Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Square Enix seems to love making us wait. Not content with announcing yet another Final Fantasy title when XIII is still years off, the Japanese firm’s reluctance to hook us up with a true sequel to Kingdom Hearts makes us incredibly sad. Instead, while we wait for that tantalising announcement, we have no less than three spin-off titles to keep us interested in Twilight Town and its more familiar surroundings. Coded is a mobile game that will most likely never make it as far as Europe, Birth By Sleep is a PSP prequel to the original game while this confusingly named DS exclusive takes us a little deeper into the character of Roxas – Snake to Sora’s Raiden in Kingdom Hearts II.
As ever, you have to doff your cap in the direction of Squenix’s art team as we’d struggle to name another title that pushes the handheld anywhere near this hard. While visuals have obviously had to take a hit going from PS2 to portable, there’s no sign of sacrifice when it comes to fluidity and detail. It’s a genuinely beautiful game, something most DS titles that could demand the same praise achieve with a unique style or striking direction, but here Square Enix simply keeps pushing until the hardware cries. Or at least it would, if it had tear ducts.
While doing away with the card battling elements of Chain Of Memories must have been something of a no-brainer, the new additions that replace said mechanic are somewhat less expected. The Panel system gives you unprecedented control over character development, allowing you to slot various augmentations into a grid as you see fit in order to cover weaknesses and build strengths. You’ll apparently even be able to link several Panels together for increased benefits, although we naturally won’t know the full extent of this potential until we get to the latter stages of the game for ourselves.
But arguably the strangest move is to add in functionality for four-player co-op, allowing a plentiful selection of possible characters (which includes unlockable cameos from Sora, Donald and Goofy) to take on a number of extra-curricular quests, with stats and equipment carrying over – we hate to sound cynical at this point but the Eastern popularity of Monster Hunter really has a lot to answer for. Still, we’re sure this extra content will keep us smacking things with oversized keys long after we’d have otherwise been done with the game, so we can’t really grumble too much. And as much as Square does like to keep us hanging around, 358/2 Days is only about a month away now.