Kingdom Hearts 358/2 – What are friends for? (Besides sea salt ice cream)

Kingdom Hearts is back. This time to tell the story of Roxas, Axel and Organization XIII. The best compliment I can give this game is that it has made me want to unquit the abomination that was Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories and give it another shot. That game’s stupid card system really pissed me off. But anyway this post was about 358/2.

Axel, Xion and Roxas eating ice cream
Roxas, Xion and Axel chillin’. Source.

Things I liked:

  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 tells a wonderful story, giving us the details of Roxas’ time at Organization XIII and his friendships with Axel and a new character, Xion (pronounced Shion). My favorite part of each mission was finishing it to see the scenes where the three just hung out on the clocktower eating ice cream. The story and the characters are the parts that Kingdom Hearts has never disappointed me in. I’m not going to give it away, but it’s a bittersweet story that really makes you appreciate (their) friendships, and definitely on par with the stories of KH 1 and 2. While Roxas, Axel and Xion are all obviously mirrors of Sora, Riku and Kairi, I thought they felt unique enough to stand on their own as good characters you’ll care for. On the downside, I think this game made me a little dissatisfied with my real life friends. Why don’t I know anyone as cool as Axel, or as cute as Xion? 😉
  • Difficulty was just right. Actually, it probably gets easier towards the end as you rack up the choice panels and keyblades. But overall, I wasn’t frustrated with the game at too many points, especially in comparison to all the other Kingdom Hearts games I’ve played.
  • Speaking of which, I really liked the panel customization and level-up system. Although I didn’t mix and match too much, it allows for a lot of flexibility depending on the world you go to, the enemy you face, or the fighting style you prefer.
  • The graphics are the best I’ve ever seen on a DS. The character models look great, and I don’t think I noticed one long-distance pop-up in the whole game. But the coup de grace was the in-game cutscenes. Fully rendered in 3D, some of them do have small issues with compression artifacts, but overall they look beautiful, and feature full voice-acting to boot. It’s almost as if they crammed PS2 quality into the DS cartridge.
  • I really enjoyed being a nonessential bystander for each world, and not having to worry about doing things like solving Aladdin’s problems or standing up to the Queen of Hearts. It puts a nice twist to visiting each world again. Each of the world is faithfully replicated from what I remember in the PS2 version. I mean there’s a few liberties here and there (no Aladdin’s pole in Agrabah for example), but still impressive in how well detailed they were.
  • No Atlantis. Thank goodness. It’s the worst world ever.
  • I’ve never even heard of sea salt ice cream, but I really, really want to try it now.

Things I didn’t like:

  • I’ve always played Kingdom Hearts for the story. The gameplay in every game has been dull to me. Hack and slash. Hack and slash. Shuffle some cards. Hack and slash. Well at least we’re back to the hack and slash formula, because like I mentioned above, those cards were a retarded battle system. On the downside, pressing a-a-a-a-a-a over and over isn’t too much of a challenge and the tiny DS control pad is probably going to give you some sort of carpel tunnel syndrome by the end of the game.
  • Continuing on the weak battle system, using magic and items is a real pain, because you have to cycle through the menus to get to your spells and items. The problem with this is it takes you out of the flow of the fight and you either have to risk spending a split second getting wacked by the enemy, overshooting the magic choice and accidentally using an item, or you run away to a safe distance to use your item or to set up your magic spell. Why couldn’t they have allowed us to press pause to select an item like in normal games, and reserved the x button specifically for spells?
  • While the rendered cutscenes were perfect, the one thing it did make really apparent was the lack of voice acting everywhere else in the game. You get real tired of hearing the several variations of grunts, huhs, and oomphs very quickly. I guess they used all the cartridge space on the videos. It’s a real shame they weren’t able to fit more voice acting in, because that would’ve made the story that much more powerful.
  • It does have Neverland. Second worst world ever. The swimming and flying boards are just a menace to control and get around in a hack and slash game with subpar targeting.

Final thoughts:

If Tetsuya Nomura had 358/2’s story in mind when he created Kingdom Hearts 2, much respect. If he filled in the details of 358/2’s story after creating Kingdom Hearts 2, much respect. Either way, I was thoroughly impressed by the storytelling. I can’t say I’d been dying to know the story behind Organization XIII, but now that I know, I’m really glad I do. I’m tempted to replay KH 2, just because my memory’s a little hazy and I want to see how well the two tie together. But from what I remember, it seems pretty solid.

If you’re a big Kingdom Hearts fan, I wholeheartedly recommend playing 358/2. If you don’t have a DS, get it for this game. It’ll make you appreciate the events of KH 2 that much more. If you haven’t played KH 2… this might still be a good game for you. I think the only requisite is that you play KH 1 in advance. Since 358/2 fits in between the two, you can probably play them linearly and get the same effect.

Are they ever going to make a Kingdom Hearts 3? Also, I know it’ll never happen because of the Disney rights, but man, I would love if there was one day an anime adaptation of the Kingdom Hearts stories

8 Replies to “Kingdom Hearts 358/2 – What are friends for? (Besides sea salt ice cream)”

  1. I LOVE Kingdom hearts.
    Just getting that outta the way.

    continuing on

    Roxas and Xion woulda made quite a cute couple. And I haven’t even played this game yet.
    But after reading this, I’m considering getting it just to learn more about KH2.

    And I thought they were supposed to be working on KH3, which takes place before KH1 and 2…

    And The Disney rights, ino, but Square-Enix can negotiate with those guys to get us a KH anime one day.
    If they did that, i’d be ALL OVER IT O_O

    1. Oh yeah, you should definitely check it out.

      Hmm, if they KH3 is a prequel… I guess we’ll probably have a different set of characters. That’s a little sad to hear, but I guess expected. It would’ve been a little tough to do a proper sequel after KH2.

      KH anime would be epic. Probably will never happen, but I’ll keep dreaming about it. :p

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