Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories

When Kingdom Hearts II received its obligatory Final Mix director’s cut version in Japan, it came bundled with a complete 3-D remake of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for the GameBoy Advance entitled Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, which itself would see a North American release separate from the Final Mix version of the second numbered Kingdom Hearts game. The remake would find new life as part of the PlayStation 3 collection Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, and provides an experience on par with the rest of the franchise.

Re:Chain of Memories maintains the same card-based battle system as the PlayStation 2 version, with fights confined to an arena and Sora (and Riku, once the player completes Sora’s quest), having a variety of different cards at their disposal to combat the enemy and their cards, with sleights combining three cards having extra effect at the expense of the first card used in the sleight, and using summon spells such as Simba and Cloud can take care of large enemy parties. The difficulty of bosses, however, is largely inconsistent (even on the easiest difficulty), with plenty of grinding necessary, although in some instances having a few healing cards and maybe one or two enemy cards that provide temporary effects can mean the victory between victory and defeat. In the end, the battle system works decently, especially during Riku’s Reverse/Rebirth scenario where his decks are fixed, but the necessary grinding and schizophrenic boss difficulty are certainly deterrents.

Winning battles nets Sora or Riku a map card they can use to unlock a new room in each of the recycled Disney-themed worlds, with doors leading to story events and/or boss fights typically requiring multiple map cards, and while there may be times where the player needs to fight many encounters to acquire the necessary cards, this provides some decent grinding, especially if a particular card is hard to find. Unfortunately, outside of enemy battles, the player can’t lock onto objects or enemies, sometimes providing unintended effects such as accidentally bumping into an enemy to trigger an encounter. The other areas of interaction, though, are generally decent, and the player can check a map of the current world at any time, although another issue is the long time it takes just to get back into Re:Chain of Memories in the HD 1.5 ReMIX collection after taking a break for some time, given the countless unskippable company and copyright logos and screens.

The narrative has more issues, however, given the rehash, minus Tarzan’s world, of the first Kingdom Hearts title’s events, although there are definitely some original portions such as Organization XIII, with even less attempts at humor than the first game that make cartoon characters such as Donald and Goofy seem horribly out of place. Riku’s mode, Reverse/Rebirth, however, generally tells a stronger story, and while the plot isn’t a reason to play the game, it certainly has some redeeming aspects. The translation is mostly spotless in spite of hackneyed dialogue about light, darkness, and amnesia, but is definitely one of the title’s stronger aspects.

Re:Chain of Memories also recycles much of the first game’s soundtrack, although the tracks are still good, and there are a few original pieces such as the Twilight Town theme; that each different world has unique battle tracks, however, much like in the first game, definitely keeps the sound from becoming too repetitive. There’s also some voice acting, which is decent, although the cartoony voices of Donald Duck and Goofy, like in the original Kingdom Hearts, sound horribly out of place in a title devoid of comedy, and lip movement is off at times. Still, a decent-sounding game.

The graphics also mostly come from the original Kingdom Hearts, but nonetheless look superb, with decent diversity in room designs and only some minor blurry textures, and anatomically-correct character models. All in all, a great-looking title.

Finally, the game actually took this reviewer longer to complete than Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, though one can possibly make it through Sora’s quest in about fifteen hours, with Riku’s quest taking about five to finish, and things such as different difficulties and trophies enhancing lasting appeal.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories is a solid title that hits many of the right notes, particularly with regards to its battle and map mechanisms, not to mention the translation, soundtrack, and visuals, although it does definitely leave some room for improvement with regards to things such as the heavy recycling from the original Kingdom Hearts, the inconsistent boss difficulty even on the easiest challenge setting, and especially the narrative. Regardless of how one feels about Sora’s quest, however, Reverse/Rebirth certainly helps redeem the game.

The Good:
+Card battle system with plenty variety.
+Room customization adds diversity as well.
+Reverse/Rebirth is a treat.
+Good music and visuals.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Schizophrenic boss difficulty even on so-called “Beginner” mode.
-Plenty grinding necessary.
-Repeated boss fights galore.
-Weak narrative.
-Heavy recycling from original Kingdom Hearts.

The Bottom Line:
Good but difficult set of games.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 15-30 Hours

Overall: 8/10

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