Review by EJRICH
"A Rusted Keyblade"
When I think of Kingdom Hearts, the first thing that pops into my head is normally the story. Why? Simply because it did have an affect on me that lasted. I'll be blunt, the game play itself was maliciously plagued by such a level of simplicity that it was almost embarrassing. Maybe simplicity is a harsh word to describe it as, but when you really take a look at it, you see that in reality the game is just made up of a very uneven balance of hack and slash that was further indulged in the second one. This game was a product that came about in an attempt to change just that, and to be quiet honest I still think that the game is still way to simple for its own good. Yes, it is a definite improvement, but in the way they designed it it just didn't have the feeling of being a true KH game. Now that, for me at least, was very hard to say. What made this game though, and most will probably agree with me on this, was the story.
No game is honestly complete without a thorough story to back it up. When I say that, I mainly mean RPG games in general, but all games to an extent can truly take that proclamation seriously. When a game is taken into account, normally a good story backing it up is just what it needs to make it that much better. In my opinion, it was firmly done in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. In fact, it probably was the whole driving force of the game itself. If I were to recommend this game to you, I would definitely say that the story of it drives it to the point that makes it acceptable to blow some hard earned money on it. Let's face it, money doesn't grow on trees, and when ninety-five percent of the gaming resources are going to praise it just to make themselves look good, then you really have a problem. In this game, you once again join the heroes from the last few games in the form of Sora, Donald, and Goofy. If you have played the previous game in the series, then you know how it ended. For those of you who didn't, then do yourselves a favor and skip down a couple of lines. Basically, after being trapped in Kingdom Hearts itself, Sora and pals lose contact with the king who sacrificed himself along with Riku in an attempt to close the door. They are still out there, our heroes just don't know were. That's when we left off. The game opens up with them chasing Pluto-the king's dog- up a never-ending path. The dog is holding an important letter marked with the king's seal, and they want to read it. Well, skip some events and we find them on in a night setting facing a cloaked man. That man then leads them to our stories' basis, Castle Oblivion. In this castle, you have the ability to regain lost memories, in exchange for the ones you have now at least.
While you are playing this game, definitely expect some deep character development and an excellent amount of plot twists to boot. If you haven't had the pleasure of playing the previous game in the series, then please, stay away from this title. Not only is it heavily reliant upon the previous games story, but it also introduces new character into that that makes it even more complicated for newer players just getting into the story. Is that a problem? Not from a business standpoint of view, but to a player, it can be if you don't have a working Ps2. Most will disagree with me on this, but I also hated the way in which they would kill off some characters that had some of the best plot opportunities available to them. Don't get me wrong, I thought that the amount of character development for this game was astounding; it just didn't make sense to me. It is these kinds of mistakes that can seriously ruin a game if a certain balance isn't integrated to balance it out. Fortunately, in this game they had just what they needed to save themselves, but on your average title; they won't be able to recover from it. If you have a character that feels awkward to a player, then there is a definite problem that should be fixed. That being said, the overall story was perfectly fitting for the role that it had to play, and for those of you who don't know it was to set the next game up. Seriously, the whole series is just one big set-up for the next title. A story wouldn't be complete without game play however, so let's get into that now.
Strategically speaking, this games system of play was a huge risk. In most eyes, it would have benefited them more to stay true to a formula that had been put in place a very long time back, but to them it just didn't make honest sense. They heard the cry of some of the fans complaints that had to deal with the fact of too much simplicity. As I discussed with you previously, simplicity was a big problem that the first game had way too much of, and I think that by doing this, they were hoping to fix it. Well, unfortunately for them they flopped in a ton of areas, mainly in the form of way too little holdbacks from just button mashing towards the end of the game. We could argue on this all day, but in my opinion while it may have been a good environment for them to practice the system in towards the begging, there is absolutely no reason what-so ever to want to add in strategy towards the end. Worst of all, the AI is hideously easy in most cases, save a few; so that really just kills it all together. Let me give you an example. An enemy is sitting there waiting for you to hit it. Are you going to try to string together massive combos that would normally be needed to beat something remotely challenging when the enemy isn't going to be fighting back? No way. You would seriously be on heck of a jerk if you did that, as in my opinion it is a waste of time. If something just going to sit there, you are going to instinctively whack it in an attempt to kill it. Then, here comes the best part, you feel a sense of accomplishment when you beat it! How great is that! Seriously, that is how much the moral degrading has progressed within the last several years. It used to be that an enemy would be tough, take a game like Battle Toads for example, that was insane (Don't even get me started about that stupid multiplayer garbage that was found out by me after the fact). It just is sad how far we have progressed. The worst part is that the majority of players want it just like that! They whine all day when something is even remotely challenging, and then complain when it is too easy. Go figure.
Game play revolves around Sora and company going to different areas from the previous game in an attempt to delve deeper into the secrets of Castle Oblivion. These areas, try as I might to avoid this, are surprisingly similar to each other in almost every respect. They preach that they give the player an open ended feeling by switching up the level design every time you enter another place or area. Now after hearing that, what could they have possibly done to hamper that? Really, in reality it's a great theory. Problem is though that somewhere in the process they royally screwed it up. You see, by playing on the point that they had mixed level design, they missed one huge point: fun. Level design is horrible to begin with, as every room looks like another depending on the map card that you use. Now, in this game you have two decks (sub-decks not included). Those two decks consist of your main battle deck, and a special deck consisting of map cards. The map cards open rooms, and depending on what type of card you use, different effects will take place. These affects range from more enemies to no enemies at all, a treasure chest, a very interesting mushroom room, and some other things depending on the rarity. You usually get these cards from enemies upon defeating them in combat, and to no ones surprise they are needed to open doors. Now, one thing that they definitely screwed up on was the placement of these cards. Towards the end of the game, they start putting a restriction on only allowing a certain value of cards to open a door, whether it is a certain color or number of a card, or making it even worse and making both of those requirements apply. Now that's where my problem lies. They often make you search for that certain card for hours on end, or if you are like a certain select few you get it on your first try. Putting you in a seemingly endless cycle of beating enemies for useless cards and continually messing up really kills the enjoyment of it. I'll be honest; by the end of the game I was sick of it. I've known people who have given up on the game because of this, and that's certainly not good.
The next point of interest I'd like to take the time to discuss is the battle system. The battle system relies on a pre-made deck of cards that you put together on your own made up of cards that you find. Whether you find good cards or not is up to the amount of time you want to put into farming enemies, so that's up in the air. Funny part is, you really don't need good cards to beat the game until some of the very last bosses. You can honestly just button mash your way to success, and by the end of my playtime I was sick of it. Other than that, battles consist of you hitting an enemy with you different card attacks, ranging from Keyblades to magic spells. Now, both really don't bring anything different to the table, and that is really a sorry thought to me considering what they could have accomplished. The next point that I would like to discuss revolves around the aspect of difficulty. I've previously discussed this with you in some of the other sections, but I left one really big point out-boss battles. Now, for the most part they aren't that much of a problem, save one or two in the begging, but what really gets annoying is the big four. The big four consist of a couple of super hard bosses that totally rend the games difficulty level to that of a much higher level, something that just should have been avoided. Not to say that I didn't enjoy it, quiet the contrary, it's just that for a player set on cruise control, this may be one shocker that is just to hard to overcome.
One thing that I can definitely say is that the graphics attained everything and more that I could have ever possibly wanted from them as a whole. Well, except one huge problem. Lag is something that hideously plagues some of the games screen spells, as well as the final boss fight. So much so that it's so noticeable it's not even funny. I can't tell you how annoyed I was when I was going through the fight, not only that, but from the whole game. Often times I was forced to chose between a less powerful spell but no lag, or a powerful spell and so many lags that it ruined everything. Disappointing to say the least would be an accurate description of how I felt. Now, if I left it at that, you'd be obviously a where that I was going to give it a bad score, fortunately for this game though I'm not finished. The landscapes that dot the planes of this game are extremely vibrant in their workings, and to be very honest they made the game so much better as a whole. Not only that, but in the beginning of the game and at certain intervals in between we are treated to FMV sequences. For those of you who don't keep up on the slang, that means full motion video. For a GBA pack, that is truly brilliant. I don't think that I could have possibly asked for that much more than that in the areas of this game.
Ever hear the phrase If you've seen the father, you've seen the son? Yeah, it is Biblical, but it sure as heck applies to this games musical score. You see, every track of this game, or most of it at least, is one big re-make of the original title. Am I disappointed? No. Did I expect more? Yes. You see, just because I expected more doesn't necessarily mean that it was bad. The first tunes of the series were excellent, boasting tracks from basically every Disney movie available in the game. I loved it, as it just fit every area perfectly. You know how sometimes you just get this feeling when you are playing something that it is awkward and out of place. Well fortunately for this game, that does not plague it. That's good to, as if it were it probably would have failed miserably in the game play department. If you've ever noticed what I preach in my reviews, I always say that in a game you need three things in the musical department. Those three things are the following: Tunes that fit the area; tunes that hit the right notes at the right time, tunes that keep the player awake. Now the departments that I listed are all self explanatory, and I'm seriously not going to waste my time preaching them again. What I do want to say though, is that in most parts, this game did do what I listed.
Well, each game on its own has horrible overall replay value. Notice that I said each. You have two games to play in this title, one staring Sora, and the other his friend Riku. Riku has a very lenient story overall, with very few-if any-conversations at all. Know what though? It honestly is every bit as good as Sora's, if not better as a whole. In total, you can get just about thirty hours of game play out of this pack, so that's decently average.
Guide or No Guide
If you need a guide for this game, it will probably be on where to find each and every card. Guess what? You don't. Honestly, every single card in this game is pretty easy to find, save the three secret keys. Being the nice person I am, here is a list of them for you to save you fifteen bucks.
One-Winged-Angel: Randomly get from a chest in Caslte Oblivion after completion of the game. Can also be obtained from Moogle shops.
Ultima Key: Randomly get in Castle Oblivion (The level for all the keys), after completion of the game.
Diamond Dust: Same as above. Can be obtained prior to completion of the game.
The other cards would be considered spoilers, so I'll leave them out.
This is a great game; it is just plagued by some stupid mistakes that honestly should have been avoided. Kudos for a job well done. On a side note, a version for the Ps2 is slated to come out eventually, so I am definitely interested in seeing this come about in the future.
Excellent plot development, great characters, Kingdom Hearts at its core.
Game Play: 6/10
Definitely needs to be fixed before it can be given a better score. Problems are abounding, but it'll get better. With time with time.
Would have been better if it weren't for the darn lag.
Same tunes as the first, do I really care? No. Will I ever care, probably not.
Hideous. Saving grace is the second story.
Guide or No Guide: No Guide
No need for it. To be quiet honest, the one that was released is garbage.
Needs work, but it'll get better.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 03/06/07
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