As the final day of E3 2009 came to a close, sighs of relief and sadness echoed through the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center. But before I could be ushered (see: dragged) out of Square Enix’s floor show, I was able to get my hands on the eagerly anticipated DS “interquel” to critically acclaimed hits Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Showcasing a playable build of both the multiplayer mission mode and single player that will be included in KH: 358/2 Days, I was given the option to mess around in two very familiar worlds, Twilight Town and Agrabah. I decided to head down into Twilight Town through the newly added multiplayer mode. Playing as Roxas and being teamed up with Axel, I was able to dive quickly into an immersive world sporting unrivaled 3-D visuals rarely seen on the Nintendo DS.
I was impressed with the faithful recreation of the original KH’s combat system, staying true to the action-RPG hybrid style of play. Roxas moved very fluidly as I wielded my keyblade to fend off the converging heartless. One thing that nagged me as I played came in the form of the enemies I’ve seen since the original installment. Granted, this is an interquel, and very well would include enemies from the first game. However, after having seen literally hundreds of thousands of the ant-like heartless over the course of my life, I was less than thrilled to trounce the little shits in yet another Kingdom Hearts title.
Although enemy variation was lacking, the controls were intuitive enough to quickly make me forget this slight shortcoming. Not suffering from common portable problems where both the character and camera movement are incapable of being controlled at the same time was thoroughly relieving. Square Enix and h.a.n.d (designer) have implemented the touch screen in order to control the camera, allowing free movement for the player, acting almost like a mock dual analog system. Mind you, this is the only way the touch screen was utilized, something that I’m sure will be met with mixed reviews.
One thing I felt slightly uncomfortable with came from the awkward feel while using items. This is the only time you don’t have control over your character and are a sitting duck for any enemy to come attack you. I wasn’t too impressed with this system, it seemed to me a less awkward solution could have been created to better compliment the action aspect of the game. Another slight puzzling moment came when I was searching for a menu; it was non-existent. Now, I’m sure this is due in part that it was a demo build and not completely polished, but I have to admit I am just a tad bit worried.
Square Enix, even with a couple slight annoyances involving menus, were able to recapture all the magic that the original Kingdom Hearts games were critically praised for. I felt right at home diving back into Twilight Town and Agrabah with keyblade wielding Roxas, and can’t wait to get my hands on the official release. Look for Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days on September 30th.