Galuf follows up his backstory and speech by leading the party back to his original meteor, now with a door in its front. He explains that there is only enough power left in the meteor to power one transportation back. He and Krile would go, and he made it clear that Bartz, Faris and Lenna were to under absolutely no circumstances to follow. Like a pack of four year olds, the moment his back was turned by several astral units, the remaining party reneged. All they needed was a teleporter!
On B1, Riku and Mickey have a discussion about fighting Ansem. Riku tries to insist that he needs to face Ansem alone, and furthermore, if he should fail and be possessed by Ansem, he wants Mickey to be safe and ready to… ahem… put him away. Mickey interrupts Riku mid-sentence by saying “Sure, I’ll save you, pal!” He refuses to even acknowledge Riku’s request to be killed should things go sour. Mickey not only refuses to kill Riku if worse turns to worse, but insists on going with him. And thank goodness: during my first playthrough, I was screaming inside my head at the idea of fighting the final boss without Mickey after two worlds without him. The King insists Riku will be fine, and that they’ll pull through this together.
After a lot of panicking and confusion, it occurred to me to go to Cid in hopes that he might have a hint on where to go next. This wasn’t exactly ingenuity so much as comedy: going to talk to Cid had become something of an inside joke that just kept being correct, and yet again, he was exactly who we were supposed to talk to if we wanted to advance the plot. Cid might as well be the only thing driving the plot at this point. By the way, Cid’s reaction to news that his ship sank was “So? We can just build a new one!” With what materials? In what time frame? Anyway, he and Mid announced that despite the fact that they had been spending all their time buried in old books, they somehow managed to pick up a piece of contemporary news: the location of King Tycoon. He had apparently been seen headed to the Desert of Shifting Sands, a place so inhospitable that of course there were witnesses standing around to see him go by! Unfortunately, the desert could not be passed under normal circumstances, but Cid had a plan.
Back with Riku, the inevitable has happened, and Ansem comes to chat with him now that he’s embraced the darkness. This chat is rote, and it becomes even more rote when Mickey yet again arrives to save Riku. This is just tedious in the remake where it’s happening for the third time – in the original, it’s still happening for the third time but remember, Mickey partially failed the second time and is only now returning after a long absence! But there’s one difference in both versions, as this time, Mickey is actually here in the castle!
When our second session started, we decided to grind out a little job training, even temporarily changing Faris to Ninja out of a misguided sense of our intended direction for her. We ultimately trained Bartz only part of the way to Control in a spat of impatience, and instead pressed on with the plot.
We talked to Cid, only to find that the loss of the Fire Crystal had hit him hard, feeling guilty about potentially destroying the planet. He left us to go off and begin binge drinking. We had no choice but to follow rumours in town of Cid’s grandson, Mid (you might remember a second Mid appearing in TAY). Mid was off studying at the Library of the Ancients, the place where Cid had learned how to enhance the Crystals in the first place, and now that Karnak’s walls had fallen, our way to the Library was clear. A dark and arbitrary means of progression, but it’s what we had!
It’s been a long time since we saw cutscenes on both sides of the staircase. Back in the dark room, Zexion… I guess “smells”… Lexaeus’ death and acts somewhere between neutral and upset. The dark meeting room is starting to look very lonely. Axel decides this is the right moment to intercede. Zexion’s strangely neutral toward Axel (“neutral” is the key word with Zexion) considering that he earlier describe Axel killing Vexen as “deplorable.” Axel says that he wonders who will be next to die, which is lovely dinner conversation, and Zexion shows a sense of humour by saying “I thought perhaps it might be you.”
This gives Axel an excuse to show us where we are in the plot: Sora has just thrashed him and is on his way to Marluxia. At least this time the time skip makes sense: Riku was unconscious just now.
Our Job-changing decisions delayed, we pushed on to the new meteorite and found a door in it. Inside, a small series of chambers lead to a teleport pad, which spat us out on a far western continent, inside another meteor! Which raises the question: was that the point of those teleporters? I’ll jump ahead a lot to say that no, no they actually aren’t explained later, at least not to the degree I’d like. Sure, there’s a reason there are teleporters in these two meteors, but there’s no story reason for them to lead to one another, of all things.
We headed out the western meteor and found us in the land of Karnak, which in a surprising moment of worldbuilding, seemed to be named after the Naks, a sort of wild dog that roamed the countryside as wandering monsters (and taught us a useless scrap of Blue Magic). This is the part of the game where Blue Magic started picking up, which was kind of ironic considering it’s about where we stopped being a Blue Mage. Across the continent and near a bay was the town of Karnak, and its castle. Interesting theme song in Karnak (shared with the ship graveyard, but I noticed it here because it was so unusual for a town theme): great percussion, but awful synth horns in the iOS version. Lava was everywhere in town – guess what Crystal was stored in the castle? If you looked at the lava and said “Fire,” you’re right! If you looked at the lava and said “Earth,” you’re a geologist!
Now that we’ve got the worst of the Disney worlds out of the way, what’s next? In my last playthrough, I decided it was time to go to Halloween Town to get Riku’s only reliable form of healing: the Oogie Boogie card. The Halloween Town deck is a powerful deck in the remake, packed with 7s and 9s. It’s a terrible duelling deck, since you have few to no low-valued cards to pair against the Heartless (short of entering an Almighty Darkness room) but it’s the easiest floor in which to enter Dark Mode. The original game had a mid-level deck, instead. I imagine it may have been upgraded to help you trump Oogie’s dice, but I still don’t recommend that particular strategy.
As we would later discover, the Ship’s Graveyard was located at the north of another large, inland sea. The party, including Faris, pulled themselves together upon arrival, and the game did a good job of showing us that the party was not fully unified but knew they would have to work together without having to spell out the point for all to see.
The Graveyard was a weird dungeon. It’s nominally made up of multiple ships joined together by planks, but in practice, it mostly takes place inside the hold of a single ship, while you only hop across the abbreviated tops of most of the others. Furthermore, this dungeon introduces the fact that your characters can swim in full armour without having to come up to breathe. If you say so!
We actually cut away to follow the Replica before we catch up again with Riku. He returns to the basement meeting room of doom, where for once in this series’ life, no one lectures him for losing a single fight as though it were the end of the world. Instead, they ask him if he’s like to meet Sora, and Riku Replica seems pretty eager to murder him, even without invitation. In the original, Vexen says he doesn’t necessarily want Sora dead, but that’s okay with the Replica. “Sora’s just one more person to crush on the way to Riku.” Shit, going to fill out all the evil clone tropes, aren’t you?