Kingdom Hearts II was released in North America in March of 2006. Since then there's been two updated re-releases, a prequel, and an interquel. Now, finally, we get a sequel that moves the story forward chronologically. That sequel is Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. (Which is actually a remake of the episodic Kingdom Hearts coded which came out in Japan for mobile phones. Phew!) The question is, was it worth the wait?
If you've played a Kingdom Hearts game before, you pretty much know what to expect from the combat. You press A a whole bunch to hit enemies, and you jump and dodge and stuff. Same old song and dance. The difference with Re:coded comes more in the form of how you get to the hitting enemies and jumping and dodging and stuff. Instead of a traditional leveling system, you collect chips that you equip into your Stat Matrix. These chips will raise your strength, defense, resistance to elements, and even level you up depending on what type they are. But there's more than one way to equip them. The Stat Matrix has a funky layout, and depending on where you install the chips into your Stat Matrix, you can unlock abilities, double the chip's powers or add another Command slot.
Commands are the other main change in Re:coded's gameplay. In the PS2 KH games, you were able to access any of your spells or items at any time. With Re:coded's Command Matrix, you're only able to carry so many with you into battle at a time. In the Command Matrix, you have several slots. In each slot you have two sub-slots that can be equipped with items, spells or abilities. You can then combine these two commands into a more powerful command after leveling them up in battle. The Command and Stat Matrixes both work really well, and filling them out completely can be super-addicting. In a regular playthrough of the game you probably won't come close to filling out the Stat Matrix, and the possible combinations are endless.
And then there's the Clock System. Next to your health bar you have a Clock Gauge that fills up when you attack enemies. When it fills up all the way, it goes to the next level and you gain access to another one of your currently equipped Keyblade's abilities. You have a little bit of freedom in deciding which ability to access next, but for the most part it's all automatic and you won't worry about it once you've decided on your main setup.
Other than the combat, there are a couple of other gameplay changes that you'll encounter in some of the worlds. One has you going through a side-scrolling level. This works fine, but it's not particularly fun or interesting. The other is a behind the back rail shooter in the style of Sin and Punishment. These levels are a ton of fun, but they get old quickly. There's also a world where every time you attack in enemy you're transported to a turn-based RPG battle. You can time a button press before your attack lands and deal out double damage and the same goes for defending- think Paper Mario.
In terms of how long the game is, I beat it in about 13 hours. However, there are challenge rooms that you can go back to in each world and play through, earning more chips for your Stat Matrix. I barely touched these, but they're great for a quick pick-up-and-play Nintendo DS funtime.
Now, let's face it: If you have any intention of buying this game, the main factor for you is the story. So how's the story?
The game starts out with Jiminy Cricket looking through his blank journal from the first game. During the events of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, it was erased, and only one line of writing remained: “Thank Namine.” But now, there's ANOTHER PAGE OF WRITING! And no one knows who wrote it. So Jiminy, Mickey and the gang hook the journal up to their supercomputer, digitize its contents and decide to take a look. Even though the writing's gone, the information is still there, albeit with a ton of glitches. Chip and Dale use their brilliant rodent minds to create a digital Sora that Mickey and the boys can use to investigate the source of the glitches.
But this digital Sora has absolutely no character development whatsoever. At the start of the game, he doesn't even question why his island is screwed up and the God of Mice is talking to him from the sky and telling him what to do. He simply agrees to do it based on the fact the Mickey is his friend. Keep in mind that at this point Mickey and Data Sora haven't even known each other for one minute yet. But they're friends, and friends look out for one another.
The way Data Sora, Mickey, Donald and Goofy react with one another doesn't feel natural at all. In the original Kingdom Hearts, when Sora met Donald and Goofy, they weren't pals right from the get-go. Sora and Donald fought. There was even a point in the game where Donald and Goofy left Sora. They let their experiences together form their friendship. But in Re:coded, their “friendship” forms their experiences. Sora's positivity towards these people he's never met is simply an easy way to keep the plot moving and get from Point A to Point B.
However, while the characters do some nonsensical crap that makes no sense, the events that happen can be pretty cool, especially towards the end. In fact, the final world almost made up for the problems I had with Sora. Saying more would be spoilery, but Data Sora's naivety actually plays a part in the final world and makes for a brilliant ending sequence. As a whole, the story doesn't have much impact on the overall Kingdom Hearts story (except for said ending sequence), but it's an enjoyable (if not convoluted) story.
This part BLEW MY MIIIIIIND!
If you like the Kingdom Hearts series, you're probably used to putting up with Sora, dumb quotes about light and all the rest of the games' corniness. Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is a fun and slightly different experience to tide over the wait for KH3DS and the inevitable KHIII. I wouldn't put it above 358/2 Days, and I haven't played Birth by Sleep, but at the end of the day Re:coded is another Kingdom Hearts game that if you're a fan of the series you'll enjoy either way.
Good review. It sounds like they did try to add some variety and mix up the gameplay a bit (including the side scrolling stuff and the S&P-style shooter), but it's too bad they didn't hold your interest for too long. It also seems like the kind of game that will appeal more to those who are already fans of the series, which I admit I am not.
I've never played a KH game but I kinda want to. However it seems a bit daunting with all of them(I hate spinoff games).
I hear rumblings of a HD KH1 and 2 down the line, so IDK.
OP, have you played KH:Chain of Memories on GBA? Or anyone here for that matter. If so, how was it?
Yeah, I definitely wouldn't just jump in randomly. You might be able to pick up 358/2 Days and understand it. You'd be in the dark about the significance of some of the events, but so is Roxas (the main character) so it would still work out. Definitely start with KH1 though if you could.
I played Chain of Memories, but I never actually beat it. The combat system was a little less action-oriented than I would have liked. It's a really significant game story-wise. I've also heard that the PS2 remake of it is pretty good. I should go back and play it again.
EDIT: Oh, and TriforceBun's post in the game character thread reminded me that Mickey's new voice actor sucks. He's not nearly high-pitched enough. Ironically, the last recording of the other guy's voice before he passed away was KH: 358/2 Days.