Kingdom Hearts 1 – In the beginning, there was only the Void…

kh1-2015-08-28-17h37m14s754After 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.

kh1-2015-08-28-17h38m56s458The first room opens with a tunnel that tapers off into… space. There is a bright light in the distance: the Gate to the Dark. The trio take a look around, and can’t help but discuss what will happen to them when everything is restored to normal. Goofy, very matter-of-fact, says the whole planet will probably disappear, since it’s not supposed to exist, though he feels they’ll be fine. When Goofy asks where Ansem went, Donald replies: “Dive into the most dangerous place and we’ll find him!” Good genre awareness, Mr. Duck. And that’s the last conversation we’ll hear practically until the end of the game, not to imply there’s no content.

The trouble starts just a few steps into the void, where you find a triangular island floating in space with a chest atop. Gaming veterans know the arrow means a maze and a chest in an open room means a trap, but go ahead, open the chest. The nature of the trap will be a surprise to everyone.

When you open the chest, you see an explosion of darkness comes out, and reveals the walls of the hidden maze that actually fill the room. It also reveals a troop of Heartless, and it’s time to lock blades with the elite. The game has some ugly surprises left, that’s for certain.

kh1-2015-08-28-17h41m28s643The first of these unpleasantries is the Invisible. Thankfully not truly invisible, these demon-like figures are Pureblooded Heartless that will topple your assumptions about Purebloods being shitty rank-and-file nobodies like the Shadows and Darkballs. While the Invisibles will occasionally strike out with their giant swords, or spread a barrage of dark energy, but that’s a luxury. The real trouble with these things is when they really do go invisible. Like the other Purebloods, Invincibles can sink into nowhere, but this is an offensive technique for the Invisibles. While cloaked, they go to Sora and surround him a ring of dark fire that tightens after a while. You can only dodge them with a perfectly timed dodge roll, jump or plunge – but don’t get caught at the peak of your jump or they’ll hit you! The amount of time wasted by this attack is murder in the Hades Cup, but it’s frustrating and dangerous no matter where you are, when half of your opponents can’t be hurt but are still attacking you!

kh1-2015-08-28-17h41m36s442The second is the last Emblem Heartless: the Angel Star.  The angel/devil dichotomy with the Invisibles is probably not unintended. Shaped like a strange capsule with a double set of angel wings, the Angel Stars are capable of going invincible with a magical shield, and they’re very good at staying in the distance. On top of this, they’re immune to all spells but Gravity, like the Wizards. And because they can fly high, they’re so much more annoying about it than the Wizards, and I hate the Wizards! I suppose you could say the Angel Stars are defense-focused more than the Wizard’s relatively harmless offence-focus. You’ll notice that both End of the World enemies employ a sort of stall tactics which complement each other (the Angel Star gives the Invisible extra time to attack). The net effect is dangerous.

The music here is Destati, the theme of the opening Dive to the Heart, to tie us back to the beginning.

As you navigate the maze using the arrow-shaped islands, you’ll find more trapped boxes. Oddly enough, some of the chests contain Pretty Stones, something you haven’t seen in a box since Destiny Islands. It’s hard to tell if the implication is that the Stones came to Destiny Islands thanks to the Heartless, or if the Stones have come to the End of the World from the Islands.

The most irritating part about this section, however, hits about half-way through. The whole time you’ve been navigating the maze, you’ve been watching great spheres of Darkness, like the one that destroyed Destiny Islands, falling past you. Part way through the maze, one of the spheres from this dark rain falls on top of you, and reveals another combat: a Be—are you kidding, seriously?

kh1-2015-08-28-17h40m57s008It’s the third Behemoth you’ve fought so far! This one is blue in Final Mix (the “Arch Behemoth”) and the weakest one so far, but boy is it no less tedious. At least its HP is the lowest of the set, so that we can push through and move onaaaaarrrrrRRRRGGGGGHH!

Yes, there is a fourth Behemoth, another Arc Behemoth, and this one is mandatory each and every time you want to move on to the next room. By the way, this is the recurring boss that dropped Orichalcums in the PS2 version. Delightful. And if you were wondering, I suspect that this is why the Behemoth is an underwhelming boss in the first place: so that you could fight it four or more times. Fantastic.

kh1-2015-08-28-17h43m56s459The next room in the world is the Great Crevasse, and amalgam of land and Gummi bocks, as well as some strange webbing. It’s easy to bypass this entire room, the exit being a bright hole in the base of the Crevasse with no obstacles between you and it, but explorers will find a good number of usable Gummis in the Vanilla release. This makes a lot of sense for the room, but the Final Mix devs realized many players had the Dalmatian gift of a complete gummi set at this point in the game, and couldn’t even open these chests!  As a result, they changed most of the boxes into other useful prizes. They went so far as to give Donald a new Staff here, the Meteor Strike. You’ll have to fight Heartless to find some of the prizes, and they’re set fights that I never even knew existed until I played 1.5, because it was obvious all the chests were gummis and I had no interest in opening them! There’s a game design lesson for you: the value of a shitty prize is so low that it can become a cost on the game around it.

kh1-2015-08-28-17h45m11s766Beyond the Crevasse is the World Terminus. The Terminus is a series of platforms over the abyss, with pillars of bright smoke coming from holes in the floor, along with teleporters on each end of the platform that move you along the terminus. I believe this segment is intended to mirror the Stations of Awakening from the tutorial, with Sora progressing from his young inexperienced self to his newly grown self, as you’ll see.  Should you enter the smoky pits, you find yourself in strange, somewhat ghostly and empty sections of previous worlds. I presume this is meant to represent the worlds’ physical connections to the End of the World, maybe even the connections the Heartless have been using to move about. There is one section from each world from Traverse Town to Neverland, every step of Sora’s journey, and you fight the Heartless of each world in exchange for a few last-minute prizes. In the original version, these prizes are second copies of the accessories you got on each respective world for defeating bosses or midbosses. Final Mix recognized that those accessories were generally underwhelming at this point of the game, and replaced them with synth Gem items from each respective world, which was… actually more underwhelming, so thanks for nothing! Although the Neverland reward has been changed to a new Mighty Shield for Goofy.

kh1-2015-08-28-17h45m47s821

The Agrabah segment forces you to walk through several empty rooms, which has always creeped me out.

(Because Atlantica had no accessory prize from a boss or midboss in the first place, the Vanilla Terminus gave an AP Up instead of an accessory. In a strange adherence to the original design, Atlantica still gives an AP Up in Final Mix, while Olympus Coliseum gets Atlantica’s synth stone, since Olympus Coliseum had none of its own!)

ShardofTruth informs me of something I missed when this post went up for the first time: if you never cleared the world in question, the smoke pillar will appear blue, and you’ll have to clear it!  I had always cleared every world in the game so had never actually been aware of this!

While the smoke from the stations so far have all been purple smoke, the second-to-last station features green smoke. Entering this station brings you to the log at the start of the 100 Acre Wood, where the game kindly provides both a save point and a Megalixir.

The next station… is red. It’s not quite as bad as it seems. It leads into an odd sequence that is actually removed from the game after you complete it, preventing you from ever going back and often erasing it from my memory. Fittingly, it leads to Hollow Bastion, specifically a hallway in the basement with the exits artificially blocked off by the Heartless emblem floating in mid-air. There, Invisibles attack you en mass, which can be quite dangerous. After clearing them out, you discover a room dominated by a large machine, and the door shuts behind you.

There’s no doubt that this machine is meant to be the core of some kind of research into the Heartless. I personally feel it was meant to be the core of the Emblem Heartless creation machine from Ansem Note 8 (KH2 players, note that I said “core”), though there’s no proof one way or another. A pair of portals lies in the corners, doing nothing (you can’t enter them), making me wonder if the machine is supposed to be causing a sort of radiation damage or if the devs just moved the entry portal and forgot to clean up the special effect in the corners. It seems sloppy either way and I feel could have been better done if they had intended the former, maybe by directly connecting the effect to the machine with “threads” of radiation?

kh1-2015-08-28-17h46m56s297Examining the machine, you get a long readout from the console. It’s not clear if this is some conclusion drawn from the machine, an old legend, or perhaps a lost Ansem note, but it obliquely describes the plan Ansem has been following all throughout the game. Kingdom Hearts does not go into much more detail about Ansem’s plan than this, and it’s so unclear that I won’t begin to defend it. I mean it’s bad. So few people seem to know what really went on in this game when you read posts in forums or reviews thanks to shitty explanations like this. It makes me wonder if the Japanese version was clearer about the details. Honestly: until KH3D included detailed recaps of all the previous games, I had no idea what was really going on in KH1, and it seems like a lot of people were in my place. And that’s just an out-and-out failure, just a godforsaken mess, made even worse by the fact that you’re not allowed to re-read this text later in the game! I’ll try to break it segment down as best I can, using just the available KH1 material, nothing from other games, and see what we were maybe supposed to understand:

“Ones born of the heart and darkness, devoid of hearts, ravage all worlds and bring desolation.”

The Heartless invasion, of course.

“Seize all hearts and consummate the great heart. All hearts to be one, one heart to encompass all.”

kh1-2015-08-28-17h46m47s478It seems Ansem and the Heartless are trying to use all the hearts they’ve gathered to create a “great heart.” Thus this smushed amalgam of a “world” that we’re standing on, I presume.  Not unlike the creation of a new star in the real world (remember, worlds are stars in Kingdom Hearts!). In fact, it might not be unfair to call The End of the World the “great heart” in-and-of-itself, but it’s hard to say for certain.

“Realize the destiny: the realm of Kingdom Hearts. The great darkness sealed within the great heart.”

Hey, it’s the title! Well, who even knew! Up to this point I was thinking “Kingdom Hearts” was a catchy nonsense term! It would appear that “Kingdom Hearts” actually refers to the “great darkness” within the “great heart.” So it seems the plan is to merge the hearts, already a great source of power, under the assumption that that heart will have a massive core of Darkness like all other hearts. And that core would be called “Kingdom Hearts.”

“Progeny of darkness, come back to the eternal darkness. For the heart of light shall unseal the path.

Seven hearts, one Keyhole, one key to the door. The door of darkness, tied by two keys.”

kh1-2015-08-28-17h48m28s506These lines describe the plan we’ve already seen put into action: Maleficent, a puppet of Ansem, kidnapped the Princesses and assembled the keyhole. Part of the problem with this text is that it’s not clear until these very lines that the computer was talking about Ansem’s big plan in the first place! You probably skipped past the first blocks of text entirely. I mean, it’s got to be said: this is an RPG.  Between bad writers and writers reaching above their scope, gibberish happens.  An RPG player is trained to take gibberish and toss it into the can.  I imagine the average teen player only started paying attention to this block of text only after they saw the title go by. And because the game locks you out of this room, you only have a limited opportunity to read the text again and understand what it meant!

(Why does the game lock you out of this room? It’s just digging its own grave here.)

You really see how important the earlier Final Mix additions during this sequence. Imagine being an original release player and seeing that line about two keys? Final Mix players already heard about there being a second Key in that scene with Riku. Most players probably ignore this whole thing as nonsense that will be explained later, when much of it sadly won’t. I know I did.

“The door of darkness to seal the light. None shall pass but shadows, returning to the darkness. Ones born of the heart and darkness, hunger for every heart until the dark door opens.”

kh1-2015-08-28-17h48m59s782

Spazbo4 attempts to examine the anomalies eating their way into the room.

That’s the last of it. It seems this is why Ansem cast off his body, whatever “casting off your body” means. It seems that even as a bad guy, Ansem had light in his heart, and so had to become pure shadow to pass through the Door to Darkness and find his Kingdom Hearts (though DDD will slightly retcon this point). This explains why he had to possess Riku to interact with the real world (something he’ll confirm later). But what does that make Ansem? Could he be a Heartless?

Seems Mr. A didn’t like you reading his fanfiction, and two Invisibles attack, which can be a little rough in the cramped machine room but not impossible. With them dead, you can leave and arrive back in the World Terminus, where the red smoke pillar has become a deep hole.

Inside the hole (save first!), a certain song starts to play (but only in versions after the Japanese original). It’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” and with it, Fantasia’s mountainous demon rises before you: Chernabog. For the record, the version of “Night on Bald Mountain” playing is not the one from Fantasia, but the original by Modest Mussorgsky, probably because they realized that version was in the public domain and they could use it with impunity.

kh1-2015-08-28-17h50m03s809You’re probably wondering, so here it is up front: this battle is only possible because Sora and team are suddenly Neverland-flying again. Don’t ask questions, as I’m afraid there are no answers. A lot of folks are probably distressed to learn there’s another giant, flying/swimming boss, but Chernabog’s not so bad once you learn one special trick. See, His Hugeness is still perched on top of Bald Mountain, and it’s possible to land on it and Summon Tinker Bell (you can even land on his shoulders!). That, plus Aeroga, pretty mush destroys his best chance of stopping you.  Even though Chernabog hits like a mountain dropped from the sky, it take a loooong time to heft a metaphorical mountain into the sky.  If you run out of Aero, it’s easy to replace, run out of Cure and you’ll assuredly have time to cast it. With Tinker Bell around, you won’t even have to deal with minor interruptions!

kh1-2015-08-28-17h51m23s992Defeating Chernabog gets you the Superglide group ability, which you can use to glide and fly faster by pressing Square to glide instead of Circle (the Square button is used for Glide in all subsequent games, since everyone just got used to using Superglide instead!  When I uploaded the Neverland section of this guide, I had even forgotten that Glide was ever attached to Jump, and a helpful reader had to correct me!). Very handy. Clearing Cherny also clears the way through Bald Mountain: apparently he was plugging up a caldera, and also it seems his body really did disappear after death? I just sort of assumed that was a video game trick to spare the console’s memory and limit the gore, not something that physically occurs?

I could probably write a paragraph or two about how this resembles the section in Dante’s Inferno where Dante and Virgil climb into the tunnel under Satan, but it’s probably best to push on. Inside, the caldera is a series of platforms, though it raises the question of how Chernabog was sitting through all these zig-zaggy obstacles in the way. You can’t even land in them, probably because it would slow you down if Sora kept landing on every available surface, but I don’t understand why they didn’t just make the room a vertical drop. If you want to go back to the World Terminus from Chernabog’s room, this is possible as well, but you have to find the small, small, very small patch of “exit zone” the designers have stuck to the top of the sky above the Chernabog arena. Hopefully you’re ready to just proceed, but there is a fair bit of danger up ahead.

kh1-2015-08-28-17h53m00s216The next few rooms are interesting if you look at them closely: they appear to be crushed-together remains of Aurora, Bell, Cinderella and Snow White’s worlds. They’re just video game paint on the tunnel walls, however (making this one of the two “hallways” I mentioned at the outset), so there’s no reason to stick around.

Beyond is the last minor challenge: a room called Linked Worlds. Here, you’ll—Walt Disney’s frozen head, it’s a fifth Behemoth! What did I do to you? I hadn’t even remembered this one existed until I started typing this sentence, and I didn’t remember when I was editing, either! I had erased it from my mind to protect my sanity, and honest-to-god, the surprise actually interrupted me while typing the previous sentence!  That’s four mandatory fights of the same boss, all crowded toward the end of the game, plus three more for anyone trying to clear out the Hades cup in Normal, Solo and Time Trial, and that’s just in Final Mix! Go away!

kh1-2015-08-28-17h56m17s837After killing the last of the Arch Behemoths (unless you’re hunting Orichalcums in vanilla KH1, you poor thing), the game draws your attention to the wall opposite your exit, where yet another Heartless Emblem is blocking your path. One piece breaks off, and all hell follows. To get rid of the rest of the emblem, you have to fight off with wave after wave of End of the World Heartless, a real fracas, and if you don’t treat them like a serious threat, they might very well wipe you. I’ve considered using Tinker Bell here in the past, it’s that bad, but anyone confident in their skills might want to try Bambi, since he can grab you Megalixirs here with enough kills!

After clearing the horde, you arrive in an unusual, peaceful location: the Final Rest. Here, a spring of water, a save point… and that ornate door from the Dive to the Heart, back after all these hours. If you approach it, the voice from the Dive to the Heart speaks for the first time in ages, saying the Final Rest is the last bit of light you’ll see from here to the end (translation: save, and don’t open the door until you’re ready).  But not to worry, because – as it repeated so often in the tutorial – you are the one who will open the door to the light. Something with a lot more meaning now than it did then.

There is one more challenge left to go in the outside world. By clearing out the Heartless horde, you’ve freed the Linked Worlds room for its normal array of monsters, including a set of White Mushrooms that use every pantomime in the game.  But the Mushrooms are just one possible enemy group in FM, as this room also plays how to the final synth Heartless. First ominously introduced in the secret ending of the original Vanilla release (which we’ll get to at the end), these are the Neoshadows, depicted here as being Shadows large as Sora, complete with Darkball tentacles on their heads. The Neoshadows in later games tend to be underwhelming dross, and I’m not sure why that happened because in this first appearance, they may be one of Kingdom Hearts’ single most powerful minor enemies.

kh1-2015-08-28-17h54m24s424The Neoshadows show a rudimentary level of coordination, attacking one after another with multiple stages of attacks (most of them potentially lethal). Some of the Neoshadows that aren’t engaging you in combat will sometimes grab at you from their shadow pools, so you’ll want to keep on your feet.

They also die in a strange way, dissipating vibrantly into energy balls that spiral into the ground, instead of dissolving into a dark haze like Shadows and Invisibles. There’s a good reason for this, but you’ll have to squint to spot it: it turns out that only the last Neoshadow actually dies. The others live on and support the fight as pools of shadow and even peek out once only one is left. I’m not sure why the devs went to an extra effort to imply you were only killing them one at a time – perhaps to make them seem even more like supernaturally powerful monsters? It’s a challenging fight, and I have no idea how they became glorified Goombas in the sequels. The Neoshadow’s synth drop is the Stormy Stone (meant to be an upgrade of the Gale item you find in the End of the World, though the English translation doesn’t convey that), and mercifully, given their low appearance rate, the length of the fight, and the danger at lower levels, they drop the stone every time you beat them.

Now that you have the Stormy Stone, it’s possible to grind out the Ultima Weapon in FM. Once you’re ready, it’s time to close this off entirely.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 1 – Estuans interius, &c
Next: Kingdom Hearts 1 – Busting up the Beach Xtreme


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).

Advertisements

7 comments

  1. I believe that originally in the game’s development, Xehanort’s heartless was actually the human form of Chernabog, the Ansem reports and the story behind them were really a fabricated story so that the demon king could regain his lost power from behind the scenes without anyone realizing it, Maleficent was trying to free him from his prison without even realizing that a sliver of his dark soul had been aiding her the whole time, and the fight with him on Bald Mountain was meant to be the final boss battle of the game. Then they just ripped off Sephiroth’s appearance and back story in the last minute rewrite just because they loved FFVII.

      1. Then who was supposed to be the original Big Bad final boss of the game if not the fake Ansem or Chernabog?

      2. And how do you think Riku’s plotline would have wrapped up since Ansem had not existed yet to steal his body and hijack the plot to make it all about him?

      3. That’s a good question. Admittedly, Riku doesn’t do much after he gives into Ansem in version we already have? In Vanilla KH1, Riku’s only actions between the fight at the lobby in Hollow Bastion and the scene at the Door to Darkness is to give in to Ansem and then to hold back Ansem from attacking Kairi (and perhaps to say “I thought you were stronger than that,” if that wasn’t a memory), and even that’s assuming the DtD scene was part of the original draft, which it might not have been, but let’s assume that it was. If we remove “Riku gives in to Ansem,” all we’d REALLY have to do is have him turn on Maleficent at basically any point between point A and point B, for basically any reason! It’s even possible to keep the final battle with Riku (the fight we now know as Ansem-Riku) if he gets his extra darkness from Maleficent or even on his own!

        Indeed, if Riku weren’t possessed by Ansem, he would have even MORE time for character development to realize he should turn on the bad guys. And that development could be any kind we want to imagine!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s