Review: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

- Keith Michael

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (pronounced Kingdom Hearts three, five, eight over two days) is yet another crazy title for a wonderfully great game by Square Enix. Square Soft shocked a lot of gamers back when they announced that Kingdom Hearts would be a game that mixes the classic games of Final Fantasy with the likes of Disney. I’ll admit that at first I was a skeptic. “How would Mickey Mouse ever mix with Cloud Strife or Leon Squal?” I asked myself. All my skeptical notions were tossed aside once I saw Kingdom Hearts in action and all I wanted to do was play Kingdom Hearts. I was very happy with the decision to start the story of Kingdom Hearts because I was able to finally play a game that not only had a great story line but also had fun characters and game play that made me want to level up the three main characters.

The story in Kingdom Hearts revolves around a boy named Sora (voiced my Haley Joel Osment), his two best friends Riku and Kairi, and his new companions Donald Duck and Goofy from the Disney universe. Kingdom Hearts 1, Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 2 had some of the most memorable characters and stories that I have ever had the opportunity to see but, it left many unanswered questions making it almost necessary to play the two new portable titles. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days did a fantastic job filling in the blanks and answering about half of the questions. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days keeps up with the fun action RPG game play from the first three games, but adds a panel based leveling up system to mix things up.

The Kingdom Hearts games are a happy mix of button mashing with a Final Fantasy leveling and magic system thrown into the mix; so that means you can use things like firaga and summons. The button mashing aspect comes from the main weapon, the Key Blade, which looks like a big key at first and can be given different hey chains to change the affects that the weapon has (longer combo chains or better magic use depending on how you would want to play). In Kingdom Hearts one and two Sora follows the basic formula of beating enemies and gaining EXP to level up and the same goes for Chain of Memories. Well, in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days the concept is changed just a tad, you can still go out and gain levels by beating enemy after enemy but, that will only get you so far because the game requires you to play some of the missions in order to get tiles called “level multipliers”. The level multipliers are then stuck under the level tiles to change a level 1 tile into a level 2 or 3 tile. You may be wondering what the tiles are, well, as you play each level you get new tiles that you can stick on the panels in your inventory. At first you only get about ten spaces that you have to use to arrange weapons, magic, items, and level tiles and as you progress through the missions more and more space will become available. (Think about how Resident Evil 4’s inventory system was done) The inventory all has to be fit into the tile space in order to fully optimize the main character Roxas, allowing the player to add and subtract levels from the character as needed.The weapons in the Kingdom Hearts games are very strange being essentially big keys and all, but, they have this appeal to them that will get you excited as you add a new key chain to the blade and see it transform into a different blade with different abilities, like better ground or air combos.

After you optimize Roxas to your liking it’s time to go out and kill some Heartless and Nobodies, and with over 50 missions in the main story this will keep you busy for a good 30-40 hours. The game is pulled along by an intriguing story line that would be confusing to any one that has not played Kingdom Hearts and KH: Chain of Memories. Roxas teams up with other characters in the group that call themselves Organization XIII. The Organization is up to no good from the get-go and it is pretty neat to see what is later realized as the bad guys’ side of the story ends on a cliff hanger. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days pretends that anyone coming into it will already know everything about the previous games and will not need an explanation of what is going on, so plan on being confused the whole time if you have not went through the first two games at least. The realistic order to the game goes like this, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (a prequel), Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days than finally Kingdom Hearts 2 and there is another game called Coded that fits some where after Chain of Memories.

Aside from the main story of the game, there are a few other things that will keep you coming back. There is a nice group of “challenge missions” that allow you to choose from 17 different characters, including the Organization XIII members, Donald, and Goofy. The challenge missions can be played solo or if you have a friend with a copy of the game you can play with the DS Multi-Card play, allowing for the first multiplayer experience in the Kingdom Hearts games. So, if you did play Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days you would have a nice lengthy story pulled together with some great cut scenes and voice work.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days opens up with a nicely rendered cut scene of two men in black cloaks talking to each other and right out of the gate SquareEnix shows you that the DS can handle great cut scenes and voice work. The Kingdom Hearts games are known to have great music to go with them, with the two main themes song “Simple and Clean” and “Sanctuary” sang by Japanese pop star Utada Hikaru. The overall sound and graphics of the game mesh nicely with each other, having little bubble popping noises and spark sounds that go with the different Key Blades and great voice work, even in game. Each Key Blade makes its own sound and the magic is always making some type of sparking or exploding sound. Obviously, all the enemies of the game will be making weird chirping noises while the humans all talk smack during the fights. With a mix of great cut scenes and the fact that the in-game looks like the Nintendo 64 it’s hard to say the graphics are overall wonderful, but they are not bad. The cut scenes are where the real magic happens, with great actors like Christopher Lee and Haley Joel Osment doing voices for characters like Sora and Diz. The areas of the game are all famous places like Agrabah from Aladdin and Halloween Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas and they all have memorable songs to go with them i.e.  “This is Halloween”. The only downfall to the six or seven different worlds that you get to travel to is that if you played the other three games, you will not be seeing anything new this time around. The fact that there isn’t even one new world to travel to is a little crappy, let’s face it, there are only so many times that I want to see the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. Along with returning to the same place for the third time, there is also a lot of rehashed enemies, although the enemies all have their different appealing features, you will still just be fighting the same heartless from the first three games with a spin on the color or the size. I think that all-in-all I fought about ten enemies that I had not encountered in the first set of games. Don’t get me wrong, the enemies look nice pushing the DS to do its’ thing, but it would be nice to see something new considering how long you will be fighting these same enemies.

SquareEnix can make some pretty lengthy games and the Kingdom Hearts games are no exception. The games spend a few hours at least introducing the story, taking about two hours to find Donald and Goofy in the first Kingdom Hearts game and about four hours to see the title in Kingdom Hearts 2. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories allows you to see Sora and Riku’s side of the story giving the game a good 100 hours of play time. Surprisingly, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days had the shortest play through, with me beating it at 36 hours at level 55. There are still the multiplayer and solo challenge missions to go back through, but it still falls a little short of what has come to be expected from the Kingdom Hearts series and SquareEnix themselves. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is still a decently sizable game with a great story with a backbone, and if they tried to stretch the story any further than they did it may have made the game seem like more of a filler than it really was. 

I, personally, have been a fan of the Kingdom Hearts games since I first watched my dear friend Eric Lewis beat the game in front of me before I had ever played it. With one of the best stories, some of the best voice work and really fun game play, Kingdom Hearts games are truly great. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days kept that going with only a few shortcomings involving the same problems of using old worlds to tell the story and at some times, an annoying camera system. I really enjoyed Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and I think that if you are a fan of RPG games, SquareEnix or Disney, then you owe it to yourself to check out the Kingdom Hearts series, 358/2 included. Go pick up Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for $20. 

Verdict: 85% - Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Trailer