Review by Exeedra
"A Perfect Sequel, Prequel and Build Up"
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, I'm just going to get right to the point and say that this game is a more than welcome piece to the franchise. It has its own gameplay style that while similar to the previous Kingdom Hearts games is also very different all at the same time. Really the only bad thing I have to say is that Square Enix had said a lot of questions were going to be answered when in reality only very few were. For those fans of Kingdom Hearts II almost nothing that happens in this game comes as a surprise but does that mean it's a bad story? The short answer is no, it's a very welcomed piece to the plot and Roxas fans will definitely enjoy it. Oh but just as a warning to Final Fantasy fans, sorry to say that we don't see any Final Fantasy characters in this game save for a Moogle in an Organization coat, that's it! No Leon, no Cloud and best of all, NO SEPHIROTH!!
Anyone who's been anticipating this game or has done any research on it knows that the story is centered around Roxas and his time as a member of Organization XIII. But while he is the epicenter of the plot we are also brought into the lives of Axel and the fourteenth member of the group, Xion. The story has a very nice aura about it as it subtly shows how Roxas, Axel and Xion lived their lives as members of the Organization. One thing you'll find out quickly is these three really, really love ice cream. I think I've seen more of Twilight Town than I ever have wanted to just by watching these three eat seasalt ice cream after EVERY mission. In honesty it does get kind of redundant at points but the pacing of the plot just makes you want to watch with the everlasting hope that something relevant to the plot will actually happen in one of these cut-scenes.
To this day though I'm amazed how Square Enix was able to come up with the secret ending of the first Kingdom Hearts and somehow develop a story that actually makes sense. Without a doubt Square Enix had if not the entire story of Kingdom Hearts planned before the first game then they at least had a good 80% planned.
As far as the title's involvement with the story goes, the 358 obviously means the number of days in which Roxas was a member of Organization XIII but it is never explained what the 2 in there is for. Despite that confusing bit with the title, the story doesn't suffer that many flaws. The game progresses through the days in a bit of a slow paced manner in which sometimes it will skip ahead by several weeks at a time but for the most part a new chapter in the game is the very next day for Roxas and the Organization. The story, though a bit slow at times, does deliver some suspense and very mysterious moments typical to the Anime genre. What really took me by surprise was the sad moment at the near end of the game that had almost brought a tear to my eye.
This was probably due to the good voice acting but the scene itself is still very touching and sad. Over all though, the story is a very well accepted chapter to the Kingdom Hearts franchise and a satisfying one at that. However, more so than a prequel, this game feels more like a build up to Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep which will probably come out next year.
You know the thing I hated about Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories? The freaking card-battle system! Look bottom line a Hack n' Slash game like Kingdom Hearts should keep that kind of gameplay no matter what the system and that's one of the best things about 358/2 Days. The controls and gameplay is very, very similar to that of its PS2 counterparts and is very good DS adaptation. Rather than equipping your characters with certain items to make them stronger, you are instead given a grid at the pause screen which allows you to add Ability, Weapon, Items, Magic, Level and Bag panels.
You must place the panels you want your character to posses inside the grid all while making sure they can all fit, sort of like in Resident Evil 4 or the Megaman Battle Network games. Basically the panels you put in the grid are what you will take to your missions for instance if you place 4 Fire panels into the grid, you will be able to use the spell Fire 4 times. Don't worry though, the only panels you lose after use are Potions, Ethers and Elixers. The grid starts out pretty small when you first start playing but as you progress through the game you unlock new slots to place panels in, you can also link certain panels together to make certain elements of your character stronger. For instance, you can link a Level panel to a Level Double panel and instead of increasing your level by 1; your level will increase by 2. (Yes your levels are in the forms of panels too.) Despite this fact though the game is relatively easy so long as you pack a lot of curative items and take a while to practice the sometimes difficult to adjust to controls and the different effects of the spells.
There are two modes of gameplay. The first is Story where you play as Roxas and perform missions for the Organization as the story progresses. These missions sometimes can get pretty repetitive and sometimes even boring due to how easy they can get. In this mode you are sometimes accompanied by other Organization members and believe me they help out a lot but often tend to get in your way.
Second is the Mission mode where you select missions you've accomplished in the story mode. These can either be played by yourself or with your friends. In this mode you are capable of playing as all the other members of Organization XIII though only a select few of them are actually as good as Roxas or Xion who are both identical in every way. You can also unlock five other characters, those four being Riku, Sora, Donald, Goofy and Mickey. Anyway, no matter who you pick, your character will have the same level, weapons, abilities and magic that you put in the grid during story mode and you can modify the grid in this mode also to more suit the character. There is even a way in the Mission mode to use Dual Keyblade Roxas however this is only featured in the Mission mode and you play as him only once during the story mode.
Anyone who loved the songs and sounds of the original Kingdom Hearts games for PS2 will love the songs in this game as a majority of them are unfortunately recycled from the PS2 games and the theme song is of course My Sanctuary performed once again by Utada Hikaru. But even though the songs are recycled I wasn't taken aback and I was really more so impressed with the voice acting. Some of it was okay but for the most part it was very well done. Jesse McCartney I feel is still a good pick for Roxas and Kirk Thornton still plays a very chilling Saix. I was even impressed with Quinton Flynn's performance as Axel and was really surprised when one of his scenes made me respect Axel more than any other character in the game. I was also impressed to see the return of Christopher Lee as DIZ which shows just how popular this franchise really is.
I'll admit that the gameplay graphics look a lot like later Playstation graphics where as everyone has squarish shaped body parts. But I'm more so referring to the graphics of the very few cutscenes in the story mode which I dare say surpass even the graphics of Kingdom Hearts II and the attention to detail with all the different worlds are near mirror images of their Kingdom Hearts I & II counterparts. Wonderland in this game looks almost EXACT to the Wonderland in the first Kingdom Hearts game, it's nostalgic is what it is.
As I said before this game may only appeal to the Kingdom Hearts fans but it shouldn't be overlooked just because it's on the Nintendo DS. Nothing too spectacular is revealed to the plot that wasn't already talked about in Kingdom Hearts II but the game is a lot of fun and is really good for passing the time by and I feel will make a perfect build up for Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/08/09
Game Release: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (US, 09/29/09)
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