Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories is a third-person action role-playing game made by Square Enix in 2004 for the GameBoy Advance handheld console. Its core mechanics are similar to previous game on the PlayStation 2, but it’s the unique supporting mechanics that sets this game differently from the previous prequels.
Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories’ core mechanic is basically a Hack ‘n Slash system. Players just fight and win to progress. It’s the games’ supporting mechanics that enhances and expands its core mechanics. Apart from being a role-playing and hack ‘n slash game, Kingdom Heart COM is also a collectible card game that takes a really big role during gameplay and it’s a system used well and effectively. The game can also be categorized in character improvement for its mechanics.
During battles, card based attacking system are chosen executed in REAL TIME as the player moves, jumps and dodge around in the battle screen. The player is required to scroll through and select various ‘attack’, ‘magic’ and ‘summoning’ cards battle with enemies as the player moves about to aim or dodge. When the cards run out, players must ‘refresh’ and refill a bar to get a new fresh deck of attack cards once again. This also requires the character to stand in place for a time, risking health.
To progress to different ‘rooms’ in levels, player must win battles to get map cards to open doors to travel between rooms. The colour choice and the level of the card the player uses to OPEN the door to the next level also affect the level properties itself. Different coloured cards and its levels can affect number and type of enemies, the power of the player’s battle cards, and even make save spots and more treasure to appear. This gives players are more non-linear approach.
Along with the card attack system, it all depends on a character’s level and their ‘CP’ points. The higher the level; the more CP points, the more ‘CP’ points; the more number or strength of cards can be added into the deck when used in battle. Players have a choice to either have a small amount of cards with strong attacks (requires more CP points) or a large amount with weaker attacks (requires less CP points) depending on their level and CP points as well. There are hundreds of cards available in the game and thousands of combinations to create the perfect deck in battle. This really creates a working complex system allowing and providing players with hundreds of choices during battle and when travelling through different levels. This card system is well thought through works well during battles although it requires players to multitask which can get frustrating at times.
Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories uses sprites for its game graphics which are most commonly used in GameBoy Advance games. But it is its core mechanics and its game play system that made the game so popular. This game proves that a strong game mechanic can work with the simplest handheld consoles that are tightly limited in graphics and visuals, still resulting into a lasting, enjoyable and addictive playable game. The game mechanics were so popular; a complete 3D remake of the game was made for the PlayStation 2 using the same game mechanics.
The game saving system is VERY limited yet reasonable in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories compared to other games. First of all, save spots (permanent saves) may only appear in levels depending on how the player opens the door TO that particular level using the correct cards in the first place. As mentioned earlier, levels are affected on how the player unlocks it uses their cards acquired in previous battle from previous levels. Players can save in limited save slots and auto save function isn’t available at all. Instead, quick save is available for players who need breaks or can’t play continuously, but quick saving automatically takes player back to the title screen until the player continues (which erases the quick save once reloaded). This causes the players to be more cautious about their choices, moves and how every movement might be a risk to make sure they don’t get sent back to an old save which might be levels away.
The controls in the GameBoy Advance is very limited (4 directional buttons, 2 buttons and 2 shoulder buttons). Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories really adapted its complicated game controls into a small amount of buttons which still provides simple to use controls for beginners or intermediates. There are no multiple ways to control the game or ways to customize actions.
Players get in game tutorials in the first level of the game (Explanations and tries on battling, card usage, opening new doors, saving). First level tutorials aren’t avoidable even for advanced players but small hints shown onwards can be skipped. This system is reliable since players get the experience how characters take damage, lose health, attack, what to avoid, what to attack and how to move on which are all taught in the very first level. Old info and further information can also be checked again in the game menu options. The player does not need to read the game manual in order to master this game; all is provided in-game.
Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories is a very non-linear when it comes to its gameplay but follows a linear storyline. There are no multiple endings or any forks in the story of the game leaving this to a type of game a player will play once to complete. The game, however, all depends on the player and their choices. They can control from the number of cards, the strength of cards, the strength of magic and attacks, to the properties and difficulties of the game levels itself. This makes the game a lot more non-linear added with a complex system, and gives a player the choice to take risks if they want o level up. Basically there are able to choose challenges and what they want to overcome.
The menu system and the interface) is well built, understandable, and easy to see, locate, and go through. It fits in well along with the game and doesn’t distract players at all. Although there isn’t much for a player come up with logical ways to beat the game’s systems, the Designers and programmers, however, made a very reasonable game saving system to give players value into their game character when saving is very limited being unable to save often.
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