Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Nintendo DS
Reviewed: 07/15/2009

Fans of the Kingdom Hearts series usually put a lot of stock in the story, and to that end, 358/2 Days won’t disappoint. It has all the flair that made the previous entries in the KH
library the hits they were — Disney characters, friends fighting
friends, tough thematical explorations of one’s own existence, and
complexities that seem both baffling and unnecessary. It’s an instant
classic. This time around, the players will be seeing the events that
went down right before the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II, from the PoV of Roxas, who gets recruited into Organization XIII in the game’s early going.

Organization XIII is the gothic-looking bunch made famous by Axel and the black-coated mafia in Kingdom Hearts II. 358/2
Days has this band killing off heartless and discussing important
issues amongst themselves, such as, “Where is the cheapest place to buy
black clothes?” and “How do we summon Kingdom Hearts?” and “Why are
these big white chairs 22 feet in the air with no ladder? Like, how the
hell did I even get up here?” Also hair gel.

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Wardrobe for sale at the Square Enix Store.

The Kingdom Hearts games have thrived on beautiful environments, with 358/2
continuing the tradition. All areas are visually quite good, and beyond
that, familiar areas have an impressive amount of detail given to them,
seeing as we’re talking about a transition from PS2 to DS here.
Cutscenes look fantastic as well. It seems Square Enix continually
surprises people with the graphical prowess its able to squeeze out of
this generation’s handhelds, this game being no exception.

Much of the music and sound effects are taken from prior games
in the series, which might bother some people, but eh, the last game in
the series came out over three years ago (I’m not counting that Chain remake), so really, this is no big deal.

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I used to love hearing
moms say “Kingdom OF Hearts” in EB, back in the day. It gave my
pretentious ass something to smirk about. I was better than someone at
something. It felt good. I can’t claim things like that anymore.

Combat in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days will feel just like
riding a bike to series fans who are not total fatasses that can’t ride
bikes. The battle system is very similar to the PS2 installments, minus
joysticks. In the default settings, the camera can be reset with the R
trigger, but one must use the touch screen to actually rotate the
camera any particular direction, which can be a pain in the ass and
sometimes not go precisely where the player wants it to, anyway. If
using these settings, it’s best just to learn to kinda roll with it and
accept the fact that sometimes, that camera’s gonna get Roxas hurt. The
L trigger brings up some shortcuts, allocated to the four main buttons,
which is nice. The player may change the options so that L and R rotate
the camera different ways, while pressing them simultaneously brings up
the shortcuts. The camera does still kind of suck during exploration
and platformy parts, though.

This DS outing of Kingdom Hearts, following the fashion
of many portable RPGs these days, flows in a more mission-based way
than its elders. The central hub is the Organization XIII headquarters,
which is very white and has members usually sort of loafing around
listening to The Cure. Players can relive previous missions if they so
choose, trying each time to get a better score and in effect, better
spoils. This mode of play has proven to work well for portable games.

The customization system is pretty cool. Players are presented
with a set of empty tiles — which will grow as the game goes on,
eventually even becoming multiple pages of tiles — upon which
abilities, items, and levels can be stacked and combined, resulting in
a fairly deep character growth interface. Through clever arrangement,
players can make interesting things happen on this board.

New to the series is a multiplayer mode, in which four players
(who must have the game) can link up locally and attack the Heartless
together. This review has only playtested this with two players, and
the results were lag free. With friendly fire turned on, it can be
troublesome to not hit one’s allies, but thankfully, it can be switched
off. While not a selling point of the game, it certainly is a plus and
will be fun for those who fire it up.

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This is one graphially impressive game.

Here’s where things get tricky. To a Kingdom Hearts fan, this game will probably be received quite well, because of what will be labled a great story and classic KH
gameplay. To someone who’s not already a fan, all this business about
King Mickey and Nobodies and WTF is Riku and Keyblade wielders is going
to be confusing as hell and might not be enough to hold it all
together. Fortunately, for the non-fan, the gameplay is more
mission-based and perhaps easier to get through, step by step, than the
previous games.

This game is a must-have for those that love Kingdom Hearts.
Those that aren’t already into the series, however, might either look
elsewhere for their action RPG fixes or pencil the other KH games into their “to play now” lists, if only to know what the frick is going on.

-Heath Hindman

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Average
Graphics Legendary
Sound/Music Very Good
Replay Value Average
The Verdict: Six