VINE VOICEon 18 October 2005
Since the conclusion of the last Kingdom Hearts game back in 2002 (It's been too long!), many of us, myself included, were desperate to get their hands on the sequel, all because of the magic and brilliance of the storyline, the game itself, and the poignant ending that left everyone hungering for more.
Since its announcement in mid-2003 along with Kingdom Hearts 2, Chain of Memories became one of the most anticipated titles for the Game Boy Advance, and despite the game being finished way before its release date, we still had to wait several months more than Japan and the US to get our hands on the game.
Now, finally, it's here. But it is it the follow-up we were hoping for? Well, story first, game opinion later.
Chain of Memories follows on directly from the events of the last game. Sora, Donald and Goofy (along with their chronicler, Jiminy Cricket) continue their search for their friends, Riku and King Mickey. Their search leads them to Castle Oblivion, where the moment they enter, they forget all their abilities and some of their most important memories. A mysterious new character, regarded as the Unknown, appears before them and tells them that the only way to restore their memories is to venture further into the castle and fight whatever lurks on the different levels. As with the story in the last game, things are not always what they seem.
Graphically, the game is faultless. The whole Disney movie feel is recreated beautifully on the GBA and the PS2 quality cut-scenes are out of this world. When I first heard about the 3D cut-scenes being incorporated into such a tiny cartridge, I was very doubtful as to whether the GBA would be able to handle it without crashing, but it's amazing how smoothly the 3D animations run, and it's even more amazing as to how many 3D movies Square-Enix have managed to fit in.
Sound wise, the game is fine. Obviously, asking for the soundtrack the calibre of the first game in a GBA title would be asking too much, but the developers have done a brilliant job in recreating much of Kingdom Hearts' original music in MIDI format. It sounds really catchy and not in the least bit irritating. If that's not enough, voice-acting is also in the game. Although obviously not to the same extent as that in the last game, it's still great to hear Sora's voice in battle mode. I was also greatly impressed to hear 'Simple and Clean', transferred so well to the game, play during the end credits, showing that no expenses have been spared.
Gameplay is always important. Given the fact that the controls on the GBA pale greatly to that of a PS2 controller, it's obvious that you're somewhat limited in utilising moves and customising options. In Chain of Memories, you don't have a thing to worry about. As with last time, fights are in real-time, but a new card-based system allows you to perform Sora's moves with flourish. On paper it may seem that playing with this new card system is a bit complicated but like the previous combat system, it's easy to learn and it's great fun. And because the game is mostly 2D, it isn't plagued by the dire camera problems of before.
What is a dream come true is that after completing the game with Sora, players have the opportunity to play as Riku in another story that weaves in and out of Sora's tale. This adds yet another dimension to Chain of Memories and makes for all the more entertainment.
As for the story, they are a few things to nitpick about. When playing through the Disney levels, it felt as though it was just repetition of the last game's content, which is fine considering what the aim of this game is, but for me, I felt the events of the different worlds could've been reinvented a lot better than they have been.
The really interesting aspects of the story, however, are the events that take place in Castle Oblivion and the manipulations of the Organization, a party of Unknowns who are fascinating characters. Such freshness and a deeper dive into the mysteries of the Kingdom Hearts universe result in a captivating plot that is every bit as fantastic as the story in the last game. And it's made even more engrossing when played through from Riku's perspective.
So how much enjoyment will you get out of Chain of Memories? Just as much, if not more so, than the original Kingdom Hearts. On average, you're looking at forty hours gameplay playing as Sora and Riku. All Kingdom Hearts fans will not regret purchasing this. For those who haven't played the original, I recommend getting this nevertheless. It'll easily fit into the top ten list of best GBA games ever. It's a more than worthy sequel, it was well worth the wait and I look forward to Kingdom Hearts 2.