KINGDOM HEARTS RE:CHAIN OF MEMORIES
PlayStation 4 (also available on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
The game takes place directly after the ending of the first entry in the Kingdom Hearts series. It focuses on Sora, Donald and Goofy making their way through Castle Oblivion, reliving their memories of Kingdom Hearts and getting to know a new group of antagonists called the Organization XIII.
After completing Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, I decided to tackle its sequel almost immediately. Although the game picked up right where the previous one left off, it introduced some major changes. This caused it to initially feel more like a spin-off centered around the new turn-based card gameplay. This kind of gameplay felt a bit out of place in the 3D remake and a lot more fitting to the original Game Boy Advance version of the game, which I have briefly tried out.
That said, I will admit that this game definitely grew on me. Although sometimes repetitive, it is more strategy-based than the original action gameplay from Kingdom Hearts. After getting used to it and learning some abilities, the combat became more fluid and enjoyable. In terms of the story, what started out as a repetition of the Disney worlds we visited in the prequel became its own plot with interesting new characters. We were finally given the chance to dive deeper into the original world of the series, moving away from the Disney-centred story of the first game. If I had to choose one negative aspect to bring up, that would be its extremely cluttered and confusing user interface.
After we completed the game with our usual protagonist Sora, we were invited to play a different campaign starring his best friend Riku. He was also the antagonist in the first game (it’s… complicated). This extra campaign, named Reverse/Rebirth, allowed us to understand Riku’s perspective and witness his internal struggle to resist the darkness residing in his heart. While controlling Riku, the player is not allowed to make any changes to the card deck, and the battle mechanics are stripped down to the basics with some interesting twists. An example of this are the ‘darkness points’, which accumulate during combat and allow Riku to enter ‘dark mode’ and use more powerful abilities. This makes the experience slightly more challenging, while eliminating some of the more stressful elements of the original gameplay such as arranging cards or shifting through them mid-battle. I definitely found Riku’s playstyle a lot more fluid and satisfying.
If there’s one thing I learned while playing Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, it’s that there are no spin-offs in this series (that is, if you want to make any sense of its story). I’m aware that this is a controversial take within the fandom, but I can safely say that I found it more enjoyable than Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. The combat is more strategic, there is a lot more depth to the story and the characters, and we get a Riku-centric plot that allows us to better understand his intentions. After completing this game, I’m really excited to see the direction that his character development and the overarching story will take moving forward. Next up isKingdom Hearts II!