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!
The Hades Cup needs three listings worth of sign space to talk about all the entrants. There are fifty rounds in the Hades Cup. Thankfully, any attempt to do the normal cup or the solo cup give you checkpoints every ten rounds. But god help you in the time trials, which is 50 rounds in twenty minutes or bust. You’ll need a good mix of magic and strategy for that one, and might I recommend the Ultima Keyblade? Be aware you can’t get the Ultima without visiting the final world (and in Final Mix, you must go all the way to the last room thanks to a synthesis Heartless), but it’ll be worth it.
There are also bosses guarding each checkpoint, and a few extra just to ruin your day. Yuffie shows up early on at seed 44, and gives Goofy the Genji Shield if you beat her. The Genji equipment is a high-level equipment set from Final Fantasy, late game but not best-of-the-best, and it’s always a friendly face… even if you can do better for Goofy through other side-quests.
The boss of the first ten seeds is a… Behemoth? Unchanged? Its stats have been modified a little, but that’s it. In Final Mix they recoloured it with flames so it goes faster (just kidding, it’s as dull as ever) and called it a “Destroyed Behemoth,” but it’s still pretty much the same. Beating the Destroyed Behemoth gets you the Blizzaga upgrade, which feels overdue at this point.
Cerberus guards the next ten seeds, and he’s in perfect shape this time around. Glide is helpful for avoiding his vomit attack, but little else has changed. He upgrades Thundara to Thundaga.
Seeds 29 to 20 introduce a new idea to the tournament: question mark rounds. During these rounds, enemies keep coming in multiple waves. Wait, did I say “new idea?” I mean “the way enemies behave in every other part of the game” and I can’t believe they’re trying to pass it off like a gimmick. These rounds can frustrate in a time trial (especially because they consist mostly of Purebloods that can go invincible on you), but just keep in mind that the time trial was planned this way so you’ll probably be fine.
The boss of the 20th seed is Cloud and Leon as a team. You’ll want to take down Cloud first. Leon’s too nonchalant to chase you down at first, but once he uses his limit break, his attack range doubles and he’ll willing to run around, and you don’t want that. Beating them gets you the Lionheart keychain from Leon, a Keyblade that’s just the Oathkeeper with a few minor differences. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s probably better than the Oathkeeper, since it’s the only late-game, long-length Keyblade isn’t the Oblivion or Ultima Weapon, but the Oathkeeper does have better crit and MP.
The next block of ten introduces Heartless from the final world, but I’m going to put them off until we are addressing the final world proper. Hades is waiting at the tenth seed. Yes, I know, I figured he’d be in the final seed, but that’s now how Kingdom Hearts wants to play it. You actually get a brief cutscene with him the first time you fight him and the first time you beat him, so at least they acknowledge that he was part of the plot at some point, even if he’s just a minor tournament foe in practice.
Hades is a bit of a pain. He’s the latest in a long series of bosses Donald and Goofy aren’t equipped to deal with, so you’ll spend much of the fight solo (or healing them, which I don’t recommend). The problem is yet another area attack: Hades jets flame from his arms and rotates to cover the entire arena. As Sora, it’s just a matter of finding which way he moves and then moving around him, but Donald and Goofy will never do that and will get roasted. The rest of your accidental solo run will involve you dealing with Hades’ two “forms”: the one with blue fire and the one with red. Blue’s got a flamethrower attack you should probably interrupt with Blizzaga if you can help it (any impact will do it, but he’s weak against ice), while Red likes to throw fireballs at you that you can reflect for a fair amount of damage and stun time. Hades’ biggest threat is that you go into the battle not knowing his pattern (unlike these other refight bosses), so if you lose you have start the last ten seeds again. Keep your cool you’ll have no trouble, even if Donald and Goofy aren’t so lucky.
Beating Hades starts a cutscene where he’s knocked through a door at the back of the arena, and he’s attacked by… something. The Heartless? Leon, Yuffie and Cloud, tired of fighting three times in every tournament against Sora at level 82? It’s obviously supposed to echo the ending of Hercules where he was attacked by souls, but it’s unclear what’s going on. Winning gets you Graviga and also the final Ansem report, though you’ll have to finish up or lose the tournament before you can read it.
The true final challenge in the tournament is seed #2, “The Final Battalion.” This is a multi-round fight against the Heartless from the final world. It the real final battle for time trailers. Once they’re gone, it’s time for the Final Seed, and a big surprise. A biiiig surprise. A biiiiiiiiiiiiiiii—It’s a Titan, the joke is that it’s a Titan.
The Rock Titan is… the easiest boss in the entire tournament. I’d critique, but after 49 rounds I’m just grateful. His Hugeness can only hurt you by stomping and occasionally stomping harder. You just wail on its feet until it falls down, and you hope it doesn’t fall on your head. Try attacking from the side. Once it does fall (no, I wasn’t kidding about that), climb up and hit its faces. Aeroga is helpful here to block against his infrequent counter attacks. And I don’t mean “helpful” in the sense of him being hard and this reducing the difficulty, I mean “helpful” in how it saves you from having to do anything but button mash. Byyyye!
The prize for winning the Hades Cup (beyond it being a requirement for the Secret Ending), is Trinity Limit, a special attack of Sora’s that calls on power from Donald, Goofy, and all Sora’s remaining MP to wipe out a room of Heartless. There are really better ways to do stuff like that so I typically think Trinity Limit is a waste of time, but Trinity Limit does guarantee drops from Black Fungi if they don’t go invincible during the extended attack animation. They will, I promise, but I feel it’s the best odds you’re going to get. Beating the Solo and Time Trial challenges unlocks special weapons for Donald and Goofy: Save the Queen, a long-running Final Fantasy weapon, and Save the King, a companion for Goofy in this game about saving a King.
Ansem Report 8 is interesting. It reveals that Ansem constructed a machine to create artificial Heartless: Heartless not created by immersing a living heart in darkness. These artificial heartless are similar to the original, so Ansem decided to mark them to tell them apart: the artificial Heartless are the ones bearing emblems, ie: most of them. 358/2 Days addresses these Heartless as “Emblem Heartless,” so that’s what I’m going to use as well. The Emblems are far more common than the others (“Pureblooded Heartless,” Shadows and Darkballs and Darksides), and have since gone on to pick up weapons and talents from their local world. I think we can say that Ansem’s little Heartless machine is responsible for most of the damage that’s gone on in the game so far!
It’s not worth it.
But okay, here we go.
To begin, if you’re playing the PS2 version of Final Mix, the only prize you’re going to get for doing the Gummi Missions are custom, weird parts for your ship, and pride suffocated by frustration. The reason I imagine most players would want to do the Gummi Missions is completionism, or because the PS3 version has Trophies. Several of these Trophies are easy to grab, and any casual Trophy collector should be happy to get a handful. It’s the last one, “Gummi Ship Collector,” that’s going to drive you up the wall.
Gummi Ship Collector is the reward for getting every Gummi Blueprint in the game. This involves four steps, and it’s the fourth that will kill ya:
- Defeat each the Heartless Gummi enemies, each named after Final Fantasy monsters and bosses, and hope they randomly drop a Blueprint, which appears as a circular item. You must collect the Blueprint, and then complete the course or it doesn’t count. Most of these will come naturally as you play through the game and missions, but there may be a few stragglers. Though it’s dull, save this for last so that you can pick up as many accidents as possible.
- Speak to Geppetto after defeating certain numbers of Heartless in the main game (not Gummi Mode). You get the last Blueprint, Hyperion, after you have defeated 5000 Heartless and, for some reason, have collected all the Summons. This requirement makes it appealing to get the Gummi trophies in the same folder you use to get the Level 99 trophy.
- Do that stupid trick where you enter and re-enter Geppetto’s house 30 times to get the Chocobo blueprint from Pinocchio.
- Complete every single Gummi Mission, unlocking a large number of Blueprints. After the final mission, check any Mission screen (press Triangle on the map) to get the Bahamut Blueprint from Chip and Dale.
I’m not going to provide a very comprehensive commentary for the Gummi Missions, but since I’ve done them now in 1.5, I feel it wouldn’t be right of me to just forget about them entirely. I have to explain, if nothing else, why this is so painful. So here we go. The last optional challenge in KH1. Or rather, the last you’ll want to do.
To begin, for all the complaints I’ve made, Gummi mode will start to make sense after a while. Or at least some parts will make sense, and you’ll be able to cheese your way past the parts that don’t. Even the terrible ship editor will become weirdly intuitive, given time. You’ll quickly find that unless the mission orders you to do otherwise, you can easily build an end-game Gummi ship that’s functionally invincible, and as you can imagine that helps a great deal. Walkthroughs will help you out in missions where you can’t take your Invinciship. And I mean that, by the way: find a walkthrough. I don’t care how hardcore a gamer you are. This mode is exacting, unfair, and unless you’ve got lucky tastes, boring. Some of these missions are designed to wrench your arm. Get a good guide and get it over with.
What you will find is that Missions are filled with new irritants for you to hate from moment one. For example, when coming out of a portal on subsequent trips, the game will ask you to turn right and left. You have to know ahead of time if the mission’s destination is left or right, because the game won’t say. You might fail the whole mission because of a brief moment of forgetfulness, or because you used a Haste Gummi to speed up at just before the turn. And then there’s the Monstro issue, where he might gobble you up mid-mission. You’ll end up just wishing the damn game had a way to turn on some kind of “mission mode” that would set your route in stone and cover you with whale repellent. Since that doesn’t exist, I recommend you put Monstro on the route between Agrabah and Halloween Town, since that route has simpler missions, but it may be too late.
If we’re going to talk Gummi Missions, it’s probably best that I talk basics. For starters, when you’re on a planet reading about its missions, they’re talking about using this planet as a destination, not a starting point, which is yet another in a very long list of things that the game never explains. Unless the mission specifies a starting location, you can start from anywhere so long as it has a connection to your destination, and more often than not, it’s easier to beat the mission by finding the longest route possible. Sora will stop the ship at the first world he comes to, but there are some long routes you might not have considered. For example, later in the game you can use the second portal to Hollow Bastion to fly to or from Olympus Coliseum to Neverland, probably the longest route in the game.
To complete your missions, you’re going to need a combination of score, collectables, or Gummi construction. Your score is the combination of everything on the list that appears on the right in Gummi Mode: Heartless downed, obstacles destroyed, and stuff grabbed. Because Heartless and many obstacles drop items, you can nearly double your score by nabbing the pickups as you indiscriminately destroy, so it pays to take the Drain Gummi and to enlarge your hit box, no matter the danger. To get a higher score, you’ll want a slow ship and will probably spend all your time holding the brakes. It makes for a cramped hand.
There, I just talked you through more than half of the missions: slow down, use Drain, numb your tendons.
Unfortunately, not every mission cares about score, and even those that do aren’t necessarily focused on it. Most of the ones that will stick in your craw are about really particular requests, and a lot of that comes down to Gummi construction. The rules of how the Gummi ship operates are terribly outlined both in the game and, frankly, a lot of places online. I don’t purport to be a walkthrough, though I might stray in that direction from time to time, but here are some of the major guidelines, if only so I can critique Gummi Missions themselves while I’m at it.
First off: the game doesn’t care how the ship looks. How could it? This is a side-mode from 2002. Three years earlier, Alpha Centauri let me put a city-sized colony pod on top of a bicycle. You have to let that sink in: the game does not care. If you put five wings stacked on top of each other, floating out in nowhere four blocks left and three blocks below the actual ship, the game will say “Wow, five wings, you’re going to be super aerodynamic!” It’s for the best. Ironically, considering that all the prizes are decorative gummis, but the missions don’t give you any room for arts and crafts. You’re going to build something ruthless, efficient and probably comical, or you’re not going to make it through the missions at all. Here’s a look at some construction strategies I find notable.
Consider the engines. You must have at least one engine, max six, and in spite of my joking above, the game does care about how the engines are placed: they have to be facing the back. They can fire their exhaust directly into the windshield, but god forbid they face the sides! Engines determine how quickly you get through the route. It seems multiple engines do speed you up, but you’ll see far more significant differences from the bigger engines, even if you just upgrade one. In most missions, you’ll want to go as slowly as you can manage without boring yourself to death. There are few missions where you’ll want to go quickly, but otherwise…
You can stock up to ten guns, and normally should. The descriptions for the guns is particularly misleading: the game makes it seem like the Thunder, Thundara and Thundaga blasters are just stronger versions of one another, but that’s simply not true. The Thunder cannon is forward shooting, the Thundara is a split shot that doesn’t shoot forward, and the Thundaga is a slow, impractical missile launcher you’ll need to kill a few high-HP Heartless. Their companions are the three lasers, named after Final Fantasy uber-spells Comet, Meteor and Ultima. These are ranked versions of the same weapon: the higher levels home in on targets and will rebound into additional targets. Lasers will cost you some of the ship’s energy, as shown by the MP bar.
The remaining gummis are decorative (the ones you win from these very missions) and special, and I’m too bored to deal with the rest of them, with one exception: The Transform gummi. The Transform gummi is the secret to your success in the hardest missions. By setting up this gummi in the menu, you can transform between one ship and another at the cost of 1MP. This transformation also makes you invincible for a stretch… which is the real reason you’re using it. Forget bringing two different gummi ships to do two different things! Just “transform” between two copies of the same ship, and jam Transform when you’re in trouble. Just make sure you aren’t braking or accelerating at the time, since the game won’t let you do that.
I did actually write a summary of the game’s worst missions, but it just wasn’t fun reading, so I cropped the lot. A walkthrough will do you better than me. Just be aware that the trophy for getting all the Blueprints is a Bronze. You’ll get a few others along the way, but it will take hours and hours of frustration from there to get Gummi Ship Collector, and it’s a Bronze. Everyone knows that the trophy is really just the Platinum trophy in disguise (the Plat is for getting all trophies), but the fact that it’s a Bronze is a warning that it’s just not worth it, if you hadn’t believed me already.
One of my biggest problems with Gummi Missions is the fact that they just aren’t justified in the narrative. Who in-universe cares that you do these things? Presumably these missions are being set by Chip and Dale, since they award you the Bahamut Blueprint. If they just wanted you to fly some stunts, I suppose that would be fine on the tracks where you’re functionally invincible, but once you’ve failed a mission twelve times in a row, you begin to question why you’re being forced to fly a suicide pod up and down the most dangerous gummi route in the entire game without killing a single Heartless. We’re not fighting them! It’s not even breaking their infrastructure! Any KH game that wants you to complete Jiminy’s Journal typically has the same problem. I got around to playing Arkham Knight some time after writing this, and fell in love with the fact that they side-line all these arbitrary challenges as Augmented Reality training. There: the reason you’re doing it is because Batman is practising. Fantastic. That’s all I needed.
Now: I don’t want to say that everything a game does has to have some sort of plot importance behind it. The issue is more that Gummi Mode lacks in gameplay value in general, and this is the nasty icing. Gummi mode lacks almost anything that could be considered valuable in a game unless you happen to find it fun in the first place. Most players don’t find it fun, and it certainly wasn’t shooting for insight or art. It’s mechanically weak, and that’s a problem that just gets worse as you repeat segments. It even threatens to damage your hand! At that stage, one begins to look for excuses, either to fault the game or to continue playing. And that’s what makes this the icing: not only does gummi mode stink, but your characters don’t want to do it, either! It’s like playing Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing and then discovering the digital truck drivers hate their jobs. It starts to cross the line from shitty into spiteful. And sadly, this isn’t the last we’re going to be hearing about a complaint like that.
This retrospective’s screenshots come from Spazbo4’s longplay of the PS3, 1.5 HD version of Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix at World of Longplays (YouTube), and RickyC’s longplay of the PS2, western Vanilla version of Kingdom Hearts 1, also at World of Longplays (YouTube).