Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Jupiter
Genre: Action RPG
Format: Cartridge
Released: US 12/07/04
Japan 11/11/04

Graphics: 90%
Sound: 75%
Gameplay: 85%
Control: 90%
Story: 80%
Overall: 83%
Reviews Grading Scale
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Using magic in battle.
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Many old friends return.
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As well as old enemies...
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...along with all-new faces.
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Michaël Gallant
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
Michaël Gallant

After the relatively surprising popularity of Kingdom Hearts for the PlayStation 2, the Square Enix/Disney combination is giving the fans more of Sora, Donald and Goofy on the GBA. After the cliffhanger ending of the first game, a direct sequel was eagerly awaited by Kingdom Hearts fans. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is there to give the fans what they've been waiting for so long.

As soon as you start your game, you'll be astonished by the beauty of the cinematics. A special chipset was inserted into the game's cartridge to allow it to run high-quality cut scenes that will simply blow you away. Although they're not as good as PS2 graphics, they're still a first on a handheld console, and let me say that they are very impressive for a GBA game. The in-games graphics are on-par with some older GBA games, however. Since you'll mostly revisit places you've been to in Kingdom Hearts, those who played the game will see the similarities between the PS2 and GBA versions of the different worlds you go to.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Square Enix decided to do things quite differently this time around. Since a traditional action/RPG would be a little too much for the GBA to handle, they decided to create Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories with a card-based battle system. Actually, the entire game is based on different cards you'll acquire on your quest. The battle system can be a little complicated at first, like most card-based battle systems.

You start off with a standard deck, mostly composed of regular Keyblades that you'll be able to use in battle. Of course, you'll be able to customize your deck at will once you gain new keyblades, magic, and even summons. You can also chain different cards together to create powerful combos or more powerful magic attacks. You can set up to 3 cards for a combo attack. For example, stocking 3 Cure magic cards will create a powerful healing spell (Curaga) that will almost fully heal your HP, just like stocking 3 Fire cards will create a powerful fire burst (Firaga). Of course, you can also perform different moves that you will unlock in the game by combining different type of cards together.

Now, what happens if you and the enemy use a card at the same time? The card with the higher value breaks the other card, and a card break happens. If both cards are of the same value, then both cards break. The '0' card is the most powerful since it can break every card, but you'll need to use it after the enemy's card in order for it to be effective. Otherwise, any cards can break a '0' card, so use them carefully.

Out of battle, the worlds are a bit different than in Kingdom Hearts. Each world is made up of 'rooms.' The different rooms you go to in the various worlds are all randomly generated. This can create some confusion when you try revisiting worlds you've been to before, since the rooms will not be the same anymore. Some people like this little feature while some others hate it.

In order to continue with the story, you'll need to unlock different doors using Map Cards. Those map cards are found every time you complete a battle, and vary in value from 0-9. Of course, not all doors bring up new story elements. The 'special' doors require specific map cards to open, such as the 'Key of Beginning,' 'Key of Guidance,' and 'Key to Truth'. Each of these keys will allow you to advance in the story and eventually complete the world and move on to the next level. Every time you complete a world, new ones will become available for you to explore, in no particular order.

As you fight, you'll gain levels and be left with a choice each time you gain one: Whether to increase your HP or your Card Power (CP). You can either boost your HP by 15 points or boost your CP by 25, the latter allowing you to put more cards in your deck.

The menu is very simple to navigate and is mostly based on the model from the first game. Of course, you'll mostly use the Deck menu, where you'll be able to fully customize your deck. Obviously, you can't just equip every card you have in your inventory. The CP is what allows you to equip cards. The more CP you have, the more cards you can equip. Each card has a different number varying from 10 to 90 CP. The more powerful the card, the more CP it consumes in your deck. The other menu options contain things such as the World Cards you've been to so far, the Map Cards you have, and your Status. A Quick Save option is also available if you quickly need to leave and can't find a save point nearby. This is very useful for people who can't play for a long period of time straight. The quick save will be erased as soon as you reload your file, so don't forget to save again once you've reloaded.

As for the music, most of the tracks are pulled directly from the original Kingdom Hearts game, only in MIDI format. While they still sound very nice, they just can't be as good as on the PS2, due to the limited size of the GBA cartridge. Still, the MIDI version of the theme song is very good, and as touching as it was in the first game.

As far as story is concerned, it is a direct continuation of the original Kingdom Hearts. Therefore, those of you who did not play the first game might get confused very quickly. You start right where the first one ended and quickly find yourself looking upon a strange castle where you will be welcomed by an enigmatic hooded man. Some of the mysteries that were brought up in the first game are going to be solved, although the new mysteries easily out-number the solved ones. The game is very solid story-wise, but you'll be wanting more when you reach the end.

On the replay value side, the game has some side-quests to be completed. Although they are not as numerous as in the first game, once you finish Sora's quest, you unlock a new mode that will let you play through the entire game again using Riku. The story is completely different, so die-hard fans of the series will definitely want to play this special mode. Although it is slightly different than the main story mode, the basics remain the same in battle and on the map.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a very solid game for the GBA. Fans of the first game, especially those wanting to know more about the fate of the characters, will definitely want a copy of Chain of Memories, even if that means buying a GameBoy Advance. The combat system is innovative, the gameplay and battle system are fairly easy to get used to, and the story really sets the table for Kingdom Hearts 2. With an average length of around 15 hours of gameplay and a special mode to unlock, you are sure to spend a lot of time playing this game.


© 2003-2004 SQUARE ENIX CO. LTD.; Disney Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

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