The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
A confusing number of Kingdom Hearts games have released over the
last few years, and by jumping all around the timeline, series
mastermind Tetsuya Nomura hasn’t made it easy to keep track of the
events. Re:coded is the first title to pick up after the end of Kingdom
Hearts II and puts you in control of franchise hero Sora – well, a
digital replica of him at least. The game originally released
episodically on mobile phones in Japan, but Square tweaked and beefed up
the title for its DS release.
Re:coded takes its cues from Tron,
as Disney’s Mickey, Donald, and Goofy get sucked into a computer copy
of overused worlds like Aladdin’s Agrabah and Alice’s Wonderland. They
originally summoned Data Sora to deal with the bugs in the system to
help decode a mysterious message, but eventually get trapped inside and
need his help to escape. Aside from the rehashed areas, Sora ventures
into new areas called system sectors, techno neon code rooms, to quash
bugs plaguing the worlds. These futuristic dungeons are essentially the
only new areas in the game, but it’s not long before layouts repeat and
become as stale as the rest.
The devs thankfully spruced up these
maps with new gameplay modes taken from other genres. For example,
rather than serving as a battle arena, Olympus Coliseum is a refreshing
turn-based RPG in the vein of the Mario & Luigi series. Other
variants include a side-scrolling platformer, a Space Harrier-style
shooter, and a battlefield command stage where Sora has to boss AI
allies around rather than attack himself. The RPG segment is easily the
best, teasing what a less action-focused Kingdom Hearts experience could
be. The platformer plays like the auto-scrolling running games that are
all the rage on smart phones. The only problem is that it relies on the
standard movement set of the main game, which is way too imprecise to
meet the needs of the genre.
Though Re:coded suffers from heavily
recycled levels and enemies, at least Square Enix innovated on the
character growth. The new leveling system replicates a computer
motherboard where players place microchips to boost stats and unlock new
abilities. It’s annoying that you don’t know what some abilities will
do until you unlock them, but they all are useful in the end. I
especially liked the “cheat” switches that allow you to tweak various
elements of the game for a price. You can trade off your health for more
loot, or increase enemy strength for more prizes. It’s unwise to slide
things too far out of the ordinary, but it’s nice to have the option if
you’re shooting for something specific like more money or faster
Re:coded allows players to revisit previously completed
worlds for additional fetch quests and more system sectors, but only
completionists should bother. Near the end of the game you’re going to
have to run through all of these maps again anyway in a lazy move by
Square to pad out the quest.
Despite the new gameplay types,
Re:coded’s mostly recycled content feels too stale to recommend to
anyone outside of the most diehard fans.