It’s time for another Kingdom Hearts game! Not one that actually advances or brings new revelations to the storyline, like though. Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is another gameplay focused filler game with a floundering story.
Kingdom Hearts Re:coded begins with Jiminy Cricket checking out his journal he wrote during the adventures of the original Kingdom Hearts. Surprisingly enough, it’s empty! There’s just one line on the page, that read:
"Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it."
Jiminy knows he didn’t write it, and takes the journal to King Mickey. Everyone reasons that what Jiminy wrote must still be there, but they just have to look at it in a different way. King Mickey then has Chip and Dale digitize the journal, and the King Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Jiminy decide to look up data-Sora to have him explore the now digital journal and find out what’s going on. Data-Sora then reports that the "entries" (worlds) are rife with bugs and anomalies. Luckily, when King Mickey and company pulled together data-Sora, they made sure he had the keyblade. Data-Sora also sees a strange figure in an Organization XIII style coat, who seems to either be helping or hurting the situation. It’s all rather vague at first.
Which means it’s rehash time! I hope you enjoyed playing through all the Kingdom Hearts situations in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, because it’s time to do it all over again. The story’s slightly different, but the point is the same. Data-Sora has to go to each world (Traverse Town, Wonderland, Agrabah, Olympus Coliseum, Hollow Bastion, and Castle Oblivion), solve the Disney character’s problems, fight some heartless, and seal some keyholes. Oh, and after each world another cryptic and poorly rhymed line shows up in the journal.
It’d best if you just kind of ignore the story. Kingdom Hearts Re:coded has the most complicated and nonsensical plot compared to all the other games, and in the grand scheme of the series, pretty unnecessary. I could probably sum up the whole point of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded in one sentence.
I mean, come on. King Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Jiminy Cricket somehow have Chip and Dale put together this super magic machine that takes written pages from a journal, scans them, turns the contents into data ,and makes a huge data world. Said data world then seems to have a mind of its own. The data then magically leaks out of the machine, or maybe it’s the book, to effect the real world. Well, not all the real world – the room that Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are in.
It’s a shame about the story because the gameplay part of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is pretty awesome. The camera’s unbearable 3/4ths of the time, but other than that it’s quite fun. The battle system is practically an exact replica of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep‘s, which was wonderful. As you attack, you "level up" with successful combos, causing an ability tree on the bottom screen to grow. At each level, a new ability appears – like Protect may be enabled, magic power could double or data-Sora will unleash a special attack. There’s also a command deck, like in Birth By Sleep, where you stock three or more commands, which you use in battle when their gauge is full.
There’s also a good method in place for leveling up data-Sora. You can adjust the difficulty at a computer panel which looks like a grid, enable some basic moves like dodge rolls, place panels to enhance data-Sora’s abilities, and level him up. Reaching certain spots on the grid can also strengthen him.
Data-Sora not only battles bugs and heartless in each of the data-worlds. He also goes behind the scenes to System Areas to bust problems in the background. These areas, which are incredibly cramped, are full of platforming challenges. There are all sorts of blocks – blocks that make data-Sora bounce, blocks to move, blocks that shock data-Sora, disappearing blocks – you get the idea. Oh, and lots of heartless. The goal is to remove anomalies by destroying specific heartless. You then clear the space and can move forward or escape. The camera problems come to a head here because the areas are so cramped. I had to adjust my view every few moments, just to progress. It’s especially trying because sometimes mid-jump you have to try adjust the camera just to see where to and while moving data-Sora.
Most worlds have a gimmicks. Well, every world except for Traverse Town, and Castle Oblivion. In Traverse Town and Hollow Bastion there are side scrolling platformer areas. Hollow Bastion also has a sort of real-time-rpg-strategy portion, where you have to issue commands to Donald and Goofy to make them fight in battles. In Wonderland, you’re matching "inklings" (memories) to characters and then taking part in a shmup battle. Olympus Colliseum has turn-based RPG battles. Agrabah is the weakest of the batch though, as it has a hide-and-seek challenge that’s timed and can be quite frustrating. For the most part though, these scenes are quite refreshing. But most of the time, in each world, you’ll be wandering around like you did in all the other Kingdom Hearts games, destroying heatless with the keyblade using the action-RPG style command menu.
There’s also a little avatar area, where players can create custom characters with avatar parts earned by leaving the game on and then wandering around in the hopes you’ll pass by someone else who also has Kingdom Hearts Re:coded in his or her DS. If this happens, you exchange avatars and System Areas. Let me tell you now, that won’t work. I tried walking around a mall in Chicago, a very large mall in a suburb where I live and even leaving it on, in my purse, while I drove to work. Only one or two encounters. The best thing to do is the Nintendo Channel trick, where you set that up on your Wii to transmit a random DS demo, then have your DS with Kingdom Hearts Re:coded on. It has the same effect.
It’s unfortunate that Kingdom Hearts Re:coded‘s story is so weak and comes across as such a blatant cash-in. Because the adventure part with refreshing world gimmicks and the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep battle system makes Re:coded an enjoyable adventure. Odds are, the only way you’ll really enjoy and take a chance on this game is if you’re one of the die-hard Kingdom Hearts fans out there who endures every entry in the series, worthwhile or not.
Food for Thought
- While cute, the avatar portion is pretty pointless. Too few people are playing the game to make it even worthwhile, and going through the Nintendo Channel trick enough times to get new parts and areas is too tedious.
- Even though the camera system is exactly the same, it seemed more tolerable in 358/2 Days than it did here in Re:coded.
- The full body character sprites are actually kind of cool and are quite detailed!