January 20, 2011
Re:coded takes place after Kingdom Hearts 2 and it starts off with Jiminy Cricket talking about the journal he had recorded. However, now almost all the pages have gone blank and he's rather worried. The only page that remains simply says "Thank Namine". Mickey and his companions decide to be rather unorthodox and actually explore the book digitally. To do this, they summon up a digital version of Sora to relive the memories that were supposed to have been in the book in order to solve the glitches and restore the passages.
Once inside the book, in the form of Sora, your job is to attempt to rid each area of the bugs and glitches that have appeared. And on top of that, strange "blox" also burden each world. These blox, when smashed, provide different rewards depending on their stature - with rare blox giving the best rewards. It's from these blox that players will obtain data chips from, allowing them to level up their character using a strange circuit board system known as the Stat Matrix.
The Stat Matrix works by placing said chips into the board. This enables effects to be gained subsequently stats will increase too. There are lots of different types of effects, such as increasing the number of accessory slots and command slots or earning new auto abilities and cheats. If you want to use the cheats though, Sora will suffer adverse effects, such as his health being reduced.
When Sora completes a world, an entry is added into the journal - but he also encounters a mysterious figure. This adds a sense of mystery, but it's really rather bland, if only because the same thing is said in more or less every world until the very end. This is clearly one of the drawbacks of porting it over from the mobile phone, as it was originally an episodic game. Square Enix has done little to rectify this and it's disappointing. The story itself is also delivered through text dialogue and animated stills - not something fans of the series would be used to. Considering the nature of the game, having every Disney world appear in such a way detracts from the fondness of revisiting them, as they feel somewhat stale, which brings us onto the next point with regards to the gameplay - which certainly isn't.
Each of the worlds featured in the game brings a unique idea to the table. For example, Alice in Wonderland has a stealth section, but it also has section which could be considered close to a shoot em up. There's also a side scrolling section and Olympia has a strange turn based RPG combat system. They're all rather simple, but do take a lot of effort to get through. This is generally because the game expects you to adapt to a new gameplay style almost instantly. It doesn't sound too bad on paper, but the interpretation of the controls changes frequently as a result.
The "normal" combat, which Kingdom Hearts fans will be familiar with is present throughout the game as well, though it's no where near as rewarding as previous titles. The command system feels quite limited in its range of spells, especially in comparison to Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and most times it's often easier just to use the standard attack to dispatch foes. It does have one cool feature though, in the form of the ability to overclock commands.
There's an interesting system for weapons present whereby leveling up each weapon allows for a different path of progression. Overclocking enables combos to provide beneficial effects to the player dependant on the weapon and the path the player has chosen. Once the combo goes past level 3 and hits its max, a finisher can be used and this resets the bonuses and the combo starts over. There are several finishers to be acquired and some are pretty fun, such as button combination mini-games to chain together hits.
The variety of enemies early on is rather limited, but there are a few additions later on in the game. There's even a rather annoying enemy who has the ability to place just about every status affect possible at random, which means beating him is more about luck than anything - unless you want to do some grinding.
For the most part grinding is never required, as the gameplay is fairly tame throughout and in actual fact, it's possible to pretty much avoid most encounters altogether and still complete the game with relative ease. One of the biggest gripes with the game comes in the form of its camera and targeting system. While they aren't awful, cumbersome is a word that's probably best used to describe them. The game also incorporates an auto-jump system, which seems to be more of a hindrance than an actual help.
One of the new elements to the game comes in the form of removing glitches from the world. It's rather straight forward, as it involves clearing floors of enemies in order to progress. More blox are included here too and they can make some of the levels feel like puzzles. It's just a shame that they were implemented more effectively, because the magnetic blox and exploding blox had a lot of potential.
The presentation of the game on the whole is sub-standard in comparison to the rest of the series, but it's kind of expected given it was ported over from a mobile phone. Part of the problem is that there are just too many ideas, which constrict the overall gameplay. It also means that some of the controls are rather frustrating.
The game takes around 10 hours to finish, which is short for a Kingdom Hearts title, but there are a ton of reasons to come back to it. You can revisit worlds and redo them for extended areas and to obtain better rewards - there's also a score attack mode. It's also possible to change the difficulty on the fly for even further rewards on re-completion. There is also a mode outside of the story known as Tag Mode, where players can progress alongside the creation of an avatar to acquire even more stat chips. These floors are acquired from other players and vice versa.
Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded is by no means a bad game, there's a fair amount of content packed in there and it can be an enjoyable experience. However, it is hampered by poor controls, too much emphasis on gameplay differentiation and an overly boring, drawn out story that doesn't really touch upon enough to hold interest. If you're keen to revisit the Kingdom Hearts worlds then you'll probably find enough to keep you entertained, but it's the least fulfilling Kingdom Hearts game in the series.
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