A decade ago, the prospect of an unholy union between Final Fantasy and the House of Mouse would have been unbelievable – much less the prospect of such a thing bearing several beautiful multi-platinum offspring. But here we are on the cusp of 2011 with another new Kingdom Hearts title looming just around the corner – and it’s looking mighty swell.
Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is an optimized DS remake of what was originally an episodic game series for Japanese cell phones. Thankfully, instead of paying per stage, you get the whole game in one nice little package, with numerous enhancements (and better controls) to boot. The game serves as a bridge between Kingdom Hearts 2 and the still-mysterious Kingdom Hearts 3.
The Kingdom Hearts plot, at this point, is perhaps only slightly less convoluted than War and Peace, but Re:coded thankfully dumps most of the pre-existing plot baggage – at least, it seems like it towards the beginning. Jiminy Cricket finds a mysterious, ominous message written in one of the journals compiled from the previous journeys, so King Mickey, with the help of Chip and Dale, investigates the contents of the message by transferring the journal’s data into digital form. An avatar version of KH hero Sora must eliminate the “bugs” and errors plaguing the journal to uncover the truth.
KH Re:coded was ported by h.a.n.d., the same developer that did 2009’s well-regarded 368/2 Days. The resulting game looks and plays spot-on with what you’d expect from a KH title. The “Deck” system, which allows you access to multiple special attacks, also makes the move over from Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. But Re:Coded also features some new gameplay twists. Sora gains additional abilities in combat with the “Overclock” system – by using and leveling up different Keyblades, he gains access to a customizable set of different combat benefits. By defeating enemies, Sora’s Overclock gauge increases, with each level gained granting a new benefit. At the max Overclock level, he can unleash a mega-damaging special attack which resets the gauge to zero. Also, instead of traditional level/stat boosts, Sora earns special “chips” that can be placed on a sort of “power grid” like field. By placing chips strategically, players can direct energy to devices that can be used to alter game elements like difficulty level and item drops.
KH Re:coded isn’t all action/RPG, either. Many areas will dramatically alter the gameplay style after completing certain objectives. Thus far, we’ve seen a side-scrolling platform area, challenge-filled enemy arenas, a multi-level dungeon with a more traditional turn-based RPG combat engine, and even an autoscrolling shooter stage that bears more than a passing resemblance to Square’s ancient NES title 3D World Runner. The integration of these wildly different gameplay styles into the plot helps add variety and makes KH Re:coded one of the most interesting portable installments in the ongoing KH saga.
As it stands, Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded is looking to be another fine installment in the storied franchise. Various gameplay tweaks, new interpretations on familiar characters and settings, and a variety of different gameplay styles make this one to look forward to for any KH fan – or action-RPG fan in general. With Kingdom Hearts 3D already announced, it seems like this may be the last KH game for this generation of portables - and thus far, it’s looking like a stellar send-off.
Dec 23, 2010