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25 June 2009 @ 12:44 am
[GAME] Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Preview  
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Since I can't sleep I figured I would share my thoughts on the upcoming game Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for Nintendo DS. Scheduled for North American release August 29, 2009, the Japanese version has already been out since May 2009. Even though the game didn't even come out until the last week of the month, it lead sales for May and sold close to 300,000 copies. That's pretty impressive, no doubt about it.

At least you're a cash cow with depth! :D

I will say that I did not import this game, so I have no personal "hands on" experience. I have read reviews of the Japanese game, plus read/watched previews of both the Japanese and English versions from various sources. Even with my affection for Kingdom Hearts as a whole, I was somewhat wary of 358/2 Days. It looked to me like a KH version of Final Fantasy X-2. With all the fanfiction/fanart that I've seen floating around the internet (there is a lot, people. A LOT.), 358/2 Days, with it's screen shots of Roxas and Axel together eating sea salt ice cream, just looked like ultimate fan-service. Especially after the rumours and then confirmation of this 'fourteenth' Organization XIII member, who just happens to be a girl Roxas' age, I surrendered myself to looking forward to Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep for the PSP instead.

So does Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days seem up to snuff? Just click the cut to read more.

As you might know, the main character of the newest game in the KH franchise is Roxas. For those who have played KHII, we all know the BHK* and his role in the story. However, due to the relative situations and general confusing nature of KHII, Roxas' character and playable part in the story was lacking (understatement) and generally boring. If you have not played Kingdom Hearts II, or you are new to the Kingdom Hearts games, then 358/2 Days could be a good place to start. (I still recommend playing Kingdom Hearts I for Playstation 2 first...)

* BHK = Blonde Haired Kid: When Kingdom Hearts II was in the making, Roxas' name was unknown. Anticipating fans affectionately called him, blonde haired kid or BHK.

It's about time we learned more about you, Blondie!

Happily, Square-Enix saw fit to flesh out Roxas' character more with this game. Not only does the plot tell his story, but Roxas' diary feature tells us what he is thinking throughout the game. It seems our little Nobody is very pensive and deep, unlike his heart-possessing counterpart. Character development was something KHII desperately needed, so making amends using 358/2 Days is appreciated. Another positive is that the plot holes and mysteries of Organization XIII are also addressed. The cryptic and misunderstood Org. finally shows it's true colours as the players will see what they actually do on a day-to-day basis. Other than them sitting on big white chairs and causing grief for Sora, we actually had little to no idea what they actually did. How something so basic was overlooked in the previous games, I have no idea.

Yeah, you look evil... but, uh, what is it that you do exactly?

Other than story, 358/2 Days also has the distinct honour of being one of the most gorgeous DS games to ever exist thus far. All characters are in full 3D model form. None of that little chibi/distorted stuff for this game, no sir! Graphics are comparable to or even greater than the Playstation 1 at its peak. Aside from minor pixellation, there are really no noticeable flaws in appearance. The colours are beautiful and very captivating. I have not seen very many worlds or landscapes in detail, but knowing Square-Enix, they are probably lovely as well. CG scenes are top notch, as usual with Square. The only slight downer I read about was the music. Not that the music is bad--if there is anything to know about Kingdom Hearts, it is that the soundtracks are wonderful. But it is that we have heard most of it before. Considering that there are no new worlds this game, it is to be expected that most tracks would be the same. However, there is a new rendition of Dearly Beloved, the title screen song, which I read was very nice indeed. For any other aesthetic flaws, 358/2 Days has very few of them.

Don't stress, Riku! Your hair looks great!

As far as game play goes, it is pretty much the same as previous KH games. Much button-mashing will ensue to beat up those dang Heartless who just keep popping up everywhere. The delightful feeling of seeing the Heartless explode into HP/MP balls, munny, and item drops just never gets old! The synthesis shop also makes an reappearance, and using the points accumulated by slaughtering Heartless, players can buy upgrades for Roxas. Apparently the fighting attributes system has been changed a bit though. From the way I understood it, Roxas and his team mates are set up on a grid and block system. Powers and such are blocks that take up slots in the grid. As you go along, the grid expands allowing for more powerful moves. Magics also got an overhaul. Instead of MP, individual spells now have a limited number of casts and must be replenished with ethers. Magics also got a serious boost in power, unlike previous games where magic was only useful for a solid ranged hit. Another new feature that 358/2 Days brings to the table is the Limit Break. Woohoo! It's about time! A feature that is known all too well in Final Fantasy games, the Limit Break (or sometimes called an Overdrive) gauge fills up as a character takes hits. Once the gauge is full, the player can unleash a powerful attack that often wipes out opponents. It's great for a last ditch effort on a boss or clearing a bunch of enemies. I am glad that this feature has finally crossed over to KH. The Drive Forms were nifty in KHII, but Limit Breaks just seem more useful in normal and boss battles.

Ahh! He's behind you, look out! :O

So far I've been only singing the praises about 358/2 Days. And while the praise is warranted, no game is without its flaws. In this case, the camera control seems to be the main complaint. In other KH games, the camera was controlled by the right analog stick. Obviously, the Nintendo DS has no analog sticks at all, so the translation of the controls from a traditional console to hand-held was somewhat lost. Roxas seems to end up in corners occasionally while the player figures out a way to turn him around without being able to see him. Cameras stuck on walls never leads to a good situation in battle, so this is slightly bothersome. The controls are another small issue, but not so much as the camera. Using a directional pad or even the stylus has never been fun for me on the DS. Maneuvering in battle could take some getting used to with the D-Pad, but that learning curve should be very short. Overall, one cannot expect the control on a hand-held system to be as accurate as a more advanced console, so these gripes can definitely be taken in stride.

Another complaint about 358/2 Days is the Mission Mode. During the mission mode, players can go single player or connect with 1-3 other players to complete a mission for rewards. All of the Organization XIII members, plus more unlockable characters, are available to play as in this mode. While this sounds like fun, I read that it is actually quite lame. The rewards are not as great as they should be, plus the mission goals are extremely recycled. The option to hook up with 1-3 other people seems enjoyable, but this feature would probably rarely be used. I know I probably would never use it, but that's beside the point.

Don't look so distraught! I'm not finished yet.

Based on what I have read about Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, I am both pleased and surprised. It's good to know that RPG sequels can still be well done. With scores like 36/40 from Famitsu, 81/100 from RPGfan, and general 8/10s across the board, 358/2 Days seems a solid choice for fans and newcomers alike. I look forward to August!

Bottom Line: Sounds good. I just need to play it!
Sources: GameFAQs, RPGfan, N4G, Eurogamer and Wikipedia

Axel, stop trying to give Roxas the paopu fruit...
Feeling a bit: gloomygloomy
Listening to: ayaka - Why
Kerajapan_is_heaven on July 4th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
This game looks so amazing. I can't wait until September.

You think they will release the Kingdom Hearts DSi in America?