Kingdom Hearts 2 – Crossover Potential

kh2-2016-06-26-13h33m59s641Port Royal, Revisited

It would be all too easy to hop over to Olympus Coliseum after clearing Land of the Dragons and Beast’s Castle. If you can handle Xaldin I’m sure it won’t even bother you! Still, Port Royal technically has a lower battle level, at 37 instead of Olympus’ 39. I don’t think I’ve even noticed the level gap in the past, since I always tried to clear the right side of the map instead of exploring the left, or got stonewalled by Xaldin and had to go to Port Royal out of necessity! It goes to show how little a 2-level gap means at this point in the game, compared to the outset when a 2-level gap could be tricky.

You arrive at Port Royal with a scene of an Org member finding the cursed chest at the Ilsa de Meurta, and then find Jack Sparrow under attack by cursed pirates. Sora helps fight them off (eventually – he takes a lot of umbrage over Jack not remembering his name. We are, as usual, the heroes). Everyone blames Jack for this mess, which is probably fair. After all, didn’t he say that no one find the Ilsa de Meurta unless they already knew how to find it? You never strictly get an explanation for how the Org found the island, though can probably make up an explanation if you feel like it.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h35m53s333Elizabeth shows up at just this second, and she asks you and Jack to help her. She says that Will has already left to stop the pirates and he hasn’t returned. She bribes Jack into helping with the Pearl, partially by reminding him that he owes Will his life. I’m not going to debate the back-and-forth on who owes who what, so let’s just cut to it.

You catch up to Will, who is apparently in the Interceptor, alone. I know the game only has two ship models, but didn’t the film make it clear one person couldn’t pilot the Interceptor? Is everyone else dead? With KH2, I’m never sure if locations are supposed to be empty or if the developers assumed we would imagine NPCs to fill the gaps, especially if, as in this case, the NPCs would be corpses.

The cast nurses Will back to life, and he tells them that an Org member stole the chest of cursed medallions. They won’t have to look long before they find the guilty party: Robin Atkin Downes’ character, the last hooded Organization member, is waiting for them on the deck. With the chest, no less! He draws attention to the medallions, and compares them to the Heartless, summoning a Heartless called the Grim Reaper as an example. He asks whether either – the medallions or the Heartless – are worthy to “serve” Organization XIII.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h36m34s709Downes makes a good point: the way Disney elements can react to the main Kingdom Hearts plot is very interesting and feels like it deserves more attention. Bad guys coming to a Disney world to exploit its unique powers – medallions, genies, magical tridents – on a larger stage seems like the sort of plot you could build an entire game around! I know a lot of people feel this second Port Royal plot is just a rehash of the original, and they’re not wrong, but this is exactly what I want to see a future Kingdom Hearts game to be about. I want to see the elements cross-over: have Disney impact the main plot instead of the main plot influence the Disney (or the main plot not influence the Disney at all, Kingdom Hearts 2). As a result, the second half of Port Royal is the part I actually prefer, and part of why I rank the world so highly in general!

Downes orders the Reaper to attack. The Grim Reaper is a disappointing fight, you’ll often see it on “Top 5 Worst” and “Top 5 Easiest Kingdom Hearts Boss Battles” lists. I’m not sure if I feel it even qualifies as a boss to begin with. It’s clearly not meant to be an engaging fight (like the fight with Past Pete in Timeless River), buuuuut at the same time, just because the devs did it deliberately doesn’t mean it was a good idea! Any game veteran will realize that we’ll be fighting this weak boss later in the game after it’s received some kind of upgrade. In the meantime, I guess it’s free Valour Form points. Bafflingly, this fight marks Mickey’s ninth and penultimate appearance, and I wonder if anyone but FAQ writers has ever seen him here.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h37m22s765After the fight, Downes stands alone and unhoods, revealing a man with short, trim blonde hair and a beard. Jiminy identifies him as Luxord, the Organization’s No. X, The Gambler of Fate. Downes, emblematic of the Gambler class from Final Fantasy, fights with a magical deck of cards that we’ve seen him futzing with in the past, called The Fair Game. But none of that today. Instead, Luxord invokes parley, which is… fine, but given our track record with Port Royal, it feels like one last attempt to squeeze the original film. I probably wouldn’t have minded if the original trip hadn’t already milked the film so dry.

To everyone’s surprise, Luxord offers to surrender the chest and its contents, “with my humblest apologies.” But before anyone can stop him, he grabs four medallions, tosses them to some of his Lesser Nobodies, the Gamblers, and they flee in opposite directions. Goofy points out that they can’t stop the curse without all the medallions, which is certainly true, but wait a second. If the curse was already active, shouldn’t there be at least five missing medallions, if not more? And shouldn’t Luxord and/or the Gamblers have to sacrifice blood to stop it, something that will not happen? Do Nobodies have blood? It’s probably best I not think about these things, but that fifth medallion point is kind of inescapable.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h38m56s510Before the party can follow the Gamblers or enact revenge on Luxord, the Grim Reaper Heartless returns as well. It too is now cursed, and unlike the other pirates, outright invincible thanks to the curse and – I suppose – its inherent magic. This is exactly what I’m talking about in regards to crossover elements from film to main plot. This is great, I love this. The cursed Reaper knocks the trio and Jack over to the Interceptor (Will and Elizabeth are still on the Pearl), and Luxord uses the Pearl to destroy the Interceptor. Hey! The game and the film eventually destroyed the same ships! What do you know!

You awake in an all-new area, which doesn’t happen often enough the second loop. This is the Ship Graveyard, where old hulls come to rest, and possibly a reference to FFV. Thankfully, you’re all okay. Worse, Jack is cursed, something that you later discover happened because of the cursed Grim Reaper. That’s cute and all, but doesn’t add anything to the experience? I’m not sure what real-world reasons were for cursing Jack. Perhaps it’s there to explain how Luxord is spreading the curse to enemy pirates without handing out extra medallions?

kh2-2016-06-26-13h40m09s350The characters talk, which prompts a bit of introspection from Sora, who becomes upset when he realizes he never stays anywhere, and wonders when he’ll see home. This homesickness is something of a minor theme during the second loop, especially on the “left branch” of the map. You can see how it could have been useful in another universe’s version of KH2: if the series had ended after KH2, this character development would have explained why Sora was happy to rest on his laurels!

You start your escape from the Graveyard by picking through the Interceptor for supplies, which include the Feather Charm, which gives you the last Summon in the game (yup, there are only four! Buzz Lightyear and Woody famously appear in the data files, unskinned, so clearly they were dropped early in the process). This summon is your old pals, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, who are relatively straightforward: Peter attacks, Tink heals you and will once again raise you from the dead once. This summon is mostly about Tink, making it largely defensive, but Peter’s Limit, Never Land, doesn’t hurt, even if it doesn’t make much sense (he seems to attack the enemies with… photos? Flashbacks? Which obstruct your view on top of everything else?).

kh2-2016-06-26-13h40m50s988You leave the ship, only to be attacked by pirates who do things like drop out of hatches to ambush you. These hatches continue to snap open when you approach even after you clear the world, even though no one drops out of them at that point. I couldn’t possibly tell you why they were even programmed the hatches this way, it seems like such an easy thing to fix (be it by simply dropping more enemies on your head, or by leaving the hatches closed!). A quick scour of this place will find the recipe for Goofy’s Save the King, so all we need now is a synthed Keyblade and everyone will be on the same base!

When you make it to the third room in the Graveyard, you make a lucky find: one of Luxord’s four Gamblers, flipping the medallion Luxord gave it. The four Gamblers you encounter during this plot don’t behave like Gamblers at any other point in the game: they have similar stats and basic attacks, but they don’t seem to have their full list of attacks (someone correct me if I’m wrong) and are fought against a short timer, after which they will flee. As a result, they behave like a sort of mini-game. This is why the Gamblers will never trigger any Reaction Commands and barely fight back. As a result you’re not really in any danger when fighting them, unless you mean the danger of them running away.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h41m38s760Still, I might as well talk about normal Gamblers, even if you won’t encounter them for a few worlds. Later Gamblers are easy to kill – probably the weakest specialized Nobody – but like most of the story Nobodies, they have very high stats at this point that make that hard to pop here in Port Royal. No, the real point of Gamblers is that they allow you to gamble with them using Reaction Commands, and if you win there will be easy munny and fair-sized prizes (possibly including the Nobody Guard shield, which they can also drop on death). On the other hand, if you lose, there are weird consequences. If you choose not to bother gambling, the poor things won’t be much of a threat. The KHWiki’s Strategy section doesn’t even touch on combat with them at the time of writing! They throw a giant die at you from time to time, but who cares?

If you do accept their gambling challenges, you can play one of two mini-games: a die game and a special game that takes place in the command menu in the corner. The die game takes place when the Gambler is using the giant die attack I mentioned earlier. If you hit the Reaction Command, the giant die will stop rolling and the game will check how it lands. If it lands on O, you get prizes, and if it lands on X, Sora outright turns into a giant die himself! While in this form you can hop into enemies to do very minor damage, but otherwise you have to wait for a special drive gauge to dry up before you revert to your regular self. The other game is called… urm… “Begin Game.” In this, the battle will freeze and command menu in the corner will begin to roulette a number of Xs and Os. Press an O, and you win; press an X or let the roulette slow to a stop, and you become trapped on a card. Being trapped on a card is far more dangerous than being trapped on a die. Its attack is a bit better (wider), but your movement is garbage, leaving you a sitting duck. Don’t gamble, kids.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h42m24s435Don’t worry if this first Gambler gets away, you’ll get other opportunities. Will and Elizabeth arrive soon after in the Black Pearl and take you away. They show up before you have a chance to open any chests, might I complain, including a Staff for Donald. It seems that Luxord left them alone after destroying the Interceptor, which implies to me that our Gambler just wants to play a game.

You now have free reign of Port Royal, though you’ll want to focus on Isla de Meurta and return trips to the ship graveyard. Gamblers can show up in any of those locations, each with a specific challenge depending on where you find them (though there are quite a few repeats). This makes for one of the only visits to a world in KH2 that focuses on a unique set of mechanics (a gimmick, if you will). Coming to mind are training Ping in Land of the Dragons, the Mayhem bar in Timeless River, and of course the Pride Lands. Another is upcoming in Agrabah and sort of in Olympus Coliseum. This compared to KH1, which had world-specific gimmicks (or failing that, at least level design gimmicks) in nearly every world… even though many of them were bad. I don’t feel it had to be one way or another. They could have tried a lot harder to strike a better balance. Sadly, as the games stand, you have to pick your poison.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h43m14s974Once you’ve fought a Gambler in one location, the others won’t appear there, but there are far more than four locations to begin with. There’s one on the Isla de Meurta with an incredibly short timer, for instance, another in the Ilsa’s gunpowder room where you have to blow up crates to find the Gambler. And while you’re on the island, this isn’t a bad time to fight Larxene’s Absent Silhouette if you haven’t already! I CAN’T HEAR YOU, PORT ROYAL, I’M FIGHTING AN ELECTRIC GHOST.

After you’ve found the medallions, the party rationalizes that Luxord must have gone to Port Royal to turn people into Heartless, so you head back. He must have done a pretty good job, too, because tragically the entire town is empty when you return. Oh, the humanity! …What’s that? I see. *ahem* I’ve just received a note reminding me that there are no people in Kingdom Hearts 2. As a result we’ll be switching to our story about a human interest story about a duck riding a surfboard, which has more lives at stake.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h44m29s351As you can see, the duck—oh, you want to talk about the Grim Reaper, huh? That’s a pretty dismal outlook on life but if you insist. Luxord has left the Reaper and the chest unattended at the dock, and Jack distracts the Heartless while you return the medallions. This removes the curse on the Reaper and allows you to hurt it (the moon has no effect on the Reaper), but it’s gotten wise to what you’re doing and in a great exploitation of the PotC story’s rules, it just steals some medallions back. And that’s the fight’s tug of war: you collect the medallions (finally, a use for Draw!) and return them to the chest, and then it knocks them back out after giving you a minute or two to attack it. As the fight continues, it retrieves more and more medallions in one go, so you’ll be spending more time retrieving them.

I didn’t talk much about the Reaper during the intro fight, but it actually reacts to magic in the same way as the cursed pirates: Thunder stuns it, Blizzard freezes it, and Fire makes it run around. Though this only works when it’s actually in its normal form. As the fight goes on, its attacks become more bizarre, transforming into giant, stomping skulls as though this game had come to us from the 80s. As you can imagine, this makes the otherwise simple task of reaching the chest complicated at times, but the Reaper regularly drops an easy Reaction Command on your head that you can use to get hundreds of medals back, so it evens out.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h45m47s410Once the boss is done, Luxord rubs your face in the mess he made by taking the heart from the Heartless right in front of your eyes. He congratulates you and bails. I think Robin Atkin Downes makes a great first impression here, so it’s a shame to say that he won’t really get to make a second.

Jack asks what was up with that, and for some reason Sora recaps plot we should already know, and then suddenly announces he has to find their stronghold. Wait a minute! This sounds like the setup to the dialogue in Beast’s Castle! And come to think of it, Luxord kept underlining the basic plot through his actions here: the Org commands the Heartless, fosters them to be strong, sets them on the populace so Sora will be forced to act, and then they take the hearts. This… this used to be the mandatory first world in the second loop, wasn’t it? Geeze!

After he leaves, the PotC cast decide to be rid of the chest by dumping it to the bottom of the sea. But wait, Jack the monkey still has to steal from it!

Finally, Jack asks for that reward he was promised at the outset of this second trip, and makes an unusual but highly intelligent request that makes me think that the writers might understand Jack Sparrow after all: he wants Sora’s Keyblade. Sora hands the blade over willingly, only for the blade to jump back to his hand, just like Sora knew it would. Jack accepts this, but promises to one day come to take the blade by force, saying “Chance by then, I’ll have the way to wield it.” It’s a playful but also plainly serious threat, and it’d almost be a shame to not see him try. Of course, I’m as burned out on revisited worlds as most of the fandom, so maybe it’s better if we leave that incident to the fanfic?

kh2-2016-06-26-13h46m37s602The outro involves an awful sitcom joke about Sora and Jack being similar, and then suddenly we get an epilogue narrated by Will and Elizabeth, which doesn’t fit the usual structure used by Kingdom Hearts at all. It also seems to imply Jack has gone sailing off into the ether, when in reality he’ll be back in your party if you return… which is probably why Kingdom Hearts doesn’t typically employ Disney epilogues!


Wrap-Up

Clearing the Grim Reaper gets you Magnera, so you know what that means.

You also get Secret Ansem Report 6. In this, we learn that Ansem survived the darkness of Reports 4 and 5 by “befriend[ing]” it, which he says allowed him to make corridors of darkness to escape back to the realm of light. He “transformed” himself to keep the Organization from spotting him, which is to say he put on his DiZ costume (the game doesn’t reveal he’s DiZ yet just in case you haven’t worked that out). DiZ explains that by the time he returned to the Realm of Light, the plot of KH1 was underway, but DiZ was more concerned with the Nobodies, which he is just now discovering and identifying. DiZ briefly wonders whether his other apprentices turned into Heartless, and while the answer is surely “yes,” we’ll never get a definite answer as to where their Heartless went. The general consensus seems to be that they just turned into minor Heartless and Sora or Roxas may have wiped them out at some point, which is too bad, because they could have made interesting bosses.

kh2-2016-06-26-13h47m42s924Clearing Port Royal for a second time unlocks Mushroom X, and in a peculiar footnote, the English translation chooses to address this Heartless as “she.” It’s all well and good if Mushroom X does go by “she,” and hell, maybe the writers should have made more Mushrooms “shes,” but hmm. I can’t help but wonder if the localizers got confused and were actually trying to name Mushroom XII “she,” after Larxene, and got confused thanks to the placement of Larxene’s Absent Silhouette?  hyperion09 assures me that there was no mention of mushroom gender in the Japanese version!

Luxord’s biggest fan is essentially a rehash of the Black Ballade from KH1:FM: the Mushroom flies around with a bunch of duplicates and you have to hit the real one. The difference is that now you have to deplete her health bar when you win the shell game instead of just tagging her a certain number of times, like the Ballade. This is really quite disappointing: it’s essentially just a repeat of the Ballade, which is already a point against it, but now with the arbitrary rule that you more-or-less have to use the final, hidden Drive Form’s rapid attacks to win before time runs out. At least she’s slower than the Ballade so the pause trick isn’t quite as necessary. One of the funniest bits for me though, is that Mushroom X seems to attack a random target when you guess wrong, instead of attacking Sora like the Ballade. Oh yes, punish Donald, this is clearly Donald’s fault.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 2 – The Gut Punch Heard Round the World!
Next: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Going Down for the Third Time


This retrospective’s screenshots come from Spazbo4’s longplay of the 2.5 HD version of Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix+ at World of Longplays (YouTube).

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4 comments

  1. “Clearing Port Royal for a second time unlocks Mushroom X, and in a peculiar footnote, the English translation chooses to address this Heartless as “she.” It’s all well and good if Mushroom X does go by “she,” hell maybe the writers should have made more Mushrooms “shes,” but hmm. I can’t help but wonder if the localizers got confused and were actually trying to name Mushroom XII “she,” after Larxene, and got confused thanks to the placement of Larxene’s Absent Silhouette?”

    No, that’s just the translator(s) dropping the ball again (they do that a LOT for both 1.5 and 2.5…such as the stuff-up with the Shaman’s Relic/Spell’s Relic). The journals and the Japanese version have no gender connotation for the Mushrooms (or any Heartless except Ansem SoD, for obvious reasons).

  2. There are a few things I noticed with Gamblers that are interesting, The first are its attacks, which I’m just saying cause I took the time to make note of them :>

    they do roll a die which acts as a slow projectile that gets bigger, they make a ring of cards that damages you if you don’t jump at the right time,, and they have a silly looking hitmontop breakdance spin on their pointed heads.

    the other, far more interesting thing to note is that the Org members from CoM are on the cards that flit in and out of their sleeves. which is a neat little thing I noticed

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