Sora’s ruthless friendship is not enough for him to run Riku into the ground, and he’s disappeared by the time you make it up the stairs. He probably just opened the door without flashing a World Card at it first. Did you ever consider that, Sora? Did you ever just try the handle?
Donald and Goofy catch up, and Goofy’s line here is a little more confusing than it may seem at first glance: “Are you all right?” It’s a fine point of concern, but it ignores the fact that Donald and Goofy were popped out of existence during the last sequence in the 3D version. That’s not just me giving a complaint about the visuals: Donald and Goofy’s absence from the previous scene gives the momentary impression that Sora might have been the only one who saw Riku in the first place, as though he were some sort of illusion like that conversation with Aerith. When you consider Goofy’s “Are you all right?” in that context, it implies you’ve been swinging at the air and chasing ghosts for the past five minutes. Thankfully, everyone starts talking about Riku without Sora saying another word, but thanks for the confusion.
The original GBA version has a stupid line here about “the Heartless” controlling Riku, while Re:CoM says that Ansem was controlling Riku, which is a lot more reasonable. I’ve already discussed this but it bears repeating: while you could say the Darkness was controlling Riku during KH1, and you could certainly say that Ansem was, the Heartless are dumb as angry puppies. Only Ansem’s line about the Heartless “using” Maleficent implies anything else, and I feel that line was just his way of say “the Heartless, through me or on my orders, were using Maleficent.” The Heartless are animalistic or plant-like embodiments of id. They’re the imaginary bad guys a kid makes up for their toys to fight with, and that’s the point and the appeal. The only thing that makes them dangerous – extremely dangerous – is that there are other people out there who control them. Not the other way around!
Donald and Goofy panic momentarily that if Riku’s gone bad, what happened to the King? But Jiminy has Sora’s back. He reminds him that this is Castle Oblivion, and that he figures Riku lost his memory just like everyone else. Wow, I like that, that’s pretty tidy. It would explain why Riku regressed to his Hollow Bastion level (and approach) of dickishness in a new situation, where a memory-Riku would only be repeating the old situation. This time, Jiminy’s ahead of me! There are a few other possibilities, but Mr. Cricket’s got us covered!
Jiminy and the others ask Sora not to push them away just because he’s upset. The Re:CoM and GBA scripts branch at this point, and once again I prefer the GBA. The Re:CoM script has Donald call back to their promise to smile back in KH1, because the devs are just determined to make that goofy scene important in hindsight. KH2 does it too, it never seems anything but forced (it’s even in the manga, like some kind of weirdly specific corporate mandate!). In the GBA there’s a joke where they invigorate Sora so much he starts to make stupid boasts, which seems both more entertaining and in-character to me!
With that, you proceed to the memory world, and I chose Neverland. Once again: Neverland is super hard on the GBA thanks to its boss. Captain Hook is probably the hardest boss prior to the endgame in the GBA, and you don’t want to go in unprepared. Make sure you have a stock of 0 cards before you go in, but if it’s coming up to the line, bite the bullet and make sure you don’t play Neverland last. Fighting Captain Hook at his hardest is a far more challenging than fighting him with a less-than-ideal deck!
Sora and the gang find themselves in the Jolly Roger, only just now wondering why the floor is unsteady. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: you’ve really got to wonder what they’re thinking when they walk into these new worlds out of nowhere. Actually, you’ve got to wonder what’s going through the characters’ heads as they move between rooms. There’s something artificial about the CoM worlds that goes beyond the limitations of the system. Sora, Donald and Goofy really do seem to be dreaming their way through the intermediary rooms sometimes. They walk into the world out of nowhere, and only seem to wake up for the important bits. And of course, once they leave a floor, they don’t remember it at all!
Back to the plot: Tinker Bell shows up and leads you off. That’s it. Re:CoM gives you Glide for no reason (remember, this scene is a copy of the GBA’s, and the GBA never had Tinker Bell giving you the power to fly!), and that’s the entire opening. I’m so pumped, are you pumped?
Neverland is a pretty boring area for me now that we’re coming back in CoM. In the real Neverland, you had the minuscule benefit of being able to see how the ship interconnected, but I’m really scraping the bottom with that. Now it’s just wood walls, wood floors and wood ceilings everywhere. The same is true in KH1 but now we’re two games into this and my patience for it has evaporated. Choose your own cut-off point. There are “chests” you can break alongside the actual Bounty chests, which is frankly confusing. About the only interesting thing about Neverland’s overworld is that way that tall vertical rooms descend into dark, dingy dark-gray levels, as though you’re in the bottom of the ship. It’s a nice and actually kind of startling effect that you’ll miss if you only visit standard Red rooms during your trip. But after that one graphical touch, the world is a snore.
To make Neverland even less interesting, one of the Neverland Heartless, the Battleship, wasn’t even brought over from KH1. It was probably just too big and complicated. The other Heartless lost in the KH1-to-CoM transition are the Pot Spider, Rare Truffle, Sheltering Zone, and the two Heartless native to the End of the World: the Invisible and the Angel Star. I’m a little more surprised by the End of the World pair, as it seems like they would have been at home in this game’s final floor or floors, but they will not be missed.
Tinker Bell leads the party to Peter Pan, who is hiding out from the pirates so that he can rescue Wendy from them. Peter mistakes you for pirates, which would have excited Sora under other circumstances, but here just causes him and the others to reveal that they have no idea how they got on the ship. Are we just… not going to talk about that? No?
Pan decides that you’re all too scatterbrained to be pirates, and he offers to help them out, even though speaking realistically, you’re helping him out and he’s just rephrasing things so he can be in charge. Say what you will, but these games seem to understand Peter Pan as a selfish jerk pretty well.
Over in the Key to Guidance room, you find Wendy in her… uh… “cell.” Let’s just pretend you unlocked it when you played the Key to Guidance and not that the door was wide open the entire time. Wendy’s glad to see everyone, but we just have to pull out an inconvenience ex machina. Peter, for no truly justified reason, loudly announces that now that Wendy is rescued, she can stay with him here in Neverland forever. Wendy decides that if Peter’s going to be like that, she had better tell him right away that she doesn’t want to stay in Neverland. Peter is upset, and in a moment of nuance, he seems to be voicing a fear of growing up and mortality just on the tip of his tongue. He doesn’t say so much, but you can tell that he’s angry she’d rather grow old and die than spend time with him. The writers really know the character! In the end, Peter storms out, and actually stops showing up as a Friend card for the duration of the story, something that never happens at any other point in the game!
Sora, brilliant leader he is, decides that the best way to get out of this situation is for him and the others to look for the deck of the ship, while Wendy stays in her cell, effectively still a prisoner. This is either the only moment in the entire series where the writers remembered that there’s an army of wandering monsters outside the door, or its just as stupid as it sounds. You can take your pick.
In the Key to Truth room, we finally find our way onto the deck, where Captain Hook is waiting for you. And I really do mean “waiting for you.” Judging from his dialogue, he was trying to track you down inside the ship and just couldn’t find you! Wow, you know I actually wrote that paragraph about “the stuff that happens between plot rooms” for the Atlantica entry and just ended up moving it here to Neverland out of random chance! I’m surprised this floor is full of so many unanswered questions about the stuff going on between plot rooms!
Hook accuses you of being stowaways and friends of Peter Pan’s, and Sora and the gang just outright ignore him and start debating the semantics of whether or not they’re friends of Peter’s, which is hilarious. Hook has to reveal that he’s captured Wendy just to get their attention. Oh no! He captured Wendy. The girl you left in his capture. If only there had been a way to prevent this.
Sora and the gang conclude they have no way to rescue Wendy and have to surrender. I don’t need to say that it makes no sense that they didn’t notice her standing there in the first place. Furthermore, Hook isn’t even all that near Wendy in the 3D version: Sora should have been able to jump between Hook and Wendy at any point in the scene! I also don’t need to say that Peter rescues Wendy and you can fight Hook without any hostage situation gnawing at the back of your conscience, since it’s so predictable. The whole scene deflates like a whoopee cushion.
The difficulty trouble with Captain Hook in the GBA is threefold. The first is his Sleight, Barrel Blast, which is weirdly hard to dodge considering it’s no different in function than Axel’s fire wall from the start of the game. Barrel Blast is a joke in Re:CoM, where the explosive barrels Hook rolls at you go around the mast in the centre of the ship, making it a breeze to dodge them. The second trouble in the GBA is that Hook is just… good at this! He’s got good cards and he plays them well! About the dumbest thing he could do is to play his Sea Neon Enemy Card, which will temporarily change his good deck into a randomized and probably terrible deck, but don’t cross your fingers. Oh, and the third? The ship is actively rocking back and forth in the waves in this version!
Thankfully, most players these days will be Re:CoM players playing on 1.5HD, so you don’t really need to worry about Hook there. To CoM players, I offer one simple piece of advice: Firaga. He’s weak against Fire. Good riddance.
Beating Hook gets you his Enemy Card, which gives you Second Chance, along with Hook’s weakness to Fire and strength against Thunder while it’s in play. Second Chance is deficient in this game. It still suffers from the combo problem from KH1, and in the end you’re going to get a better recovery skill a few bosses later, so you’re only likely to equip Hook’s enemy card it if you’re trying to get Hook’s resistance to lightning, ala the upcoming refight with Larxene.
All right. Moral… moral… where did I leave the moral… Was it: “commit to action if you’re going to handle a kidnapping?” Because I’m pretty sure that’s what I learned. Nooo, of course Peter caves and agrees to take Wendy back to London. Thankfully, he once again says the exact right thing to set up the exact right moral just in time for Neverland to contribute to the themes of the main plot. And to think I was complimenting the writing in this world a few pages ago.
Peter says that grown-ups always forget their childhood memories, and soon Wendy will forget him. And before you say anything: no, I don’t think that was the issue he was throwing a tantrum about earlier. In the previous scene, Peter really did seem pissed off about growing up and mortality, not growing up and forgetting. They could have narrowed things to this one issue, relevant to Sora from the get-go, but they didn’t. Sora gets the chance to speechify that the important memories are just sleeping, and that they’ll come back some day. Oh for goodness’ sake, this is just copy and pasted elements of the main plot! What are we gaining from this? Are they trying to tie the forgetfulness process into aging? As you grow up you forget childhood friends? Even Agrabah’s ham-handedness was a little fresh!
So Tinker Bell gives you her Summon Card (not nearly as miraculous as the KH1 Summon, but game developers tend not to let you break their games the same way twice), and everyone flies away. As he goes, Peter drops a Moogle on Donald’s head??? Someone mentioned this in a forum a few days before I wrote my first draft of this section, and I hadn’t even remembered this incident. It’s absolutely perplexing and in both versions! It’s not just the violent goodbye, but this is the only time Moogles show up in the story of CoM at all. It wasn’t even clear if they were real (as real as any memory-being is) or just an abstraction of Sora’s mind like the Sleights found in Bounty chests!
Riku is waiting for you at the other side of the floor. Sora tries to goad Riku into coming home so they can see Kairi, but Riku reminds him that he told Sora to look out for Kairi while they were at the door to darkness, so Sora should go do what he promised while Riku says that he’ll look out for Naminé. Let’s put aside this knights-and-princesses horsecrap for a second, because that’s a problem that runs through Kingdom Hearts from start to finish and I need to focus on this scene for a minute. Sora then asks Riku to come back for the sake of everyone else at the islands, but Riku responds by saying he’s forgotten them, and goads Sora by pointing out that he doesn’t even remember what they look like! Well, I don’t think Sora remembers what his parents look like, I mean… Oh, shit, he’s talking about the Final Fantasy trio, I completely forgot about them. Castle Oblivion is affecting the blogger!
Naturally Sora can’t remember Selkie, Tibus and Walla, and his parents have probably been erased even from canon at this point in the franchise, so Riku’s point is well made. Riku says that being in the Castle and losing his own memories has made things clear for him, now that he’s been reduced to his true memories. I wish he had said that during their last encounter, because it’s much less questionable as motivation than, “Naminé doesn’t like you so I will attack you.” (Though considering how often the game winks at a close-reading audience, maybe his motives are supposed to seem artificial? For more reasons than one).
In response to this taunt Sora decides to beat Riku up to “jog [his] memory”! I’m not even kidding, that is his plan. I can’t believe this. I know I teased Sora for acting like a video game protagonist a half-dozen floors ago but this takes the cake. “I can’t reason with you, so I will advance the plot by defeating you as a boss! Have at you!”
Even taking a relatively close look at Riku’s stats and deck on the wiki, I can’t tell much of a difference between this fight and the first fight. Dude has two more 0 cards, and I won’t deny that that’s a pain, but that’s nearly it! He hasn’t even gained HP, despite being worth 900 more EXP! No, the only thing close to a real change is the addition of a single Sleight to his original “no sleights.” Just. One. This after you’ve already beat Larxene and, for all I know, Hook, both of whom had three. In the GBA version, this new Sleight is Dark Firaga, but in the 3D version it’s Helm Split, a Sleight version of a basic attack from the GBA version. In either case, they’re relatively fast attacks, so you might not be able to break the attack before it strikes you, so prepare to Dodge Roll. There’s no prize for beating Riku here, so back to the plot.
Riku and Sora snip at one another for a while. Riku says something odd towards the end about Sora always trying to worm his way into his (Riku’s) heart despite never caring how he felt, and bolts. That’s… that’s really underwhelming, you two. Thanks, I needed a strong ending.
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).