Remember when I was talking about Wonderland, and complaining about how its doors connected in such an illogical way that it went beyond fun and into frustration? And how I complained about Monstro and the maze of twisty passages? Well the problems with Wonderland were all on side paths, and the problems in Monstro were somewhat negated by them being intentional. Yes, I don’t like mazes, but I at least respect that it was meant to be one. I’m put off and baffled by an unintentional one, like Halloween Town. Halloween Town is illogical and hard to navigate seemingly by accident. You go into the coffin, which is illogical but was at least telegraphed, before having to leave the Mayor’s room through a tomb, which is kind of hard to find thanks to the camera angles jumping to the angle that was used for the mini-game, despite the fact that it’s no longer present.
Once you make it to the far side, you’ll be at Moonlit Hill, the famous spiral hill from the poster. By the way, the section of graveyard with the coffin is now behind you, despite that not being the room you just came from. Now: how to cross the hill? Well, since we’re apparently incapable of singing our way across, you have to… uh…
How do you cross this hill?
After brawling with Heartless and interacting with some explosive pumpkins (explosively), you may have found a locked tomb. There’s no way to unlock it at the moment, so that can’t be it. You may have found another tomb – whoops, that’s the one that brought you here, things look so similar. Maybe it’s this a platform you can cause to float by casting Fire on it? But if you jump on that, it just leads you back to the graveyard. Shit, how do we get back to the Hill, again? We have to teleport through a what? Half the trouble comes from forgetting where these doors are in the first place.
Finally you start scouring Moonlit Hill, and in a fit of luck, you land next to a teeny, tiny grave stone on the hill that triggers a prompt for Sora – easy to see in 1.5 since it flashes an interaction prompt at you, but in the PS2 version, this prompt is shoved into the fourth slot of the command bar where you won’t notice it, and on you go oblivious. Twelve laps later, you finally notice a flicker in the extreme bottom-left corner of the screen and join the PS3 players, tapping a grave and causing the hill to extend. Of course, the game can’t resist trying to replicate the famous moonlit shot from the film.
At the other end of the hill, you end up in a room with a bridge over a small sewer-river. Lovely. So you cross the bridge to the gate, right? Well, for starters, you have to fight another battalion of Heartless. I used to have a lot of trouble with the fight in this room a lot and I don’t even know why, there’s nothing really special about it. Then you go searching, and there are loads of chests that it seems you could maaaaybe reach but actually can’t, even with High Jump. And oh look, a hidden door in the gorge, I wonder where this god dammit it kicked me back at the start of the world. Now where was that secret passage in the graveyard, again?
You think I’m done being irritated, but not a chance. Past the gate, you find Oogie’s Manor, a mountainous structure that’s easy to be knocked off of thanks to all the Gargoyles. If you fall off an edge you might not be able to find the way back up. You have to actually locate the imps’ walking bathtub, which is pacing the huge lap around the manor to make sure you never find it. You might more likely find the doorway nearby which leads down a river t– Danny Elfman’s nuts! They sent me back to the bridge room! Oh, sure that’s not that far, but since you’re in the gorge, this might be a good opportunity to find the door leading to Richard and Robert Sherman’s whimsical musical corpus! I just fucking fell in the door while trying to climb the damn stairs! I can’t even blame the game for this one!
Once you finally work your way to the mansion, the game still finds ways to screw with you. Yes, that’s right veterans, we’ve come to The Lost Red Trinity of the original release. The problem is both better than some players know, and it used to be worse than most know. Spoilers! After you clear Halloween Town, you won’t be able to come back to Oogie’s manor. Unfortunately that means being locked away from a Trinity if you missed the Trinity during your first pass. Say, for instance, if you had Jack in your party at the time and couldn’t trigger it. It’s something that hangs over your head since Jiminy Cricket keeps a record of how many trinities you’ve found. Thankfully Final Mix fixed this issue by moving the trinity to the ground far below, near the bathtub.
But it wasn’t all bad. Even though you’d never get credit for the Red Trinity in the broken Vanilla version, you never lost its treasure. A cave opens up after you clear the world, allowing you to find every treasure you might have missed in the manor, including the one behind the Trinity! …That is to say, that’s how it works in Western releases. In the Japanese release, you were just screwed, because the cave treasures didn’t exist. It’s all fixed now, so you can’t lose any prizes, I just wish we didn’t have this ten year history of mix-ups in the first place.
Climbing Oogie’s Manor doesn’t take so long, once you learn not to chase the Gargoyles that are flying near ledges. At the top, you burst into Lock, Shock and Barrel’s clubhouse, where they’re already dumping the artificial heart down a chute to Oogie Boogie. You demand to know where it went, and they refuse to answer.
Hey, by the way, want to guess why I’ve been addressing these three as “imps” at all times? It may have something to do with how awkward it is to say: “And then Sora beat up some children.”
*cough* The Imps are about the easiest midboss fight in the game (Spazbo4 clears them in under a single minute), maybe to make up for the attrition of passing through the entirety of Halloween Town to battle them. The game will not be so merciful in the penultimate world, but I feel it’s a reasonable guess for the time being. The imps have almost no HP, strategy or skills that are going to prove all that threatening. Pick one and chip away at their HP until they’re exhausted. In fact, that’s a great strategy, because for some reason the EXP you get for this fight is based on which Imp you exhaust last (the last imps’ EXP is multiplied by 10). If you want the biggest payout, save Barrel for last. If you don’t care (and you shouldn’t because the extra 100 EXP you get hardly matters at this point in the game) then get this over in under a minute. This whole fight is a footnote.
Overcoming the imps gives you a save point, and access to a lever you can use to unlock the door to Oogie’s place. The trouble is: where’s the door? Yes, it’s that time again, it’s time for Halloween Town to hide the godforsaken doors from us yet again. To this day, I still don’t know the intended route to Oogie’s location, thanks largely to that “You can’t come back” factor I mentioned earlier. I believe you’re supposed to use another door on an alternate level of the tower to teleport just outside of Oogie’s hideout, but I’m also not sure how you’re supposed to find that. There’s also a secret path tied to one of the giant gibbets Oogie has chained up everywhere. That’s cute and all, but I typically don’t bother. Instead, I just drop off a certain edge and land right in front of the door. I don’t really feel this is any different from jumping down to find that secret gibbet path I mentioned, do you?
Square would have been very foolish to look at Oogie’s Vegas-themed torture chamber from Nightmare and not see a boss arena waiting to happen. So that’s where we are. Naturally, Oogie uses the heart before you can get to him. In fact, he eats it. And he uses its power to summon a Heartless! A… a Gargoyle. Two, actually.
Oogie is as unimpressed as you are, and angry, so he starts up his death trap and drops you into it. You spend most of the fight on Oogie’s roulette wheel of death, occasionally fighting his Heartless, since Oogie hangs out on the rim where you can’t get him. (Technically you can hit him with Thunder and Gravity, but it’s a waste of MP). As the fight goes on, Oogie will toss in some dice, some of which explode. The ones that don’t will either summon a new Heartless for him, or will trigger a trap that he’ll use against you, like a series of blender knives that come down to attack you, or a sawblade. In the comments (spoilers for stuff from later in the post, by the way), Eamonn points out a few additional details that I missed, like Oogie stomping the ground to change the results of dice he doesn’t like, or even healing!
After a time, a series of switches light up near the middle of the roulette. Once you hit a button, a force field will rise up around that section of the roulette wheel, and the section will rise up to the rim. You have to hit a switch such that attached triangle of the roulette wheel matches up with Oogie’s position on the rim, so that you can go thrash him (if you miss, the segment will just fall back into position). If you can get a teammate up on the rim with you, all the better. Oogie has almost no close-quarters defences, so you just get to wail on him almost unimpeded until he knocks you back after a set amount of time or damage. Keep it up, and he’ll fall.
Oogie dies much like how he did in the film: falling apart at the seams into a swarm of insects. Jack just looks on and declares the heart was a failure after all. You’re a casual murderer, Pumpkin King, I can appreciate that. Despite not mentioning Maleficent even once, Oogie drops Ansem Report 7, which isn’t that interesting. Ansem just remarks on Gummi Blocks, and ironically talks about searching for a way to get off-world, because he and his people are “prisoners of this tiny place.” It’s funny because he doesn’t know! Also, he concludes the Blocks might have come after he opened “the Door.” You won’t have much of a chance to ponder that, because there’s no way this fight with Oogie isn’t ending without a second phase. And this one’s a doozy.
If you genuinely are reading these Retrospectives before playing KH1, I bet you’ve been wondering why the Manor isn’t accessible later in the game. I bet you’ve even made a few guesses, and I bet they’re all wrong, because there’s no part of your mind that could bullseye the absurdity that is about to take place. The correct answer was: “Oogie Boogie possesses the entire manor and becomes a giant demon” and anyone who says they guessed that is a liar.
Yup, the whole manor is the boss, and if Oogie’s mind is in there anywhere, he’s become much more animalistic and wild, like a Heartless. To stop him, you have to track down seven cysts of Darkness that are clinging to parts of the manor – 358/2 Days calls them “Shadow Globs.” It’s not unlike the weak-point system of Shadow of the Colossus, three years later. Most of the Globs, but not all, are along a long path guarded by sections of the manor that attack back, including two of the gibbets from before that have become giant braziers Oogie waves around like a censer, dropping ghost-fire everywhere. You can “destroy” the braziers for some hefty EXP, but the swinging one is probably too dangerous to risk it. And of course, there are Heartless all over the place. Eamonn once again has a better handle on this than I do: Oogie gains additional attacks if you destroy the censers, the Globs’ have the ability to cast fire spells (unknowingly captured in the picture below!), and there’s even a trick platform attached to the manor that will drop you off!
Navigating Oogie is a chore unto itself (unless you came back here after getting the mobility upgrade on the next world). Most of the obvious paths are blocked and I’m never sure if I’m going the way I’m supposed to or if I’m only getting by on clipping oversights. It’s a problem. You may end up needing a walkthrough just to find all seven. In the end, it’s hard to support the implementation of this boss wholeheartedly, but it’s a great concept. By the way, if you look close to Oogie’s feet, you’ll see that cave I mentioned with all the chests that used to be on the manor.
Everything ties up quickly from there. Jack apologies to Sally for not listening to her at the outset, and hands over your next keychain, the Pumpkinhead. It’s similar in strength to the Crabclaw, focusing on combat instead of magic. Also, Gravity becomes Gravira, which takes away a higher percentage of enemy health. Wow, that was the shortest prize summary I’ve had to write in ages!
At this point, Dr. Finkelstein asks: “What is a heart, anyway? I can’t figure it out.” That’s the punchline. This raises… too many questions. Okay, sure, it tells us his ookie guesses as to what a heart was about were at least partially nonsense. But I can’t help but wonder about the opening scene, when the Search Ghosts ignored everyone. Why does Finkelstein not know what a heart is, is he asking on the philosophical level, or the literal? Why did Oogie have to use the artificial heart to control the the Heartless? Do the Halloween Towners not have hearts? At the start of the world, Jack and Finkelstein said something about the Search Ghosts having a “guidance system” that Finkelstein was trying to use to control them, but it obviously wasn’t strong enough to stop them once the artificial heart was in play. Was that what placated them? I just don’t know.
Let’s start with Halloween Town’s new synthesis Heartless. This one, like the Pot Scorpion, is a whole new monster that behaves sort of like a downgraded mini-boss, but the real pain comes from getting it to show up in the first place. First off, you have to get to its location! It’s not just that you have to navigate Halloween Town, though that does annoy me. No, it’s the fact that, once you finish Halloween Town’s story, all the save points except the one at the entrance are wiped out! It’s inconvenience for inconvenience’s sake! Plus, the Heartless appears at the ruins of Oogie’s manor, about as far away from the save point as possible. You’re a peach, game.
The Heartless’ appearance rate is also very strange. Like all the synth Heartless, it doesn’t always appear, but like the Gigas Shadows, it doesn’t appear until you’ve cleared out several normal enemies. How can we speed this up? Well, remember that Red Trinity I mentioned before? The one that was moved in Final Mix so it wouldn’t be lost with the rest of the manor? Well, whether by glitch or design, once you’ve used the Red Trinity, it will nevertheless remain on the wall if the synth Heartless isn’t nearby! Why? It might be deliberate, but I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say the game has a list of objects it loads whenever you enter a room, including enemies. And since this room has two enemy groups, it probably has two object lists, and they forgot to remove the Trinity from one of the lists!
You fight some Wight Knights to get the Heartless to show up before it finally shows: the Chimera. The Chimera is a robotic horror-show as though from a sci-fi serial, complete with distinctive pincer arm and a tub filled with green water and three skulls. The trick is to exhaust its short HP bar, at which point its “real” HP bar shows up and it releases its skulls. While you can attack the Chimera directly, the more skulls you strike (which also hurts the Chimera), the better the odds of you getting Blazing Stones. Aeroga is great for this, but the Chimera is one of the more dangerous synthesis Heartless at this point in the game, so watch your back.
100 Acre Wood
The last section of the 100 Acre Wood is less of a mini-game and more of a puzzle that has a timer just to pretend it’s a mini-game. This will probably force you to replay the puzzle so you can get Cheer, and that’s just a lazy move on the part of the devs.
The story starts with the sequence from Blustery Day, where Pooh thinks he is tracking a “Heffalump” but is really chasing his own footprints. In this version, Pooh isn’t looking for a Heffalump. Instead, he tells you that he thinks he’s found the one responsible for taking his friends away. Now, if you remember what’s been going on in 100 Acre Wood, it would be reasonable to assume Pooh is referring to the imaginary villains from the start of the plot, when the book was still damaged, but Pooh soon explains that they’ve gone missing again and you’re going to have to find them. The mini-game begins after you find Eeyore inside the bush Pooh has been circling, and resolve to send everyone back there to keep them together. The game is run on a timer, and in a huge oversight, the timer continues tracking as you talk to people, so you had better book it, and shove your fingers in your ears while you’re at it.
Tracking down the denizens of the 100 Acre Wood is not easy. You can do several on your own, without any help from Pooh. Rabbit is darting into some holes and coming out intermittently, and Owl flies away from his perch every once and a while. Simply talking to them will be enough. The fact that they disappear into their hiding place so frequently might have you walking past them if you’re not careful, but they’re easy enough to find once you know where they are during a second attempt. But to find Piglet, you’re going to have to lead Pooh through several hoops, all the way to the end of the area where Piglet is hiding. This includes getting Pooh up a cliff, and then across a log bridge. The bridge at least is clever, since there are two ways across it in case you’re having a little trouble.
But the real stinker is Roo, who like a good Where’s Waldo?/Wally? puzzle, is hiding where you’d least expect it: up a tree behind where you started the game. You need to find everyone within 5 minutes to qualify for Cheer, and Roo (a little brown smudge on a brown tree root) will have you pulling hair. Once you’ve finished the puzzle at whatever speed, you can clear the five minute timer easily on later attempts, but it would be so much nicer if you didn’t have to do it twice at all.
Clearing the last game gets you the EXP Ring in Final Mix, one of the only EXP boosting items that boosts a few other stats while you’re at it. It makes you feel less guilty if you clog up your inventory with it. The Vanilla prize is an Orichalcum, which is better than nothing but is hardly as exciting.
Once you’ve reunited the friends, Pooh is finally reassured that everyone is okay, and you all go to the swing set hill to watch the stars. Everything seems right in the world. Pooh’s existential crisis has even disappeared, and when Sora asks, he can’t even think about what to think about. Deciding that this is about as much of a resolution as he’s going to get, Sora announces that he has to go back to searching for his other friends, and everyone sees him off. In a preposterous conclusion, Sora even thrusts a fist into the air as goodbye, as though the devs confused Winnie the Pooh with The Breakfast Club. It’s a custom animation and everything.
As Sora disappears from the book, Pooh says that he’ll always be there, if Sora would like to visit, and we see the book, fully repaired, close and lock with a little latch. The Keyhole on the latch disappears as well, implying it was the Keyhole of the world. The ending is constructed in a very peculiar way, in how Pooh’s final goodbye transitions into the close of the book. The way it transitions to a voice-over makes it seem as though Pooh is not talking to Sora, but to the player, as though he, the fictional character, will always be there if you, the audience, would like to visit. Perhaps it’s just something that carried over from the film especially well, but keep it in mind. It’s an idea we’ll be returning to more than once, and especially in Kingdom Hearts 2.
For the record, there is no prize for clearing 100 Acre Wood besides the EXP Ring/Orichalcum and potentially the Cheer Ability, so this wrap-up section doesn’t need a wrap-up of its own, thank goodness. Like all worlds, clearing 100 Acre Wood is necessary for the Secret Ending, and there is an achievement attached, but that’s all. In the next few entries, we’ll look at the last world of the second set, and begin final preparation to face Maleficent herself.