There are probably very few people who have come into contact with the Kingdom Hearts series and are not fans. I was one of those fortunate enough to get swept up in the original series on PlayStation 2 and have been waiting for the third title anxiously. I know I am not alone in playing the various spin-offs and back-stories that have been released after Kingdom Hearts II. There have been good ones and bad ones to date. With Kingdom Hearts Re:coded falling somewhere in the middle.
The story begins with a rather lengthy cut-scene which recycles “Simple and Clean,” the theme song from the original performed by Hikaru Utada. Normally I would have liked this inclusion but somehow I got the feeling that I would be replaying the same game… Well yes, but no as well. Jiminy Cricket is reviewing his journals of the past two games. After the events of Chain of Memories/Re:Chained, a weird message has popped up in the journal. Not only that but after Chip and Dale digitalized the journal they found weird red and black “blox” plaguing the memory world. Mickey cannot go in and investigate so he “re-codes” a digital version of Sora to do the dirty work for him. The re-coding process is basically the “Station of Awakening” portion of the first game with the stained glass circles which serves as the tutorial. While this is carried out in the same exact way as the first game, Sora is immediately able to use the key blade.
Once in this world, it’s pretty much graphically faithful to the world in the original games. A large difference; those “blox” which are pretty much everywhere… You can break them to reveal “prizes” which are HP bubbles most of the time. There are special blox with stars on them which contain potions and whatnot. One of the major differences are the missions, which are a little lacking comparatively to other titles in the series. On Destiny Islands it was just a matter of talking to three people. A cloaked figure led me through a glitch in the memory, which required me to destroy all the bugs in a simple room. This will fix the glitch, therefore the memory, and will fix the world. Not all of the bugs need to be dead to fix the level though, which I am not sure whether that is a glitch or not.
The graphics of this game really impressed me. Pushing way beyond most games on the DS, Re:coded excels and faithfully recreates the PlayStation 2 experience. Control wise, there was awkwardness that I really could not ignore. Like normal you move your character with the directional pad, but the camera moves with the right shoulder button. That would be fine and good if the left shoulder button did the same, but it does not. This makes the camera hard to control and half the time you will not even bother trying to adjust it because of the hassle.
Cut-scenes are well recreated when you come across them in the game, but most of the time the characters will be sort of stop-motion when they talk. The bottom screen of the DS serves as the map. It will give you the location, info about the location and a simple graphical representation of the location as in most maps. The only time this changes is for leveling up, which is engineered with a lot more hassle than it should be. When it is time to level up you will receive a level-up chip which gets placed into the stat matrix. This is not automatic and you have to place them yourself. This brings out the puzzle-ish nature to the game. Place chips in the right place and you can level up multiple times in one shot. Level-up chips are not the only chips you can find in the game. There are different skill chips and even blank chips that can be placed in the matrix. This part of the game seems pretty trivial as most other parts of the game seem dumbed down for the casual gamer.
As far as the battle system… it is basically more or less much of the same old same old. They did change some things which left me baffled. Selecting your attack or cure (which are first available to you) are as simple as pressing a button. It will alternate between the two types of attack in a back and forth type of motion. I didn’t really like that I could defeat enemies by button mashing. Although this improves further into the game, it is quite a bit further. You can lock onto targets, and defeating enemies fills a clock gauge in the corner of the screen. Filling this will gain you a level on the clock ability tree, and will take you to the next tier. Fill the tier and then it will take only one more fill of the clock gauge to unlock a finisher move. This is all a little repetitive and the ability tree feels unnecessary as it is all automated and you don’t really do anything but keep on attacking.
The worst part of the game is the blox. I understand that they are plaguing the world and all, but the boss battle I encountered was a little ridiculous. All though it begins in a lot of the same way as the first game, it ends up with you fighting some angry cubes. Cubes? Really? They were pretty aggressive too. They make sense in the world, but they were a bit annoying when by themselves and flying at you.
Basically, although this game is made to tie up loose ends to make everything completely clear before we head into the third real installment, it is basically not worth playing through. I would say that to a beginner who has never played the first title, this may be an option if you can not find the PlayStation 2 version. If you can, then do not even bother. For those who have followed the Kingdom Hearts series faithfully, this seems like more insult to injury and adds very little as well as story.
[Images are from GamePress.com]