Review by MasterVG782

"An innovative battle system leads to a great game."

No one could have imagined that a collaboration between Square and Disney would have produced such a big hit like Kingdom Hearts. Combining Disney universes into a nice and flowing game was quite an accomplishment for that team. Disney has always been known to incorporate dark tones into their movies and it shows that they had some influence in Kingdom Hearts. Square ends up deciding trying to emulate the first game's battle system into a GBA, with some tweaks.

The first thing one will notice in the first twenty minutes of the game is that the game utilizes a card system for battles and for the worlds as well. It is well thought out and executed very well. All of your attacks, from physical to magic to even summons, rely on the cards. Each card has a certain value on it that does not denote its strength, but it actually adds a bit of strategy to the battle system. Whenever you, or the enemy, perform a move in battle, the card that is used is put in the middle of the screen. If the enemy's card has a higher value than yours, then his attack will go through and vice versa. If an enemy or you are in the middle of an attack and the other party uses a card with a higher value than the attacker's, then a Card Break will occur. This will cause the broken one's attack to cease, no matter what, and will cause the broken one to be dizzied for a few seconds. This allows you to Card Break even the strongest boss' most powerful combo attack, although a 0-valued card is required in that case (0 cards can Card Break anything, no matter what).

In order to use a combo in this game, you must utilize the stocking feature. If you stock three specific cards or three that add up to a specific value, then you may be able to use a combo, or a Sleight as they are called in this game. These combos are generally useless, although there are a few in the game that are worthwhile to use. As said before, cards are also used outside of battle as well.

The entire game is set up into separate worlds, with the in-between areas being situated in Castle Oblivion, which is the main setting of the game. Each world, which is pretty much the Disney worlds from the first Kingdom Hearts, is separated into a bunch of rooms. Each room can be opened by use of cards, all of which have many different effects. Depending on which card you use, the room may contain a bunch of Heartless or it may contain a treasure chest, with absolutely no Heartless at all.

The game still maintains the real time battle system in the original Kingdom Hearts, but getting into a battle is a bit different this time around. Whenever you encounter a Heartless on the screen, coming into contact with it will initiate a battle. This is similar to Chrono Cross' style of initiating combat and is much better than the original Kingdom Hearts' style. I just wish they would have used more types of Heartless on the world maps, although you can only ask for so much in a game that utilizes FMVs, which I'm sure takes up a lot of cartridge space.

FMVs in a GBA game? Yes, there are a few in the game and they are very well done. Square has always been known to produce top notch graphics and Chain of Memories is no exception. Chain of Memories is quite possibly the best looking GBA to date. All of the character sprites are vibrant, as well as the Disney worlds that were recreated for the GBA. However, the rooms seem a bit repetitive when it comes down to it. There isn't much variety in the looks of the rooms you create in each world and it can sometimes make the game rather dull after a few hours. Despite some of the claims about experiencing slowdown in the game, I have personally never seen anything to back up the claims. In the end, everything looks beautifully crafted and you'll experience the FMVs when you begin the game.

The game opens up with Sora, Donald and Goofy chasing Pluto, who has a letter in his mouth. This is one of the last things we saw at the very end of Kingdom Hearts for the PS2. As night falls, Sora wakes up and wanders forth to a three-way dirt road, where he first encounters a black cloaked person simply known as an Unknown. He mutters something about to claim something, he must lose something. We then see a blonde girl drawing some sort of castle, which turns out to be the castle that Sora and party happens upon shortly after. Sora's story answers a few questions left over from Kingdom Hearts, but it raises a lot of new ones as well. It's mediocre until you get to play through Reverse Rebirth, which is where a lot more of the unanswered questions get revealed.

When you beat Sora's story, you have the option to play through the game again through the eyes of another person. This side of the story gives more depth to what really happened after the end of the last game and offers some new gameplay changes, which adds some more difficulty to an, otherwise, overall easy game. Aside from a few boss battles here and there, Sora's story is quite easy. There are a couple of cheap card combos in the game that cheapens some of the harder boss battles. Some of the battles can get quite annoying with Sora's “battle cries” being screamed throughout.

The music in the game is more or less MIDI versions of the music found in the PS2 version. All of the tracks for Disney worlds return, as well as a few others. The new tracks in the game are well done and give that overall atmosphere to the game. Nothing is better than bashing enemies to the music played in the background of Hollow Bastion, which is perhaps one of the best songs in the game, provided you don't want to smack Sora around some. There is limited voice acting in the game and you'll only find it in the battles. Sora's cries of “C'mon” and “Yeah” can get quite annoying and that is my only gripe with the sound in the game, however minute it may be. Of course, there is one more thing I do not like about the game.

One of the biggest problems I have with the game is the fact that there are absolutely no sidequests. There are two story modes and that's pretty much the entire game right there. One may not find himself/herself going back through the game simply because of this. Once you find all of the hidden cards, there really seems to be no incentive to play through the game again. Unlike the original Kingdom Hearts, which had a reward for completing the game 100%, there is no such option in Chain of Memories.

Other than the fact that there are no sidequests and my minute hatred for Sora's voice, the game seems pretty flawless. It may take some time to get used to the battle system, but once you have a firm grasp on it, it actually is quite fun. Fans of the original Kingdom Hearts will definitely want to play this game. Those looking for a different type of RPG for the GBA may want to give this game a chance. I'd definitely give it two thumbs up.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/13/04, Updated 12/22/04

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