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Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded - DS Review

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Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded

DS | SQUARE ENIX / h.a.n.d | 1 Player | Out Now 
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2nd June 2011; By Patrick

The Kingdom Hearts series, since it debuted on the Playstation 2 in 2002, has combined the two very distant worlds of Disney and Final Fantasy. When the first game released, players were shocked as they traveled between Disney Worlds aiding their favourite characters, while gaining experience and leveling up to continue the overarching story. The game sold well, and was received extremely well, so it was fleshed out into a full series: a mid-game (Between 1 and 2) on the GBA titled
Chain of Memories, a full PS2 sequel, Kingdom Hearts II, Japan-only remakes of Kingdom Hearts I and II, a PS2 remake of Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days on the DS, Birth by Sleep on the PSP, and Coded, on Japanese Mobile Phones. The latter had little hope of leaving Japan, and indeed didn't. 

    However, in 2010, Square-Enix announced it was developing a DS remake of that same game with North America in mind. Japan saw the title releasing in October, while North American gamers had to wait until January 2011 to actually see it release. How does this cell phone game hold up on the Nintendo DS? Very well, in fact. While not as good as the title that was built for the ground up for DS, 358/2 Days, it still performs extremely well on the system. 

    The transition from mobile to DS has been very kind to the control system in terms of walking, being a direct translation to the D-Pad. However, by default, Re: coded implements the horrendously imprecise auto-jump feature, which should be turned off immediately for maximum enjoyment of the title.

    While walking is taken straight from the cell phone source material, the battle system is lifted from the PSP title, Birth by Sleep. The A button is your normal attack, and that will stick with you for the experience. However the game gives you all your abilities, magic, and items in the form of a “deck”, which is basically a commands list. As you play the game, you can obtain more slots, and synthesize new deck commands, which are almost always flashy and effective. Using the L button to scroll through commands mid-battle and the X button to select a command may seem tricky at first, but by the second world it is purely second nature to you.

    There are two major things that set Kingdom Hearts: Re: coded apart from the rest of the series.
The first is the decreased importance on the story. The story is still there and ever-present, but you won't need to take notes to remember everything. Jiminy Cricket is looking at his journals from Kingdom Hearts I and II, and sees a line that he didn't write. He digitizes them, and notices that they’re infested with “bugs” (glitches). They create a digital Sora and send him to go destroy the bugs and save the worlds.

    Every world is different, but usually involves solving some kind of problem that the world is facing by entering a “system sector”. This is a digital area where you destroy specific enemies to move forward. For each floor in the sector, you can wager 10, 30, or 50% of your score (used to get bonuses) based on a certain objective, such as “Don't get damaged more than 14 times”, or “Don’t use any healing commands”.

    At the end of each world, instead of a traditional “end boss”, you enter the world's keyhole, and the game changes dramatically. It goes from a 2D Platforming level to a Space Harrier-esque shooter, to a Final Fantasy-style RPG. This adds variety and keeps players on their toes. Once you finish a world, you can go back and play through it again but with new enemies and items for replayability.

    The second major thing that sets Re:coded apart from its predecessors is the increased importance placed on platforming. As long as you expect it and have auto-jump turned off, it does not become an issue. But it can sometimes be a bit frustrating to climb a staircase by jumping, only to freefall down three floors because you barely missed a block.

    One remedy I found was the Circle Pad on the Nintendo 3DS. While it serves as a
hindrance in 358/2 Days, it aids greatly in the platforming sections of Re: coded. This is especially odd considering the game was originally for mobile phones, but it works nevertheless. So if you can get past the DS emulation issues (i.e., saturated or small visuals, depending on which setting it's on), it's definitely worth a playthrough on the 3DS.

    The ability/leveling system is a hybrid of the panel system from Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days and the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X on the PS2. As you gain chips (panels), you can add them to a mapped grid to reach new abilities and cheats. Cheats include a difficulty adjuster, or the ability to increase item drops by decreasing your max health, while abilities are things like guarding and dodge rolling. Collecting chips is done by destroying certain bugs, and can add a certain treasure-hunting aspect to the game.

    The final system is also lifted from a different Kingdom Hearts mobile service, aptly named “Kingdom Hearts Mobile”. The system in Re: coded is referred to as the “Avatar System” and uses Tag Mode technology to exchange dungeons with other players. Sadly, I have to take Square-Enix's word for it, as this reviewer has had no opportunities to test it out. Messing around with the included character creator is fun for a few minutes, though!

    Overall, Re: coded is definitely a mixed bag. While you're getting a fun adventure with twists and an emphasis on gameplay, the platforming can be a bit iffy and you do miss out on story. If you are a fan of the series, it's a no-brainer, but if you’re just entering the series, it may serve you better to start with a more traditional game like 358/2 Days.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Platforming iffy but can be remedied by turning off auto-jump, combos are a blast, end-of-level segments are always entertaining
Presentation 10/10 - Slight emulation issues, still runs wonderfully on h.a.n.d's custom engine, great audio just like in 358/2 Days
Enjoyment 3/5 - Depends on what you're looking for, rewarding if you know what you're getting into
Extra Content 3/5 - Avatar Menu is weak, replayable worlds with new elements when you return, entertaining Stat Grid system,

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by Patrick
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