Review by TigStripe
"Worth the time? You decide."
I am a Kingdom Hearts fan. Have been since KH1, and probably will be until they stop making the games and beyond. I enjoyed this game. But it's not for everyone, and I'm here to tell you why.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is certainly a new spin on the Kingdom Hearts series. It had great concepts, nice reuse of old characters, and answered a few questions that veterans of the series had. Overall, it was a very nice game. Here we go:
VISUAL / GRAPHICS: 9/10
This game is really, really pretty for the DS. Utilizing graphics that make Final Fantasy 9 jealous, "358" is a masterpiece of visual technology on a Nintendo handheld system. The cutscenes were beautiful, with PS2 rendering as close as it could possibly be on the DS (there was pixellation and graininess, but let's face it, the DS wasn't made to handle PS2 graphics). The old areas of the game are rendered very well, but the new areas seem kind of lackluster or hurried in design. Overall, the graphics were superb, with minor pixel problems during cutscenes. It would have been nice if everyone's hands didn't display the sign language for "B" all the time, but whatever. You hardly notice it.
I highly suggest wearing headphones when playing this game. The old tracks from previous KH games were utilized, and the DS's external speakers are utter junk. That being said, the reuse of some songs was a trip down memory lane, and well-received by this player. What little new music there was had a hint of originality for the game, and fit well with all situations in which it was used. The voice acting was as good as previous KH games (that is to say: not too bad, but not outstanding). Plus, Christopher Lee was hired again to voice DiZ. You just can't beat that.
This game is entirely too repetitive. Mission -> Clocktower scene -> New Day -> repeat. Throw something in to mix it up, Squeenix. Please. Aside from the repetition, the game was enjoyable. The battles and exploration were nearly identical to the PS2 games (closer to KH1 in that actions were mildly limited in comparison to KH2). Having to use charges for magic was a refreshing change of pace, and none too abusable. Teaming up with the various Organization members was one of the reasons I bought this game, and the solo player mode delivered, despite the AI's inability to be of real use with their weaponry. The game is definitely enjoyable, but if you don't like repetitive games, this is definitely one that will drive you insane.
Alongside the Story mode is Mission mode, which allows solo or multi-player action in missions that a saved Story file already completed and acquired a specific emblem within the mission itself. You start out with access to all 13 members of the Organization in Mission Mode, and you gain others along the way (including Xion, Riku, Mickey, and even Donald and Goofy). Mission mode is quite literally repeating missions with other characters. Soloing it doesn't really appeal to me, and I don't see it working out well for a lot of people, too. Get with friends if you can for this mode.
One thing I must give this game is its boss battles. Some bosses are mundane and downright boring, but others make you really think and figure out their strategies. Simultaneous deaths between multiple bosses, aerial combat, and ambushes are only a few of the things you'll wind up having to do in 358 outside of the regular hack-and-slash. Which there is a lot of, as well.
Let's face it: we wanted to know more about Roxas. That's why people wanted to play this game. It was advertised as the answer to the question, "What was life like for Roxas as Number XIII?" Well, you kind of get the answer to that, in that you play him for a whole year in the Organization, but I'm afraid that the story doesn't really dive into Roxas's life very well. The majority of this game's story revolves around Roxas's evolving friendships with Axel and Xion. In fact, the game almost shifts its focus entirely onto Xion until near the end of the game. Vets of the series know the ending already, but it's always nice to see it from a different angle. Overall, the storyline could have encompassed about five hours of gameplay, but the game stretches it out over about twenty-five (similar to previous KH games). The story was not deep, nor was it very riveting. By the end of the game, I was left with a slightly reduced number of questions concerning the Organization.
Xion is the only new character in the game. This isn't a bad thing, but players should be aware that Xion does typically fall into the character category of "Mary Sue." To those who don't know, a Mary Sue character is a "perfect" character - one that is powerful, loved by all, and the story centers around them and/or would not function without them. Despite this, I did actually enjoy Xion as a character. The fact that she was a Mary Sue actually helped the story, in my opinion - after all, the events that were generated by the writers of 358 were original and pretty creative; they just needed a character to fit their scenario. Unfortunately, the events that were created for this game tended to have Roxas as an outsider looking in, and the game really did seem to shift focus onto Xion.
PLAYER INTERFACE: 10/10
This game has a truly amazing character system called the Panel System that includes weaponry, accessories, Magic, items, and abilities such as the famous Glide and Dodge Roll. Basically, the only way to increase Roxas's abilities and even his experience level is to equip "Panels" into a large, Tetris-like grid that expands as you complete missions. It is a very interesting system that is difficult to abuse and easy to learn. When choosing other characters in Mission Mode, you get the chance to set up their Panels to better suit their playing style. To make it easy on the player, you can import your current panels from a saved Story mode file to use and modify.
REPLAY VALUE: Varies
This game allows you to replay any mission you've already completed, the moment you complete it. Unless you're a 100% completion player, this isn't particularly appealing (aside from the very few rewards you'll get by talking with other Organization members throughout the game). So really, this game is replayable as you play it. There are a few hidden goodies from beating the game, but their value really depends on your preferences as a player. If I do ever play through the game again, it won't be for the goodies - it'll be to better understand the game's importance to the franchise's overall plot.
This game shines in its graphics, sound, and gameplay, which are all important aspects of any game. Unfortunately, many people who will be interested in it are going to be veterans with specific questions or expectations, most of which just aren't delivered in 358. The storyline is thin, the newbie character seems more important to the story than the player, and a lot of questions go unanswered. I'm still waiting for an explanation to the question, "Why would it be SO bad if Organization XIII got their hearts back?"
If you're a diehard KH fan like I am, play this game. I seriously recommend it. If you're new to the series, don't get this one first - play the original and/or KH2 first. In fact, play the first, since this game happens between the two. If you're looking for an amusing hack-and-slash game to waste 25+ hours, you found it. If you're looking for deep storyline, look elsewhere.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/06/09
Game Release: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (US, 09/29/09)
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