If only that 'R' was a 'D'. Kingdom Hearts' plot machinations must be bewildering to all but the most attentive player, and a game which finally attempted to explain the complexities of the series' fractured timeline would likely be welcomed by most.
It may surprise some to learn that Re:coded is actually a remake. Kingdom Hearts Coded was an episodic puzzle game made for mobile phones, and it's now been redesigned for DS as an action-RPG in the vein of the other console titles.
The plot is set after the climax of Kingdom Hearts 2. Jiminy Cricket is tardily attempting to organise his digital journal of the events of Kingdom Hearts 1 (presumably he's not heard of Wikipedia). He discovers a mysterious rhyming entry he's unfamiliar with, and it's up to series regular Sora to visit digital recreations of the first game's worlds to put things right.
At the very beginning of the game, you're given a choice of a sword, staff and a shield, which purport to have an effect on the path you'll take. In truth, your pick just seems to affect the options open to you on Sora's skill tree. After that, it's on with the hacking and slashing as Mickey, Donald and Goofy pop up to offer advice and assistance.
You'll visit the locations in the order seen in the first game, though a slip of paper accompanying this preview code forbids me from naming most of them. Because the internet would undoubtedly go into meltdown were I to reveal that a DS remake of a mobile phone game following the plot of an eight year-old PS2 title contains some of the same characters and environments features in said game.
Starting off in a digital recreation of Destiny Islands, you soon happen across errant bits of code in the form of blocks (or 'blox', as the game insists on calling them) which can be smashed for items or experience. Shortly afterwards you'll encounter the franchise's muculent villains, the Heartless, who are only slightly tougher to defeat.
Various characters give you basic quests to complete, most of which involve either finding a certain item or locating another character - or three, in the case of Huey, Dewey and Louie.
It seems someone's hacking into Jiminy Cricket's journal – now there's something I never expected to write – because you'll sometimes notice sudden changes to the environment. At this point you'll have to follow a bleeping sensor to locate the source of the problem, and jump into portals which take you to a place I'm not allowed to talk about.
Because I'm not allowed to talk about these areas, I probably can't tell you whether they feature fairly basic platforming challenges, often involving different types of blocks from the ones in the other digital world.
I can say that the game employs a similar levelling system to 358/2 Days, though I can't describe its intricacies nor mention its name, which may or may not sound like a seminal sci-fi movie starring Keanu Reeves.
These restrictions are a little annoying, because they essentially forbid me from talking about some of the most interesting aspects of the game. You get plenty of choice in how you develop Sora's skills and abilities, and the method used to make these adjustments is creative and different. These features also help distinguish Re:coded from previous Kingdom Hearts titles.
Strangely, I am free to discuss the game's camera, which is easily one of its weakest points. It's entirely user-controlled, which wouldn't ordinarily seem like a bad thing. But in the heat of battle, it's extremely difficult to move and use the camera at the same time.
You can sweep the stylus across the touchscreen to shift your viewpoint or hold the right shoulder button and move the d-pad for a more helpful perspective. But that means you either have to stop moving Sora, or take your finger off the attack and dodge buttons.
The select button pulls the camera back, though that makes it harder to judge distances. A quick tap of R centres the camera behind Sora, but in enclosed spaces, this can make things even worse.
The amount of screen furniture doesn't help. The busy HUD can obscure some of the action, particularly the command list on the left of the screen from where you can select special moves.
It's a pity, because otherwise battles are fast-paced and fun. The 3D graphics are some of the smoothest on the DS, even when things get hectic and projectiles and particles are flying.
Defeat a Heartless and it explodes with a satisfying 'pop' into colourful bubbles which are instantly absorbed for experience points. Even when things get darker, the game is rarely as murky as Disney Epic Mickey.
Unlocked abilities can be combined once you've used them often enough into even more powerful attacks. These add much-needed variety to the initially repetitive combat. Encounters against smaller enemies can still degenerate into mindless button-mashing, but larger Heartless and bosses require a little more thought.
The clock gauge also adds a degree of nuance. Constantly counting down between kills, it encourages you to find more Heartless to beat up. Keep slicing away with your Keyblade and you'll eventually unlock a special finishing move which is handy for dealing with larger creatures or groups.
Should you find the challenge too slight, the difficulty level can be increased at any stage. The game offers a persuasive reason to do so: the harder the game gets, the more fallen enemies will drop rare and valuable items. Some are only available on Proud mode or above, at which point the Heartless grow more numerous and aggressive.
The game is designed to offer something for everyone. Combat can be relatively perfunctory for those who simply wish to follow the story, and deeper and more satisfying for experienced gamers seeking a more substantial challenge. Those camera issues tend to make higher difficulties feel somewhat unfair, but it's always good to see a game attempt to cater for every player.
One thing the handheld Kingdom Hearts titles lack is the sense of spectacle provided by the PS2 games. Those famous Disney settings naturally look better on a bigger screen, and neither DS game so far has come close to matching the beauty or the scale of those environments.
This puts more pressure on the mechanics of the game, and there's potential for it to buckle under the weight of scrutiny. It feels like there's scope for Kingdom Hearts to develop beyond simple tweaks to the levelling system.
While Re:coded features a clutch of new ideas, it also feels much like the same game fans will have played several times already. Anyone hoping for a significant evolution may be disappointed. However, for those who are able to offer a detailed summary of the story so far from memory, this new instalment in the further adventures of Sora, Mickey, Goofy and co. could fit the bill.