Overall, the experience wasn't hurt by these details.
So, overall, this game was pretty great. I would have to say, it is by far my favorite Kingdom Hearts game, and having played Kingdom Hearts I & II, Birth By Sleep, and 358/2 Days as well, that is hopefully saying something. Everything from music and graphics to gameplay and story are done expertly, which is more than I can say from the rest of the games. Also, the fact that this game takes place in a fake world whereas the rest take place in a real one fits the NPC style of Kingdom Hearts games much better (how they are so scarce and still when they are around, like robots or something). I would say, if you like good, unique games or if you are new to the Kingdom Hearts series then you should definitely get this game. Hell, I consider it one of the best DS games made to date. (Up there with Okami and Metroid!)
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (US, 01/11/11)
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