This game undeniably caters to existing fans of Kingdom Hearts, and those people will get the most out of Chain of Memories.
- Unique Kingdom Hearts crossover universe
- Plenty of Disney worlds to explore
- Ties together Kingdom Hearts and its eventual sequel.
- Real-time card-based battle system can be unwieldy
- Locations are recycled from first game.
What made the original Kingdom Hearts for the PlayStation 2 so endearing was not so much its action gameplay, but more the fascinating world it created using Final Fantasy and Disney characters. In a lot of ways, the same can be said for Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. While the real-time card-battling system has its issues and the exploration elements cross a lot of familiar ground, Chain of Memories still creates an interesting place where Disney worlds and Final Fantasy cameo appearances work together well. This game is clearly aimed at hooking existing fans of the developing Kingdom Hearts series, and those fans will get the most value out of Chain of Memories.
The fan focus is evident right off the bat, as Chain of Memories picks up immediately where the original Kingdom Hearts left off. Our spiky-haired protagonist, Sora, is wandering a land of open fields together with his fast companions, Donald Duck and Goofy. They end up drawn to the gates of a great castle, where they are confronted by an enigmatic robed and cowled figure speaking in riddles. It turns out that the trio has become trapped in a place called Castle Oblivion, where simple cards adopt special properties. It's evident that nefarious business is afoot, but the band of heroes has no choice but to explore the castle in an effort to find King Mickey and Sora's friend Riku. And there's an added twist: The worlds you'll visit and the familiar characters you'll meet are all drawn from Sora's memories. His memory is being manipulated by a group known as the Organization, a clan of mysterious folk that seems to be intent on guiding Sora and his friends to accomplish some dark purpose. The events in this game are meant to tie together the stories from the original Kingdom Hearts and its eventual PlayStation 2 sequel, making it a Kingdom Hearts 1.5 of sorts.
You'll be controlling Sora alone on his adventure, because whenever he enters a new world by means of a set of special cards, Goofy and Donald are separated from him. Moving from floor to floor in Castle Oblivion is accomplished by clearing the various worlds, which are essentially the same Disney worlds you might have visited in Kingdom Hearts. The desert city of Agrabah from Aladdin is here, as well as ghostly Halloween Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Winnie the Pooh's sleepy 100 Acre Wood, and more. You won't be visiting any new Disney locations or very many original areas, which might be disappointing for those who hoped for new places to explore. The worlds are all segmented into a series of small, interconnected rooms. You move from room to room by unlocking doors with cards that you'll find in the field, pick up from enemies, or gain from special encounters or events. You can jump and swing your keyblade in the field; your blade can strike objects to open them, allow you to interact with doors, or let you hit an enemy for an initiative attack. The rooms are typically filled with foes (called the Heartless) that will roam the area, and while you can avoid them if you wish, getting the first attack nets you a good battle advantage.
Combat features both action elements as well as the card-battling aspect. When you first begin your enemy encounters, you'll be dropped into a fixed battle area where you'll be able to run back and forth, jump, and roll to maneuver around monsters. Any action you take, however, is governed by the cards in your current deck, which are arranged in a set order (by you, outside of battle) and appear at the bottom left of your screen. You'll be able to see four cards in your hand at any one time, and different cards are used for melee attacks, magic spells, items, and summoned characters. You usually play the cards one at a time, though you can group more for a combo attack. Each card has a number on it, from zero to nine. Your enemies will also use cards to attack, so the trick here is that when you match cards with enemies, the largest value attack will come out on top. For example, if you use an eight card against an enemy that uses a five card, the enemy will stagger and you'll successfully strike them. Zero cards are special in that, if you use them after an enemy has started its attack, the card will negate that attack. Once you've run out of cards, you can reshuffle your deck and start right over again. The more you have to shuffle your deck, the longer it will take each time you have to do it. You'll also be vulnerable while you're shuffling.