Kingdom Hearts CoM – 99 Problems and my cards are all of them

kh1-2015-11-16-14h19m37s852Back up in crystal ball room, Axel and Naminé are alone. It seems Axel has been watching the debacle with Sora and the others through the crystal ball, and he tells Naminé that she’s all Sora has left. “If you won’t stop this, who will?” When Naminé starts to protest, Axel suddenly says: “By the way, Naminé. I don’t see Marluxia around. Do you?”

Naminé doesn’t understand at first, but with a little more goading, she realizes Axel is letting her go, and flees the room while Axel deliberately keeps his back turned, whispering: “Make it count.” As soon as she’s left, Axel has a brief monologue, which was changed between versions, which is too bad because a lot of people have said it’s one of their favourites. Here’s the original:

“Hm hmm… Ha ha haaa! Now this should be good. All the actors are in place. Now, Sora! Naminé! Riku! Marluxia! Larxene! It’s about time you gave me one hell of a show!”

In Re:CoM he’s more subdued:

“Now THIS should be interesting. Try and make it enjoyable, Sora. It’s the least you can do for me, you know.”

You do have to wonder what he means.

com-2015-11-16-14h21m02s320Re:CoM adds another line to this, and for reasons that will become important during our discussion of KH2, I want to remind you that Re:CoM was created during the production of the KH2 remake, KH2:Final Mix+. I’m pointing that out because this line touches on a theme that was added to several parts of FM+, not the original game, and the distinction will prove important in the long run. In this new scene, Axel seems to notice something and touches his chest. “Hey, wait. I’m enjoying this. You guys are something else!” What he means by this will also have to wait, but it’s important.

As Sora arrives on the 12th Floor, Jiminy Cricket decides to crawl out of Sora’s hood to say something, but he’s barely opened his mouth before Sora snaps: “Keep it to yourself!” That’s the whole cutscene. It’s harsh, and very effective, I’m surprised they managed to do it without resorting to E-rated pseudo-vulgarity.  It may be one of my favourite lines in the series in-context, since it’s so surprising and effective.

com-2015-11-16-14h22m37s462When Sora appears on the beach in Destiny Islands, he actually recognizes it unlike all the Disney worlds we’ve passed since Traverse Town. And for some reason, Sora is… shocked? Sora, are you losing your memory just that fast or did you not even look at the card you used to open the door? Were the cards having pictures just supposed to be an abstraction from the GBA version? He’s barely had a moment to celebrate before Tidus, Selphie and Wakka arrive. Sora remembers his friends… but not their names, the reverse of Traverse Town. The trio decide that Sora is confused because he’s been “thinking about HER.” And look at our hero all grown up and not panicking at the first sign of romantic entanglement, like at the start of KH1! That’s cute. Character development is cute. The trio runs off (“to spy on you!”) and you’re left to your usual CoM business.

Yup, the usual CoM business, meaning there are Heartless on Destiny Islands. To me, this has always suggested that the Heartless in Castle Oblivion are actual Heartless, not memory-beings, because there were no Heartless on Destiny Islands prior to the Night of Fate. KH1 already established in the End of the World that 100 Acre Wood was “too pure” to be attacked by Heartless, but the Islands certainly aren’t. Of course, if you don’t like my theory, you could just as easily assume that Sora’s memory is confused. After all… it is.

com-2015-11-16-14h23m21s056

I can’t decide what I like about this most: Selphie’s pouty face or Wakka’s shit-eating grin, visible even from wide zoom.

Because you have no Friend cards in this section, you might find yourself short an area attack if your deck was relying on Goofy. Some players may want to modify your deck for this world. Donald will not be missed (sorry, buddy). The battle theme here is “Night of Fate,” not “Bustin’ Up the Beach.” “Bustin’ Up the Beach” was the the theme used against the Final Fantasy characters and Riku in KH1, and I think it should have been used here in place of “Night of Fate.” To me, “Night of Fate” feels too extreme for the bright, sunny beachside, even after Sora starts to remember the destruction of the islands after the Room of Beginnings. Ideally, the combat theme would change after the Room of Beginnings (hell, ideally the whole island would darken up, but let’s be realistic), but if we had to stick with just one track, I would have preferred “Bustin’ Up the Beach.”

The beach itself is pretty well designed in Re:CoM, it’s very attractive. The Tornado Steps you find in other parts of CoM almost seem at home, making me wonder if they were designed as Destiny Island Heartless? Also present are Crescendos and Creeper Plants, both still obnoxious and murderous.

The doors in Destiny Islands are murder on your Room Deck. The Room of Rewards holding the Megalixir wants 99 points worth of cards from all three colours! Yes, 99 points of reds, 99 of blues, and 99 of greens! Even if you have a Random Joker it’s only going to pay for one of the three colours (though if you’re lucky, you’ll have more than one!). There’s no Door to Truth on Destiny Islands, but if you unlock all three gold doors in one go, you’ll probably drop a third or more of your map cards. It’s a relief at first, having space in your deck, but stops being a relief once you reach the next floor and need cards all over again!

com-2015-11-16-14h24m31s981To make matters worse, if you’re trying to get into the Key to Rewards room, you may realize you don’t have enough Greens. This is because the game outright stopped offering Greens after Traverse Town! You probably won’t even notice until it was too late, as scores of players have done in the past. The only way to get more Green cards would be to leave the floor and so lose all your progress. What a scam!

At the Room of Beginnings, you go out the islet with the bent tree, where you find Riku. Initially, Sora doesn’t even remember who Riku is, but it comes to him in time. This I think is the best proof for my theory that the memory floors are draining Sora’s memory of that particular world he happens to be in at the time. Once Sora does remember Riku, he doesn’t just remember his friend from the islands, but starts asking him questions about Vexen, which memory-Riku doesn’t understand. Just then, the ground starts to shake. Riku goes to warn “the others,” but they both agree that it’s Sora’s “job to look after her,” and they part.

At the Room of Guidance, Sora finds himself… well, back on the islet, as though he just walked a giant circle. Except now, the island has been ripped apart. It’s in the middle of the apocalypse, and the islet is the only land left. Once again, like the real series of events, Sora is confronted with the the Darkside, the last Heartless boss in this game.

…………ppfffffffffffffffffffffffffhahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I understand the memory thing, and the symbolism. But it’s still a Darkside!

com-2015-11-16-14h26m34s673

The GBA Gimmick Card.

The Darkside may be the boss that suffered the most in the conversion from KH1 to CoM. The Darkside in KH1 relied on your freedom of movement to attack it at any part on its arm up past the wrist, but now you can only attack the hitbox in the hand itself (and, of course, the face, but I’m mostly talking about the replacement of a wide, hand-shaped hitbox with a small geometric one). You used to knock his energy blasts into himself, but this game only allows you to “guard” with card breaking. Also, remember ages ago when I was talking about Sora’s terrible targeting code on the overworld, and how he would rather attack barrels than enemies? It’s back, as Sora tends to prioritize attacking the Shadows over the Darkside, though thankfully the Shadows have almost no HP and won’t distract our unfocused hero for long. Making this fight even stranger is is the fact that it’s the only Darkside in the franchise to not be fought to the songs “Destiny’s Force” or “Destati.” Instead, the Darkside uses the normal CoM battle theme, “Struggle Away,” which to me is one of the weakest boss themes in the series. I’m more bothered by the inconsistency than the quality of “Struggle Away,” however, and I think it’s something they should have corrected in the remake.

com-2015-11-16-14h27m02s445

The Re:CoM Gimmick Card.

Like every other Heartless boss that didn’t need it, the Darkside has a Gimmick Card – the last Gimmick Card in the game, as it happens. This is the one that was swapped with Maleficent in the remake. In the GBA, it causes a platform (a piece of driftwood in this case) to appear so you can attack the Darkside’s face, which seems to hurt it with impunity. In Re:CoM, we get a craggy mountain from nowhere that isn’t entirely reminiscent of the Maleficent GBA fight (it can’t be destroyed by the Darkside, for starters) but serves a similar purpose: you aren’t safe here, and it can be tricky to stay on top, and doesn’t last very long. The faster you navigate this artificial cliff side, the more damage you can do!

All in all, the best advice for this fight is from the Wiki: don’t use close combat Sleights. Ever. Hell, don’t use projectile Sleights! I barely recommend using magic outside of Cure. He’s just a big Shadow, so bash him over and over until he goes away. High valued cards are very helpful.  This is the only battle in the game where a deck of all 9s gets a thumbs up from me.  Thumbs down for subtlety!

Like in the real order of events from KH1, destroying the Darkside doesn’t stop the destruction of the islands, but Sora doesn’t seem to care. He starts shouting for Naminé, and to my surprise as well as his, he finds her! The two of them ignore the destruction around them, and Naminé talks about how happy she is that he came for her. It seems this is the real Naminé, from the real castle!

com-2015-11-16-14h27m56s429Naminé says she wanted to see Sora, but abruptly changes her tone, saying “this isn’t right. I messed up. I wanted to see you… But this isn’t the right way.” When Sora asks what’s up, Naminé says that she was lonely for a long time, and called out to his heart, and he: “to this place. You came for me and I’m so… so happy, but—” Great delivery on that part, by the way. “…but to your heart… I had to…”

I’m quoting Re:CoM here, partially because Meghan Martin’s delivery is so good, but also because it makes it clear what Naminé is thinking. The GBA version favours ambiguity at this point, as it often has in the past, but I feel we’re starting to reach the point in the game where clarity is more important. Naminé’s not supposed to be telling you everything at this point, but the ambiguity goes a little too far in my opinion.

Sora tries to take Naminé’s hand to comfort her, but she rejects it, saying: “I’m not supposed to be in this picture.” Just then, behind Sora, another Naminé appears, this one translucent in Re:CoM. She implies that she is the real Naminé and the original one was a memory, but that that neither version is supposed to be here in the memory-world. The two of them insist: “I’m not in your heart. I’m not in anyone’s heart. I never have been.”

In the GBA version, Sora’s vision actually goes a little blurry. He insists that he and Naminé used to be inseparable, and recounts that he “lost” her, and came here so that he wouldn’t lose her again (when he says “here,” does he mean coming this far up the castle? Or does he now believe he came to the castle in the first place with hopes of reuniting with her?). Naminé asks if it really was her that Sora wanted, and Sora holds out her charm to insist.

com-2015-11-16-14h28m35s352This is where a strange thing happens in both versions. The memory Naminé (the solid one in the remake) seems pleased he has the charm, but the translucent, real Naminé begs Sora not to “believe me.” Not only is the phrasing awkward, but I’m not sure what’s going on now. When we started this scene, the “fake” Naminé said she knew Sora, then said she didn’t, then stopped talking, and is now back where she started! Is the “real” Naminé exercising only limited control over the memory, or… uh… what? I have a suspicion about what’s going on but it’s still very sloppy.

Real Naminé asks Sora to think about the person that’s most special to him, at the back of his heart. “No matter how far away the light gets, your heart’s voice will always reach it.” Sora follows her instructions, confident that he’ll just see Naminé herself, when suddenly the good luck charm shines… and turns into the Oathkeeper keychain.

To this day I still feel silly for not realizing that the star charm was the Oathkeeper keychain all along.  Hell, it even explains why it was actually flat!

com-2015-11-16-14h33m04s892When Sora opens his eyes, he sees the memory Naminé has transformed into Kairi. Presumably this was why she was happy to see the charm in the first place, but I’m still not sure how Naminé was speaking through her at the start of the dream. Real Naminé disappears in the process, having never physically been there (she was probably talking to Sora telepathically), and Sora is left to leave Destiny Islands on his own, receiving the Oathkeeper Keyblade as a reward. He heads to the Conqueror’s Respite (in Re:CoM, this is a natural cliff side instead of a ladder, a cute detail), and returns to the Castle.

……hoooo boy, here we go.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts CoM – Good riddance to the blabbermouth
Next: Kingdom Hearts CoM – Behind the Magic


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).

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