Mark Marrow
13 Jan, 2005

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories Review

GBA Review | PALGN gets a hold of SquareEnix and Disney’s latest combined epic adventure.
You’d think that a hybrid of Final Fantasy and Disney would just fail miserably, wouldn’t you? The two don’t sound right together, it’s like mixing tomato sauce with ice cream. Sure the idea sounds fascinating, but there’s no way the two could go together successfully, right? Well Square-Enix proved that theory utterly wrong when they produced one of the most beautiful, exciting and enjoyable action/adventure RPG titles to ever grace the PS2 console. That game was Kingdom Hearts. Fans of the franchise will be glad to hear that much of that spectacular formula, created in the original Kingdom Hearts title, has remained in tack, however, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories brings something new to the table, real-time card-based fights. Maybe not as exciting as the action RPG element of the original, but we can safely assure gamers that Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories shows off enough charm and spark that makes this handheld incarnation just as addictive as it’s console brother.

You’ll find what you’ve forgotten

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is the bridge between the first Kingdom Hearts title and the upcoming sequel. The game takes off directly after the ending off the first game, where Sora is still searching for Riku and sidekicks Donald and Goofy are still searching for King Mickey. Soon enough Sora and gang stumble across a mysterious castle called Castle Oblivion, where they’ve been told that they will find what they’ve lost.

Sora and the gang quickly find themselves stuck in the castle and, shortly after, are met by a mysterious black-hooded figure that explains to them that Castle Oblivion drains the memories of those who wander into its walls and that the castle functions off cards. However, these aren’t your ordinary pack of cards, these cards hold amazing power that allows Sora and friends to travel to past worlds they’ve visited and meet past friends, all of which that has been drained from Sora’s memories.

Castle Oblivion. What a scary place.

Castle Oblivion. What a scary place.
As explained earlier, Sora’s adventure will be focused around his past adventure from the original Kingdom Hearts, so gamers looking for new locations might be disappointed. Sora will revisit the likes of Winnie the Pooh's sleepy 100-Acre Wood, Captain Hook's pirate ship from Peter Pan, The Nightmare Before Christmas's Halloweentown and even Aladdin’s Agrabah – all of which look as remarkable as the next. Each world Sora visits is broken down into separate rooms that connect to one another to create the existing world. Gamers will move from room to room by picking up world cards dropped by enemies met in battle. The intriguing side of these card-based rooms is that, if you please, you can determine whether or not the next room will be filled with powerful enemies, weak enemies, sleeping enemies or even a save spot. Another aspect of the card-based rooms is that gamers won’t be able to proceed if they don’t have a certain class of cards or the value of the card doesn’t equal the amount required to unlock the door, which means gamers will have to go back and fight more enemies until receiving the correct card to proceed.

Go Go Power-card!

As gamers are told within the first five minutes of the game, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is based heavily on the concept of cards. Card-based battles, card-based worlds and card-based progression. Before readers come to the conclusion of this game being something similar to Yu-Gi-Oh, or something similar that focuses heavily on cards, will be sadly mistaken. Honestly, not a lot has changed from the original fighting formula. Battles will still remain real-time(similar to Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles) and gamers will still have the opportunity to choose from physical attacks, magic and special powers. In addition though, rather than hacking away mindlessly at the enemy, gamers must now use a deck of cards to access their abilities and moves. When you run out of cards you must quickly recharge your deck by holding down the attack button. This causes a deck meter to begin filling up - once it's full, your deck is replenished and you can continue attacking.

The new battle system is an astonishing concept that expands the level of strategy required for this game greatly. Gamers will now have to watch the battle closely as they must time and plan their attacks to succeed in battle. Each card in your deck will have it’s own numeric value that determines it’s priority, a feature used when battling against your enemy’s cards. You see, the higher the value of the card the more likely you’ll make a successful hit without your card been broken by your enemy’s cards. However, if your card has a lower numeric number than your enemy’s card, then you’ll suffer something called a card break, where your card will be broken and you’ll remained stunned for several seconds, which leaves you vulnerable to attacks. Don’t worry though, card breaks can also be dealt to enemies, if timed correctly. Battles have been crafted into an amazingly successful array of action and strategic fighting where gamers must pay close attention to their enemies and their own cards to successfully come out the victor.

Gamers will only be able to hold a certain amount of cards at a time, all of which depends on Sora’s current level, and, during battles, will be able to see four cards in your hand at one time at the bottom left-hand side of your screen. This allows gamers to quickly browse through their deck during battle to find a certain card that will cause a successful card break or to find whatever card they desire. Despite cards only dishing out a single attack each time, gamers will however be able to combine up to three cards to form deadly combos. As you progress through the game, Sora will learn amazing combos that dish out remarkable damage to the enemy or others that come to your advantage – such as combining two heal cards and a stop card that will cause you to regain a sufficient amount of health whilst preventing your enemy from moving. The card-based battle concept is an intriguing idea that has payed off quite nicely, forming some interesting and more intense battles than Kingdom Hearts.

Sora battling some sort of sea creatures

Sora battling some sort of sea creatures
The battles themselves are taken place on a different screen than the level exploration, and can be avoided entirely by not running into enemies. In similar style to Paper Mario 2, when gamers are confronted by enemies in the wild you can avoid them, engage them, or strike first. Engaging in combat is simple – bump into them – however if you’re seeking the extra advantage you can easily smack them with the attack button. The actual areas themselves are shown from an isometric perspective, and seem to be random in design. Assuring a new backdrop for every battle.

Once again, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories allows Sora to collect various little baubles dropped by the enemies, including HP and experience points. Experience points gathered will allow gamers to expand on Sora’s abilities as you wish. Sora will be able to level up in one of three categories: Hit Points, Card Points, and Stock. Hit Points will increase Sora’s health, Card Points will increase the number of cards Sora can use in battle, whilst Stock points provides Sora with the ability to unleash more powerful special attacks by stocking his cards – also known as card-combos.

A Stunning Performance

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is amazingly strong game that, like it’s console original, has an amazing in-depth story that keeps gamers excited at each turn. Gamers will find themselves going down familiar roads, but will also uncover new information about the Kingdom Hearts universe as they proceed. Once completion of the main-story, there’s also an unlockable secondary quest, which will allow gamers to go through the Castle with another character, and there’s also a verus mode, which allows two players to battle it out with their characters.

In typically Square-Enix fashion, they’ve absolutely outdone themselves in terms of the game’s graphic and audio side of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Most of the levels look amazing and look very similar to the actual Disney locations. Character sprites are large, detailed and posses some nice animations. Each character is well defined. The game also features some extraordinary cinematics that liven up the game completely and show off some of the best visuals witnessed for the handheld console, looking very PS1-PS2ish.

A dark-hooded figure approaches Sora

A dark-hooded figure approaches Sora
The audio is no different, top-notch in all areas. Gamers will recognise some familiar tracks from both the Disney and Final Fantasy world, and some new tracks added here and there. The quality of the music is on track and the sound effects all work perfectly well for the GBA.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is amazing title that kicks off the New Year with a bang. Fans of the franchise will most likely eat this title up, as it’s the perfect substitute to hold you off until the release of Kingdom Hearts II. The series took a brave step in creating a new formula of style and presentation, and we can admit, that the franchise has come out the better. The card-based world is an intriguing concept that worked exceptionally well and has produced one of the freshest GBA titles to hit the handheld console for quite some time now. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a great choice for all Kingdom Hearts fans, Square fans, Disney fans and anyone who enjoys action/RPGs, since this game takes a slice of success out of all areas. A game with several problems here and there, but still highly recommended for GBA owners.
The Score
I enjoyed my experience with Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and I was a little disappointed when I finished it, because I wanted more. A great game that shouldn’t be passed up by any Kingdom Hearts fan. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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9 years ago
I havn't even seen a copy of it anywhere, I walked all over the shops no copies. Oh well it looks like it's worth a buy, thanks for the review I'll keep trying. icon_smile.gif

UPDATE: I bought it, at Myer for $59.
9 years ago
i thought it was really good. I only borrowed it off my cousin and got really pissed off when i got stuck. But all and all, i love it!
9 years ago
When i played this I was amazed! I didn't know that the GBA could handle those amazing cutscenes! I still think it looks a lot like PS2 graphics rather than in between
9 years ago
This article in a few places wrote
PALGN gets a hold of Sqaure-Enix’s and Disney’s latest combined epic adventure.
Typo/Spelling mistake like that looks quite bad on the main page....
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