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CONSOLE: PlayStation 2 DEVELOPER: Square Enix PUBLISHER: Square Enix
RELEASE DATE (NA): March 28, 2017 GENRE: Action-RPG; Card Collector
// review by Meow

The Kingdom Heart of the Cards is blight!

The oft-forgotten sequel to Kingdom Hearts, originally for the Game Boy Advance, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories is the port of the PS3 version of the port of the PS2 remake of Chain of Memories, using graphical assets from Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II to help make up its worlds.

Set shortly after the ending of Kingdom Hearts, Sora, Goofy, and Donald clumsily chase Pluto until they're met with a shadowy figure that invites them into Castle Oblivion, a twisted castle inside of a dark void that reportedly takes away one's memories and stuffs them into collectible trading cards. We have our game's gimmick, ladies n' gents! Throughout the story, Sora has hit puberty hard, and he encounters the likes of Organization XIII, a group of mysterious ne'er-do-wells that have some...plot of some sort. The main sect of them in the castle plan on making Sora their servant by messing with his memories, making him think only of serving Namine, a mysterious little girl with the power to alter specifically Sora's memories, including the memories of others that include Sora in some way. Eventually, Axel of the organization's ranks turns on those who seek to control Sora since they had shown that they sought to control the organization with Sora at their disposal, and eventually we're met with a clone of Riku, but that's not too terribly important. Eventually Sora saves the day, and then he's put into a pod for a year or so to regain the memories that were stolen from him and BAM!!, Kingdom Hearts II.

The gameplay of this game is a strange fusion of RPG elements, collectible card game mechanics, and beat-em-up combat that really doesn't work very well in my opinion. The deal is, you have a card per each attack. You want to cast fire? You gotta have a fire card to do it. Swing your keyblade? Card. About the only thing you do without cards is jump and dodge-roll. You can even combine three cards to make a "sleight" in battle to perform better moves, as well as special moves, such as combining three Fire cards to cast Firaga, or a Fire and two keyblades make a Fire Raid attack. This is all well and neat, but there's a major flaw. One major MAJOR flaw: the numbers on the cards.

Every card has a number, 0-9, and it matters the world to have the highest because if you don't, you will NEVER get an attack off EVER. You see, only ONE card can be in play from either you or any of the numerous enemies you can be within a battle. And like a game of stratego, the highest number wins. So if you start mindlessly mashing the attack button with a series of keyblade cards to do a combo, and your card just happens to be lower than the value of your opponents, then they're GOING to break you, even if you're on the opposite side of the battlefield. Because of this, it makes it where you may as well NEVER have a card below the value of 7, as most normal foes will have 6s, though the further into the game the higher the values their cards tend to get, making it where only 9s are your safe bet. Your only other option for getting good hits in battle is to combine cards for sleights since it will combine their values, but using cards in sleights will basically delete the first card used in these sleights for the rest of a battle, and if the battle drags on long enough (as they WILL by the latter half of the game), you can be stuck without cards. By the way, I forgot to mention: as you use cards, you'll eventually have to "reload" your deck which involves standing still and having the crap kicked out of you while you wait for the game to give you back your ability to use your cards again. The only way to restore sleighted cards is with certain item cards, which can't be restored until the battle is over no matter what. Something I'd like to note is that the cards with a value of 0 will break any card value, which is handy for when you face a boss that loves to spam high value sleights. Unfortunately, since it has a value of 0, it can literally be broken by anything. And here's the kicker: foes can ALWAYS break out of your combos, but you can NEVER break out of your opponents. Your opponent can nail you with a hit then spam a ton of 1s and you're just going to have to suck it up, no matter what value of card you have to beat theirs. So basically, you use a 0 value keyblade to try to smack your opponent, as well as break their attack, and they'll have no downtime, they'll turn around and immediately break you, which will cause you to be stunned for a moment, then they'll just wombo combo you until the game decides to be merciful. Oh, I just remembered, there is ONE way you can temporarily gain the ability to break out of being combo'd to death: you have to use a card that you get literally before the final boss. Meaning, you never get to use something that should just be a natural ability in this crappy system.

Now, to cover the RPG mechanics a bit, the game does have leveling up, where you collect experience... yes, collect, literally foes will drop EXP things, and you have to make a mad dash to collect them, or they'll disappear making your fighting them for naught. Upon leveling up, you'll get the choice to use your level up for three things: more HP, more CP, or new Sleights. HP is nice for staying alive, Sleights are freaking worthless, but if you get a lot of them, you'll eventually get Critical Frame which is how you can just cheese the rest of the game by freezing even BOSSES (including the final boss) and doing an incredible amount of damage to them. CP, as you may be wondering, is the value of cards you can hold in your deck. Your deck can always hold a maximum of 99 cards, but the only real limitation (other than simply not owning cards) is CP. The higher the value of a card, the higher the CP cost will be, with the exception of 0 which has the highest, just in case you still actually thought it was at all a good idea to have some. So if you want to have a deck of actually-worth-using 9s, you're going to want to pump a lot of levels into this. The game, however, offers a dirty trick to alleviate the pains of CP cost, and that's Premium Cards. Premium Cards always have the same value of a 1 card, basically reducing it to bargain prices. However (and this really screwed me over my first time playing) the premium cards DO NOT RELOAD. That's right, even if they're not used in a sleight, they will not reload unless you use certain item cards. Now, there's a stupid STUPID card that will allow you to temporarily gain the ability to reload premium cards, and all you have to do to get it is beat the game utterly 100% and know where to look for it. No, you can't New Game+ these cards either. So yes, it's utterly freaking worthless.


Characters doing THINGS!

Now, the final nail in the coffin with this system is the fact that getting the cards you need... is all up to RNG (Random Number Generation), so if you want all 9s of a specific card, you're going to be playing for a long time. If you're foolish enough to consider 100%-ing this game, you're going to be playing for a long time. If you're an idiot like me who decided to get platinum trophies for all the games in this series, you're going to be playing a VERY long time. And it's not going to be fun. Battles are an utter slog, money to purchase booster packs of cards to MAYBE get the stuff you want is incredibly hard to come by (enemies will never drop it normally, and you can only sometimes get it by bopping stuff in the environment), and there's just never any guaranteed way of getting nearly anything. As a result, the game comes off more of a chore to play, just an utter tedious slog, ultimately overstaying its welcome. At least, it does with Sora's story.

Upon completion of Sora's story mode, the game rewards you with what I like to call: Fun mode, a.k.a. Riku's Story. Riku's story takes place roughly around the same time as Sora's, but Riku's stuck in the basement of Castle Oblivion, fighting to make his way out, as well as to conquer the darkness that overtook him in the previous game. Riku's story plays fairly similarly to Sora's in the sense of how the levels are handled and you're playing an awful card game, but the RNG is out the window. Now, the game will provide a set card deck for you everywhere you go, so there's no tedious grinding, and it's more of an actual battle of knowing how to use these cards rather than having to grind for certain cards because the game is just giving you value 1 blizzards. Most of Riku's attacks are just normal attacks, though, but it's honestly fine. In contrast to Sora, Riku, upon leveling up, will be able to boost his HP, as well as ATTACK POWER?! WHY WAS THIS NOT IN SORA'S STORY?! That's right, Riku can actually GET STRONGER, unlike Sora who stays crappy and weak the entire game. Oh, and there are also Dark Points that you can invest levels into which is used for Riku's super form where he dons his suit of darkness from Kingdom Hearts, becoming faster, stronger, and over-all better. Even his dodge move is far improved. To activate this mode, you have to play your cards to intentionally break your opponent's attacks, as well as avoiding their attacks. Basically, get good.

Riku's story is a little simpler than Sora's, but his matters a bit more for his own character development. As I mentioned earlier, Riku is combating the darkness within him, tormented by the remnant of Ansem, the villain from the previous game, because he wants to retake Riku's body for his own. Mickey Mouse, however, ain't havin' none of that and helps defend Riku against the evil that wants to devour Riku once more. Together, they work to make their way out of the Realm of darkness, eventually meeting DiZ, a man with a personal vendetta against the Organization XIII. By the end of the game, Riku conquers Ansem, and takes off with Mickey to distract the organization from discovering what became of Sora so that his memories will be restored successfully.

Riku's story mode, thankfully, doesn't overstay its welcome, but after having to play through all of Sora's to get isn't really welcomed. I mean, yeah, if you could just play both, it will spoil the end of Sora's story, but honestly the whole game... I won't say should have used Riku's gameplay, but I'd have taken something more akin to Riku if I had to pick the lesser of two evils. They honestly should have just ditched the card game idea altogether.

Wrapping things up, getting the Platinum Trophy for this game is arguably one of the worst, if not THE worst, game to get all the trophies in. Not only do you have to rely on the game to FEEL like giving you what you need for 100%, but there are trophies for grinding to level 99 for both Sora AND Riku, which will tack on a disgusting amount of extra time, I believe over 50% more time for what it took me to beat the game as Riku to maxing his level. However, if trophies don't matter to you, then play this game on Beginner mode. There is NOTHING to gain from the harder difficulties as you might get with other games in the series, and the game plays dirtier the higher the difficulty. All in all, this game stunk.

BONUS: Why, yes, I HAVE played the GBA original. And no, it's not any better. In fact, I recall it being slightly worse. But the judgment is the same: Sora's story blows; Riku's story is the fun part. However, the game had 3D FMVs in it which was astounding for a portable game of the time. If for some absurd reason you still want this game, it's available on GBA, PS2, PS3 (as part of 1.5 HD ReMix Collection), and PS4 (as part of 1.5 + 2.5 HD ReMix Collection). Pretty sure the game is cheap on any platform, but I'd recommend one of the ReMix collections because you'll get a copy of the most excellent Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD with them.


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