Marluxia is killed (in the GBA he actually explodes into petals, probably the inspiration for the “consumed by the element” idea in KH2), and Sora returns to the hall, where his first response is to… seal the door with the Keyblade? If there’s something worth sealing away back there, they sure didn’t spell it out to me. Am I wrong? Is he afraid of the room itself and its starry expanse? Or is he just that angry? You can tell from this screenshot and the events of the last entry that Sora is furious, I don’t doubt that, but I still don’t see what this accomplishes. Donald and Goofy even pre-empt his actions by closing the door in the first place, and they aren’t angry at all! You have to make up an answer to make this work, because the game isn’t talking. Sora’s response isn’t that extreme on its own, but it is an extreme response to the stimulus, which is to say: no stimulus at all!
(ShardofTruth made an interesting point about this scene in the Retrospective’s thread at KHI. I’ll discuss it again towards the end of the KH2 Retrospective, but if you’re familiar with the series already, you may want to check it out here.)
Let’s not even begin to talk about why Sora doesn’t just imprison villains in rooms to begin with. From what we see in the series, while the Keyblade can unlock anything, it’s only ever used to lock specific locks. I’m just not sure why this is one of them!
Having performed that entirely necessary action, Sora asks the others (Donald, Goofy, Naminé and the Riku Replica) how they’re doing, addressing Riku by name. This gives Riku a chance to remind us that he’s acknowledging he’s not the real Riku after all, and needs to forge his own identify from this point on. The animation in Re:CoM and David Gallagher’s performance make it sound like Riku Replica’s trying to put on a happy face even though he feels upset, something not implied by the original. That’s a very nice touch, so okay, maybe I can undo Re:CoM’s negative infinity point and just leave it in normal negative points. I still prefer the GBA where narrative is concerned.
Goofy asks the obvious: can’t Naminé fix Riku’s memories so that he can at least remember being a Replica without this false foundation of lies that leaves him with such a mess to clean up? In the GBA, she outright says that she can’t, “it’s different,” and I have to wonder… why? Why is it different? In about a minute, she’s going to describe exactly how she’ll fix Sora’s memory, and it seems like it would work just fine on the Replica! Didn’t she create his memories in basically the same way? Re:CoM seems to agree with me, and as a result, it has Riku interrupting her to say that he’ll be fine as-is. After a few words of encouragement from Sora, he walks off into the castle.
Donald takes this moment to butt in before anyone can interrupt again, and asks Naminé if she can please fix them now. It’s too bad the voice acting doesn’t match the impatience that oozes off the text and his behaviour. Naminé explains that yeah, that’ll be easy: their memories aren’t “gone” in the first place. She returns us to the chain of memories metaphor, explaining that memories are all linked, one to another, and all she’s done is messed with the links. This goes a long way to codifying the idea of hearts being linked to other hearts, since we cannot see how they’d be linked through shared memories. It makes a lot of practical sense if you can think of memories in the Kingdom Hearts universe as existing somewhere out in the Platonic mist as semi-tangible objects. In fact, part of the reason KH leans on friendship speeches, and its keywords, “darkness” and “heart” is because it has ascribed such stringent, physical meanings to each term. Kingdom Hearts is extremely contextual that way – it’s why it always looks ludicrous if you take its scenes out of context into a parody video or image post.
Naminé says that all she’ll have to do is undo the chain-links she set up to make her false memories, and then re-link the originals. “It might take some time,” pause for laughter from veteran audiences, “but I think it might work.”
Jiminy Cricket speaks up, realizing Naminé is hiding something: if she removes the chains linking the false memories to the real, then they’re ultimately going to forget all the memories that took place at Castle Oblivion, because the two are so embroiled. That sounds a little extreme? …Even to the point of being incorrect? Couldn’t she just unlink her false memories from the real memories of the Castle? I guess the memories come in larger Platonic “chunks” than I initially assumed?
If nothing else, I feel I understand the real-world reason for this ending. My guess is that CoM’s was designed such that if the game didn’t sell very well, Square could ignore it in future games. If Sora doesn’t remember the game, no real-world player should need to remember the game, and so CoM becomes optional. As it turns out, CoM did sell well (or at least well enough), and the game was made very relevant to KH2 and the series that followed. In a matter of speaking, CoM was made so important to KH2 that we might have been better off if it had been called KH2 and KH2 upgraded to 3, but that’s another discussion. Nevertheless, the old hooks Square Enix and JUPITER put in place for a skippable, gaiden experience are there, if you know where to look.
Re:CoM once again adds some body language nuance to the ending that wasn’t in the original: Naminé turns away and tries to act casual when she suggests that Sora could choose to remember her and the castle, even though it would mean losing his original memories. One last selfish grab from the poor girl. Sora nevertheless asks Naminé to restore their original memories (Haley Joel Osmet makes him sound very certain), and Naminé winces before pretending to agree, saying that of course he’d prefer the people who were really there for him to “false memories.” This is a little mean of me to say about her, but I find myself reminded of how Naminé ended up in this situation in the first place.
Naminé takes the gang off to another room, where we find the weirdest thing. I’m at a complete loss to explain this prop: both the object itself (without the help of out-of-universe information) and the logic of the developers in just throwing this at us with no explanation in both CoM and KH2. Who does that? Naminé leads them into a room so featureless it does not even seem to include walls, wherein we find a giant… bulb statue, much larger and not dissimilar to the statue flowers found through Castle Oblivion. It seems Naminé has explained off-screen that Sora and the others need to get into pods like this if she’s going to restore their memories. Why? This was presumably also explained off-screen, and while I do think that’s really peculiar and even stupid, I suppose I don’t need to know. What I’m more concerned about is why this thing is here in the first place! Nomura (I believe) later implied that the Organization was at the Castle to study memory, which may imply that this bulb was one of their pieces of equipment.
The cast are ignoring these big issues, even though it concerns their personal safety, and are instead discussing what they should do about the fact that they’re about to forget poor Naminé. Jiminy has a practical solution: he’ll write the words “Thank Naminé” in his journal. Just… “Thank Naminé.” He doesn’t plan to write any explanations. He’s not going to provide a way to confirm that he wrote this and not an imposter that locked them in alien death pods. He apparently hasn’t put down a word of the events in the Castle in his entirely blank journal, even after Naminé stopped erasing their memories.
Jiminy isn’t even questioning why he can’t delay his memory-restoring process so that he could spend time keeping Naminé company while writing a detailed journal, or maybe they could all delay for a few hours – he seems like a fast writer! The game is just that rushed. “No, you can’t make shorthand notes! Get in the pod! Get in now!”
Donald and Goofy just wander off at this point (Jiminy will be staying in Sora’s hood as usual). It’s funny, but after an entire game where Donald, Goofy and Jiminy were perhaps even more prominent than the original, now the game can’t wait to be rid of them. They don’t even feel like full characters in this moment, they’re so eager to leave. Here’s what Donald says after they come up with their “Thank Naminé” plan. “Oh, good. That makes me feel better.” And then he leaves without asking her thoughts on the matter, or of a more comprehensive solution! They come off like people trying to escape relatives after an unpleasant holiday get-together.
Of course, the devs just wanted Sora and Naminé to have a private conversation. Naminé tries to tell him how she feels, that she wants to be friends, and Sora is just overenthusiastic about how happy he felt to meet her, saying “That was no lie.” Oh dear. Sora, honey, the fact that you felt happy was itself founded on top of a lie. The entire game has been explaining this relationship between false memories and real action, you really have to… oh, forget it. You won’t remember anything I’m saying anyways.
Before he goes, Sora promises that when he wakes up, he and Naminé will be friends for real. Okay, that is sweet, I can get behind that. He then asks her to promise that they will. Naminé laughs and says he’ll forget making the promise (another good delivery from Meaghan Martin, who was faltering earlier in the scene), but Sora points out that even if she breaks the chain of memories, the memories of the Castle will still be in his heart somewhere, and he believes they’ll influence him in the end. Wow, he uh, suddenly understands this really well, doesn’t he? Bravo. I can honestly get behind this, in fact I’m enthusiastic about it: this promise is genuine! It’s still slightly influenced by Sora’s condition but it’s so in keeping with his character that I don’t doubt it much. This is honestly how a lot of the previous problematic scenes should have been phrased from the beginning: not “I have a false memory and I will defend it,” but “I want to start over and make new promises.” Naminé takes some heart from this promise, and Sora gets in the pod.
Once in the pod, Naminé gives Sora one last reminder. She tells Sora to focus on the Oathkeeper pendant and think on Kairi, because there’s “another promise you made,” a phrase we’ll be hearing again. If Sora can remember Kairi, even the memories lost in the dark will be visible for Namine to work with.
Naminé says this of Kairi: “She is your light. The light within the darkness.” This is a pretty clear-cut reference to the lyrics of “Hikari” the original Japanese theme song of KH1 and CoM. Naturally, the song is about to play and this is our textual segue to it. Since western audiences hear “Simple and Clean,” this is entirely lost on them.
Though I suppose Sora and Naminé were in a relationship that was going too fast…
Sora focuses on Kairi as instructed, and the game cuts to a pre-rendered cinematic on the GBA. The GBA version plays this out inside the pod’s sealed white walls, showing a very poor understanding of how light works. The remake made the scene black, implying this takes place in Sora’s mind. Which it does, so all the more credit to it. Sora thinks back, remembering his Final Fantasy friends from Destiny Islands and Traverse Town, then Riku, and gradually Kairi appears. She smiles at Sora and finally he remembers her name.
Sora then spots Naminé, who has been hovering beside him as a vision since an earlier part of the dream. She says it’s okay, as she and Sora have their new promise, which means that “I can come back to you.” Or at least, that’s what the GBA version says. The remake says it means that “I can come back,” as though she meant coming back at all. I realize this was probably just a localization flub, but it almost sounds like she’s a memory-ghost again. Oh well. Time to let that theory go.
And then remake-Naminé makes things worse by saying “One day the light—it will be ours.” Remake-Naminé, you sound like a supervillain! The original said “One day [our promise] will be our light”!
Naminé then says that she’ll be in Sora’s heart, and Sora closes off our story by saying: “Forgotten, but not lost.”
The credits for the game play out with a few recap images (in the case of the GBA, these were 3D renders of scenes from the 2D game!), followed by some mini-skits done by various characters from the game. These skits are a little funnier in the remake, considering they can do more than just pose. Now that everyone’s had a giggle, the remake’s credits continue to show a few post-game sequences. The first of these shows Kairi on the beach, who looks pained, pained enough that Selphie comes up to check on her. The second shows the Riku-Replica, running into Axel in the halls, and Axel offers him an outstretched hand. The last is the most intriguing depicts a young blonde boy in Twilight Town, who observes a trio of other teenagers going the other way. We do not know any of these characters, but we’ll be seeing them again soon enough!
In the remake, there is also a mysterious scene of a white room, circled by very, very tall thrones, up to two storeys tall, with the seats at irregular heights. Cloaked figures sit in some of the seats, while others are empty.
The final scene of both games is of Sora in the pod, as a poem appears, which differs by version. There are common themes, however, so it’s worth looking at both, and keeping them in mind as we move into KH2:
and a dream—
a dream of you
in a world without you
There is always sleep between part and meet
With our usual words on the usual street
So let us part like we always do…
And in a world without you
I’ll dream of you
When I come to, let us meet
With our usual words on the usual street
With that, we close out the game. The remake proceeds to the Results screen (which happens to show your most-used Sleight – mine was Blizzaga in the Retrospective playthrough), with the option to save your clear data.
And that’s Chain of Memories! Wow, two whole games behind us. Two games absolutely, one-hundred percent, top-to-bottom completed and we can move happily on to Kingdom Hearts 2–
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).