Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kingdom Hearts 358-2 Days Impression

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for the Nintendo DS is the latest chapter in the long running Kingdom Hearts franchise. The series that meshes original Square Enix characters, long established characters and the Disney universe may seem like an odd mix but it works so well. In the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II gamers took on the role of Roxas, a member of the mysterious Organization XIII. This latest chapter fills in the gaps of Roxas stories as it takes gamers on a journey through the roughly first year of Roxas time with Organization XIII. So how does a game, born on the PS2 with a chapter on the Game Boy stack up in all the important categories? Let’s take a look since fans are already getting ready for the PSP’s Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.

Gameplay – It’s an action-RPG, meaning gamers run around slashing with their keyblade, shooting off magic attacks while gaining experience and leveling up both health and magic abilities to name just two of many areas. There is an interesting and new slotting system for weapons, new to the franchise that is. This is another level of RPG management needed and works quite well as the proper combinations are needed to beat certain enemies and hacking/slashing is no way to finish this game. There is the main story but also a series of side missions to undertake, well worth it for the experience, another very RPG element. If gamers have friends then the multiplayer will really shine as the KH lock-on, weapon and magic system is really fun with more than one player.

Graphics – Looking not too far off from the PS2 entries, not bad for the DS. The animated scenes are beautiful and even in-game cut scenes look good using the game engine graphics. The DS may not be a graphical powerhouse but it can do cartoon, anime style very well and KH is evidence of that.

Sound – From the opening theme everything feels so familiar with is an excellent thing as fans will recognize the beautiful songs and themes, even if they are recycled. Like much of the game it’s sound and music is well done but it’s been done. Not a ton of voice work either but that’s to be expected on the smaller DS cart, which is a shame, the franchise really shines with its excellent voice work. For a DS title this is one of the best soundtracks out there.

Design – One of the problems with a franchise like Kingdom Hearts is 1) all the Disney characters design is already set, 2) the main characters in Organization XIII are already set and 3) the environments are 90% set. There are a few areas that are new, exclusive to Roxas story but most of the game is filled with settings and levels gamers have visited at least three times already. This being said it’s still so much fun to play through these settings as they feel like visiting an old friend.

Miscellaneous – Gotta be the story folks. Kingdom Hearts weaves the same magic as Disney’s best movies. The story and characters capture an audience, spin them into a web of loss, love and betrayal and finish them off with addictive music that pulls at the heart strings and will stick with gamers for years to come. Yes, Kingdom Hearts is that magical and the telling of Roxas story fits in like that cousin who seems like a brother. The recap of Kingdom Heart I, II and Chain of Memories brings noobs up to speed nicely and while the tutorial can be annoying it does not detract form getting into the background of Organization XIII, Roxas and the 14th member.

Overall, all there is to say is what took so long? The first two games hit the PS2 with Chain of Memories, originally on GBA, also hitting the system. This is the first true next-gen era title and yes it’s on a handheld but don’t complain. All the elements that made this franchise rock are present and at the end of this game gamers will want more, a next-gen release in the franchise. Birth By Sleep should be solid but in the meantime how about a PS3 Kingdom Hearts treatment as God of War received? That would be sweet!

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