Now I'm not much of a fan of the storyline for KH, so I'll mostly be talking about the gameplay in general. The reason why I'm not into the storyline is because it's just too outrageous for my tastes. To be honest, I'm the kind of guy that puts gameplay over all other elements in video games, but I would appreciate it if the game I was playing made at least a slick of sense. It feels like the storyline has gone from bad fanfiction to CRAZY bad fanfiction ever since KH2, as they've been holding onto a "this character is a clone, ripoff, descendant, alter-ego, etc. of this character" plot device, making the series less about Sora and more about a bunch of guys that no one really should care about. And then there's Organization XIII which, in my opinion, are the worst bunch of villains in gaming history.
"We want hearts so we can become REAL boys!"
Why do they want hearts so much so they can feel what its like to have emotions? (even though they clearly exhibit emotions all the time.) What's the point of Sora and his gang from stopping them if all they want is to become real people? Organization XIII are terrible villains because there's not real reason behind their actions and there's no real reason for them to be stopped.KH1's storyline was nice and simple, yet KH2's storyline tries to take itself too seriously. So seriously that I can't take it seriously. Maybe all of the plotholes will be filled up in Birth by Sleep, because nothing got explained at all in KH 358/2. So yeah, that's all I'm gonna say about that. Now onto the actual review...
Playing as Roxas from the beginning of KH2, the entire game consists of talking to Saix and accepting mundane missions such as destroy target enemy (or enemies), collect emblems, recon (hated these missions), and defeat boss enemies. That's about it. You'll be repeating these missions over and over ad nauseam. Occasionally, you'll have a CPU controlled member from Organization XIII join you in your missions, but they don't do much to help except attack mindlessly, so they're practically useless. Then after every mission, you'll sit down at the top of Twilight Town's clock tower and eat salt water ice cream almost every time. I have reason to believe that the ice cream may be laced with trace amounts of crack which makes them want to eat it for over 300 days, but that's just me.
The gameplay is more based on KH1 than KH2, seeing as there is no crazy acrobatic special attacks and there is no "Press triangle to do everything" moments, either. Combat is straight forward using A button to attack enemies with your keyblade, using Y button to do an alternative attacks, and performing magic attacks from the menu. Navigating the menu while on missions is a pain to go through since you have to use X button to navigate down through menus and not up. However, you can set your items and magic through the shortcut button (R button).
The worlds you get to visit aren't at all new and are completely copied and pasted from past KH games. I'm ok with them re-using some of the old worlds from KH1 since they had pretty decent platforming areas, but some worlds really needed to be given a rest from the series like Agrabah and Halloween Town.
Managing skills and leveling up is far different from any other KH game. 358/2 day's uses a deck building system where you must set up your items, skills, equipment, etc. on a grid. Even level ups are turned into items which must be placed on the grid, as well. 358/2 day's gives you a couple of items that can double, triple, or quadruple your items, though. Keyblades that you collect are called "gears" and are tailored to different fighting situations. But honestly, you'll probably find two or three gear types that will suit you for just about every situation up until the very end of the game.
The pacing of battles in 358/2 days can feel awkward for some. You'll be steam rolling down tons of enemies in one moment and in the next, you'll find yourself facing a brick wall, typically from a cheap boss battle. Ones you get over those brick walls, the game goes back to being a cake walk.
The main feature promoted in the game was the option to play with up to three players locally and tackle missions together. Well I played up with a friend for a couple of sessions and it was okay, for about a week or so. Completing missions with friends is just as mundane as completing them solo. Maybe if they threw in some more unique missions can can only be done in multiplayer, it would have been a lot more enjoyable, but it's just the same kill this, collect that missions as before.
"Enjoy tedious missions by yourself? Now enjoy tedious missions with your friends"
Overall, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days is just Kingdom Hearts 1 that has been repacked with a bit of Kingdom Hearts 2 in it. It borrows heavily from its previous titles without adding anything new to the table. Story wise, it's a huge waste and just opens the plotholes even wider as it doesn't explain anything. Why is Organization XIII trying to get hearts, again? Why did they turn Sora into a girl near the end? Why does the Matrix have Roxas? (Don't answer this; just my failed attempt at humor.) None of these questions are really answered, so there's really no point. I would only recommend this to diehard KH fans, and everyone else should probably skip this and try Kingdom Hearts 1 or 2 first before even giving 358/2 days a consideration.