Review by KeybladeMasterA

"Defintely one to remember."

Story: 8/10.
- Chain of Memories features what some consider to be the greatest plot yet in the illustrious Kingdom Hearts series. Now, I might not go quite that far, but it really is something special.

The story's first segment follows main character Sora, just after the events of the very first Kingdom Hearts. As it opens, he's confronted by a mysterious cloaked man, who delivers a fairly enigmatic message. "Ahead lies something you need, but to claim it, you must lose something dear." The search leads Sora to the towering colossus of Castle Oblivion, prompting a very cerebral sort of adventure dealing with the fickleness of memory and the volatility of even the strongest friendships.

Once Sora's story is completed, though, players are in for another large treat. The "Reverse/Rebirth" mode is unlocked, wherein players control perennial fan-favorite Riku for an ordeal of his own. He ventures through the basement floors of the castle, guided by the scathingly sarcastic DiZ and helped by the benevolent King Mickey. Series antagonists Organization XIII rear their ugly heads, but Riku's cause is valiant and unstoppable -- to face his own personal demons and rid himself once and for all of the darkness within.

However, despite the story's great many triumphs, it suffers from a complete and total overflow of useless filler, in the form of the Disney worlds. Elsewhere in the series, these worlds typically go for nostalgia rather than overall plot advancement, but here, they don't even accomplish that much. Sadly and frankly, their plots are very lame and utterly forgettable.

Still, there's little they can do to mar the marvel of the main story itself, leaving us with an extremely pleasant experience.

Gameplay: 7/10.
- Chain of Memories marks a stark departure from the series' typical combat procedures, specifically in how the usual command menu is replaced instead with a deck of cards. In terms of actual execution, it's much the same as the original Kingdom Hearts, but the set-up process still has some players wary.

For example, rather than simply pressing "attack," players must now select and use a "Keyblade
card. Or to case Fire, you use a "Fire" card, and so on. You collect more cards as you go, allowing you to buff up your deck and get better moves.

The cards also feature numbers indicated their designated levels. If you use a card, your enemy can interrupt the attack by using a card of equal or greater level. This maneuver is known as a "card break" and works for both you and your enemies.

You can also use cards in combinations called "sleights." These are basically your special abilities, like Strike Raid, Ragnarok, et cetera. You "stock" three cards using Triangle, and do a special move depending on what cards and what level they were.

Overall, it's really not as different as it sounds. It's not an actual "card game" or anything, and it's still in real-time and all. In actuality, the experience is almost identical to either of the numbered games. Just with the added step of customizing your deck, and thus your moves.

Graphics: 9/10.
Pretty much par for the course, as far as this series is concerned. Bright, vivid, colorful, and beautifully animated. There is an added bonus, though. See, most of the cutscenes take place within the simple white walls of Castle Oblivion. And the meager backgrounds allow for more time, attention, and polygons to be put into the characters. Textures are better, movements are more natural, and by far the biggest of all, the facial animations are nothing short of breathtaking.

Music: 8/10.
- Admittedly, most songs in Chain of Memories are actually remixes of tunes featured in the other two games, but with the quality cranked up to eleven. The synthesizers and actual mixing are much improved, resulting in a sound much richer and so much more varied.

Where the soundtrack really shines, though, is in its original ditties. From the frantic determination of The 13th Struggle, to the sad insanity of The Scent of Silence, to the peaceful serenity of Namine, it's truly a fantastic musical work.

Voice Acting: 8/10.
- The Kingdom Hearts series is known for its ingenious casting choices, and that trend's stronger than ever now. From big Hollywood starts, to classic Disney mainstays, to anime voice actors, to relative unknowns, they've assembled an amazing cast to last the ages. They've spared no expense here, and it really shows.

To be fair, though, Haley Joel Osment's performance is a little tainted by his age. The end result is the body of KH1-Sora, but the voice of KHII-Sora. It's a little jarring at first, but more than forgivable in the long run, given the great quality of his actual acting.

Replay Value: 5/10.
- Actually, there's not much to say here. Reverse/Rebirth very nearly doubles the length of the game itself, but it's not so much an extra as it is just the second half of the story. There's really no reason to play the game after you beat both parts, and the Disney worlds are boring enough that you probably wouldn't want to. It's sad that such a great core story should end up like that, but that's just the way it is.

Overall: 8/10.
- Chain of Memories is...a sexy game. It's just a sexy game. Beautiful graphics, an awesome soundtrack, amazing acting, and a plot that does the series more than justice. What else could you want? There's some flaws here and there, of course, but nothing's perfect. And in the end, they do almost nothing to tarnish the grander splendor of the bigger picture.

To put it simply: Buy this game. Got it memorized?

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/04/08

Game Release: Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories (US, 12/02/08)

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