Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is the newest entry into the now fourteen-year old saga that marries Disney and Final Fantasy characters into an original storyline. Out now in North America for both iOS and Android, the game originally started life as a browser-based game in Japan (scheduled to go offline in September 2016).
In the video below, we check out the first 30 minutes of the game from the title screen.
Chronologically, Unchained χ takes place before all others in the series, putting in you in the role of a newly-minted Keyblade wielder fighting to keep the darkness at bay. After you create your character from lean customization options (which can be changed later, even gender), you’ll then be asked to join a Union – one of five different “factions”. For the first tutorial segment, you’ll find yourself in Daybreak Town, the genesis of everyone’s journey. It’s here that you’ll befriend a helpful cat familiar called Chirithy, who will guide you through the game’s basic mechanics and plot.
Visually, there’s a stark difference between this game and previous entries. Shifting primarily to 2D characters moving on flat backgrounds, Unchained χ employs a colorful and cartoonish style. You move through areas by pulling along the screen, and helpful items and treasure chests are plentifully littered around.
While you may associate the Kingdom Hearts series with button-mashing action, Unchained χ is actually a turn-based affair. When you approach enemies in the field, you will be given four turns to act (which can be increased much later on). You can attack a single target by tapping them, attack all targets simultaneously by swiping across the screen, or drag a medal from your deck to execute a special ability. The goal is to finish battles as soon as possible, as you’ll be granted a One Turn Triumph with bonus Lux (the game’s word for EXP).
You can customize your arsenal with different Keyblades that can be socketed with Medals. These items feature the visage of many Kingdom Hearts series characters, original, Final Fantasy, and Disney alike. Medals have one of three different attributes – they can be of Power, Speed, or Magic type. This also plays into the game’s rock-paper-scissors game of opposing elements. You’ll want to use Power type keyblades and medals against Speed and so on, so forth. Medals will also have a unique ability attached to them that your chosen wielder will use when you activate a medal in combat. Like in many free gasha-style games, you can fuse abilities together to create stronger iterations. By levelling up keyblades using components you’ll gathered in the field and in certain events, you’ll be able to further boost the efficacy of medals. Before you head out on any given mission, you’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate keyblade and medals in tow. You can also select one medal from another player in your Union and/or Party as well as designate one of your own for others to utilize.
Keyblade wielders can also be upgraded and customized through the Avatar Board. Each garment, hairstyle, or vanity item has its own board of upgrade nodes that can be purchased with Avatar Coins gained from completing mission objectives. You’ll be able to boost parameters like HP and keyblade medal capacity cost, and unlock the designated outfit itself.
The main story is told through a series of short missions in which you’ll traverse through an environment battling Heartless and gathering items before downing your mark. Bonuses are accrued with the more One Turn Triumph encounters you pull off, as well meeting objectives like taking down special Heartless or using one type of medal or keyblade. On occasion, boss Heartless will appear as Raid Bosses, where you’ll need to use your best combination of medals. You can also team up with members of your Union to take them down, after joining a party – you’ll be able to communicate in a party chat, and browse each others’ avatars at the home screen. Additional side missions can be played for larger AP cost to obtain items to further upgrade your repertoire of medals and keyblades.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is free-to-play, and so it uses similar gasha-style mechanics and real money options seen in other titles like Final Fantasy Record Keeper or Puzzle and Dragons. You buy extra chances to obtain high power medals or buy more Avatar Coins to complete Avatar Boards. Every Story mission and Special mission requires a certain amount of AP to undertake. It replenishes in real world time or with a level-up, but you can also use paid options to replenish this resource. Thankfully, the front end is restrained enough to allow plenty of time to feel out the game’s mechanics before dangling that “pay to play more/be awesome” carrot in front of you.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is available in Japan and North America now for iOS and Android.
Have you had a chance to give the game a spin? Let us know your impressions in the comments below!