Review by Robbie Kennedy
A Solid DS Game reminiscient of a Playstation 2
I have been a Kingdom Hearts fan ever since I bought the first game a couple of years back. Since then, I have bought the sequels, both on the GBA and on the PS2, and lamented that the PS2 remake of Chain of Memories is not coming to the United Kingdom. There are also very few games in the world that I will instantly buy, without reading any reviews, and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is one of those precious few. But what it it about this Nintendo DS game that I found so irresistible, let me tell you.
Graphics: When it comes to graphics on the DS, I think I will be safe in saying that nobody expects much. There are some games, such as Final Fantasy IV, that show you what the DS is capable of, but the vast majority are bland. This game however, is an exception, and what an exception it is. Have you played Kingdom Hearts 2? You were impressed by the graphics, I know. Well, the graphics here are the exact same as the PS2 iteration, a factor which impressed me greatly. The characters are all rendered perfectly, and I have yet to (50+ hours on my file) encounter any severe graphical issues or glitches.
The sheer volume of textures is staggering, there are 12+ different weapons you can equip (which I will come to later), and each weapon looks different. When you then consider that each of the members of the Organization also have these 12 weapons, that is at least 144 different unique weapon types, all of which look astounding.
For the above reasons, I am going to give the graphics in this game a solid 10/10
Sound: Suffers the same problem as the rest of the DS games, tiny speakers. However, even with the tiny speakers, the game still sounds amazing. Composed by the same team who have done the other games, it instantly sounds like the others. Plug in headphones or an external sound source though, and the sound becomes a whole lot better. However, the sound is let down by the simple fact that there are only a couple of unique tracks to this game. The rest are all copied straight from Kingdom Hearts 1, and Kingdom Hearts 2, without any variation. That said however, the unique tracks are simply beautiful, for example, there is one boss track that is very effectively used whilst fighting one of the end-game bosses.
There is voice acting in this game, which is very effectively done. All of the voice actors for the Organization returned for this, though not all have a cutscene role. You will mainly be hearing Numbers VII and VIII, Saix and Axel, in the cutscenes, where much of their history is learned about. Roxas and newcomer Xion are also voiced in a lot of cutscenes, as are several other series characters whom I shall let you discover. So overall, I give sound a 9/10
Gameplay: It is in the gameplay that this game deviates from the past games, to a slight extent. Whereas in KH1+2, you could use magic an unlimited amount of times (based on how much of the bar you had filled of course), here, the magic takes a different approach, as with the rest of the items and weapons, in a new system called the Panel System. Simplistically speaking, the system involves slotting varying item panels onto the panel screen to build up your inventory. This adds a puzzle element into the game, as you have to manage what you put in, as well as organize it conservatively to maximise what you can take into the field. It takes some getting used to, but is a breeze once you are familiar with it, and I prefer it over the other styles in the other games, as before, you had a lot of items that you would never use, but had to take around anyway. Other than the panel system, the gameplay is the same hack and slash and blast that is found in the first and second games. Also new to the series is an answer to Sora's drive modes from the previous game. Fans of final fantasy will recognize it (no, not the Moogle, though there is one), as the Limit Break. Indeed, it is called that. When your health gets taken past a certain point, you can activate it, and unleash carnage. Roxas' is awesome, as he swings wildly with the famous Keyblade, then taps into his Nobody power of Light, shrouding the battlefield. The only downside is that some limits do not follow the traditional tap A to hit strategy. For example, with Lexaeus or Marluxia, to get the best out of them, you have to hold the buttons down. I should add that the full power comes when you acquire the Final Limit midway through the game.
Aside from the main story though is the mission mode, where you can play through the missions of the game either solo, or with friends via local wireless. I have spent a whole lot of time on this as members Lexaeus and Xigbar. All of the members are able to be utilized as effectively as each other, though it does take some experimenting to get the best potential out of a character. The mode is insanely fun in single player, and, as I do not have any friends owning the game near me, I cannot comment on the multiplayer, however, I will paraphrase some items on the forum. It is insanely fun going through with friends, just taking the missions as they are. However, by modifying the options, you can set up a versus mode, where you can pit the members against each other, something which by all accounts is a challenging battle that is aptly fun. The gameplay merits a 10/10.
Story: The story of the game is simply fascinating. Though criticised by many as just being a way to make money, I take the opposite view, in that Nomura, the series director, knew all along that this was going to be a game. The story cannot be discussed too much, as, as with the Hitchcock classic Psycho, it is far more effective finding it for yourself. What I can say is that you play the Nobody of Sora, called Roxas, as he lives with the villainous team from Chain of Memories and 2, Organization XIII, headed by the ominous Xemnas. The story takes place between Kingdom Hearts 1, through Chain of Memories, up until the prologue of Kingdom Hearts 2. There are some elements of the story that you will know already if you have played the rest of the series, but there are also fresh features to keep the avid fans happy. My only criticism is that the game relies heavily on an intimate knowledge of all the games in the series, for example, if you have not played (or watched the cutscenes from) Chain of Memories/RE: Chain of Memories, a lot of the discussion about Castle Oblivion will be lost. Despite this though, the story is strong enough to warrant a 10/10
Finishing Thoughts: I don't often instantly buy a game, but when I do, it is always a fantastic game. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is no exception to this rule, as I have easily poured over 50 well enjoyed hours into this game, and still have a whole lot to do with it, such as playing through Mission Mode with all of the Organization. The graphics are impressive, almost as if taken straight from the PS2 iterations, with the sound also being quite strong. I would recommend that you buy this, and if you have never played any other game in the series, read up on it to get maximum enjoyment out of the game. This is one of the few games that I could be playing forever, Got it Memorized?
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (EU, 10/09/09)
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