Kingdom Hearts 2 – The Cricket Whip

Welcome back to flashback screenshot theatre!

End-Game Challenges

Before we talk about any specifics in KH2’s end-game challenges, let’s talk about one thing I like above all, maybe my favourite single mechanic from KH2: once you’ve cleared the entire game, the game will hint at the things you’ve missed. This doesn’t happen quite yet, but it exists and it’s wonderful. The journal and the Moogle shop add question marks to their list, implying missed content. It doesn’t tell you what’s missing, though you can often derive from context, and that’s clever too. In a game so packed to the gills as this, this is invaluable.

Lovely as this is, the first thing that will probably catch many players’ eye after clearing Xemnas’ first battle is the New Episode prompt that comes to greet them on the map. As such, it’s a great time to return to…

Olympus Coliseum

There’s a lot to do in the post-game Olympus Coliseum, and it gets started with the Goddess of Fate Cup, which probably should have been translated Goddesses of Fate Cup, since the cup depicts the Three Fates from the film. There are no special rules in the Goddess of Fate Cup – you get both party members, and everything is normal.

At least, that’s what the game says. The game is lying. In reality, you have no special benefits, but most of the rounds will pluck up one of the special failure conditions from the other tournaments and throw them in your face at low numbers. In Rounds 3 and 7, you get 50 of the “Key Points” from the Titan Cup (50 points each, that is). You know, the ones you can’t regenerate?. In Rounds 2 and 6, you have a time limit. Round 8 and 9 change things up in their own way: round 8 is the Rapid Thruster swarm, which is just boring at this point (it’s so clear the developers were proud of it but it’s hard to share their enthusiasm after so many repeats?) and Round 9 borrows from the dark-lit final rounds of the Cerberus Cup.

The boss at the end of the tournament is Hades again. Hercules shows up to have your back, and the fight is much the same, except that there are either an infinite Hammer Frames spawning during the match (or, if not infinite, at least a lot of them), dealing out area attacks while you try to ignore them. This might be one of the few late-game bosses where a medium-length combo is helpful rather than a short one, since an air combo will keep you off the ground where the Hammer Frames can’t hurt you! On the other hand, Hades’ ability to go invincible at a moment’s notice could ruin that plan.

Thankfully, your Drive Gauge works as normal throughout the Goddess of Fate Cup, and you can still summon Stitch or Peter Pan to make a mockery of Jiminy’s challenge, thank goodness.

Clearing the Goddess of Fate cup wins you an Orichalcum+, possibly the last one you need to make the Ultima Weapon, though FM+ players may still be short. The tournament also wins you the Fatal Crest Keyblade. The Fatal Crest is a magic-focused Keyblade that frankly doesn’t stack up with the game’s best magic Keyblades. Like a lot of this game’s end-game strength Keyblades, which come paired with a magic ability, this one is a magic Keyblade paired with a strength ability: Berserk Charge. This curious ability lets Sora attack “endlessly” without using a combo finisher, so long as he’s in MP Charge state. This ability is probably more helpful in FM+ than it ever was in Vanilla, as it’s useful against the many superbosses and some of the Mushroom XIII. On the downside… Berserk Charge is an ability Sora gains on his own, and the ability doesn’t stack if you equip both. Staff players almost certainly have the ability already, because it comes at level 49, while The World that Never Was’ Battle Lv was 50!

But that’s not the end of the party in Olympus Coliseum: there are secret tournaments. If you go and speak to Hades personally after clearing all the normal Tournaments, he’ll invite you to “The Hades Paradox Cup,” a series of “Paradox” versions of all the existing tournaments, though the Goddess of Fate cup is replaced with the “Hades Paradox Cup.” Wait, “The Hades Paradox Cup” has a sub-tournament called “The Hades Paradox Cup?”

In this Retrospective, I’ve occasionally talked about how the structure of KH2 seems to resemble KH1’s, in spite of the whole second loop thing. This is also true of the tournaments, though in this case they actually accounted for the second loop. Check it out: the first tournament in both games is only a small hop after Olympus, the second a wider jump, the third wider still, and the last at the endgame. The trouble is that there is a much wider span of time in KH2, so the first four tournaments almost seem too thin! Since they had these secret tournaments planned all along, I don’t think it would have razzed me to see them spread out across the entire game? As stands, Tournaments in KH2 exist to pepper the climb from The World that Never Was’ challenge level of 50 and the post-game level of 99. I hope you enjoy it, because if you’re playing Vanilla, these tournaments are the most significant challenge left of the entire game.

I don’t really like the Paradox Cups as an idea. They strike me as a last minute idea thrown in to jazz up post-game, and far too late in development to make them truly unique. I don’t doubt that the Paradox Hades Cup was always part of the plan, mostly because it features the all the Final Fantasy characters as bosses. Remember: we saw those characters as enemies with their targeting reversed at other parts of the game, so they must have been planned for a tournament at some point, and we haven’t seen Cloud and Tifa yet. If anything, the Goddess of Fate Cup was the late addition, and it was created to replace the Hades Cup as in the main tournament set. The other Paradox Cups just stick out as half-hearted and last-second. They just tweaked a few enemy groups from the original tournaments and called it added “hours of added content.” The 80s and 90s used to use that same scam in every other game. I’m sick of it here as I was then. To make matters worse, the tournaments still don’t let you grind or collect synth ingredients, and have no reward (except to clear Jiminy’s Journal), so the whole thing just strikes as a time sink for completionists.

The Pain and Panic Paradox Cup (recommended level 60) is open after you’ve cleared the original tournaments, so you can get to that right after the Goddess of Fate if you’re of a mind to do so. Cerberus (level 70) demands you clear the original tournaments and have Drive Form Levels of 5 or higher on every form except Final Form (yes, this does seem to include Limit Form in FM+). The Titan Paradox Cup (level 80) requires your Summons be at level 5 or higher, though remember that Summons share a level. Because of the way these first three tournaments are unlocked, it’s possible to have all three of them open the moment you clear the Goddess of Fate Cup, or to have something weird, like having the Titan Cup unlocked but not the Cerberus! Lastly, the Hades Paradox Cup wants perfect coverage: Level 7 for all Drive Forms including Final, and Level 7 for Summons. You also have to have cleared Space Paranoids, just in case you were holding out on that all the way to the Hades Paradox Cup’s recommended level of 99.

Since the Hades Paradox Cup is the only tournament with actual new content, it’s the only one I’m going to discuss in detail. Like in KH1, the cup is divided into 50 rounds with checkpoints every 10 rounds, though Jiminy the Archdemon from Hell demands you do all 50 of them in a row to qualify for his piss-off score challenge. The blocks of 10 essentially form mini-cups of their own as far as the rules are concerned. The first 10 have no special rules, and feature re-fights with the Volcanic Lord (on its own) and ends with a battle against Tifa and Yuffie. Block 2 returns to Titan Cup Rules, with Sora solo and Summons on hand, and a Titan-Cup-style damage point meter to contend with. You’ll refight the Blizzard Lord here, and fight Pete at the end of the block.

Block 3 is a return to the Pain and Panic Cup rules, with allies back, Limits for cheap, and no Drive Gauge. Here you’ll battle Bulky Vendors for a recharge, fight Cloud and Tifa in the middle, and you’ll fight Hades in pitch darkness for Round 30, except this time he’ll never go into his invincible state and you can easily clear him.

Block 4 is Cerberus Cup rules, complete with a ten-minute timer for this block of ten rounds. You’ll need to beat an average of one minute a round! This block features a lot of Nobodies (and also Demyx’s water forms alongside some Dancers?). The swarm of Rapid Thrusters serves as the midboss, which is finally a something of a threat because you have to clear them this time – yes, all of them. Still doesn’t sound like a threat? Remember, you’re also fighting an ongoing, ten minute timer! Leon and Cloud wait at the end of this block. And yes, that’s twice you’ve seen Cloud in this one tournament, you’d best get used to it, because he’ll be back again!

Block 5 exists just to spite you. Sora is solo with no Drive Gauge at all, and no bonuses whatsoever. You’ll be fighting a lot of the most powerful enemies in the game here, including Living Bonus, Shamans, Assault Riders, and Hot Rods. The mid-boss is just a small sampling of the Battle of 1000 Heartless, nothing to be concerned about, but Cerberus waits at Round 48. Round 49 is the true final boss, featuring all four Final Fantasy stars at once, a battle so chaotic that it consists mostly of Reflecting and fleeing, constant fleeing. Best to take Cloud out first, then Yuffie (if her low HP hasn’t killed her after all the Reflects you’ll need to survive), then Tifa, then poor boring Leon, who is no threat to you at all. For many, Round 49 will be one of the hardest fights in the game, but Reflect really does trivialize it once you’ve gotten in the habit. It’s the weight of the past 48 rounds plus the score challenge that really gets to you.

The final boss fight is Hades again, exactly like he was in the story battle, except that you don’t have Donald and Goofy, just Hercules. An anticlimax for sure, but I guess there were complaints about him being the second-last boss in the cup in the original, so I understand where the devs were coming from.


First things first: I recommend that anyone who wants to get 100% complete other challenges before and while grinding, just to cut down on the boredom. The Moogle collection challenges, for instance, discussed further down the page.

There are a few things you have to grind to get 100%: There are Drives, Summons, and of course, Sora’s own level. Let’s start with Drives. First off, you’ll want to the Oathkeeper and/or Oblivion for their Drive-related Abilities. There’s also a special cheat you might want to know: if you leave a world to go to the map screen while still in a Drive, the game will recover your gauge entirely, for free! At this point, it’s simply a matter of finding a good grinding spot for each Form.

Valour Form can’t be easily levelled in Vanilla’s post-game, since almost all the bosses are dead, Coliseum bosses don’t count, and the superbosses are… well, superbosses. Hopefully it’s already at a high level, because the stronger Sora gets, the less hits you’re going to be able to land before the minor bad guys pop – for that same reason, it’s best to get Valour Form out of the way before you do other grinding, lest Sora become even more powerful and make Valour Form take even longer to grind! The best advice I can give is to find the biggest thing that won’t buckle at the sight of you and milk it for all it’s worth. Berserkers at the World that Never Was, typically. In FM+, you can rely on the Mushroom XIII, especially Mushroom V, who can take quite a few hits, and is right next to a save point for easy cheating.

Wisdom Form is best levelled in the same places in both games. If you missed your chance to use the nigh-infinite Shadows that appeared in the Dark City before your encounter with Roxas, there are still Shadows in Timeless River. Not only do Pete’s magic windows let you respawn the Heartless with ease (you only have to get a few “rooms” away from the Heartless for them to respawn, and the window-rooms are arranged in a convenient loop!), but Timeless River’s Heartless are the weakest enemies in the game during the post-game. Just save your MP to clear out the Hot Rods.

Limit Form exists only in FM+, so you’ll be glad to know our favourite fungal punching bags are just waiting for your return. Mushroom V serves admirably yet again.

Master Form varies by version. In FM+, you want to use Drive Converter and Jackpot to maximize the number of Drive Orbs you can find. Reader ornamentelle suggests that, if you’re good at the Gamblers’ minigames, you find some Gamblers (I’ve got a good spot below) and use their Reaction Commands to win Munny, which Drive Converter will turn into Drive Orbs. Sadly, that’s not quite as good as a trick you could perform in the Vanilla days. In Vanilla, you could blow up fireworks in Land of the Dragons, which would respawn infinitely and give you huge piles of Drive Orbs!

Lastly, Final Form is best levelled by hunting crowds of Creepers in the Castle that Never Was. Best combine it with the Gull Wing trick and gain a few character levels while you’re at it, as described below.

Summons are best levelled using the gauge cheat that I described when I introduced Summons – you know, the one where you pick up a Drive Orb just as the gauge clears so that it will restore the gauge and immediately clear again? This is probably best done in the same rooms you trained Master Form: Land of the Dragon’s fireworks in Vanilla, and against Gamblers or maybe a special Drive Orb-related feature in the Cavern of Remembrance in FM+. I can’t give you any special advice if you aren’t willing to cheat – you’re just going to have to wait the Summons out! Maybe use Drive Recovery items farmed from the Mushroom XIII?

Sora’s own level can be the easiest thing to raise, though it’s also the most tedious and will take the most time. In Vanilla, you can use the Rapid Thruster trick in Pride Lands to reach Level 99 in just a few minutes, while in the remake you can climb up the Castle that Never Was, killing Creepers and anything else that crosses your path while exploiting 2x/3x Experience Boost from the Gull Wing and your built-in Experience Boost if available. Tedious, but workable. Some have recommended a section in the Cavern of Remembrance, but personally, while I may complain about the boredom, I’d rather grind breezy than stressed. Besides: boring old ease ensures you spend less time grinding in the first place, which is fine by me.

Please note that while I’m mentioning level grinding now, I do recommend you try to beat the game before you grind, especially if you plan to do post-game bosses. If you level grind before you fight Xemnas, he’ll be just too easy! It’s not as bad as it was in KH1, where stats were king and grinding would break the game over its knee, but it goes without saying that forty or fifty extra levels will make a bit of a difference.

Synthesis and Minigames

For anyone trying to clear Jiminy’s Journal (be it for secret ending requirements in Standard, for Achievements in 2.5, or just for personal satisfaction), there’s still a lot of work to do. One of the most time-consuming is clearing the Synthesis Notes section, which involves making every recipe, and also collecting large quantities of the ingredients en masse so the Moogle will start selling them as a “prize.” Specifically, you have to collect 25 of each Shard-level ingredient, 20 of each Stone, and 15 of each Gem. Crystals don’t have a special collection target, nor do the new ingredients added to FM+, since the Moogle never sells any of them. That said, you do need to collect 1 of everything, Crystals and new stuff included. You also need to synth every recipe! Note that FM+ players won’t be able to complete their synth notes until they’ve nearly cleared the Cavern of Remembrance (thanks to that “1 of everything” clause), but everyone can get started. There’s a loooong way to go.

FM+ players do have one advantage: by clearing one of the Puzzles in the Journal (indeed it’s now easy to grab every puzzle piece in the game, so do that while you’re grinding), they can get the Draw Ring recipe, and if you Serenity-upgrade the Draw Rings recipe, you get Lucky Rings instead! The Lucky Ring is no lightweight in FM+. You’ll require some FM+ exclusive ingredients to synth a few copies, but it’ll be worth it. By sticking Lucky Rings in every available equipment slot for Sora and the two walking boxes you call “friends,” you get a much higher item drop rate than Vanilla players could have ever hoped for, even higher if you use Limit Form (+1 Lucky Lucky) and are playing in Critical Mode (+2) The math behind the Lucky Lucky skill has changed between versions, but trust the people who have run the math: FM+ players have the edge. If you keep on top of you Lucky Luckys, gathering the synth ingredients in FM+ isn’t that painful after all. Vanilla players are just going to have to equip the Lucky Ring and the Sweet Memories and suck it up.

Not every synth ingredient can be earned from enemies. Some have to be found or synthesized themselves, like Mythrils, while FM+ has you synthing Serenity Crystals and Manifest Illusions (which are made by upgrading the Serenity Crystal… with a Serenity Crystal!). The remaining Serenity items will come from Bulky Vendors in FM+, and thankfully the fandom has found a surefire way to locate the Vendors. This video here, by Bizkit047 illustrating a technique discovered by Ahirun, explains the process best. In short: after booting the game (and sometimes without!), if you visit a room that could have a Vendor but they don’t appear, enter and exit the room three times. At this point, you can leave the world, and you’ll discover that Vendors will appear in every other possible Vendor location in the game. With a careful but simple pattern, you can do this over and over, getting as many Serenity items as you want. See the video for more details.

While looking for synthesis ingredients, one might notice that the game has silently returned the magic train to Twilight Town’s train station after your first fight with Xemnas. You can board the train to return to Yen Sid’s Mysterious Tower at last, only to find the place stocked with Nobodies. You have to wonder what happened, but no matter: this is the best place to grab Munny/Drive Orbs from a pack of Gamblers mid-way up the tower, and the only predictable way to fight Dancers in the late Vanilla game. (Technically, Nobodies appear on all worlds, but only as randomly available, alternate enemy formations.) The Tower also plays host to someone we’ve been missing: Mushroom VIII. Sadly, you can’t finish the remaining two Mushrooms (I and XIII) until you’ve beaten the final boss.

As for Axel’s mushroom… honestly, I have no idea how Mushroom VIII is supposed to relate to Axel. Mushroom VIII is found stuck elbow-deep in the ground in some sort of black portal, and it’s such a cartoonish sight that I must have laughed harder at this poor Mushroom than any other joke in the game! The Mushrooms all stand in this pose with their arms raised before you start a challenge, and in this case it just looks like it’s reaching for help, like it somehow tripped and fell through the floor like a Skate 3 glitch. You help out by plucking the Mushroom from the ground, at which point it’s propelled into the air and the mini-game is on. Your objective is to juggle the Mushroom in the air for as many hits as possible, not unlike the Rare Truffles from KH1, but not quite the same, either. We already had the Rare Truffle experience in Twilight Town’s Grandstander game. No, this is… different.

The major different is that Mushroom VIII doesn’t necessarily get propelled into the air like the Rare Truffles or the Grandstander ball. You strike it much like a regular enemy, gradually descending with every blow, and it only flies up from time to time, in a way I can’t quite get a grasp on but doesn’t seem to be wholly random. The strategies used to keep Mushroom VIII in the air are wide and varied, and sadly none of them seem to have consistent results. One of the most popular strategies involves using Berserk Charge to juggle the Mushroom, praying it won’t plummet to the ground the moment Berserk Charge ends. Most strategies include a contingency plan that involves using Trinity Limit the moment you lose the Mushroom, which definitely works, but mind that there’s not much room for error. Others have sworn up and down that they can pull through using Final Form just as it is, but I’ve never had any luck executing their strategies.

Another thing you might want to do at the end of the game is to complete any remaining mini-game challenges, especially those you liiterally couldn’t clear when they were first made available. This includes using your mobility upgrades to complete Poster Duty (it’ll take a lot of practice). You can also use Negative Combo to have a better performance in games like Cargo Climb, Phil’s Training, and maybe even the Magic Carpet escape sequence in Agrabah. But not Junk Sweeper. Oh no. Apparently smashing up garbage is such Serious Business that the only way you can do it properly is to kill some bastard that’s arguably stronger than the final boss himself. But we’ll get to that.

Doughnut Gummi

While we’re here and talking about miscellany, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ultimate in late-game cheese: a gummi design so strong that gummi ship mode essentially buckles under it. The Doughnut Gummi works under a very simple principle: enemies fire at the centre of your Gummi ship. As a result, all you really need is a Gummi ship that doesn’t have a centre. Or at least, not one they can damage! Build a nice little square outline and enemies will shoot into the hole in hte middle and miss every time. All that will be able to hit you are enemy Slash attacks, which aren’t very frequent. Stick your guns along the square frame: Blizzaga for coverage, Graviga for damage, and Firaga to fill in your few remaining points. Throw in the Draw, Medal Converter, and maybe an Auto Regen abilities to make a mockery of any impact attacks, and Gummi Mode is already cleared.

Extraneous Details

Okay, I wasn’t going to talk about this last thing, but reader h. e. hassanein basically requested it. So without further ado, let’s talk about underwear!

No, no, you can stop reading this page now, that’s fine, I don’t mind.

So here’s the short of it: in the original PS2 versions of KH2, it was possible to look under Kairi’s skirt like a pervert and see her underwear by carefully and quite questionably manipulating the camera. In the HD remakes, this is no longer possible, as Kairi not only doesn’t have any underwear, but her model cuts off above the legs! Skeevy modelling job followed by abrupt censorship? Well… I don’t know about “censorship…”

I remember first hearing that Square Enix had “removed the panties” in the Japanese version of 2.5HD and I quickly thought “Well, yeah” and went on with my day. It was something that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and they got rid of it. Several hours or maybe even days later, though, I had a “fridge logic” moment where I realized something that should have come to me in the first place… “Why did she ever have hips in the first place?”

If you don’t know much about 3D modelling, know this: extra polygons are the enemy. That’s true today and it was extra true in 2005. Hell, KH2 came out only one generation after the PSX era, when we had character models so sharp that you could reach up to your screen and carve a ham. The best way to get rid of extra polys is to remove anything that shouldn’t be seen in normal play, like hips under a skirt. Consider these models of Princess Peach: the Mario 64 model has no legs at all, while the Mario Galaxy model includes only her legs to account for fabric physics, what with her and Mario being flung through space during the events of that particular game. In spite of this principle, someone at Square Enix went out of their way to add a crotch to Kairi’s model. As stands, the original KH2 modeller is starting to look really suspect, but at the same time, you can see that I might not consider the HD re-release to be censorship per-se: it seems more like the HD modeller actually knew how to do their job and cut out the hips, and censorship may have never entered into the discussion. In fact, I doubt it did, because if the HD modeller had actually been paying attention to Kairi’s lower body, they might have added some black space to keep her legs from visibly hanging in mid-air if you jigger the camera, but I personally think the current solution is adequate.

(Although it is worth saying that if Kairi was going to be an active NPC Guest party member, jumping around and being knocked back by attacks, the possibility of unfortunate camera angles would have risen dramatically and the hips would make a certain degree of sense… but a small one. Carefully prepared animations can help in situations like that, but frankly at that stage I’d have replaced her skirt entirely. For the sake of not waltzing down that worrisome road, let’s just talk about Kairi the Generic NPC.)

Now suspicious about the original PS2 modeller, I looked into things a little further, and learned something I hadn’t before. As it turns out there was another hidden body part in this game, this one belonging to Riku: his navel (Riku’s zipper is open at the bottom, but not up to the navel!). And sure enough, this too was removed in the HD. At this point, I think there’s a good possibility that the same PS2 modeller may have worked on both Riku and Kairi, since they’re related characters who essentially join up on the same world, and moreover this is the only time we see this problem in KH2 (that I’m aware of). And while I won’t deny that you can sexualize the navel, the inclusion of Riku’s navel is so odd to me that it’s starting to seems like our original PS2 modeller was more overzealous than anything else. Still creepy, but overzealous too, you know? Though I can’t imagine why two critical characters like this would be given to someone who makes such amateur mistakes?

In short: did Kairi have to have panties? No. Would she have had them if the modeller hadn’t fallen asleep on the wrong day in 3D art school? No. Would she have had them if the modeller hadn’t fallen asleep on the wrong day in Human Decency school? No. Would she have had them if the modeller hadn’t fallen asleep during the staff meeting where they discussed things they should never, ever do in a Disney game? I have a feeling she wouldn’t.

And considering the KH2 team went on to develop FFXV Featuring Cindy The Scantily-Clad Engineer, I doubt this particular modeller has learned a damned thing.

All right, enough of that. Let’s go throw ourselves in front of a superboss.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 2 – My Irrelevant Friends are My Power!
Next: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Light! Dark! Neutral Gray!

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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