Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, a PlayStation 2 port of a GBA game, is a worthy addition to the much beloved RPG franchise.

When Square Enix re-releases RPGs (role-playing games), they often tread a fine line between creating thoughtful remakes or hatred-inspiring rehashes.

I'm happy to report that Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, a PlayStation 2 port of a GBA game, falls in the former category - it's a worthy addition to the much beloved franchise as well as a compelling choice for diehard fans as it sheds some much needed light on events from past entries in the Kingdom Hearts franchise.

Series newcomers, however, might find themselves a little lost in the intricate plot that Kingdom Hearts has spawned thus far.

Kingdom Hearts: (not) a whole new world

At first glance, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories looks a lot like the first Kingdom Hearts, but don't let its aesthetic overhaul fool you. One of the biggest differences between the two is the way the Disney-themed levels are mapped for Sora and company to explore.

This time around, each stage is made up of a series of rooms connected through an overworld grid known as Castle Oblivion. The game's battles are still played out in real time as in past KH games but are treated with a card deck scheme, allowing you to choose separate cards for certain attacks and tactics, constantly switching out your cards in order to build the most effective deck for each encounter.

Back-tracking through the Castle is also a cinch: defeated enemies don't respawn after their defeat, allowing you to take the time to level grind and explore secret rooms you may have missed the first time around.

Still, it's obvious that Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories didn't get as much polish as it could have. New cutscenes, while nice to look at, are sparse and mostly absent of voice acting, and the graphics aren't anywhere near the special effects madness that was present in Kingdom Hearts II.

However, my biggest gripe with Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories is the frustrating lack of a coherent battle camera. Even though it can be manually adjusted with the analogue stick, trying to do so while playing attention to hordes of Heartless and your card deck is a downright hassle.

If Square Enix more or less fixed the rampant camera issues in Kingdom Hearts II, why couldn't they have spent some time programming those corrections into this release?

NEXT PAGE: king of hearts, ace of keyblades

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