|Platform:||Game Boy Advance|
|Release:|| Q4 '04
Seeing the success of Kingdom Hearts, and listening to statements of Square Enix representatives, it was obvious that one of the most successful original games in recent company history would eventually get a sequel. While negotiations with Disney took longer than many observers expected, a PlayStation 2-based sequel to the popular action RPG was regarded as a given. However, the company managed to surprise the gaming community with its announcement of two sequels, one of them being Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, during last year's pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference.
Unlike its big PlayStation 2 cousin, Kingdom Hearts II, Chain of Memories is not developed exclusively by Square Enix's first production team, but rather jointly with the handheld specialists at Jupiter, whose long track record includes the two Sakura Taisen GB games, Pokemon Pinball, and Disney Sports - Motor Cross. From Square Enix's side, series mastermind, director and character designer Tetsuya Nomura, co-producers Shinji Hashimoto (Final Fantasy IX, Kingdom Hearts) and Yoshinori Kitase (Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X, X-2, Kingdom Hearts), battle director Yuuichi Kanemori (Parasite Eve 2, Kingdom Hearts) and scenario writer Daisuke Watanabe (Final Fantasy X, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy X-2) are overseeing the development.
The game's presentation will imitate its PlayStation 2 cousins in terms of presentation, as the opening sequence will include a vocal main theme and voice acting. Kingdom Hearts' CG models will be entirely turned into 2D sprites to create a visually appealing experience on Nintendo's handheld. All the Disney worlds that appeared in Kingdom Hearts will be available in Chain of Memories with their respective heroes and villains as well.
Director Tetsuya Nomura called the game's main theme "fragmented memories." Taking place directly after the events of Kingdom Hearts, Sora is standing in the middle of a crossing surrounded by grasslands. Looking up to the sky and stars above him, he thinks of his friends. From a distant darkness, a man comes walking towards him, telling him that the one thing he needs lies ahead, and to retrieve it he has to lose something dear to him. After the man - who seems to head an entire group of people dressed in black - vanishes in front of Sora, only one road remains, leading to the Castle of Oblivion. Inside, fragmented memories in cards are roaming the large structure, and the protagonist runs into familiar faces. The returning Final Fantasy characters (Aeris, Leon/Squall, Yuffie), however, do not recall having met a person named Sora before. Once again in control of the prequel's protagonist and aided by Disney and Final Fantasy characters, players will begin their new adventure in this hostile environment full of fragmented memories and, of course, Heartless.
An original character named Axel will play a major role in Chain of Memories, as well as Kingdom Hearts II. It remains to be seen whether the black-clad, red-haired man will be friend or foe.
Battle-wise, a new card battle system has taken the place of the classic action RPG system featured in the first game. During battle your deck of cards will be shown in the lower-left corner of the screen. Select a card and Sora will execute the corresponding action. If the number shown on your card is higher than the number on an enemy's card, a card break will occur, resulting in the foe being unable to move. In case of the opposite situation, the player will take damage. If you run out of cards, you will have to wait until the reload gauge fills up and your cards are replenished. If the player manages to stack three keyblade cards on top of each other, Sora will gain various abilities, depending on the total value shown on the three cards. In addition to item and magic cards, there are other cards. The Bandit Card, for instance, will allow Sora to perform a combo finish.
Cards can also be used to call upon your friends to aid you in battle. While Goofy will appear and fight alongside Sora, Cloud or Simba will appear in his stead. Defeating an enemy will result in it dropping various items.
Sora still has a repertoire of moves at his disposal, such as holding, jumping, climbing or destroying barrels. A map will ensure players can keep track of where they are heading. To move to a new field map, Sora has to walk through a door and use the so-called room creation. Room creation requires the player to be in the possession of the right card in order to proceed. Even a previously visited map can look different on your second visit. To find special treasures and gimmicks, it might be necessary to enter a level several times. Before entering a new level, players can manage the cards they have obtained in the previous level and customize their card decks.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories will be available in Japan on November 11th, with a US version following sometime later this year.