Unlocking the secrets of Castle Oblivion means discovering the secret of why Sora can't remember anything. Luckily, card battling is second-nature to our hero.
With Goofy and Donald by his side, Sora delves into the worlds of Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, The Nightmare before Christmas and Peter Pan, among others. Completing each floor makes Sora more powerful and moves him one step closer to regaining his memory.
Like a traditional RPG, the game has a set path Sora must follow in order to advance to the next floor. Standing in his way are locked doors and the Heartless. The Heartless wander around floors and pick fights with Sora. Being run-of-the-mill flunkies, they don't stand much of a chance against Sora's powerful card combos. And once Sora defeats a gang of Heartless, he wins a map card which will unlock a number of doors in the castle. The map cards contain numbers, as do doors. If a door calls for a map card of five or higher, then you can use any map card that has a value of at least five.
Not only do map cards unlock doors, they determine what awaits Sora behind the door. Map cards range from those that give Sora more power to ones that give the Heartless more power. Others offer rewards and a chance to upgrade your battle cards. Look at a card's description in the Map Cards section of the menu. Doors that lead to bosses and other game events need special keys that you will collect on that floor.
Once you encounter an enemy, whether it's a boss or one of the Heartless minions, the card battling begins. Create a deck filled with attack, magic, item and enemy cards. Press A to use the top card of your deck. If it's an attack card, Sora will need to be next to an enemy so he can swing with his key to land an attack. With magic attacks, Sora doesn't need to be standing next to an enemy. He can summon the spirits of such allies as Simba, Genie and Dumbo to whoop some Heartless tail.
Each card contains a number. If the enemy plays a card, you can play a card with a higher number to "break" their attack, rendering it worthless. You can also combine three cards to perform a powerful combo. However, each time you perform a combo, you lose the first card of the combo for the duration of that battle. Using too many combos will deplete your deck in a hurry.
When you defeat most bosses, you can use that boss's card in your deck. Enemy cards give you a bonus during battle for a short time. Jafar's card, for example, will keep your enemies from breaking any of your cards, regardless of card number. It's good to carry around a couple of enemy cards, but they take up more card points (CP) than your standard attack cards.
When Sora levels up, he can increase his stamina, CP or learn new combo moves. All of the combos Sora learns are housed in the Status menu. Experiment with different combos and see which ones are most effective for you. Then set your deck up to perform the combos. When you use your deck, the cards appear in the same order every time.
Like many RPGs, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories can be a bit wordy at times. Early on, enemies are not much challenge. Overall, though, this is a well-constructed, lengthy game. The graphics are some of the best you'll see on the GBA, featuring large, detailed character-sprites and amazing cut- scenes. But most of all, Donald Duck gets to take his rage out on someone for a change instead of flapping his bill and getting all red. That's got to be a healthy release for him. Bottom Line
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories gives action-RPG fans the goods. Plus, the game's familiar settings and characters won't intimidate those who normally steer clear of RPGs.
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