Review by Rewikitty
A Great Idea Botched Like You Wouldn't Believe
Oh, Square. Square, Square, Square. This is the price we pay for a company that will take risks, and if it were just that it would be fine. This game is painful because I can tell what they were -trying- to do, and I only wish they had done it correctly. Instead, this game is one of the most painful gaming experiences... ever.
For the record, I'm not just a Kingdom Hearts fan, but a Kingdom Hearts FANBOY. I LOVE these games, despite their myriad flaws. I love these games in concept and practice, despite the odd premise, the camera problems, the occasional tedium, the lost sense of wandering, the ridiculous AI problems in the first game, and having to listen to Donald Duck talk for more than three seconds. I found the PS2 games extremely enjoyable despite their flaws, and everything I had read about Chain of Memories made my mouth water. I love card games. I still have my Pokemon cards, for the record, all 1400 of them, and I still play it even though I'm over 18, just because I think it's a positively well-made card game. So, you know, Kingdom Hearts, plus cards, equals happy Rewikitty, right?
Let us dive into the misery...
NOTE: My grading scale marks 5 as average, not 7, so my overall scores are going to be lower than your usual review.
You will need to change your pants after you see the opening to this game. There's a FULL MOTION VIDEO on your GBA. It really does look almost as good as it did on the PS2, albeit on a smaller screen and with much more pixelation. But it's the principle of the thing. You will flip out and die when you see that opening video.
Things go slightly downhill from there, but honestly not enough to make me complain. The character sprites are big, beautiful and awesome-looking. I spent plenty of time on the web looking for the character sprites of the FF characters, just because they were so awesome. Really. This game is a graphical triumph even more than Golden Sun or what have you. The game is BEAUTIFUL. It's almost worth picking this game up in the discount bin just to see the sprites.
There's some well-done voice acting in the game, and it certainly doesn't disappoint as far as sound effects go. You'll recognize many of the sounds from the PS2 game, and that's not a bad thing. They're used well. The voice acting especially deserves another mention. It's excellent that the designers spent so much time on this oft-neglected aspect of video games.
The music is what brings the score down. It's pretty much just a tired retread of every song in Kingdom Hearts. I know, I know, it's ironic that I gave the sound effects such a boost for being from KH, but... the music seriously suffers for being unoriginal. If you've played the original Kingdom Hearts, you'll know what I mean. There'll be a few tracks that you'll be humming and skipping and enjoying... and then there's Atlantica, which will make you want to burst your timpanic membrane just to ease the pain. All in all, though, for being copied exactly, the music sounds really good. No real complaints on the technical field.
This game hurts so much it's not even funny. I was hellbent and determined to love this game in ways that are probably illegal before the law and abominations before God. As the big smile on my face slowly faded to a scowl, I found that the world was no longer worth living in. Fire wasn't as warm. Honey wasn't as sweet. I would no longer become intensely hungry, but feel more of an ashen dullness in my stomach that informed me that it was time to choke down more slop in order to hold on to this meaningless existence, if I even felt like it. The touch of a woman, once soft and comforting, became painful and otherwise meaningless. All of the joy was gone from my life. I lost faith in God and man, and soon found myself adrift in an existential quandary, bereft of meaning and purpose, wondering why I had been damned to occupy so cruel a world.
Then I watched some Angelic Layer, and everything was bright and cheery again. Seriously, I was depressed for about thirty seconds.
Hyperbole aside, playing this game really did hurt. The field "gameplay" is much like tethering yourself to a rock in a tidal pool, allowing plankton-rich seawater to fill your mouth and wash across your palate. It's there, but it's not really a whole lot of fun, and after a few minutes it gets unbearably uncomfortable, and you just want to spit it all out. Even after it's over, there's a kind of bad taste in your mouth that you can't get out. Basically, it consists of you going from box to box, attempting not to run into things despite the clumsy control scheme and poor hit detection. Basically, there is no difference from level to level except for the color of the boxes you'll be attempting to get through as quickly as possible to get the game over with. You must engage, repeatedly, in ridiculously tedious combat in order to obtain random "key cards" which are used to open the next room. The game is remarkably silent on how this dynamic WORKS, giving you a kind of really quick brush against how the whole thing is supposed to work, but the tutorial fails to address the approximately seventy nine billion cards you'll be fumbling around with, desperately trying every one, just hoping that one of them unlocks the damned door. Repeat for a few dozen rooms, until you fight a boss. Really.
Combat will break up the tedium, but bring headaches of its own. In theory, employing strategic uses of cards in order to do different keyblade combos, magical attacks and summons is a GREAT idea, and it seemed like a bunch of fun when I was reading about it and not actually doing it. When you actually get into combat, though, it's as annoying as trying to teach Paris Hilton the three branches of the federal government. You move Sora around a beautifully rendered screen, avoiding well-drawn enemies, and fumbling around with a deck of about 40 cards, scrolling through them desperately looking for the card you're looking for. You'll be doing plenty of quick mental math, trying to decide which card would work well with this card, and where the deuce is that other 7-ranked keyblade card? Ultimately, you can't divide your attention that much. The enemies are going to get cheap shot after cheap shot off on you while you're looking for that rassa-frassin' card you know you put in the deck. You'll be desperately trying to grow more thumbs as you dodge roll around, trying to pick cards from your deck, reshuffle, reload, and aim all at once. It's bearable in early worlds, but as the enemies become more and more powerful it really, REALLY starts to kill you. The other problem is the atrocious hit detection. I can't tell you how many times I wasted really powerful cards because I was a few pixels downstage of whatever I was trying to hit. You'll know the pain yourself when you start playing.
My last bone to pick with the system is that Sora levels up at a ridiculous rate. Every 3-5 battles you'll be seeing that level up screen. This allows you to have so many CP or HP before you actually need to use it that it's ridiculous. But it -really- doesn't matter. It's like someone who spends ten hours a day getting themself into peak physical condition, then walks into the street without looking and gets mowed under nine of a Mack truck's eighteen wheels, then spontaneously combusts and, for good measure, has a heart attack from all of the pain. Sora can have 50,000 HP for all I care. It's not going to help him win battles. The only thing that would help is some kind of device for massively simplifying the process of choosing and aiming Sora's awkward attacks, and no amount of levelling up can fix that.
Rrarg. I spent hours being bored to tears, annoying myself to death bum-rushing bosses over and over again until I wanted to break my Gameboy Advance for all of the misery it had caused me (thank God I kept it so that I can play Fire Emblem, though.) Why did I put myself through this agony? Because I wanted to see all the new plot stuff that was supposed to be in this game.
Well, I'll tell you what. First, in order to see anything new, you're going to have to replay a really crappy version of Kingdom Hearts. You'll go through each and every level of Kingdom Hearts, except it's not. It's a box full of stuff to bump into and key cards that will make you want to tear your hair out, and boring combat and cheap bosses. Once you get through all 14 levels of the original Kingdom Hearts, THEN you get some new plot stuff.
Guess what? There's not much of it, it's barely worth knowing and it ends in a stupid cliffhanger. The only reason I even did this was to force myself to be ready for the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 2, which I could finally afford, and I honestly could have figured out what happened without boring myself to tears with this game. It's not worth it.
OVERALL 3/10 (Not an average, for the meek in arithmetic reason)
Oh, sweet Lord. Why did I put myself through this game? They slapped a pretty label on it, dazzled me with what sounded like a system that could be a lot of fun, put the cheeze at the end of the maze in the form of necessary plot development involving NEW Square characters, and set me free to run in a beautiful world.
Except it turns out that pretty label is meant, like most pretty labels, to deceive and distract, the "fun" system was terribly designed and insufficiently tested, the cheeze at the end was tiny and not worth the pain of running the maze, and the beautiful world turned out to just be a big rat maze with pretty pictures on the walls, and the wrong floors electrified.
I wouldn't suggest this game to anyone. Find a plot summary instead. Save yourself. Save your money. This game is terrible. It's an affront to its creators, its system, its series and its players. Play the -other- KH games, which are really well done and, despite their problems, a heck of a lot more fun than this.
And don't forget to thank me for the tip-off. Those of you who play anyway, I warned you...
Rating: 1.5 - Bad
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