There is a lot of micromanagement and not a whole lot of payoff for your efforts and overall this is the biggest weakness of Chain of Memories. Since battle is a key component of gameplay you will need to constantly keep your deck updated and stocked with high end cards and in the end you will wind up making theme decks that are created solely for singular battles. I had one boss battle that I only used magic cards and then never used the deck again. Later fights are loaded with enemies who maintain a large deck, with plenty of high level cards and a lot of zero cards so they are always ready to counter whatever you think you're ready to throw at them. And of course, like the GBA game once you or your opponent run out of cards you need to 'reload.' Which means to stand in place while holding down the X button until all the cards are replenished. There are cards to alleviate this scenario that allow you to move while recharging your cards, or reduce the amount of time spent charging.
A majority of the time spent in the game is in battle, and moving about the map in each level. Overall it translates out to about a 20 hour experience, and a lot of it feels like it takes a lot more than that to get through the game. This is mostly because of the grind of battle. I wound up making it my goal to spend my level ups on increasing my card stock, and in the end that wound up being pretty moot since I had neglected hit points to the point that I couldn't survive more than a few attacks from the later bosses. This in turn lead to more grinding and eventually I was tired of the whole experience, especially the wonky transition to battle. If there was no need for an instanced battle I would have found the game more enjoyable, since the maps themselves are varied in height and size, where as the battle arenas are a flat square.
Another aspect of the game I took issue with is the card implementation and controls. The card system features a 'premium' card that grants the user a cheaper card, however it's not explained to the user in game that a 'premium' card can only be used one time unless specific cards are carried that allow the user to replenish them. These cards can be ludicrously expensive, offsetting the savings earned by using 'premium' cards in the first place. Now when it comes to using the cards, you can cycle the cards using the L1 or R1 buttons, and then bank them with the triangle button, or just use them with the circle button. Banking cards allows you to store three cards and then execute them all at once to unleash a powerful attack or use a sleight. This all sounds well and good in theory, but in practice it's tough to execute consistently while dodging attacks from the enemies. A roll/dodge is a given part of your move set but more often then not you'll be fighting enemies who have homing attacks, making your dodge relatively useless.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a tough game to like. The characters and the universe are awesome and deserve praise. But the gameplay and story feel shallow, and the experience is shorter than your average action RPG experience. Even at a lower price point it feels like this game should have been packed in to a limited edition of Kingdom Hearts 2 to be released in the US much like Japan. I would have felt better about that purchase rather than picking up Chain of Memories almost three years after the release of Kingdom Hearts 2. To recommend this game would almost be a disservice to fans of the series. If you played this game back when it was on the GBA you would not be missing out on much if you skipped the PS2 remake. Don't let SquareEnix think that a quick and dirty port that is nearly three years over due be an acceptable release this late in the PS2's life.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is really for the dedicated, the kind that enjoy fanfiction, and repetitive gameplay.
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