The popular Kingdom Hearts game series combines Square-Enix’s beloved game characters and style mixed with timeless Disney characters and worlds. Re:coded takes place after Sora’s adventures with Donald and Goofy from Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. Jiminy Cricket is thumbing through the journals he wrote during their adventures, and notices a strange message that he didn’t write! King Mickey decides to digitize the journal into a computer and see if they can analyze how that message got there! But all of a sudden, strange bugs and blocks fill the screen, and they don’t look friendly. King Mickey sends a digital version of Kingdom Hearts hero Sora into the virtual journal to see if he can figure out what’s going on. Now it’s up to Data Sora to stop the bugs and solve the mystery of the secret messages!
Gameplay-wise, Re:coded plays a lot like the other Kingdom Hearts games. Play as Sora and tromp around Disney worlds while smacking Heartless enemies with your key shaped sword called a Keyblade. Fans of the original KH game will find a lot of familiar locations, as most of the worlds are recreated nearly verbatim from the original game (Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, Hercules, etc.). That isn’t to say there aren’t a few differences, though. With the addition of the ‘bug blox’ strewn around the levels, there are more opportunities for block puzzles and jumping challenges. Plus there are secret doors to find that will take you to a TRON-like landscape for even more challenges as you debug the worlds. Boss battles also add some much needed variety to the mix. Each world introduces a different style of play when it comes to facing that world’s main bad guy. In one world, you might be tossed into a 2-D platforming level, or a shooter, or even a turn-based RPG battle!
A lot of the gameplay gimmicks are taken directly from the PSP Kingdom Hearts game: Birth By Sleep. Such as managing command decks (your magic and special attacks), finishing moves, combos, and combining magic and attacks in your deck. One new tweak in the menu is a computer circuit board that you can attach chips you collect throughout the game. These chips will boost your stats and careful placement of these will even unlock more abilities and other goodies. The 3-D graphics are pretty darn good for the DS, and even the fully voiced and animated cutscenes rival the other KH games. There is even a ‘tag mode’ that lets you communicate with other nearby players to unlock more challenges, items, and other treats.
Re:coded isn’t without some problems, though. But most of them are the same quibbles found in other KH games, so if you’ve managed to put up with them in past games, they may not bother you as much here. The games have always had some floaty jumping controls and camera angle problems. Plus, most of the worlds are rehashes of past levels, so if you’re looking for something completely new, you won’t find it here. For all intents and purposes, this is basically Kingdom Hearts 1 on the DS, and it does make for a nice recap of the first game. Even so, I’m sure Kingdom Hearts fans will enjoy this adventure at least somewhat, and appreciate the newly added tweaks.
Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded is rated E-10 for Everyone 10 and up with an ESRB descriptor of Fantasy Violence. Really, if you’re OK with your kids watching any Disney movie, they’ll be OK with this game. But it’s best enjoyed by older kid Kingdom Hearts fans as there is a lot of reading and wading through complicated menus.