You dart back to Pride Rock, where… I swear two of the lionesses are floating partially off the ground? Yeah, there, the one on the left! Whoops. Long story short, Simba confronts Scar, and Scar guilts him off the edge of a cliff. I don’t really care to go into details, because this is where Pride Lands descends into Port Royal territory by repeating every scene verbatim. Hey. Hey, Sora. Sora, your friend is dangling off a cliff by his claws, do something. I don’t even like this scene in the film! The fact that Scar confesses his crime is so arbitrary, the fact that it re-energizes Simba is so cliché. I’m talking down one of my favourite movies, here, so you had better believe I mean it.
Once Scar is unmasked as a usurper, we run straight into the action. Scar runs off into his den, and the hyenas try to cut you off. Sora, who moments ago was willing to let his friend actually, literally die because it was “his own fight,” sticks to that philosophy and promises to hold the hyenas off while Simba goes after Scar. This at least makes a certain amount of tactical sense, but Timon and Pumbaa have a better plan, and ram through the hyenas. This works at first, but the hyenas get back up and accidentally force Sora to defend Timon and Pumbaa in yet another godforsaken escort mission.
Shenzi, Banzai and Ed are – whoa, hold on. JUST A MINUTE, GUYS! I’m trying to get a puzzle piece! Okay, where were we? Right: Shenzi, Banzai and Ed are pretty fast on their feet, and the confined space of the King’s Den doesn’t really lend itself to dashing around. As a result, it typically pays for you to stick near Timon and Pumbaa, or rather, in the near area, warding off the hyenas. You have slight control over Timon and Pumbaa, in that you can move them around using Reaction Commands, but unless they ended up split up during the fight, it’s not really worth it, and even then. Keeping the hyenas off the pair should be your first priority, doing your best to eliminate them one at a time. Once there’s only two hyenas, things might calm down… unless Timon and Pumbaa are nearly dead, which is possible. Personally I find this fight doesn’t really calm down until you’ve only got one hyena left, because the game lets you stunlock the hyenas unlike most other bosses in the game (their “Revenge Value” isn’t low enough to save them). This means that the threat of the escort mission is essentially nullified once you can juggle one poor animal in the air over and over, until its HP finally gives out.
Clearing this fight finally gets Goofy his Lucky Lucky ability. This ability is high in AP cost but well worth it even to a casual player. You’ll never want to turn it off.
From there, you head up a path in the back of the den that leads to the top of Pride Rock, where Simba and Scar are having their photocopied climactic battle. The only divergence from the original scene is when Sora outright says that they can’t interfere because it’s Simba’s battle. The devs even replicated the slow motion from the original film, which makes it all the more obvious Sora doesn’t give a crap as he lazes in the corner like he has for a full quarter of this game. Some hero.
You know, go ahead KH2 devs. Just make it as clear as possible that you’re reproducing Disney scenes not to add to the game and the narrative of the game, but because senseless reproduction of subject matter is more valuable to you than narrative cohesion, narrative logic, or the appeal of your crossover actually being a crossover. You think that copy and pasting moments of Disney films, like a YouTube highlight reel, is the actual appeal of Kingdom Hearts. Yes? Great. Now everyone’s on the same page.
Finally, Simba knocks Scar off a cliff, and the day is – *yawn* – the day is saved. We barely spent any time with Scar as Kingdom Hearts’ Disney villains go, so I don’t feel impacted by his death. But just then, Pete shows up from nowhere, and announces that Scar has been revived as a Heartless! Which should have been really cool? Think about it: this is the first time we’ve clearly seen a Disney villain become a Heartless. In fact, Pete (and Xaldin, for that matter) has been building up to this this entire game. This should be huge to the plot of KH2. Scar could have turned into some monstrous form, or split into a Heartless and Nobody for a pincer attack, or maybe even became a recurring villain! …But no. No, he hasn’t changed at all, except that now he has a dark aura, and that Sora decides that now he can intercede. As many have said before me, yes, it seems this plot point was introduced at the last second, strictly to have a boss fight where Scar has magic.
Pete then vanishes entirely, because, and I can’t stress this enough, he was almost certainly a last-second addition. He certainly wasn’t here to reinforce the main plot, because the devs don’t care about it. Scar doesn’t even die like a Heartless when you kill him: he dies like a lion. I can still smell the hot glue cooling on the plot, the edits were so last minute.
The fight against Scar is pretty cool, all considered. First off, the floor turns glassy and you can see dinosaur bones inside, that’s pretty weird. Next, Scar chases you around the arena, so there’s plenty of reasons to use Dash to get away, or close with him if he chased after a party member. This is also your first non-tournament boss fight since Cerberus where you haven’t been able to rely on Drive Forms, which is a heavy blow to someone who plays like me. Like I said earlier, the Wildcat Limit is ruthless, and at least one and possibly two healers covering your back (Simba and Donald), you can probably afford to be liberal with your MP spending. I imagine folks that don’t like Pride Lands will hate this boss, and I wouldn’t call it one of my top five, it’s hardly at the bottom of the pile, either.
After the fight, the lionesses proclaim Simba their king (I accidentally typed “proclaim Sora their king”), and Mufasa reappears in the clouds to oversee his son’s coronation. And then the clouds that formed Mufasa’s ghost (but not Mufasa’s ghost itself?) become the gate key. …I give up. I’d already given up on these gate things, but somehow I managed to give up even more. At least the animation of Lion Sora unlocking the lock is new. This gate doesn’t even OPEN anything! Technically it opens a tournament if you’ve cleared Agrabah and Halloween Town as well, but that’s not a “gate!” You’re not opening a door to anywhere at all!
At this point, there’s some babble about Timon and Pumbaa going back to the oasis, which is really odd. This isn’t from the movie, repeats the stupid Mister Pig joke, and outright contradicts The Lion King 2 (if that counts for anything). I can only assume they were trying to avoid crowding Pride Rock with NPCs?
As they’re running off back to the oasis, Sora suddenly gets all stoned and insightful, and says “You can never forget your true buddies.” That’s the moral we’re taking from this? Nothing in that scene or world implied that moral at all. Whatever. I’m done. I’m done!
You get two prizes for clearing the world, or urm… one? You see, the player get Fira, and Donald gets Fire Boost, but if you think about it, Fire Boost is just the game’s way of giving Donald Fira, consistent with how Donald learned the same spells as Sora in KH1. The same will happen every time Sora gets a –ra level spell. What’s strange is that once you get the -ga level spells, Donald’s doesn’t get an upgrade! You’d think they’d give him a second Boost ability but… nope!
Like I said earlier, there’s also a tournament available if you cleared Agrabah, Halloween Town and the Pride Lands. This is the Cerberus Cup, which features a lot more changes from general gameplay than the Pain and Panic Cup. For starters, it’s a solo tournament, like the optional solo tournaments from KH1. This is a big contrast after Pain and Panic, where Limits were king and your partners necessary to cast them. Now you can only use Trinity Limit’s weaksauce solo form. Next, the Drive Gauge fills faster than usual (incredibly fast, so fast that you’ll probably recover just short of one Drive bar every time you hit an enemy). Summons are locked, but you can now use any Drive you want despite your lack of party members.
There are two downsides. First, because you can’t use Summons in this cup, there’s no way to cheese the score. But before you say: “But you couldn’t summon in the Pain and Panic Cup, either!” be aware that the other downside is a timer. Luckily, Jiminy’s score requirement is the lowest of all the tournaments. This timer ticks down across every round, giving you two minutes to clear the entire tournament including its final boss, plus an added 15 seconds every time you clear a round. So it’s a mix of the solo and time trial tournaments from KH1, with only Drives to save you. Good luck with that. Also, the tournament turns off the lights during the last few rounds, just to be spiteful.
The boss of the cup is Cerberus himself, who doesn’t seem to have changed since you fought him during the plot… except the fact that the lights are off, and of course Auron is missing. Because Cerberus is constantly spinning away from you, the best way to deal a finishing blow against him is to use magic. In fact, with all his squirming, magic isn’t a bad way to whittle down his health bar in the first place.
Here’s a strategy I came up with during my Retrospective play-through: come in with Wisdom Form, and then Thunder him until you’re out of magic. Next, Revert to normal Sora as your magic is recovering, and abuse the Cerberus cup’s special rules to recover your Drive Gauges with only a few taps of your Keyblade. Then re-enter Wisdom Form, regaining your MP immediately!
The prize for the cup isn’t worth the trouble, excusing the fact that you once again have to clear all the early tournaments to unlock a later one. The prize you get in both versions is the Rising Dragon staff for Donald. If you were lucky enough to find the Shaman’s/Spell’s Relic in Pride Lands, then the Rising Dragon is going to be humiliated. Even if you didn’t get the Shaman’s Relic, the Rising Dragon isn’t that impressive. It’s only a few points better than the staff you already have, and in Vanilla, the Rising Dragon’s ability is… Item Boost. In Vanilla, you also get the Protect Belt I mentioned earlier – the one that was moved to the Pain and Panic Cup in FM+. That’s also a joke. I guess what I’m saying here is that if you skip the Cerberus Cup until later in the game, you won’t exactly be hurting. Moving on!
100 Acre Wood
We’re finally back in Pooh’s neck of the ‘Wood. Today, you find yourself at Rabbit’s House, and learn that Eeyore’s has set up his house not far away. Pooh promptly destroys Eeyore’s house by flying into it on a balloon? …Did I miss something? This opening is a complete non sequiter!
Eeyore is now voiced in KH2, by Gregg Berger, the long-time voice of Odie in Garfield adaptations. While Eeyore has had quite a few voice actors in the past decade and a half, Berger would return to Eeyore in Mini Adventure of Winnie the Pooh in 2011, and Disney Magical World in 2013. Berger seems to have had long runs on a lot of shows, including G. I. Joe and the 90s Spider-Man, though his most prominent role was probably Agent K in the animated Men in Black. For an additional Disney connection, we have some minor role or roles in Monsters University, and for Square Enix, he’s the voice of Jecht from FFX and Dissidia! I love the surprise of catching glance of a big Disney or Square Enix name as I’m flipping through the IMDb lists. A cookie to the first person who does a video edit of Jecht with Eeyore’s voice.
Eeyore’s acknowledges Sora with his usual malaise. Piglet shows up, and they exchange greetings as well. Credit to the devs for tacitly slipping in evidence that other 100 Acre Wood characters recognize one another even if Pooh doesn’t, and even more credit for doing it as soon as possible! Well done all around.
Sora and Piglet finally get a chance to discuss Pooh’s condition, and when Pooh’s stomach growls, Piglet suggests he’s forgetful because he’s hungry. Even Sora thinks this is juvenile, but he’ll give his friends’ suggestions a shot no matter what. Eeyore says he might know where there’s food, and he leads you toward Rabbit’s house. As you walk to check if Rabbit has any food he’d be willing to “share,” you may spot one chest in Rabbit’s pumpkin patch that’s in line with – almost disguised as – the other pumpkins. You can also find a Draw Ring in a chest, which gives you or enhances your Draw ability. Pbbbbbbbbbbbt. And may I stress: pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbtttttttt.
Eeyore leads you to a stack of hunny Rabbit is clearly stacking for his own purposes, and Pooh eats the whole thing before Piglet can utter a word of protest. Sora doesn’t even try. Rabbit returns and is distraught, complaining that this was his safe hiding place. This was your safe hiding place? Your hiding place for hunny, from Pooh? Stacked next to the door he uses to get into your house while looking for hunny? Rabbit is voiced here by the late Ken Samsom, who was Rabbit’s regular voice actor from 1988 to two years after his death in 2012, when the last Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh finally aired in 2014. Prior to the role, Samsom did minor voices and acting, including Alvin and the Chipmunks and Gen I Transformers.
Once Rabbit learns what’s wrong (and it’s sweet how polite he is with Sora in the interim), he calms down and tries to help Piglet’s plan by directing you to his secret supply of hunny. “Emergency rations,” he says. And that means it’s mini-game time!
This mini-game is Hunny Slider, an over-the-shoulder runner. This is an early over-the-shoulder runner, mind. We’re still about a decade away from the popular smartphone genre that exists today. I’m thinking more along the lines of… Pepsiman. In fact that’s incredibly apt, given that Sora’s mini-game also features a chase cam sequence, one of Pepsiman’s signatures. You’re essentially auto-scrolling forward on a race track, only able to move left and right as you try to grab the constant trail of hunny. The idea that this open race course of hunny is Rabbit’s carefully hidden “emergency rations” is so laughable that I’m not even going to make a joke about it. Instead, I’m going to move on and talk about the autonomously moving hunny pot Sora is riding like a bronco, and all the awful jokes I should be making about that!
As you’re grabbing hunny, you dodge obstacles in between, and like the last 100 Acre Wood mini-game, if you get hit you’ll lose Pooh temporarily and have to recover him to pick up any more hunny. You can also encounter Gopher at set locations, who will shield you from a single hit, though you’ll lose him if you make it through that part of the track unscathed. The weirdest thing about Gopher is how the instructions don’t even mention him!
The mini-game has quite a few memorable moments, like the aforementioned chase sequence, when the camera cuts in front of Sora to show a giant snow-boulder rolling after you. There’s another great moment that the game pulls from the film where you temporarily escape the book and run along the page! Oh good, Rabbit’s “emergency rations” have now been placed outside reality. I’ve found that’s the only way to keep siblings away from your potato chips.
You need most the hunny to win Jiminy’s requirement, but it’s not that challenging all-in-all, seeing as how the pattern never changes.
Back in the narrative, Pooh eats all the hunny, but it doesn’t seem to have helped his memory. In fact, in only managed to get his head stuck in Rabbit’s door again because, god help the dev team, KH2 can’t help but replay a scene from a film even if it was in KH1. Sadly, that’s not the last time this is going to happen, and it’s going to get so much worse. Unfortunately, but I’m not going to be able to tell you which world it happens on, lest the immortal Chernabog spawn in my bedroom and murder me with off-tempo rhythm—whoops I said too much!
Everyone present has to team up in a chain to yank Pooh out of the hole (Rabbit grabbing Sora by one of his innumerable belts), and Pooh pops out like a cork. Rabbit decides to mope about the situation out loud, which the game uses as a hook to inform us that Pooh now remembers him, and Eeyore for that matter. But of course Pooh doesn’t remember Sora, in fact Jim Cummings almost makes Pooh sound happy to see “Somebody-I-Don’t-Know!” And with that, the chapter ends.
You know, I don’t know about all the rest of you, but it looks like we just have to keep bonking Pooh on the head, right? I volunteer!