Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded
Posted 2 years ago By - David Slauenwhite
Spending a week with some familiar friends is always an interesting experience and this week, I’ve spent mine hanging out with Sora, Riku, Goofy, Donald, Mickey, and the rest of the Kingdom Hearts gang. Sitting down with my DS in hand, I plugged in Kingdom Hearts Re:coded and off I went once more into the worlds created by Disney and brought to digital life by Square-Enix. Having played the main arc of KH 1, Chain of Memories, 2, and checking out some of the off shoots, I was again prepared for some more Kingdom Hearts fun and adventure.
To lay out the premise of this side story from the main arc, essentially Jiminy Cricket’s Journals that were filled with your previous adventures in KH 1 and 2 have suddenly been cleared except for a mysterious message that hadn’t been there before. Of course King Mickey, along with the help of Chip and Dale, gets an idea. They enchant a computer and scan in the journals to bring up the data and discover some kind of problem with the worlds carried within. Trust in Goofy to make the absurd suggestion that they bring someone from the journal to explore those worlds. So yes, you’re playing a game set in a digital world about exploring yet another digitally created world. With me so far, or have your minds all been sufficiently melted?
Now then, Data Sora enters and Mickey and crew talk to him through the computer and convince him to check out the bugs scattered about Destiny Island. The only thing that bothers me in all of this is that while Data Sora doesn’t really know or remember any of the people talking to him as voices from the sky, he goes along with helping them check out what’s wrong with the world he’s in. The story runs from there and while it’s not a new kind of plot and there are some definite holes in the dialogue, it could be a lot worse.
The problems are fairly evident from the beginning as there are these odd blocks (called blox of course) which are all over the place. These blox are representations of bad data packets in the various worlds, which come in a come in a variety of colors and flavors and you will spend a great deal of time destroying them. However to really find and fix the problems, you have to enter bad sectors which are mini level areas that you have certain goals to meet in order to fix them. Basically the story of Re:coded is a combination of Tron meets an IT tech’s worst nightmare without all the cool Tron toys and set in the Disney Dimension. The only real tie in thus far to the main story arc of the Kingdom Hearts universe is the intro video that made a point of showing off Namine, which I won’t spoil. You have the premise and essential plot, I won’t ruin the remainder of the story for you.
Onwards to the gameplay shall we? Good then, when actual gameplay starts, like any other Kingdom Hearts title, you go through that odd tutorial area where you’re standing on a picture of some Disney character or another, deciding what you want your focus to be and what you will sacrifice from the choices of Attack, Defense, and Magic. The combat in Re:coded is the primary thing you spend your time doing in any Kingdom Hearts game, fighting off enemies with your Keyblade and since this is the first journal, your common enemies are the good ol fashion Heartless. Much like any Kingdom Hearts title (except Chain of Memories), you generally run around the various worlds and levels fighting the Heartless that pop out of thin air with your Keyblade, skills, and magic. Normal combat is straight forward, you button mash to swing your Keyblade like a mad man to squash enemies and destroy or move blox.
The Skill system, on the other hand, is a tad different and takes a while to adjust to. Using skills is simple enough for the most part. You have many skill slots which grow as you progress and open up in the Stat Matrix. Press X button to use the skill, the slots rotate to the next while the used one recharges; wash, rinse, repeat. However setting up your skills in the “Command Matrix” is a bit of trial and error to figure out which ones you actually want. As you go through the game, you will get various commands you install into the matrix, these will level with xp growth and you can do all sorts of combinations either to increase the overall level of the command you’re aiming for, or to generate a new command skill altogether. All sorts of weird and wonderful combinations can be made and levelling them up is more about killing enemies and making effective combinations.
This system isn’t bad really, however I do notice it is largely magic based or at least magic enhancements layered upon on combat skills. So choosing to sacrifice magic in the beginning seemed to be a mistake, though truth be told, I’m glad I did as you can progress in the game without really needing to grind. Having kept defence over magic helped in that regard, at least for me at any rate.
The “Stat Matrix” is pretty much the same old SquEnix system with some different clothes; it’s nothing any SquEnix fan won’t recognize right away unless they haven’t played most of their RPG’s since Final Fantasy 9. The Stat Matrix is a different iteration of the familiar skill sphere kind of system we’ve seen in Final Fantasy X and XIII. The differences being primarily the computer system aesthetic and you input chips of various types that you collect through the course of playing to unlock more abilities, skill slots, accessory slots, cheat sliders and so on.
They range from level chips to attribute bonuses (ie: +1 HP, +2 Strength, etc) to blank chips, and special defence or attack bonuses; such as +2 blizzard and so forth. As you go along the grid you can hook up CPU’s for “Dual Processing” which doubles the effect of chips between the two CPU’s. Also you can unlock cheat sliders such as a difficulty adjuster, Prize Cheat, and Loot Cheat which changes the game experience depending on how you set them. But, each cheat does have certain drawbacks as well.
This Stat Matrix isn’t difficult to understand, however it is a bit messy as you go along. As you complete worlds, different sections will open up, which makes the Matrix branch off in different directions. Also unlocked as you fill in chips are different extra “skills” which are fairly standard for Kingdom hearts titles, such as dodge roll, aerial recovery, and the like. I didn’t really have trouble with the Stat system, though it would be nice to have something new for a change rather than a rehash of an old system.
My main complaint with the gameplay of Re:coded is that they felt the need to add in some different gameplay systems in various sections for no good reason other than to try to make the game unique in certain worlds. Things like platforming sections or front scrolling shooter segments that end up feeling completely out of place. They aren’t difficult, but they do break up the flow and seems more like a waste of time than any real expansion upon the gameplay.
Olympus - which in the first Kingdom Hearts was a different world from the rest - is once again off doing its own thing with a labyrinth-type setup that has you defeating bugs and smashing blox to progress. However, during the course of this one world you will find it has its own kind of combat system. This system is rather reminiscent of Super Mario RPG in that you have to time hitting the block and attack buttons. Skills operate differently as well, for you can input up to three commands to use and compile them to either do a series of attacks or a larger combined attack depending on which skills you have equipped. Plus there are special bonus items you collect for certain in-battle buffs used only in Olympus, such as Auto-Block, Regen, Auto-Life, etc... Again this is merely just to make Olympus unique, however, I didn’t mind this additional system as it didn’t distract from the game progress and I still felt like I was going somewhere.
The only other areas aside from Olympus and in-between-worlds gameplay elements are the bad sectors found through out the worlds. You enter these glitches in the matrix and fight enemies, complete challenges and they come with special rewards that you purchase with points you accumulate. This aspect isn’t bad and is at least an interesting idea, even though the sectors are more or less the same, just laid out differently. The only real benefit aside from world completion is that you can get some good skill commands and more stat chips. The various challenges that come up allow you to wager a certain percentage of your points for great gains upon completion. These sectors play a role when you return to previously completed worlds as you can get some really good prizes, munny, and experience from completing these, plus they help towards unlocking the secret ending.
Lastly the Keyblades, as per usual, are obtained when you complete a world and they have their own special abilities. The difference here though is that Keyblades level and as they do, they unlock various abilities unique to each one. These can make for some interesting usages and jumping back and forth to different Keyblades depending on what you might be facing or your particular play style is key (no pun intended).
Graphically the game is much like any other Kingdom Hearts title, just on a smaller scale. Everyone looks like they should, save the robed figure you run after. Mostly they did a nice job bringing back the worlds we’ve known from our previous journies and they have the same basic look we’ve come to expect. I did find they didn’t put a great deal of effort into the platforming nor the front scrolling boss battle areas. The rest however isn’t bad at all, and the movie scenes were of a grade that you’d expect from a DS title; maybe even a little better than you expected. Sound and music isn’t anything special or unique really, mostly just replays of familiar soundtracks from previous iterations. Voices are more or less the same as always, though there isn’t a great amount of voice acting aside from the occasional laugh or grunt during some of the 2D text cut scenes or the actual video scenes between worlds, the intro, and the end of the game.
All in all, I’ve enjoyed Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. It’s certainly a filler title while we continue to wait for KH III (someday, maybe, we hope). While I didn’t enjoy some of the breaks with the additional gameplay moments, overall I still had fun and found the story interesting enough to help motivate me through now-familiar territory. The 3 possible endings is a nice touch and urge me to complete it totally so I can lay claim to that feat. They could have done something different with the Stat Matrix, and made it easier to follow its growth structure, but I suppose they have to cater to the broader audience with that one. If you’re a Kingdom hearts fan, then I recommend it as a filler to give you a fresh KH injection. The story work was at times great, other times sloppy with the dialogue, and overall they could have brought it a but further than they did. You don’t really need to have played the other games to understand everything that’s going on, but it would help. Although, if this all takes place in Jiminy’s first journal, even with the eventual appearance of Pete, Namine, and so on from KH 2, I wonder if they plan a sequel to actually cover the KH 2 journal at some point.
+ Visiting old locations is full of nostalgia for Kingdom Hearts 1
+ Music is easily recognizable with the same tunes you know from before
+ Graphically it fits the Kingdom Hearts art style
- Several in-between gameplay segments modes break the immersion
- The story isn’t something new, but still interesting, though the dialog is weak in places
- Recycled Sphere Grid doesn’t impress me much even with the cheats
- Too short with only a few worlds and most of the time spent is grinding to get all three endings.
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Release Date : 2011/01/11
System : Nintendo DS
Publisher : Square Enix
Developer : Square Enix
Category : Role Playing Game
ESRB : E10+
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
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8.7 / 10