Review by HPFreak623

"Simply put, It's a full Kingdom Hearts experience on the go. Not perfect, but fun."

The last time a Kingdom Hearts game made it's appearance on a Nintendo console it was Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for the Gameboy Advance. Using the limited hardware of the GBA Square-Enix was able to push the system to some limits with the use of full motion videos on the tiny GBA cart, though with lack of buttons and the limited hardware they opted for a 2D game, using cards for the battle system; not liked by many might I add. Square-Enix has once again released a Kingdom Hearts game for a Nintendo handheld but how does it fair this time?

If you're a fan of Kingdom Hearts this is going to be a nice entry into your collection. Everything you get from the Ps2 counterparts has been wonderfully scaled down and put into your pocket on the DS in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (for those confused, it's pronounced Three-Five-Eight Days over 2).

In Kingdom Hearts Sora ended up using the Keyblade against himself to free Kairi's heart, but this also released his. The result? A Nobody named Roxas was created. With no memories of his former “life” Roxas joins Organization XIII and soon uncovers the truth about himself. In Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (from now on referred to as Days) you play as Roxas and his time in the Organization. The story is an interesting and captivating one full of secrets, friendship, and popsicles. Lots and lots of popsicles. It takes some time for the flow of the story to actually get going, but when it picks up speed it will have you wanting to play to find out more and to reach the end of the game. I know once it was over I wished it wasn't. I wanted more to the story. The game itself runs in a “mission” based system. You pick a mission, go to a world, beat the mission, return, rinse and repeat. This is partly why the story takes forever to unfold. It gets boring if you just sit and play for hours, but it's on a handheld so this system works perfectly. It allows for pick up and play gameplay in short bursts.

I don't want to get into too much depth on it because you need to experience it for yourself to determine if you like it and writing about it doesn't help at all. The panel system is a new system made for Days. It runs kind of like the cards from Chain of Memories. For everything you can do you need panels. Items, magic, equipment to even leveling up. There's a panel for it. You have to fit the panels together like a puzzle, to make the most of your panel slots. It sometimes feel like Tetris as the pieces resemble Tetris blocks. I think it works well and can be a lot of fun to spend time putting it together. That time will be well spent too as the difficulty for this game can be absurd at times. I remember having the wrong Keyblade equipped for a battle once and it taking me close to 2 hours to beat because of it.

Visually the game is one of the best looking games I've personally seen on the DS. The game is rendered in full 3D aside from some items such as your keyblade. You'll hardly notice they're not 3D though as they still look fantastic and the animation is smooth. The worlds are scaled down models of worlds from previous games such as Kingdom Hearts 2's Twilight Town, Kingdom Hearts 1's Halloween Town, Kingdom Hearts 2's Beasts castle, and some of the worlds are completely new looking. Even though they're scaled down they're still pretty big and the recreations look great. The game also has a fair number of cutscenes and they're simply gorgeous to watch. It's a good thing once you beat the game you unlock the ability to watch them anytime.

When the game was announced to be on the DS it caused some speculation. The DS clearly lacks analog sticks so what everyone was wondering is how well the game would control and just how exactly you'd cycle through your action menu since the game plays exactly like the PS2 versions. I can safely say the game controls as smooth as it's big brothers on the PS2 despite no analog sticks. First off, you move the camera by using the touch screen. It's simple and not hard but can feel like a pain. You're better off centering the camera behind you than using the touch screen. The directional buttons handle eight way movement and does it well. For the action menu you simply use the X button to scroll through. This allows for access on the fly and is probably a bit easier than having to go from the joystick to the directional pad like you do in the PS2 version. The only problem is you can only scroll one way; down. If you accidentally go past the magic or the item you want you'll have to cycle back through. Overall though the transition from the PS2 was smooth and handled well which is good, because it could have made the game unplayable if handled wrong.

With every great game it needs a great set of sound effects to draw you in and immerse you in the universe it's set in. As well, it needs to have a great soundtrack. Days tends to use a lot of repeated soundtracks from previous titles with only a small selection of new or remixed tracks. Sound effects range from the clanging of the Keyblade, footsteps and especially character voices. Each character has battle grunts and small voice clips in the normal game but in the cut scenes there's full vice acting and it sounds great. Everything is crisp and clear, especially through headphones.

For the first time in the Kingdom Hearts series there is a multiplayer mode. This is where most of the replay of the game comes in. I was not able to actually test it with someone else as the one person I was suppose to test with never picked up the game (no online play sadly), but luckily you can play the multiplayer solo. Odd isn't it? Multiplayer solo? Anyways, it's great you can play it solo as a semi-important aspect of the game is getting the crowns from multiplayer which unlock useful items to help develop your panel system. Another aspect of the replay value is the challenges. When you beat a mission you unlock a challenge for it. Some are as simple as collecting something or as hard as killing a boss with certain restrictions. Depending on how well you perform you'll unlock challenge Sigils which do the same as the multiplayer crowns. It adds a little replay value but most of the time it feels like a chore.

Overall Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is a wonderful game for the DS. For such a small package they were able to push a lot into it and push the DS to limits rarely seen before. It's Kingdom Hearts on the go. Gameplay will get repetitive and you may hate it but it's worth it to push through. While sometimes difficult, the panel system adds strategy and a fun little puzzle to keep working at. Great gameplay, visuals, sound, story and it's all on the go.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/20/11

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

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