Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Review

By Rob Manuel - Posted Sep 25, 2009

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (pronounced "three five eight days over two") attempts to satiate the ravenous fanboy by adding a back story to one of the more mysterious characters of the series...Roxas. Should the fans devour this title or wait for a third helping of the main series?

The Pros
  • Good Story
  • Panel system adds strategy
  • Plenty of fan service
The Cons
  • Repetitive button-mashing mechanics
  • Visiting the same areas over and over again
  • Problematic camera

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (pronounced "three five eight days over two") attempts to satiate the ravenous fanboy by adding a back story to one of the more mysterious characters of the series – Roxas. Think of it as Scrappy Doo getting his own show. Should the fans devour this title or wait for a third helping of the main series?  

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Review

Day 45: …And I want to Paint it Black

Roxas, the blond kid in black garb, wakes up in a castle with no memory of his past and a few memories from someone else. As the newest member of Organization XIII, an elite squad of very secretive individuals, Roxas must prove himself by using his unique talents, wielding the Keyblade and collecting hearts. But he’s not the only new kid on the scene as a fourteenth member, Xion, makes an appearance with powers similar to that of our hero. As you may have already guessed, there’s a conspiracy afoot connecting the new girl with a familiar face, the Organization, and the rest of Roxas’ missing memories.

As convoluted as these stories often end up being, 358/2 Days hits on many common themes that anyone who has ever survived puberty can relate to – fitting in, loneliness, and the highs and lows of friendship. Sprinkled throughout the game are fully animated cut-scenes with all the trimmings of music and voice acting. There are even some neat double scenes reflecting the memories of Sora on the bottom scene as the top scene plays through the game. The majority of the story, however, crawls by with in-game animation and a ton of text. Luckily, you can simply skip the scenes or keep jamming on the A button. (That’s how you play most of the game, anyway.)

The game also tries to stretch a fairly decent story across the three hundred and fifty-eight day stint in the Organization. Every mission ends with a short cut-scene and some of them even begin with their own little bit of story. Frankly, there’s just not enough there to keep your attention throughout the duration. After about the fiftieth time, I started skipping through the bits where Roxas and his best friend, Axel, go to the top of the clock tower to enjoy some salty popsicles. And no, that’s not a euphemism.  

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Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Review

Day 173: Groundhogs Day Mechanics

Fans of the series will be happy to know that they can slash away like they were still playing with Sora. Magic and items can be assigned to any of the face buttons for quick reference. While a well placed Thundara can really help out, even the mightiest of bosses will be a thumb-numbing session of hitting the A button until they’re dead. Some enemies do require you to use a bit of strategy to expose their weakness, but it will always be the mighty keyblade that puts them to rest. There are too many instances of mindlessly hacking away at the life bar to make this an enjoyable adventure. 

Nothing is simply given to you in this game. The panel system requires you to place every ability, from spells to equipment, in a set grid that grows with every successful mission. It’s actually a neat idea that gives the game a sliver of strategy. Higher abilities take more than one space and can be augmented by additional panels.  Do you pop out your block ability just so you can fit in a couple of extra spells? Will you sacrifice a level or two just to get a new sword to fit into the puzzle? But once you start the mission, it’s mostly all swinging and little thinking.

Day 203: Backtracking Forward

Being in the middle of a story already told is a tough deal. All the places you go and things you will see have usually been seen or done before. You’ll hack through eight areas such as Halloween Town or the deserted halls of Beast’s Castle. The problem comes in when the missions place you in the same three or four sections. As you progress, the areas do open up to much larger sections but these pieces (Wonderland’s Hedge Maze, Agrabah’s open boss area, for example) are woefully underutilized in the missions. The developers put a lot of work into making each of the areas look as close to the PS2 version as possible, but textures often come out flat and blocky. 358/2 Days would have been better off varying the areas instead of running through the same old sections. 

Without an analog stick, the camera can be a problem. The lock-on feature works well enough for your standard fare of Heartless. For larger enemies such as bosses or creatures who like to zip past you, however, the lock tends to slip off your target. Worse yet, you’ll occasionally lock on to that one flying enemy who will spin the camera by floating a few feet above your head.

Day 255:  With Friends like These…

Up to four players can explore the lands of Kingdom Hearts as members of Organization XIII. The leader of this little adventure can customize the experience to their liking – disable healing, allow for friendly fire, or even how much stuff you’ll lose once one of your teammates takes you down just to name a few. Top players will receive crowns that can earn you prizes in the single-player game. Fun when you have a full team smashing through the stage, the multiplayer still relies on you playing through previous missions, which means through the same stages, the same enemies, and the same button-mashing monotony.

Day 357: Not Quite There

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days has good ideas brought down by lazy mechanics. Die-hard fans will surely pick it up, but be forewarned. Instead of embracing the Disney magic, you’ll spend more time running away from it. It’s a solid attempt to translate the epic feel of the game on a handheld device that’s held back by the repetitive gameplay and tedious missions. 175/2 Days would have made for a better game.