Kingdom Hearts Re:coded
It's no surprise that Kingdom Hearts has gathered a cult following over the
years. After all, the series combines Square Enix RPG gameplay with the
immensely popular and likable characters and worlds from the Disney
universe, so it would have been more of a shock if it wasn't popular and
instead died away, lonely and forgotten. Considering that Kingdom Hearts
Re:Coded is a remake of a series of Japanese cell-phone games, then it
wouldn't be unreasonable to assume it was a cheap attempt to make
money off the series' dedicated fans. But, in fact, it's actually a surprising
The story is typically mental, even more so than you'd expect from a
Kingdom Hearts game. It starts with Jiminy Cricket organising his journal
of events from the previous Kingdom Hearts games. He notices a line in
the journal that he didn't write, which reads "their hurting will be mended
when you return to end it." Confused by this line, he goes to King Mickey
and asks him what he makes of it. Mickey decides to digitise the contents
of the journal and create a digital version of Sora, the game's hero. He
then asks 'Data Sora' with retracing the steps of the journal in order to find out who that mysterious line of text refers to.
Re:Coded uses the same general gameplay engine as the previous DS
instalment, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. The action is real time as you run
around you'll encounter various battles with Heartless, the creepy dark
beings that infest the world. Also, in the world this time are Bug Blocks,
which are essentially big cubes dotted around each world's landscape.
These blocks are glitches in Mickey's digital journey, and they turn the
game into more of a platformer at times, which can be a bit problematic
given the game's dodgy camera.
This is particularly noticeable given the game's Data World sections. At
times you'll find a rip in reality, which you can enter to end up in a Data
World (a bit like the Matrix). In these worlds your aim is simply to destroy
all the Heartless and bugs you find in there, and locate the level exit, but
doing so often involves some infuriating block-jumping nonsense that
frustrates more than it should.
It's not all bad news, however. The Matrix System is an interesting way of
handling your character's growth and encourages experimentation to get
the strongest character possible. It's split into three sections: the first is
the Stat Matrix, which looks like a computer's motherboard. As you play,
you find new chips to attach to this board. The more you connect, the
more abilities and stats your character has. The second, the Command
Matrix, lets you combine special moves to create new ones. Finally, there's
the Gear Matrix, where you upgrade your keyblade and other accessories
you come across. Combined, the Matrices help to keep things simple while
still introducing more depth to the character development process.
There are also some special moments that help keep things interesting.
These range from a turn-based section where you battle in a more
traditional Final Fantasy style, to a side-scrolling platform section and an
on-rails shooting section in Wonderland. While these vary in quality (the
shooting section isn't great, for example) it does add a nice touch of variety to proceedings.
I do have to come back to that camera, though. The game is clearly
designed to be played with the D-Pad and buttons, leaving no way to
rotate the camera. R centers it behind your character, but L is used to
select special moves. If L and R rotated the camera, things would have
been much better, but you're left with an in-game camera that constantly
has you stopping, turning, and pressing R to see. You can freely move the
camera with the stylus, but if both hands are busy with the D-Pad and
buttons, holding a stylus too is impractical. It's a shame, as it really ruins
the experience at times, and is the main reason the aforementioned
platforming sections are so annoying.
Re:Coded isn't as bad as you may expect given its mobile phone roots,
though. It essentially plays like 358/2 Days, and it fixes a lot of the niggles
I had with that one, but the camera is so annoying that I can't recommend
it to everyone. However, Kingdom Hearts fans won't be disappointed.
Who's looking forward to the 3DS game?
Be kind; I typed this on my phone.