|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: h.a.n.d. Inc.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 29, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
July 15, 2009 - It has been three years since Kingdom Hearts II was released, and ever since then, fans have been clamoring for more. While a proper follow-up has yet to be announced, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is the next best thing: a prequel!
Instead of following the exploits of Sora and company, this new entry will instead explore the back-story of Roxas, the character first introduced at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. The game will follow Roxas around his world and his involvement with the nefarious Organization XIII. The World that Never Was will serve as the game's main hub (as opposed to Traverse Town), and you'll be able to visit familiar Disney locales like Neverland, Halloween Town, and Wonderland.
We recently got the chance to go hands-on with one of the levels in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, and we were immediately surprised at how similar the game looks and feels to the original Kingdom Hearts. The level we played was in Agrabah, and we were able to vanquish some enemies and see some familiar Disney faces. It seemed some peculiar sandstorms were kicking up in the land of Aladdin, and it was our job to run around and find out what was behind the commotion.
The game's battle system is a lot like the original Kingdom Hearts and featured the same style of RPG/action hybrid combat. Most enemies can be vanquished by spamming the singular physical attack button, but you can also cast spells and set shortcuts for more complex actions. Of course, you can also use the game's menu system to select actions, but this can be a little cumbersome mid-battle. However, if you are accustomed to rapid menu-shuffling from previous entries, then you will have no problem here.
Much like other Kingdom Hearts titles, the main gameplay is composed of both exploration and fighting. We were able to hop around the rooftops of Agrabah going on collection quests, smashing pottery, and fighting small-time enemies that would threaten our activities. Running and jumping around Agrabah felt very natural, and there was plenty to explore as we ran and jumped around the landscape.
In addition to standard fighting whilst searching for Munny around Agrabah, we also ran into a mini-boss type enemy which required us to pick up items scattered around the battlefield and throw it at our foes. This mini-boss really showcased the strengths of the game's menu system, and we never felt overwhelmed switching between throwing items and then striking with our weapon. It is also worth mentioning that the controls are completely button-based, so you won't have to do any stylus shuffling while fighting bad guys.
Another thing that this game has in common with its predecessors is the visuals. I was very impressed with how faithfully this game represents the visual style of the original Kingdom Hearts. The characters look almost exactly like they did in previous games, and the character designs had plenty of detail. The game's environment was also represented very well, and even though it seemed like Agrabah was a little on the small side, the game's 3D world has plenty to discover nonetheless.
Ultimately, it will be the fans who will make or break Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. The game's story has been a serious concern among those eager for a proper Kingdom Hearts sequel, and the focus on Roxas for this title was certainly an unusual decision. I have to say that I am impressed with the gameplay aspects so far. The storyline may not revolve around the ubiquitous Sora, but the game's battle system and visuals are definitely reminiscent of the first game, which bodes very well for the prequel. If you are looking for an experience similar to the original, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days should fit the bill nicely - at least in the gameplay department. For everything else, the jury's still out until September 29, when the game is released in the US.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor