You make your way to follow Leon and find yourself at the Bailey, a line of defence between the town and the Heartless and Nobodies. Someone in the fandom recently brought up why they use the Bailey when Heartless and Nobodies seem to be able to teleport into the town just fine. It’s a fair question: I’m once again of the opinion that the Heartless and Nobodies are only teleporting to the location of the Keyblade when they appear in the town and otherwise they couldn’t do so, but it’s hard to say.
Leon tells you that the only things standing between the good guys and the restoration of Hollow Bastion are the Heartless and Nobodies. He points both out from the Bailey, and we get our establishing shot of Villain’s Vale. Leon calls Villain’s Vale as one of the big problems stalling the restoration of Hollow Bastion, though he offers no explanation as to why. Remember: Pete and Maleficent just got back. He probably means that the Heartless are hanging out there, but I can’t help but it hear it like Leon has a problem with zoning regulations.
There are only two ways to explain the scene: either a writer got confused about when Pete got back, or we’re supposed to be looking at Pete’s army. Oh, didn’t I mention that Pete’s army is in this shot? Well maybe that’s because the shot doesn’t focus on them, and they’re so poorly detailed (especially on the PS2 and a CRT) that not only have most KH fans I’ve talked to not realized they were in this shot, even though there are tens of thousands of Heartless in this shot. The shot is that bad.
And it’s a shame, because our first sight of Pete’s army could have been pretty impressive: an striking, black, writhing lake that fills the canyon cut around the Vale. It would be terrifying if it… actually looked like what it was supposed to represent, which it does not. It looks like a series of black textures on the ground. By the time you notice them, the shot cuts away.
Leon asks for any information Sora might have about what’s going on. Sora fills him in about Pete, and Goofy starts to mention the Organization, but once again, KH2 is trying to save the player from a hearing repeat info, so Sora tells Leon so little that I can’t imagine poor Leon can make any sense of it. A fade to black (like the one that happened in KH1 after Sora returned from Hollow Bastion and conveyed the events to Leon) would have done just fine, but better Leon than us, right?
As Goofy is discussing the Organization, several Nobodies arrive on cue. The gates of the Bailey lower, and somehow, in the chaos, Sora and Leon are left fighting the Nobodies alone. And Leon actually does fight with you! Minor spoilers, but Leon appears as a tournament boss again later in the game. Square Enix got the bright idea to bring the “enemy” Leon into this scene and then redirect his targeting AI to create an ally! I love it. Here, you have to defend the gate from the Nobodies, who attack with a mix of Dusks and Samurais. The Samurais seem to focus on you, while the Dusks attack the gate. The threat to the gate is real as its health bar is fairly low. Keep them out, and the plot in this mini-world will wrap up and we’ll finally get to the regular game.
After the battle, one of the Organization members compliments the power of the Keyblade (I’m having a little trouble telling them apart, but reader dlppictures assures me that this is St. Peter). He laments that the Keyblade is not in “more… capable hands.” Outside the Bailey, six cloaked figures appear. These are the six surviving members of Organization XIII – well, six of the seven, since Axel was still doing his Vanilla version possum impression. Because this is all very complicated, here’s a list of all the dead members for those who have lost track, along with a few new insights:
- Number IV – Vexen: Killed by Axel as a traitor when he tried to expose both Marluxia’s plan. We can now see that he was also trying to expose the existence of Roxas to Sora via the Twilight Town memory world, interesting…
- Number V – Lexaeus: Killed by either Riku (CoM) or Riku-Ansem (Re:CoM) when he tried to push Riku to his limits in hopes that Riku would join the bad guys and kill Sora. Didn’t go so well.
- Number VI – Zexion: Killed by the Riku Replica on Axel’s orders.
- Number XI – Marluxia: Killed by Sora, who was so angry at Marluxia for the whole Castle Oblivion fiasco that Sora locked his corpse in a closet.
- Number XII – Larxene: Killed by Sora when she underestimated just how well her and Marluxia’s mind control was working.
- Number XIII – Roxas: Absorbed into Sora at the end of the prologue.
With Axel (Number VIII) in hiding, this leaves Numbers I, II, III, VII, IX and X here to greet you.
While all the cloaked characters are laughing in this scene, only St. Peter speaks. Goofy recognizes that these must be Organization XIII and Sora decides to fight… all of them! Sora, you weren’t here for it, but I actually gave another character a mini-lecture about bum-rushing a group of Org members, and I think you… oh, what the hell, give it a shot!
St. Peter just laughs that “I thought we could be friends” in the driest way possible (which may be the closest thing his character ever makes to a joke), and they all leave before Sora can do a thing to them. But when Sora moves to chase them, one of the six returns to cut him off. And I’m not sure… why? He’ll later leave very abruptly, like he was waiting for the rest of the Organization to get away, but they’re teleporting. Between this and the Bailey, I can’t help but wonder if these scenes were written by someone who forgot teleportation exists in this series?
The cloaked figure who cuts Sora off is new to our ears, voiced by actor James Patrick Stuart. Besides the prerequisite Winx Club credit, Stuart’s career is a mix of live action and animation, with regular roles in all sorts of programs (at the time of KH2’s release, he was a regular attorney on CSI) and a Disney connection through Epic Mickey 2. Stuart is using a Californian accent for the character, which seemed strange and lackadaisical at first, but ultimately became signature for the character and surprisingly menacing. I know not everyone is a fan, but I was. That Stuart gradually let the accent go over time is disappointing, as I liked it a lot. Maybe he just gradually lost it in his real life?
Sora threatens Stuart, as though the devs were going to conduct a boss battle on a staircase, but Stuart refuses to move, even when Sora taunts him by saying he let the lesser Nobodies do his fighting. “Oh dear,” says Stuart, for the first time sounding like a real threat, “I think you got the wrong impression.” Sora keeps taunting, but Stuart isn’t budging, he even says “Why don’t I remind you how tough [the Organization] is?” It’s hard to say if he’s talking to Sora about the plot of CoM or if he’s talking to Roxas. He’s certainly talking about Roxas when he says: “He used to give me that exact same look.”
To my disappointment, Sora shouts: “I guess you think you can psych me out by saying really random stuff!” Yes Sora, that’s right! The only conceivable explanation for what he said was that he was using surrealist humour to confound you in an extremely minor way before the battle even begins! Ruffles! Spork! Chicanery!
Why are they even doing this? As you’ll see in a moment, Sora will start to be unnerved by Stuart’s approach, but it will take a while, and he’ll ultimately return to this original dismissive opinion. The game wants Sora to finally question why he woke up in a flower in Twilight Town, but also for him not to worry about it seconds later. Yes, just one moment of concern, and only after being provoked, before we return to a status quo. Yikes. This isn’t how consequences work! If they wanted things to go back to normal this badly, I think they shouldn’t have made such severe changes to begin with. As it stands, with Sora being upset and dismissive within seconds of one another, Square is trying to have their cake and eat it too, and it is so sloppy.
I’m not even sure why Sora finds this confusing? “He gave me the exact same look.” Stuart hasn’t said anything about the other person merging with Sora, or a computerized dream world. “He gave me the exact same look.” I could easily say this to someone in the real world. “You look like my cousin!” There! Did we (once again) lose something important in translation, or is KH2 just being shallow, assuming that any dialogue it presents will be interpreted in its proper context no matter the setup?
Stuart’s egg timer runs out and he leaves almost mid-thought, and apparently Sora is so shaken by this errant comment that he feels the need to hold up the Hollow Bastion card so that he can read his name off it and declare that he is, in fact who he thinks he is. Ah yes, I personally lose sight of my identity when I’m told I have a familiar laugh. This is just the game’s incredibly hackneyed way to get the card in the air, where it starts to glow. Yes, you read that right: that entire unjustified rigmarole was just there so it can get the card one metre higher than it was before. This is critical, because the plot says so. It will not be critical again, because the plot says so. Do you know that feeling where you fall in your dreams and lurch awake into reality? That’s the sensation I’m feeling right now.
The Keyblade also begins to glow, and Sora uses it alongside the glowing card to unlock a Keyhole that appears in the sky. He concludes this must have been one of the gates between worlds that Yen Sid was talking about. He knows this because Yen Sid mentioned the Keyblade glowing, which it does all the time, but it’s different now, because shut up. So it seems the gates are unlocked by… uh…
What did just happen? This plot was dragging a little, but I’m pretty sure it was at least coherent until a minute ago?
Leon comes over and says that he understands that this means Sora has to go now. Of all people, the hero of another RPG understands the urgency of random glowing lights. The bonus joke is that Sora doesn’t tell him what just happened or why (that would require the writers to know why) and Leon just has to accept that he lost critical help against the giant sea of demons looking to spill over the walls that are within spitting distance of several homes. We’re the heroes.
In FM+, this leads into our next exclusive scene. This scene is also set in the white throne room chamber with multiple cloaked Organization members, because nothing says “plot problems in the original” like scene after scene explaining the actions of the same set of characters. The Organization is gathering at the thrones to discuss their impressions of Sora. Here, we meet the three remaining Organization voice actors.
The first of these cloaked figures is one exhibiting carefully but barely restrained rage and impatience. This fellow is voiced by Kirk Thornton, voice of Shadow the Hedgehog, as well as numerous anime and Power Rangers appearances. Thornton has both Final Fantasy and Disney connections: the Final Fantasy connections are the usual FFXIII (and XIII-2) incidental voices you seem to find on the resumes of many Kingdom Hearts alums, alongside an incidental voice role in Dirge of Cerberus. For Disney, he played the lead villain in the Stitch! TV show!
Next, a man with a set of Organization playing cards, identifying him as a member of Final Fantasy’s “Gambler” class. This character is voiced by Robin Atkin Downes: god help us, Travis Touchdown. Downes has also done incidental voices in FFXIII and XIV and a few minor roles on ATLA with Mae Whitman… among a long enough CV to sink a ship.
The last remaining member of Organization XIII is a younger slacker type. This is Ryan O’Donohue, whom you probably know best as the voice of Young Kovu in The Lion King 2. He also worked with Will Friedle as his younger brother Matt on Batman Beyond, because I bet you could track the casting agents that led to KH2 with only a minimum of effort.
It seems the Organization hopes to use Sora and the Keyblade for some nefarious purpose, similar to CoM, though O’Donohue thinks things will work themselves out if the Organization leaves Sora be. He may be the slacker, but that’s a telling hint, keep it in mind. Stuart’s cloaked figure asks if O’Donohue is volunteering to steer Sora back on track if things go wrong, and O’Donohue acts all frightened. David Fisher’s character points out that acting frightened is silly: as Nobodies, none of them have fear, a conscience, or anything that would justify these kinds of character traits. This is an early seed designed to clarify an often-misinterpreted moment for O’Donohue’s character from later in the game. I can’t say if it’s going to work, but I respect that they’re trying. Thornton muses that “those who lose their true purpose […] inevitably, they destroy themselves.” Ominous – moreso when you realize it’s not clear if he’s talking about the Org members or Sora.
Finally, St. Peter interrupts, establishing that he is the one in charge here. He tells them that everyone needs to make Sora’s adventure “something to remember.” I can’t help but notice that one of the Org members will actually avoid Sora for most of the remaining game, so this wasn’t a very effective set of orders. Given that this scene was a retcon, you’d think they could have set up something a little more accurate to the upcoming game!
At this point, the Journal updates with a few characters, including Maleficent (anachronistically, Jiminy knows she’s alive, which is for teh best) and profile pages for all the Org members who appeared at Hollow Bastion, though they’re not real profiles so much as trivia about Nobodies in the place of actual profiles. The one piece of information Jiminy does know, somehow, is that the man who cut them off at the staircase (James Patrick Stuart) was Organization Number II! You’re magic, little cricket. In these entries, Jiminy alludes to one other piece of information not mentioned elsewhere: that the Organization members’ names “share something as a mark of their brotherhood.” It’s the letter X, as I’ve mentioned. He also magically knows that the Organization members are numbered in the order they joined the Organization, which is something only alluded to in bad guy scenes from CoM!
Clearing this segment gets you two prizes. The first is the Fire spell, which is not like the original from KH1 at all. Instead, Fire causes a ring of fire to spin around Sora, causing area damage. After KH1, it feels odd not to have more than one projectile (especially when Blizzard is so underwhelming: no spread shot OR homing?), but Fire is a handy crowd control technique without becoming OP like KH1’s Thunder.
(For some reason, the Fire spell is still listed first in the spell list, even though you got it second. Last-minute change, or misguided consistency with KH1?)
You also gain access to a new Secret Ansem Report, #7. In this latter entry, the author writes that he has been using the Corridors of Darkness to move around between the worlds, despite their danger. He used them to go to Twilight Town and set up in the basement lab. Obviously, this is referring to the lab DiZ was using. This leaves us with two strong possibilities for the identity of the second author (assuming the author isn’t lying outright), although other possibilities remain. The good money now says that either DiZ or Riku is the Second Author (remember that Riku is claiming to be Ansem, so that may make him the leading suspect!). Of course, it could be that the Second Author is an unknown third party who left Twilight Town some time ago and left all their equipment behind, but odds are weighing in the other direction.
The rest of the report just feels like a text version of Yen Sid’s lecture in the Mysterious Tower, just in case you needed a back-up copy. He also helps explain that the name “Nobody” is another linguistic joke: it means their lack of identity as well as their lack of self-importance stemming from the same. The Second Author mentions that the “greater” Nobodies should be nearly identical to their original, which raises quite a few questions about Roxas. The Second Author finally notes that the Organization seems to have split to conduct some sort of research, and he resolves the follow the group bound to Castle Oblivion. Hm… that narrows our suspects again. It almost can’t be Riku now. Now DiZ is the leading suspect, both because he was at Castle Oblivion and because he’s all that’s left of our shortlist, but does that automatically make him the Second Author? And which author was the actual Ansem the Wise?
Before moving on with the plot, you might want to return to Hollow Bastion and talk to Scrooge to try KH2’s first dedicated skateboard mini-game, though this one has such a low target score that you might not notice or might outright forget the score challenge is there, like I did (thanks again to dlppictures, who reminds me that it’s a laughable 200 points). That said, it’s a good place to get the skateboard achievement in 2.5, as it has no time limit. This achievement is nearly the only achievement in KH2 not tied to an existing in-game challenge, quite a far cry from 1.5’s time trials and no equipment run trophies! If you try to explore more of Hollow Bastion, you’ll find the wall the Organization Members were standing on top has a sealed gate at its base. Clearly we’re not done here in Hollow Bastion (the less than ten-minute play time probably told you that), but there’s nothing you can do at the moment.
When you return to the Gummi Ship, you discover that Twilight Town has vanished behind a caul of darkness.