Review by EmiHinata

"A fairly good game, with several flaws."

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
Review by EmiHinata
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a semi-sequel to the hit PS2 game, Kingdom Hearts. What's a “Semi-sequel”, you ask? What it means is that the game does NOT need to be played before Kingdom Hearts II to understand it; however, it really helps if you do play it. The game merely serves as a bridge between the two main games in the series.

Story: 8/10
The game picks up just where the first game left off, with Sora, Donald, and Goofy traveling the worlds to find Riku and the King. However, they arrive at a large castle, and they enter it. Inside, they are told that it is called Castle Oblivion, and the further they go in, the more memories they lose; however, they also gain different memories that have been locked away in their hearts.
The main story, Sora's story, is partially a re-hash of the original Kingdom Hearts game. You visit the same “worlds” while in Castle Oblivion, albeit with some altered stories, most of them having to do with lost memories. After nearly each “world”, there is a small scene in the actual Castle, where the true story progresses. While the worlds are mainly rehashes, the actual story is interesting enough to warrant a full playthrough.

Gameplay (the longest section. ACK!): 7/10
Gameplay. The meat of a game, and this game's gameplay certainly is tasty, if you'll pardon the horrible metaphor. It is different from the first Kingdom Hearts. To initiate a battle, you approach a Heartless and either strike it with your Keyblade to stun it, or you can just walk into it. Also, instead of being just an action game, there is a card-battling system.

WAIT! Before you shake your head in disgust, let me explain. It isn't just a regular card system, like Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic: The Gathering. Instead, you have a deck of cards, with differing values and functions. There are several basic types of cards: Attack, Magic, Item, and Friend cards. There are also Enemy cards, which I shall get to explaining later. You have a certain value of Card Points, or CP, which your deck can have. Each time you level up, you have an opportunity to raise that value.

Attack cards allow you to use the Keyblade to attack an enemy. Magic cards let you – you guessed it!- use magic and summons. Item cards no longer heal you, as items did in Kingdom Hearts; they reload your deck with certain cards, depending on the item. Friend cards differ in function, but nearly all of them attack the Heartless you fight. You can also create combos with cards; however, each time you use a combo, or “sleight”, the first card used is lost until the next battle.

I mentioned different values of cards, and you may have already guessed the function. Not only do you need to use cards, but so do the Heartless and other enemies that you fight. The card values range from 0 to 9. When you use a card, there is an opportunity for an enemy to “break” the card; in reverse, you can “break” enemies' cards. “Breaking” a card is when you use a card of a higher value against the other card. The zero cards are special. When used, they can break any card, whether it be a 9, a 5, or even a combo. However, they are easily broken themselves.

Also, like I mentioned earlier, the Enemy cards. These are kept in their own separate area from the other cards, but still take up the deck's CP. To access the Enemy cards, you press ‘select' during battle, and it brings up a second deck with only Enemy cards. The Enemy cards have different functions. For instance, some grant you the ability of Regen, or healing, for several “units”, or times you get healed. Another example is Second Chance, where you keep one HP after a critical hit, unless only one HP is left.

You also have a reload counter. Once you've run out of cards, or if you just feel like reloading, you flip your deck to a spot where a card would be; however, it is black, with a number inside it, ranging from one to three. The first time you reload, it only takes one unit, but each time, it grows until you need three. To reload, you hold the “A” button on the numbered card until your deck shuffles. However, you do not get back the first card used in a sleight.

After each enemy is defeated, they drop small crystals which represent experience points. However, you must pick them up quickly, because they will disappear from the battle area after several seconds. Also, while the game usually moves smoothly, if there is more than 5 enemies at a time on the battle area, the game tends to lag slightly.

To move throughout the worlds, you need different “map cards” that you obtain from battles. For the story doors, you also need a card that you get from the preceding story event. To use a map card, you approach a door and strike it with your Keyblade. Each door needs a card of a certain value, from 0 to 9. Some doors also need a card of a certain color, as well as the number. Zero cards act as wild cards, and will open any door, regardless of the number needed, but the color required still applies; however, zero cards will NOT work on the story doors.

There is one major flaw in this system, not unlike the .hack games' Virus Cores. There are some points where you need a certain card, and don't have it, so you will have to battle until you get the right map card. This can leave you battling for hours to get a single card, only to wind up battling again several minutes later.

Music/Sound: 7/10
Most of the music in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is the same from the original Kingdom Hearts, with the exception that the music is now in MIDI format, of lower quality. There are several new songs, but they are hard to really listen to with the MIDI format. The sound effects are of decent quality, and the grunts that Sora and the other characters make are the same from the original Kingdom Hearts.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics are of decent quality. The sprites look like smaller, chibi-fied versions of the Kingdom Hearts characters, and the worlds are bright and colorful, albeit repetitive. Also, thrown throughout the game, there are actual CG cutscenes, with the quality of a PSX game, which may suprise you. The animation is smooth in both gameplay and cutscenes.

Replay Value: 8/10
After playing through Sora's story, a new mode is unlocked, called Reverse/Rebirth. In Reverse/Rebirth, you are able to play as a different Kingdom Hearts character, and go through their adventure in Castle Oblivion. However, after you have completed both stories, there is really no point in replaying the game.

OVERALL RATING (please keep in mind that this isn't an average): 8/10
The game is a fairly good game to take with you on a roadtrip, and the story is interesting enough to keep you playing, even if you hate the battle system. While others may hate the card-battle system, it requires strategy, unlike the original Kingdom Hearts, where most regular battles you could get through by just mashing the attack button. The game is definitely worth buying, or at the very least, renting.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/18/06

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