The days of 358/2 Days are divided up by missions. Most days are loaded with various optional missions, plus a few story missions that advance the day cycle when you finish them. Or sometimes the story needs to skip ahead faster, so you only get a story mission punctuated by a cutscene. Depending on the mission, you might wind up with an Organization XIII member in your party or you might have to go it alone. Either way, once you set out, you can’t access any part of your menu to change your panels, edit your partner’s battle tactics or save. Luckily, though, the game still lets you keep whatever you earn in a mission, even if you have to withdraw halfway through because you equipped the wrong kind of magic.
To get more mileage out of gameplay, most of the missions have Ordeal and Unity Badges hidden somewhere in them. Scoring an Ordeal Badge lets you replay the mission in Challenge mode to earn tokens for the Moogle. Unity Badges, on the other hand, open up their missions to multiplayer so that you can play with a friend.
Above: Somehow the controls wound up being more complicated (and painful) than the simple action-adventure gameplay itself
The mission structure in 358/2 Days works well for the DS. For one thing, it makes you much craftier about picking out your panels. For another, it gives you a good start-and-stop pace to work with if you’re playing on public transit. Write that last one down, kids – it’s going to be the thing that sells you the game, if the story isn’t enough for you.
The story of Sora Roxas
The story is easily the star of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. It takes places between the first and second games and almost simultaneously with the story in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, a 2004 Game Boy Advance game recently ported to the PlayStation 2.
At this point in the overarching story (which we totally spoil for youhere), a boy named Sora has had his heart stolen and then later returned to him. Far from being a euphemism for love, Sora’s heart actually leaves his body. This creates both a Heartless – a little black insect thing – and a Nobody. Nobodies are “what’s left” of people when they lose their hearts, and in Sora’s case, this becomes the character Roxas.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days picks up Roxas’s story sometime in the middle of his membership with the mysterious group known as Organization XIII and then flashes back to when Roxas was first recruited. You take the role of the semi-catatonic Roxas after the flashback begins and little by little learn the controls and the reasons for Roxas’s existence. Details are scant at first, but the other Organization members make a big deal out of the fact that Roxas can use a magical sword called the Keyblade while the rest of the Nobodies can’t.
Most of the first missions revolve around Roxas releasing hearts from the Heartless living in Disney-themed worlds. The Organization also assigns him to spy on Disney characters and gather information on other kinds of Heartless that appear. At first, Roxas goes along with it all barely uttering a word. But then two things happen that get the ball rolling in the plot department: First, he makes some friends and second, he starts remembering a life that isn’t his.
Above: One of these things is not like the other. Seriously, the graphics in Days are jagged enough to cut your eyes open – why didn’t they just stick to cutesy sprites?