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Why 358/2 Days is a Poor Narrative Experience.



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Chrono Mizaki

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Well, since I'm bored, I might as well write something.

So yes, you heard me. 358/2 Days, which some members laud it to be a great example of character development in a Kingdom Hearts game, is badly executed and badly placed in the construction of the game. It's not the story's fault or the character's fault. Because when you read it in detail when not playing a game, it does have the potential to be unique and furthers the mystery.

The fact that it has a novelist writer on board (Tomoko Kanemaki ) should mean a well-written and effective story. So why didn't it work?

Aside from a poor introduction with fifteen or so days of mediocre plot development, it become increasingly more apparent that the structure of the game did not suit the story. The mission-based structure has damaged the narrative greatly, with plot development having to be plotted after a certain amount of days. You can go for missions without any plot development. That I don't find too much of a problem. What I find the problem is that it DROWNS you in it once we hit the plot development.

It feels like it's trying to cram so much information and development, that it can be overwhelming to the player. When you haven't paced your game, to ponder and care about the characters, then it's so jarring when the cutscenes call us to care about them.

For example, Xion. She stepped on the wrong foot with me (and by that, made it bleed) because she really rubbed me the wrong way. It's the typical reason why many people didn't like her. She's a mary-sue. She's the female companion that Roxas needs to care about. You get the gist.

But I kinda DID care about her once I went on missions with her. It's the missions and companion I got from her that made me cared about her. Not most of the cutscenes where the spotlight has to be on her. The missions. Heck, when I saw her in one of the missions running away, it actually GOT me to chase her.

But once you wrestle her away, keep her hidden and expect us to garner sympathy for her because the narrative demands it (after so many useless missions of 'destroy dark blob' and 'defeat x heartless'), then you effectively destroyed the development that I liked about her. There are others, much better ways to garner sympathy for her, but instead they boiled it down to a narrative structure which is in direct conflict with the game's structure.

And this is because you aren't working towards an overall goal. Instead, you're doing missions to further the story.

Why did Birth by Sleep's story worked? Simple, because the game's structure suited the storyline. The game allows us to progress, to visit other worlds and the cutscenes shows us of that progress, because of the progress we made by travelling to other worlds. When we get down to it, yes the story is rather weak and the character development could've been better. But the game's structure allowed the story to be enjoyable.

358/2 Days tried to follow a standard narrative that Kingdom Hearts always entailed... and failed because the structure of the game is not suited. Harper all you want about character development and character study, but when those little instances where I got more development from being partnered with Xion than the cutscenes that tried to make me feel sorry for her (which is the game's default of development), then you have an effectively broken narrative.

Also, Novels aren't Games. This is quite a popular opinion that got mention in my Games Culture Lesson at my University. Why was Gears of War 3 panned for its storyline when it has a Novelist Writer on board? Simple, Novels aren't Games.

Novels are extremely heavily in expressing detail, character development, story development and many other things. When Novels take their time to explain that, Games just show it. Silent Hill 2 has a heavy story, but it didn't bother you with every cutscene. Instead, it shown in the gameplay's structure. Now I'm not expecting Kingdom Hearts to be that, because after all it has done well with its current narrative structure as it is. But it would've gone a long way to help with 358/2 Days because of the Game's vastly-different structure.

tl;dr: 358/2 Days did poor because the structure of the game did not suit the narrative.
 

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That's pretty much what frustrated me about Days. It's the only KH game that I was unwilling to finish, due to the game and narrative clashing. Xion, I certainly didn't find to be a bad character but I couldn't get in, nor sympathize, with her as much as I would have liked to. The plot and character development just seemed so...blotchy.
 

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It seemed to focus more on Xion and her problems, instead of mostly Roxas's problems. They couldn't even balance it out. I mean, in the beginning, it only had cutscenes for Xion's beginning and later on, it turned into some of the Org. Members discussing her mostly, instead of discussing Roxas, who has the ability to complete Kingdom Hearts, earning them hearts of their own for once. But who is the main subject? Xion.
 

inverse K-blade7

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I agree that Days's pacing was really bad, but could you elaborate on what you mean by the story taking away from Xion's in-game development? Because for me, what made the story work was the cutscene after each mission where you'd see Roxas Axel and Xion talking and eating ice cream together. They have the most believable friendship in any KH game imo.
 

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I agree that Days's pacing was really bad, but could you elaborate on what you mean by the story taking away from Xion's in-game development? Because for me, what made the story work was the cutscene after each mission where you'd see Roxas Axel and Xion talking and eating ice cream together. They have the most believable friendship in any KH game imo.
That is the ONLY cutscenes that have their worth in the game. Because they actually fitted with the game's pacing and direction of the game.
 

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Well, Roxas did say "Who will I have ice cream with?" Instead of saying something much more heartfelt to Xion. But he is a Nobody, after all. Emotion or not. Or maybe she was just free ice cream to him. But I do believe it had great character development, which the series needs, but I agree that maybe the narrative could've been better.
 

inverse K-blade7

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That is the ONLY cutscenes that have their worth in the game. Because they actually fitted with the game's pacing and direction of the game.
Okay, so just as an example, let's look at the miniarc about Xion being unable to use the keyblade. Why did it contradict the game's direction/pacing and take away from the story?
 

Chrono Mizaki

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Okay, so just as an example, let's look at the miniarc about Xion being unable to use the keyblade. Why did it contradict the game's direction/pacing and take away from the story?
Uh, it didn't? It was a good example because it developed Xion through the mission itself when you wanted her to retrieve her keyblade abilities back. For something as little as that (which could in turn, make her useless to the organization) and turned it into a objective is an excellent direction for the game itself. It's a shame they haven't followed up much of that with her character, instead fodding her to cutscenes to garner sympathy in the later half of the game.
 

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Kind of ironic is the fact everyone magically forgets about Xion's existence when she dies, right? In story terms, pretty stupid, which is why 358/2 Days as a game/story is pretty pointless and from which you don't really learn anything new at all that couldn't be explained in a different KH game that has an actual working plot that isn't threaded together by sheer nonsense.
 

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Also, in later games, there aren't many references towards Xion. Unlike many of the KH games, where characters make references to other characters back in different games, Xion isn't exactly stated.
 

inverse K-blade7

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Uh, it didn't? It was a good example because it developed Xion through the mission itself when you wanted her to retrieve her keyblade abilities back. For something as little as that (which could in turn, make her useless to the organization) and turned it into a objective is an excellent direction for the game itself. It's a shame they haven't followed up much of that with her character, instead fodding her to cutscenes to garner sympathy in the later half of the game.
Oh, so what you dislike is how she constantly passes out in the second part of the game? or the cutscenes where she struggles with the decision to go back to Sora or not?

Kind of ironic is the fact everyone magically forgets about Xion's existence when she dies, right? In story terms, pretty stupid, which is why 358/2 Days as a game/story is pretty pointless and from which you don't really learn anything new at all that couldn't be explained in a different KH game that has an actual working plot that isn't threaded together by sheer nonsense.
But that's what makes the ending emotional. How many times in KH has someone said something along the lines of "as long as I remember you in my heart, you're never gone" ? Think of how Sora changed in CoM from having no memories. As long as Xion was remembered, she would have "remained" in some way. But she doesn't get that. She disappears, and no one has any idea she even existed. In a way, she's more dead than anyone else in the series.
 
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Well, Roxas did say "Who will I have ice cream with?" Instead of saying something much more heartfelt to Xion. But he is a Nobody, after all. Emotion or not. Or maybe she was just free ice cream to him. But I do believe it had great character development, which the series needs, but I agree that maybe the narrative could've been better.
"So... friends are people who have ice cream together?"

"Sort of..."

Thus, in Roxas's mind, ice cream=friendship. He was basically asking who would be his friend if she left. It's heartfelt in context.
 
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Chuman

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"So... friends are people are people who have ice cream together?"

"Sort of..."

Thus, in Roxas's mind, ice cream=friendship. He was basically asking who would his friend if she left. It's heartfelt in context.
Oh. Guess I missed that part. I feel bad now....
 

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What bothered me about Days wasn't even the story, truth be told. It was the incredibly repetitive, lazy gameplay. The DS recreations of the KH2 worlds are fairly impressive from a technical standpoint, but it doesn't make going back to them any more boring. Especially when you're doing the same type of mission several times. It's just too much of a chore to get through to a plot that isn't even that great anyway.

As far as the narrative is concerned, I feel neutral about Xion as a character, but it just seems like she was an afterthought, something they created because they didn't think the game would have enough conflict...and in the end it's all rather pointless, because at the end of the Days isn't particularly relevant to the overall story and it feels like it could have very well not existed. You could argue whether a game is necessary or not doesn't matter as long as the game is fun (because that's the point of games), but Days is not fun, not past the first few hours, so it completely defeats the point.

Xion fans will tell you we cant know Days or Xion are entirely pointless until we see more games, but in my mind if she was brought back again or becomes important for whatever reason, it's because they had to deliberately work that in, probably in a dumb convoluted manner, just so they can be like "SEE XION WASN'T WORTHLESS WE PLANNED THIS ALL ALONG"...when they didn't.
 

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Oh, so what you dislike is how she constantly passes out in the second part of the game? or the cutscenes where she struggles with the decision to go back to Sora or not?
The fact that after a series of poor missions (and the quality does go down with each new mission), the narrative demands us to sympathise with Xion. This is whether she either struggles with the decision to reunite with Sora... or whether she's passing out like if she's bonking pregnant. I cannot blame anyone who doesn't like Xion. How can you sympathise with a character that appears when it's to garner sympathy after days of doing repetitive missions that doesn't even serve an overall goal? Sure, you can say the same for Final Fantasy and 'fighting monsters' to get from the bottom of the mountain to the top, but it served an overall goal to get past the mountain.

So yes. You can ask what 'urked me about Xion'. But regardless, you're avoiding the main point. The fact that the game's extremely poor gameplay and pacing destroyed the narrative. Because as far as I'm concerned, anyone who upholds the idea that the game is excellent for its character development as a 'good element' seriously needs to bonk off. I want to play a video game and I would love for it to present its story well. The fact that I groaned more times at the game's attempt to tell me a story than Twilight's plot elements tells me that it did something extremely wrong there.

Also, in later games, there aren't many references towards Xion. Unlike many of the KH games, where characters make references to other characters back in different games, Xion isn't exactly stated.
Well it's hard to reference a character that's been retconned out of the game now. (Yes, Yes. She still 'kinda exist', just that she's been wiped out of the memories. But until the series actually does something with her, she does not exist. She's been retconned as far as I'm concerned)

What bothered me about Days wasn't even the story, truth be told. It was the incredibly repetitive, lazy gameplay. The DS recreations of the KH2 worlds are fairly impressive from a technical standpoint, but it doesn't make going back to them any more boring. Especially when you're doing the same type of mission several times. It's just too much of a chore to get through to a plot that isn't even that great anyway
Oh don't worry. The gameplay bothered me the most of all. As I said, lazy gameplay designed destroy the narrative. It's just I spent a lot of my post bashing the gameplay that I forgot something, the narrative. That one element that a lot of members on KHI have been praising about. Sadly these people doesn't seem to be posting on here. A shame, I really want a challenge =/

Xion fans will tell you we cant know Days or Xion are entirely pointless until we see more games, but in my mind if she was brought back again or becomes important for whatever reason, it's because they had to deliberately work that in, probably in a dumb convoluted manner, just so they can be like "SEE XION WASN'T WORTHLESS WE PLANNED THIS ALL ALONG"...when they didn't.
Therin lies the problem that Xion fans like to brush over. It makes the whole game redundant. You have one game, where you establish a set of characters. Now you have to wrap up these characters in a nice conclusion. Their personality, their goals, their climax. To have the character care for them. To have them be interested in how they fit in the world.

Xion has her personality. But wherever you look at it, how did she exactly fit? She didn't. Yes, she has a tragic story. But what was it all for? All I can remember is that the Organization wanted a loyal, all-hush Keyblade Master to collect hearts without the risk of betrayal. But the way I saw it, it was all detrimental. Xion made Roxas betray them. Without Xion, Roxas could still be loyal to the Organization. Even then Roxas could've left without Xion being in the picture. The Organization still treat Roxas like a kid.

Sure, the arguement is "READ THE REPORTS". But if your game is piss-poor in showing the story to me and make me sympathize less with Xion, then why would I want to read the reports? Your character did not have a satisfying conclusion and instead, slapped everyone in the fact by wiping her out of existence. And the series treats her as if she isn't there.

You think bringing her back would be 'all to plan'. Getting rid of her in the first place destroyed that plan to begin with.
 

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^So what you're saying is, you don't sympathize with Xion because gameplay was boring and repetitive? What? Pacing is one thing, how fun the missions are is a different thing. Neither of them makes the development of Roxas Axel and Xion bad. In fact, their friendship was developed extremely well. I can understand that having to do twenty missions before the story moves forward could be annoying, but thats not the gameplay. That is the pacing. I'll gladly defend Days's narrative, but your criticism doesn't even make sense to me. Why does not liking the missions mean you don't care about the characters?

And really, the "pointlessness" of the missions only adds to how much of a pawn Roxas was to the Organization. Roxas not understanding why he has to risk of life doing the crap he does is a plot point.
 

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Well it's hard to reference a character that's been retconned out of the game now. (Yes, Yes. She still 'kinda exist', just that she's been wiped out of the memories. But until the series actually does something with her, she does not exist. She's been retconned as far as I'm concerned)
That's what I'm saying. Xion being in the story didn't make much of a difference since everyone forgot her anyways, even though she is "there" inside Sora.
 

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^So what you're saying is, you don't sympathize with Xion because gameplay was boring and repetitive?
...Vocaroo | Record and send voice emails

Here is my explanation in a very groggy tone at nearly 3am.

What? Pacing is one thing, how fun the missions are is a different thing. Neither of them makes the development of Roxas Axel and Xion bad.
Actually, it makes a whole lot of difference. You mentioned the cut-scenes at the end of the missions where they hang around on the clock tower, eating ice cream. It was short, subtle and sweet. It also connected to the structure of the game because the missions act like a day job. It makes an excellent 'beginning arc', I would say. It got Roxas to be more social, it create a friendly dynamic. That what made the beginning parts so great. When bringing Xion with you on missions, when getting her to use a keyblade again. These are all because the gameplay structure complimented the development, which are shown in the cutscenes.

However, as the games progress into a different structure, which makes up the most of the games, the cutscenes doesn't keep up with the structure. It starts to pour in too much information and development, with character having the most jarring of development. It directly conflicts with the earlier segment of the games where character development, the pacing and the gameplay all went hand-in-hand with each other. The pacing got worse, the missions hardly bothered to fit with the theme (and a lot of it being filler) and Xion felt disconnected from the game, only shown in cutscenes towards a very bland, boring and over-long arc where no development is made. When Xion becomes the only thing you have to look forward to, it can become a damper.
Why does not liking the missions mean you don't care about the characters?
Because I like to play a video game. If you want, read a fucking book.
And really, the "pointlessness" of the missions only adds to how much of a pawn Roxas was to the Organization. Roxas not understanding why he has to risk of life doing the crap he does is a plot point.
...Wow. You actually defended a extremely bad game element with a bad reasoning. Kudos.
 
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