Kingdom Hearts 2 – Ghost Train to Nowhere

kh2-2016-01-23-11h48m10s487The sixth wonder is a mysterious ghost train, said to be visible from the hill with the dog. The train has no passengers and no driver, and everyone’s excited to see it even though they shouldn’t reasonably be able to see if there are passengers or drivers in any of Twilight Town’s trains. So they wait. And they wait and they wait. And they wait so long they’re even discussing next summer, when Seifer shows up, and we start one of the most peculiar scenes in the game in hindsight. It’s touching, it’s intimate, and in a strange, stupid way, that’s what makes it weird.

Seifer shows up, and asks the gang what they’re doing. When they ultimately tell him they’re waiting for the ghost train, he mocks them, and this gets a response from Roxas, and he and Seifer lock eyes. After a moment, Seifer asks: “Why does looking at you always tick me off?” Roxas suggests, semi-sarcastically, that it’s destiny, and Seifer says that if it’s destiny: “In that case, let’s be friends.” Which is honestly cute. I wonder if this is alluding to the Squall/Seifer relationship in some way – Kyle and I are playing the FFVII games as I post this, so I don’t know yet – or if it’s going in a new direction. Seifer almost sounds like they could be friends, especially once he gives a personal insight. He looks off into the distance somewhat, and says “I don’t feel like cooperating with destiny.” When Hayner refuses to let this go and asks “When do you ever cooperate with anything?” Seifer just thumps his chest and smiles. It’s sweet as hell, but just like the two scenes of Pence and Hayner musing about whether or not the friends will be together forever, it also comes off like a non sequiter, though this is the best of the three scenes. In fact, thanks to Will Friedle’s acting, this may be one of the entire game’s better scenes, though it seems so odd in context.

kh2-2016-01-23-11h49m00s519Olette then adds to this by calling to Seifer as he leaves (the first time they’ve really interacted) and he says “Yeah, tomorrow.” It seems Seifer and his gang are helping out with your investigation tomorrow. It’s a casual, subtle outpouring of respect, and I really wish later parts of the game didn’t scuttle it. I feel like I shouldn’t even acknowledge later faults until they happen, but it bothers me so much that they undermined an excellent scene!

I’ve got to add: the first time I saw this scene, the lack of context around “Yeah, tomorrow” made me think if maybe Olette and Seifer just had completely unrelated plans. Olette (and Pence for that matter) don’t seem to have any reason to get into this schoolyard spat between Roxas, Hayner and Seifer. Maybe Olette and Seifer go to the gym every Thursday and chat about soap operas, and Hayner and Roxas refuse to acknowledge that the two of them have been buddies for years.

…I’m sorry, I walked into Fanfic Mode for a second there, what’s going on?

kh2-2016-01-23-11h50m37s782Just then, Roxas spots something over the ledge: the ghost train! It’s no Ghost Train like the one from Final Fantasy VI, though that seems to be the intended reference. It’s a bright blue train straight out of Disneyland, but sure enough, has neither passengers nor driver, though I can’t imagine how Roxas can tell from this angle. He’s excited, and asks the others: “There’s got to be a catch, right?” They don’t give him an answer, so he runs all the way to the station, where the Ghost Train is waiting. Roxas suggests they all get on to see where the train is heading, when Hayner reaches out to stop him, warily saying: “You’ll fall.” When Roxas turns back, the train is gone, and it’s clear the others never saw it at all.

kh2-2016-01-23-11h52m48s775

Compare this shot to the next one (click for a close look).  Because Pence’s talk animations are limited, he starts smiling the moment he starts talking. Even his eyes are happy!

Everyone is very upset on the trip home, which Hayner expresses angrily and Olette by trying to change the subject, and in the end, only Roxas is the only one still interested in the seventh Wonder (though you should keep your head or you’ll miss some chests hidden at the station for no good reason). And I don’t want to bring this up with everyone so upset, but what if the Wonder had been back at the Terrace? When Roxas insists they check out Wonder #7, Hayner angrily storms off, already too upset with Roxas to stay with him. Pence finally turns around and sheepishly admits that the seventh mystery concerns the “haunted mansion” that kills people. Okay, the Wonder isn’t about the killing – although let’s admit: two deaths in CoM is already too many – but we’re talking about that mansion all the same. Roxas resolves to go on his own, and it seems Pence comes with him in the end.

kh2-2016-01-23-12h05m11s710

Here’s Pence frowning, for comparison.

As you walk, I can’t help but notice that the game is keeping most of the shops have closed “for the night,” by which I mean they’ve been closed to funnel you to your destination, and that the game comes up with different excuses for each shop. You have to respect the variety, though they are getting a little silly with the railroading.

You walk through the inexplicable crack in the wall and head back to the mansion, and Pence admits that they were going to investigate the mansion with their posse the next day, since it’s the most suspicious place and might be behind all those mysteries surrounding Roxas. For the time being, Pence explains the seventh Wonder: a girl that’s supposed to appear on a second-floor window. As Roxas is looking, the camera cuts into the second-floor room, and in a moment we’ll gather that Roxas is seeing this telepathically. The room is white, like the inside of Castle Oblivion, and covered with Naminé’s pencil crayon/crayon drawings. During this scene, we get our first listen to a very sad musical track. This piano piece is one of the series’ best: “Roxas’ Theme.”

kh2-2016-01-23-12h06m38s920The camera begins looking at the drawings, and we soon learn that the camera is following Roxas’ out-of-body point-of-view, as he speaks to Naminé telepathically. Roxas looks at a drawing of him in a black cloak, standing next to Axel across from two other black-cloaked figures. While this was probably supposed to be a generic scene at the time, I wonder… just a little… if it went on to inspire a certain scene in Days…

These paintings must confirm to even the layman that Roxas is a former Organization member, but Naminé’s drawings are a little rough, so the dialogue reinforces this point just to be certain. Naminé insists that Roxas and Axel are best friends. Naminé asks if Roxas wants to know the truth, and he seems to suggest “no,” because “no one knows me better than me,” but that he concedes that he’s more than a little confused.

kh2-2016-01-23-12h07m14s643Roxas takes a few steps down the room, finding a picture of Sora, Donald and Goofy. Roxas can name all three from his dreams, and Naminé gives the briefest possible summary of how Sora lost his memory in CoM… while avoiding all culpability, might I add. I don’t blame her – it’s probably something you shouldn’t bring up in casual conversation – but it’s part of the weird, weird way KH2 treats the plot of CoM, trying to pretend the whole game can be skipped, while simultaneously relying on you having played it! No matter your stance on CoM – whether you believe CoM should have been important, unimportant, or somewhere in between – KH2’s execution strikes me as too dicey to appease anyone.

About the most surprising part about this summary is that Sora has been asleep for a year since the end of CoM. Naminé says that Roxas is being affected through a connection to Sora, but also that “in order for Sora to become whole again… he needs you.” Roxas turns to another drawing of him in cloak, standing with Sora. Naminé explains that “You’re half of what he is.” Anyone who knows or has already guessed the big twist in this section can see what I mean about the way this section has no “aha!” moment while still expecting you to work things out as the clues are slowly lain out in front of you.

kh2-2016-01-23-12h07m46s450After all this, it’s not surprising that Roxas turns to ask Naminé a question about what she is. Part of this is still a recap from CoM, but there’s some interesting acting here by Brittany Snow. Naminé explains that she’s a witch with the power to affect memories. She adds that she doesn’t know why she has the power, and that “I’m not even sure there’s a right way for me to use it.” I love this line, because I imagine she is thinking of Riku (or for that matter, the Riku Replica) as she says it, as Naminé and Riku are on similar journeys to make up for their pasts using their dark abilities. She must be wondering if she can find a way to use her dangerous, impossible skill… and seems to be doubting it. It’s sad all on its own, even apart from all this going on with Roxas.

Roxas and Naminé are now both inside the room, sitting at opposite ends of a long table, and we are no longer seeing from his perspective. Roxas says that he is starting to doubt his identity in spite of what he said earlier, and asks Naminé what she knows. She gets wary at this point, and finally says “You… were never supposed to exist, Roxas.” Roxas is upset about this, reasonably so. I’m kind of impressed by how realistically he’s taking it from a publisher with a reputation for melodrama. The worst he says is: “Why would you say that? Even if it were true?” and she apologizes. The conversation is collapsed by awkwardness, Roxas wakes up back outside the gate.

kh2-2016-01-23-12h09m19s472Roxas must have been staring at the window for a while, because Pence is asking if he saw the girl. Roxas says he can, but we soon see that Roxas can see Naminé in the window while Pence can’t, and Pence concludes that even this last Wonder was a fake – just a curtain caught in the wind. They soon return to The Usual Spot, and the day ends on the clock tower, eating ice cream and lamenting that summer vacation will end in two days. And a bit of misdirection goes past the player, just as intended.

In another place, we come to one of my favourite scenes in KH2, just in the way the scene is set and shot. DiZ is sitting in a room in a damaged chair, the room in ruins around him, including a table smashed under a fallen chandelier. What a fantastic setting for a dire conversation. Ansem arrives and speaks to him, asking “Why did you show him the train?” DiZ replies: “Because he missed the trip to the beach.” This is surprising from DiZ after so much brutal disinterest in Roxas. It’s very hard to read just why he felt the need to do this, and even Ansem seems surprised. Another scene that benefits from a veteran actor.

kh2-2016-01-23-12h12m39s677Ansem sits down, and DiZ asks him if his memory is starting to clear up as well, and Ansem confirms. DiZ says: “the same is now happening to all connected to Sora,” explaining why Kairi and Selphie forgot our lead as well.

Ansem then asks the question on all of our minds: what’s DiZ’s deal? What’s he want? And DiZ growls: “Revenge,” and he says it’s time for the finishing touches. Horrifyingly, he orders Ansem to kill Naminé, even though he’s been treating her as a normal human being for over a year. “She did a splendid job with Sora, but it’s high time she disappeared. Roxas isn’t the only one who was never meant to exist.” It’s starting to look like DiZ’s “never meant to exist” sentiment somehow applies to all Nobodies, similar to the KH:FM sentiment that Nobodies “cannot truly exist,” if taken to a more proactive, violent extreme.  (Oh, it was clear that if Roxas was a member of the Organization, than he must be a Nobody, right?  But then where are all his emotions and attachments coming from?)

kh2-2016-01-23-12h13m32s281DiZ makes this order sound pretty urgent but isn’t the Malefiputer still not at 100%? I don’t want to advise you on the best way to go about murder, DiZ, but don’t you at least need Naminé to complete restoration? Also Naminé is just fine a day later, so I’m thinking that urgency was a little artificial.

Restoration is now at 97%, and the recap covers the epilogue of KH1 and the opening of CoM. If KH1 is only wrapping up now (in the green field), what happened in the rest of the 50%? I suspect that Nomura may have still been planning for Sora to have had miscellaneous adventures between KH1 and CoM at this stage in the writing process, which to repeat from the CoM Retrospective, have since been decanonized. These memories cut off exactly at the door to Castle Oblivion, and the screen shuts off.  Very striking.

After this segment, we repeat the scene at the dark beach between the two cloaked figures for a third time. Except this time, the cloaked figure speaking to Paul St. Peter is no longer mute: he’s Roxas. Paul St. Peter tells him that “I’ve been to see him. He looks a lot like you.” We can now contextualize that Paul St. Peter was the Unknown from KH1, and that he went to see Sora and that he feels Sora looks a lot like Roxas (later evidence will back this up). I can’t honestly see what he’s talking about, since Sora and Roxas don’t look at all alike to me, but maybe I’m just bad with faces? Oh well, it is a legacy line.

kh2-2016-01-23-12h17m35s916Next, we cut to the secret ending of KH1, where the blonde boy with two Keyblades – whom we now know to be Roxas – fights off the Neoshadows and has his encounter with Riku in a blindfold. This scene is now done with in-game graphics and – if I may – looks terrible. The intensity is lost without the dim lighting and claustrophobic camera angles among the Neoshadows. Roxas running up the walls looks worst of all (especially with no Neoshadows chasing him). The two clear out the Neoshadows and turn on one another with their Keyblades. We then continue past the secret ending of KH1, and learn that Roxas was the victor of that duel.

Now on his back, Riku shouts. “Why? Why do you have the Keyblade?” Roxas just says “…Shut up!” (not one of Jesse McCartney’s better deliveries) and strikes down at Riku.

In Twilight Town, Roxas wakes up, but as he moves, an afterimage of Sora shimmers around him.

(The doofus wears his clown shoes to bed.)

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Occult Homework
Next: Kingdom Hearts 2 – False Start


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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