Almost an entire console generation has elapsed since the most recent numbered installment of Square-Enix’s Kingdom Hearts franchise, Kingdom Hearts II. Since then, the company has been content with churning out spinoffs, a prequel, and recently, a remake collection. Among these spinoffs is the Japan-exclusive cellular phone title, Kingdom Hearts coded, the first to take place after the second game. Mercifully for Anglophone gamers, Square-Enix remade the title for the Nintendo DS, titling it Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, providing an experience on par with the rest of the series.
As mentioned, the events of Re:coded take place after those of the second game, with Jiminy Cricket discovering one of his journals to be blank save for two messages: “Thank Naminé” and “Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it.” Those who have played previous entries will know exactly why Naminé deserves thanks, although the latter message provides for a decent quest when the journal is digitized, revealing several bugs that prompt King Mickey and the gang to create Data-Sora to clean things up and occasionally unlock new messages.
Re:coded, gameplay-wise, is essentially an amalgamation of elements taken from its countless predecessors, with the basic battle system revolving around Data-Sora alone (for most of the game, at least), the player able to equip a certain number of commands ranging from magic to physical attacks to elemental attacks to basic magic to items that need time to recharge after use, the player able to increase these occasionally through a matrix experience system somewhat reminiscent of the Sphere Grid of Final Fantasy X, where the player puts level-up “chips” along with other stat-increasing chips and the occasional blank chips to unlock new abilities.
The gameplay occasionally features some unique twists, with occasional shooter sequences and sidescrolling levels the player must complete to advance the game, and one world even sporting turn-based battles that seem to borrow a little from the Mario RPGs, where there are timed button presses for attack and defense. The variety of combat is the game mechanics’ saving grace, and normal keyblade combat is decent, as well, although even on the easiest difficulty, some bosses can be daunting and even have multiple consecutive forms, and the player might yearn to play it safe by stocking Data-Sora’s command slots with recovery spells and items instead of attack skills and spells.
Interaction is mostly above average, with an easy menu system and control, not to mention useful in-games maps, although there are occasional long periods without save opportunities, not to mention several marathon boss battles (although death allows the player to restart the most recent of these battles). Still, the game interface helps more than hurts.
Re:coded recycles most of its soundtrack from its predecessors, although there are some original tracks that stand out, such as the digital-sounding pieces that play whenever the player enters a digital version of the various worlds. The voice acting is on par with the rest of the franchise, as well, and in the end, despite the recycling, the aurals do more good for the game than bad.
The graphics are very similar to those used in 358/2 Days, which are some of the best on the Nintendo DS in spite of some pixilation at times, and some players may find issue with the static CG portraits used during some cutscenes.
Finally, playing time ranges from ten to twenty hours, and obtaining one hundred percent completion naturally takes more. In the end, Kingdom Hearts Re:coded provides a solid experience for the most part, what with its varied game mechanics, tight control, decent narrative, nice aurals, and superb graphics. Those that can look past the recycled content and series enthusiasts will likely enjoy the game.
+Solid mechanics with plenty variety.
+Good voice acting.
-Most bosses have multiple forms.
-Some long periods without save opportunities.
The Bottom Line:
A good spinoff.
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours