|Dev: Square Enix Co., Ltd./h.a.n.d.|
|Pub: Square Enix, Inc.|
|Release: January 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Although fans have been hoping and praying for a new Kingdom Hearts game featuring original series protagonist Sora, it seems our favorite hero's adventures have been put on hold ever since the events of Kingdom Hearts II. However, at first glance, it seems Sora is returning in the new DS-exclusive Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. But once you delve deeper into this title, you realize that not everything is as it seems.
After the events of Kingdom Hearts II, Jiminy Cricket finds a mysterious note at the end of his journal, which King Mickey wants to investigate. In order to figure out where this note came from, the journal must be digitized and explored. When the data is digitized, a hero is created to explore its contents: Data Sora. Data Sora is an AI version of everyone's favorite Kingdom Hearts hero. So while he looks like Sora (circa the original Kingdom Hearts), talks like Sora, and acts like Sora, he's not really Sora. This is quite a novel idea to bring back a character in this way, but I can't help but think some fans will be put off by this faux-return of the series' most-popular character.
However, even though Sora isn't real (and several of the other characters he met in his travels are also digitally recreated), there is some influence from the "real" world here. Series baddies will show up and interfere with your discovery of the truth behind the hidden message in the journal from time to time, and in an interesting twist, the journal is personified at some point in the game as a familiar character. Everything is definitely not what it seems in the world of Jiminy's journal, and the mystery aspect of the game should definitely delight fans who have come to expect deep-plotted experiences from the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Since the game is based on an episodic series, you can expect plenty of twists and turns along the way and some definite "cliffhanger" moments. Although the story doesn't "lead in" to any of the existing games, it looks like it will expand upon the game's universe (much like Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days did) and gives some added depth to the supporting cast.
But no matter where you stand on the existence of Data Sora, he isn't the only thing that is different about Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. The gameplay will also be a lot different and will take you through the different journal entries (Sora's memories, in essence), and you will be looking for bad data blocks to destroy. Players will visit familiar areas from the first game, including Agrabah, Hercules' Coliseum, and Hollow Bastion. The game's combat system is nearly the same as other handheld Kingdom Hearts games, and will most closely resemble the attack deck system recently used in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. The game will also feature the same menu shortcut system used in all Kingdom Hearts games, and the controls should be similar to those in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days.
However, one thing that will be wildly different will be the visuals. Because this game is being ported from a downloadable cell-phone title, the visuals will be noticeably different. Talking portraits will replace the majority of what would normally be animated cutscenes, and longtime fans may notice a little less detail in their favorite locales. Although some of the visuals will undoubtedly be tweaked for the DS, early screenshots are showing a simplistic look for the game. Of course, there is probably still plenty of time between now and Re:Coded's Q1 2011 release for the North American territory, so perhaps these visuals will be improved before the game is released.
The premise of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded sounds really strange at first blush. Porting a cell phone game to a handheld system sounds like a shaky concept, and introducing a character that looks like the main character, but isn't, is certainly a risky move. Still, the story seems quite intriguing, and there is certainly time to improve the game's overall look before releasing it on the DS. Although there is no North American release date for Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, the game will see a Japanese release this October.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor