Back in the land of infinite white halls, Donald raises a fair but probably unanswerable question: If the cast is forgetting things, what are they forgetting? Oh: “except our friends,” he adds in the GBA version. To me, this spells out that Goofy’s line about not forgetting their friends was meant to have a deeper meaning than low-level shmaltz, since the GBA version is making it clear that the characters are blind to the obvious. Clever – and a little disappointing how the remake missed the intent. The cast realizes Donald’s question is essentially unanswerable, because they can’t remember what they don’t remember, but it serves as provocation for another recap, as Sora pulls out Kairi’s keychain. Hey Sora! How about you use that thing to get the Oathkeeper back? No?
It seems Donald and Goofy have never seen the Oathkeeper pendant (or at least, don’t remember seeing it, the distinction is very fine here in Castle Oblivion), so Sora explains the charm, and says how he’ll never forget the promise he made to return the charm to Kairi, and reasons that this means he’ll never forget her. He then calls an image of Kairi to mind, but suddenly another memory, of the girl in the white dress, appears alongside (in the GBA version, this image appears in Kairi’s place, while in the 3D she appears over Sora’s shoulder).
After that strange incident, we head on the next world.
While I wouldn’t say not to go to Monstro on floor 4, I do feel it was a mistake during my playthrough. The biggest trouble with Monstro is a minor challenge you have to do toward the end that’s a little irritating. For some bizarre reason I choose to prioritize “a little irritating” over the genuine threat in Wonderland, and I’m not sure why I did that.
Monstro seems like a strange place to return to in Chain of Memories, at least considering the design decisions Jupiter and Square Enix had made up to this point. Monstro was primarily driven by the main KH1 plot the last time we were here, so this game is going to make up a new plot instead of slightly modifying an old. While this could have been a great opportunity to be unique or even advance the main plot of this game, they instead chose to be boring.
Sora and the others arrive in Monstro, and Sora’s first comment is on how the ground is “springy and soft.” This line is meant to convey that Sora doesn’t actually remember where they are, even to the point that he doesn’t remember that they’re inside a living being! In the 3D versions, the floor even makes little squish sounds while you walk on it, which a cute touch.
In the distance, Pinocchio calls out to them, afraid of them but apparently unable to hold back “You’re in a goddamned whale!” any longer. Jiminy Cricket recognizes Pinocchio and explains that Sora, Donald and Goofy are friends. I guess this proves that Jiminy, at least, really does remember his friends at the moment? Pinocchio asks how they got inside Montro, only for Sora and the others to reveal that they don’t actually know. This raises a lot of questions. What’s going through their minds when they appear in a world mid-step and don’t even question how or why they were travelling there?
Pinocchio explains that he’s trying to find a way out of the whale for him and Geppetto, and offers to take you to him, so off you go to the Room of Beginnings.
Monstro’s got all kinds of gross stuff inside him in 3D versions. There are parasitic tentacles and poison-gas gushing pustules on the sides of Monstro’s intestines in the 3D versions. There are also weird squishy parts you can land on to release orbs and cards, and ladders made of bone. It’s all very strange, but definitely one of the better sets of world obstacles. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it looks like innards, considering the “paint splotch” design from KH1, but it improves over KH1 by not being a maze for a maze’s sake, and that’s a relief. Yes, I would rather take another functionally identical CoM world than go back to a maze of twisty passages all alike. Bite me.
Monstro is also where you’ll meet new Minor Heartless #2 of 3, the Tornado Step. This teal newbie has dinky short legs but overlong arms that it uses to spin attack you. Besides their wide reach, the Tornado Steps aren’t all that remarkable compared to the Creeper Plant and New Heartless #3, but that does make them fit in with the KH1 Heartless a lot better. In fact, they fit in so well you might even forget they weren’t in KH1 in the first place. There’s a nuance to adding new enemies to old sets that most games screw up (Trauma Center come to mind as an example of producing enemies that do and don’t fit in, something I should perhaps discuss as a Marathon supplement one day) so I’m always glad to see when an enemy fits right in. The Tornado Step would return in KH2, where its Final Mix recolour is probably one of the more garish in the series: blazing, bright, solar yellow.
Monstro’s also not a bad spot to find the Barrel Spider Heartless. These Heartless wait in disguise until you attack them on the overworld, so if you aren’t in the mood to explore and break stuff, you’ll never encounter one. Best be careful when striking barrels: remember how, if Sora gets into a fight while pickups are still bouncing around, the pickups are lost? Here are the Barrel Spiders, here to punish you for accidentally hitting more than one barrel at once! It sure is a good thing that Sora’s autotargetting is spotless!
At the Room to Beginnings, you meet up with Geppetto, who says he’s happy so long as he has Pinocchio. Then, just like in the opening scene in KH1’s Monstro, the kid just wanders off, forcing you to go look for him. Oh, sure, Geppetto gets a line about how there’s nothing like reuniting with a loved one, which is about as close as you could get to painting a thematic bullseye on words, but we’ll get to that in a few rooms.
Oh, the 3D versions give you High Jump at this point (there are no mobility upgrades in the GBA version). This is mildly helpful in exploration segments, since it lets you get past segments that would have required a springboard or the broken statues in Olympus Coliseum, but there are no areas in the game that outright require it (because, again, it wasn’t in the original). Its only true use is against the Trickmaster in Wonderland. …Huh, I guess that was a good reason to come here before Wonderland. I did good after all! Well, excusing that, everyone who isn’t a speed runner can probably just put off Monstro until later.
So, to fill the time while Sora squelches over to the Key of Guidance room, let’s talk about Green Map cards. Green Map Cards bore me, so you know this is going to be worth your time! Green rooms modify the battles that take place inside their walls, which would be cool if the green cards felt like they mattered. It comes down to the game’s repetition. Because CoM doesn’t mix things up room-for-room, you rarely have any major surprises. Other games keep things interesting with puzzles and unique combat situations, or by draining you through attrition as you go through a dungeon, but CoM’s shallow dynamic level structure makes the first impossible, and it never attempts the second. Having failed to achieve both, the game is only shooting itself in the foot with the green cards, which only make enemies easier in this petty attempt at variety. If you can beat the enemies in the first room of each world, you can beat any enemies in any room of the world! You don’t need them to be easier! Maybe the green rooms exist to ease the trouble of grinding? It’s the best I can think of.
Let’s break them down. First, the “Waking” rooms – Martial Waking, Sorcerous Waking, and Alchemic Waking – which increase the power of Sora’s cards by boosting their numbers by 2 to a max of 9… though be mindful that this will nullify all your 0s. There’s the Meeting Ground, where you can guarantee a Friend Card to show up at the start of each battle (yaawwwwwn), and the Stagnant Space, where Heartless are slower, which is probably the most viable of the entire set and feels like a misplaced Red card. Last, there are two rooms, Lasting Daze and Strong Initiative, where hitting enemies on the overworld stuns or hurts them just a little more. Yikes this is scraping the barrel. I suppose the ease is something of a variety factor, so I will use the Green Cards when I’m bored, but I never walk up to a door going “Sweet, time for the Heartless to be less exciting.”
Since I’ve said so little, I’m going to throw in a footnote about a special card added in Re:CoM, the “Random Joker.” The Jokers are very rare. According to reader Ultima Spark, their drop rate is based on difficulty: 4% in Beginner, 1.3% in Standard and 0.7% in Proud. Used on their own, Random Jokers are pointless, giving you a random room and wasting a valuable resource. What Random Jokers are useful for is unlocking Key doors, since they can be used as a substitute for almost any requirement, even high requirements like “cards totalling 50.” It could hardly hurt to keep one around for an emergency.
With those mechanics behind us, we return to the stink of a living thing’s insides. In the Room of Guidance, you catch up to Pinocchio. A veteran of KH1 playing on the 3D version will realize something is odd right away, but hold that thought. After Pinocchio tells one of his contractually obligated nose-growers, he explains that he’s actually not running away, following strange blue-haired men into the bowls of a giant cetacean. No, he’s actually looking for a way out. Apparently Monstro’s digestive system really is a maze of rooms, and not a windy tube leading to a hole like a regular animal? Walt Disney’s censorship has gone too far!
Pinocchio explains that when Geppetto says he’s happy just to be reunited with Pinocchio, he means it. Geppetto is so happy he’s not even looking for a way to escape, and Pinocchio feels as though that’s his fault. I think it’s interesting how Geppetto’s sentiment has turned into something problematic without it being problematic in and of itself. Nice nuance, CoM. This could even be seen as a statement on why Sora can’t be complacent during the major plot in Castle Oblivion… but that might be a stretch.
But then that thing the vets noticed comes into play as Pinocchio tries to leave: yup, we’re in the stomach, and the Parasite Cage arrives to chomp on Pinocchio. Whoa, uh, seriously? In the Room of Guidance? It’s not the first phase of a two-phase fight, either: this is the real boss! The biggest danger that comes in fighting the Parasite Cage is being ill-prepared for the fucking boss to show up in the middle of the level! But if not that, the acid’s going to make you think twice. Unlike the refight in KH1, where the acid was a moat that dictated your movements but was essentially static, this fight is all about the hydrochloric green stuff. You fight the Parasite Cage on top of four small platforms that rotate in front of the boss. Keep in mind that I do mean “in front.” The Cage isn’t in the middle of their rotation like you might expect, so you’re going to have to keep hopping from platform to platform to stay in front of the boss range. That’s nice and challenging in Re:CoM, where the platforming is just as bad as ever but at least familiar, but it’s a real problem in the GBA, which can’t handle platforming in the middle of a battle at all. Thankfully the gimmick card will give you a nice big platform to stand on, but that’s it.
Otherwise the boss isn’t so bad. The Parasite Cage’s Enemy Card is designed to disable your opponents’ enemy cards, like those used by human-sized opponents later on in the game. While it’s definitely useful in the right places, you can tell that it was really designed to be used in GBA Multiplayer matches. To make matters worse, none of the bosses use Enemy cards in this first half of the game, so there’s no reason to rush to Monstro.
Because the plot says so, Parasite Cage doesn’t die when it… dies. I guess this time the bodies don’t dissolve immediately? I’m so confused! Instead, the Cage stays around with Pinocchio in its belly so that Pinocchio can “be brave” and help himself. That’s the subplot. Pinocchio has to learn to be brave so that he can tell Geppetto that he wants to get out of the slimy, stomach-acid filled deathtrap he’s decided to call home. Excited? Pinocchio finally gets up the nerve to knock the Cage around a bit and the dead body spits him out before disappearing properly. Sheesh.
This gives Pinocchio and the quartet the idea to go upset Monstro’s stomach in hopes that he vomits Pinocchio and Geppetto back outside. If you’re paying attention, this means that the room full of stomach acid isn’t the stomach. The trio sends Pinocchio back to his dad for impending regurgitation, while they can go to the Key to Truth room. Just to make this stomach/not stomach thing even sillier, the team claim they’re going as deep as possible, but the room end up in is Monstro’s throat from KH1. Also, the throat used to be one room away from the stomach. And they somehow end up at the opposite door! Sora’s memory is in bad shape!
This has actually been one of my shorter entries but I feel that somehow I’ve already talked too much. As a result, I’m finally going to talk about Enemy Cards, both because they’re simple, and because I’ve already told you the bulk of it. If you use an Enemy Card, it gives you a special game-changer power, for a set period of time. Sometimes that timer is an actual timer, like with Oogie Boogie, but it usually depends on your actions. For example, the Guard Armor extends the range of your attacks for the next 30 attacks. Most Enemy Cards depend on reloads, meaning you have to use them carefully. It would be a waste if you remembered to use an Enemy Card that expires on reloads when you had no cards left to play! Been there!
And that’s the real trouble with Enemy Cards: using them, and remembering to use them. Enemy Cards exist in an entirely separate deck from your Attack cards, which you swap to by pressing Select. It’s hard to remember they even exist, and their high CP cost will guarantee you only bring one or two. Hell, it’s hard to use them if you have more than two. Imagine switching to the Enemy Card deck in an emergency just to realize you don’t remember where you left the card? Even the deck construction is confusing. When you’re building your deck, you have to place you Enemy and Attack cards on the same grid, and the game sucks out the Enemy Cards into their own deck when combat starts. Couldn’t they have been on separate edit menus?
But the real pain, the true killer, comes if you’re going for the Card Master Sora trophy, or a certain post-game bonus with nearly the same requirements. This trophy is sheer, unrelenting murder. It requires you to get every card in the game, and that means every Enemy Card. How do you get an Enemy Card for a standard enemy? There’s a chance that when you finish a fight, the last Heartless you defeat will drop their Enemy Card instead of a Map Card. Keep in mind that it’s always the last Heartless, so if you’ve already got cards from some enemies, take them out first.
The trouble is, the odds are low. Once again, Ultima Spark comes to my rescue: Enemy Cards drop from a 2-4% depending on the individual enemy. Not the worst I’ve ever seen, but remember the scope of the full collection! If you want this Trophy and special in-game bonuses that are tied to Enemy Cards, you have to hit those rock-bottom odds for every single minor enemy in the entire game (except the Darkball in 3D versions, which we’ll talk about later).
There are ways to increase your odds of getting Enemy Cards, undocumented in the game itself: you have to go to Teeming, Looming, and Almighty Darkness rooms. The boosted Enemy Card odds are still rather low but far better than nothing: 2.5x the original rate (so 5-10%). The boost seems to be the same for both rooms, so Teeming Darkness is probably your best bet, since there are more Heartless there, and they won’t get a combat boost like in Almighty Darkness.
One thing to be aware of is that Roulette tokens (R Tokens) override the Enemy Card system entirely, so never use a Roulette room and avoid any Roulette tokens that drop at random if you can help it (they also override the Random Joker). Imagine how much much nicer it would be if the Enemy Card were on the Roulette!
Some of the hardest Enemy Cards to get are White Mushrooms and Black Fungi, since they can’t show up in Teeming, Looming and Almighty Darkness to begin with. There’s also this weird rule where you have to kill White Mushrooms with Warp spells, which is almost impossible to work out without outside help. Ugh, completion trophies. Thankfully there is an in-game prize in Re:CoM for getting all the cards: the powerful Gold and Platinum Cards, which are practically cheats. They’re unlocked for finding every other card in the game, and are the last things you’ll collect to get Card Master. Thank goodness there’s no secret ending in this game or they might have forced you to do all this garbage if you wanted the ending!
Once you finally reach Monstro’s… wherever this is supposed to be… Sora asks how they should go about provoking their titanic host. Luckily, some Shadows show up to provide a demonstration. This begins that “irritation” I mentioned at the front of this entry. This is a weird one. Jiminy even keeps it in the Journal as a mini-game for some reason, even though there are no prizes. It’s so peculiar that if you don’t play it juuuuust right, you might get stuck here for a little while!
The idea sounds simple until you actually try to do it. You fight a group of Shadows against a timer, trying to fill a bar that appears in the corner that rises with each Shadow killed. The thing is: the bar gradually falls over time, and the Shadows spawn less frequently than the bar drops, so completing it involves getting it part-way and then defeating just enough Shadows in just a small enough span of time. The Shadows are infinite, but in the 3D version, they restock at a much slower rate (probably because the 2D version of this encounter lacked all challenge and wasn’t worth including). You almost have to avoid the 3D version’s Shadows for a while, doing a few weakening attacks while you wait, so that you can take a few of them out in under a few seconds. Worse, this is one of those situations where the 3D games’ widened arena is a punishment over the GBA.
If we’re going to be honest, the widened arena is always a downside. Yeah, I said it. The widened arenas must add, I’m not joking, an hour or two to the gameplay of Re:CoM over CoM, just jogging between enemies during fights!
The prize for sweeping the room is the Dumbo summon. I’ve never found a use for it! What a lovely set of prizes this world had to offer.
Monstro coughs up Geppetto and Pinocchio’s ship off-screen, and Sora, Donald and Goofy end up back in the mouth, where the 3D version does its best to position the camera so you can’t see that Geppetto’s ship is sitting there undisturbed, since I doubt they cared to modify the room. Actually, the jump to the mouth is unusual, since the mouth was supposed to be the Room of Beginnings! The game will never backtrack on itself like this again, so in hindsight it’s a strange little side-trip.
Back in Castle Oblivion and the main plot, Sora is thinking about the blonde girl he saw while remembering Kairi. In the GBA, he’s a little more precise about his concerns: “Was there… someone else?” It seems he remembers this person, and nearly has the girl’s name when Donald shouts at him to get a move-on, and Sora races to catch up.
In a moment, you’re going to see how these “staircase breaks” in the Castle Oblivion cutscenes are irregular. This one isn’t like a TV episode at all, in fact, I don’t know what to compare it to. Sora will pick up this train of thought instantaneously on the next floor, making you wonder why it was broken at all. It’s not the last time this will happen. But in this case? I’d actually say it’s important that he break off, if only for a moment.
Because I’m not going to have an ideal place to discuss this later, I’m going to put in white text in case you’re a veteran and aren’t afraid of spoilers (hopefully that won’t cause any formatting issues in the future). Highlight the text with your mouse to reveal it.
Here’s the spoiler: Immediately following this sequence, as I’ll explain in the next entry, we see Naminé painting a picture, which in 3D versions is of her with Sora, Riku and Kairi. It’s reasonable to assume that she has only just that second finished writing herself into Sora’s memory, and his inklings of another friend prior to this were either prep work or the result of her being mid-sketch. Okay, we good? Then let’s move on.
This retrospective’s 2D screenshots come from RickyC’s longplay of the GBA version of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories at World of Longplays (YouTube), while 3D screenshots come from BlueGator’s longplay of the 1.5 HD version of Kingdom Hearts: Re: Chain of Memories at Temple of the Azure Flame (segmented version).