Review: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS)October 19th, 2009 | Written by Josh Schwartzman | Topic: Nintendo DS, Reviews
Square Enix and Disney’s unusual hybrid of characters has worked incredibly well together and the Kingdom Hearts series has now become one of the flagship series for both Square Enix and Sony. With the first two games expressing emotional storylines, addictive gameplay and memorable character interactions, the series has been on a steady rise as each new addition to the series is added. While the combat and adventure in 358/2 Days is just as exciting and addicting as the PS2 games, the story deserves merit for being easily accessible with the first two games, making 358/2 Days an enjoyable entry into the Kingdom Hearts series that anyone can enjoy.
While those fans who truly understand every aspect of the story, complete with all of the characters and various factions, will truly admire what 358/2 Days has to offer, the story does a good job of relating flashbacks to let newcomers understand just who the characters are and what their purpose is. The story takes place leading up to the start of Kingdom Hearts 2, so those of you wondering just why you were controlling Roxas at the start of that game (a new character that was remarkably never touched upon into great lengths), you will soon learn just about everything you can about him. Many simply know Roxas as Sora’s “Nobody,” a mysterious figure who lacks any memories of himself or past events and makes up the thirteenth member of Organization XIII, but plenty of secrets remain to be revealed.
With the inclusion of a new member into Organization XIII and Roxas anxiously trying to figure out his role in the group and how he possessed the ability to wield a keyblade, the story is full of plenty of new segments that help explain the history of Organization XIII and its members. Because Organization XIII is determined to create whole versions of themselves and control Kingdom Hearts, their leader, Xemnas, sends Roxas to various worlds to destroy all the Heartless within, thus relinquishing their grip upon the world. These worlds are separated into a mission-based structure and can be accessed any time in the main HUB world known as The World That Never Was. Here, Roxas can take on missions that range from exploring various sections of the Disney worlds to defeating a handful of enemies. A wide range of available missions never leaves you to be disappointed with repetition and the story missions are brilliantly spaced out in a simple date mechanic that should make understanding the concept of the story easier.
Because fighting is part of the core concept of the series, 358/2 Days has plenty of action and remarkably the series trademark of hack-and-slash combat mixed with strategic spell casting works well on the DS. The combat in 358/2 Days resembles Square Enix’s history with the Final Fantasy series and it shows in the presentation and execution of abilities, items, weapons and almost everything else. A panel system is used to control Roxas’ attacks, and unlocking a certain panel on a giant board allows him to use that specific attack. Similar to how FFX’s sphere grid gave you an emphasis to chart specific character’s paths down either attack-based moves, defensive moves, magic attacks and more, 358/2 Days’ panel system allows you to allocate just how you want Roxas to fight, and unlocking more panels in the attack section for example will increase his overall attack strength. This strategy can be used on any part of the panel board and various adjustments can be saved so you can switch between the many variations any time you wish.
Combat is also made easy mainly in part to auto-targeting, which helps in securing any problems with the camera. Because the camera automatically targets the enemy you are attacking, you never have to worry about fighting to gain control of where you are looking. Similar to the past Kingdom Hearts games, spells can also be placed on a shortcut menu that can be activated by a simple press of a button which helps when fighting gets too hectic to maneuver at times. Limit Breaks have also been included that allow players to unleash devastating super attacks that generally wipe out all enemies on the screen. These attacks range from rapid, frenzy slashes to beams of light obliterating anything they touche. To avoid players spamming these Limit Breaks, these powerful attacks can only be activated once any player’s health dips below a certain point, so think of it as a second wind when you are about to die.
New to the series is a multiplayer mode that allows you to replay missions with friends online. Up to four players can join together to tackle challenges and besides the usual cast of Organization XIII members, special hidden characters from the previous games make appearances that any fan will surely enjoy controlling. These multiplayer challenges are fun to tackle together and with the inclusion of voice chat and the ability to communicate commands and techniques with pictochat and the stylus, this cooperative multiplayer mode should see dozens of hours of replay value for a game already littered with hours of extended missions and extras.
If there is anything truly remarkable about 358/2 Days it is how impressive the game truly looks on the DS. Character models all stand out and are applied with specific details, and each of the game’s seven worlds all strike a stunning resemblance to the designs from the previous games. Animations all look great as well, with dozens of colors flashing on screen at once. There are moments when the game slows down when dozens of enemies are on screen at once, but the lag lasts for only a few seconds before you are launched back into the action. The sound is hit or miss on different aspects as the voice acting and opening music symphony are wonderfully done but there is too much repetitive background music and sounds throughout that happen far too often not to notice.
While Kingdom Hearts 3 is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games of this generation, fans will seek solace in the fact that Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is a worthy addition to the series and one that fans will surely admire. A great story, addictive and intuitive combat system, polished graphics and with a multiplayer component that will keep you coming back, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days should keep fans interested for months to come.