For fans of Square-Enix and Disney’s Kingdom Hearts franchise, the wait for the third main installment has been nothing more than agonizing, with an entire console generation having passed since the original release of Kingdom Hearts II on the Sony PlayStation 2. Since then, the developers have been content with churning out gaiden games, prequels, and whatnot, among these being the Japan-only browser game Kingdom Hearts χ [chi], which is a prequel allegedly occurring a century before the mainline games. The game would see an updated rerelease to mobile devices entitled Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ, which provides a worthwhile experience despite being a free game.
χ contains a linear and methodical structure composed of missions that contain three objectives rewarding the player if they fulfill them, each mission requiring a certain amount of AP to take on, with the AP system limiting gameplay yet recovering at a rate of one per three minutes. Each mission has a primary objective to take out a target monster or set of monsters, after which the mission is considered accomplished, and the player receives rewards and collected materials and treasures afterward, with experience known as Lux and the franchise’s currency Munny rewarded as well, the following story mission unlocked too.
Players begin battle within missions by contacting an enemy, with a “caution” notice indicating that the enemy will get to go first, but otherwise, the player’s turn always comes before the enemy’s. χ utilizes a turn-based variation on the series’ trademark Keyblade combat, with the player outside battle equipping up to five medals with three different types: power, magic, and speed, with a rochambeau weakness pattern where power beats speed, speed beats magic, and magic beats power, adding some strategy to battle. To attack, the player touches an enemy to attack it singularly, or swipes the screen to attack all enemies at once with a weaker assault.
Before a mission, the player selects one of many “friend” medals to accompany the maximum of five (depending upon a Keyblade’s level increased through materials obtained from missions), with a potential maximum of six medals, the friend medal following the other medals in sequential attack order. Rather than normally attack with a medal, however, the player can drag one across the screen to execute a special ability that consumes a certain number of gauge levels, the gauge building up with normal attacks and defeated enemies. Once the player has used all their medals, the enemies take their turn.
If the enemy defeats the player, they can leave the mission, with consumed AP not being refunded, or spending a hundred jewels, obtained through special daily missions and logins, to revive with full HP and the Keyblade’s ability gauged maxed out. Lux from defeating enemies gradually increases levels, in which case AP recovers fully, and the player obtains Avatar Coins (sometimes gained from fulfilling additional mission objectives), which they can use with several garment grids to acquire useless cosmetic items or increased maximum HP, AP, and Keyblade cost. Battle tends to be over quickly, and aside from the nonrefundable AP if the player is defeated and potential to run out of jewels with constant revivals, one of the main draws.
χ's aforementioned linear structure serves it well, with no question on how to advance the main storyline, although playing requires an internet connection, sure to disappoint those that wish to play in other places without Wi-Fi hotspots.
Perhaps the game’s weakest link is its story, with plenty of recycled moments from the mainline Kingdom Hearts titles and strikes against it being a prequels such as the lack of an age difference with characters in the worlds based on specific Disney films, with little original plotline, at that, which only makes itself known towards the end of the available missions. The primary plot is also unresolved in North America, with players needing to wait for some time before a subsequent update adds mission. In the end, χ is not to be played for its narrative.
Al Gore would definitely honor the Kingdom Hearts series for its propensity to recycle music from prior games, and χ continues this trend, with about 99% of the soundtrack having appeared from its predecessors, although the tracks are by no means bad.
The visual style is actually pretty good, strictly being two-dimensional, the art direction for the most part being faithful to that in other games, with perhaps one of few graphical blemishes being the appearance of stat afflictions upon the player’s character before the enemy actually executes said status-inflicting attack.
Finally, the game runs for a total of 475 story missions that take a few minutes each, with plenty of sidequests and extras such as fulfilling every mission’s objectives sure to keep players occupied for the indefinite future.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is for the most part a solid prequel title that hits most of the right notes, particularly regarding its solid turn-based variant on the franchise’s signature Keyblade battles, great control, pleasant visuals, and plentiful lasting appeal, although there are issues that could have been resolved such as the need to have an internet connection at all times regardless of downloaded status, the restriction the AP system has on playing time, and the rehashed storyline and music. The main storyline as of writing hasn’t been officially been resolved, with little indication as to when it will be in the future.
+Nice turn-based variant on Keyblade combat.
+Pleasant visual style.
+Mission objectives add plenty lasting appeal.
-Requires internet connection.
-Restricted playtime due to AP.
The Bottom Line:
A good time-killer.
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Playing Time: 475 Story Missions