Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Impression 2

I had been looking forward to giving Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days a try for quite some time. Organization XIII backstory? More Axel? Yes, please.

The demo at Square Enix’s booth was awful. Really. The DS was mounted on a short, rigid metal stand at an uncomfortable angle, and it could not be adjusted. It made my left hand cramp as if I’d been playing for hours instead of minutes.

While the controls worked well on the PS2, they were horrid on the DS due to button mapping limitations. Camera controls were limited; your choice was to auto-adjust the camera with the R button or use the touchscreen. SE did not provide styluses for the DSes, and besides, you’d need a third hand to operate the touchscreen controls while running and slashing with the keyblade. It was also difficult to access the mini menu; you have to use X to cycle through your options and you have to hit confirm twice to use an item, which puts you an extra step away from downing a much-needed potion.

The two scenarios did not leave me with a positive impression either. The first one, set in Twilight Town, had me playing as Roxas with Axel in tow. The objective was very straightforward and simple, and it was followed by a short but nice cutscene with Axel and Roxas. It was very vanilla, but it was clearly a very early scenario, so that’s forgivable.

The second scenario, set in Agrabah, was terrible. The objective was to kill all of the Heartless fire flowers that were terrorizing the town, and the game advised me to use Blizzard magic and parry the fireballs. Once I actually got in, the game did not give me Blizzard magic or the ability to parry.

To top it off, the boss was totally cheap and ridiculous. It was a little mage with a big book, and it started the battle by casting barriers on all the fire flowers. That was all fine and dandy, and it was clear that the bookish mage had to go first. The problem was that the fire flowers could still pummel me with fireballs, and though I could not parry or dodgeroll, I could jump out of the way. The mage, however, was very fast and highly evasive. The camera wasn’t cooperating either, so jumping away from fireballs and chasing and hitting the mage was extremely difficult. After some time, I was able to knock his book out of his hands, which caused the barriers around the flowers to disappear. I was also able to keep knocking the book away from him while he was trying to stagger toward it and pick it up. I couldn’t damage the mage, so I knew that I needed to kill the flowers while the barriers were down until the mage got his book back, and then work on knocking the book out of his hands again. By that time, however, I’d had enough of the nonsense, the disagreeable controls, and the vicious hand cramps.

I abandoned the demo and walked away feeling disappointed. Even though the game looks like it will provide rich coverage of Organization XIII, particularly Roxas and Axel’s friendship, the shoddy controls are discouraging. I’ve played demos that didn’t accurately reflect the full game, so there’s still some hope… just not much.

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