Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (キングダム ハーツ チェイン オブ メモリーズ Kingudamu Hātsu Chein Obu Memorīzu?) is an action role-playing game developed by Square Enix and Japanese studio Jupiter and published by Square Enix in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance. The game serves as an intermediary between the two larger-scale PlayStation 2 games in the Kingdom Hearts series. It was one of the first GBA games to incorporate full motion video (FMV). The game was remade into a PlayStation 2 game titled Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, which was released in Japan as a second disc packaged with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix in March 2007. The remake was released in North America on December 2, 2008.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is the second game in the Kingdom Hearts series. It is a direct sequel to Kingdom Hearts, and its ending is set about a year before Kingdom Hearts II. The story centers around the protagonist of the first game, Sora, exploring a mysterious castle in search of his friends. As he ascends the castle, his friend and rival, Riku, explores the basement levels and fights his inner darkness. The game introduces new characters and plotlines that further expand the Kingdom Hearts universe and set up the premise for Kingdom Hearts II.
Though not as successful as the other Kingdom Hearts games, it received positive reviews and sales. It was praised for its story, graphics, and FMVs. The game features a new card-based battle system that is a departure from its predecessor. When it debuted in Japan, it sold 104,000 units in 48 hours.


Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a combination between a console role-playing game and collectible card game. The main role-playing aspect is an experience point system that is used to increase the character's maximum health or Card Points, or to learn a new skill. The cards are utilized in the progression of the story as well as in combat. The game features a field map and battle screen. The field map is an isometric area where the player can traverse between rooms. Enemies inhabit the field map and track the player to engage in combat, which can be initiated through contact between the player and an enemy. Once combat has been engaged, the game switches to the battle screen which utilizes a card-based battle system.
A unique aspect to this game is "room synthesis": to advance through the game, the player must utilize Map cards that he has found after winning battles to synthesize rooms. The properties of each room―including quality of items and strength of enemies―are determined by the Map cards that the player chooses. Each card has a specific effect: red cards affect the number and type of enemies; green cards affect the power of the player's deck; and blue cards affect the properties of the room itself, such as allowing treasure chests or a save point to appear.
The game features three modes of gameplay. The first two are story modes that feature either Sora or Riku, and the third is a two player battle mode. Initially only Sora's story mode is available; once completed, "Reverse/Rebirth" mode becomes available. Reverse/Rebirth allows the player to play a second story mode featuring Riku and a link mode where players can battle each other via a Game Link Cable.

Sora battles Vexen. Player information, including cards and HP, is located on the left side of the screen while enemy information is located on the right.


Combat uses a card-based battle system executed in real time. The player can jump and maneuver around the battle screen as they would on the field map, but all physical attacks, magic, items, and summonings are activated by playing cards. Cards are ranked from zero to nine, and are used for making attack combos or breaking enemy cards. The higher the rank, the more Card Points (CP) are required to place it in the player's deck. Card Points—increased through level up—limit the number of cards the player can use in a deck. Cards with rank "zero" can break any opposing card or combo if played after the opposing card or combo, but they can be broken by any card or combo as well if it is played after the zero card is played. Breaking an opposing card will cancel that attack and stun the loser of a card break for a short time. Special enemy cards may be obtained by defeating enemies and bosses, and are used to give the player a temporary ability, ranging from enhanced offensive and defensive capabilities to modifying the attributes of certain cards.
Combining cards in sets of three will create combo attacks that are more difficult to break because the rank of the combo will be the sum of the ranks of the three cards in the combo. Certain card combinations will create a "sleight", a special combination that will create a powerful physical attack, magical spell, or summon attack. When the player runs out of cards, the deck must be reloaded. Additionally, using a card combination will cause the first card in the combo to become unusable until the end of combat.
Sora's and Riku's stories differ gameplay-wise in several ways. In Sora's story, Sora obtains cards by defeating enemies or through Moogle Shops. In some cases, Sora must earn the specific card first through a plot event before it becomes available. Sora can create and store three different decks in the pause menu. Unlike Sora, Riku has a closed deck that cannot be customized. The cards in his deck change depending on the world in which he is traveling. Riku is limited to mainly physical attacks, enemy cards, and Mickey Mouse ally cards. By breaking a certain number of opposing cards, Riku can activate "dark mode" and unlock his sleight attacks.


 Kingdom Hearts series chronology 


The game takes place in Castle Oblivion, a mysterious castle kept by Marluxia. Sora and his teammates are told that the castle causes visitors to lose their memories upon entering. The lobby and areas between floors are white with flower-themed decorations, but each floor can be transformed into a different world from the first Kingdom Hearts game using "world cards" created from Sora's memories. Like before, many of the worlds are based on Disney films while the rest were created by Square Enix.
Unlike the previous game, the worlds are created from Sora's memories. As such, many of the events experienced in Kingdom Hearts are relived in this game; Sora encounters memory-based versions of Disney characters that he has met before. The individual plotlines differ from those in the original game and revolve around the theme of memory. The exception is the Deep Jungle world which does not reappear in Chain of Memories. Just as Kingdom Hearts had several worlds created specifically for that game, Chain of Memories introduces Twilight Town, in addition to the original worlds of Kingdom Hearts. The world card for Twilight Town was created from memories on "the other side of Sora's heart".


Sora returns as the main protagonist of the game. Donald Duck and Goofy also return, but are less involved in the gameplay and story. Like the first game, Chain of Memories features numerous characters from both the Final Fantasy series and the Disney animated features canon. Being a direct sequel, many of the characters from the first Kingdom Hearts reappear in this game. As each world and the related characters are recreated from Sora's memories, they interact with Sora as if they had never met before. Chain of Memories also introduces a handful of new characters. Several are members of the enigmatic Organization. Other new characters include Naminé, a young girl capable of manipulating memories, and DiZ, a mysterious man concealed by red robes and bandages. Rikuis also featured as a playable character in the second story mode. After being sealed in the realm of darkness at the end of Kingdom Hearts, Riku appears in the basement of Castle Oblivion. During his story, he is aided by King Mickey and DiZ.
Six members of the Organization serve as the main antagonists of the game, though only four appear in Sora's story mode, while the rest appear in Riku's story mode. Among the four are Marluxia, the main antagonist and lord of Castle Oblivion; Larxene, a female member assisting Marluxia; Axel, a double agent whose loyalties are hidden; and Vexen, an unwilling participant in Marluxia's plan.Zexion and Lexaeus, allies of Vexen, appear only in Riku's story mode. Ansem also appears in Riku's story as an entity within Riku trying to gain control of him. Many of the Disney villains return; although they are memory-based recreations like the rest of the Disney characters, they have different motivations compared to their Kingdom Hearts counterparts.


Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories takes place directly after the ending of the first game, Kingdom Hearts. Sora and his friends Donald, Goofy, and Jiminy Cricket are walking down a winding path when a mysterious man dressed in a black, hooded coat appears. He directs Sora towards a massive fortress called Castle Oblivion and then disappears. When the travelers enter, they find the mysterious figure again. When Sora and his companions attempt to engage the figure, they find that their abilities seem to have no effect. The figure explains that they forgot all of their abilities when they entered the castle. He continues by creating a deck of cards made from Sora's and his friends' memories, and tells them that everything they encounter in this castle will be based on their memories. The higher they go, the more memories they will lose in the process.
Sora is unaware that he is being watched by a mysterious group called the Organization. Marluxia, the lord of Castle Oblivion and the figure who lured Sora there, plans to control Sora with the memory-altering powers of a girl named Naminé and use her to overthrow the rest of the Organization. The Organization members Zexion and Lexaeus catch wind of this plot and observe it while the member of their circle, Vexen, decides to use a replica of Riku against Sora when Lexaeus sends him up to sabotage Marluxia's plan, agreeing to have the replica's memory reworked with Naminé's powers.
As Sora ascends the castle, he battles Larxene, a co-conspirator in Marluxia's plot. Afterwards, he appears to remember Naminé as an old friend of his. He learns that she is being held in the castle, and continues to ascend, clashing with the Riku replica who now believes himself to be the real Riku. After witnessing the death of Vexen and killing Larxene, Sora learns about his shifting memories and Marluxia's plans from Naminé; Axel, another Organization member who serves as a double agent, had allowed Naminé to meet Sora to foil Marluxia's plans. Sora forms an alliance with the Riku Replica—who discovers that his memory was also altered by Naminé—and they fight to the top of the castle and defeat Marluxia. Naminé then puts Sora and his friends into pod-like machines to help them regain the memories they lost in the castle, even though they would forget the events that transpired in the castle. Before they are put to sleep, Sora and Naminé promise to meet again as real friends once he wakes up, Sora firmly believing that his memories of her and the castle will remain in his heart despite being forgotten.
In the second story mode, Riku has been transported from the realm of darkness and fights his inner darkness as he battles upward from the basement levels of Castle Oblivion. Vexen fights Riku to obtain his data and creates the replica of him that lacks the original's fear of darkness, believing himself to be stronger. Ansem, who took over Riku's body in the previous game, attempts to regain control of Riku below, but is continually thwarted by King Mickey's support. On the way, Riku battles and defeats Lexaeus, only to be dragged into the realm of darkness. However, he is saved by King Mickey when Ansem nearly succeeds in taking Riku's body as his own. Seeing Riku of no use to them as Marluxia has been eliminated, Zexion attempts to dispose of him by tricking him in the Destiny Islands disguised as Sora. However, when Zexion drowns Riku in light, he is saved by Naminé disguised as Kairi. With the darkness in his control, Riku defeats Zexion. Arriving in Twilight Town, Riku meets DiZ, an enigmatic individual interested in Riku who sends him to find Naminé. The Riku Replica, who now seeks to justify his existence, fights Riku in front of the mansion in Twilight Town, only to be destroyed by him. Riku learns from Naminé that what remains of Ansem lives in his heart. Riku chooses to face him and DiZ pulls Ansem from Riku's heart to battle. After defeating Ansem, Riku vows to utilize both his darkness and his light to protect what's important to him. He sets out with King Mickey as his companion.


Early concept art of the card-based battle system
The idea for an intermediary title was developed after director Tetsuya Nomura and his team had already begun to develop ideas for the second Kingdom Hearts game, which he had intended to be set a year after the original. Originally titled Kingdom Hearts: Lost Memories, Nomura changed the name to match the overall outline of the story, while still reflecting the theme of memories. Chain of Memories was developed to bridge the gap between Kingdom Heartsand Kingdom Hearts II. Like most sequels, Kingdom Hearts II was planned to have the character start from the beginning, ability-wise. To explain the loss of abilities gained in the previous game, Nomura had the story revolve around Sora's memories getting disorganized and implemented the card battle system to symbolize Sora's various memories.
Nomura was hesitant about releasing a Kingdom Hearts title on the Game Boy Advance, feeling that the 3D graphics of the original game would not translate well into 2D. Nomura changed his position after hearing that children wanted to play Kingdom Hearts on the GBA. After exploring ideas for the gameplay, he felt that a 2D Kingdom Hearts game would be possible, and that it could still feel like and play like what gamers were used to in the original. Meanwhile, Nomura wanted to give the game a "lighter tone" than the PlayStation 2 games.
Chain of Memories was announced along with Kingdom Hearts II at the Tokyo Game Show in September 2003. Initial details included the switch to 2D graphics, the use of cards to perform attacks, and that compressed movies would be utilized in some cut scenes. The cut scene animations were rendered using the graphical engine of the PlayStation 2 iteration and then encoded for the Game Boy Advance by using a technology developed by Japanese company, AM3. To help market the game, Disney and Square Enix launched official Japanese websites. A playable demo was first made available to the public at the 2003 Jump Festa in Japan; this demo and subsequent demos highlighted the card-based combat system. Aside from information gathered from the opening sequences, most details regarding the story were kept secret until the release.
The card-based gameplay of Chain of Memories would later serve to inspire the gameplay of Jupiter's next game, The World Ends with You; originally, the team envisioned a similar card game-based system taking place on the lower screen of the Nintendo DS, but eventually this morphed to a battle system taking place on both screens, with a card game controlled on the upper screen.


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