Or, to be even more specific, Re: Chain of Memories from the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix, just like how I played the first game.
Since the game is split into two sections, let’s talk about each separately.
The core storyline follows Sora, immediately after the events of Kingdom Hearts. He, Donald, and Goofy are looking for Riku and King Mickey, and their search takes them to Castle Oblivion.
Guided by people in black cloaks, Sora ascends Castle Oblivion in search of the truth, though he loses his memories along the way.
And to progress, he must use cards.
Chain of Memories uses cards for both its maps and combat. I liked the way the map cards work. You sort of build your own dungeons, picking which room goes where as long as they’re a high enough value to get past the door. I enjoyed that, although it took away most of the exploration.
For combat, cards are used for everything: attacks, magic (even cure), summonses, and items. Cards with higher numbers “break” cards with lower numbers (stopping your action), except for 0. 0 cards can break any number, but also can be broken by any number. In theory, I love the strategic thinking this system requires.
In practice, I hated it.
Ironically, the combat system inspired the combat in The World Ends With You, which I love. There’s no nice way to say it, though. I despised Chain of Memories’ combat system. Trying to manage my deck, pick the best cards, set up sleights (special attacks formed from multiple cards), and react to my opponent’s cards, all while running and dodging like a traditional action RPG drove me crazy.
Fortunately, Chain of Memories knew how to handle me. Every time it forced me to endure a battle so terrible I wanted to abandon the whole game, it introduced another character in a black cloak from the “Organization.”
These people, and the story, is what really kept me interested in Chain of Memories.
Of course, Disney was still involved, beyond just Donald and Goofy. Each floor of the castle is a Disney world… the same worlds from the first game, in fact. The repetition didn’t bother me, because I felt Chain of Memories actually used them really effectively.
The Disney stories fit in thematically with the main plot of Chain of Memories so well, it’s admirable. The problems faced by the Disney characters, and the slight alterations of their stories, all work to complement Sora’s story.
Even though the Disney stories are integrated well, the real story in Chain of Memories is Sora’s journey through Castle Oblivion, and his interactions with the aforementioned cloak-wearing weirdos. The plot takes some nice twists and turns, and it intrigued me with its larger universe and world-building. (It also makes me wonder again why Kingdom Hearts includes Disney and Final Fantasy when it obviously has its own original story it wants to tell… but never mind.)
I enjoyed the characters, the questions raised about memory and identity, and the vague hints dropped about Nobodies.
And when I finally made it to the end, after an admittedly awesome final battle, it unlocked a second story.
Reverse/Rebirth (aka Riku’s Story)
The second part of Chain of Memories follows Riku. It’s technically known as Reverse/Rebirth according to the title screen, which means I was playing Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories – Reverse/Rebirth as part of the 1.5 Remix. I love Kingdom Hearts titles.
Riku’s story plays a little differently. While the card system is more or less the same, his decks are locked and the cards changed automatically during the course of the story. He can also engage in “duels” when you and your opponent use a card with the same number. Breaking enough cards in a battle triggers Dark Mode, where he has access to powerful sleights.
In general, I enjoyed Riku’s combat slightly more, except for two things: 1) I was so bad at duels, the duel tutorial boss almost killed me, and 2) the lack of a “cure” card really hurt.
Unfortunately, Reverse/Rebirth has even less exploration than the main game. Remember how well I said the Disney worlds integrate with Sora’s story? They don’t even try in Riku’s. The Disney worlds are there solely to give Riku things to fight in between more cutscenes about the Organization.
Again, those cutscenes were interesting enough that I kept playing. I really enjoyed the story. And if there’s one good thing I can say about the lack of a heal card, it gave me a greater appreciation for Mickey.
Riku’s story is significantly shorter than Sora’s, and culminates in a boss fight so terrible, I thought I might not actually beat the game after all.
After two hours of agony, I beat the final boss and officially completed Chain of Memories!
Overall… I liked it. It’s given me more reason to be glad I picked up the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix. I like the Organization and the overall plot, and I can’t wait to see where Kingdom Hearts 2 goes. (Despite having 1.5, I’m not watching the Days cutscenes until after I play KH2. I’ve been told it’s better that way.) The gameplay had some unique ideas, some of which was pretty fun.
But I hope I never have to break another card ever again.
If you want posts like this delivered straight to your inbox, enter your email in the box below to subscribe!