Impressions: Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ

DevinRogersKingdom Hearts χ has been an episodic web browser game in Japan since 2013. Earlier this week, SquareEnix released a modified version of the game called Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ for North American iOS and Android phones.

The game takes place before the events of any Kingdom Hearts game to date, including the fabled Keyblade War. You play as one of many keyblade wielders on a quest to defeat Heartless.  There is more backstory here that will tie into Kingdom Hearts 3, but I am not far along enough yet to really understand what is going on.

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True to typical Kingdom Hearts fashion, a majority of the game is spent helping out Disney characters in their own worlds.  So far I’ve visited locales from Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, and Aladdin.  I believe this game is going to have something to do with the Princesses of Light, so I’m expecting to also visit the worlds of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty.

The game is quest-based, and each quest takes place in one of the Disney worlds (or occasionally a world built just for Kingdom Hearts).  You use your finger to traverse the area where you can see Heartless on-screen.  Approaching them activates a turn-based battle mode.  Special medals themed after various Disney and Kingdom Hearts characters are attached to your keyblade, and these determine what attacks you have in battle.  The combat system is simple yet fun, with each medal offering three different modes of attack: single-hit, multi-hit, or special attack.

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There is an in-game currency called jewels that you can purchase with real dollars to buy medals and character clothing.  Clothing isn’t just cosmetic; each visual upgrade for your avatar comes with a board similar to those found in Dream Drop Distance.  Using special items that you find by completing quests, you can power up the boards giving you passive increases to health, medal capacity in your keyblades, and AP.  AP is a consumable source that you use to go on quests.  Once depleted, you must wait for it to regenerate before you can continue on.  Though this may sound like the typical progression-gate you find in free-to-play mobile games, I have yet to put the game down and wait for more AP.  When you level up, your AP is refilled in full.  Depending on your skill while questing, getting enough experience to level up should be easy to do before you run out of AP.

A lot of the music is pulled or remixed from other Kingdom Hearts games, which is a very good thing.  The soft, rounded nature of the graphics has an aesthetic quality to it I haven’t seen in a Kingdom Hearts game before, though it makes sense considering the Disney source material.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this game, but so far I’m enjoying it very much.

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