Author Topic: Re:coded Re:viewed  (Read 948 times)


  • Tortuga
« on: January 17, 2011, 01:28:08 PM »
Time to review the latest title in the Kingdom Hearts series.  Maybe I'm the only one who gives a crap about this game, but maybe that should change.  Read on.

I've also decided to try a Pros and Cons review system, where each element is graded on a scale from -1 to +2, based on how well it's implemented.  The final score could be anywhere from -5 to +10 in this case.

Gameplay (+1)
The most important part of any game.  The gameplay is excellent.  The battle system improves upon 358/2 Days' in every imaginable way.  Instead of the panel system (which wasn't bad, mind you), special attacks are carried out using a Command Deck, similar to the system used in Birth by Sleep.  There are a few differences, such as a "Memory" system, which imposes an additional limit on how many and what kind of Commands you can have equipped; it would be impossible, for example, to have a full deck consisting of nothing but Zantetsuken, whereas you could fill the whole thing with a weaker attack such as Strike Raid and have Memory to spare.  The commands all gain experience, and two can be combined to either create a new command or simply power up the one you already have equipped.  When both of the combined commands gain enough points, you can convert them into higher-leveled command, at the cost of the command in the second slot.  This may or may not be a good idea, but usually is, as it will give you access to a more powerful version of the command, or a permanent copy of a synthesized one.  Sometimes commands can "Overspec" upon conversion, which will give them a useful bonus, such as an increased ability to fill the Clock Gauge when used, or decreased cooldown time, or both(!).

The Overclock Gauge is an element entirely new to Re:coded, although it's meant to replace the Shotlocks and D-Links in BbS.  As you attack enemies or Blox, your gauge will fill up, and upon filling the gauge completely, you will gain a Clock Gauge level and a new ability for as long as the gauge stays at that level or higher (the gauge will automatically start to drain if you don't attack anything).  When you max out the Gauge, you'll be given access to a Finisher (which unfortunately overrides your default Attack and will not let you use that until you've used the Finisher), which is usually powerful and always provides the player with at least a few invincibility frames.  Sadly, if the gauge depletes before you've used the Finisher, it'll disappear and you'll have to fill the gauge all over again, so your ability to save it for a rainy day is limited by how long it takes the gauge to drain completely.

The difficulty is very well-handled this time around.  There are four difficulty settings: Beginner, Standard, Proud, and Critical.  Surprisingly, all of these are available from the beginning of the game.  Even more surprisingly, you can switch between them at any time, which lets you scale things up or tone them down depending on how awesome or lame you are at the game.  In addition to traditional difficulty levels, there are numerous other unlockable settings, or "Cheat Tuners," such as a Experience and HP Modifiers.  One early
Tuner allows you to lower your max HP in return for hugely increased item drop rates, which simultaneously adds a challenge and reduces the need to grind for a rare drop.

Stats are increased or decreased using the Stat Matrix, which is a sort of evolution of the Panels in Days.  You apply various different Chips, which can be as insubstantial as a +1% resistance to Fire Damage, or as large as a +4 increase in Defense.  The only weak point of the system is the fact that you can't remove chips once they're placed - only replace them with other chips.  This makes modifying your stats a rather more convoluted affair than it should be.

Occasionally you'll find a "glitch" in the level and have to search for a "Backdoor" to be taken to a "Data Sector" and clear out "Bugs."  In plain talk, it means you have to hunt for an entrance to a bonus level/dungeon where you have to fight toughened up versions of regular enemies to proceed.  This part of the game is surprisingly fun, given the premise.  Each sector is divided into randomly-generated floors, which may or may not have more than one room to navigate between.  Once you've found and killed all the bugged enemies, you can advance to the next floor (or exit the sector, if you're on the final floor).  Once you're done in the sector, you can spend points you've earned while inside on Gear, Stat Chips, and Commands.  But that's not all there is to it.  Each floor will have a specific challenge, such as restricting the number of times you can jump, or having you inflict a certain status ailment on enemies a certain number of times.  You'll have to wager a minimum of ten percent (with the maximum wager normally set at fifty percent) of your current points on each challenge, and if you complete one, your points will be multiplied by a given amount.  You'll usually need to successfully complete all the challenges to get all the rewards for the sector (don't worry, all the sectors can be replayed in case you missed something the first time).  Most of the challenges are tolerable, but a few are fiendish, and the more floors there are, the harder-pressed you'll be to complete all the challenges.  If you fail a challenge or die, you'll lose what you wagered and likely screw yourself out of most of the rewards, which turns most sectors into a (sometimes frustrating) marathon-esque ordeal.

A few levels have specific gimmicks (sidescrolling platforming, turn-based battles, etc.) that are unfortunately not as well done as the main game.  If I wanted a different genre, I would play a different genre.

Overall, the gameplay is great.  Just a few things bog it down, but the only blatantly obnoxious parts of the game are the ones in which you're playing a gimmick level.

Audio (+2)
This is Yoko Shimomura we're talking about.  The soundtrack is excellent considering the DS' technical limitations.  Most of the songs are recycled from previous games, but they're still new arrangements.  I should also mention how much I respect that they didn't just re-use the theme from KH2's Tron world for the Data Sectors.  The sound effects are good, too, but if you're like me, you'll be busy listening to the music.  The voice acting is all right, although there isn't much of it apart from in-game voice clips.  Not many big cutscenes this time around, for reasons I'll explain later.  I was slightly disappointed when "The Other Promise" wasn't used for the final battle, but that's really just a nitpick.

Visual (+2)
Probably the best-looking DS game I've ever seen.  Almost everything you see is a 3D model (the most notable exceptions being a couple of Sora's Keyblades).  The animations and attacks are all very pretty.  Great graphics on a system whose games are usually too timid to venture out from sprites.

Content/Replay Value (+2)
This title has a positively brutal post-game.  There are thirty trophies to earn, only about three of which will be obtained before you complete the story.  There are sidequests (which are rather unimaginative, but rewarding) and extra Data Sectors and all sorts of challenges.  I could've waited to 100% this game before writing this, but I would be waiting quite a while.  You will not be easily bored.

Story/Writing (0)
The story isn't bad so much as inconsequential and shamelessly exists only to justify the gameplay.  There's just not enough of a plot for it to be good or bad, and as such, there aren't as many pretty cutscenes as in Days.  It does set up the next game (which will be released on the 3DS), but you can look up all relevant story information on YouTube.  This is not a game one buys for the plot.  [See "Gameplay" and compare the amount of text there to the amount of text in the rest of the categories.]

+Great battle system and mechanics
-Gimmick levels which detract from the main experience
+Great soundtrack, decent voice acting
+Amazing graphics for its system
+Lots of stuff to do
-Excuse plot
+Crazy difficult*

Re:coded gets a score of +7.

*Note that I haven't played on anything except the highest difficulty, but even considering that, some of the bosses and post-game material are tough.
"It'll say life is sacred and so is death
but death is life and so we move on"