Review by FulcanRyst
To begin, this game isn't quite what I expected. I expected a lot out of the creators of Kingdom Hearts II, and my expectations, high as they were, weren't quite met the way I wanted.
You are Roxas, the Nobody, that is, an empty body, wherein a heart once resided, of Sora. The game begins on his 255th day of existence, with himself and Axel sitting on the Twilight Town clock tower, enjoying some sea-salt ice cream. Shortly after a touching cutscene, the game sends you back in time to Roxas' 7th day, and first mission. Enter Xion, an odd Nobody, and Organization XIII's No. XVI. The story revolves around Roxas, mainly, with a lot of detail on Xion, and some special attention to Axel and Saix, the Organization's second-in-command. As you play through, secrets are revealed, lack-of-hearts are broken, and questions are created. The story is quite what you'd expect from Tetsuya Nomura, and does not fail to impress.
The gameplay is most similar to Kingdom Hearts 2, with some tweaks to make it workable on the Nintendo DS. The most distinguishing features are the hub-style mission assignments, and the Panel system. Panels are used to decide what Keyblade you use, what spells you equip, items on your character, skills, and even levels. When you level up, rather than getting immediate stats, you gain a level panel, which increases your level by 1 when installed. You begin the game with a very small amount of panel slots, which hardly would compensate for the large spectrum of skills and items, but gradually gain more as the game progresses. It's extremely easy to use, if not a bit repetitious; it'll get annoying having to go back and re-stock your items, and rearrange your panels when you get a new link-panel.
Your hub is the Grey Area of The World that Never Was, home of the Nobodies. From here you can get your missions from Saix, mingle with the other Organization members, and eventually shop from the Organization's Moogle (complete with Org. Coat. It's awesome). Saix will having either one or multiple missions awaiting, which you can repeat in Holo-Mission mode later in the game. Not all of the missions are necessary, but they all have rewards and special items you can only find within the missions. The missions have a lot of diversity, from finding Organization emblems around the world you're visiting, or slaying specific or numerous heartless, collecting hearts toward the Organization's ultimate goal. They keep the player interested, and wondering just what's coming next.
The worlds available to you in 358/2 Days are a lot less than in previous titles. Only 7 worlds are available to you, most of which are modeled directly from their counterparts in Kingdom Hearts II, which does make sense, considering that the game is a direct prequel to the third installment in the series. It leaves the player wanting a little more of a game world to explore, but gets the job done comfortably.
What really makes this game shine, however, is the multiplayer Mission Mode. From the main menu, you can go into Mission Mode, which allows up to 4 people to pick an Organization Member (and secret unlockables) and duke it out in a competitive version of the missions you find in the single player Story Mode, pending you collect the Unity Badges of each mission, which unlock the levels in Mission Mode. The Organization's thirteen members have diverse fighting styles, some of which are appropriate to the character, some of which are disappointingly weak. Completing this missions allows the player to collect Mission Crowns, which can be used to collect "freebies" from the Moogle shop.
The graphics are about as good as they come on the DS. They have polygons and whatnot (I'm not too familiar with graphical terminology, so forgive my immature vocabulary), and the special cutscenes have PS3 quality graphics. The worlds are detailed, and the graphics can't leave too much to be desired from the DS. They're simply at its peak.
When it comes down to the crunch, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is extremely worthy to contain the Kingdom Hearts name, and while it may not be Birth By Sleep in answers, it sure speaks loudly with what it has. It'll answer a lot of questions, and leave many more behind, not unlike the TV show LOST (to which I am a bit bitter, for the same reasons). For the DS, this is one of the best games out there, and is definitely a must-buy for anyone in the series. The content is simply enormous.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/13/09
Game Release: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (US, 09/29/09)
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