You’ll need to pay attention to the numbers on the cards as well - if an enemy plays a card against you with a higher number, your attack will be deflected. Luckily, if your cards are too sissy - say, an enemy has all 9s and you've got all 5s - you can "stock" up to three cards and play them all at once, even mixing up attacks and magical spells.
Even the dungeon's population is dictated by your cards. According to the game, the tower is constructing each level based upon your memories - which is a clever way of letting you choose what you're going to see on the other side of most every door. Is it a save point? A room filled with a specific strain of enemy? Or perhaps typical enemies, but twice as many as usual? That all depends upon which card you play at the door. Sure, some doors require a certain card (end-of-level door that lead to boss battles, for instance), so there is some structure in place. But there's a nice bit of leeway for you too, and having some input helps stave off the feeling of tedium you'll eventually get after slaying your millionth darkness minion. More than the other KH games, this is a pure dungeon crawler, so things get stale more quickly than they did before.
Things also get tough. Getting the most out of this card system requires a ton of controller speed, awareness, and constant tactical judgement. This is especially true as things get complicated and you start to unlock fancier cards, swap cards in and out of your deck, and learn "sleights" - special attacks you can trigger by stocking and playing the right combination of cards in the right order.
Because of this - and perhaps also because you don't have Donald and Goofy to help soak up the damage - Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories is far and away the hardest game in the series. In fact, it gets downright brutal in a "did it really need to be this sophisticated and inelegant?" kind of way. The battles unfold at the same speed as in other KH games, and the added complexity of having to clumsily shuffle through cards in the midst of battle isn't always welcome.
And yes, we should mention that Japanese players got this game ages ago as a free bonus for buying the fanciest, schmanciest version of Kingdom Hearts II. So, if you're the type to feel indignant about that, go ahead. But then remind yourself that this is the long lost middle Epi/Prologue chapter of your beloved Kingdom Hearts saga, the one you've waited years to play on a system with a screen bigger than two inches across, and bask in the fact that this is still magical and there's still nothing else like it.
Dec 9, 2008