GAMES - Review
11:00 - 30th June 2013, by Tom Smith

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded

We can still remember that feeling of excitement when we got our mitts on the original Kingdom Hearts. The clashing of Disney's biggest characters with that of Square's seemed odd at first, but worked like a dream come true. Now, with Re:coded we have the opportunity to return to the first game, but with a twist.

Following on from KHII, Jiminy Cricket noticed that something's wrong with the digital journal he had been keeping of the previous outings; all the pages have been wiped and a single mysterious message is left in their place. After some techno-wizardry from the Rescue Rangers, Chip and Dale, and some help from King Mickey, it's decided to send a digital version of Sora into the journal to investigate the corrupt pages. And thus the game begins, taking you back to the adventure that sparked it all.
Thankfully, it's not a straight hand-held port - not by a long shot. It turns out that glitches have affected the worlds from the first game, altering them and changing their events. It's down to Digi-Sora to erase all of the glitches and return the journal to its original state, as well as figuring out the meaning behind the message left in the journal and how it got there.

To reinforce that this is an entirely original outing, a number of new gameplay features have been thrown in to keep the action fun, fresh and ultimately exciting. For example, some sections transform the game into a 2D side-scroller, while others mimic shoot 'em-ups like Space Harrier, as well as old skool Final Fantasy (turned-based battles!), strategy games and more.

At its core, Re:coded plays very much like an action-adventure RPG. The battles are real time and can happen at any moment while exploring. Attacks can be linked into combos by simply mashing A, while three slots have been kept for special attacks which can be launched in order by hitting X. As the game progresses more abilities for these slots are unlocked, and there's space for these to be linked with others to create new, stronger attacks - it's all rather exciting to experiment and see what you can create. The levelling up system also allows a degree of customisation to your character's stats - think Final Fantasy X's sphere system but with added strategy. Regular KH-heads may recognise this element from 358/2 Days, as that's where it's been borrowed from - but it's been tweaked so it's not as complicated.

Re:coded is not without its problems. As with most 3D adventure titles, the camera can be a pain. This is especially true when things have been whittled down to the limited control space of the DS (D-pads were not made for the third dimension!). The camera is controlled with the right shoulder button, a tap centralises it behind Sora while holding it and pressing a direction on the D-pad allows full control but prevents the hero from moving - so choose wisely and make sure the camera's placed in an adequate position before making a move, otherwise you may regret it when you're stuck, fighting blind. Alternatively, if you have a third hand, you can use the touch screen for making adjustments, but more than likely you don't, and the stylus will stay in the back of the handheld for the game's entirety.

The biggest problem with the camera is getting everything lined up for the platforming sections, which, just as with KH's bigger console-based brothers, can be infuriating when it all goes wrong. There's an auto-jump feature too, which works much like Zelda - take a run at an edge and instead of falling on your face, you'll make a jump automatically. Alternatively, it can allow Sora to climb up objects. Annoyingly, auto-jump does not necessarily relate to a correct jump, and several times it left us falling short - literally.

There's also the case of the glitches - which appear as boxes scattered throughout levels. Bashing these supposedly fix the journal, though simply leaving an area and returning to it makes them respawn, making us question the whole point of bashing them to start with, besides reaping the EXP and munney they hold. Jiminy should've listened to us when we told him to get a Mac.

It's also worth noting that there are several sections which require sound in order to continue, so make sure you pack headphones if you're gaming on the go. On the plus side, you can listen to the beautiful opening song 'Simple and Clean' by Hikaru Utada too!

Furthermore, the cartridge features two save slots, meaning your brother, mother, other-half or whoever can start their own adventure without having to resort to overwriting your saved-data or buying an additional copy of the game.

In a nutshell, Kingdom Hearts Re:coded offers all the fun of its previous adventures in a tiny format. And most importantly, it's still feeling new and fun to play. The dinki-fying of the graphics hasn't resulted in a case of the uglies either - ain't that just

Re:coded offers a bright new alternative to the first Kingdom Hearts title (which is approaching its tenth anniversary!), with plenty of new gameplay features, surprises and extras to keep even the most hardened of KH-players entertained. There is some expected knowledge on the behalf of the gamer, and the odd flaw, but ultimately this is a solid 3D adventure for your DS!
SCORE: 4/5
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