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truggling to differentiate reality with fabrications of the mind, Sora is clearly troubled. As he works his way through events that could be memory pockets or complete illusions, an unfamiliar face warns, "When your sleeping memories awaken, you may no longer be you." With esoteric dialogue that simply demands answers, Square knows exactly how to keep gamers glued to the events at hand. The introductory moments of this tale lead gamers along an irresistible breadcrumb trail that is loaded with intrigue and the promise of something spectacular.

The sensation that you’ve just stepped foot into another Square Enix masterpiece is quickly snatched away when your journey truly begins. Though brimming with mystery, Chain of Memories is overflowing with recycled material from the original Kingdom Hearts game. The concept of revisiting your past to regain your memory is sound, but truth be told, my memories of the original game are still very fresh, and helping Aladdin defeat Jafar again just doesn’t get my blood pumping. In my opinion, this is a cheap cop out on Square’s part. Reusing characters and locations is acceptable to an extent, but you have to do something different with these elements to truly keep people engrossed. Since Square has fashioned this game as a sequel that bridges the gap between the original entry and the forthcoming sequel, fanatics who must see it all will have to wade through hours of familiarity just to soak in a handful of cutscenes that point toward the future.

This really is a shame too, as Square’s ability to fuse frenzied hack ‘n slash melee with collectible cards has paid off with enjoyable results. Rather than simply flailing with a keyblade, players now scroll through a deck and activate specific cards to initiate attacks. This may sound odd, but the system that Square created is lightning quick in its execution and is very easy to use. With every action demanding split-second timing, each battle is tension-filled and ripe with strategy. Counter attacks, three card combos, magic, and character summons are brilliantly interlaced and allow players to assail foes in a multitude of ways. As enjoyable as combat is, enemy encounters are way too frequent. On average, you’ll be lucky to get a five-second breather before the next bout.

While it would have been nice to join Sora and company on a new adventure, it seems that Square would rather have us rekindle our fond memories until the sequel arrives. This is an enjoyable handheld, but like the direct-to-video Disney sequels, it just doesn’t have the magic of the original.


JOE JUBA   7.25

As much as it pains me to say this, I think I’m starting to like card combat – especially the way it’s done in Chain of Memories. The combination of reflex and strategy required to play the cards correctly is fun and involving, but I wish the whole mechanic had stopped there. Instead, you also need cards to open doors, and not in that crazy hijinks "slip the lock with a credit card" kind of way. They are like magical keys, which means that to get past a particular room, you may spend 30 minutes killing enemies, hoping that they randomly drop the card you need to keep going. This just serves to break up the flow of an already dull story that simply retreads old material instead of providing the epic new chapter fans were hoping for.

A sequel that lives completely in the past, yet offers up satisfying combat and a little taste of things to come in Kingdom Hearts II
A visual masterpiece that showcases amazing character detailing, stellar animations, and beautiful CG movie sequences (That’s right…CG on a GBA)
Not having voice hurts (especially for Donald), but the soundtrack is nicely done
Hack n’ slash collides with collectible cards to create a highly original and immensely satisfying combat engine
Too much is recycled from the original game to make it truly compelling for everyone
Moderately Low
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