Monday, February 28, 2011

Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded Impression

Sora is back again in digital form but is there anything new to do?

Kingdom Hearts was such a unique title when it first released on PlayStation 2, a mixing of Square Enix and Disney characters and worlds that many gamers wondered how such an odd pairing would turn out. Needless to say the first two titles were excellent gaming experiences with tight combat controls, easy inventory management, outstanding graphics but most importantly a story and characters that gamers could and do care about. Since Kingdom Hearts II the tale of Sora has been watered down a bit with many handheld offshoots, not sequels, but offshoots. From Game Boy to DS to PSP the story continues, the past is told and gaps filled in. While gamers await a true Kingdom Hearts III these portable offerings are nothing to ignore as they continue the tried and true formula established from the beginning. Here in lies the problem as there have been tweaks to the formula but even die-hard series fans have to be feeling the déjà vu.

The most recent offering on the Nintendo DS is Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. This tale sees a digital Sora visiting familiar locations as he sorts out some data issues in Jiminy’s two journals (from KH 1 and 2). Could this story give tips to future Kingdom Hearts as it takes place after the first two games? Game time will tell, but what else does Re:coded offer? Let’s take a look

Gameplay – Take control of Sora (yup, the one and only original … sort of) and prepare for an adventure involving Donald, Goofy and Mickey with appearances by some very familiar faces. The action is third-person and gamers can upgrade attacks, skills, the keyblade and their buddies as they look to clean up the data scrambled world of Jiminy’s journals. That’s the main plot, Jiminy recording of the first two games gets all blue screen of death and it’s up to digital Sora to fix. Gamers get some variety as the various Disney worlds traveled too have different themes (action/adventure based, turn based etc) but the overall formula is Kingdom Hearts classic.

Graphics – The DS can do solid graphics that feel like PS2. The larger XL screen is a god send for gamers and really helps Re:coded shine. The FMV sequences are great and the in-game action does not lag. Some pop-in, loss of location happens but that’s more on the game engine than the overall look and feel. A solid looking title that keeps the sharpness of the franchise going and is on par with the best looking DS titles.

Sound – Surprisingly solid tracks keep the action moving and will feel familiar to fans. The opening sequence is still a keeper but after this many years couldn’t a new theme be found? Even the menu commands are the same, ditto on limited voice work. Great sounding package overall but one that’s gamers have heard before.

Design – Changes to the leveling system keep the computer/program feel going but this new Stat Matrix is more window dressing than true upgrade. There is also the avatar system but unless gamers have friends to exchange with not a lot to speak of here either. Overall the design is familiar and a re-hash of what’s come before. Not a bad thing as the KH formula is solid and works well on every system to date.

Miscellaneous – It’s a digital Sora but its Sora. The recent handheld entries have been filler titles, retellings or back-story but this is the first post-KH II title that stars Sora and takes place after the events of KH II. This will get fans blood pumping in anticipation of the ever requested Kingdom Hearts III.

Overall Re:coded will feel like an old friend that fans of the franchise will be more than happy to visit with again. While the gameplay, sound and overall design remains excellent after all these years the waiting for a true sequel sucks. Re:coded serves the double-edged purpose of showing off how memorable and great Kingdom Hearts was and is while starting up the fires for part 3 yet again.

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