|Dev: Square Enix Co., Ltd./h.a.n.d.|
|Pub: Square Enix, Inc.|
|Release: January 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
At a few points in the game, you're transported to a 2D side-scrolling world where most of your powers are taken away and you have to focus on basic attacks as well as jumping to avoid environmental hazards. At others, you'll be tossed into a gauntlet-style shooting game where wave after wave of enemies and blox are thrown in your way. Finally, you and your AI allies will engage in a type of turn-based Coliseum combat you've never seen before that uses new kinds of group buffs called "licenses." These new modes add a lot of life to the game, kick up the pacing, and keep things perpetually fresh.
While these elements build the game up, there are a few obvious flaws that bring the game down. For a start, the story is weak. While referencing events in other Kingdom Hearts games, it's still comparatively thin and in the end, not as well-crafted and satisfying as it should be. Combat too fails to reach its potential due to an irritating, clunky camera that - more often than not -undermines what you're trying to do. Even with chase camera on, you have to continually hit the R button to recenter the camera behind you, which is a pain in the neck both during boss fights and when platforming. Last at issue is the game's length. While bandied about as an "RPG lite," the only thing the game's really light on is content. Clocking in at about a third of the length of other Kingdom Hearts titles, it falls short by a significant margin.
That said, Re:coded has a lot of good to offer. Setting the action within a virtual world opens up both narrative and gameplay possibilities, including the new system sector challenge modes. The new graphical take on the RPG system is also adequately diverting and replayability is good since you can revisit just about any completed world to fight new enemies and find new loot. It's fun to see old friends and to revisit old locations like Wonderland, Traverse Town, and Hollow Bastion, and the new game modes create fun, unexpected twists within the narrative that prevent things from ever getting monotonous. In addition to entertaining gameplay, the game's visuals and sound—barring some limited animations—are surprisingly in keeping with what we've come to expect from the Kingdom Hearts games. The cutscenes in particular are polished enough and occur often enough to provide a seamless flow between Re:coded and the rest of the titles in the franchise. The game as a whole is so well done that aside from a shorter playing time, you won't notice much difference between the DS Kingdom Hearts experience and that on other consoles.
Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is a respectable chapter in the Kingdom Hearts saga. While not as long as other titles in the series and suffering from a so-so story and less than perfect camera, fans of the franchise are sure to enjoy its virtual approach to familiar faces, gameplay, and locations. It mercilessly teases us with hints about where the story's going in the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3D, thus preparing us for a painful wait until that game's release. Even so, its inventive take on the Kingdom Hearts universe, fun, graphic spin on the existing RPG system, and variety of fresh new game modes make it a satisfying standalone title that both fans and newbies will enjoy.
CCC Freelance Writer