Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is extremely meticulous about crafting its characters. Most of the main cast either aren’t in the other Kingdom Hearts games, or don’t have much screen time compared to other characters in which to display depth or emotion. To fix that, and to answer a lot of questions that come up when playing Chain of Memories where Organization XIII is first introduced, 358/2 Days zeroes in on key members of the Organization and fleshes out their connections to one another over the course of the game.
Axel in particular gets a much larger slice of the limelight. He’s the first person to befriend Roxas by convincing him that sea salt ice cream really is delicious and teaching him how to eat it on top of a clock tower with absolutely no guard rails. He’s also apparently a double-agent working on behalf of Saix – a main villain from Kingdom Hearts II. Players who’ve had the pleasure of beating II or Chain of Memories will get a kick and a lot of answers out of watching the two of them interact. The rest of us can only wonder at Axel’s motives as the game goes on and his friendship with Roxas is put to the test.
Above: Friends don’t let friends gorge on ice cream on top of a clock tower with no guard rail when they’re depressed
Then there’s Xion, who you probably haven’t heard of ‘til now. She’s certainly not in any other game and she really doesn’t look like any Kingdom Hearts character we’ve seen before. But like Roxas and his counterpart, Sora, she can also wield a Keyblade – and that makes her valuable to the Organization and to the plot. Over time, she starts to get attached to Roxas and Axel, joining them for afternoon ice cream binges on top of the clock tower in Twilight Town. She also begins to accompany Roxas on missions, which leads to some serious drama when she, too, starts suffering from strange memories that don’t belong to her.
The only bad thing about the plot and characterization in Days is the part where a newcomer has no idea what’s going on. The explanatory cutscenes are few and far between, and people who only played the first game are going be sorely disappointed by a lack of any characters they can remember (which is the same disconnect Kingdom Hearts II suffered from). But, really, who is this game for if not those who already know what’s going on?
Seriously, fanboys and fangirls, you were going to buy this game no matter what we said, right? After all, it’s a Kingdom Hearts side story aimed at Kingdom Hearts fans. So if you want to know why Roxas quits Organization XIII and where Xion winds up before the start of Kingdom Hearts II, or if you just want to see more Riku, more Mickey Mouse and enjoy the voice talents of Christopher Lee, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 cannot disappoint no matter how bad the controls might be.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories? It depends whether or not you’re a Riku fangirl. While he makes a significant appearance in Days and David Gallagher reprises his role as Sora’s troubled best friend, he’s not a playable character. And he is kind of an ass during the final boss fight.
Kingdom Hearts? No. Nothing will ever be quite as good as the game first was, because it was the first to bring this grand idea to life. While we’re happy to have a 3D game on the DS, the graphics in 358/2 Days are way less pretty than what the PS2 could do in its heyday.
The World Ends With You? Close call. Days has the worse controls. Yet the story somehow makes way more sense than The World Ends With you, despite leaving a lot out.
It’s got all the heart, some of the soul and a lot of missing plot pieces from the rest of the series, plus a unique gameplay concept. Too bad the control scheme and the camera suck.
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