Even if you’re excited to rush back to old worlds to find the rest of the games’ secrets, there’s a save point in the next room, so you may as well continue. For the time being, the Heartless seem to be leaving you alone, giving you a chance to explore the nearby rooms. Riku has slipped past you through a door with a Heartless emblem-shaped indentation, which is now locked. Through the only other door, you discover the castle’s library. Careful observers will realize it is the one from the vision of Kairi and the older woman. Hollow Bastion is Kairi’s homeworld.
Unfortunately for you, you can’t seem to read the text in any of the books, but you can read the spines, and quickly discover that several displaced books trigger secret passages. You’ll have to put the books back on their proper shelves to trigger the doors: Kingdom Hearts: Librarian Simulator! Some open true secret areas with bonus prizes, while others exist to re-open doors you’ve closed until the library is fully open! Also, in a clever bit, it’s possible to get “trapped” in a section of the maze when it’s first set up (if you’re really stubborn and jump into the box from the balcony), so the game provides a wholly optional and missable way to get out!
As you search the room, you’ll find that save point I mentioned on the balcony, so this marks as good a place as ever to jump back to old worlds with Trinity Detect. As a result, I should probably mention the best Trinity Detect prize you can find on the old worlds. The best of all is a whole new Keyblade from Wonderland! This is the Lady Luck, a magic-heavy Keyblade, hidden past a number of irritating Wonderland secret passages. Why they locked up the second world’s Keyblade at the ass-end of the game, I still don’t really know, but high-level prizes are always a joy so I think it edges out in the game’s favour. You can also get Donald’s Violetta at Olympus Coliseum, but that’s a lot less remarkable.
Once you get back, a careful search of the library will find you an Emblem Pieces that goes into the indentation in the main hall, but you’re going to need three more. The rest are found in the second storey of the entrance hall, found by solving some rudimentary Zelda puzzles. I’m serious, there’s block pushing and torch lighting, it couldn’t be more Zelda if they threw in fairies. One of these puzzles as you to cast Thunder to unlock the way to a centre platform, which has convinced some players that Thunder is necessary to beat the game even in speed runs, but I promise: you can glide to the platform if you absolutely must.
By searching the Library, you can also find an entrance to a series of magical platform elevators that weave through Hollow Bastion. Coming here lets you control one of the later elevators, setting up a boring, drawn-out elevator puzzle you can’t solve until later in the dungeon. Final Mix had the dignity to give the puzzle a better prize for all this boredom. The original game tried to pass off a gummi weapon as an acceptable prize! Do you have any idea how few gummi sections are left in the entire game?
Once you place the pieces in the Emblem indentation, be ready. After you do so, the game will give you a cutscene with Riku, and then the gloves come off and Hollow Bastion’s true Heartless will come after you. But let’s talk about the cutscene first. In it, we see Riku is running down a hallway, when he crosses a figure we have not seen in some time: the cloaked figure that spoke to Sora by the Keyhole in Destiny Islands. The figure says that the Keyblade chose Sora because, in that moment, his heart was stronger than Riku’s. He adds that Riku’s can become stronger again by: “Plung[ing] deeper into the darkness.” Desperate, Riku asks for more information. “It’s really quite simple,” says the cloaked figure. “Open yourself to the darkness. That is all. Let your heart, your being, become darkness itself.” These are definitely the words of someone you should trust.
Back on the first floor, the Heartless are cut loose, and it’s a heavy brawl the rest of the way to the top of the castle. Between here and the top are numerous elevators, platforms and blocks you’ll have to deal with, along with three new Heartless, not to forget the zoo full of Heartless following you from earlier worlds.
First up is the Defender. This final upgrade of the Large Body carries a giant lion-faced shield that protects it from most magic, though not Gravity, so that old strategy continues to work. It can also cast the three main Final Fantasy spells, Fire, Blizzard and Thunder, in its own special variants, and is more intelligent than the Large Body and Fat Bandit. If you beat it, it can rarely drop the Defender shield for Goofy, which is great if you’re looking for the achievement for completing the weapon collection. If you are looking for that achievement, I recommend hunting them in Traverse Town’s Third District later in the game, after enemy layouts are shaken up to provide an appropriate late-game challenge.
The next Heart is the Wyverns, large flying enemies that roost on the outside-facing parts of the castle. They’re not as dangerous as the other new Heartless, but like the Gargoyles at Halloween Town, have a way of luring you over the edge of a platform so that you drop down and have to climb back up. They also have a lot of HP, so the urge to chase them and do a little more damage can be an overpowering. Don’t let the game win!
Last is the Wizard, the worst of them all. Like the original PS2 Anti-Sora, the Wizard simply spends too much time invincible for my liking, but this time it’s a problem in both versions. They have a defensive teleport it will use if chased down or caught by a dangerous spell (like Gravity), and they absorb the three main elemental spells entirely. They also have a large number of their own spells, both smaller and larger variants, and their long-term Thunder variant makes them invincible while they’re casting it! They’re more irritating than threatening. Like Defenders, Wizard drop a staff for Donald, and it’s just as rare as Goofy’s shield. It may even be rarer under a microscope, but that’s just a guess on my part (you see: more Wizards show up after the upcoming enemy shake-up than Defenders, so it would make sense to adjust the odds).
The climb up Hollow Bastion is dotted with quick puzzles, as well as chests on floating platforms you can drop to the ground with Gravity. The first quick puzzle is a big floating platform you have to use at one point in the climb, only for Heartless to stop the platform mid-way through its route to ambush you. The biggest puzzle is a pair of gargantuan blocks you can move into various positions using switches that are nowhere near one another. If you’re like me, you’ll be glad once the climb is over. But I’ve got an ugly surprise for any 1.5HD players going for the Unbeatable trophy. You know, the Trophy where you can’t ever hit Continue after losing a battle? The trouble is: there’s no save point between the Library and the next boss. That’s more ground covered without a save point than any other point in the game. If you lose to the next boss and are going for this Achievement, you’ll have to replay the half the entire world. Unless you’re doing the speed run at the same time (you poor fool), I recommend solving the block puzzle and going all the way back to the library to save!
Finally, you reach the inner sanctum and get another cutscene. Back in the Great Hall (the room with the Princesses and the smoky Heartless emblem), Maleficent is met by Riku, whose voice has become strangely distorted. They are standing on the platform before the Heartless emblem, and begin to discuss the path to the “Keyhole to the Darkness” that Maleficent has opened with the help of the Princesses. “Unlock it,” Riku says, “and the Heartless will overrun this world.” He seems to be relishing the idea, but Maleficent mistakes this for a warning, saying “The darkness holds no power over me. Rather, I will use its power to rule all worlds.”
We then get a confusing sequence. Riku reaches out his hand and summons a new Keyblade. While Maleficent admires it at first, she soon scoffs, and says: “The princesses are all here!” in a way that implies she’s confused. Is she asking about the Keyblade? Because I have questions about that Keyblade like, for example: the hell did you get a Keyblade, man?
While the game isn’t about to explain Riku’s Keyblade, after all these years I think I understand how the scene is supposed to be read: Maleficent sees Riku has the Keyblade, doesn’t question it for some reason (perhaps assuming he stole it from Sora?), and then sees that the Keyblade is not reacting to the Keyhole. This confirms to her that she hasn’t successfully formed the Keyhole, even though “The princesses are all here!” She turns around, revealing Kairi still comatose on the ground. “It must be her,” she says. Creepy Riku agrees. “Without her heart, she will never be able to release her power.” If you aren’t catching on to what they’re saying, the game will make it clear in a few minutes.
Responding to a noise in the distance, Maleficent addresses your arrival by saying “The king’s fools are there.” The delivery on that line is great, she’s so disdained and unconcerned. She chooses to go after Sora and the gang herself, even though she could have just as easily sent Riku. I can’t really work out her reasoning on that, but here we go. It’s time to take on the big boss herself.
Maleficent appears to intercept Sora and the others in a dark Chapel – the room where she was holding her Council meetings earlier in the game. “I’m afraid you’re too late,” says Maleficent to Sora, Donald and Goofy, even though the player knows that she’s lying. I suspect most villains are lying when they say “You’re too late,” but this is even more pathetic than usual! With a few more taunts, Maleficent and Sora being their long-awaited battle.
The fight against Maleficent is kind of tricky. Maleficent rises up on the altar stone she was using as a table earlier in the game, and flies up and down the hall casting spells and summoning Heartless – Defenders, mostly. These Heartless will probably distract Donald and Goofy, so make sure to employ Triangle to keep them focused on the boss when you need their help. Or don’t, if you’d rather they keep the Heartless distracted while you do the real work.
You can’t easily climb up on Maleficent’s platform (I used to think it couldn’t be done at all, but apparently there’s a trick to it!), so at first glance you have no choice but to attack the platform directly. It has a short health bar and the game isn’t asking much of you, so it’s hardly unreasonable to assume that’s the only way to go. But if you think back to the world you just cleared, you might realize there may be another way to bring it down: like the floating chests that scatter Hollow Bastion, it’s possible to down Maleficent with a single casting of Gravity! Once she’s down on the ground, you can attack her directly, but she’s got one last major trick up her sleeve: she hits like a pit fighter! Maleficent has one of the single heaviest close combat attacks you’ve encountered so far, as she decks you with her staff, Gandalf-style. This attack even has heavy knockback, designed to blow you off the platform. She uses it even more often after she gets the platform back in the air. When in doubt, make your boss a black belt, eh 80s game developers? …What? This was developed when?
If you keep Aero active, you’ll nullify both Maleficent’s close-range attack and the knockback, Maleficent won’t even be able to get you off her platform so long as you keep the spell alive. Between that and Gravity, you can overcome the Mistress of All Evil without much trouble at all. She limps off through a portal of darkness, clutching her chest. It’s strangely visceral for Kingdom Hearts: it’s clear you’ve actually done her damage and she’s fleeing from you for her life. It’s even a little dark that you choose to chase her down when she’s in that condition. Remember when you thrashed Clayton within an inch of his life but he didn’t show a sign of his injuries until a lizard the size of a dump truck dropped on his head? The Hit Point system has mislead us!
Defeating the dark fairy also gets you Ansem Report 5. In a nice touch, this one even makes sense for Maleficent to carry around: it tells of how Ansem studied a Shadow and followed it into the depths of his castle, where he found the Door he keeps talking about, possibly – though not certainly – the one Maleficent is trying to open now (alternately, he could be talking about the door to Hollow Bastion’s heart and not this ur-Keyhole Maleficent is trying to open. The game isn’t really clear on whether or not they’re the same or different things to begin with). The door “had a large keyhole, but didn’t seem to be locked.” He opened it, and says he saw a “powerful mass of energy.” Later that night there was a meteor shower, and he found the Gummis two reports later. Coincidence?
You get a save point for clearing the fight, though there’s no sign of a door to the Great Hall. You have no choice but to use the portal Maleficent left open behind her. It would be pretty malicious for you to chase down an injured old woman in hopes of killing her while she can’t defend herself, but you’re a video game hero, so I guess we’ve got to do what we’re told. Sora and the others chase Maleficent through the portal, where Creepy Riku has arrived to check on her. Sora asks about Riku’s new Keyblade, and Riku says that unlike the Kingdom Key, his Keyblade can “unlock people’s hearts.” And without further ado, he stabs Maleficent.
Riku orders Maleficent to surrender her heart to the darkness, something she had always so adamantly resisted and cautioned others against. He then releases her and leaves her behind, Maleficent’s heart exposed and glowing. Maleficent begins to babble, saying something about “the true darkness!” She is then enveloped in green flame, transforming into the great black dragon from the film.
So like, how are you folks out there in the audience? Enjoying the game? Nice childhood memories for some, maybe some interesting bits for new players? Yeah? It sure would be a shame if the game suddenly cranked the difficulty up to twelve and started cackling. Yup. That would be a shame.
The Maleficent Dragon fight is defined by one simple word: fire. Maleficent constantly breaths green flame about the battlefield, in between bites and swings of her tail. The flame stays behind on the field after it lands, so if you stick in one place for too long, you’ll soon be engulfed in the stuff, and it’s going to cost your health bar. Reader LightUpTheSky tells me you can walk on the thorns surrounding the arena to avoid the fire, while my personal strategy is to cast Aero, Summon Tinker Bell, and never, ever stay too long in one place. Move around, move a fair distance away to get away from the flames, and hope Maleficent both follows you and doesn’t breathe more flame immediately. She’s in the centre of the arena, so it’s easy to circle around her and she usually does follow you after a while. If she’s distracted by Donald or Goofy, don’t worry! They’ll drop dead from the fire and biting soon, so I suppose everything works out your way! I wish I was kidding. I’m kidding a little. But not enough for my comfort. Don’t even think of bringing Beast. Did I mention that Maleficent has more HP than any other foe to date by a huge degree? Sheesh, at least Final Mix players might have Leaf Bracer by now. You’re going to wish you did. Air Combo Plus, too.
There’s one other tactic I’ve come up with in the past, but first you have to understand how HP is conveyed in Kingdom Hearts via the Scan ability. Health bars in Kingdom Hearts are peculiar: they represent a set amount of HP. Once a foe has more HP than the bar, they gain a “second” health bar, which in KH1 is overlayed over the first in a different colour. Green, then Yellow, and so on. After a certain number of health bars (five, I believe), the game just stops displaying extra health until you’ve depleted enough for it to show. KH2 would fix this problem by cribbing a solution from forgotten Final Fantasy spinoff Mystic Quest, and showing little blocks under the health bar to represent extra bars. But for now we have colours.
This is my secret strategy: once Maleficent is on her last, green health bar, she will be going berserk with fire and attacks. Thankfully, I can guarantee you a way out, if you’ve got a good MP stat and all three Cheer skills in place (Donald should have just gotten his after clearing Maleficent’s first form). It’s easy: Summon Dumbo. Oh, sure, there’s the trouble that you’ve currently got Tinker Bell summoned, but this is solid, I promise. Once you’ve summoned Dumbo, just flap up a bit and hose her in the face, like a cartoon firefighter fighting… well, a dragon. I’ve found, with three Cheers and good MP for damage, you should be able to drain the entire green health bar and skip the worst part of the fight, guaranteed.
When Maleficent is defeated, that omnipresent green fire consumes her, seemingly from the inside out. It looks like a horrible way to go, even for our central villainess. Riku shows up to announce that the Heartless were just using Maleficent, but he does not say for what end, and it’s a strange thing to say, because remember that the Heartless have never shown any guiding intelligence of their own. It’s one of their defining characteristics! They’re more like an army of… cats, or evil children. Something is up. From the ashes, you collect the final Summon stone: the Fireglow gem. Maleficent’s confederacy is shattered, reduced to Hades and his personal interests in Olympus Coliseum. All that’s left now is Riku, and his weird voice change.