I'm going to make a prediction. Feel free to tell me if I'm wrong. You either:
a) Generally enjoy Kingdom Hearts as a series, in which case your favorite Kingdom Hearts game is: Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, or Kingdom Hearts 3D.
b) Dislike Kingdom Hearts, in which case you have no "favorite".
I think I'd be correct at least 80% of the time. Just take a look at this poll that I totally didn't steal from GameFAQs.
It's pretty clear where the love is. Look at the size of Kingdom Hearts II's e-peen as compared to that of Re: Chain of Memories, Re:Coded, and 358/Days. Kingdom Hearts II is definitely the one attracting all the ladies (and men).
Okay, so this is just one graph. And from GameFAQs of all places. But I'd say it's a pretty accurate one. Well, while I do love Kingdom Hearts II and those other ones that people like so much, I'm afraid they're simply not my favorites. Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories is. Y'know. That game in the title of the blog. The blog that you're reading. Right now.
So some of you might be going, "hey, Marche, you have shit taste. What looks fun about that stuff in the image up there?" Yeah, you kind of have a point.
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories seems on the outside like a Kingdom Hearts nightmare. You're going back through the same locations as in the first game. You'll fight your way through Olympus Coliseum for what feels like the thousandth time. You'll fight Genie Jafar. Again. And the fight will play out like it did in the first game. Again. And as if that weren't bad enough, it's not like the story is hugely important. You can jump straight from the first Kingdom Hearts into the second without much confusion. Heck, that's what I did back when Kingdom Hearts II first released.
So why even bother? What is it about Re: Chain of Memories that even makes it worth looking at?
Wait a minute, that's not right...
Yes, that's right. Cards. Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories has cards. Lots of them. And they alone make the game worth playing. They make the game fun. Allow me to explain. In case you didn't know, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories (and Chain of Memories) really diverged from the traditional Kingdom Hearts gameplay. And hot damn is the gameplay it has fun.
I'm not going to bother to explain the intricacies of the card-based battle system, because that would take paragraphs upon paragraphs of me droning on about it (I actually just erased six paragraphs of me droning on about it once I realized that it would be boring to read), but it is addictive as hell. It actually makes fighting Large Body #234984 fun.
I will say that it's a battle system that allows for a lot of strategy. Between creating your own deck of cards to battle with, setting up/using sleights (essentially setting up combos in-battle, which may trigger an ability based on which cards you used), and performing card breaks (interrupting an enemy's attack by using a card valued higher than theirs, or by using a card with a value of 0), and recharging your deck, you really have to plan out your attacks in advance if you want to get the upper hand. ESPECIALLY in boss battles. (Let me tell you, some of the later boss battles are HARD.)
I think this is wonderful, because you can get through quite a few other Kingdom Hearts games without any strategy whatsoever. Just attack and heal. Attack and heal. Attack and heal. Maybe use an item if you're low on MP and throw in an offensive spell or two. Where's the thought behind that? There's not a lot. Granted, higher difficulties in other Kingdom Hearts games may require a bit more thought, but I was largely able to get through those in the same manner.
A few other things to note. Take a look at that! In this Kingdom Hearts you actually get to choose what you want when you level up! No more leveling up and going "oh look, the game decided for me that I would get more health". No, no, no. You choose. And you have to choose wisely. How you level up plays a large part in battles. With more health you can survive longer. With more CP you can have more cards in your deck. With sleights you can pull off greater abilities. They're all important.
Which you deem more important than the others is up to you. Not the game. For once you grow with Sora. He doesn't grow for you.
What's next? Oh, look! It's everybody's favorite character to ship with Sora, Riku! And what's this? You're playing as him!
Yes, that's right. You get to play as Riku once you finish Sora's story. You might think "so what? I got to play as Riku in Kingdom Hearts 3D. And who would want to go through the game again as him?" as you flip through some Kingdom Hearts hentai. Let me tell you something. Re: Chain of Memories handled Riku brilliantly. Re: Chain of Memories beats the ever-loving shit out of Riku's Kingdom Hearts 3D appearance.
How so? Think back if you will to Kingdom Hearts 3D (assuming you've played it). Think back to playing as Sora. Then as Riku. What's the difference? The differences are relatively minor. Yes, Riku fights a bit differently than Sora, he might have an exclusive ability or two, and you can set up his abilities differently from Sora, but when you get right down to it, he's a clone. You're essentially playing as Sora with a new skin. And a deeper voice.
On the other hand, playing as Riku in Re: Chain of Memories is an entirely different experience from playing as Sora.
Unlike with Sora, you can't upgrade CP or get sleights. You can upgrade your attack power or darkness points. The reason you can't change your CP is because you can't change Riku's deck. Your cards are set up for you. They'll change as your progress through the story, but gone are the days of carefully choosing cards yourself. As for sleights, you have some set sleights you can use in Dark Mode.
Darkness points are used for Dark Mode. Perform card breaks in battle or take enough damage and you'll eventually activate Dark Mode. How long you're in it for depends on how many darkness points you have. Dark mode is like Riku's limit break. He gets the ability to use three powerful sleights, as well as to just wreck shit in general. Take damage in Dark mode and you'll revert back to your normal form quicker.
So, you get the idea. Riku is a whole different monster from Sora.
"Still," you might say. "That's all well and good, but why should I have to go through the whole game again? I mean, for god's sake, going through Agrabah for the umpteenth time was bad enough".
For one thing, it's not the same story. Riku undergoes his own journey. He goes through the different Disney worlds in a totally different order from Sora. And he has his own obstacles to overcome. See that guy up there? His name's Zexion. You don't get to fight him as Sora. Riku and Riku alone has to take him on. There's at least one other boss like this that I can remember.
"But that's just like Kingdom Hearts 3D!" you cry as you hug your official Kingdom Hearts 3D Riku body pillow (TM). Calm yourself.
Here's where the beauty of playing as Riku kicks in.
Playing as Riku does not mean you have to sink another 30 hours into the game. Riku's story flies by. Riku levels up quickly and cuts down enemies like he's the Raiden of Kingdom Hearts. You'll be shocked at how fast you're moving once you start playing it. If you wish, you can whip through his story in an afternoon or two. It's much more fast paced than Sora's story. One more difference between the two to throw on the pile.
[IOU one seamless transition into some conclusion paragraphs - <3 Marche100]
So why do I love Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories? It dared to be different. It dared to have a battle system that would be alien to Kingdom Hearts fans. One that they might shun and pass by without a second thought (as seems to have become the case). But you know what? That battle system works. It REALLY works. It's a blast. I'm honestly saddened that we'll never get another Kingdom Hearts game with this Re: Chain of Memories' battle system.
Beyond that, there's plenty of customization with both your deck and Sora and Riku them selves. And Square-Enix outdid their selves with how they handled Riku. Rather than taking the easy way out and making him a Sora clone, they made playing as him a unique experience. One that didn't overstay its welcome and incorporated bits of his character into the gameplay.
You know, because Riku has darkness in his heart...or something. So Dark mode. Yeah. Hey, cut me some slack. The word "darkness" gets tossed around so much in the Kingdom Hearts games that it's hard to remember how darkness ties into everything.
That's why I love Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories. I encourage anyone who hasn't played it yet to give it a chance, or anyone who has dropped it to try picking it up again. Once you understand what you're doing, it's a wonderful experience. One that's solidified it as my favorite Kingdom Hearts game.
Note: I know I was egging on Riku's Kingdom Hearts 3D appearance a lot in this blog, but don't get the wrong idea. I love Kingdom Hearts 3D too. I just think that Re: Chain of Memories handled playing as him in a far more interesting, fun, and unique manner.