By Jenni . June 30, 2009 . 1:00pm
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days will undoubtedly be one of 2009′s biggest DS titles. It’s an incredibly action RPG with bite sized missions that can be played in chunks or one after another that manages to capture the magic and appeal of the console Kingdom Hearts games in a portable form. The only thing that could possibly make this game any better is if the Mission Mode were compatible with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Roxas pretty much joins Organization XIII as a blank slate. Unlike the other nobodies, he has no memories of his previous life and tends to be rather emotionless and clueless. After his first seven days with Organization XIII, he starts learning about the group’s purposes and being sent out on missions. He learns that he and another recent addition to the group named Xion are special nobodies, builds a friendship with fellow Organization XIII superior Axel and cements his place in the group by taking on missions.
While most of the mission Roxas undertakes involve defeating heartless, there are other missions tossed in to add a bit of variety. For example, Roxas may have to explore the Beast’s Castle to find information and heartless without being seen by Lumiere or Cogsworth. Or Roxas may have to stalk Pete in order to find a secret entrance and location. While the majority of the game will have players hacking and slashing, the other mission varieties help keep it from getting monotonous.
There also aren’t missions every day. There are 93 missions in the game. Many of these missions also have badges in Story Mode that, if collected, allow them to be played in different modes. So once a mission and day has been completed, you can revisit it in either Story Mode, or perhaps Mission Mode, to fulfill additional objectives, earn experience or just kill time. Of course, this makes sense. You don’t expect Organization XIII members to be working every day. They need downtime as well. Players even get to see examples of what happens then.
At first I was hesitant when I began playing Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days due to the panel system, the way in which Roxas equips items, magic, abilities, armor and weapons. I’m glad to see now that my worries were unfounded. True, the grid does take getting some used to and you’ll often have to shift items and magic around to find a comfortable medium, but I found I could pretty much rely on the same grid arrangement for every level. There were a few cases were I found myself needing to make minimal adjustments, for example adding more magic or levels, but its easy to adopt the new system as the norm.
It also feels quite comfortable to play. Again, I was worried, because I found my thumbs would start aching while playing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time. Playing Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days feels quite similar to playing Kingdom Hearts or Kingdom Hearts II. The need to press X to select magic spells or items can break your concentration, but this is easily remedied by making good use of the shortcut menu.
I also was surprised to see that, if you’re at a high enough level, the Mission Mode can often be accomplished without the help of friends. It provides an interesting opportunity to see how you would tackle objectives as another character, and a wide variety of characters are playable. It’s also interesting to see how Organization XIII members’ weapons change when equipped with various ores.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is also one of the best looking DS games I’ve seen. Square Enix and h.a.n.d. have done a fantastic job of recreating the worlds and environments of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II on a smaller scale. The movie sequences are of course stunning, but I never expected the 3D gameplay segments to also look so wonderful. Occasionally, the more detailed characters like the members of Organization XIII can look a little pixilated or blocky, but the Disney characters all look fantastic and nearly identical to the PS2 counterparts. I was quite surprised.
I also think Square Enix deserves some kudos for attempting to make Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days accessible to all players. While playing Kingdom Hearts II or the original Kingdom Hearts can help increase your understanding and appreciation of the story, it isn’t necessary. Players can begin the journey as a blank slate, just like Roxas, and uncover the story as he does. Perhaps it could even draw new players into the series. The ability to revisit tutorial messages at any time and look back at Roxas’ diary helps reinforce instant accessibility.
My only complaint lies in the multiplayer capabilities. I wish that Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support could have been implemented. While local wireless multiplayer is wonderful, it would have been much easier to play together over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Plus, the ability to draw and communicate on the touch screen doesn’t make much sense when everyone’s gathered in the same area.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is simply an extraordinary game. I’m positive it will end up becoming one of the most lauded and best selling DS games. It’s one of those games that is a definite system seller, and another fine addition to the growing DS RPG library.
Food for Thought: