October 3, 2009 Leave a comment
Been a while since I posted anything, but seeing as I’m currently addicted to Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days on DS (and Professor Layton as well), I figured an in-depth review was the perfect reason to write something.
A little forewarning: there may be spoilers. In addition, the Kingdom Hearts series can be confusing enough for those who have played it, so if you haven’t, you can expect to not understand much of what follows.
The game’s place in the series is between the original Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories occurs during the beginning portion of 358/2 Days. Presumably, the game will fill in the rest of the time in which Sora slept before Kingdom Hearts 2.
The plot follows Roxas’ time as a member of Organisation XIII, whose name becomes inaccurate when number XIV (Xion, the girl on the cover) joins. Naturally enough, she’s another Keyblade wielder. Whatever happened to the good old days when being a Chosen One was unique? Roxas and Xion’s duties include not only those of the other Organisation members, but also collecting Hearts from the Heartless, which is something only Keyblade users can do.
For the most part the plot seems to (so far) be a little slow and dull, and the many scenes with Roxas and Axel complaining about how they don’t know what a best friend is or how the can’t feel happy because they have no hearts get annoying after a time. However, the plot is doing a decent job of filling in the blank spots left by the large gap between the main games, as well as giving a greater insight into the motivations and workings of Organisation XIII. The Disney worlds feel somewhat awkward, mostly due to the fact that, for example, not much really happens in Agrabah in the break between Aladdin and Return of Jafar.
The gameplay mechanics are similar to those of the core Kingdom Hearts games, with the menu system as opposed to the card-based combat of Chain of Memories. The largest difference is the use of Panels, which are items which must be equipped in the Panel Menu before leaving The Castle That Never Was to go on a mission. Panels are required for the use of items such as potions, Magic, abilities such as Blocking, and upgrading the Keyblade. The use of magic is the largest divergence from the main games, as rather than having a magic bar to pay for spell usage, you are given a certain number of spell uses based on the Panel configuration you have chosen (i.e. taking two Fire panels will allow you two Fire spells). Certain panels also have a Link feature, which allows for special bonus effects or extra uses. Additionally, there are Level Up panels, which are the only example of ‘temporary levelling’ in video games that I can think of. (The World Ends With You allows you to fully control exactly what level you are, but that also ups the ante by increasing item drop rates for playing at a lower level. – Forte)
As I mentioned, rather than using the open-world style of game progression of the core games where the player progresses through one world’s story, 358/2 Days utilizes missions wherein Saix (II) sends you to perform various acts such as kill Heartless, investigations and various tests. While the missions do occur in the same worlds as those in previous games, often the levels have areas which are deemed irrelevant by the Organisation and are blocked off. However, just where the blockages are changes from mission to mission, so it seems as if the worlds in their entirety are of comparable size to the main games.
Graphically, the game is gorgeous. I did not think it was possible for the DS to have so much prettiness. As a quick contrast, the in-games graphics of 358/2 Days are far better than the cutscene graphics in games such as The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, with the cutscenes being jaw-droppingly good, as you can see below. Simply put, the visuals are unparalleled by anything else on the platform, and are hopefully a sign of the direction the DS/DSi will take over the rest of it’s lifetime.
I have yet to play the multiplayer mode of the game, so I’ll leave judgment alone on that for now. I believe Forte has tried it though, so he may add something later. (Multiplayer mode just allows you to play the missions from Story mode with up to three other people, and you can use any member of Organisation XIII. You can also mess around with the game settings a lot more, like turning off magic or decreasing damage output. It can be played solo, but if you play it with people the person with the most gems at the end of a mission gets a Crown, and you can use those to earn stuff at the Moogle Shop. You have to collect Unity Badges from the missions to play them though, which is a pain. – Forte)
Overall, the game is one of the best offerings on the DS. However, due to the convoluted plot and continuity it is far from easily accessible. For fans of Kingdom Hearts, this is practically a compulsory purchase. For everyone else, it’s definitely worth checking out, but it’s likely the plot will lose you.