Fanboys and fangirls alike scream and squeal because it has finally happened, ROXAS GOT HIS OWN GAME. Emerging from the darkness in 2009, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is the fourth installment in the series, serving as both a direct sequel to Kingdom Hearts and direct prequel to Kingdom Hearts 2. It follows the story of Sora’s Nobody, Roxas, as well as Axel and the mysterious 14th member or Organization XIII, Xion, during the one year gap between the two main titles. 358/2 Days introduces new elements to the series story that become important in later installments, and creates a new level of sentiment for Axel’s great sacrifice in Kingdom Hearts 2.
“Never forget, Roxas. That is the truth.”
The game takes place right after Sora, the protagonist of the main games, releases his heart to save Kairi, the moment at which Roxas was born. Roxas is taken in by Organization 13 and sent on daily missions to collect hearts and help the reformation of “Kingdom Hearts” so that the Nobodies may become whole again. Roxas soon befriends member number 8, Axel, and member number 14, Xion, and the three become best friends, eating Sea Salt ice cream on top of the clock tower in Twilight Town every day. All of this changes, however, when an imposter kidnaps Xion and the rest of the game becomes a heart breaking tale of thrilling secrets, shocking distrust, and questionable friendships that lead up to an epic clash between promises and ideals. 358 days after being created, Roxas wakes up in Twilight Town, and the game ends exactly where Kingdom Hearts 2 begins.
“Maybe…today we’ll finally hit the beach!”
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is visually stunning and really pushes the limits of the Nintendo DS. This could be an issue if playing the game on an older model of the system however most lag is brief and does not take away from the overall gaming experience. In addition, the game features full length, highest possible quality cut scenes, a rarity in DS titles, thanks to the hard work of the employees at h.a.n.d Inc and Square Enix. Although I wish there were more cut scenes, I understand that there are memory and software limitations. It is actually impressive that there are cut scenes of such quality at all.
“Who else will I have Ice Cream with?”
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is mission based, unlike other titles in the series. Instead of visiting a new Disney World and solving the problems of the people there, Roxas is given a daily mission by Siax. At the end of every mission, Roxas meets up with Axel and Xion on the clock tower. There are a total of ten worlds, eight playable, two non-playable, and in every world Roxas learns a lesson about friendship or trust (for example, in Agrabah Roxas learns from Genie (Aladdin) to respect a friend’s wishes). In Neverland (Peter Pan), a floating mechanic is introduced. While it is fun at first, it becomes tedious and a burden, especially during the fight against the Ruler of the Sky. The control scheme of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is similar to that of the console titles. Because of button limitations, combos are limited and they cause the gameplay to feel somewhat repetitive on missions where the only goal is to capture hearts or while fighting a specific type of Heartless. This game has also implemented a “panel system” where the player may equip whatever gears, magic, and other abilities as long as they all fit within the panels. A panel can be unlocked by purchasing “slot releasers” from the Moogle Shop or by completing special objectives in certain missions. This system is great for overpowering your opponents by equipping strength and level-ups, but its downfall lies within the fact that you can only use the amount of magic you equip. For emphasis, if you equip three Cures or Curagas, you may only heal three times per mission, unlike in the traditional games where you must wait for them to charge to use them again.
“It’s time…for me to go away now.”
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is fantastic! The intense story will pull you in and break your heart; it may even make you reevaluate your own friendships. It is a game that twists your understanding of the word “antagonist” and builds a new level of understanding of the hardships that Roxas faced. For this, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days gets nine Sea Salt ice creams out of ten!