As we return to 100 Acre Wood, I can’t help but notice that Pooh’s book is actually glowing to make sure you don’t miss it over in the corner there. It was so easy to lose track of it in KH1’s confusing circular room, since it just looked like normal furniture. I can’t help but feel this is overcompensating since we’re back in a traditional, rectangular room but… hey, you noticed it, didn’t you?
This chapter of 100 Acre Wood features a conspicuous absence from KH1: Piglet’s House. I guess there were too many houses in KH1’s 100 Acre Wood to begin with, but considering Piglet’s House features fairly prominently in the films, its absence was notable. Pooh is here talking to Gopher, who did not appear in KH1 at all (a detail this game tactfully glosses over without contradicting, well done). Gopher here is voiced by Michael Gough (no, not that Michael Gough, and thanks to Erunion for pointing out the ambiguity), who has had the role since The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, though KH2 has been Gopher’s latest role to date. As much as I hate to admit it, his central joke (foremans and unions?) is a little extra-specific, so I think I understand his absence. Gough also starred in a number of other 90s Disney television productions, and has voiced Zazu in Lion King adaptations since Timon and Pumbaa. For the Square Enix connection, like many Kingdom Hearts vets he’s done minor voices in the FFXIII games, though his gaming resume is quite a bit longer than that.
Gopher is here to fill his role from Blustery Day, warning Pooh that it’s “Windsday” and he should probably wait inside. Of course, Pooh doesn’t remember Gopher (why should he? He wasn’t in the first game!) and so decides to ignore the warning. Not that he needs to worry. The real victim here is poor Piglet, who’s already caught up on a zephyr. He whips by Sora as Sora arrives, and calls Piglet calls Sora’s name! It’s a surprising relief to hear it – it’s easy to think everyone in the 100 Acre Wood would have forgotten your name, and not just Pooh!
Kingdom Hearts 2 was released in English December of 2006, and while I can’t say for certain when they did voice recording, it was apparently too late in life for the late John Fiedler, the original voice of Piglet (Fiedler having died at the age of 80 in June of 2005). He was replaced in the role of Piglet by Travis Oates. This was nearly Oates’ first time in the role – certainly his first full-time experience in the role. IMDb credits him as “Additional Voices” in Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie earlier in the year, and sure enough, further research suggests he was recording some of Piglet’s lines after the death of Fielder. Oates has also appeared in the Emperor’s New Groove spinoffs as a miscellaneous voices.
Piglet ends up stuck in a tree before Sora can rescue him, and Pooh comes over to find out what all the fuss is about. He sees the two of them, faces Sora, and says “Nice to meet you,” and for some reason Piglet interprets the greeting as being meant for him, and that Pooh has forgotten him. Obviously it’s supposed to be for Piglet and not Sora, and Pooh has forgotten him, but they messed up the facing and Pooh is shown talking to Sora!
Piglet is noticeably upset at Pooh forgetting him, which seems to exasperate Sora, but nothing cracks Pooh’s amnesia. Just then, another gust swipes Piglet away, and he starts moaning goodbye like it’s his last day on earth. Sora and Pooh just stand there. Watching. Piglet is being melodramatic, of course, but it’s hilarious in how unemotional and heartless the shot is.
Just then, Owl arrives, presumably to explain the mini-game the same way he did in KH1. Except he doesn’t (the game explains through prompts instead), and for that matter Owl will never show up in that capacity again, giving me a real impression of an earlier draft change, though this one doesn’t do the game any harm. Owl’s just pointless in the completed version, that’s all. He shows up again near the end of the world, and that’s about it. Bye, you jerk, don’t go helping your friend out of a mild breeze on your way out or anything.
While I’ll admit I’m being mean to Owl, I am glad to say that he’s partially voiced in KH2, by his regular voice actor from 1997-2006, Andre Stojka. Stojka did a lot of work with the Scooby-Doo franchise in the 90s, and was also a regular on Rainbow Brite. He also has a few other minor Disney connections: he was the King (Prince Charming’s father) in Cinderella II and III, was in The Emperor’s New Groove, and even voiced another owl, Archimedes from Sword in the Stone, on House of Mouse.
Sora and Pooh team up to rescue Piglet, and the two of them will continue to work together in later 100 Acre Wood mini-games! Why they do this is unclear: Pooh is rarely invested in any of the situations to come, yet once they’re started, there he is, usually riding piggy-back on Sora’s shoulders. And today’s a pretty extreme example, because they’re about to fly into the sky on a balloon with someone Pooh doesn’t know or trust, to rescue another stranger, and the mini-game often involves Pooh being flung to the winds to certain doom, so it really, really is weird that he volunteered for this.
“A Blustery Rescue” is one of those mini-games you can fail, but shouldn’t. In fact, all the KH2 100 Acre Wood minigames are either guaranteed wins or shockingly easy to clear for story purposes, which is probably why the game no longer rewards you simply for completing the story sequence like it did in KH1. It probably also explains why the treasures you find in chests at the 100 Acre Wood are no longer as wondrous as they were in KH1. There’s no reason to go for high scores this time, either, unless you’re trying to clear Jiminy’s Journal (there’s no equivalent to Cheer, is what I’m saying). Nevertheless, you’re pretty well paid for all this zero effort! There’s no Bambi or EXP Ring like in KH1, but it’s still worth the trip every time you find a set of Torn Pages.
One thing to keep in mind is that Jiminy doesn’t seem to always keep score of your first attempt at 100 Acre Wood mini-games, and in one case the mini-game is entirely different on later attempts. As a result, instead of giving it your all during your first attempt, it’s probably better to get used to the controls, memorize the course and don’t mind being a sloppy, lazy mess.
“A Blustery Rescue” is a side-scrolling game that sees you and Pooh tied to a balloon. As you fly, the breezy day turns into a hurricane, or at least bad enough that every beehive and tree in the neighbourhood comes flying at you. You wouldn’t believe how many beehives KH2 throws at you. It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s as though the develolpers thought “bees” were the Wood’s only notable feature. It is possible to flanderize a location?
Your objective if you’re going for score is to bust up the debris and earn hunny (points). Sora attacks with a spin attack that covers him from all angles, but if he is hit, Pooh will fly off and you’ll have to collect him with triangle in order to collect any further hunny. Along the way, you’ll often encounter pockets of visible wind among the debris. By moving to these locations and hitting Triangle, they work like something of a bomb from an arcade shooter, clearing the area immediately around the vortex.
You need a pretty high score to clear Jiminy’s requirements, but if you’re like me, the game’s like riding a bike: you never forget how to play (I first mastered it years ago, and got the high score in first try in my retrospective run, without even really trying). The only thing that remains once the debris has cleared is to rescue Piglet with Triangle. A timer ticks down in the corner while you do this, and I’m not sure why. Piglet isn’t that hard to catch, and yet they give you a minute and a half to do so. There’s no way to lose time earlier in the game. There’s no way to fall behind. There’s no score penalty! The only thing you could conceivably “fail” at is rescuing Piglet, over and over again, for a solid minute-twenty. It doesn’t hurt anything, but I’d have accepted a short timer. I’d have accepted no timer! But a timer that ticks on thirty times longer than it needs just seems… lonely? Is it possible to feel bad for a game mechanic?
In an all-around improvement, KH2 introduces a retry button for mini-games on the pause menu. I’d like to praise KH2 for this, but the game forgot to put a retry button in the other place where it would be helpful: boss fights. And I’m not sure I should praise KH2 for providing half of what should be a basic courtesy. Slow clap to every game designer who only did now what everyone should have been doing for the past twenty or more years, and an even slower clap for Square Enix for only going half-way.
Even after you rescue Piglet in the mini-game, it seems you still haven’t rescued Piglet! I mean it just how I said, and it’s completely surreal. KH2 has put him up in a tree as though the mini-game never took place! I can’t imagine the game was a later addition to a later draft, given that it’s 100 Acre Wood and the mini-games are a part of the experience! Did a designer really order the mini-game team to do one thing and then order the cutscene team to undo that work?
It’s clear why Piglet has to be up the tree as far as narrative is concerned. Sora is trying to coax him to be brave and jump so that Sora can catch him. But when Piglet does jump, our hero, wielder of the Keyblade whose physical prowess we rely upon to save the world, who is only a few feet away and has had plenty of time to set up… misses the catch entirely. Thankfully, Piglet lands on Pooh, who has otherwise been ignoring the both of them. But to everyone’s surprise, this accidental “catch” jars Pooh’s memory, and not only does he remember Piglet, but puts a lot of other things into context as well… but not Sora. Sora sounds so upset when he realizes Pooh still doesn’t remember him that I can’t help but get a little upset myself. With that dismal note, the chapter of 100 Acre Wood concludes.
And speaking of getting a little upset myself, we return to our wrap-up. It seems, on top of the Monochrome, Wisdom Form, the Reflect spell, and the Torn Pages, on top of all that fun you got just for clearing Timeless River, KH2 gives you access to two new worlds after Timeless River! Let’s see… yes, yes, that first world’s interesting, and the other is… is…