358/2 Days tells of the period of time that Roxas, the tutorial character of Kingdom Hearts II, spends in the company of Organization XIII. We follow Roxas from his sudden appearance as an amnesiac keyblade wielder all the way to the events that end with him appearing in Twilight Town in KH II. In doing so, Days covers many of the most important mysteries in the Kingdom Hearts universe. Shortly after getting his bearings around Day 10, Roxas encounters a girl named Xion, the 14th member of Organization XIII (?) Her mysterious nature compels Roxas to talk to her as a way to understand his own troubled reality and ultimate destiny. Alongside Xion, Axel emerges as a key friend in Roxas’ transition to “The Key of Destiny”.
About an hour into the game, the events of Chain of Memories are brought to the involved characters of the game, and it is a great bit of fanservice to see how Roxas and the other uninvolved Org. members react to the events of Castle Oblivion. That and Larxene, Marluxia and others are kind of mean and rude to Roxas, so many a player might not find themselves missing them!
Days is rather good looking for the Nintendo DS, thankfully without the full recycling syndrome of the previous handheld effort. There are no new Disney worlds, but they have many new locations and new takes on classic locations that feel different due to the way in which Roxas interacts with these environments. If nothing else, it doesn’t feel as lazy as Chain of Memories did.
The characters transition well to lower res 3D and don’t really look any worse for the wear. The new character of Xion is not really visual distinctive, but perhaps that is part of the story? There are lots of new Heartless to fight, and I especially like the many new giant bosses, as frustrating as some of them are to fight. Days does an above average job at using the lesser hardware of the DS to full effect, and as the world feels like Kingdom Hearts, it is a success. Oh, and the Moogle running the game’s store wears an Org. coat, so the game automatically gets points for that.
What is greatly recycled from Kingdom Hearts II is the music, but having come to expect that, it didn’t feel like a bad thing. This new music that is featured in Neverland is great stuff. The battle track is one of the best in the series’ history and considering Yoko Shimomura’s pedigree, that’s saying a whole lot! The theme of the World that Never Was is said to be the same title from KH II, but it sounds like a remix to me. Not quite an improvement from the original, but I welcomed the change. Xion’s theme was interesting as well and did a great job at highlighting the tragic nature of her character.
Days continues the tendency of KH games to have new gameplay systems for each of their games, a fact that I deeply appreciate. This is because of the somewhat repetitive nature of the mission system in Days. If players had to deal with the same button mashing friendly system featured in the console entries, this game wouldn’t have turned out nearly as well.
Days makes use of the panel system, but which all abilities, weapons, magic, and suchlike come in the form of little blocks that you fit onto a grid that gets larger as you level up. Weapons and some of the ability panels take up multiple slots, so the player has to plan carefully on what panels to include at a specific time and what can be saved until further level-ups. This change to the traditional level up system does a lot to make the game feel more strategic than the combat would lead you to believe. For the uninitiated, you can still rely on the traditional leveling access of more HP when you level up.
If there is a fault to the panel system, it is the lack of customization. I was wishing for the ability to rotate the pieces, as this would make the panel setups a bit more unique. Plus the system would have Tetris elements then, and everyone knows that automatically makes something better!
When it comes to the combat of Days, it plays just like the real time systems in the other games, but the ability to have many different kinds of keyblades based on the panels you install does a good amount to make the combat feel different. There were times that I was looking to do as much damage as possible, so I settled for the powerful but less flashy weapons, that tended to make combat tedious over time.
Just to change things up, I would use other kinds, some with long strings of attacks that might have done less damage, but the aerial and ground choreography involved in such attacks was a lot of fun to watch, doing much to offset the lesser pure damage of the weapon. More powerful weapons aren’t always better if you are looking for variety.
Days makes use of a mission structure to tell its story. Right from the outset, Roxas has free reign to tackle a series of missions looking to advance the story or do various tasks (collecting hearts by killing Heartless, exploring worlds, finding Org. XIII emblems). What you choose to do depends on the kind of gamer you are, and I was thankful for the option to just play through the game rapidly or move at a more leisurely pace. When it comes to obtaining treasure, it is often necessary to have do side missions if you want to obtain the best equipment.
How many times the average player will check this game out is dependent on the type of player you are, i.e what you think of Days’ Mission system. There is also the ability to play many of the game’s missions with friends via multiplayer. You can also use additional Organization XIII characters besides Roxas in this mode, so it is definitely fun to check out their various fighting styles and equipment.
358/2 Days is a great game and a great bit of fanservice for longtime KH fans and those who might only be recent fans. The best way to think about this game was an easy moneymaker for Square based on the popularity of Roxas. The fact is, Square could’ve just made an less pretty looking version of KH II and called it a day. Despite complaints, it still would have sold and fans would look just as readily to the next entry. It is in the company’s efforts to do something new not just with the storyline but with the gameplay that makes Days earn its place among great RPG’s. Your mileage may vary depending on your fandom, but you’ll never say you didn’t enjoy it.
- Ugly Bob
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