Review by FZeroBoyo

Reviewed: 03/29/10

While not the experience Kingdom Hearts fans may want, it's still an enjoyable game.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is a DS-exclusive entry in the venerable Kingdom Hearts franchise that focuses on the enigmatic Roxas rather than series hero Sora. Before we go on, keep in mind that the title is pronounced Kingdom Hearts 358 Days over 2, what do you think of that?

Also before I go on, keep in mind that I too am a Kingdom Hearts fan. I have been since the original PlayStation 2 game and was quite excited at getting the next entry, even if it was just a spin-off tale, on the DS. I care about this franchise as much as anyone and I’m pleased to say that the game satisfied me-for the most part. This game takes place between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II and runs alongside Chain of Memories. Also keep in mind that this game is intended for Kingdom Hearts fans. If you haven’t played any of the previous games, then you will have no idea what is going on.
As I stated before, the game centers on Roxas and the antagonists from the previous games that comprise the group known as Organization XIII. It’s really neat to fight alongside these guys and get more insight into their cause. In fact, you may find yourself actually rooting for these guys sometime down the road and you’ll have to remember that you’re rooting against the good guys. The game features a new side-character named Xion and she becomes an integral part of the story. To bring you up to speed, the Organization is made up of beings called Nobodies, a person who literally has no heart but the shell that was left behind when a Heartless was created. Their mission is to collect hearts from the shadowy beings called Heartless and complete Kingdom Hearts, which will then allow them to obtain hearts and become complete. The story has a lot of twists and turns that I won’t reveal, this being a review and all.

For a DS game, the 3-D graphics are quite impressive. SquareEnix wanted to stick with a complete 3-D engine for 358/2 Days and the results work pretty well. With that said, the DS hardware is still rather limiting when it comes to 3-D graphics and the graphics are obviously not as polished or nice as the PlayStation 2 graphics, as you will come across frame rate issues in 3-D cutscenes, which still look wonderful mind you. The game doesn’t look or feel rushed but I feel that some might have preferred the stylish sprites we first saw in The World Ends With You.

Another issue is with the environments you explore. Even though they’ve been scaled down for the DS, they are the same environments that you explored in the last three games. I’m a fan of the series, but even I’m getting annoyed with running through the same worlds over and over. You’re going to be killing the same Heartless in the same environments in the same fashions as before. The Disney magic that was prominent in the first few games doesn’t shine as much in this one. You don’t interact with the Disney characters like you could before. If you’re looking for a brand-new Kingdom Hearts experience, quickly and simply, this is not it.

The music that plays in each environment sounds pretty good but you must keep in mind that all of the tracks are re-used from the previous games and scaled down to fit the DS’s sound capabilities. Certain cutscenes are voiced and all of the actors from previous games reprise their roles and sound pretty good.

If you played any of the previous Kingdom Hearts games, the gameplay will be instantly familiar to you. For the uninformed, and I can’t imagine anyone like that who would be reading this right now, this is mainly an action RPG with some menus thrown in for good measure. You attack with your primary weapon, the Keyblade, unleash magic on enemies, and use items throughout combat. There are numerous skills that you can utilize but the game feels most like the first Kingdom Hearts game. The game is less automated like Kingdom Hearts II was and you really have to watch yourself if you want to get through in one piece, since most missions have you going solo. Speaking of which, the game is rather linear with missions instead of the typical running through each world to advance the story. You’re given a new batch of missions every so often and you have to complete a number of those to advance the story. In addition, the game is fairly challenging, which is good. If you feel that your DS titles end too quickly, you’ll find that’s not the case with 358. The game runs at least 20 hours, perhaps longer for most people the first time through.

The way you raise your character is new and rather enjoyable. All of your weapons, spells, items, abilities, and levels are now panels that you have to fit into a Tetris-like board. It’s kind of like building your deck in Chain of Memories but this board affects your entire character’s growth as opposed to just deciding your attacks. In addition, there’s a multiplayer mode but…since I don’t know anyone else with this game, I couldn’t test it. From what I heard, critics have said it’s good but seems like an afterthought.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days may not be the new experience that fans have been wanting, but it is still a very enjoyable game. If you’re a fan of action RPGs, looking for a good, lengthy challenge, and/or don’t care much about continuity, then I recommend this game. The same can be said to those who appreciate the one-of-a-kind gameplay and friendship-heavy story that comes with the series.

Graphics: 8.5 – The 3-D engine looks impressive for a DS game but feels rather forced onto the handheld.
Sound: 8.0 – The soundtrack is mostly recycled and doesn’t sound as good it originally did but the voiceovers are quite good.
Gameplay: 8.5 – Kingdom Hearts was the first action RPG I played and it’s still very fun even if feels repetitive and drawn-out at times.
Appeal: 8.0 – The game won’t make much sense to newcomers but it is still fun. The multiplayer modes and lengthy quest will appeal to a lot of people.

Final Score: 8.0 – The game is enjoyable and a no-brainer for Kingdom Hearts fans.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (US, 09/29/09)

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