Kingdom Hearts Re:coded - Staff Review  

C++ or Python?
by David McBurney

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded
Less than 20 Hours
+ High quality graphics for DS
+ Level gimmicks prevent monotony
+ Fun character advancement system
- Doesn't contribute greatly to overall series
- Introduces few new fundamental concepts
- The reuse of worlds is tiresome
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   Kingdom Hearts fans have had a rough history with Nintendo's portables. Chain of Memories (regardless of one's thoughts on quality) was not exactly what most series fans were looking for and 358/2 Days was an exercise in impressive technology marred by uninspired gameplay and a padded out storyline. Fortunately, Kingdom Hearts Re:coded has managed to buck the trend, delivering a game that both series fans and those who merely want a well-done action RPG on the go should be able to enjoy.

   Re:coded starts just after Kingdom Hearts II ended. Jiminy Cricket is examining his journals only to find that, while he thought they were blank, they have two entirely unfamiliar messages left: "Thank Naminé" and the more confusing "Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it." Jiminy quickly rushes to Mickey to get his opinions on what this phrase could mean, and the journals are ultimately loaded into Mickey's computer. The data is discovered to be corrupted and so they send the version of Sora that resides within the journal off to discover and remove the source of the glitches. The story is ultimately slight and reveals only a few tantalizing tidbits of direct significance to the overarching plot of the series, nevertheless it still manages to be compelling enough that it doesn't feel too thin for the amount of game attached to it.

Much more satisfying than reformatting. Much more satisfying than reformatting.

   Nearly every aspect of Re:coded's gameplay can trace a direct ancestry to a concept used in a prior Kingdom Hearts game. While the game certainly won't go down as the most original in the series, it does introduce enough unique hooks to remain palatable. The character customization system is a combination of those used in Birth By Sleep and 358/2 Days. The command deck makes a welcome return and operates very similarly, but stat increases are patterned after a streamlined version of the system used in 358/2 Days. While this means that the player's stats aren't entirely within his or her own hands, the game still offers enough freedom in how they work to make things fun to tweak. The system works fairly simply; entering the "stat matrix" shows a certain number of processors (increasing as the player finishes worlds) which are also connected to ability panels and "cheats." Connecting to processors doubles the effects of the chips used to connect the two processors. Building to an ability panel activates that ability, and the same is true for cheats. Cheats operate in a manner that will be familiar to fans of The World Ends with You where they increase or decrease some aspect of difficulty while increasing or decreasing something else to compensate (e.g. increasing the amount of munny dropped decreases Sora's max HP). They're of limited utility, but they allows the player to tailor the game as he or she desires and so can't really be faulted.

   The actual action in Re:coded is strongly reminiscent of Birth By Sleep and Kingdom Hearts II. The camera works surprisingly well and a lot of that can be chalked up to the inclusion of two zoom levels. The standard zoom mirrors the level of zoom used since Kingdom Hearts 2. Pressing select causes the game to go into a zoomed out mode that helps immensely in the game's limited platforming segments and just for generally getting one's bearings in the game's larger areas. Other than that the control scheme is taken essentially wholesale from Birth By Sleep aside from taking the "R button puts camera behind the player character's back" aspect used in 358/2.

   The game does have some entirely unique aspects though. Of particular note is that several worlds have areas that fundamentally change how the game plays. For example one world uses turn based Paper Mario-esque battles. This does a lot to keep the game from getting monotonous and it's somewhat disappointing that there aren't more sections like these as they're rather fun and can feel all too brief. Originality isn't the game's strong suit though and longtime fans may find the return to the worlds used in the first Kingdom Hearts a tad grating given how often that ground has been covered.

Please don't take this as commentary on the quality of the review Please don't take this as commentary on the quality of the review

   Square Enix has continually shown itself to be at the forefront of presentation in DS games, showcasing a mastery of the system's limited 3D capabilities matched by few if any other companies. Re:coded continues in this proud tradition with well done and reasonably sized 3D environments and a generally smooth framerate except in the few situations where the game has the bad sense to give you party members. Peppered throughout the game's story scenes are cinemas rendered in PS2 quality graphics with voice acting up to the usual high standards for the series (something it could be argued that Birth By Sleep had some problems with). These scenes are nice looking, though they have an odd sort of stuttery quality to them that hurts their degree of impressiveness. With all the effort put into the graphics it's disappointing that the same care wasn't put into the music, which seems to consist almost entirely of reused tracks from the previous games.

   Re:coded is ultimately a highly competent action RPG. While it isn't likely to light anyone's world on fire, the degree of quality in all areas is to be commended and those who want a breezy and quickly paced game in the Kingdom Hearts mold for their DS's aren't likely to find the game disappointing.

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