|Dev: Square Enix Co., Ltd./h.a.n.d.|
|Pub: Square Enix, Inc.|
|Release: January 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Neilie Johnson
Since first appearing in 2002, Kingdom Hearts has become a mainstay of the RPG genre. What was once seen as a nonsensical mash-up between Square Enix supermodel melodrama and Disney cute is now a hit franchise that could, theoretically, go on forever. Proof of that is the latest installment in the series, Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, a DS-exclusive "RPG lite" aimed at the casual gamer.
The game starts in Disney Castle where King Mickey and friends are trying to discover the author of a mysterious message left in Jiminy Cricket's journal, which was left over from the first Kingdom Hearts. While analyzing the journal's data, they realize it's been corrupted and is being slowly destroyed by bugs. Desperate to save the data, they awaken a digital version of Sora (the hero of the majority of the Kingdom Hearts games), who immediately begins his quest to debug the journal. Within the digital datascape, you set out as Sora, keyblade in hand, to once again save the universe of Kingdom Hearts.
If you've played any of the Kingdom Hearts games, the formula will be familiar. You run around adventuring, fighting, and talking to various Disney characters, but this time you also spend considerable effort destroying bugs that show up in each world as different colored blocks (or "blox" as they're called). Within each location, your task is twofold – to eliminate the bugs and to confront and defeat the source of them. In addition to this new bug-stomping agenda, Re:coded has a slew of new gameplay elements on offer, and the first of these is finding and debugging system sectors.
Within these surreal, Tron-like rooms, your focus is to defeat every bug and collect sector points which can then be redeemed for combat commands, munny, and XP. These sequences also function as a teaching tool, introducing you to the different types of bugs you'll encounter later in the game. Most importantly, once you complete these sectors, you restore bits of the larger digital world and recover pieces of the journal's original data.
The second new gameplay element in Re:coded is the new RPG system. Represented as a cute, colorful computer matrix, it allows you to customize and level your character as well as unlock new combat commands and cheats by installing various chips. Of course, this is mostly window dressing since commands are still assigned, combined, and accessed much as they are in previous games. It's fun though, especially the cheats, which allow you to choose between things like more loot in exchange for less XP or better prizes in exchange for tougher enemies. Third and last of the new aspects of Re:coded is the inclusion of classic game modes not seen in the series thus far.