Review by MetalIceWolf
A heartbreaking entry to a much loved series...
Kingdom Hearts is a successful RPG fusion of Final Fantasy and Disney characters, so it's no wonder it's one of the most popular video game series these days. The first one was released in 2002 for the PS2, and it gained a large fanbase (myself included.) Since then, KH has had a real sequel and another game, Chain of Memories, which branches the gap between KH1 and KH2. 358/2 Days for the DS pieces the story together even more by showing you what was happening *during* Chain of Memories, and before KH2. Is this portable KH worthwhile for fans and non-fans? Read on.
The story of KH has gotten pretty complex, with four games being out and another upcoming (Birth by Sleep for the PSP.) But complex usually means there's a lot going on- and that is definitely the case here. But instead of judging the story based on the entire games (they all connect), I'll just rate 358/2's, which is pretty decent, if a little unexciting compared to the original KH1 and KH2. The story starts off very slow, but eventually picks up in the end. The game is about Roxas and his time with Organization XIII, and during this time you interact with familiars like Axel and the new mysterious character, Xion. For fans of the series, it's interesting and enjoyable. But for someone that hasn't played any other KH games, they would probably be confused or not care so much for the characters. Either way, the story is a 8.5 for previous fans of the series and a 7 for everyone else.
Controls are very simple and play like the other KH games. There's attack, jump, target buttons. You can choose which spells to use in the menu. Camera can sometimes screw up but it's easy to get it back to normal. You can use the touchscreen to view your surroundings aswell. There's a map on the bottom screen which helps you find your way around, not that'd you get lost. Overall controls are fine, easy for anyone to pick up and play.
The music is straight from the other KH games and therefore it's awesome. There's voice acting during some cutscenes and the characters themselves do the normal 'battle call' voices as they hit stuff like you'd see in previous games. Most of the music is very enjoyable and will be familiar to anyone who has played the other KH games. Overall, sound and music is awesome.
Beautiful. KH 358/2 Days is definitely one of the best looking DS games I've seen. It's 3D and very smooth, and looks like you're almost playing a PS2 game. The designers did a excellent job with character models and environments. Every area looks like they do in the other games, the game itself is eye candy to play through, especially the awesome cutscenes. Definitely the best thing about this game is it's visual appeal.
Well...how does it play? Unfortunately, gameplay-wise, 358/2 Days is the weakest of the KH series so far. It's not as fun as the other games. The entire gameplay is set up as mission based. So basically you choose and undergo missions as Roxas then go back to the hub and watch the story progress then do more missions, rinse and repeat. There's a large lack of exploring and adventure that the original game had. Some missions are tedious and obviously there as fillers when they relate little to the story (Kill 5 shadow blobs, kill this heartless guy, break the barrels, find this and that, collect hearts, investigate everything possible, collect some more hearts...etc) Combat is almost the same as other titles, though there's a new special panel system in play. You level up by placing a level up panel in a slot, and you gain new abilities and weapons by doing the same. So potentially you can go through the whole game as level 1. The panel system offers great customization however, though I didn't care too much for it. Aside from the mandatory missions there are bonus missions you can do to acquire more items and potentially unlock other things. The missions themselves are linear and usually simple. The game also has a Multiplayer mode, local-only, which I haven't bothered with. If it was online it'd be more awesome. The main story is about 20-30 hours long depending on how many optional missions you do, so it's a good length for a portable game. I just can't see myself wanting to go through this whole game again though, it was too boring the first time aside from the eye candy and story that kept it going. Overall gameplay was pretty disappointing this time around. I just found the missions tediously annoying and I had more fun with Chain of Memories' card style and KH/KH2's hack n' slashing.
To sum it all up:
-Great story (especially for KH fans.)
-Solely mission-based gameplay is repetitive and occasionally tedious.
-New disney worlds would have been nice.
-The game starts off extremely slow and takes a while to get interesting.
-Not much replay value.
-Multiplayer would be better online.
KH 358/2 Days is currently the weakest entry into the series so far, but that being said, it's not a terrible game. I suppose I was just too over hyped for it given how fun the other KH games were. I'd recommend all previous KH fans to play the game at least just for the story, but for someone who hasn't played KH at all I'd recommend starting with the very first game.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (US, 09/29/09)
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