I really don’t have an intro this week. Here’s Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memory for the Game Boy Advance.
Chain of Memory was the first game in the Kingdom Hearts line that I played since I didn’t have a PS2. Playing this game first is really interesting since both Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 were out, and this was set in between them. This should mean that the plot would likely stand on its own since it’s also on a new system and would likely be an introduction to new players, right? Well yes and no. While there is a plot that is introduced in this game, it’s not fully resolved at the end (though, I feel like that might be a trend in these games) . There are also many characters and terms which are referenced like they’re normal, but I don’t know who they are or what they mean. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The game begins with Sora (main character for most of the Kingdom Hearts games) Donald and Goofy entering a castle. Upon coming face to face with a mysterious dark figure, they attempt to use some of the skills they would have known at the end of Kingdom Hearts, but have somehow forgotten them. Evidentially, the castle erased part of their memories upon entering and every floor they visit will be based on Sora’s past (whether he knows it or not). Things start getting a little complicated, as Sora realizes he forgets more as he climbs the castle, but remembers about a girl named Namine.
It is neat that this game attempts to explain how Sora, Donald and Goofy could forget all their abilities between games (the same way we sometimes see Samus lose her equipment), but I don’t think it’s something people raged with Kingdom Hearts 2, was it? If I could believe that the whole plot was based around that trope, it would be pretty cool, but that’s probably not the case. That being said, the easy reasoning behind visiting previously used locations and already met characters is appreciated.
The game play is actually pretty interesting, as it’s also based on the whole memory motif. As previously mentioned, everyone forgot all their skills upon entering the castle. All those abilities have been transferred to cards. You’ll make a deck of cards to use in each battle. While you have the expected selection of spells, assist and items, Sora’s basic attacks are also determined by these. The really neat thing is that even the enemy attacks work on cards, and one can actually interrupt the other. Each card has a number 0-9 on it. After someone plays a card, and until its effect is resolved, lower numbers cannot be played. Higher numbers will interrupt that attack. The exception to this is 0, which will interrupt any number (but obviously can be easily interrupted). 3 cards also can be set aside to use all at once in a combo: possibility letting you use a skill and giving you a higher, harder to beat number.
Of course, you’re not stuck playing the cards as they come out, as you can actually cycle through them and get the ones you need, and you can refresh your deck when you want. Yeah, I admit, on paper, the battle system seems pretty complex. In practice, it’s one of those ones where it’s simpler than it appears, and if you can figure out some of the tricks of it, you can do some pretty cool stuff (like nerf a boss’ deck by timing your 0’s right… and yes, that is how I beat the game).
Chain of Memories is an interesting side-story game for several reasons. First off, there were so many games that would come to later reference it (from what I’ve seen), you have to question whether or not it was intended to have that much of an impact. Also even just playing this one game, you can tell it has connections to others. But as for what it does on its own, I think it’s a pretty cool game. I like the card and deck system, along with the graphics and the worlds you visit. One of the coolest things is how they use a video game trope of forgetting all your skills to inspire almost every aspect of the game (whether it was intentional or not). I’ve seen that this game has seen been remade, and I can’t really comment on that version (since it seems to be more like the other games). But for the first Kingdom Heart game available to people without a Sony system, it makes for a good first impression. I give Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories on the GBA 8.5 Levels out of 10.