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Review: Kingdom Hearts Unchained X

In preparing to tackle the final chunk of the Kingdom Hearts chapters collectively known as the Xehanort Saga, Square Enix ended up getting ambitious. Their plan was to create a web-browser-based action RPG that would foreshadow events both building up to Kingdom Hearts III and beyond that. Unfortunately, upon creating Kingdom Hearts X[chi], the issue of whether or not to localize what would turn out to be an important chapter in the series became quite the problem. The solution: convert the game into a mobile-phone title and unlocking the game's potential... and with that came the name change to Kingdom Hearts Unchained X[chi].

Title: Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ (Review Copy Downloaded)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix, Success
Platform: Mobile
Release Date: April 7, 2016
Players: 1
MSRP: Free to Play

The player controls a child chosen to wield the Keyblade, long before the Keyblade War of Kingdom Hearts lore happens. Immediately after being chosen and selecting a Union, the player is drawn into the conflict brewing between the Heartless, the 5 Unions of Keyblade wielders, and their masters the enigmatic Foretellers, as everyone fights to prevent the Keyblade War from happening. The initial objective is to collect particles of light, called Lux, by destroying as many Heartless as possible. However, much like the rest of the Kingdom Hearts series plot, nothing is ever quite as it seems, and the player will end up going through many twists and turns before the battle is won.

Courtesy of Square Enix and Google Play

Gameplay is fairly simple – you walk around in each mission collecting materials and treasure, and fighting Heartless by using taps and swipes on the screen to attack or unleash special attacks via medals your character has equipped. These medals, based upon characters from throughout the whole of the Kingdom Hearts series, are manifestations of power from the future given to the player to better fight the forces of darkness, and each one can be upgraded by ranking all the way up to 6-star rank. Combat relies on a rock-paper-scissors formula utilizing Speed-Magic-Power, and planning around this requires knowing when to switch between and upgrade the Keyblades and medals gained from completing the story missions and spending the in-game Jewel currency, as well as taking advantage of the strongest medals shared via Unchained χ's party system.

In addition to the main story, there are also individual daily and weekly special missions with a singular purpose (mostly farming for money and upgrade materials), as well as a coliseum mode offering great rewards with escalating difficulty. Occasionally, a boss raid instance will spawn after completing a mission, and in the event that players might fall against it a call is immediately sent out to the player's party to help kill it. There is also exploring the functionality of avatar customization via the Avatar Board, in which players spend Avatar Coins, gained by leveling up and completing mission objectives, to increase stats and unlock pieces for customizing. On that note, the art style is also a fantastic choice, using a simple design to serve as a middle ground between Disney and Square Enix character designs, which is perfect for a mobile game.

Courtesy of Square Enix and Google Play

Other than the party chat suffering a major case of the Scunthorpe Problem combined with censoring strange choices of words (such as kill and turd), the problems that Unchained χ has are intertwined. Being a free-to-play mobile phone game is the central issue, and the trend of relying on an energy meter to prevent extended playing sessions constantly looms overhead, though it can be lessened via the Avatar Board. The game also tends to heavily rely on players buying more and more jewels with money to do anything past the imposed limits, from getting more medals to quickly refilling the energy gauge.

There is also the issue of the prologue (which includes the Gummi Ship story arc) taking much longer than one would expect to complete, to the point where it almost feels like padding done for the sake of stalling for time on content development (a bit of an unfortunate holdover from its origins as χ). Additionally, the very nature of the upgrade systems are extremely grind-oriented, you will have to replay normal and special missions over and over to get all the materials you need to upgrade your Keyblades and each individual medal you own. Combine that with the restriction of the energy gauge, and optionally having to pay more money to get around it, and you are guaranteed to have at least one moment of annoyed waiting. Lastly, there is the issue of space, since the game itself takes up a whopping 1 gigabyte of memory just to install it. Anyone on a data plan is henceforth warned.

Courtesy of Square Enix and Google Play

In conclusion, while Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ does have the downsides of a typical free-to-play mobile game, it is still a far more refreshing experience than one would expect. It does an excellent job of representing the series as a whole, both in terms of story and gameplay, and is easy for anyone to pick up and play (possibly the easiest out of the whole series). Even if you are not a fan of Kingdom Hearts, or even of mobile games in general, it would definitely be a great move to play this game.

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I am a game development college graduate and lifelong gamer. I am looking to use my knowledge however I am best able. As it so happens, that makes for great game reviews.
Port Saint Lucie, FL