Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded – Nintendo DS Review

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Role-Playing Game
MSRP: $34.99 US
ESRB: Rated E10+
Release Date: January 11, 2011

Review By: Eduardo Zacarias, Editor-in-Chief

Having been a fan since the first Kingdom Hearts game appeared on PlayStation 2, the series has seen “extra” chapters on handhelds before the sequel arrived on the same console. While fans patiently await the third installment – and believe me, there will be a Kingdom Hearts III – Square Enix brings us a game that was original available on cell phones in Japan. Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded finally lands on the Nintendo DS but is it good enough for even loyal fans of the series?

Thankfully, Re:coded reunites Sora with Donald, Goofy, Mickey and Riku so it at least returns to the heart of the journey and doesn’t hit a road bump like it did with the fun-yet-flawed Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. In fact, this adventure is a return to the events of the first game despite that the story takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts II. You see, Pinocchio’s conscious, Jiminy Cricket, is also King Mickey’s royal scribe who chronicles all major events as well as Sora’s adventures. However, when he discovers a glitch in some entries involving Sora the cricket has two familiar characters create a digital version of Sora (complete with Keyblade) to make things right.

So begins an adventure set in worlds seen in both Kingdom Hearts and its console sequel as Sora and friends retrace their steps that will take them through places like Olympus, Wonderland and Agrabah. Visiting these places, Sora and the others not only face the Heartless but unravel the mystery behind the glitches. The good news is that Sora gets to do some series cleaning and that means slicing up Heartless with his Keyblade. Again he gets support from Donald, Goofy, Mickey and Riku as they meet up with a number of other Final Fantasy and Disney characters.

If there’s one thing that Re:coded does magnificently that is action. Combat is fluid and true to the console games, including the auto-targeting that makes striking your enemy effective when it doesn‘t confuse an enemy with a crate. On top of that, Sora and equip spells and certain items you obtain in each world so there’s plenty of variety to your attacks.

Interestingly enough, the game also tries to mix things up while keeping the familiar RPG elements but it’s the new gameplay features that make this one a nice change of pace from Chain of Memories or 358/2 Days. The best part is that the variety in gameplay styles isn’t overused so the game goes back to its role-playing game roots. In one section you will find yourself in a side-scrolling platformer level and in another you will be commanding characters in a turn-based strategy level. There’s even an on-rails shooter level as well as boss battles that take on an interesting turn.

I’m actually quite disappointed that the game is actually a short one that offers no other real incentive to play again aside from the fact that there’s a second ending. It’s also disappointing that the majority of the cut scenes aren’t all animated (only scenes with Mickey, Donald and Goofy are animated) while the rest of the scenes are made up of stills with dialogue bubbles. Then there’s the wonky camera that often gets in the way of the action, especially in the platformer level that can get frustrating because of it.

Visually, Re:coded is impressive but then – if you played 358/2 Days or any other Final Fantasy DS game you would already know that. The animated scenes look amazing and the characters look good within the games so expect some equally dazzling visual effects as well. As far as the sound is concerned, there’s not much in terms of voice acting but the score is wonderful and certainly makes up for the lack of voice acting in this series.

Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded for the Nintendo DS is a solid entry and one that will pleasantly surprise true fans of this series. It’s also a game that is marred by a number of flaws that hold this game back from true greatness. We also wish the game was longer or given us a reason to want to play again but what is here is worth playing and even more so if you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan who has been patiently waiting for it to come to our side of the pond.

ANIMANGA NATION RATING

Gameplay: B-
Graphics: B+
Sound: B+
Appeal: B
Overall: B-

Review copy provided by Square Enix

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