Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was originally released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004 before being remade for PlayStation 2 and titled Re:Chain of Memories. It was then remastered in HD as part of the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix for PlayStation 3 and released worldwide in 2013.
Re:Chain of Memories is a direct sequel to the first Kingdom Hearts and bridges the gap between the first two numerical Kingdom Hearts games. I never had a chance to play the rest of the series so playing the HD version was my first time actually seeing this game in action. The first Kingdom Hearts holds a special place in my heart so I was very excited to see what happens next in the series.
The story starts off right where the first one left off: with Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Jiminy Cricket walking down a path in the middle of nowhere (ha ha). All of a sudden a man dressed in a black hooded coat appears and sends them to a giant castle called Castle Oblivion. Sora and his friends quickly figure out that Castle Oblivion is not a normal castle. It has taken away their abilities they learned in the previous game and that as they advance through the castle they will forget more and more memories. They decide it is worth it because they believe that the friends they have been searching for may be at the top.
Kingdom Hearts is known for its crazy, twisting and turning story, and Re:Chain of Memories is no different. I was thoroughly confused for most of the game trying to figure out what in the world was going on. However, as with most games, the farther you get the more sense it all makes. On top of that, the HD 1.5 Remix also comes with another game (game is loosely used because it is just cutscenes) called Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days which really helps you grasp what is going on because it takes place at the same time as this game. I really enjoyed my time with the story. I believe that the more unknown there is in a storyline, the more compelling it is to continue playing to find out more.
Just like the HD version of the first Kingdom Hearts, this game looked beautiful most of the time. While roaming the world and battling the Heartless, the game shines the most. It looks as if this game was originally supposed to be on PS3 instead of on PS2. However, it suffers greatly during many of its cutscenes. It is hit or miss whether or not a cutscene will look as pretty as it should. Sometimes you will get a perfect HD quality cutscene, others the character models are extremely blurry. It was very annoying because sometimes the characters’ outlines looked like they were shaking. I wonder if they had to decide which cutscenes were most important to put all of their effort into remastering, because you can clearly tell the game was not given equal treatment throughout. The voice acting is just as good as the first game so there is nothing really to mention here.
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories gameplay is VERY technical. It is so technical and complex that many people may never master it to the extent that will make them very good at the game. I certainly am one of those people. I struggled throughout the entire game to learn new tricks just so I could beat a boss and keep advancing. This game completely revolves around the use of cards; cards to get through doors, cards to find the next boss, and a deck of cards to battle foes.
Using cards for doors and rooms may be confusing at first but will quickly make sense if you are paying attention to what each card says. Where it becomes extremely difficult is the combat cards. I would never be able to explain to you just how this works. Just know that it is one of the most complex battle systems I have ever seen in a game, which will be very appealing to some gamers, and a huge turn off to others. The only thing I can say is that just because it is a card based battle system, does not mean that it is turn based. It is still a real time battle system like the first Kingdom Hearts game, just differs because every move you use is based on cards. It is easy enough that you will be able to kill mob-like enemies with no problem. The problems start at each boss because of how much stronger they are. Most of you will find yourself retrying over and over against bosses until you finally figure out the trick. Maybe it was that you needed more magic cards? Maybe you needed a high level set of cards? Maybe you needed more healing cards? Whatever the case, you will constantly be reworking your deck of cards in order to defeat each boss and advance to the next floor of Castle Oblivion.
The Verdict: 7.0 out of 10
I am glad they remade Chain of Memories for PS2 and then remastered it for PS3 because I would have never had a chance to experience it otherwise. Though, this is one of those games that I will only ever play once. As much as I enjoy the Kingdom Hearts storyline, I cannot get over how much I disliked the combat system in this game. It was so complex that it took me several hours just to figure out what I was even doing in battles. All this means that Re:Chain of Memories HD is not for everyone. It is for the more hardcore gamers or just hardcore Kingdom Hearts fans. If you are a gamer that gets frustrated easily with constantly losing battles and having to rework your strategy, stay far away from this game. But if you like a challenge and confusing/interesting story, this is absolutely the game for you!