The Mysterious Tower is a strange place, mechanically as well as aesthetically. Mechanically, it is treated as a sub-location of Twilight Town in KH2, but a unique world in several successor games. Since it appears so often, I’m already tired of its theme music, “Magical Mystery.” The “world” is simply a tiny island bordered with trees, and a brown-and-blue tower decked with stars.
Like Twilight Town, you should be thorough with your chest-hunting, since you’re going to be locked out after you’re done here, and for an even longer period of time. An almost comical period of time, in fact: after you leave the Mysterious Tower, you’ll be locked out until the very end of the game, when the Tower unlocks again for no reason and with no fanfare (I mean that: the game doesn’t even tell you that it’s unlocked). So yeah, you had better open all the chests while you’re here. You wouldn’t want to forget that, uh, Potion, now would you?
While we’re on the subject, Potions in this game and all subsequent games restore a percentage of your health, not a flat value, so they never become useless like they did in KH1. Good call. This system was carried over to Days and BBS, but the designers curiously reverted to the old way for coded, and used a group healing variant of the old way for DDD. I feel I should look into the math of this one day, but my gut feeling is that coded goofed, but for all I know, there might be something to say about DDD’s system as far as group healing items need to be concerned. I think I’d need to try it to be sure.
Sora, Donald and Goofy get off the Ghost Train, and it immediately vanishes, leaving behind a set of effervescent tracks floating in space. They approach the tower, and find a very large cat-man peeking in through the front door of the tower (preventing us from seeing his face, though you probably recognize his silhouette). This not-exactly-unknown character is voiced by Jim Cummings. They ask what he’s doing, and he happily explains that he’s here to turn the master of the Tower – a powerful sorcerer – into a Heartless. All without looking back at them and without any concern about saying these sort of thing in public. It seems he wants the sorcerer for a bodyguard, and is trying to capture him with… Shadows. This is not the brightest bulb in the box. Shadows are not how you capture a powerful sorcerer. In Birth By Sleep, we’ll see that game’s analogues to Shadows fail to subdue a small child!
Sora, Donald and Goofy are shocked to learn someone is still using the Heartless: we later learn this is because they assumed the Heartless were gone after sealing the Door to Darkness, and they have no memory of Chain of Memories to prove them wrong (assuming, once again, that the Heartless in CoM were real and not memories). When they confront the man at the gate about using the Heartless, he turns around to reveal that he’s Big Bad Pete, Mickey’s long-time rival in the cartoons, decked out in familiar Heartless colours (well, familiar to a Vanilla player, anyways). Cummings has been voicing Pete since Goof Troop in 1992 (alongside Bill Farmer’s Goofy) and he’s still a natural.
Pete, Donald and Goofy know one another, and Donald explains that “His Majesty” locked Pete away in “another dimension” for being a troublemaker. Pfffhahaha. Okay, first things first: I know the Kingdom Hearts faithful would like me to address the mouse in the room, so let’s get to it: Birth By Sleep shows that it was Minnie who put Pete in space-prison. KH2 actually uses a gender-neutral phrase in the original Japanese. I think the KH2 localizers were in the right to say “he” considering Minnie wasn’t a major character yet. Odds were in their favour.
But that’s not what I’m laughing at. That’s the mouse in the room, but I’m too busy laughing at the elephant in the room, which is the use of “another dimension” for a prison. How shonen do you get? We haven’t come anywhere near this bad over the course of two games and in one line, Kingdom Hearts rockets into the air and pops Son Goku on the nose. Pete can’t be in normal prison, or exiled: he has to have been put in interdimensional space prison. You’re telling me Minnie or Mickey Mouse’s first response to troublemaking – troublemaking – is to lock Pete up harder than Square ever locked up Zemus, Exdeath, or the Warring Triad whose freedom would destroy the world? (Respectively: magically locked in a cave, magically sealed in a forest, and petrified.) No, Kingdom Hearts felt the need to use interdimensional space prison for a B-list character. Oh, and Donald and Goofy are confused to see him here, because apparently the sentence for troublemaking is indefinite imprisonment. This is the exact moment where KH2’s stylistic priority vaults over its concern for substance in a bright flash of Naruto “ninja orange.”
I get that this is a throwaway line that probably doesn’t strike anyone as being that impactful, but Kingdom Hearts Insider regular Ruran has posted in the past about how shonen tropes that were popular in the early 2000s and began to change KH2 in really weird ways like this. I’m going to try to touch on as many examples as I can find just so you can get a grasp on the divergent feel KH2 accidentally cultivates, turning it into something it wasn’t before, and something it won’t really be again. Not really.
Pete explains that he got out of the other dimension thanks to Maleficent, and explains that she sent him off prior to the events of KH1 to gather an army of Heartless for her to use. It turns out Pete has a rather sizable force (which may very well imply he’s been off wiping out entire worlds, one genocide after another, which is probably a little darker than they intended) so it’s not clear why he’s bumming around here with less than twenty Shadows and only enough Soldiers to lift a large table. Maybe the Sorcerer did a number on them before you arrived, but this also seems like something the Kingdom Hearts version of Pete would do.
Pete seems confident that now that he’s gathered the army, Maleficent will reward him with rulership over a whole number of worlds. Clearly he’s not aware that Maleficent has died, or of the plan to send the worlds into darkness to make a fake Kingdom Hearts, but if I were Maleficent, I wouldn’t have told him that second thing, either. I’m not sure I’d have told him the first thing!
Sora and the others can’t help it: even after all that drama on the train, Pete’s empty grandstanding gets them all laughing, and they explain that Maleficent is gone. This is funny, at least until Sora gets all teasing about whether or not he was the one who killed her. “Weeeeelll, we might have had something to do with it.” Oh, I’m so coy about how my friend was possessed with an arch-evil and stabbed her in the gut! Ohoho, I watched her die screaming! I always laugh along with the scene until that line. All the seriousness about murder and death in CoM is out the window, which is just tonal dissonance two minutes after Sora was sad about a lost memory of a functionally dead person. No points. Negative points. Re:CoM, give KH2 your stockpile of negative points.
Pete finally calls in his Heartless and you have your first bout with Shadows since CoM. Their AI is slightly improved, which is nice, but not in any way I feel the need to detail – the same goes for all the carry-over enemies unless I say otherwise. And you know? I never noticed it before, but a lot of Sora’s targeting problems from Re:CoM are in this game. They’re a lot harder to notice, since Sora isn’t doing something outrageous like ignoring the monsters to take a swing at a mailbox (simply because you can’t target the mailboxes), but they’re there. Worst comes to worst, in KH2 you’ll just hit the wrong enemy, but we can see how Re:CoM got its problems if it just copied this code wholesale. I take it back: Re:CoM, retrieve your stockpile of negative points and go sit in the corner.
After the fight, Pete mentions to the name of the Sorcerer: “Yen Sid.” As it happens, this is another Disney character, but one who went unnamed in their original appearance. Only a master of Disney minutiae would have known who Yen Sid was prior to KH2, so I’m going to leave you in the dark for a moment. If you’re paying attention: yes, that is the word “Disney” in reverse, and yes, that was his name all along, according to the production notes.
It seems the name “Yen Sid” means something to Donald and Goofy, and they both run off into the tower, shouting that Yen Sid was the King’s teacher. This gets Sora so excited that he runs off too, leaving Pete in the dust. And I’ve got to say: for all the manga’s failed attempts in CoM, it’s good to see a dedicated comic relief villain in this series. He won’t always be a success, but I feel Pete succeeds at being funny more often than not. His impact on a certain other character, however…
The interior of the Mysterious Tower was changed in later games, so I often forget its layout in the original KH2. I like to think its appearance in games like BBS is its normal appearance: a straightforward (if cartoonishly bendy) tower. But in KH2, perhaps as a defensive measure against Pete’s Heartless, the Tower now features teleporters that waylay you into combat rooms. It’s here where you’ll meet the KH2 incarnation of the Soliders, who are the first recoloured enemies in FM+. And I think they look awful. I complained already about the CoM enemies that were recoloured in this game but in practice the problem is game-wide. I think I could count the number of FM+ recolours that I like on one hand.
The Soldiers are also the first Heartless to demonstrate a reaction command, which has Sora spinning around like a drill, not unlike Raphael in the TMNT 3 and 4 games on the NES. Yes, it looks silly, but it’s our first offensive reaction command, so it’s worth noting.
The Heartless are nowhere near as dangerous as the Nobodies, which seems to be by design, even if it turns out to be a questionable design decision. What had been a wary, defensive experience fighting Dusks has become a button-masher against the Heartless. This is half because you may already know their patterns from KH1/Re:CoM and will quickly discover that button-mashing succeeds by accident, and half because Soldiers and Shadows attack infrequently, which doesn’t just lower the danger, but lowers their ability to pry you off a fellow Heartless the way Dusks and Assassins would knock you off fellow Nobodies (not deliberately, but consistent accidents are consistent results). To make matters worse, the game goes from having you fight two Dusks and two Assassins at a time to fighting pairs – pairs! – of Shadows. I’m glad the game gives you a chance to acclimatize to the Heartless, but this probably wasn’t the best way to do it!
In one last funny note, there’s essentially no resolution to Pete’s presence in the Mysterious Tower, and we move on as though he was no longer there!
At the top of the tower, you meet Yen Sid: the Sorcerer from the Fantasia segment The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. You could probably have worked that out from context clues, or the knowledge that he was Mickey’s teacher. (Technically, the exterior of the Tower from Fantasia wasn’t seen in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – indeed, I might go so far as to say it was designed to look like a Twilight Town version of a wizard’s tower, since it shares the pale brown colouration?) And yes, again: “Yen Sid” has always been his name! Since the 1930s! It’s simply awful and I love it. While Yen Sid did not speak in the original Fantasia, he was first voiced in a Wonderful World of Disney episode by the late Michael Rye, the voice of Apache Chief and Green Lantern on The Superfriends. Here in Kingdom Hearts, he’s voiced by Corey Burton. Of course he is.
Donald and Goofy treat Yen Sid with utmost reverence, calling him “Master,” and Sora is introduced. Yen Sid says that since The King has not had time to fill you in on things, the job falls to him, and we enter the longest exposition dump in the entire series, or at least the longest this side of DDD. Get comfortable on Saturday, everyone, because we’re going to be here a while.