Kingdom Hearts Re:coded review

  • Well-done action/RPG gameplay
  • Strong visuals
  • Building your character skills
  • The increasingly convoluted KH plot
  • Jarring, badly done gameplay changes
  • The awful, awful camera

If there’s one word to describe Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, it would be “unnecessary.” In a series filled with finely-crafted, carefully-tuned installments chock-full of plot, action, and fanservice, Re:coded is an anomaly, a wildly uneven mix of gameplay elements that feels like it was rushed out to keep the series in the spotlight. While the game has its strong elements, it’s ultimately rather disappointing for both old and new fans alike.

At first the story seems accessible to the KH unfamiliar – King Mickey, Jiminy Cricket, Donald, and Goofy are working to investigate a mysterious diary, and create a virtual clone of Sora – sans all of his baggage from his past adventures – to dig into the computerized landscapes of the book. It seems like a fresh start, but by the halfway point the game starts throwing out terminology and story points so often that you’ll need the Kingdom Hearts Wiki open next to you to start to make sense of it all.

For a series that features some of the most recognizable and friendly entertainment icons anywhere, KH Re:coded – and indeed, most other recent KH releases - are very unwelcoming to newcomers from a story standpoint. Old-time fans will be elated to see some lingering questions finally resolved, but everyone else will be left scratching their heads. To make matters worse, only a small portion of the game’s cutscenes are rendered in full 3D – most of the game’s dialogue is delivered through the increasingly grating “still talking heads” delivery endemic to JRPGs. It’s a real shame, since Re:coded’s polygon visuals are among the best currently available on the platform.

While the story may be new, the gameplay is essentially the same solid action/RPG adventuring we’ve come to expect from the series with a few notable twists. Sora hacks, slashes, and uses special skills to carve through the hordes of Heartless invading the various Disney-themed virtual environments. Players can also upgrade Sora’s abilities, stats, and skills by collecting special “chips” and arranging them strategically on an elaborate grid. Watching your carefully placed buffs power-up Sora is great, and the combat is fluid and fun, but the game’s camera seems to make every effort it possibly can to sabotage your play experience.

The game’s very rigid progression is also a bit of a letdown. Since Re:coded was originally developed as a series of episodic games for Japanese cell phones, the progression through the various worlds is very linear. Later on in the game you’ll have the ability to go back and revisit old environments, but there is little reason to do so outside of trying to earn bonus chips and special items. Making matters worse is that the gameplay styles sometimes switch dramatically, taking players out of their action/RPG comfort zone and putting them into 3D scrolling shooter levels, 2D platformers, traditional turn-based RPG combat, stealth evasion, hidden object hunting, and more. This wouldn’t be bad if these sections were actually done well – unfortunately, most of the time, they aren’t.

A good example is  the 2D platforming sequence, which auto-scrolls, forcing Sora to quickly move ahead constantly – however, it actually re-uses the same attack animations as 3D combat, which move at a much slower pace than attacks in a typical 2D platform game would, making the section hard to control and frustrating. This sort of ill-thought-out implementation of gameplay ideas is all over the place in Re:coded, and almost all of it will make you eager to return to the core action/RPG combat.

Kingdom Hearts wouldn’t have its legions of fans if the games weren’t almost all of a very high quality. This is where Re:coded is most disappointing: It’s a good game with some very solid elements – mostly those seen in past KH titles. But its lackluster storytelling, poorly paced stage progression, jarring gameplay changes, and ever-present, misbehaving camera leave it removed from the greatness we associate with some of the franchise’s previous outings. If you’re completely hard-up for a totally new KH game right this minute, Re:coded will work nicely – otherwise, you’re better off just replaying the far superior Birth by Sleep with different characters

Jan 13, 2011

More Info

Available Platforms: DS
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Square Enix
Franchise: Kingdom Hearts
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending




  • essiy - January 17, 2011 11:46 p.m.

    I bought this game the day it came out and I think that 385/2 days is a superior game in every way. I agree that this game is completely unnessisary. C'mon square, just get to what everybody wants it's been like six years already. WE WANT KH3! how hard is it for them to get that?
  • animeman - January 15, 2011 4:04 a.m.

    @paganpoet BBS is actually a main KH game it is just not a numbered game. (sorry for double post)
  • animeman - January 15, 2011 4:02 a.m.

    @Taxtm my DS lite has faulty R and L buttons too and it is so frustrating. But anyway I love the seires and would get the game no matter the score I even own chain of memories and RE:Chain of Memories.
  • paganpoet - January 14, 2011 5:35 p.m.

    Birth by Sleep is the only decent non-main KH game. Chain of Memories was abysmal, I couldn't even finish 358/2 Days, and I don't even plan on playing this one.
  • JohnnyMaverik - January 14, 2011 12:55 p.m.

    It's like watching a toddler beating a beat cat with a stick trying to make it move again, but dead cats don't work like that... ...Sorry what? O.o
  • Taxtm - January 14, 2011 9:27 a.m.

    I actually went and got this today just for the hell of it, knowing already that it probably wasn't gonna be all that great, and keeping my expectations somewhat low for it, and I was actually surprised at how much better it was than I expected. It's still not the greatest game out there by any means, and in the franchise, I'd say it's my second least favorite (Chain of Memories, I couldn't even finish.), but it's still not as bad as I was kinda expecting, so I'd say I'd have graded it with a 7 as well. One thing that kills me about it though, doesn't have as much to do with the game, as it does my DSi, which has had faulty L and R buttons since like the second month I've had it, so I can't use L or R for anything, and unfortunately, you kinda have to for this game to work really well. There's only so much you can do with the camera on the touchscreen.
  • lolwizards - January 14, 2011 7:53 a.m.

    I feel like the Kingdom Hearts series is taking advantage of me by advancing the storyline in crappy games. All I want is KHIII!
  • Unoriginal - January 14, 2011 7:43 a.m.

    This along with 358/2 and Chain of memories have just been excuses to revisit old worlds. If a Zelda game would have 60% recycled dungeons or if a Call of Duty campaign would be different routes through old levels everyone would go nuts. How does KH get away with this? Why the constantly recycled areas? They've had years.
  • Spartan11794 - January 14, 2011 3:51 a.m.

    I love this series, and seeing as this game got a 7, well thats impressive Bargain Bin!!!
  • Blasto - January 14, 2011 3:29 a.m.

    I've only played through the first few hours but I do agree with this review. The camera is just terrible and the story is incomprehensible. The combat is rather fun though.
  • gangjute8 - January 14, 2011 3:17 a.m.

    That's... disappointing. I couldn't decide whether to get this or Ghost Trick, but most reviews seem to be the same regarding the two, with Re:Coded around 7 and Ghost Trick around 8 or 9. Ghost Trick it is, then.
  • Corsair89 - January 14, 2011 3:15 a.m.

    Enough with the filler crap! I demand KHIII!
  • Cyberninja - January 14, 2011 3:14 a.m.

    i have all the the other games and i am waiting for the price to drop to $20 lets hope KH3DS will be awesome
  • austinfloyd - January 14, 2011 3:14 a.m.

    All I want is Kingdom Hearts III. Please. I'm begging.
  • GameManiac - January 14, 2011 3:08 a.m.

    The plot is not as convoluted as others would think (or at leas it isn't to me). I should get this game shipped to me soon. Maybe in a week or so, it'll arrive. First! Yay... (whatever...)

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