Mobile gaming is breaking new ground and becoming exceedingly popular, even among people who aren't really gamers. I hear about it all the time. I hear about it so often, in fact, that I've learned how to tune it all out because I've never been a big fan of mobile games and touch screen controls. There is just something about playing games on my phone that didn't resonate with me, like playing games on consoles resonates with me. There was one game that I've been keeping an eye on, though, and as a big fan of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, it's no surprise that the only mobile game I cared to hear about would be Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is the mobile port of the browser-based game, Kingdom Hearts χ, released as a Japan-exclusive in 2013. The port made its way to mobile devices in Japan in 2015 and although little word was given on a release in North America, Director of Kingdom Hearts developer and publisher Square Enix Tetsuya Nomura made an announcement several days ago that Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ would find its way to the mobile market in North America on April 7. One important factor in whether or not you should get this game is that Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is completely free. There are optional microtransactions, but the game is nothing close to pay-to-win (it's mostly single player) and I've yet to feel like I need to buy into it to progress.
Having grown up with Kingdom Hearts as well as buying every spin-off title to cope with the lack of Kingdom Hearts III, I was absolutely ecstatic to be able to dive into the heart of a new game in the series. Despite my distaste for mobile games, I threw it all aside to be able to get into a new Kingdom Hearts game and how very fortunate I was to have done so, because this game is incredible.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ has some notable differences between it and other games in the series. Namely, this game takes place way before any other game in the series chronologically. In the plot of the main series (Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II, etc.) the central background of the story tells of a powerful Keyblade Master named Xehanort that wants to reenact the great "Keyblade War". This event took place as a result of darkness taking control of Keyblade wielders when they learned of the power of Kingdom Hearts and how they could control that power if light and darkness clashed. Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ tells the story of how the Keyblade War came to be, and it essentially establishes the lore of the rest of the series.
One other key difference is that it is the first and only multiplayer game in the entire franchise. Upon opening up the game, I was prompted to create my own character and join a Union, a faction of Keyblade wielders under a specific "Foreteller," one of five legendary Keyblade Masters. Joining up with a Union allowed me to also join a Party or clan with other players in the same Union as me, allowing me to use my clan-mate's equipment and team up for raid bosses. It also provided me with a platform in which I could communicate with other avid fans of Kingdom Hearts and talk about the game and the series as a whole, which is not something I've ever had the pleasure of doing before.
The game is played on mobile devices and as such, relies solely on touch screen controls. As I mentioned before, I'm not a fan of touch screen controls so I had anticipated a difficult adjustment curve to learning the game and playing it and to much surprise, I was completely wrong. The controls are so intuitive and simple that after quickly learning the basics in the tutorial, I had felt like I'd been playing this game for days or weeks, rather than a few minutes. Moving around was easy and combat was even easier; the menus and interfaces were simple to navigate through and it felt like everything was just fleshed out and purposeful.
One of the main parts that really struck a chord with me while playing Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is how similar everything looks and sounds to the rest of the games in the series, despite being on a new platform and having a different art style. From combat to dialogue to the menu interaction and all of the music in the game, it was obviously reminiscent of the Kingdom Hearts series, but in an even more familiar way. A lot of the music heard in the game are simple remixes of the original songs heard in the very first Kingdom Hearts, which was a significantly pleasant bit of nostalgia for someone like me who really appreciated and valued the soundtrack of that game in particular.
As with any Kingdom Hearts game, there's got to be interesting gameplay and fun combat and although Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ was limited by its platform and hardware restrictions, the gameplay is almost addicting. The combat is turn-based and each Keyblade wielder has their own Keyblades. Within those Keyblades are Medals, which are inspired by the many protagonists (and antagonists) of the series. Though I started off with Donald, Goofy, and a special King Mickey medal, after playing for awhile and working on getting more, I've started to collect some for my favorite characters in the series. These medals can also be leveled up and even evolved to higher tiers to improve their stats and special attacks.
As fun as this game is, it's very rare to find anything that can keep me going with gameplay alone. There has to be more substance: something that piques my curiosity and drives me to uncover a dark secret or inspires me to find out what happens next in the story. Perhaps more surprising than anything else in Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ, it features a peculiar story with many interesting and familiar characters. Most interesting of all is probably the setting: the game spans several Disney worlds but the main hub and home of all Keyblade wielders is a brand new area called Daybreak Town, settled somewhere in the Realm of Light where Keyblade wielders are able to conjure portals of light as opposed to the portals of darkness seen in every other Kingdom Hearts game. Though the missions are linear and it takes awhile to pick up, the underlying premise of the story would suggest that there is a traitor among one of the five Foretellers and it's up to everyone in every Union to find out who it is.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ follows a linear set of missions that have to be completed in order to progress, with three bonus objectives for each one and set rewards for meeting said objectives. The missions consist of finding a target enemy and defeating it. Loot and items for crafting can be found in each mission and can be used to upgrade any Keyblade at any time. Even though it is strictly linear, there's a very strong sense of progression that I felt by collecting equipment, outfits, medals, and items.
The only drawback to this game is that it suffers from the corny but charming humor typically associated with Kingdom Hearts.
Having a portable Kingdom Hearts game to play that is as convenient as Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is truly an incredible thing. The game is 100% free and Square Enix did as great of a job with this game as they've done with the main entries to the Kingdom Hearts series in terms of how polished and fun it is. The game is immensely fun to play; there are parties to join where people can get help and talk to other players, and it costs no money whatsoever to get into and start playing.
If you're like me and you grew up with the series, this is an absolute must-have to help tie the story together. If you're like a lot of players I've met on the game so far and you are new to the game and the series, just try it out and enjoy the ride, because it truly is an amazing one that you can take and enjoy anywhere you go.