When Sora wakes up, he discovers that Riku has kidnapped Pinocchio, who is unconscious. When Sora asks what Riku thinks he’s doing, Riku tells him that Pinocchio’s unusual existence – a puppet with a heart – might be able to help someone who’s lost their heart: Kairi.
Riku darts off before Sora can process this, and Geppetto takes out a chest for Sora containing the High Jump ability, a “Group Ability” that applies to everyone and costs no AP. Mobility abilities are fantastic in any game, so you’ll probably have it installed in your deck long before you process the idea of abstract concepts like skills being kept in boxes. Though if I can nitpick, I’d have rather the game turned the skill on by default. I’ve seen that screw up a few young players.
High Jump opens a lot of doors. Now, I’m not certain, but I’ve seen at least one walkthrough claim that High Jump is mandatory to beat the game. Of course, clearing Monstro isn’t mandatory. This gives the hilarious conclusion that some players chose to abandon Pinocchio to his fate as soon as they got what they really came for. There are plenty of areas in the game you can access now that you have High Jump, but there are even more reasons to stay. Not only are there rewards for finishing the plot, but there’s treasures inside Monstro itself, including the Watergleam Summon gem, which we’ll talk about in wrap-up, and a Torn Page he gobbled up (which you can find without High Jump, yes). Besides, if you leave, Monstro probably won’t be here when you get back, and it’s a bore to find him again.
By the way, this is the part where the Montro plot branches off if you come here late in the game. Again, I’ll talk about it much later in the retrospective, when it’s less of a spoiler.
Once you are ready, you can use High Jump to go after Riku, climbing Monstro’s weird, bottom-to-top throat. Don’t even try to think about the anatomy. You’ll encounter some Heartless here, and on revisits, might have your first encounter with the third kind of special mushroom Heartless (and the last kind in the original version). These are the blue-coloured Rare Truffles, and they like to bounce. To deal with them, you have to knock them in the air over and over, 100 times max. I just can’t do it so I have no advice that wouldn’t be parroting a walkthrough. Apparently they’re a great source of EXP, but I’ll never know.
At the top of the throat, you’ll find the stomach, because… that’s how it works! There, you’ll catch up to Riku, with Pinocchio tossed in the corner. Riku says that Pinocchio has already lost his heart, presumably consumed by the Parasite Cage. I’m basing my guess on the fact that the Cage is much larger the next time you see it, perhaps thanks to the snack. What happens next is… debated. I’ve seen one person call it the first clue to an important concept we come across way down the road, but at the same time, Riku and I might be wrong about Pinnochio losing his heart in the first place. I’ll put it down plain: Jiminy Cricket runs to Pinocchio’s side, Pinocchio says “I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” and suddenly his nose grows, and to his surprise as much as anyone, he realizes “I guess I’m okay!” If Pinnochio did lose his heart, but is fine now… that’s very curious. Long-time fans will know what I’m hinting at, or at least I hope they will.
Unrelated, but I’ve got to say: Blue Fairy, if he’s surprised, that’s not a lie.
Riku offers to let Sora join in helping Kairi, but Sora tells Riku off for not having a conscience (hah!). They’re nearly about to fight when the Parasite Cage returns. Pinocchio flees the room, and so does Riku, using a portal made of Darkness. And so it’s down to business.
The second fight against the Cage is more difficult than the first. For starters, Riku’s gone, but he was never much help to begin with. Second, there’s stomach acid in a moat around the boss, except for a small causeway. The Cage keeps the causeway fairly well defended, so you might prefer to use high platforms that line the arena to jump in on him. Even that’s not perfect, but it is my preferred strategy. Unfortunately, the Cage can catch you in mid-air (the trick is to jump after he attacks Donald or Goofy), and will occasionally suck up Monstro’s stomach acid to spit in your face. Donald and Goofy might park themselves in stomach acid by accident (oh 2002), but you should be okay, especially if you make use of Aero. Are you getting in the habit of Aero for boss fights? I promise: it’s expensive but it helps.
Clearing out the Cage causes Monstro to regurgitate, and to spit out both Sora and Geppetto’s ships. How Sora, Donald and Goofy got into the ship in time, I can’t imagine. Sora and the others don’t even go looking for Geppetto and Pinnochio after the fact, which seems pretty silly considering mostly everyone else who has been lost to the void has either disappeared or turned into a shadow-monster, but it turns out they are okay. You can find them in Traverse Town, where all lost people go, complete with a new house Leon pulled completely out of his ass.
But that’s not all for the story. After the events in Monstro, we cut to Maleficent and Riku, who are on Captain Hook’s ship along with Kairi, who is still comatose. Riku remarks that Kairi is “like a lifeless puppet now?” and Maleficent explains Kairi’s heart was “Taken by the Heartless, no doubt,” which is a pretty clinical way to address a subject like this, even for an evil fairy. Maleficent’s solution for Kairi’s problem is not simple, but finally gives us a look at her endgame. The seven Princesses of Heart, she tells us, have special, pure hearts. We later learn this means “Free of Darkness,” which is something Ansem thought was impossible in the Ansem Report we got from Jafar. If gathered together, the Princess’ hearts would open a door to the “heart of all worlds. Within lies untold wisdom. There you will surely find a way to recover… Kairi’s heart.” It’s great listening to Susanne Blakeslee here. She has Maleficent trip partway to Kairi’s name, as though unfamiliar with addressing people by their names like someone would a friend or a human being.
She then offers Riku “a marvelous gift: The power to control the Heartless!” Wait, did she say “gift?” Because what she does is casts a spell without asking permission, surrounding him in green flame as she opens up him to the very darkness she keeps warning people against. I don’t know if you’ve gathered, but Maleficent’s idea of a mutual relationship is questionable.
This is a long one. Clearing a world means prizes and progress, clearing an optional world means extra prizes and options, and that means we might be here a while.
If you go to visit Geppetto in Traverse Town, you learn that he has gained an interest in Gummi Ships during his escape, and will now make blueprints of new Gummi ships for Sora. New blueprints are unlocked based on how many Heartless you’ve killed total. Not all of these blueprints are ideal, or even functional, but they tend to be better than the Heartless designs you find in Gummi Mode, so they’ll give you a nice-looking base for your Gummi Ship if you’re not fond of the “cannons in mid-air” aesthetic.
Geppetto’s shop also has another Gummi Blueprint for you to find, though I’m not sure how you were supposed to work this out. You get it by… I still can’t believe this… entering and exiting Geppetto’s house thirty times and then talking to Pinocchio. Thirty times. A door, you get it by fucking around with a door. I imagine the devs figured you’d accrue those 30 visits by anxiously checking in with Geppetto every time you fought some Heartless, but there are two problems with this. One, even if you visit Geppetto after every major excursion left in the game, there aren’t thirty major excursions left in the game. There aren’t thirty major excursions in the entire game! Second, even if you did come thirty separate times, Pinocchio says the same things to you for the first 29. There’s no reason to talk to him on trip 2, much less trip 30! Pinocchio gives you the Chocobo blueprint, a ship that looks exactly like Final Fantasy’s mascot bird, complete with lack of flaming exhaust port or laser cannons. Yup, Pinocchio just gave you a… drawing of a bird.
These aren’t Geppetto’s only gifts. For starters, there’s the final Postcard, stuck to his wall. How nice of me to never address that sidequest in any way, shape or form. The first time you talk to him, you’ll also get the Wishing Star Keychain, the first Keychain I tend to ignore in my play-throughs. The Wishing Star is weaker than the Three Wishes and has more recoil when your attack is blocked. Its upside is that this clockwork Keyblade always crits, even if its crit increase is lower in Final Mix. I’ve always preferred the consistency of high stat boosts to crits in any game, but since this is a constant boost, choose for yourself.
What else have we got? The nice little bounty of bonuses at the end of a world is really one of Kingdom Hearts 1’s charms. Clearing the Parasite Cage finally unlocked your final spell: Stop. If you ask me, this 2 MP spell is of far more use in post-game stunts than in everyday Heartless fighting. It can be helpful in the Coliseum, and it’s one of the two best ways to hunt Sniperwilds, but it’s very situational. Stop puts every enemy within range into a time freeze. The range is based on the level of the spell (Stopra has a wider range, Stopga even more) while the duration is based on your total MP, which to remind you, doubles as both Sora’s magical capacity and his magical ability. A lot of fans think that the level of Stops boosts the duration, and so did I until recently, but that’s not actually the case.
Any damage you do to targets during Stop isn’t accrued until the Stop wears off, at which point they take all the damage at once and usually die from it. This stylistic touch is nice but makes the spell a lot less useful. You have to keep track of the damage you’ve caused in your head so you don’t waste attacks on a target that’s already died. To make matters worse, Stop can be just plain unhelpful, especially if Donald casts it. He never seems to cast it at the right time. What if you could have ended the fight instantly with Thunder, Donald? What if we’re in an easy Time Trial match in the Coliseum? I wanted them dead now, D, not 10 precious seconds from now!
Unlocking Stop completes your spell list. If you talk to Merlin after doing this, he’ll give you the Spellbinder Keyblade. Spellbinder is useless as a combat Keyblade (only the Kingdom Key is worse), but it boosts your MP by 2. This makes it helpful for mid-game synthesis hunting, if you’re into that. While you’re visiting Merlin’s, you’ll probably want to visit the 100 Acre Wood (more on that later), and stop in with the Fairy Godmother to unlock the Dumbo Summon from the Watergleam Gem. The elephant who could fly can’t really fly all that well in Kingdom Hearts (to keep you from sneaking off the map), but you’re invulnerable while riding him, and can spray water in every direction as a Blizzard-aligned attack. Dumbo is the best way to handle Gigas Shadows, but frankly he’s not that useful in other situations.
What else can we do in Traverse Town? You might want to stop at the Dalmatian’s House. If you’ve put your nose to the grindstone, you may have over 51 puppies around the time you finish Monstro, which will unlock yet another Torn Page from Pooh’s storybook. Yes, you need this sidequest to finish that sidequest. You don’t know the half of it.
BUT WHY REST THERE? Holy crap this section is still going. Clearing Monstro unlocks the Pegasus Cup at Olympus Coliseum. This tournament is the first to include a bonus boss: Leon and Yuffie will team up to fight you in the finals. They’re a great pain, too. While Yuffie’s attacks can be deflected with Guard (they bounce back and hit her!), she also has a Cure spell that she’ll use if left to her own devices. The best strategy then is to never leave Yuffie to her own devices!
Thankfully Leon is still meandering and slow, even when he finally breaks into a jog. He’s so slow that he uses a special attack to catch you instead of learning how to sprint like a normal person. Specifically, Leon uses one of his Final Fantasy VIII Limit Breaks (Blasting Zone) when his health is low, causing his gunblade to glow and double in length. It’s easier to take out Yuffie first and then focus on Leon, lest you let Blasting Zone ruin your day like the awful penis joke that it is.
I’m not quite as impressed with the Pegasus Cup’s prizes as I am with the others. The prize for clearing it is one of Sora’s signature special attacks, Strike Raid. You might think that sounds interesting but… ehhhh. It’s certainly not a bad attack. You almost need it to kill a certain bonus boss in Vanilla. This special attack lets Sora hurl the Keyblade like a boomerang, because of course it does. It even causes enemies to flinch at a distance, interrupting their attacks, which your normal spells just can’t do. That’s critical for the bonus boss I mentioned. The trouble is… the last time we were at the Coliseum for a tournament, we got a permanent spell upgrade (Gravity). And next time we win a tournament, we’re going to get another permanent. An optional ability just doesn’t stack up there with Gravity in my mind. Final Mix will also give you Olympus Coliseum’s Dark Matter for time trialing the Cup, which is a little underwhelming, considering you usually earn Dark Matters by opening boxes. Oh, I’m glad I have it, it means killing fewer Shadows in the long run, but could you maybe give me two?
That’s all you unlock in the original game, but Final Mix has more ugly surprises waiting for synthesis hunters. The Grand Ghost of Monstro is the ugliest of the “normal” synth Heartless: it can only be killed by feeding it healing items, and is more likely to drop Frost Stones if you use incredibly rare items, like precious Elixirs. And while that’s certainly the worst part, I’ve got more bad news. Remember how close you had to stand to the flower in Wonderland to give it a Potion? Imagine trying to do that to a monster that’s actively trying to avoid and bite you!
But the real nightmare is on a world we’ve already visited: the Pink Agaricus, found only in FM. The Agaricus is another mushroom, this one’s a league above the other three. Found in Deep Jungle’s Treehouse, the Agaricus announces itself with a troupe of White Mushrooms (to avoid confusion, the White Mushrooms that used to live in the Treehouse in the PS2 version are gone). These Mushrooms are all doing the mime for the Stop, constantly. You have to track them down, Stop them, and they’ll give you some MP orbs and bail. Freeze all three, and the Agaricus shows up inside the Treehouse. Funnily enough, it appears on top of one of Sabor’s potential holes, so for some players, it will fall down to the net below!
What you’re supposed to do next is supposed to be straightforward: cast Stop on the Agaricus and then hit it as many times as possible. Once it unfreezes, the Agaricus will count the hits you managed to land and will reward you. The synth item you’re looking for, the Serenity Power, starts potentially showing up at 40 hits. You can get even more than one Serenity Power at higher numbers, but you’re guaranteed a Serenity Power, plus a useless Achievement-style prize, if you land 100 hits. Contact damage from Aero’s second upgrade, Aeroga, also counts towards your hit total, so make sure to use that once you have it.
Here’s the problem: if Donald and Goofy land any hits, those hits are subtracted from your total. The game never says anything about this, but they don’t normally interfere, so that’s okay. The only way they will interfere is if you hit Triangle to give them an order. So just don’t press Triangle, right? It sounds legit, but the trouble starts once you realize that the best way to get 100 hits is to use one of Sora’s special techniques from later in the game. You know, the special attacks that are triggered by Triangle in KH1.5? …the same button that orders Donald and Goofy to attack? The internet has worked out a way to lock Donald and Goofy out of the room, but I’m not sure it’s possible if you let Sabor break the floor and have to fight the Pink Agaricus on the net!
To make matters worse, the Internet has aggravated the Pink Agaricus with incomplete information. Accidentally, to be sure! But still. Most players thing Stop needs to be upgraded to Stopga to extend its duration, but as I said above, what really extends the duration of Stop is MP. I suppose you will have more MP by the time you get Stopga, but if you want to land more hits on the mushroom, you need to go out of your way to get even more MP (the Spellbinder Keyblade, for example), and on the other side of the coin, Stopga’s not that easy to get and might convince you to put off the Agaricus longer than you need to! Worse, and thankfully the Internet gets this part right: you know that special attack you want to use to get the most hits? It’s an aerial attack, and you can only use it if you target the Agaricus’ head separately from its body, and that’s… stupid! There are barely any enemies with this trait in the entire game! It’s just this multi-layered pile of absolute crap.
Weird footnote: “Serenity Power” is new to the 2013 translation, since it was introduced in Final Mix. The thing is, the word “Serenity” comes from was localized to the “Mystery” in “Mystery Goo” in the original game, another mushroom item. KH1 used Mystery, KH2 Serenity, and they chose “Serenity.” This isn’t the last form this name would take: Birth By Sleep would go with “Hungry!” Want to know what’s even sillier? The Japanese term being used? It’s the English word “Mystery!” All this juggling is pointless!
So now that we’ve put everything else together over paragraph after paragraph, how about we tuck over into a nice, relaxing trip to the 100 Acre Wood. Which thanks to the Dalmatians, is double length. Wow. We’re never going to see the next world.
…Then again, maybe we don’t want to…