unchained x

Did you know that there are more mid-quels and prequels in the Kingdom Hearts series than actual, numbered Kingdom Hearts games? There are at least two games that feature decimal points in the title, with one more coming up, and there’s not even a release date for KINGDOM HEARTS 3. But I’m not bitter; such are the trials and tribulations of being a Kingdom Hearts fan. Recently ported to iOS and Android, KINGDOM HEARTS UNCHAINED χ (Or KHUX as I’ve taken to calling it) is another prequel, telling the story of the events before KINGDOM HEARTS 3, 2.5, and 358/2 DAYS, even way before the events of the first KINGDOM HEARTS. You play as a kid/preteen/teen/anime thing who has been chosen to wield the/a Keyblade in order to bring light back to the world after darkness won out for some reason.

kingdom hearts bonk dudes

It’s now up to you to bonk dudes in the head while in cosplay until peace is restored, or something

Gameplay takes place in the form of missions, hearkening back to previous games like 358/2 DAYS. The mission ends when the target Heartless has been keyed to death, but each mission also contains various objectives to complete, and doing so results in extra bonuses at the end of the missions. Combat is turn-based and involves the use of “medals,” each of which features the face of someone encountered in a Kingdom Hearts game. Each medal deals either Power, Speed, or Magic damage and has a standard attack or a special attack. Special attacks are limited by the number in the special attack gauge (replacing the Drive gauge for players of KINGDOM HEARTS 2) and the amount of special the attack itself requires. Medals can then be leveled up, evolved, given extra effects, sold, combined, and other things that honestly really complicate the game.

KHUX also pushes a party system that players can form within their various animal-themed factions. Parties don’t really do much besides assist when boss monsters suddenly appear, and they really only exist to make dubious connections on the internet, something that I can already do without the assistance of Tetsuya Nomura.

kingdom hearts eyes wide shut

Pictured: the result of the last friendship I formed online

One of the recent hallmarks of non-numbered Kingdom Hearts games is the introduction of ridiculous combat systems, such as the card system in KINGDOM HEARTS: CHAIN OF MEMORIES and the panel system in 358/2 DAYS. Each one makes sense only after taking a 300-level course in its uses and methods and writing a 10-page essay in MLA format about the best way to effectively use it. It seems like someone at Square Enix is very keen on setting apart the Kingdom Hearts games by combat style, to an almost detrimental effect. But don’t fret, the medal system in KHUX can be understood, despite the “help” of the tutorial system that doesn’t so much lead the player through a few integral processes as it yanks their arm unceasingly into a series of menus and demands they follow their orders.

kingdom hearts mickey sora

Not unlike the uncomfortably firm handshake of a mouse that knows he’s got you before you do

The story in KHUX is slow and almost nonexistent, owing largely to the fact that it’s one of those mobile games that doesn’t have a definite ending . I’m on mission 130-ish and I’m still not sure what my character is supposed to be doing, why they have a Keyblade, or what shenanigans the minions of the darkness are getting into now. I’ve only joined a faction of five people wearing EYES WIDE SHUT animal masks and done various odd jobs for a handful of Disney characters. As mentioned, the game is supposed to take place way before the events of the first KINGDOM HEARTS, possibly even before BIRTH BY SLEEP. I’m just not sure where I come into play here, and the game isn’t really giving me anything besides vague cutscenes to go on. New missions that continue the story are added periodically, but Square makes sure to give its players a lot of filler to deal with by churning out more “Go Here Hit Thing” missions.

kingdom hearts kh darkness

I can’t tell whether the dude in the mask is the key to my destiny or my camp counselor

KINGDOM HEARTS: UNCHAINED χ seems to be trying to stay the same while appearing new, and is doing it all wrong; there was nothing wrong with the original combat system, and changing it entirely every other game is more annoying than innovative. But it’s the same Disney characters the series has been using since the first game (with the exception of Snow White’s cast, possibly) not to mention the same music. Though to the game’s credit, the art style is very nice and everything looks nice. The game is also insanely addictive, which I suspect has been borne along by nostalgia and morbid curiosity. It’s certainly a Kingdom Hearts game, it’s just simply up to the player to determine what that means and represents, and whether it’s worth it.

kingdom hearts worth it

Pictured: worth it?

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Reviewed on iOS, also available on browser and Android

Steven Porfiri is a Crossfader guest contributor that has been slowly learning what true patrician culture is about after spending a lifetime in Bakersfield, CA. In addition to Crossfader you can find him at Top Shelf Gaming.

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