Review by Rango
"A decent game and pretty good sequel. Despite some noticeable flaws, it's still definitely a fun experience."
Kingdom Hearts, a hit for the PS2 released in 2002, left many people in dismay, when they saw the preview. They thought it'd be stupid and kiddy, because it had Disney in it. The game came out, and many of their mindsets made a complete U-Turn. Kingdom Hearts featured gameplay that combines a hack-n-slash (like Zelda) with a 3-D platformer (like Super Mario 64), along with a battle option system reminiscent of the Final Fantasy series (Attack, Magic, Item, Summon, etc.). The game starred a boy named Sora, who would travel through different Disney worlds and interact with other characters in a game with an incredibly deep story that could rival just about any Final Fantasy game, and featured brilliantly designed characters. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is sort of like the sequel. It bridges the gap between Kingdom Hearts and the upcoming Kingdom Hearts II. However, Chain of Memories took more than a few turns from its predecessor, some for the better, and some for the worse. As a sequel, though, it's pretty good and considering that it's handheld, it can probably live up as well.
Being the sequel that it is, this game's story takes place exactly where the first Kingdom Hearts ended. Sora, Donald, and Goofy are running through the path in a grassy field, as this beautiful FMV occurs, showing them running through the field. It then becomes night time, and while Sora is lying there, a mysterious hooded figure appears before Sora, and brings him a message about his destination. "Ahead lies something you need," says the hooded figure, "but to claim it, you must lose something dear." After that, Sora, Donald, and Goofy run down the path and end up in Castle Oblivion. Sora starts to lose his memories as he's there, and now, he needs to reclaim them, using the power of special cards. However, don't think that the story is a complete cut and paste job of the original's. There will be many plot twists and turns that involve events in Castle Oblivion. I mean, of course you will find very similar scenarios from the first KH, but not everything is the same, so don't panic. The story itself seems a little...repetitive, but like I said, it's essentially new, with its own unique turns.
As mentioned before, some nice things were the FMV's in this game, like when you start the game, and you see Sora, Donald, and Goofy running through a grassy plain, where they left off in the original. The FMV's are nearly as good as the PS2 game, and there are a few of them in this game, as well. In game, the graphics look sorta like...an SNES Square game, as they have cartoonish models to represent the sprite, which look detailed enough. The worlds of the game are from the original Kingdom Hearts (most of them are), and their backgrounds look very nice and reminiscent of their predecessor, from the blue and colorful Monstro, to the beautiful pink castle of Hollow Bastion. You'll easily recognize them, too. They do look nice, but they're much of the same areas in each room, too.
You'll also be able to recognize many of the themes in this game, as the stages have a remix of their respective stage's theme from the original Kingdom Hearts. They may sound in slightly toned-down version, but they're recognizable and still nice, nonetheless. You'll recognize the sound effects of the game, as well, as this game features voice acting that was from Kingdom Hearts on the PS2. It's basically the same, but that's not such a bad thing. But no, you won't hear any voice acting in the FMV's, but again, that isn't really a problem...right? Also, the spell effects sound very diverse. Blizzard sounds like it crystallizes, Thunder has that lightning effect, and fire makes a fireball noise, like a ball of fire rushed by.
You can use those spells, as well as all the others from the PS2 hit, in this game. However, instead of using MP, you use a card system, now. With cards, you have a deck of cards, and they represent different things. Keyblade cards are what you attack with, cards with fire, ice, or lightning on them are examples of your 3 main spell cards, and summon cards, well...summon. Numbers are on each card, and they represent a different strength. Your enemies also use cards, each with their own number on them, too. You can break an enemy's card with a higher number and, likewise, they'll break yours, too. Sometimes, it might seem a little annoying, but it adds a fair sense of strategy into the game, which I find to be innovative and interesting. It's not that I actually prefer it, but it was a good innovation to try out once. The battling is very similar to KH's, as well. However, you run around a level. If you find a Heartless and touch it, you'll go into a battle screen that has limited space. In it, you have free movement, and you battle in real time. Use your cards as your attacks and battle enemies in a similar fashion to KH's. However, notice one significant difference here. Donald and Goofy are NOT by your side! That's right! And it goes for the level, as well, not just battles. You gotta use Friend Cards to summon them, so don't worry. Your friends are still with you, and can aid you in a very similar fashion as to the original, so it's not really that big of a deal. But everything else is very similar to the first game's. You also gain exp. and choose which stat to build per level up, be it HP, CP (Card Points, which shows how many cards you can have per deck and to what value), or learn a new Sleight (card combo). In the worlds, though, you move around and jump onto ledges. However, unlike in Kingdom Hearts, it's...more repetitive and less diverse. You could basically think of each level as practically the same, but with different paint, music, enemies, and plots. To some, this can easily be a major turn-off, as there are no new level challenges, such as puzzles with platforms, jumping on jungle vines, flying on a magic carpet, competing in the Coliseum games, and stuff. It's basically level-by-level. Fortunately, it has its interesting battles to keep things interesting, but had the game had more diverse levels and all, it could have been much better.
Along with the similar levels, the game also features a bit of a lack of replay. There are very few side-quests in the game, and they're not as easy to spot as in KH's. However, once you beat the game, you get to play in a new mode, and, believe it or not, it is actually quite interesting and keeps the game alive for a little while longer.
Overall, it's a decent GBA game. It's nice to have similar gameplay to the PS2 hit, handheld, and with an innovative card battling system, as well as a secret mode after you beat the game. It is a bit sad, however, that many of the levels seem the same when you think about it enough, and that it lacks side-quests, keeping the replay value rather still in a short place. But with the battles, it's still a fun experience. Really. And that's especially if you were a huge fan of Kingdom Hearts on PS2 and what a game that you can take anywhere.
Get the game if you're a fan of Kingdom Hearts, or if you like slashing your enemies around with blades and magic and stuff. I recommend you don't get this game until you play the PS2 game, as the game takes place right after KH's ending, and with the hidden mode, it'll be really confusing for you, perhaps. If you have beaten it, though, then you'll have no problem grasping the story!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/18/05
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