While fans of the series continue to hold their collective breaths for some signs of the third installment of the series, Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days for the Nintendo DS tries to fill in that void between the first two installments of the series without all the card shuffling. With the focus on Roxas instead of Sora, Square-Enix is hoping that this title makes a somebody out of this Nobody.
500 Days of Roxas
Troubled by memories not his own and unable to remember his past, Roxas appeared in Kingdom Hearts II as little more than a device to bring new players up to speed with the story and mechanics of the game. Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days fleshes out this blond alter-ego by rebuilding his past one day at a time. After joining the equally mysterious Organization XIII, the antagonists of the second game, Roxas goes to work cleaning up the Heartless scum infesting the worlds of Kingdom Hearts. Along the way, players will learn more about Roxas, the members behind the mysterious organization, and ultimately why this spiked-haired teen chooses to leave it all behind.
Fans of the series will be able to wrap their hands around these familiar controls. Roxas leaps into battle with keyblade swinging as well as spells and items on hand that can be hot-mapped to any of the face buttons for your convenience. 358/2 Days avoids using the touch screen for anything more than alternative camera controls. If you’re one who doesn’t want to think about the camera, a quick tap of the right shoulder button will lock on to the nearest enemy.
Disney Death Panels
While the overall world will seem very familiar to fans of the series, the panel system plans to shake things up. Instead of equipping new keyblades, warming up your fire spells, or even stocking up on a couple of potions, everything comes in the form of a panel – a square or group of squares that fit on Roxas’ character profile. As you complete more missions, the number of panels you can insert into your profile grows with each successful mission.
Some panels take up multiple slots and require other panels to unlock their true potential. A weapon’s panel may change whether you swing a faster keyblade versus one that causes more damage. Except for items, panels are never used up. You can rearrange as many times as you like with as many combinations you can put down. I found myself having to juggle between abilities to fit the right situation. Sometimes you need to throw out a few potion panels for better magic, or get rid of your roll dodge ability just to add in a few “level up” panels. Like I said, everything is put in the panels.
Adventures in Babysitting
Just as before, you won’t be tackling this missions alone. Roxas leans on Team XIII instead of the typical Goof Troop (Goofy and Donald) that appeared in the previous titles. Allies jump into battle with scythes blazing, swords ready, and magic spells at the tips of their fingers. It’s a bit cathartic to be battling beside such formidable team members who you spent so much time fighting against in previous titles.
358/2 Days goes a step beyond just playing along side these foes-turned-friends by letting you control them in the multiplayer mode. Each of the members of the Organization handles slightly different with their own strengths and weaknesses, but will depend on the panel system that you set up for your single player character for their abilities.
From what we’ve played of the preview build, the familiar controls will be a welcome sight for fans salivating for more Kingdom Hearts action. The panel system can be a make or break moment for some of the missions. Go in with the wrong equipment, and you’ll be backing out with your tail between your legs. Stay tuned to G4TV.com for more information and for the review once Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days hits the shelves at the end of the month.