Kingdom Hearts 2 – Mini-Game Union #333

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Still thinking about the Keyblade, the second day begins with Roxas picking up a stick to see if he can once again summon the weapon. The stick is a 3D model that, I’m afraid to say, will be obviously reused in KH Days. Yes. They reused a stick. Prominently.

He gives up after a while and tosses the stick over his shoulder, accidentally hitting a man in a black cloak. The man walks off without a word as Roxas tries to apologize, and Roxas returns to his business.

Inside The Usual Spot, the others are eating some of that blue ice cream on a stick from the end of Re: CoM. We later learn this is called “Sea-Salt Ice Cream” and Tetsuya Nomura introduced it to the series based on a product he had enjoyed in the past. We’re going to be seeing a lot of it. You’d think someone was paying them, but apparently not! I hear they serve or served it at Tokyo Disneyland for a while after KH2.

kh2-2016-01-08-22h18m52s370For some reason – and even the game acts like this is sudden and uncalled for, it’s not like we’re stepping into the middle of a conversation – Pence decides to ask out-loud if the four of them will be together forever. Hayner says probably not, which is awful mature of him, and he adds that it’s more important “how often we think about each other.” CoM players can already see how this is relevant to the series, though it’s still weird that it came into conversation for no reason.

With existentialism aside, the kids are now bored, and Hayner declares that they should all go to the beach. He rushes out and the game takes the opportunity to introduce save points, which actually delay Roxas following his friends as though the save points were a real thing. It’s hilarious for all the wrong reasons: Pence running back into the room just to find Roxas standing around staring at the corner. Sure Roxas! You’re “saving the game,” we understand!

Before Hayner explains his plan, everyone takes a moment to admire a poster for the Struggle tournament being held in two days’ time. This finally explains Fuu’s sentence fragment from yesterday, however belated. Roxas and Hayner are both entering the tournament, and they promise to win the prize so all four of them can share it.

kh2-2016-01-08-22h19m31s292That done, Hayner explains his plan. To get to the beach, they’re going to need a pile of cash, so Hayner takes inventory and it seems they don’t have enough. He also fronts no money himself and diverts attention before anyone notices, which makes me laugh.

Hayner plays up like he’s got a scheme, but it’s not much of a scheme. He actually just wants everyone to go find temp jobs and make the money before the last train leaves. You’re a true Dennis the Menace, Hayner. Hayner says that they need to make 800 munny each (this may be the only time in the series munny is treated as a tangible object!), and sends everyone off to play mini-games to make up the cash. Yes, isn’t this exciting? We’re 10 000 words into this retrospective and we’re finally getting around to what we bought this game for: chores and temp labour!

I might as well say it: the tedious pacing of KH2’s prologue/tutorial is infamous. I personally watched my brother walk out on the game thanks to this chore speedbump here on day 2, so this affects me personally. The game dawdles and stalls all the way through the first day, and now that we’re on the second day, you have to blow time playing mini-games – things that exist to give you a break from the main game – before you’re even allowed to take part in main game. Square Enix does allow you to skip past this (you don’t have to make any munny at all) but the game doesn’t convey that very well unless you take a shot in the dark and try to leave on your own! Of course, if you’re in the know, this might take even longer, because there are prizes for getting more than 800!

kh2-2016-01-08-22h20m02s485Your prize(s) for this segment are some free Ability Points. It’s hard to explain at the outset, but Ability Points are one of the most important stats you’ll get in KH2 (or at least, they’re the most irritating stat to lack). Critical Mode gets a lot of them as a special bonus, but everyone else is going to prize each and every one they find, and even Critical Mode players shouldn’t shy away entirely. You’ll probably have enough of them by the end of the game no matter what difficulty you’re playing, but only towards the end: for most of the game it’s going to feel like you don’t have enough. Completing mini-games here on Day 2 can earn you +1 or even a rare +2 bonus right at the outset, when you need AP the most. It’s hard to ignore, even if you are in Critical Mode.

Want to earn that +2 AP? Of course you do. We’re all fools here. To get it, you’re going to have to participate in a lot of mini-games. Depending on your performance in each game, you can earn up to 50 munny, or in one case up to 100 munny an attempt, though getting 100 forces you to play one of the longer mini-games. How much do you need? 1200 munny total, which includes your 150 starting cash (some sources forget to count the 150 starting cash). You know you’ve got it if you talk to Hayner and he talks about being able to afford watermelon at the beach. 1200 munny means playing 21 rounds of the normal-paying mini-games. What a colossal waste of time! This seems to be KH2’s attempt to re-create KH1’s (in my opinion: excellent) scavenger hunts, but you access the mini-games from sign boards, so you essentially don’t explore the town so much as stand in one place twiddling through a menu! I truly recommend you mix the games up on your first play-through just to keep from getting bored, but if you’re a bitter old grognard like myself, you’ll want to latch on to your best game and play it until you’re finished.

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This lovely use of close-ups in text dialogue was sadly removed from later games.

You’re given free reign of Twilight Town at this point, including your… MENU! FINALLY! Excuse me while I adjust my camera preferences. While you’re in the config menu, you might also notice a few new options, like the auto-camera (the game tries to guide the camera to the right position on its own) or the ability to disable a cool feature for the command menu if you feel the need. This feature is one of my favourite bits of KH2 polish: the command menu “decorates” itself to match your current world. I can understand some players wanting to disable it for consistency’s sake, accessibility concerns, or otherwise, but I love the custom command menus. They’re priceless.

You also get your first map at some point in this sequence. Maps in KH2 are actual items that cause your mini-map to fill out, but in many parts of the game, they’re just handed to you arbitrarily as you advance the plot.

Right, so where was I? Right, you now have free reign over Twilight Town, and to help you get around, the game has also given you access to its… skateboards? Yes, there are skateboards everywhere in Twilight Town! They appear in front of every door you use because you can’t carry them from screen to screen. They serve as a way to speed up transport and also feature in a series of mini-games later on in the game. Frankly, it’s bizarre that they’re here at all.  I can appreciate their role in speeding you up but I can’t help but feel it’s the mini-game they were really brought in for.

Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s talk about the mini-games. During this segment, you can visit two job boards, with three games on each. I’ll start with the job board on the hill.

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Spazbo4 wisely went on with life after playing only 2 minigames, so I’ll have to supply alternate screenshots. Here’s a skateboard.

The first job on the hill is Mail Delivery, and it’s a great start because it’s arguably the best way to burn through your 21 minigame plays. Mail Delivery involves you delivering letters on skateboard (not the skateboard-related mini-game I was discussing earlier) to six recipients on the hill that leads to the prominent Twilight Town clock tower. Two of your recipients are… pigeons? Doves? Learning that you’re supposed to deliver mail to seagulls will probably screw up your time on the first few plays, and that’s not a joke – it’s absolutely confounding and counter-intuitive, so it’s only natural that you might circle around, wondering where you’re supposed to deliver your mail! If the idea of skateboarding mail delivery to birds doesn’t make sense yet, don’t worry, your brain will have died 20 plays later and by then it won’t matter.

The biggest “challenge” to this game is that one of the partridges is in the air, and you’ll have to grind down a slope to catch the air you need to get. It’s… it’s the dumbest thing I’ve seen in days. But with a little practice, you can get this mini-game down to 8 or 9 seconds, which is hilarious because you’ll almost spend more time on load screens than you will playing the game.  This is why it’s my favourite. Later in the game, Jiminy Cricket will track your high scores and give you a “stamp” if you can beat a target score. This stamp is required to get achievements and the secret ending on some difficulties. His target score for Mail Delivery is 14 seconds, which you can pulverize with only a little practice. Unfortunately Jiminy won’t track any scores until he’s actually present, which is something I feel they should have corrected in FM+.

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Cargo Climb in action.

The next game, Cargo Climb, is one of the more skill-based games in this set. You’ll probably find it easier to beat Jiminy’s time by coming back with a few upgrades, but it is doable with your default skills if you know exactly how to do it. Unfortunately… I can’t, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for advice. I can at least describe the basics. You have to hit a heavily loaded truck up a hill with your struggle bat. This is trickier than it sounds, as the cart wants to roll side-to-side rather than up the hill. Every few times you land a combo finisher, the cart will sort of hop in the air, which is your cue to hit one more time in mid-air.  Doing so will cause it to fly up the hill. It can be a pain, but not as much of a pain as…

Grandstander, aka “Rare Truffles aren’t in this game but that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend.” You have to juggle a ball in the air, with five tries to get the highest total score you can get. Jiminy will want 100 bounces, but your temp work boss only wants 50 for the highest possible pay. Unfortunately, this takes so long compared to the other minigames that it’s not worth doing for temp work, even if you were a Rare Truffle pro.

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A humble game of Grandstander.

Down in the tram common, there are three more games. Poster Duty is the only game that can pay 100 munny, but only if you finish in under a minute and a half. In that kind of time, you can make four or more Mail Deliveries depending on load times, so it’s not worth it except for fun! Poster Delivery has you running around the Commons putting up posters. The trick is to let the poster-placing animation carry you forward, since it moves you faster than anything Roxas can do on his own. Later in the game you have to get a blistering time to appease Jiminy, mostly by abusing your end-game mobility upgrades.

Next is Bumble-Buster, not to be confused with Bumble Rumble from Re:CoM. In this game, you simply have to kill some bees under a timer. Once again, Jiminy’s a pain about this game but your upgrades and spells will easily handle the challenge by mid-game. The temp work, not so much. Fun fact: if you go visit this part of the tram common in your own time, you can actually be attacked by the bees like a regular enemy!

kh2-2016-01-08-22h26m00s950The last game is the weirdest. Junk Sweeper forces you to clear out a pile of scrap, but the scrap can only be broken by your combo finisher, or by having a finisher propel one piece of junk into another, which will break every junk pile in a small area of effect (including your projectile). You’re not being timed: you’re actually being marked on the number of swings you take to solve the puzzle. When it comes to Jiminy’s score, you need such an obscure set of Abilities that you won’t be able to master this game until you’ve cleared a bonus boss. I call these “Zelda fishing” situations: where you can defeat the strongest evils in the universe, but can’t catch a damn fish. You can destroy the strongest evils in the world, but John Lasseter help you, you can’t break up some trash.

Having finally gathered the money (you can’t go past 2000 – the game will automatically progress if you do), your friends bring in their shares and count them, discovering they have 5000 munny! No matter how hard you worked! In fact the only conclusion I can make is that if you worked harder, one of your friends decided to work even less! Prrrrrrooooobably Hayner. I suppose there’s a character moment for you!

kh2-2016-01-08-22h26m43s979Hayner stops Roxas to pick up that existentialist thread from the start of the day: “We can’t be together forever… so we’d better make the time we do have something to remember.” And just when you think this plot line is coming from somewhere or going somewhere, he says “Gotcha!” and runs off? I don’t mind these kids being a little introspective but this never goes any further, except to introduce the theme to the game as a whole, and in the most arbitrary way imaginable. It’s really quite strange.

Your friends give you the munny, held in a small hand-woven bag of Olette’s. You’re just about to walk to the train station when Roxas is knocked to the ground… by a thrown stick. The cloaked figure is back, and apparently he’s childish and petty! He helps Roxas to his feet and whispers something to him, though we only hear what he said in the next scene… which ultimately makes it look like he didn’t say anything at all? It’s hard to convey whispering when you can’t see a person’s mouth!  It’s something the devs should have considered, maybe by giving us a close-up of a silhouette? Roxas runs to catch up with his friends. Unfortunately, when Roxas gets to the ticket-counter, the bag of munny is gone!

kh2-2016-01-08-22h27m25s351Roxas concludes that the man in the black coat must have robbed him, and goes to charge back out when his friends act in confusion. It seems they never saw the man in the black coat, even though the area outside the train station is clear and empty, with nowhere the man could have disappeared. The train leaves before they can do anything, and the kids skulk off while Roxas wonders what is going on.

It’s never really bothered me in the past, but other players have raised a point I think should be considered: why do none of Roxas’ friends react to what Roxas is saying? They later react to a group of strange events that might include this mugging in hindsight, but I’m looking for current specifics. Do they not believe Roxas? Do they think he let them down, or stole the munny for himself? We never learn! Instead, they’re acting like they missed the train for unrelated reasons!

kh2-2016-01-08-22h28m17s401Instead of going to the beach, the kids go to the top of the clock tower, a location we first saw in the remake of CoM. They’re eating sea-salt ice cream while sitting on the edge, and Roxas is lost in thought. For no apparent reason, he says “Can you feel Sora?” In a flashback, we see that the cloaked figure whispered this phrase to him when he helped him up. The trouble is, McCartney and the other voice actor (this is the Black Coat who met with DiZ, the one I refuse to identify), read the line in totally different ways, so it’s hard to tell what the line is supposed to mean. McCartney reads as written: “Can you feel Sora?” as though Roxas were physically pawing Sora’s thigh and was being asked for an appraisal. Black Coat reads: “Can you feel, Sora?” (note the comma) as though he were talking to Sora and asking him how his sense of touch is doing today. I have a feeling which reading is intended, but neither sounds entirely correct when you’re coming to the game for the first time!

Once again, the screen fuzzes out to static, the Malefiputer telling us that restoration is at 28%. To my surprise (though perhaps I shouldn’t be) Saruman responds to this line, saying: “Naminé, hurry.”

Back in DiZ’s computer room, Black Cloak is tossing the munny bag to himself, and he asks DiZ if it’s “really that hard to make a beach?” DiZ says “We’d be giving the enemy another entry point.” Black Coat asks instead about the bag, and Dracula replies: “Objects from that town must be kept out of the real world. You can delete that.”

kh2-2016-01-08-22h28m58s046Now, c’mon in folks, sit down, real chat time. In the past, I’ve tried to take the evidence we’ve been given and to address it as it comes, in hopes of testing just how effective that evidence was at hiding and hinting at the appropriate conclusions. Sometimes I may delay my analysis until a set of related scenes have finished, but in this case, KH2 is about to do something strange. I’ve discussed this with others in the past, and I’m of the opinion that KH2 allows you to work out what is happening to Roxas with no particular “revelation point.” It’s very impressive: there is no “And the murderer is…!” moment, but the game nevertheless expects you to have worked out the answer by the time we’ve finished our journey from Point A to Point B. I feel this is very clever and I want to emulate its successes, so I am at least going to delay the prologue’s big revelations.

And yet. After the game reaches the point where I feel you’re supposed to know what’s going on, the game picks up again as though you don’t know what’s going on? It essentially tells you what’s going on twice more, as though it didn’t trust you to work out the answer after all! And yes, I said “twice more,” as though it didn’t trust you to work out the answer the first time it tells you the answer! Is this like CoM, with one plotline for the thinking player and one for the casual? Or is it just a matter of just not trusting the fans? Without Sora and Jiminy Cricket discussing plot developments after every floor, we see how perilous this kind of structure can be! Does KH2 respect the audience (us) like CoM did, or not? It’s a question we’re going to be asking a few times.

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It’s been a bad few months for creepy sleep-watchers.

We collapse into another static flashback, this time seeing Disney worlds. The clips are carefully selected for their relevance to KH2. As these scenes clear, we get a shot of DiZ, as though to once again imply he is responsible for these images, and also Naminé, standing in front of Sora’s pod. Roxas seems to see Naminé and she seems to see him, and she smiles. When Roxas awakens, Naminé is standing in his room for a moment, before she disappears.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Revenge of the Lamers
Next: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Enter the Triangle


This retrospective’s screenshots come from Spazbo4’s longplay of the 2.5 HD version of Kingdom Hearts: 2 at World of Longplays (YouTube).

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