Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo DS
  • Developer:
    • h.a.n.d. Inc.
  • Publisher:
    • Square Enix
  • Released:
    • JP 05/30/2009
    • US 09/29/2009
    • UK 10/09/2009
Score: 70%

This review was published on 12/17/2009.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is another one of those games with a ridiculous title that makes little to no sense. What's worse, I'm at a loss at how to pronounce it. Is it 358 over 2 days? What does that even mean? I played through the game and still haven't a clue. One of life's many mysteries, I suppose. Anyway, this is basically Kingdom Hearts on a handheld; no strings attached. Well, there are a few strings attached, but none are like the card-based system of the last handheld Kingdom Hearts. It's all about approaching your enemies head-on and mashing the attack button. Oh, don't worry; you do use a few magical attacks, here and there. None can deny that Kingdom Hearts is heavy on the button mashing aspect, though.

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You're greeted with plenty of long, cinematic cut-scenes to make you aware of the fact that you're now playing a Square Enix game. No matter how hard they try, though, they aren't able to provide a competent presentation. It's not entirely their fault, of course; the DS is hardly the platform when it comes to pretty graphics, especially when you're dealing with polygons. There isn't much in the way of voice acting, so it's not imperative that I mention its mediocrity. Also, the plot takes itself too seriously. That's a bad thing, since it's horrid. Even a subpar plot can be a useful tool to mask tedious game play. Unfortunately, it fails at achieving that, as well. Not much transpires in the game's story until the last few missions, by which most discerning players would have lost interest.

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As previously stated by yours truly, combat in this game revolves around the repeated press of the attack button. I may sound overly critical about that fact, but I don't mind so long as this proves to be entertaining. What prevents it from being entertaining is the camera. Camera control has the feel of an old N64 or PS1 game, back when game developers were still trying to get to grips with a 3-D camera system. There are multiple control options and various settings to try and remedy this, but nothing feels quite right. In the end, you're left with obtuse controls and no analog stick for smooth movement in a 3-D environment. To be honest, it's not completely fair to count this as the game's fault, due to the specs of the DS. You're bound to have these issues in almost any 3-D game on the handheld. Still, it detracts from the experience, and that can't be excused.

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In this game, you have a little something called the Panel Grid. It's a set of slots where you do your customization by way of equipping Panels. These Panels represent nearly every facet of a typical Japanese RPG: magic, items, abilities, auto-abilities, weapons, and so on. Items equipped here can be used during a mission, but are consumables and as such, will not return. It's important to make that point, because magic and abilities will remain even after you use them. One thing to note is that the way magic works is a bit like FF8: if you want to be able to use the Fire spell three times, you need to equip three of them in your deck. Essentially, you do not have an MP gauge. Unlike FF8, however, you can replenish your spells by using items such as Eithers or by simply completing the mission. The annoying thing about this system is that, since you have a limited amount of space to work with, it does not allow you to have a large array of different spells without compromising your other capabilities. I suppose that's the intended effect, but it sucks when you enter a mission that ends up having lots of enemies that are weak to fire, only to realize you brought nothing but Blizzard casts. The developers seemed to be aware of this problem, as the mission description will occasionally give you advice on what spells to bring. This is not always the case, however.

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Link Panels initially present themselves as inconveniences, because they take up multiple slots on the grid and come in a variety of shapes. However, as their name implies, they can be linked to other panels to bestow special effects. For instance, there is a Doublecast panel that, when linked with other magic panels, will let you cast each spell twice. That effectively doubles the amount of spell casting you can have during a mission, so you won't feel too bad about not having that MP bar. Weapon panels also come with link slots on occasion, which allow you to equip other panels that will modify the weapon's stats slightly. You can only equip a single weapon panel at a time. The same goes for accessory panels.

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Each time you gain a level, you obtain a level panel. If you want your levels to count, you'll have to equip these panels to your grid. That means if you don't equip these panels, you'll forever remain at level 1. I do applaud their innovation, but this seems like a really stupid way to have done things. I mean, by the end of the game, you'll have so many of these panels equipped; one for each level of experience you gained. You do get more slots as the game goes on, and yet... I need to ask, what's the point of this? The only advantage I can see in such a thing is that it makes it easier to do a low-level challenge. If you really are looking for a challenge, I think there are many other games out there that can better meet your needs.

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This game features the mission system, where upon you are given missions that you can do. That is to say, this is a mission-based form of Kingdom Hearts. While missions make sense from a game design perspective, I was never too fond of them in almost any game to feature them. Chalk it up to personal preference, if you'd like. Anyway, there are a set of mandatory missions you need to complete before you are allowed to advance the plot, but you are also given a ton of extra missions you can do. Obviously, there are rewards for the extra missions you do, so you should probably do them if you can withstand the tedium. They have a nifty system that lets you replay any missions you already completed (or any missed missions), but I highly doubt you'll be using this for anything other than to grind. What I meant to say is: the missions are boring as heck.

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I want to explain Recon missions, which revolve around you "inspecting suspicious areas" in an effort to "make a breakthrough." Every time you inspect a set amount of these areas, you fill the mission gauge just a bit. Like all missions, your job is done once the gauge is full. It's not immediately apparent what areas you need to inspect, though there is a question mark icon that pops up over your head whenever you're near an area of interest. Still, these missions tend to be dull, as all you're really doing is wandering around aimlessly. It can be hard to find all these special areas at times, too, making the experience that much more excruciating. The good thing is that there aren't too many of these missions. The bad thing is that these missions exist.

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You may have noticed that this game features multiplayer. In the beginning, you don't have access to the multiplayer mode. This is because the multiplayer mode is separate from the single player, and in order to access it, you need to unlock areas by collecting "Unity Badges" in the single player. Being able to play with friends in a cooperative effort is always good fun in almost any type of game, but I wish you could have gone co-op in the main single-player mode. When it comes to co-op, nothing really beats the thrill of advancing through the main storyline with friends, in my opinion. Square Enix was able to pull this off in one of their Crystal Chronicles games for the DS, so why not in this one, too? The world may never know.

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Well, it's about time I gave my prognosis on this game. I know it sounds like I've spent the entire review bashing the heck out of it, but the truth of the matter is, it's not that bad of a game. It's pretty decent, when you get right down to it. I'm just not convinced that it's worth anyone's time to play through this iteration of Kingdom Hearts, as it's merely a lesser form of what's already available on the PS2. If you're okay with the idea of playing a poor man's Kingdom Hearts, then be my guest. Personally, I can't shake the feeling that this is to keep fans of the series satisfied until a real Kingdom Hearts game comes out. At its best, this could be a good way to kill time until then.

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