After one last brutal Gummi crawl, it’s time to say goodbye to the old Highwind, with its sixty-three distinct gun decks, and to step into The End of the World, a very different place. This world is a world made from the pieces of the worlds the Heartless have destroyed, an anti-Traverse Town at the opposite end of the map, gathered for some… purpose. Goofy addresses the End of the World as “a Heartless world,” which I believe he’s using not just to mean a world populated by the Heartless, but a world-that-is-Heartless the same way a human can be a Heartless. It’s an interesting idea.
After a whole game of careful, distinct layouts, Square goes all-out with the finale, making sure each room comes off as memorable. They don’t quite succeed due to a double-tunnel near the end, but that’s just me getting pedantic. This is one of the series’ most best worlds, even as a hodge-podge. Let’s get started.
I can’t say much about the final dungeon. It’s a cave, and you’ve already heard my complaints about caves. It was dull, kind of twisty, and full of heavy-duty monsters that loved to jump us from behind. Also: dragons, which were a guaranteed loss of MP. We had an unfortunate laugh at Kain’s expense here, since he was a dragoon slaughtering dragon after dragon. We’re good people.
Everything in the previous entry was late-game stuff you could easily do before the final boss, but at this point, we’re well and truly into the list of stuff you should be doing after you’ve beaten the game. But since they’re available now, we might as well cover them. For the record, the term “Superboss” comes from turn-based RPGs, where it refers to bosses measurably stronger than the final boss, which exist just for the challenge. Final Fantasy 1 introduced Death Machine, aka Warmech, which is often cited as gaming’s first Superboss, but it doesn’t actually outclass the final boss, it was just very strong. I can’t say what the first true superboss was (Final Fantasy started to standardize them circa FFV), but Final Fantasy had acquired its first true superboss in FFVII. Kingdom Hearts, though… Kingdom Hearts is really fond of the idea. If you want to prove you’re the best at the game, you’re going to have your work cut out for you with some of these high-class challenges.
Kyle and I got together the day before Christmas Eve (ed: the year the FF Marathon began), determined to see an end to this game so that we could safely say “Three Final Fantasy games done in less than one year!” (Less than a year, in fact! FFI, FFII, FFIV) And the game heard us, and became determined to have us whipped for our insolence.
Having been informed by Chip and Dale that yet another tournament is open (you have to seal the Keyhole at Hollow Bastion and beat the other three tournaments first), you can head over to Olympus Coliseum and find a surprise: Hades’ face is plastered over the listings on one side of the hall. It seems the God of the Underworld has thrown his own tournament since Maleficent’s plan collapsed, and everyone he hates is invited… though strangely enough, Hercules doesn’t show! Isn’t killing him in a tournament your entire plan?
It was at this point that Kyle and I made a critical mistake. Let’s try to put you in our shoes. We arrived at the moon and found it was much smaller than the world below (as you’d expect), but contained of several dungeons, most of them caves but one of them a massive green-crystal structure (there was also a carved face, probably a reference to the face-like pattern on Mars). Now, that was probably all we should have considered: “Oh, a crystal building, let’s go there.” But there was also another cave, bullseyed by a circle of rock. Where to start? Well, we weighed our evidence and picked the latter. Here’s the list:
We tried to visit each dungeon first to get a grasp on it, but discovered the crystal dungeon couldn’t be reached directly. By our guess, most of the caves nearby served as a “dungeon” made up of smaller, micro-dungeons, and small stretches of overworld, eventually leading to reach the crystal castle. Ease favoured the bulls-eye cave.
Tropes are also a factor. On one hand: a giant eye-catching castle demands attention, which is what Square was hoping for! On the other hand, giant eye-catching castles that can only be reached by tunnels tend to be final dungeons (see also: literally one main-numbered game ago). What were the odds we were going to the final dungeon at this point in the game when there was an easier-to-reach cave right over there?
The bulls-eyed cave was called “Lair of the Father.” The Elder of Mysidia had just insisted to us that Cecil was being called to the moon, and the last time Cecil was “called,” it was by a mysterious voice that called him “son,” and remember that the game triple underlined the fact that he had been called “son.” If we were on the moon to figure out who was calling to Cecil (the characters certainly seem to have forgotten about Golbez), shouldn’t we be going to “the Father”?
On our way to the Cave (our real attempt, not our scouting attempt), we then ran into a fateful random encounter that would send us into the tailspin we spent the rest of the evening fighting to overcome. A bunch of overworld moon-amoebas did a nasty number on us. I wouldn’t say they kicked our asses, but it was far worse than we had seen for a simple new monster across the entire game. We began to worry that we were under-levelled.
Returning to Hollow Bastion, you’re immediately reunited with Beast, who has decided the best way to protect Belle is to putter around the fringes outside the castle instead of being anywhere near her? I guess you’re the boss. He rejoins, and you begin the long climb back to the top. All the old save points have been disabled until you’ve revisited them, and the Bastion’s new Heartless formations are waiting nearly every step of the way. At least the puzzles are still solved…
So back in IV, we decided to stop in to show Rydia, still alive, to Edward, but all he did was moan about Yang being dead. Later in the game, we decided not to visit him at all, because all Cecil seems to do is make him want to die a little more. That’s our party leader!
We returned to the cave next to the Tower of Babil and descended, where we found the survivors from that monster-box filled castle from earlier, huddling in the dark. They claim that their ninja-trained prince had gone after Rubicante, presumably hoping to revenge the destruction of their civilization, and we followed the trail of his allies’ bodies (through another water-cave dungeon) to find them. We eventually caught up to the Prince, who actually identified as “Edge.” He tried to fight Rubicante and used one of his Ninjutsu powers to… cast Fire at him. Rubicante absorbed the damage and rightly turned Edge into a roast before leaving. What a reassuring introduction to our newest party member.
Once you return to the Chapel to save, the door to the Great Hall is open. Inside, you can visit the sleeping Princesses, but can’t do anything to help them yet. There’s nothing to do but to push forward, and curse the game when it cuts you off from some valuable chests by hurling you into a cutscene. What did I say, game? What did I say?
No, I guess Sora can’t resist the chance to have a showdown with Creepy Riku, and he dashes so far ahead of the others that they fall into a trap: Creepy Riku puts up a force field around the emblem platform, trapping Sora and Donald in and Goofy out. I can’t help but laugh, and not because Goofy bonks his nose into the thing: it’s because Kingdom Hearts 2 has a force field fetish and I’m not the first person to joke about the bad guys using the damn things to actually trap people out instead of just delaying Sora with enemy groups. We’re going to talk more about KH2’s little… hobby once we get to that game, but for the time being, just be aware that Sora is now trapped in an arena with Creep Reeks, and no one even seems to notice poor Goofy.
Anyways, welcome, friends. Welcome to the cutscene that PS2 players, lacking a Skip Scene button, had to watch over, and over, and over again. Some players can still recite it from memory!
Rosa brought Cecil back home to Baron, where we found (well… technically we had been there earlier) that the soldiers were now loyal to us, some of them even trying to proclaim Cecil king. We went for the previously mentioned magically blocked corridor, where we found a back-up throne room (what) inhabited by the ghost of the portraitless king. He told us to come back after we had visited the “Feymarch.” Wow, the game does not want us to see this cutscene.
While in Baron, Kain confided that Golbez does not have all the crystals yet. “So the legends were true!” Cid says, in exactly those words, making me want to boo the game off the stage for being just that cliché (and it’s a literary cliché, so no, it does not get a “bye” for doing it early on in game history). Apparently, this game also has four Dark Crystals ala FFIII. Kain says they’re in “the underground”: apparently this entire planet sits on a paper-thin crust with another planet on the inside! Kain then hands us the “Magma Stone” and says it’s the key to the underworld.