Floor 9 opens with a cutaway to Axel, who is talking to the blonde artist. And just in case you had your doubts, this is where the game confirms that the girl is Naminé.
The scene plays out somewhat different in each version. In the GBA version, Axel says he knows how Naminé feels, but says not to get her hopes up. “Nobodies can’t be somebodies.” He then adds: “But maybe… there’s something you can do.”
In Re:CoM, he clarifies what he’s talking about, saying how much it must hurt to see her childhood friends fighting over her. “You have my sympathies. From the heart.” Naminé looks away in disdain, and Axel says not to waste her time. “We Nobodies can’t be somebodies.”
While there’s something to be said about the ambiguity of the original, and how it cuts off on the spot, I think I prefer the new version. Axel is more clearly taunting Naminé in the new version, while in the GBA he seems to be harsh for harshness’ sake (Axel was more cold in the original game, in all instances, so this is in-character but still arbitrary). Better, in the new version “Nobodies” is capitalized even when it’s in the middle of a sentence, and the grammar makes it clear that “Nobodies” is a term, not an adjective, and that the term applies to both him and Naminé. In fact—holy shit folks, they’re Nobodies!
A North American player would have had this go straight over their heads at the time (this is probably why the original localization is more ambiguous with the word “Nobodies”), but anyone coming from KH:Final Mix would know the term meant something important, thanks to the new Ansem Reports from that game. Axel and Naminé (and it wouldn’t be illogical to imagine the other members of the Organization) are members of that strange class of entities, “Nobodies,” that Ansem mentioned in his final Report: the ones that lost their hearts and so their identities! And their feelings it seems, if we take Axel at his word, which is reasonable considering they’d have no Hearts. This turns my original theory on its head! Naminé’s not dead, she turned into a Heartless!
At the time I was first playing the GBA version, I couldn’t have known that. I hadn’t read the Final Mix Ansem Reports online yet. I think I eventually picked up on “Nobodies” being a term not unlike “Heartless” (the grammar reveals this even in the GBA), but I didn’t know exactly what Axel was getting at. I carried on my merry way with my “memory-ghost of a dead girl” theory and was none the wiser. But if you think about it, most of the themes remain if Naminé is a Nobody instead of a ghost: if Naminé had turned into a Heartless, the people of Destiny Islands may have treated her as being dead, Sora still wouldn’t have understood, etc.
While I do like the Re:CoM version of this scene, I think the GBA’s line where Axel tells Naminé that maybe she can do something is a very good idea… but Re:CoM makes it work nevertheless. I might as well admit that Axel repeats his suggestion later in the game, but because it’s a brand new suggestion in Re:CoM, it becomes more interesting!
The 3D version doesn’t normally win this soundly with me. I feel all weird and tingly.
Back in the lower floors, Sora is asking what the heck is up with his stupid best friend. Donald says to have a little faith. “You guys used to be inseparable, right? You, Riku, and Kai…Kai…And, um, what’s-her-name.” Uh-oh. C’mon Donald, I know this game often cuts you from the scenes for no good reason, but we mentioned Kairi’s name like one cutscene ago. Jiminy says they should hurry, worried they’ll lose more memories the longer they stay. I’d argue the game otherwise implies they’re losing memories with progress, not time, but I suppose even Jiminy’s allowed to miss a few hints from time to time. Sora agrees that everything will be all right, both because he believes in their ability to wrap things up in Castle Oblivion, and in his friendship with Riku. He adds: “We three were never apart. Me ‘n Riku… and Naminé.”
(The line just rolls of Haley Joel Osmet’s tongue like it’s the most natural thing in the world, while still using the natural pause for dramatic impact. There are some other minor faults with this part of the scene in 3D, but I think this is an out-and-out win for the 3D version.)
*sigh* Hollow Bastion. You know, Hollow Bastion’s not that bad in this game! Oh, sure, it’s got the hardest Heartless in the game, but when you remember that the End of the World Heartless are gone, my saying “the hardest Heartless” doesn’t mean what it meant in KH1. More of a solid B+ than an A. True, Defenders are a legitimate threat, because their shield combines with the card mechanics, but Wyverns lose a lot of their threat when there are no pits to fight over, and excusing the card mechanics, Wizards no longer have their pesky invincibility frames, so we’re coming out on top!
We’re now in the second world that used to be based entirely on KH1 central plot, and this time, this time we will finally get a brand new story from the CoM team. Damned if it didn’t take long enough. Sora and the others encounter Belle and Beast on the entrance to Hollow Bastion, having an argument. It seems Beast has come to rescue Belle from Maleficent, but she’s not hearing of it? In fact she refuses to talk to him at all any longer, and leaves him behind! Beast can’t make any more sense of this than me, and Sora and the others go in without him to find out what’s what.
Hollow Bastion has gone through quite a few changes here in CoM, which isn’t surprising when you think about it: KH1’s Hollow Bastion essentially had four different environments (Exterior, Basement, Interior and Library), but a CoM world is only permitted one environment by-and-large, so they boiled it down to the Exterior and jazzed the Exterior up a bit to make up for the deficiency. Hollow Bastion is actually filled with contraptions now, including rainbow-steam spraying pipes and cool elevators you have to activate with switches. I can’t help but wonder if the person who wrote Goofy’s confusing line about contraptions had been staring at the CoM version for so long they forgot the particulars of the KH1 incarnation?
At the Key of Beginnings room, Sora tracks down Belle to the library and starts his first interview. Belle actually admits half the story on the spot: Maleficent did kidnap her and she doesn’t actually want to be here, but before she can explain why she’s being rude to Beast and telling him to take a hike, Maleficent comes in through one of the secret passages. Granted, this is a passage that just leads to a treasure-filled dead end in KH1, but it is a pretty effective surprise.
Sora and gang hide, and discover that Maleficent is also here to ask Belle why she’s rejected Beast. Belle says “You know very well why,” and points for relatively natural dialog and all that, but I think if I were in Belle’s place I would have said what was going on as loudly as possible so that my eavesdropping friend with the big sword might get the full picture. She does say that telling Beast to rescue her would be a “trap,” but she isn’t able to explain more before Maleficent promises to make Belle beg to be saved, and teleports her away.
At the entrance hall, Sora and the others find Maleficent threatening to torture Belle (pretty surprising given that Kingdom Hearts is often shies away from physical violence even in plots where Disney had physical violence), but Sora and the others arrive, as does Beast a moment later. Belle rounds on Beast and shouts at him to leave, and that she never wants to see him again. Even Jiminy has to come out to scold her for that, but Beast accepts that she’s upset, reasoning that it has to do with how much of a dick he’s been to her. He expounds on his movie backstory at length, since that never came up in KH1, but refuses to leave because she’s the only good thing in his life, “even if you hate me for it. Consider it my final selfish act.”
Maleficent is glad to see it, and announces that “This calls for a change of plan,” and says that she will steal Beast’s heart “instead of Belle’s!”
It turns out that stealing a heart involves the slowest spell imaginable, and by the time Maleficent has cast it, Belle has managed to trot in front of Beast in a ballgown and heels to block the spell with her own body. Don’t… nobody else do anything, that’s cool. Belle’s heart leaves her body and, quite unlike a Princess of Heart, she vanishes without it. Maleficent says that’s just as well. It’s pretty clear from her dialog that she wanted a Heart full of love, and that was the reason for Belle’s whole charade. Now that she has Belle’s heart full of love, this works well enough for her. She teleports away.
Now, I haven’t said so, but Maleficent’s teleportation in KH1 and this game involve a burst of green-black fire. After she teleports in this game, however, Sora shouts: “She went that way! That’s the way the shadows fled.” This might have made sense in CoM’s simplistic graphics, where you could assume Maleficent turned into shadows they just didn’t want to draw it, but it’s utter nonsense in the 3D versions. Beast joins the party, and it’s off to the Castle Chapel for the finale.
In the Key to Truth room, Maleficent decides (and I’m not exaggerating here: she outright says this) that she’s going to reward Beast’s persistence by expositing what’s really going on. The exposition is your “prize.” That chunky excuse is brought to you by the fine folks at Ludonarrative 101. Remember our slogan: Win Game -> Get Plot. Maleficent says that her magic requires “hearts of utmost beauty,” and anyone who’s played BBS can discuss among themselves whether or not that’s real or a fiction of the memory. Belle tried to bury her feelings for Beast by rejecting him, and it worked until she could no longer hide her feelings in an emergency. Maleficent then announces she told Beast this whole story so that she could inspire him and steal his Heart too, and the fight begins.
Maleficent skips the sorcery phase of the KH1 battle and goes straight for the dragon, making me wonder why she needed to be overwhelmed by Darkness to turn into a dragon in KH1? Maybe she didn’t require the Darkness, and this dragon is supposed to be weaker than her KH1 self? That might make sense if you put this world on Floor 7, but it’s a stretch when I’m almost at the top!
The fight against Maleficent is much the same as in KH1, and even the addition of cards doesn’t complicate it much. My advice from the original stands, though it’s much harder to avoid standing in the fire and fight Maleficent at the same time in the GBA version. Just make sure your deck isn’t totally reliant on ground Sleights, and you’ll be okay here if you have experience from KH1.
The Gimmick Card in this battle does different things depending on version, and weirdly enough it’s because it was swapped with a later boss. In the GBA version, it causes a pile of debris to cave in that Maleficent will gradually try to destroy (as seen above), allowing you to attack the dragon without needing to jump or dodge, though it vanishes after a few seconds (probably in response to Maleficent’s attacks). In Re:CoM, a floating platform appears that lets you float at the level of Maleficent’s head, sparing you the trouble of jumping, aiming, dodging… it means a whole lot of button mashing free hits! Of course, the floating platform can drop you into the fire when it disappears, so it all hilariously balances out.
The Dragon Maleficent Enemy Card boosts the power of your strikes for about 30 strikes. It’s a pretty good all-rounder card if you can’t think of anything else to do with your… 70 CP? Yikes, lady.
Back in the story, Beast and Belle reunite and apologize, promising to “replace sad memories with happier ones.” Sora and the others tease them about it and leave, setting up a inter-species sex joke that I’m going to have to decline. All-in-all, Hollow Bastion is probably the second-best Disney world in CoM after Halloween Town (Wonderland is in third for me). Glad to have it.
The gang returns to Castle Oblivion, and Donald and Goofy come through the door already gunning for Riku. It’s a hilarious shot, and full points to the 3D version for doing it. Sadly, it’s where the sequence ends, as Riku does not appear this time around. Riku’s absence can be easily explained: the game is making room for an extended sequence that takes place once you pass up the stairs. Unfortunately this means the scene takes place after my cutoff for the day! In my defence, several of the early floors looked silly without my cut, so I would have gotten egg in my face either way!
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).