Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Updated Hands-On

We meet all the heartless members of Organization XIII in this Square Enix-Disney hybrid role-playing game.

The amalgamated world of popular Square Enix characters and memorable Disney mascots ventures onto the Nintendo DS for the first time in Square Enix's upcoming Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. This game gives us the chance to learn more about Roxas, the thirteenth member of the Organization XIII. We've played a bit of Kingdom Hearts at several events, but this is the first time we've been able to play it from the beginning and spend some quality time with the game. We were eager to learn how Roxas came to be and his role in this unique world because he is one of the more intriguing characters in the series. The game stays true to the original Kingdom Hearts formula, so you can expect a lot of fast-paced action, Heartless of varying shapes and sizes, and plenty of treasures to find.

The story revolves around Roxas, whom we met in Kingdom Hearts II as Sora's Nobody. He has no recollection of his past, and as the days go by (there are a lot of them!), we learn more about his role and the Organization. If you haven't played the other games, it's difficult to follow the narrative because this one takes place right before Kingdom Hearts II where Sora and his sidekicks are asleep and recovering their lost memories. The spiky-haired protagonist befriends a new member of the Organization--the fourteenth--who is a quiet girl with short black hair named Xion. Together, they take on missions in the various Disney-themed worlds and get to know one another. It's clear early on that the Organization wants Roxas to collect hearts with his keyblade to ultimately form Kingdom Hearts, and Roxas obeys only because he can't remember anything prior to getting recruited by the organization. But even as a Nobody without a heart, Roxas understands more than the average member of the group.

Tailored specifically for Nintendo's handheld, the Story mode is broken up into short missions, which are fairly easy to complete and can range from collecting hearts to stalking other characters. The mandatory missions are marked with a key and must be completed to continue the story. A mission gauge indicates how much of the mission you've completed, and there are bonuses awarded if you go above and beyond your orders. The areas will look familiar (Twilight Town is exactly the same), but much of it is cordoned off so that you only focus on your objective. You can only save at your home base--also known as the Grey Area--which, for the most part, is fine. But if a mission drags on, you'll wish you had the option to quicksave because otherwise, you'll have to abandon the mission or leave your DS in sleep mode. The story progresses after each mission, which makes it feel like you're constantly experiencing something new. For those who are unfamiliar with the setup, there are plenty of tutorial missions that can take a while to get through, but at least some of the storyline is interspersed, which breaks up the gameplay and brings you up to speed.

Reunite with familiar faces.

The controls are easy to learn and the gameplay looks similar to the PlayStation 2 games where you hack your way through the many variations of Heartless while wielding your special keyblade. Your green health bar has a yellow gauge attached at the end to indicate when you can activate your limit break if your health is low. Holding the A button while your health is in the yellow temporarily gives you a boost in speed and power, which is hopefully enough to clear your enemies and heal. The camera takes a little getting used to, but once you advance further into the game, you get the option to use another set of controls, which allows you to rotate the camera using the shoulder buttons. But in the beginning, you can only use the right trigger to center your view and the touch screen to move the camera around when you want to track down items that are otherwise hard to see. You attack with the A button and jump with the B button; shortcuts can be assigned by using the left trigger. Some missions are taken on alone, but there are many in which a member of the organization will accompany you. This is not only helpful, but it's also nice to get to know the enigmatic members of this mysterious group each time you embark on a new quest.

The panel system is a new feature that has been added, which lets you customize Roxas' abilities. For example, if you want to use magic, you have to equip it in your menu first. Panels for potions, special abilities, armor, and other items are all placed on a grid so that you have access to them during a mission. Link panels are Tetris-like pieces, which take up more space and require you to place certain panels together to unlock new abilities. For example, if you get a doublecast link panel and put a blizzard and fire panel in the slots, it will give you two casts for each spell during your mission. The panel menu can only be used when you're back at the castle, so before heading out, it's a good idea to check the mission brief to see what you're up against and then shuffle your skills around because you have a limited amount of space. You can save your particular setup, or deck, so you can bring up the most efficient configuration depending on the circumstances. As you go through the game, your grid will expand, and once the moogle shop appears at the castle, you can synthesize new panels to add to your growing skill set. Leveling is also a bit different because instead of naturally getting stronger, you receive a level-up panel, which needs to be slotted into your grid.

Play as any member of the Organization.

Outside of the Story mode, there's also a Mission mode, which includes a multiplayer component. You can play alone as any member of the Organization XIII or team up with three other friends to take on missions together. Each character plays and moves very differently and has his or her own unique fighting style and choice of weapons. It's possible to play through these missions solo, but without an additional cartridge, we weren't able to test out the multiplayer. There's always the option to replay missions, as well from your menu, and there are also challenges, which are essentially tougher versions of the missions you've already completed if you're looking for more.

Fans of Kingdom Hearts are going to want to keep a close eye on this game. Like visiting an old friend and picking up where you left off, a flood of memories will return as you wander through the peaceful and familiar streets of Twilight Town, with Yoko Shimomura's charming and playful melodies playing in the background. With no Kingdom Hearts III in sight just yet, this game will have to tide you over for now. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is scheduled to be released on September 29, so be sure to look for our full review then.

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Discussion

233 comments
dragonxknight
dragonxknight

its not always the graphics, its the way the game is set out like! so next time you play a game remember how great the story line is.(and the fighting)

qubeley
qubeley

It's a DS game, so I think the graphics won't be that great in the game except for cutscenes. The hardward is really showing its age imo.

Supabul
Supabul

The ingame graphics don't look half as good as that movie

Axel_zerg
Axel_zerg

yay!!!!!!!! i can be axel!!!!! kingdom hearts, mertroid best games Axel_zerg

simplypowerfull
simplypowerfull

this game is going to be awesome!!! i cant wait to play it. i really wish they would announce KH3 already though

nypad2000
nypad2000

GOD, this game just screams, "I WANNA SLIT MY WRISTS"

Linkman0714
Linkman0714

this game is going to be awesome!!! i cant wait to play it. i really wish they would announce KH3 already though

BlueKilo
BlueKilo

The only thing that could kill this game...is if all of the members of XIII played exactly the same way, or something like the Warriors series

ratchet200
ratchet200

This is gonna be awsome! I hope we get to see Sora at some point in the game though.

zj_pyro
zj_pyro

I cant wait for this game and birth by sleep.... I just hope they won't have more cliff hangers like kh1 and 2... hell even chain of memories.... still can't wait though =D

Blu-Fan-Boy
Blu-Fan-Boy

Kingdom Hearts 3 will probably not be avalible to rent or buy until like late 2010 to early 2011 i would imagine to keep the focus on FFXIII and in addition to that PSP version on KH BBS will not be out till next year :( (GAME info i work there)

dannelly23
dannelly23

I'd wondered if kingdom heats 3 is gotta come out and I really want kingdom hearts 3 to come out soon

Stormuser
Stormuser

Looks and sounds great, Gonna get it!

wushumaster45
wushumaster45

Looks like a super game, they need better music though go to my blog

dr-snowman
dr-snowman

this is goona be a great game, but the music in these games makes me feel worthless and depressed

xia0magic
xia0magic

Well square enix never fails to deliever games at the best quality=D

Malfunction135
Malfunction135

I'm a huge fan of KH 1 & 2. I've also played KH Chain of Memories when i used to have the gameboy advance. Now i'm going to play all of them in order again(now that i have a DS) and try to unlock everything before this one comes out. I CAN DO THIS!!!!!!!!!!!

mmntw27
mmntw27

Played and beat the Japanese version of this game, and let me tell you: fans will not be dissapointed. The only real bummer is of course that the multiplayer is local and not Wi-Fi. Other than that, this one is a contender for best DS game ever. Now it's back to trying to get Ultima Weapon (It's harder to get in this version than it was in KH1 or 2)

itachi365
itachi365

This might be one of the best ds game so far

Christopher8827
Christopher8827

Wow... this game is going to be awesome with fully-voiced cutscenes.

kedwin_21
kedwin_21

I want KH3 for the PS3, anybody knows when is comin out? (if they are making it, that is)

EndoftheworldX
EndoftheworldX

There's just so many awesome games coming out in these next couple of months, I'm gonna definitely have to prioritize. This game is definitely going towards the top though. :P

Lukestar624
Lukestar624

this game looks amazing! i cant wait. and im pretty sure the graphics look bad only because theyre zoomed in pictures, so just wait until it comes out before judging the games graphics. and there will be a kingdom hearts for the psp-birth by sleep.

DevilKazeya
DevilKazeya

if the graphic was good i would play that why cant there be a game like that in the PSP!!!! :(( but maybe i will play thi scrap heap game :P

ninjaXD1
ninjaXD1

I really don't see how it takes so long to just translate every text in the game since it's released & all they have 2 do is just translate

megamanredsun4
megamanredsun4

In The JP Version I got stuck at the temple So I'll Have to wait for a US Release

goodgaby
goodgaby

THERE IS NO CARDBATTLE SYSTEM

goodgaby
goodgaby

i played it in japenese and it was FUN but i got stuck

Popoi108
Popoi108

I won't say anything until I play it! (Well, don't count this comment) :p

Fighter4Life
Fighter4Life

I might just get the DS just to get this game.

Cheinei
Cheinei

The game looks really good as of terms in story line.... But i still dont like that card battle system.

RunnersNation
RunnersNation

This game looks absolutely AWESOME! I love the fact that you can play as any of the members of the Organization XIII in Mission mode. I want to start picking up my DS, and this game just might make me do that!

blamboy090
blamboy090

Ive been waiting a long time to be able to take KH with me on the road. And the fact that it's not card based makes it all the more better.

bikini_zebra
bikini_zebra

with multiple system releases and crappy storylines taking advantage of popular characters, they really are milking it. i'm a fan. i really am. but i'm disappointed.

Bloodredpanda
Bloodredpanda

ive never really been a huge fan of kingdom hearts but with the release of this im going to give it a second chance, after all square enix deserve it :P

apolloooo
apolloooo

hope play asia send it right to me!

Bastet666
Bastet666

Really sucks that its on DS. I was going to buy the game but when I heard it was for DS I decided not to get it. I have a DS and enjoy playing it but its better made for pokemon and mario. This game should have been made for the PSP. DS graphics suck! Cant wait for KH3!!!!

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

i really wish that they just get on with it, release the games then get on to KH3. thats the one we're all really looking forward to. i bet it will have graphics as good as the KH2 opening and closing CGI cutscenes.

Darathy6661
Darathy6661

multiplayer mode is tight. but the panel slots suck. but since it's on the NDS, they can't put much into the game, i would give it a 4/5.

drummer131
drummer131

I've gone back and forth about this game for a while now. Looks like I'll be waiting for reviews.

OtakuMistress
OtakuMistress

Ahh...so we learn a bit more about Organization XIII, this game might make me want to buy a DS

ansirjs
ansirjs

no Pablo dont you rember kh chain of memories? Gosh is came out between kh 1 and 2, soo a kh game wasnt very long kh 1 came out in 2002 and com in 2004 so stop complaining

PabloZ618
PabloZ618

Oh God, the guy who said they are milking KH is REALLY wrong. Between KH1 and 2 was a looong time, and between this and 2 has been a loooonger time. Dude, there are 3 kingdom hearts game so far.

SquigleyG
SquigleyG

Really digging the idea of that new ability grid system. Can't wait to see what it has to offer. This just keeps looking better and better.

QWERTYCommander
QWERTYCommander

bikini_zebra How are they milking it? Besides a PS2 remake of the terrible Chain of Memories, they didn't make a KH game for 3 years.

bikini_zebra
bikini_zebra

they're totally milking the kh franchise... i think square needs to spend time developing quality instead of quantity

lucky789
lucky789

This looks great and axel is the best :D