System: Gameboy Advance
Title: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
Publisher: Square Enix
Circa: 2004

Along with the two Playstation 2 games that have come out, there was also this game released for the Gameboy Advance, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. It was recently remade for the Playstation 2, but many fans still prefer the Gameboy Advance version of the game. The game itself is fairly short, but it still takes some grind but offers a wonderful bridge between the two Kingdom Hearts games out so far. While the least successful title in the series in the US, it was still well received. Until the release of 358/2 Days on the DS, it was the only Kingdom Hearts title release A) for a portable system and B) on a Nintendo system. It differs from its kin, standing on its own, while adding in some nice information about the world that is.

This takes place immediately after the events of Kingdom Hearts. Sora, Donald and Goofy are camping out when something calls out to Sora. From this, they find a mysterious castle, the Castle Oblivion, as well as members of the Organization. These people present Sora with cards, apparently forged from his own memories. They are also told that as they travels deeper into the Castle Oblivion, they will get closer to the truth, but at the cost of their memories. In the Entryway is the only chance they have to leave without losing their memories.

The main focus is on the card based navigation system and battle system. As you travel through the castle, you will be choosing cards to select your destinations, like Never Land, Hundred Acre Woods, Transverse Town and others for a total of twelve floors of exploration, with the thirteenth being Castle Oblivion itself. When in the world map for the location, Sora will find doors he can open by hitting them with the Keyblade. This enters him into the Room Synthesis Screen. Here he can choose any of the map cards he has gained to generate the next room that meet the requirements. Sometimes it is easy to meet, other times, it is a real pain to have find the particular card needed.

Leveling up is fairly different from other Kingdom Hearts games as well. Each time Sora levels, you will be given up to three choices: HP, CP or Sleight. HP will increase Sora’s total HP by 15, CP will increase by 25, allowing Sora to put more cards in any deck up to his maximum and Sleight, only becoming available at particular levels, will give Sora new Sleights he will be able to use. A solid recommendation is to take Sleight every time it is available, as they come in a set sequence, so there is no skipping around them.

You can build and store up to three different decks in this game. There are four kinds of cards you use to build a deck: Attack, Item, Magic and Heartless. Attack cards are based on the various Keyblades found throughout the Original Kingdom Hearts, offering a wide variety on attacking. Item cards are generally single use to restore cards to the deck that have been expended in some fashion. Magic cards are for spells like Fire, Blizzard, Aero and Summons, like Bambi, Cloud or Simba. Lastly, in deck construction, you will find Heartless cards. These are unique in that they only have a passive effect on the deck, augmenting some abilities or letting you do something different. Keep in mind, that Sora can only have so many cards in his deck, which can be increase by selecting CP when Sora levels up.

The battle system offers something very different because of its more constructed nature as it is card based. Each attack action you perform will use the selected card, which will later need to be restocked when you run out or low on cards, so keep an eye on your remaining cards and what card is up. Inside it you will find these abilities called “Sleights”. By stacking up to three different cards, you can produce various effects while grow more powerful over time. Each will have different requirements for the Sleight to be performed. When the proper cards are stacked, a name will appear next to them, just below Sora’s lifebar, letting you know which Sleight you can trigger. Using a Sleight will remove the first card in it from the deck for the battle, so using too many of them in one battle will severally deplete your deck’s size. Another thing of note in the battle system is the Card Value. Some of it straight forward, in that the higher number will trump a lower number. The odd case is with “0”: it will beat any card played before it, but will lose to any card played after it. This makes “0” value cards excellent for countering and interrupting, but terrible for attacking. It is also different in that Sora technically fights alone, being able to only call on Donald or Goofy when he possesses their Friend cards, which can only be gained in-battle.


The most counter intuitive part of the game was “A” was attack while “B” was jump. The Shoulder Triggers “L” and “R” are used individually to move through your deck and select particular cards. It is worth noting that holding one will make it shift through the deck and automatically stop at the reload button. When “L” and “R” are pressed at the same time, Sora will stock cards for a sleight. By default Sleights will only trigger when three cards are present, but you can trigger it sooner by pressing “L” and “R” together on the Restock Card.

This will be a bit surprising, but these were well done. In game graphics were on par with what one could expect from the Gameboy Advance. The big surprise came from watching the few cut scenes in the game. While graphically limited by the raw power of the Gameboy Advance they were still rendered close to the quality of the cut scenes in the other Kingdom Hearts games, just more pixilated from its medium. That aside, the game is well rendered and true to the source materials.

Sound Effects & Music
The music is fairly enjoyable, as most of it is based off what the music was in the movies. While it generally is just an instrumental version, it still was a great touch and was generally enjoyable. The music itself was fairly distinctive, as friends recognized the music alone and knew what game I was playing. What little voice acting in there isn’t terrible, but fairly repetitive as it is triggered by Sleights or fairly regular events.

At this point, the game has faded into some obscurity.

Summary/Author’s Take
This is a game that I had heard something about through friends and one day decided to buy (a price tag of $10 did not hurt either). While somewhat slow on starting with the story, mind you without playing much of the other Kingdom Hearts, it does grow on you and at a fair pace becomes involving. It will take at least 2 flights/drives to get through. Just remember to get the hang of the Sleights, they will come in very handy later on in the game.

Story: 87%                Slow to get going, but has good twist
Gameplay: 93%            Different, but solid, takes time
Multiplayer: n/a%            Not available
Controls: 81%            Somewhat odd, but only takes practice
Graphics: 95%            The GBA at its best
SFX & Music: 78%            Nice
Obscurity: 56%            “Pretty sure I know it”
Overall: 82%                Solid game, somewhat an acquired taste

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