Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Role-playing cutscenes
MtAMinutes to Action 15
Keep Playing? KH fans only
Buy from Amazon
If you didn't already know, Kingdom Hearts is a crossover series between Square Enix and Disney.  As unlikely as that seems, the games have been quite popular.  Two Playstation 2 games, a GameBoy Advance game that was later ported to the PS2 (I know) and a PSP game have come out of this union.

358/2 Days is the DS (and latest) installation of the franchise.  Although nobody's really sure how to say the title, it was a smart move to develop it for the dual-screened handheld, as more people own a DS than any other system.  The question we'll be asking ourselves today is the usual: is this game worth continuing?  Because it's a handheld game, which I believe should be designed for shorter playing sessions, I'll be playing just the first half-hour for review.

Kingdom Hearts has a lot of... how to say... avid fans.  Personally, I'm more of a casual fan.  I think that strikes a good balance for reviewing this game.


00 - I select New Game and the first half-hour of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days begins.  I can choose from Beginner, Standard, or Proud mode, and I choose Standard.
01 - A cutscene describes the heartless and the keyblade, and introduces Roxas.  The cutscene is fully voice acted; Axel gives Roxas a blue popsicle.

02 - Credits on the bottom screen while the top screen shows off the members of Organization XIII.  They all have the letter X in their name.  For those of you who don't know, this Organization played a huge part in Chain of Memories on the Game Boy Advance (and Re:Chain of Memories on the PS2) and figured into Kingdom Hearts 2.

04 - It shows that Roxas is the thirteenth member of the Organization.
05 - The credits end and I'm now watching another pre-rendered, voice-acted cutscene of Roxas and Axel talking while eating ice cream.  We're at Day 255 (of the 358/2?).
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Roxas heartless

07 - Roxas has a flashback to Day 7.  He's counting from the day he joined the Organization.  Looks like the game is going to play out starting at Day 7.

08 - Wow, I actually have control!  I can run around this room and talk to a couple of people.  Axel tells me we have to go to a meeting, so we do after I talk to everyone.

09 - R centers the camera, that's weird.  I'd expect L.
10 - The Organization recruits a new member, a young girl.  The meeting ends and we're now on Day 8.
11 - This starts the beginning of my training for the missions.  Axel goes with me to tell me what to do.

14 - After a lot of talking, Axel quizzes me on the names of some of the members of Organization XIII.  Fortunately Roxas answers on his own, because I don't remember.  The we warp to Twilight Town to begin the mission.
15 - A tutorial informs me that B jumps, and I use it to climb (float) some ledges.  I have to find a treasure chest in the corridors I'm in.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Beauty and the Beast
16 - The stylus can rotate the camera, but it's kind of awkward.  Pressing Select stops Roxas and allows you to rotate the camera with the control pad.  I have a keyblade, and pressing A attacks with it.  I break open some boxes and get some munny (the official currency).
17 - Here's an electric wall I can't get past, with a switch I can't trigger.  I go down another hall and find a switch I can trigger, and it opens a door back to the room in which I started.  There are numbers on the wall, maybe I have to trigger the switches in order?
18 - Axel tells me the electric barriers have been set up by the Organization to keep me on task.  I meander down the hall and find the chest I was looking for.  Roxas thinks all he has to do is locate it, but Axel says most people open chests.
19 - I have to go back to the Dark Corridor that warped us here to RTC, or Return to Castle.
20 - Roxas and Axel settle down on top of the clock tower for blue ice cream, which Axel informs me is Sea Salt Ice Cream.  Ew.

22 -Roxas can't remember anything since he joined the Organization.  I get a mission review, but it doesn't tell me much at this point.

23 - Day 9.  Today I'm working with Marluxia instead of Axel.  We take the Dark Corridor to Twilight Town and he gives me a briefing on how to fight.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Mickey Goofy

24 - Some Heartless appear and I have to kill them.  Pressing A swings the keyblade; Roxas automatically moves toward the enemies when he swings so combat is pretty simple.

25 - A different variety of Heartless appear, and Marluxia tells me these are my main targets.  You lock on by double-tapping R, which is annoying.  Why not just press once?

26 - Marluxia explains that the point of the Organization is to construct Kingdom Hearts by releasing Hearts from the Heartless, but Roxas is the first member to wield the keyblade, which is required to release the hearts.  So what has the Orginization been doing up until now?

27 - Another group of Heartless appears and Marluxia explains chaining: after you kill an enemy, you have a certain amount of time to kill the next enemy to keep the chain going.  You gain a lot more hearts from the baddies if you keep the chain going.  It's really easy right now, you have plenty of time between kills, but I assume it gets harder later.

28 - Mission complete, we RTC, and Marluxia does not treat me to ice cream.

29 - Day 10 (it started on day 7, remember).

30 - Back to Twilight Town, but that's the end of the first half-hour.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Aladdin Genie

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 15

Favorite Thing: Great cutscenes.

Least Favorite Thing: Slow tutorial missions.

Design:  This might be the best 3D graphics on the DS.  The art direction makes up for any downside.  The music is by Yoko Shimomura, one of my favorite video game composers, so there's points added there.

Story:  The story managed to be intriguing from the get-go, especially for those familiar with Kingdom Hearts.  I always liked Roxas a little better than Sora, so getting to play as him for a whole game, and as a member of Organization XIII to boot, was really interesting.  The game also did a good job with the more personal moments (like the chats while eating Ice Cream), and the writing wasn't too cheesy.

Fun: Well, I didn't actually get to do very much.  The floaty platforming remains, as well as the simplified combat system.  If you liked the gameplay of the previous Kingdom Hearts games, I don't see much different here.

Keep Playing:  You know, even though I barely got to do anything, the concept and the production values make me want to keep on.

Other Thoughts: Some people might think it's not fair to only play a game like this for only half an hour, when we give console games a full hour.  I believe that portable games are (or at least should be) intended to play in shorter segments.  I rarely if ever sit down and play a portable game for an hour at a time.  If a portable game can't impress me with it's first half hour, why should I expect more from a later session?  If a game like 007: Everything or Nothing can put me in the action before even setting up the game, why can't a handheld game do something similar?

This game could have done a lot to streamline things.  All of the tutorials could have been combined into one mission, for example, and some of the initial cutscenes maybe could have taken place after the first mission.  Even so, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days gambled by putting not its gameplay but its story first and foremost, and because of the impressive audio-visual presentation I think it paid off.

If you've never played Kingdom Hearts before, the story is not going to have nearly as much meaning for you, and since the story is one of the main draws, this game should probably be skipped until you've played KH1 and 2, and possibly Chain of Memories.  It goes without saying, for the rabid fanboys of Kingdom Hearts, this game is not to be missed.