Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Exploring the Armoury

days-2016-10-10-04h03m31s734Day 26: Terminated

Roxas wakes up the next morning, still sleeping on top of his sheets. I’ll stop bringing it up when it stops being silly. The first thought on his mind is Xion. Wait, I think I’ve read this romance novel! It’s called: every romance novel, and if Square didn’t intend this scene to look romantic (and that’s probable, given that Kingdom Hearts treats romance like a grade school treats cooties) they probably shouldn’t have used such a prominent romance trope. You just can’t misuse staid genre tropes like this! Imagine two other genres getting mixed up! Imagine a Hardy Boys novel with a Prophecy that they’d destroy the Dark Lord of All Evil. Imagine an educational film stopping dead in the middle of a lecture about mitosis to look slowly up at the camera to say “…The call was coming from inside the house!”

This wake-up scene is missing from the film. Actually, the film has a huge break here with no text interlude to fill the gap, the first of many where the cinematic-only format outright fails the viewer. What makes this even more unusual is: an upcoming sequence with Saïx is included as a cinematic, but the part without him isn’t! In the game, Roxas proceeds to the Grey Area still on his happy buzz, only to find Xaldin and Demyx shouting at one another. Roxas asks Xigbar what’s up, and Xigbar tells him the bad news: CoM has just come to an end, and the Organization is getting news that “at least one of the folks we sent to Castle Oblivion has been terminated.”

days-2016-10-10-04h04m09s090Saïx walks up to you, and ruthlessly announces your daily mission (to go to Agrabah for the first time) as though nothing were wrong. This is a great character moment for Saïx, showing him once again in the role of the brutal middle-manager, as well as showcasing his lack of empathy and concern for results above all else. This scene isn’t included in the film. No, the film chimes in only after this line, with Roxas and Saïx already talking about the discovery of the deaths at Castle Oblivion as though the audience knew what they were talking about. Film, what the hell are you doing? Saïx refuses to give Roxas any information – indeed it seems he doesn’t know for sure himself, but isn’t being polite about it, saying that any deaths at Castle Oblivion are no concern of Roxas’. When Roxas asks about Axel, Saïx says that perhaps Axel did die, which makes Saïx look even worse during a second playthrough of the game!

Walking around the Grey Area after this bombshell, you’ll probably notice the Moogle floating in one corner, wearing an Organization coat. Saix explains that, quite in contrast with the dismal news out of Castle Oblivion, “in light of your excellent performance, we have decided to award you a new rank.” It seems you’ve just been promoted in this weird paranormal bureaucracy, up to the rank of Novice, and that comes with shop privileges. The Moogle, who refuses to identify themself, has been authorized to sell you things for Heart Points and to perform synthesis in exchange for ingredients and Munny.

days-2016-10-10-04h04m56s059A promotion is A Big Deal in Days. They occur after nearly every major boss (aka, that Darkside you just killed), and give you access to a great degree of power, but often in exchange for a serious enemy upgrade from this point on. This particular promotion, however, is an exception, as enemies up until now have actually had the edge on you, and this promotion puts you in line with them! I imagine this was to help you really feel this first power boost. In fact, during my Retrospective playthrough, I started to feel a lot more comfortable with the game after this first promotion than I had prior, even though I had already cleared Days several times in the past. Promotions also allow you to join later missions in Mission Mode, which have minimum rank requirements (although frankly if you’re playing for story I don’t recommend playing ahead in Mission Mode before reaching the stage in story in the first place, but don’t let me stop you). Because future promotions will unlock additional content for you at the shop, it pays to speak to Saïx before you make a purchase… just in case.

With the arrival of the shop, I feel we’re almost at the “main game” stage. If only we had Challenges unlocked, I think I could declare the main game officially live, but this isn’t bad. To continue my KH1 analogy from earlier, we’re certainly out of Traverse Town and well into Wonderland, so maybe I’m just being anal.

Let’s take a look at the Moogle’s impressive new offers. Our new best friend has a single Slot Releaser and Level Up for sale (buying a level up?). The Moogle also has a Triple Cast tile, which works just like how you’d expect, and also the long-awaited Aerial Recovery tile. There are also a huge number of Gears and Rings available for sale, so many you might not know which to pick.

Since I’ve been so diligent about weapons in the past, I suppose I should cover all the available Gears, though it’s going to get a little crufty. The Moogle is offering:

  • The Technical Gear, which unlocks the Ominous Blight Keyblade, a combo-focused weapon.
  • The Chrono Gear (Sign of Innocence Keyblade), a magic-focused Keyblade with a very short combo.
  • The Lift Gear (Abyssal Tide), an air combo specialist that is my personal favourite in the set.
  • The Wild Gear (True Light’s Flight), a defensive Keyblade.  I have never in my life used a defensive “weapon” on a character and I don’t intend to start now.

Sadly, there are far too many playable characters and weapons out there for me to compare them all, so I’m going to stick to Roxas as far as this Retrospective is concerned. If you’ve got a favourite from this early set of Gears – on any character! – feel free to speak up in the comments!

days-2016-10-10-04h04m49s461Xaldin actually has a “sidequest” for you here to equip any Gear panel.  Doing so will reward you with a simple Hi-Potion.

Rings are helpful too. I’ve already mentioned how they can give you abilities (and those abilities don’t vary by character!)… but the shop doesn’t explain what those abilities do, so you can’t get an explanation until the Ring is outright equipped! Time to pull up a walkthrough… Sadly, my experience with Rings isn’t very deep: I have a favourite ability that I grab as soon as it shows up, and the ring never leaves my finger unless it’s replaced by another ring with the same ability. Still, let’s see what the Moogle has available.

The Moogle has two Rings available in the shop that can be bought for Heart Points. These include:

  • The Brawl Ring, which grants Combo-Jump: which allows the user to jump during a ground combo for increased flexibility.  Personally, I can’t imagine choosing this mild mobility improvement over an actual combat ability, but we are at the start of the game…
  • The Soldier Ring, which gives you our old friend Combo Boost.  If you’ve forgotten: that’s the ability that makes your combo stronger as you land more hits. I’m sorry if you confused it with some other “Combo” ability, but I understand, because Square Enix attached the “Combo” prefix to about seven different abilities across KHI, II and Days.

Synthesized Rings, meanwhile, require you to have specific ingredients. They do not appear on the Moogle’s list, however, until you have at least one such ingredient in your possession, and on top of that, there are a few Rings are reserved for the post-game.  So when on earth should I start listing the various rings?  Once you start being able to synthesize Gears, those are neatly divided (you’ll see how when we get there), but are Rings?  I didn’t initially think so, but after good long look at the synth list, I realized that yes, they are!

days-2016-10-10-04h06m35s525You see, Rings are typically made up of a number of parts: a base metal and some magical stones.  Makes a lot more sense than synthesis we’ve done in the past, doesn’t it?  I’m sure you can all think of an RPG where you somehow made a ring with a leaf and three orc tongues.  What I noticed was that the base metals are actually roughly divided by Roxas’s rank: at Novice, Roxas has a handful of Irons and will begin to find more as an enemy drop.  By the time you reach the next promotion, a thorough player should have a handful of Bronze, just in time for the enemies to start dropping those.  As a result, I can just talk about the next category of Rings during promotion, which should be fairly neat and tidy.

So, let’s get started with a look at the Iron set of Rings.

  • The Fencer’s Ring, boasting the measly Potion Boost LV1 ability and absolutely nothing to do with fencing.
  • The Magic Ring, which gives you Ether Boost, which increases the number of casts restored by all types of Ethers by 1.  Obviously this is better with upgraded Ethers than base-level Ethers, but I still don’t think I’d ever use it.
  • Lastly and most importantly, the Fire Charm. Alongside a passable Fire/Ignite resistance of 30%, this precious hoop gives you the Magic Bracer ability, and that’s the only ability you really ever need, if you’re like me and have no creativity. Magic Bracer is the equivalent of Leaf Bracer, except it works for every spell in the game!

While we’re talking about synthesis, I’d like to discuss a few oddities that appear in Days’ synthesis system. This game is so loaded down with different ingredients that you’re rarely worried about running out and are only occasionally forced to choose between one recipe or another. You will have to choose from time to time – especially with Gears and Rings, which have more common ingredients – but it’s infrequent, since you can only use one Gear or Ring and hopefully won’t want another after you make a purchase.

days-2016-10-10-04h07m04s732One of the strangest elements of synthesis is that spell panels require items called Recipes to be synthed. Sounds like KH2, doesn’t it? Well look again, because in this game, Recipes are acquired in moderate bulk and consumed when used. God knows why it happens from a narrative perspective.  How do you find new Recipes to replace the ones the Moogle is cramming your their throat in front of your eyes? That’s the real kick in the pants: with only a few very, very rare exceptions, the game only gives you Recipes as mission rewards or in chests, both of which are finite. If you run out, you have to rely on what’s called the Random Mission Reward, which is given to you after you complete a mission, even a Holo-Mission repeat. While the Random Mission Rewards are generated off a shortlist and you are guaranteed to get something, the odds of getting a specific item from that shortlist are as low as 15% after clearing the mission, making extensive spell synthesis all but impossible.

This nonsense system of Random Mission Rewards was probably meant to encourage repeat play of Mission Mode, but if you’re like me this is the worst kind of grinding: the kind that takes 5-10 minutes just to disappoint you with the wrong reward, and even if you do win, the prize still sucks! To make matters worse, the only way to locate a specific Random Mission Reward ahead of time is to read each mission description one by one, and there are a lot of missions. These missions really need a comprehensive search or sort feature, and without it you’re forced to keep a walkthrough open at all times.

And did I mention that high-level spells require low-level spell panels as components, which means if you want to synth high-level spells, you may first need to fish around for low-level spell recipes?  Bite me, Days.

After no doubt a great deal of griping, Roxas is dragged off to work with Xigbar in this visit to Agrabah. It seems the Organization has just discovered this world, which is surprising given how much bad guy traffic it saw in KH1, but things like this happen. The Organization needs the two of you to take a cursory look around, so that means it’s time for an Investigation!

days-2016-10-10-04h08m16s174Roxas is still upset about the probable deaths at Castle Oblivion by the time you arrive at the Palace Gates in Agrabah, though Xigbar says he doesn’t even care! Hm. Naturally we can understand Roxas being upset because he likes Axel, but Demyx and Xaldin seemed upset too. That means that Roxas isn’t the outlier, but Xigbar. You could read this as implying that Xigbar – a member of Xemnas’ inner circle – imagines that Axel killed the traitors and all is well, but didn’t Saïx give that order and not Xemnas? I guess if all else fails, you could say “Xigbar’s an asshole” and you probably wouldn’t be that far off the mark.

While the Traverse Town Investigation was, in my opinion, the most boring Investigation in the game, this Mission is quite possibly the most complicated Investigation in the game. Talk about front-loading! There are a lot of clues to find in this mission and almost as many red herrings, so many that I don’t think I could tell you which clues were mandatory and which were not without the help of a walkthrough. Thankfully this does introduce you to Agrabah’s many nooks and crannies, which is nice because the entire world is made up of new locations, not borrowed from KH1 or 2! Many of the new worlds in Days have a similar intro investigation to show you around. I’m reminded of Super Mario 64, which often used its first or second star on each world as a sort of “tour star” to show you that majority of the world.

Agrabah-the-city is split into three areas in Days. First we have the Palace Gates, which are flanked by some high platforms you can’t reach at this point in the game, complete with a chest you can’t reach either (Metroid-style mobility puzzles are back! Hooray!)! The next room is a marketplace dominated by scaffolding that attracts the attention of our duo. The last room is the city gates. You need to hit some switches to open the gates that lead room from room. Oh, and most importantly: the entire place is covered in huge piles of sand.

days-2016-10-10-04h08m41s822Roxas is slow on the uptake, just like he was during the investigation tutorial with Vexen (in one particular stand-out moment, you can get the wrong answer during a multiple choice section and have Roxas declare that all the sand in town is an elaborate prank!), but after examining the damage you soon realize with Xigbar’s help that Agrabah was just hit by a sandstorm so extreme that it got over the city’s high walls. What a curious observation, Xigbar! Did you happen to make it by observing the raging sandstorm outside the city gates, something Roxas seems incapable of doing even if you try to walk up and poke it? There’s a reason the game makes such a simple mistake: remember that the city gates were the last of the three rooms? Xigbar observers that there’s a sandstorm in room 2 (after which you have a Breakthrough, and then Roxas can investigate the sandstorm in room 3), but Xigbar’s observation only shows up if you search the first two rooms thoroughly. The game reeeeeally wants you conduct your investigation one room at a time, so Xigbar will talk before you see the sandstorm itself, but there’s nothing forcing you to do things in that order!

Xigbar has a curious line here where he says “Remind me to build my city somewhere less dusty.” It’s probably supposed to be a joke, but I always saw it as a character moment, to clarify that Xiggy is in the Organization for the power.

As you’re bashing around looking for sand in a desert town, you’ll be attacked by Agrabah’s new favourite Heartless, the Loudmouth. The Loudmouth is a rename of the Crescendo from CoM and KH2 (remember: the Japanese name for the Crescendo was “Loudness”). Its primary ability is still the ability to heal itself and others, and yes, that’s going to make it very annoying, don’t doubt, but it also has a new attack. This new attack involves firing an orb of wind at you that travels along the ground. It seems to be a close copy of your own Aerora spell from later in the game, except that it’s a bit faster and its odds of inflicting the Wind-element status effect, described below, is lower. What an unusual setup: no other spell in the game is copied to an enemy like this! Thankfully, the Loudmouth can’t call in reinforcements like in CoM, but after KH2 that’s not surprising

days-2016-10-10-04h10m07s876Like your own Aero spells, the Loudness’ attack can cause the Wind-aligned status effect, Air-Toss. Air-Toss causes the victim to be propelled into the air very quickly, and then descend to the ground very slowly, at which point the effect ends. While you’re in the air, the damage you take will be multiplied, just like Freeze. Fortunately, the Loudmouth’s Air-Toss doesn’t seem to be quite as effective as Aero’s. Because being Air-Tossed doesn’t delay the player as much as a Freeze, Air-Toss is encountered a lot more frequently in the wild than its icy cousin.

While I appreciate the return of Metroid-style mobility puzzles, it’s sometimes hard to tell which parts of Agrabah you can and can’t reach at first glance. That said, during this first mission only the platform at the Palace Gates (room 1) is truly inaccessible. In the market (room 2) you can find a tower with a crate on top: break the tower, and you can reach a section of the map that’s generally locked off in other Missions where the crate does not appear. There’s another section in the market (again, room 2) that you can only reach from the City Gates (room 3). The world takes some getting used to, but I like it a lot.

Roxas stays spaced out as he goes through the rooms, still focused on Axel. Xigbar prods Roxas along by reminding him that the faster he wraps up, the faster he can get news from Castle Oblivion. He gives Roxas another of Investigation Mode’s quizzes, trying to get Roxas to recognize that the people of Agrabah have been working double-time to repair the damage from the sandstorm. Roxas has to ask “Who? The Citizens?” because, and I can’t stress this enough: people don’t exist in this game and devs seem to keep feel the need to call attention to it for some damn reason.

Xigbar feels someone in Agrabah must be in charge of this repair job, but shows no real interest in finding out who. Then why’d you bring it up? Of course, it was so that you could have a “lucky” meeting with the character in question on your way to RTC. Hackneyed writing.

days-2016-10-10-04h09m14s690Unusually, once you get the Breakthrough that sends you back to RTC, the Heartless in this mission respawn! This seems to be an early attempt to make RTC more interesting, but it rarely occurs outside of the early game and feels real weird in retrospect.

At this point in the mission you’ve hit the white line that tells you the mission is complete, but you can poke around a little more to get 100%.  This includes finally looking at the raging sandstorm out the main gates. Roxas finally has some genuine insights here, though Xigbar has to coax him into the final sprint. Let’s take a look at the hints: there’s an unusually powerful sandstorm that hasn’t let up for days, and the people in town have to put up with the Heartless. Does Agrabah just have the worst luck in the world, or is one factor responsible for the other…? I really like this angle on the investigation. I want to see more of the impact of the supernatural in KH, and these investigations could have been the perfect format, but it shows up so rarely.

If you try to make your way back to the Palace Gates via the front door, you’ll be cut off when you spot Aladdin and Jasmine standing there. Xigbar advises you use the scaffolds to reach an upper ledge where you can spy on them. You head up to your new perch, and learn that Aladdin is the one in charge of the restoration efforts (him and his army of sandstorm-murdered ghosts). Jasmine wishes Genie were still around, but Aladdin says that while he misses his friend, he feels this is Agrabah’s job, “We need to be the ones to fix it up.” Remember that Aladdin would go on to ask Genie to repair the city after Jafar’s attack in KH2, I can only assume that he mistakenly believes the sandstorm attacking Agrabah is natural and not supernatural like Jafar.

Xigbar wonders why this shlub is the one in charge of city repair, especially when Jasmine seems more natural for the role. Xigbar assumes that Aladdin must have serious charisma and leadership skills considering he’s not only taken charge of the efforts, but done so in an environment with an established leadership structure that he’s not a part of. These comments on the nature of leadership might seem incidental at first glance, but it’s not the last we’ll be hearing of them.  In fact, insight into the nature of leadership is something of a minor theme in the game, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re going to see Xemnas for the first time since the intro not long after the theme is introduced. Days can be a little opaque at times, but there’s a definite theme running through it about Xemnas’ right to rule and his responsibility towards the other Nobodies… even if it does lead to an underwhelming conclusion.

days-2016-10-10-04h11m04s118Xigbar and Roxas try to RTC, but at the last second, Roxas is attacked by a Scarlet Tango… or is he?  In the game, Roxas is attacked and Xigbar rescues him.  In the film, Roxas attacks the Tango and defeats it himself!  This is a deliberate decision to show Roxas as competent and held-together in comparison to the game.  Keep that in mind!  In any event, Tango dies and releases its heart, and Roxas asks Xigbar where the Heartless go when they die. Xigbar interprets this as being a question about Kingdom Hearts, but of course Roxas is really just beating around the bush about what happens to a Nobody when it dies, namely Axel. By the way, while I generally respect Roxas asking this, the game isn’t doing much to shake my “Roxas is being treated like a child” stream of thought by having him ask rudimentary questions about death like a kindergartner who just saw Bambi. It’s a perfectly fair question, and something I wouldn’t have minded if it weren’t for his childish behaviour in the past, but… that behaviour does exist, and it’s the inescapable context in which the comment is made. This character is supposed to be 15 or 16, right?

Xigbar nearly laughs to tell Roxas that anyone who died at Castle Oblivion is gone for good. This news makes Roxas feel faint… or maybe that’s not the news? Seemingly unprovoked, Roxas collapses to the ground. In a series of hazy visions, he sees Axel, Xion, and also Naminé, whom you’ll recall he has never met.  The vision of Naminé is a middle shot of her in the Mansion at Twilight Town in the game, but is an extreme closeup of her lower face in the void in the film.  The film is probably in the right: not only is the use of void in keeping with Roxas’ visions of Axel and Xion, but since he’s never seen Naminé, his incomplete vision simply makes more sense to me.

days-2016-10-10-04h16m23s568While Roxas won’t be on his feet to enjoy it for some time, your prize for clearing this mission is your first Ability Unit. There are three of these tiles in the game, and they can be attached to any Gear with slots to unlock that Gear’s hidden abilities: each weapon has its own set of up to three abilities (depending on the number of slots!), and you unlock the abilities in turn with each Ability Panel you install. To make things even more complicated, each character in Mission Mode gains different abilities from the same Gear! For example, if you put an Ability Unit in a Technical Gear, Roxas will gain Combo Boost, but putting an Ability Unit into the Technical Gear gives Axel the ability Fire Finish! The KHWiki has to employ a huge, layout-breaking chart just to cover the available abilities. Often, “+” versions of Gears have different abilities from the normal, complicating things further. One definite plus side to this is that the old Gear isn’t completely deprecated by the new. For example, Roxas’ Technical Gear Keyblade, the Ominous Blight, has combo-related abilities, but the Ominous Blight+ has Chain-related abilities. It’s up to you to decide which is better for your play style!

I’d like to discuss the Abilities attached to each Gear, since they make up a big chunk of what makes the game interesting. Bear in mind that unlike Rings, Gears aren’t fully defined by their abilities: a Keyblade with garbage Abilities might have a killer attack pattern or stats, for example. I’m also not going to be able to cover the abilities of every character in the game, but I will focus on Roxas so we can get a look at those abilities available for single player. Here’s a quick overview of the abilities Roxas could get from the Gears he’s already unlocked:

  • The base-level Skill Gear (Missing Ache) and Loaded Gear (Pain of Solitude) were unslotted, and so cannot use Ability Units.  Likewise, there is no way to get abilities out of the weapon you wield when you have no Gear equipped at all, which in Roxas’ case means the Kingdom Key.
  • The Missing Ache+ offers Combo Boost.
  • The Technical Gear is two-slotted, so the Ominous Blight offers Combo Boost for one Ability Panel, and Combo-Jump for two.  I’ll indicate this in the future like this: 1. Combo Boost and 2. Combo-Jump.
  • The Sign of Innocence offers 1. Thunder Finish (with the chance to cause Jolt!) and my dear friend 2. Magic Bracer.
  • The Abyssal Tide offers the same abilities as the Ominous Blight, which is very unusual.
  • The True Light’s Flight offers 1. Offensive Block and 2. Defender. I was harsh on Defender in KH2 and I stand by it, but I admit that it’s more useful in this game thanks to the existence of Limit Breaks.

days-2016-10-10-04h16m50s746Note that all these abilities can be a serious investment: to get Ability #3 later in the game, for example, you’d have to use three of a Gear’s slots – and that’s regardless of whether you want Ability 1 and 2 in the first place, or if you’d be prefer to boost the blade’s stats with Power Units or Sight Units! Of course, at this point in the game you only have one Ability Unit, and your Gears have two slots, but you’ve just been singed by the heat of a wider world.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Vanishing Berserker
Next: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – A Long Snooze


This retrospective’s screenshots come from RickyC’s longplay of the DS version of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days at World of Longplays (YouTube), and from Brian0451’s recording of the 1.5HD cinematics of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days at World of Longplays (YouTube).

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4 comments

  1. The Tango isn’t the only Heartless, The Lurk Lizard is the other plot relevant heartless that shows up (which honestly I think the devs wanted so they could use the Stealth Sneak mold for something Canonical).

    Also, I kind of wished the Days Moogle made more appearances after this, considering what happens in the end, and what happens in the manga.

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