Roxas: You did great. In fact, you need a little something extra. Xion: Something extra? Roxas: Yeah, the icing on the cake.
In the 1.5 version...
Roxas: You earned the icing on the cake. Xion: Huh? Roxas: C'mon, I'll show you.
There was also a conversation between Axel and Roxas about how Axel spends too much time in bed...
Then there's Axel giving Roxas advice when Xion is upset.
Axel: All I know about girls is that you should never press the wrong buttons.
Roxas is very enthusiastic about having ice cream with Axel and Xion after missions, almost to the point of obsession. If you replace "ice cream" with a certain word, Roxas' diary reads like a pornographic novel.
Roxas: I've been having ice cream by myself lately, but it's just not the same. All I taste is the salt and my hands get sticky.
Roxas: The other members have been teaching me more about how to fight and stuff. It's going, I guess. Every day after work, I've been meeting Axel at the clock tower to have ice cream. It really is salty! But still sweet, too. How come it tastes so familiar?
There's also this gem during the final chapter:
Roxas (to Riku): How many times do I have to beat you?!
Alas, Poor Scrappy: Xion might not be a popular character but her death definitely made a lot of players cry.
The fandom generally agrees Saïx's a less than pleasant individual, but expect debates about whether his motives were sympathetic or not. The redone HD cutscenes also show subtle changes of expression in his cold disposition, hinting that he really isn't as stoic as he'd like to believe he is.
Demyx in spades. Is he a total slacker, or just an underachiever? Coward or reluctant badass? A Token Good Teammate or just the member who happens to like violent methods the least? The fact that he turned out to be That One Boss in Kingdom Hearts II probably contributes to this.
Some people view DiZ's behavior attitude towards Namine and Xion as inexcusable, particularly since it seems to be part of what drives the latter to view her own existence as worthless, leading her to take actions that could be interpreted as Suicide by Cop.
Americans Hate Tingle: This game is among the more divisive entries in the franchise...in the West. In Japan, it was voted the second most popular game after II in a 2017 Famitsu poll, ranking above even the original game and Birth by Sleep.
Riku is the last boss of the game, but he's way easier than Xion due to being significantly less aggressive with his attack patterns and lacking multiple forms.
Xion's final form. Most of the boss's attacks are telegraphed several seconds ahead of time and can be blocked, and once you figure out how to dodge the rest, the fight's just a matter of whittling down a massive HP bar. It especially stands out in comparison to the form immediately before.
Riku, in the cutscenes from Kingdom Hearts II, seemed not only cold towards Roxas, but downright sadistic, even going so far as to toy with his memories and emotions before putting him in DiZ's artificial world. Here, it's made clear he takes no pleasure in any of this, and seems to genuinely wish there were another way.
Axel received backlash in II for suffering from a Badass Decay in terms of personality, acting more apologetic his actions and his HeelFace Turn feeling inconsistent to the cold and ruthless double agent he was during Chain of Memories. This game shows the gradual progression in his character and how his friendship with Roxas and Xion helped him become kinder.
"The Other Promise", which puts an ungodly beautiful and heartwrenching spin on Roxas's already depressing theme.
Base-Breaking Character: From when the trailers first came out to a while after the game had been released Xion has been this. There are fans who feel very sympathetic to her, and think that she is the best written female character in the series with a beautiful yet tragic journey. Then there are fans who feel she was a boring character who stole too much spotlight, has bland voice acting, and has nothing noteworthy of her character apart from her death and thinks she is ultimately pointless because she ends up dying and everybody in-universe forgets she ever existed. However, nowadays she has gained much more popularity than before, though there are still fans who still feel like the writing surrounding her was lacking.
The game in part for Organization XIII fans. They were initially promised a game focused on the Organization as a whole, but instead the final product turned its focus onto the friendship between Roxas, Axel, and Xion with their fan-favorite colleagues left in supporting roles. Your reception of this game depends on whether you appreciate the character development of Roxas and Xion.
Some fans still to this day are conflicted on if Riku's actions can be excused in this game, essentially helping DiZ end the life of Xion and later Roxas, which also just depends on how you feel about his character in general. There are some fans who believe Riku's actions are justified and that he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist that is doing things that he's visibly not proud of in order for Sora to awaken. Or are his actions Unintentionally Unsympathetic and make him Innocently Insensitive towards Roxas and Xion's lives?
Meta example: Should this game (or movie, in the 1.5+2.5 HD ReMix) be played before, or after Kingdom Hearts II? In real life, this was released in 2009, after II's 2005 release, so some plot points in II are treated as understood and receive further elaboration (for example, Roxas's ultimate fate, Xemnas' final goal in II, the identities of the Organization members who are mysteriously hooded in the beginning of II, and Riku disguising himself as Xehanort at the end of this game). Playing it after II also gives context to who Roxas and Axel are immediately, so they're more emotionally attached from the slow start of this game, and it keeps the beginning of II as intentionally confusing as it arguably should be, when the game had first released.
On the other hand, chronologically, this game occurs roughly during Chain of Memories, so playing it before II still keeps the story coherent and ultimately spoils minor plot points while giving gravity to the other Organization members who, in II, don't have as much of a role. The ending of 358/2 also perfectly aligns with the beginning of II. The true splitting point in the fandom happened when the official 1.5+2.5 HD ReMix decided to place 358/2 Days before II in the menu order while Birth by Sleep (the latest game by release date) is still at the bottom, after II, indicating a conscious decision to encourage players to watch 358/2 Days before playing II. In the months leading up to III's release, expect at least one argument to break out between fans whenever a gaming personality decides to (re)play the entire series in one order or the other. There's also some who argue to watch the movie at a certain point of II rather than before or after but what point that is is also debated
The line in which Roxas asks who he'll eat ice cream with if Xion dies. Detractors believe that the part about ice cream ruined the Tear Jerker aspect of the scene. Fans, however, believe that it actually enhances the tragedy of Roxas losing his best friend, and says a lot about Roxas.
Catharsis Factor: After spending the whole game putting up with emotional abuse from Saïx, Mission 91 finally gives you the satisfaction of giving him a well-deserved thrashing. Roxas canonically wins the fight and leaves Saïx on his knees begging for the power of Kingdom Hearts to finally belong to him.
Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game: The gameplay of 358/2 Days is seen as very weak, feeling like an extremely stripped down version of Kingdom Hearts II with a lot of repetition due to the mission structure. The game's strength comes from its writing, with the focus on Roxas's life and relationships being its main draw. In the 1.5+2.5 HD ReMix, this is taken to its logical conclusion by removing the gameplay entirely. On the other hand, KingK's review makes a good case that the cutscene collection doesn't have the same impact without the gameplay to put the player in the same headspace as Roxas.
KingK: What I found is that the cutscene collection didn't affect me in nearly the same way playing the game did. Sure, it was sad. A lot of sad things were happening onscreen. But I didn't cry like I did at the end of the actual game. I wasn't shaken when Axel screamed Axel: "What's your problem?!" KingK: because I hadn't just spent 17 hours trying to keep this broken trio together, trying to stop a train from veering off the tracks, trying to hold onto the good.
Magic is extremely powerful even with the Vancian Magic restrictions. Many enemies have elemental weaknesses and take huge amounts of damage from the correct spells, which can lead to normal mooks getting one-shot and stronger enemies losing multiple bars of health from a single cast. Blizzard and Aero get special mention for their Status Effects, which both inflict a Damage-Increasing Debuff that can be consistently triggered with their basic or mid-tier versions.
Saïx and Lexaeus in Mission Mode. Saïx's high Crit rate and Crit bonus means he'll average a Critical Hit every three attacks, with each hitting dealing a large amount of damage (especially combo finishers). Combined with his lack of real weaknesses besides below-average Magic (which he doesn't really need), he makes soloing Mission Mode a breeze. Lexaeus, meanwhile, has the highest HP, Attack, and Defense, so he'll deal high damage consistently and can easily take hits.
Goddamn Bats: Sapphire Elegies (found in Wonderland) are not at all threatening, but are a pain to kill. They negate any attacks from the front by teleporting a short distance away, artificially lengthening fights.
Harsher in Hindsight: Saix's actions in this game take on a whole new meaning when Kingdom Hearts III revealed that Lea and Isa initially joined the Organization to find and rescue a girl that Ansem and Xehanort were experimenting on. And that while neither lost sight of the goal, Saix took Axel befriending Roxas and Xion as Axel abandoning their plan. It gets even worse when you consider the possibility that Saix saw Xion as Subject X furthering the resentment and sense of abandonment.
Heartwarming in Hindsight: Reading the Secret Reports will make it clear that some Organization members do have feelings and emotions, be it positive or negative. Dream Drop Distance outright confirms that Nobodies are indeed capable of growing a new heart.
Axel's Secret Report (Day 299): "There's no guilt, no feeling at all. So why does it still sting, just a little, when I lie to him? All my dealings with Roxas give me this bizarre illusion of humanity."
One of Roxas's (and by extension, Xion's) first Keyblades is the Missing Ache. Kingdom Hearts Union χ reveals that this used to be Ven's Keyblade, so in hindsight, the Missing Ache returned to its original owner, in a way.
When Roxas leaves the Organization, he states that the person who knows where he came from would be the one that he trusts. Anyone who played Kingdom Hearts II would know that person is Naminé, who served as an Implied Love Interest to Roxas in that game.
Riku spends most of the game with a blindfold on while dressed in black, and he has white hair. He shares all this with 2B and 9S, the protagonists of NieR: Automata, another SquareEnix game released eight years after Days, with the main difference being that Riku is human and his blindfold prevents him from seeing, while 2B and 9S are androids, and their "blindfolds" are actually visors that provide a Diegetic Interface.
It Was His Sled: Xion's existence as a whole. When the game first released, it was a genuine surprise that there was a secret fourteenth member of Organization XIII, let alone one that could use the Keyblade, especially since she was never mentioned in Kingdom Hearts II. These days, it doesn't come as much of a surprise, especially to fans who were introduced to the character in the 1.5 cutscene movie.
Xemnas's manipulation of Xion and his utter lack of compassion for the rest of the group. This is kind of a Player Punch for those who played through KHII; Sora nearly played right into Xemnas's hands, with Xemnas only losing because Sora wiped him out too!
Saïx attempting to trick Roxas and Xion into a fight to the death.
Narm Charm: The entries under Narm for Xion's final battle and death scene are less narmy when you realize that Xion's generic taunts were trying to get Roxas to kill her, but given that she was born from the memories of arguably the single kindest character in the series, she doesn't have much to go on. Roxas' exclamation holds more ground when you realize that in his brief existence, the times he spent eating ice cream with Axel and Xion are the happiest moments of his life, and that he literally doesn't know what else to associate friendship and love with due to being born without memories of his past life and any semblance of a social life outside of the Organization.
One True Threesome: Axel/Roxas, Roxas/Xion, and Axel/Xion are all perfectly valid ships with plenty of subtext to draw evidence from. This is particularly true when you consider that in one Xion's secret reports she outright says that she loves Roxas and Axel, and the in the manga the three of them actually collectively conclude that running away from the organization and living together wouldn't be such a bad idea. Inevitably, some fans simply go this route.
Play-Along Meme: It became a joke to ask who Xion is. Since she is basically the manifestation of Sora's memories, after she dies, everyone forgets who she is.
Roxas. If you aren't familiar with the overarching storyline, you're lead to believe that after being captured, he was destroyed so his memories could be reunited with Sora, and that after fighting so hard to be his own person.
The Castle Oblivion team sans Axel could count as well. Or even all of Organization XIII, if you consider Kingdom Hearts II.
Roxas's hatedom severely died down after the game's release with him being far more accepted thanks to game being upfront about his playable status and delving more into his character personal struggles than even the Final Mix edition of Kingdom Hearts II did. To the point where he now Rivals Sora in terms of popularity.
A lot of people hated Xion on principle before the game even came out due to being another keyblade wielder joining the Organization and looking like Kairi. However, while still a Base-Breaking Character, her tragic backstory about her very existence, as well as her final scene of her disappearing after the battle with Roxas, changed most of the fans' minds.
Some people think Roxas is a Jerkass because of the way he treated his former friend Axel toward the end of the game by leaving him, despite the fact that Axel brought it upon himself due to his Poisonous Friend actions towards him and Xion, and his refusal to tell Roxas anything despite his pleas.
Sora unfortunately is blamed heavily for the ending of this game and many fans accuse him for being responsible for Xion and later Roxas disappearing, even though Sora was sleeping the whole game and had no idea that two people gave up their lives for him.
The Infernal Engine. Its attacks are supplemented by 3 archer Heartless constantly raining arrows down on Roxas, which make avoiding damage extremely difficult. Not helping matters are that several of its own attacks (such as the hammer and battering ram) are hard to dodge on their own due to the small battlefield.
The Leechgrave punishes you for trying to attack it normally with powerful attacks of its own, with the game expecting that you kill all of its tentacles to stun it. This makes the fight extremely long if done correctly (especially since the stun doesn't last long) and extremely dangerous if you're trying to do it fast.
The Ruler of the Sky is fought in a huge battlefield, so you may be forced to chase it, and it may go out-of-bounds to make it impossible to damage. The chasing combined with potential invincibility can extend the fight by a fair amount.
Many think this is the case for the story as a whole. People will agree this is one of the best, if not THE best, stories of the saga but it was completely dragged down (read: ruined) because A) A game filled with plenty of faults whether be bad controllers, tedious gameplay, or recycled concepts and worlds. B) An engine completely not up to the task of showing all the range of emotions all characters needed for such a tragic an emotional story (and this is about the HD version, let's not even begin with the DS engine). And C) A lackluster HD movie that feels more like a compilation of cutscenes than a well structured story (and this is not even talking about the battle scenes fiasco). For all these reasons, it's not unusual to find people who see both the novel and the manga as the definitive versions of Days.
A lot of the screenshots pre-release and promotional images constantly advertised Roxas teaming up with multiple members of Organization XIII, which would allow a total of four party members on screen, however you only team up with one party member per mission and the only three person mission lasts for one battle before returning back to solo. Even the Organization members you team up with is relatively small, with you prominently only teaming up with six party members for most of the game, as the other half of the members of the Organization are inevitably killed off after Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories finishes up its storyline and never seen again, and Xemnas and Saïx not being party members at all.
Even though the game establishes itself as the Origins Episode for Roxas, the plot never addresses how he learned to wield the Keyblade, met Axel for the first time, or his first day in the Organization. All of these plot points occur offscreen, only being briefly mentioned during the first week, and the game actually starts on Day 7 when all of those events have already happened.
Riku and Mickey's adventures during the year between Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II are barely touched upon, bar Riku showing up occasionally. Knowing how they spent that time could have given them some extra development. Whats worse is that in the Kingdom Hearts II Ultimatium this was listed as one of the unseen journies alongside Roxass time with the Organization and Xehanorts past, suggesting at one point there would be a game about this before it was merged with Days
Xigbar in Mission Mode. His damage output is pathetic, his range isn't that much of an asset because it doesn't extend very far, and the ammo system only gimps him further by forcing him to occasionally reload before he can attack again. And even if you can adjust to all that, you still have to deal with his Awesome, but Impractical combos/shots that often miss entirely.
Donald has an impressive Magic stat that surpasses that of every other character, but he's a hard magic specialist and is otherwise the most inept fighter in the game with his small pool of weapons failing to compensate for incredibly weak and generally sluggish, close-range attacks as well as the worst Defensive stats in the game. His Magic stat lets him shine with shorter missions and/or enemies with elemental weaknesses, but you're often better off using another character with decent magic and a better selection of weapons to provide better attacks and/or better stats.
The second half of the game can basically be summed up as "Roxas suffers". He just wants to hang out with Axel and Xion, but their refusal to explain to him what's going on about Xion's true nature as a Replica, combined with Xemnas's own plans, just leaves him confused and angry. By the end of the story, his friendship with Axel is almost destroyed and he's forced to kill Xion. The only silver lining to Roxas's story in this game is that he's put inside of simulated Twilight Town where he's friends with Hayner, Pence, and Olette and has the chance to finally be a normal kid, but of course even that's a fleeting happiness for Roxas considering what happens next.
Axel is the only one to care about Roxas and Xion, knows it, and is literally surrounded on all sides by people who want to harm them. He does his best to keep them both safe, but the choices he makes are so utterly wrong that he winds up making a terrible situation worse by straining his relationships with them.
Xion is constantly abused verbally and emotionally by Saïx, is in constant fear of erasure during the period the Keyblade stops working for her, and starts have serious self-doubts about herself after she loses a fight to Riku and he calls her Keyblade a sham. Once she finds out that she's a Replica designed to eventually suck Roxas of his power and life, she has to come to the hard decision that the best thing to do is be erased from existence.
Woolseyism: Near the end of the game, when Roxas looks at Xion and sees Sora's face, Xion continues using her feminine personal pronoun "atashi" to show that she's still holding on to her identity. The line was restructured into the third person ("This puppet will have to play her part") to get the same point across in translation.