Why Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories is worth playing
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories for the playstation2 is a side game in Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts series because it is not a numbered game. It also has a unique game play system that takes some getting used to. These two aspects of the game have dissuaded many gamers, including big Kingdom Hearts fans from playing this game.
In General, without giving away too much, the game occurs after the original Kingdom Hearts game and ends well before the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. It is about Sora and Riku's travels through Castle Oblivion, which Organization XIII has led them to. They are in separate parts of the castle, neither knowing the other is there, in fact you can only play as Riku after you have completed Sora's part of the game. This castle is special because it is controlled by cards. Each floor is different, representing a world Sora or Riku has already visited, depending on which card is used to get to the next level.
The battle system is based on cards as well. You only have a certain amount of cards allowed in your deck, depending on how many Card Points you have which are raised by leveling up, and the cards both have a type, like a regular attack card, a magic card or an item card, as well as a number between zero and nine. The higher the number the stronger the card, except zero breaks any number.
If the use of a new battle system, especially one as seemingly complex as the cards in Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, is causing you to hesitate giving it a chance, or if you tried and couldn't get the hang of it, maybe I can help. Being a die hard Kingdom Hearts fan there was no way I wasn't going to try this game when it came out, but at first it was very hard for me to get used to. I almost gave up quite a few times. However since then I have discovered ways to use the cards to my advantage after getting used to how they work. So, here are my suggestions for using the cards (Note: if you don't wish to get specific suggestions skip to the next part):1
- Stock up on higher numbered cards and trade in the lower ones at Moogle shops. I always kept all my highest attack cards in my deck and used the points I earned for trading in lower cards to buy new card packs in hopes of getting higher numbered cards.
- Keep magic to a minimum. I only really used cure, keeping 2 or 3 of those in my deck at all times but it might also be helpful to use magic that is effective against a certain opponent at some points. In general though, I found magic not so helpful.
- Use zero cards! Keep 3 or 4 in your deck and make the first one a shortcut card, keeping your regular higher attack cards before them. This way when an opponent uses a sleight (a stack of three cards added up all at once), instead of using up three of your cards to beat it, jump to your zero card and break the sleight easily.
- Make use of helpful enemy cards. Sometimes at the end of a battle the card will be one of an enemy and they have special abilities to help turn a fight in the players direction. Certain enemy cards can be very useful, my favorite being the Wyvern which if used right before reloading your stack of cards will keep the reload counter at one for a second time, letting you fight more before having to deal with long reloads.
- Learn sleights that seem helpful to you, the one I use most is the Trinity sleight which uses Donald and Goofy's help to blast a lot of damage to any enemies nearby.
The most important thing to remember when playing this game is to change your deck often until you find a set up that works well for you because the options are endless. Part of the fun is organizing your deck and having the freedom to customize it.
1 Please note that only when playing as Sora are you able to change the deck, Riku's deck is predetermined depending on the world, making it more difficult but since you will have had to beat Sora's part first, by then you should have a good enough grasp of the game play to make it through without too much difficulty.
While only a side story in the Kingdom Hearts series, I would argue that what happens is not just a small addition to the entire story but rather a pretty big piece of the puzzle. Without playing this game it is very hard to go from playing Kingdom Hearts to Kingdom Hearts II because the events of Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories come right between them, bridging most of the time gap.
(SPOILER ALERT: Please note that for anyone who has not played not only Re: Chain of Memories but also Kingdom Hearts or Kingdom Hearts II, I may reveal some things you might not want to know)
The beginning of Re: Chain of Memories connects to the end of Kingdom Hearts because the latter game ends with Sora walking on a path surrounded by grass heading towards his next adventure, then Chain of Memories starts with him still in this field and is approached by a hooded man, one of the Organization XIII members. This man leads Sora to Castle Oblivion, where the entirety of game play occurs in Re: Chain of Memories. The transition from Re: Chain of Memories to Kingdom Hearts II is slightly less cut and dry because Kingdom Hearts II begins first with the transition from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (pronounced three five eight days over two) with Roxas being in the new Twilight Town DiZ created for him. But then Roxas goes to the mansion and wakes up Sora from the pod that he was put into in the end of Re: Chain of Memories.
Not only does it connect to the surrounding games in the beginning and end, the actual story line is interesting on its own. Throughout the game I was finding myself wondering all sorts of things, like what the Organization wanted with Sora, how he was going to get out of their clutches in the castle, what Riku had to do with the whole plan after figuring out Sora's part along with simply wanting to know more about the Organization members because all of them in this game, except Axel are not in any other games except for 358/2 Days for a very short time. That doesn't even deal with how Re: Chain of Memories answers some of the questions that players may have had from Kingdom Hearts and it also explains a lot of things in Kingdom Hearts II that don't make sense without this game.
I made a realization about this game that I really like, one that may tempt people to give it a chance. It does have to do with the cards, but it is so big that I felt it should be separate. In a boss battle you only need to worry about one opponent or maybe a small handful at most if they have help (which really doesn't happen in this game), but for leveling up you might face many heartless all at once. In any other Kingdom Hearts game this can get frustrating if you are fighting one heartless then another hits you from behind. However, in Re: Chain of Memories this is easily avoidable. This is because only one card can be "in play" at a time, either yours or a heartless's and if it is yours and no heartless uses a higher numbered card to break yours, you will execute whatever is on your card without any worry of getting damage. That is part of why I try to only keep higher numbered cards in my deck when fighting heartless because they cannot use sleights and almost none of them have 8 or 9 numbered cards until the last few floors of the castle. The nature of this system allows for easier leveling up than the other games in the sense that instead of using strategy based on the type of heartless, you can mostly focus on having higher number cards, making leveling up quicker and simpler, leaving you with more time for the story and boss battles.
While I cannot say that this game will be everyone's favorite game, I can honestly say that any Kingdom Hearts fan should enjoy this game and I would also suggest this game for anyone who likes a game with a nice story, an unusual battle system or even for the interesting characters. It has a pretty good balance in the difficulty, although some battles seem tough at first, there are so many ways to give yourself the upper hand like changing the cards in your deck and trying a new strategy. It makes you think sometimes but is by no means impossible. Overall I think this game is a fun experience that gamers won't regret playing even though at first glance it might not appear to be the case.