Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

We spend some hands-on time with Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories--the sequel to Kingdom Hearts, and prequel to Kingdom Hearts II.

Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories picks up where the first PlayStation 2 game left off, with Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy returning from their epic journey. The friends are approached by a shrouded figure who sets them on a path to Traverse Town, a strange place drawn from Sora's memories.

Within Traverse Town, the group encounters Leon, Aerith, and other Final Fantasy alumni, who have become amnesic and don't remember fighting the Heartless alongside the heroes. The ensuing adventure leads right up to the next installment of the series, Kingdom Hearts II for the PlayStation 2.

Reshuffling the Kingdom Fantastic

Though it has a simple leveling up system, Chain of Memories plays more like an adventure game with card-based combat than a traditional RPG. By defeating enemies, you collect cards that are used for attack and defense, to unlock doors that lead to other worlds, and for calling on characters from the first game to lend a hand in battle. The card-based combat is performed in real-time--you can move around the screen, jump, and dodge enemy attacks while drawing cards that designate your own offense.

Mickey Got a Raw Deal

You primarily attack by swinging a key blade at foes, but special cards enable you to use ranged attacks and spells, and let you call upon allies to give you a helping hand. The fighting can get pretty intense, as you have to dodge attacks and pay attention to what foes are drawing while quickly cycling through your own deck and choosing cards with the right value.

If your card has a higher value than your enemy's, you can break through his defenses, but be careful--play a lower card and he can deflect your attacks. Zeroes are wild cards that can break any cards your enemy plays, as long as it is played last. By pressing both shoulder buttons you can stock cards, which enables you to combine cards for more powerful attacks and spells. By stocking certain combinations, you can also perform tricks, called sleights.

So far, Chain of Memories is shaping up fantastically, and the mix of Square and Disney characters seems even more natural on the GBA as it did on the PlayStation 2. The graphics and music are simply captivating, and though we only got to play through a portion of the tale, we're already hooked and can't wait to get our hands on the final build.

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