Review by UnleashTheCasey
"So Say We All"
Why am I using a thematic prayer from Battlestar Galactica as my review tagline? Well, that's quite simple; I found this game to have more things in common with that Sci-Fi show more than any other game I try to compare it to.
I'm not gonna try and bother explaining the whole storyline or gameplay bit. Chances are, if you're reading this review, you know what it's all about and just need a little bit more assurance in a potential purchase. That, or you read reviews to justify your own opinion. Or maybe you're bored. Probably the thid.
===The Good Stuff===
-Excellent Plot Projection: The first comparison with Battlestar Galactica... This game has quite a few things going for it parallel to our show: Intriguing characters, sympathetic drama, interesting premise, and excellent pacing. I was one of the rare users who avoided spoilers; didn't visit the Wiki, or even these boards until I finally had my hands on the game. So for much of the time, I was quite curious as to who Xion was, what her relationship with Axel and Roxas are, and what Xemnas was behind this time around. Needless to say, despite a slow start, it began to even up it's pacing as it went along the story tracks.
-Balanced Grindhouse: Hate this comparison or not, the Kingdom Hearts games have always been grindhouses-and not the "really bad movie" types either. I tend to call games that require enemy and level grinding "grindhouses." It's a term that works for me... And quite honestly, depending on one's own personal tastes, grindhouses can just be plain fun. Killing enemies by mashing just one button and one attack combo 80% of the time, I curiously found myself enjoying it, which is especially strange considering I detest Koei's Warrior games, as well as Persona 3's torturous dungeon Tartarus. One of the bigger faults that Kingdom Hearts II had was that Sora simply had way too many offensive options; even in Level 1 Critical runs, enemies would just be too easy thanks to way too many offensive abilities, and in no small part, also thanks to the uneven Reaction Command system. Pulling off Reaction Commands was too easy, and many of them were too powerful, and it never helped that too many of them were far too necessary for a boss battle. Days fixes some of the problem by completely removing Reaction Commands as a whole, and it even tweaks Roxas's offensive armament. He gets an attack combo; two at most with the Y-Combo system, and a little bit of magic that's there to help out in a tight spot. At critical levels, you can always use a Limit Break. It certainly makes the game much more raw; more of a grind than KH2, but it definitely fixes up the gameplay pace and difficulty.
-So Purty...: You've heard it a billion times now...but yes, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is one pretty, pretty looking game. An action RPG known for it's fast pace, it was a pretty gutsy move rendering it completely in 3D that sure enough paid off. The environments are also quite gorgeous, albeit you'll find a glitch here and there. Given the system's technical limitations, this is quite natural and understandable.
===The Not So Good Stuff===
-Gone Are The Days of Phantom And Kurt Zisa: One of the best things the original Kingdom Hearts had going for it were creative boss battles, with the optional bosses Phantom and Kurt Zisa ranking among the highest with their creatively-gimmicked move sets. Fighting those bosses may have been hard as hell, but it was also certainly fun. Then the series takes a drop with Chain of Memories. Understandable, given the GBA. Then we have KHII...which tries to bring back the epic bosses and gimmicks-and ALMOST succeeds. But, the Reaction Command system killed much of the joy that could've been had in cracking the code of the bosses; figuring out weaknesses the good old fashioned way. Reaction Commands killed the joy of that. Then we have 358/2 Days, which quite bluntly, takes a new low in enemy creativity... Yes, the DS has limits, but if only two bosses in this game (Antlion and the giant....tank box thing) managed to put a little bit of creativity, then sure enough we could've had more. The Dustflier, this game's most "difficult" optional boss...has only TWO attacks that he constantly repeats one after another in a tediously boring pattern... For a hidden boss, that's pretty damn unacceptable...
-Cramps!: While this is mainly a system address, the game's control scheme isn't terribly friendly with DS Lite owners. For somebody who managed to pull of hours on end playing The World Ends With You, I found myself surprised and disappointed that my left hand started cramping up after only 30 minutes of playtime. On rare moments, I even found myself begging for a cutscene. Of course...that could've been remedied by just pausing and closing it...but as stated above, this game is a rather addictive grind... So we have the game's pro clashing with the system spec...for a sort of bad result. Again, I haven't tried this game on a DS Phat or DSi, but nonetheless, it isn't terribly cool for DS Lite owners.
-... Cop Out: As stated above, I avoided a majority of the game to prevent any spoilers so that I may fully enjoy it. While I loved the beginning, characters and pacing, the second comparison with Battlestar Galactica is also the shows biggest fault: cop out ending. Granted, even the game's big reveal was a bit of a cheap shot, and many of you must admit; with all the teasing to the upcoming Birth By Sleep, way too many of us were expecting intricate allusions and foreshadows to the PSP game; especially concerning Xion's role. What we got...was just ONE really quick snippet. Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed by it all, and the game's ending is more or less a pretty bad cop out that places the series back to zero... I can seriously find a person playing naught but Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts II...and find them not miss a single important detail relevant to the series as a whole. Maybe Kingdom Hearts II is to blame for lack of foreshadowing....but, relying on the plot theme of "memories" once again, it's a shameful cop out. We've seen everybody forget stuff once before in Chain of Memories. It isn't terribly creative for EVERYONE to forget this game's single most important plot aspect just for the sake of firing up Kingdom Hearts II where it is...
-Lacks...a Heart?: No pun intended, but this is the most difficult criticism for me to justify since it's based on gut feeling....but when playing a game, one can just sort of FEEL when a development team had a blast making the game. No More Heroes, MadWorld, Uncharted, Bayonetta, Persona 4, etc etc... On all of those games, it's terribly easy to tell that the devs had a lot of fun making the various aspects of those games. Curiously, that feeling was missing from my experience with Days... It felt too much like this game was made just for the sake of having a Kingdom Hearts on the NDS. Certainly, it's a relatively success as a whole, but something tells me a lot of unhappy thoughts, and sleepless nights went into it... And it doesn't have anything to do with the story's mood, either.
===On The Whole===
I detest giving games' scores, or letters, or stars because I feel that just doesn't do ANY game justice. The 7/10 is just a random guesstimate on my behalf. Rather than scores, I tend to judge my games whether they're worth buying and playing, and Days succeeds...in the Used Games Shelf. Picking this game up day one, or even preordering, is a bit of a worthwhile longshot. Some will love it, some will be disappointed. It's 50/50. But, randomly walking one day into your Gamestop, and picking up a used copy for about 25-30 bucks, I could see one being happy with their purchase realistically.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/12/09
Game Release: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (US, 09/29/09)
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