Saturday, February 17, 2018

Kingdom Hearts Union X [Cross]

A few years ago, Square-Enix released a browser game based on its long-running Kingdom Hearts franchise entitled Kingdom Hearts χ (pronounced like “key”), which would remain in Japan, although they ultimately ported it to smartphones and tablets as Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ, being a full-fledged RPG with in-app purchases available and special events depending upon the time of year. In April 2017, Square-Enix rebranded the game as Kingdom Hearts Union χ (in its case pronounced “Cross”), which is essentially the same game with a different title.

The battle system remains a turn-based variant of mainline Kingdom Hearts games’ Keyblade-centric combat, with the player and enemy having separate turn sessions. Combat tends to be quick, and while there is no way to escape battle except by cancelling a mission, defeat offers players the chance to revive with full health and ability gauges at the cost of some jewels, gained through purchase or free with certain missions and as a daily reward.

In the game’s latest version, the player’s avatar is accompanied by a customizable pet that can perform functions such as killing enemies when they have low remaining HP or healing its owner’s status ailments should any afflict them. Players can purchase or earn jewels used to receive additional medals, which can be powered through various other medal types. The system works well for the most part, although better previews of the elements and difficulty of enemies would have been welcome before embarking on each mission.

The interface doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for improvement aside from the tedium of navigating the medal menu with a full inventory, and while there is a limit on how many one can carry, the player can increase this limit at the cost of some jewels. Missions tend to be short to the point where no quicksave is necessary, and overall, the game interacts well with players.

After some seven hundred and thirty story missions, the narrative has some semblance of closure, but takes forever to get to actual original narrative content, most of the plot consisting of rehashes of events from the mainline Kingdom Hearts titles and several Disney movies providing the basis for the title’s various worlds. The translation, as is expected from Square-Enix, is free from error, although the game’s writers could have definitely made an effort to come up with fresh plot.

Composer Yoko Shimomura could have further come up with original music, or at least remixes of popular tracks, for the game, with most of the soundtrack coming from mainline Kingdom Hearts games, and given that many of the worlds derive from Disney films with tons of musical numbers, there’s really no excuse for the large recycling of the soundtrack, but it’s by no means bad, with believable sound effects, as well.

The graphics still look pretty and fluid in animation, although there still exists the oddity of a status ailment appearing before ailment-inflecting foes actually inflict it.

As mentioned, the current version of Union Cross spans seven hundred and thirty story missions, with plenty of supplemental quests and lasting appeal in the form of mission objectives that can challenge even the most skilled players.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts Union Cross is for the most part a good rerelease of an already-good game, given its nice turn-based take on Keyblade battles, the tight control, and the fluid visuals. It does bear significant issues in turns of recycling, particularly regarding the soundtrack and storyline, but series fans will definitely relish in this title, which can very easily become an inescapable black hole, given its endless replayability, and will fill in the gap until Kingdom Hearts III finally comes out.

The Good:
+Nice turn-based take on Keyblade combat.
+Tight control.
+Solid localization.
+Nice graphics.
+Plenty supplemental content.  

The Bad:
-Story rehashes elements from main Kingdom Hearts games.
-Same with the soundtrack.

The Bottom Line:
A great time-waster. 

Score Breakdown: 
Platform: iOS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 6/10
Localization: 10/10
Music/Sound: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Variable
Playing Time: 730 story missions

Overall: 8.5/10

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