Once you finally beat Anti-Sora (and it might take a while, especially on the PS2), you have to open a trapdoor to find your way to Wendy, who is unconscious. Peter flies off to take her somewhere safe, and you’re allowed to proceed to the deck. I recommend you don’t. Turn around and save instead, since another boss is coming and you don’t want to have to redo the fight with Anti-Sora if something goes wrong. Heading out onto the deck, Sora and the others find themselves cornered by Hook and some Heartless. Hook says that Riku has teleported away, and reveals the location of Maleficent’s hideout: “the ruins of Hollow Bastion,” and he sounds about as unimpressed with Maleficent as he does with the Heartless. Unfortunately for Sora and his attempt to start a fight, Hook has captured Tinker Bell in that lantern of his, and Sora surrenders.
Hook’s a traditionalist, so he decides to have Sora walk the plank. The ticking Crocodile even shows up to admire the dinner show, scaring Hook back into his cabin. Hook leaves Smee to finish the job, so you know it’s going to be fine. Sora’s got this. Remembering Peter’s advice on how to fly, he jumps the plank. And then we get an incredibly tacky instant replay of him jumping the plank! And that’s how Sora finally learns how to fly. So do Donald and Goofy, and Peter returns to rescue Tinker Bell from Smee.
Unfortunately, new mobility means another tutorial. Flying is easy: you just jump again in mid-air and… *sigh* use the swimming controls. If you lower yourself to land, you’ll be able to walk again, but unless you’re really bad with the swimming controls, you’re probably better off in the air at all times (unless you need a Summon). As frustrating as the swimming controls can be, Sora’s manoeuvrability in the air trumps your grounded opponents, who don’t seem to be programmed to fight back anywhere near effectively. Sora can only fly in Neverland, but it’s going to be worth it.
As something of a live fire tutorial, some new Air Pirates show up to fight you. These gliding Flying Soldiers are unusual. You know what I just said about grounded enemies? Air Pirates are programmed to fight Sora in the air (and the ground, for that matter), but their being better than the other Heartless is relative, as the Air Pirates are a fairly simple enemy overall that end up being no more remarkable than the Air Soldiers they “replace.” They dodge more efficiently, but that’s about it. They’re more a threat to your Coliseum time trials than to your health, because their swooping attacks keep carrying them away from the fight!
After you’ve taken out the Heartless, Peter and Sora lure Hook to the deck to fight him as well. This fight is fairly easy if you know what you’re doing. First off: while Hook does okay at fighting you in the air, you’re still better off up there. Your primary concern should be his rapid combos (though they tire him out if you survive them), and the threat of the new Heartless he calls into the fight: Battleships. These multi-part foes are easily the most complex minor enemies in the game, and have plenty of dangerous attacks. I don’t think you can stop them from coming into the fight, but you can disable their weapons individually, leaving the Battleships adrift, which is preferable to killing the Battleship and letting it respawn.
You also have to watch out for the edge of the ship: if you knock Hook over it, the Croc will rush him. You’d think this would cause damage, but instead he jumps out of the water like the cartoon he is, screaming “You’ll not get me other hand!” This wastes a lot of time and essentially stalls the fight, so should be avoided whenever possible. Just fly in, do a combo, and fly out. You’ll be fine. I’m also informed by a reader that Hook is weak against Fire, with a custom animation should you hit him with it and everything.
Plus, you get Cura before this fight starts. Hell, I’m ecstatic, come at me, bro.
With Hook defeated, Peter flies Sora off to the place he hid Wendy, which turns out to be the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster, home of Big Ben? …F-from the real world? Deep Jungle was technically in Africa if you consider the film, but it was never mentioned in the game, so I was able to pretend. This is so jarring, I’m not sure how to take this.
This strange little trip actually has a puzzle tied to it, which you have to solve to close out the world even though you’ve already beaten the boss. Like the sort-of-2D platforming segment in Deep Jungle, this is ruin on the pacing. Just let us go. Wendy points out that one of the clock faces is showing the wrong time, and you have to bash the incorrect minute hand with the Keyblade. Truly this is an urgent job for the chosen wielder of the mighty Keyblade. This causes the Keyhole to appear on the clock face. You know, the Keyhole for Neverland. In London.
This Keyhole drops a Navi-G, which hasn’t happened for a while. Too bad Sora was nearly a dozen feet away at the time, flying through the air. You can just imagine the deleted scene where Sora spends the next three and a half hours poking around the streets of London on his hands and knees looking for a chunk of candy. What, you’ve never heard of that part? C’mon, the Great Mouse Detective was in it!
No, instead of Sora shuffling about on the ground, we actually get two cutaways. One is a flashback, to Sora and Riku as young children, exploring the cave on Destiny Islands. They come looking for monsters to play-fight and find nothing of interest, and leave, chatting about the girl that arrived in town on the day of the meteor shower. It seems she’s now living with the mayor, and it’s reasonable to assume they’re talking about Kairi. I suppose no one technically confirms that. We could be missing the adventures of Selphie right now! During this talk, we see from Riku’s perspective that he sees a Keyhole in the wooden door at the back of the cave.
Back in the present, we learn this is Riku’s flashback. He’s back in Hollow Bastion being lectured by Maleficent for teleporting with a passenger, which is apparently dangerous for someone not familiar with the darkness. Maleficent’s confederation is in ruins at this point. If you’ve been doing your job, just Hades and Riku should be left alive and active, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Even a roaring noise in a distance doesn’t frighten her. “A castaway,” she says, explaining that whoever this is has survived the destruction of his world through sheer willpower and found his way to Hollow Bastion in pursuit of one of the Princesses of Heart. Maleficent says that Riku can easily handle this person, and uses a spell to open his heart further to the Darkness.
Now that you’ve secured Neverland, Peter says goodbye to Wendy, and says she can always go back so long as she remembers Neverland, an ending oddly reminiscent of 100 Acre Wood. Tinker Bell is unhappy with this display, and silently announces to Peter that she’s going to go with Sora instead. Peter asks you to take good care of her, and believe me, you will. Without exaggeration, she’s the most important person or thing you’ve encountered in the entire game. Oh, not to the plot. To the gameplay: Tinker Bell is the best Summon in the entire set. I’ll explain in the wrap-up.
First of all, after securing the Clock Tower, you unlock a new feature at that location… for the time being. Remember earlier when I said you’d be locked out of a section of Neverland, taking its save point with it? This is the section I meant. You’ll have some trouble getting back to this room after a certain point, so make your time here count. The mechanic involved here is quite clever. There are twelve doors around the tower that will activate as you play through the game, depending on the hour marked on your save file. During hour 0, for example, one door was open. During hour 1, another. After 12 hours (which was probably well before you arrived in Neverland), the doors restarted with the 0th door again. That means if you visit the Clock Tower every hour for the next twelve hours, you’ll get twelve pretty worthwhile prizes! The trouble is that interruption I mentioned, which is probably going to take place well within the next twelve hours. Still, it’s not so bad, and you don’t really need the Clock Tower prizes, no matter how helpful they might be. If you don’t mind a weird completion time on your save folder, I suppose you could leave the game open for a day or two, checking in every once and a while…
Vanilla players should make sure to grab the Dalmatians at the Clock Tower before they’re locked away as well. They’re not behind the hour doors, they’re in a box on the platform, and will be blocked off by the aforementioned interruption. They were moved in Final Mix, because that’s silly.
While you can’t outright fly on worlds other than Neverland, Sora does retain something of that power, as you gain the Group Ability “Glide” from completing Neverland. Glide lets Sora float from a jump by pressing Jump in mid-air, after which he’ll gradually descend like a kite (in later games that feature Glide, you press Square to Glide. There’s a reason for this, but we’ll get to that). With this ability, you can get most of the remaining treasures in previous worlds, excusing those locked behind Yellow and White Trinities. These forgotten Glide treasures range from irritating platforming challenges in Deep Jungle to really obscure chests in Halloween Town.
Beating Captain Hook gets you Ars Arcanum, one of Sora’s special attacks: a series of rapid blows that run rampant on ground-based bosses. Definitely keep it on hand during the next world.
Clearing Neverland gets you the Fairy Harp keychain, a good combat/magic mixer if you’re into that. But the real joy is your new ally and Summon, Tinker Bell. Tinker Bell is the greatest thing to ever happen to Sora, I promise. Here’s how it works: she starts with a great first impression, as she’s the only Summon that doesn’t kick Donald and Goofy from the party (though you do need two allies up on their feet to summon her, like any other summon). She also doesn’t have a timer bar, as she’s governed by different rules, and if you do well, you can keep her for the entire battle if you can manage it (Cheer doesn’t seem to have any effect on her, as a consequence). So long as she’s active, Tinker Bell will flit about the fight, flying between active party members, healing them intermittently. This casual regeneration means mountains when you have Aero and aren’t taking much damage in the first place. And if you do take hefty damage? If Sora dies while Tinker Bell is active, she’ll actually revive you. This will unsummon her, but what an exit!
Defeating Hook earns you another of Ansem’s Reports, #9, this one explaining that Ansem has actually encountered King Mickey! They talked about Gummi Blocks and the Keyblade, and Ansem becomes interested in the Keyblade, convinced that opening “the Door” somehow exposed his world to interstellar travel. He reasons that the Keyblade must be tied to the Door, since it’s too much of a coincidence that he opened a door and, metaphorically speaking, in came someone talking about a key. Mickey told him the same legend Triton told you, about the Keyblade bringing destruction, but also another legend saying past wielders saved the world. Ansem vows to learn more about the Keyblade.
This has been a lengthy wrap-up so far, but there’s a little more to go. The new synthesis Heartless in Neverland is the Jet Balloon, alongside its companion Heartless, the Missile Divers. Jet Balloons appear on the Deck, but mind that they share the space with a crop of Rare Truffles, so you may have to go back a few rooms if you see one but are looking for the other, since the game won’t spawn another special encounter until you’ve done the usual “walk two rooms away” routine. The Jet Balloon is a silly enemy. A recolour of the Aquatank, it flies away from you in circles and tries to hit you with Missile Divers, a recolour of Screwdivers. And when I say “tries to hit you,” I mean “fires other Heartless at you, gatling-gun style, like this was made in a choppy amateur game mod.” I did shit like this with Duke 3D, and I can’t say I respect it coming from a pro! Every hit the Missile Divers land on you also costs you Munny for no good reason.
If the Jet Balloon can get far enough away from you (or something to that effect – this may be a timer), it will flee the area, costing you any Dazzling Stones it might have dropped. Thankfully Dazzling Stones have a high drop rate if you do pop the Ballooon. The Jet Balloon’s pattern makes the it hard to chase down, but don’t stress out about it, as there’s another mobility upgrade in the future that will even things out. If you’re lucky, the Jet Balloon will sometimes get caught between you and the ship, at which point it’s screwed, so it’s not all bad news.
And the last detail is a big detail: clearing all three of Atlantica, Halloween Town and Neverland will unlock the Hercules Cup at Olympus Coliseum. This is more detailed than the last two tournaments, so I’m going to give it its own entry.
It’s now time for the final tournament (you know it’s the final because there are six posters outside Olympus Coliseum, and each tournament has filled up two posters each). And to make things interesting, this tournament ends with Sora getting a chance to fight the big man himself, Hercules. The Hercules Cup tries to live up to the hype, throwing both Hercules and a midboss at you before the cup is over.
Yes, halfway through the cup, there’s another boss on top of the fight with Hercules at the top slot. There’s also a pointless fight elsewhere in the tournament where you “battle” a Rare Truffle. …It can’t hurt you! And it can’t drop its prizes! Oh, sure, they can give you EXP, but that doesn’t seem important in the middle of the tournament? My guess is that the tournaments seed the Rare Truffle to inform you that it exists in case you’ve never found one in the wild.
The midboss is Cloud. You haven’t seen Cloud since the preliminaries, and you’ll be sad to learn that not only have his stats been tweaked to your new level, but he has new techniques and more importantly, this time you have to actually win. If all you can remember about Cloud is him thrashing you in the prelims, he’s really not that bad any more. High Jump and Glide will make it easier to avoid Sonic Blade (hell, Glide’s great at dodging attacks in general), and Cloud doesn’t defend himself very well. He does have one new attack to watch out for, however: his infamous Omnislash, which in this game manifests as him flying around (wing now visible), invulnerable for the duration of his Limit Break. He’ll start using it once he hits half health or so. Beating Cloud will nets you a prize all its own: he gives you the Metal Chocobo keychain as a memento. This heavy-hitting, Buster Sword-looking blade is honestly kind of awful (especially once you get the very next Keyblade, which is just a better version of the Metal Chocobo), with a terrible crit rate and a -1 to your MP, but if you’re willing to take two negatives for one positive…
Hercules himself is a pushover. I’d even go so far as to call him an infamous pushover, since he seems to have garnered something of a reputation. Sora insists of doing the fight solo, half out of pride and half because the devs realized Donald and Goofy would get in the way of this fight’s central element: throwin’ barrels! I know I always feel the urge to go Donkey Kong when I fight a demigod. Hercules often takes on this golden, godlike glow during the fight, which causes him to become invincible. This invincibility makes him cocky, and for the duration of the glow he’ll barely attack, just standing around flexing instead of pressing the advantage. At the same time, barrels appear from nowhere, because this is a video game. By picking them up and hurling them in Hercules’ face, he’ll become vulnerable, and the real fighting will begin. Please keep in mind that “the real fighting” involves Hercules spinning like a top with a tiny sword. I’m not sure how to excuse that one, but my ultimate point is: Herc’s not that hard.
After this tournament you get a cutscene, which actually has an extremely obscure change depending on whether you beat the previous tournaments first. If you have beaten the Phil and Pegasus Cups, Hercules will declare that he “didn’t even hold back!” implying that if you had gone to the Hercules Cup first, he… would have held back? It doesn’t seem the gameplay changes in any way! I guess they didn’t want Hercules to be a jerk about going all-out on you for no reason, but that’s a lot of effort for a single line of text. The rest of the cutscene involves Sora making a speech about his how friends make him strong, which is completely unprovoked. Phil is just as confused as me (and says a few lines of dialogue with his mouth wide open?). The speech is just sort of… here? It might have made more sense if the Hercules Cup had taken place after a certain other scene at Hollow Bastion, which does justify a friendship speech, but nope!
What’s the prize for beating the son of Zeus one-on-one? For starters, it helps you unlock the last tournament, because ha, ha, fooled you, there’s really four, and you need to beat the first three to trigger the last. But it’s much more than that. Firstly, you get Hercules’ Shield as a weapon for Goofy. Next, you get the Yellow Trinity: Trinity Push. This is no mean prize. Remember the pillar Phil asked you to move when you first arrived? Using Trinity Push on the pillar will reveal nothing short the Keyhole for Olympus Coliseum, a complete surprise. Since you need to seal each world to get the Secret Endings, don’t leave the room without tending to the Trinity, first!
The Yellow Trinity also helps you unlock the first Aero upgrade, Aerora, should you unlock a certain door on Neverland. Aerora is invaluable in the sections to follow, and shouldn’t be missed.
Lastly, if you’ve beaten every tournament so far, you’ll get yet another Keyblade: the Olympia. Yup, when I was talking about the “very next” Keyblade to Cloud’s Metal Chocobo, I secretly meant “five rounds from now.” The Olympia makes a fool of the Metal Chocobo with its lack of MP penalty, but I believe it’s a little shorter than Cloud’s blade. Honestly, you’re in a stretch of the game where the weapons are so similar that it’s all going to come down to preference.
With Olympus Coliseum wrapped up with a bow, it’s time for me to make my excuses. The next world is an entirely different beast, the beginning of the final arc, and I’m going to be putting it off as long as possible. Erm, I mean… it pays to be prepared, so we’re going to do some prep! Someone’s gonna bleed before this is over, and if you’re not ready, it’s going to be your poor fingers.