KH2:FM+ is the only game in the entire series that I consider to have a proper post-game: a whole bunch of stuff that’s unlocked after the final boss. There are other post-game examples in the series, but none feel like a dedicated section of the game the way this game does. The games released after KH2:FM+ tend to have at least one post-game boss, but that’s usually the end of it, with BBS showing the rare ambition to have a whole two instead! CoM’s post-game cards and a certain feature from Days are also technically post-game, but both are there on a pure technicality and could hypothetically be done with in only a few minutes if you did all the available steps ahead of time. KH2:FM+, on the other hand, knows how to throw a post-game party, with piles of new gameplay and also new narrative. Strictly speaking, there are three post-game bosses (one with two forms) and one post-game Mushroom XIII, but since they belong to sets that include eleven other late-game bosses and all the other Mushroom XIII, the whole thing feels like a unified post-game experience.
On top of that, while it’s possible explore the Cavern of Remembrance earlier in the game, you couldn’t unlock all its content, so I threw in the entire Cavern of Remembrance as a main course with all this added spice. There really is a lot. I was describing the post- and end-game content to Kyle from the Marathon during the writing process, and was struck by how the list just went on and on. Indeed it’s hard to understate just how strong an impact FM+’s additions are to the game as a whole, including balance changes, the mechanically solid Absent Silhouettes dotting the game, and of course Critical Mode, which goes a long way to explain why I’m so fond of the remake that I’d put up with 2.5’s Xemnas glitch and still come out singing FM+’s praises. So let’s take a look at its post-game.
The Mushroom XIII
Even though you’ve been playing with the Mushroom XIII this entire game, Mushroom I is only unlocked after the end credits, so let’s turn to it now.
Mushroom I waits at Memory’s Skyscraper, and is one of the more aggressive Mushrooms. You have to use Reversal against the Mushroom in hopes of getting directly behind it, at which point you can attack it. Unfortunately, the Mushroom will try to Reversal behind you in turn! You have to learn exactly when to stop pressing Triangle, when to and to not to hit Triangle again, and when to hit the attack button. All this while trying to avoid the arena walls, which is all-but-entirely out of your control!
The trouble with this challenge isn’t so much the basics as the target number: you have to land a huge number of hits in under just a few seconds. This more-or-less forces you to use Final Form, and to cut off your combo at the exact right moment – you can’t continue your combo to your finisher, or you’ll fail.
The fact that you have to transform in the first place is bad enough. In theory, clearing the Mushrooms involves a lot of practice and retries, and that’s fine. But because many of them force you to use Drive Forms, in practice the Mushroom are a lot of loading screens. Loading screens to leave and enter the room, loading screens to leave the world to recharge your Drive gauge… The game tries to encourage you to stay by giving you lots of Drive Recovery items for fighting the Mushrooms, but it only does so if you get partial success, which is missing the point. If you screwed up, you won’t get any Drive Recovery orbs, so it’ll be even harder to get back into your Drive in the first place! What the Mushrooms really needed was 1) some kind of instant restart, Super Meat Boy-style and 2) some sort of “Infinite Drive” feature that would have let you stay in drives indefinitely while doing a Mushroom, but not give you any Drive EXP while you were there. Yes, I would turn down the convenience of Mushroom V as a Drive trainer just to get more convenient Mushrooms overall. They’re a chore!
At least – thank Walt! – the Mushrooms don’t force you to walk multiple rooms away like with the KH1:FM synth Heartless.
Now that you have all your Drive abilities and Drive Forms, it’s possible to clear all of the other Mushrooms as well. Since I’m no longer bound by my low-spoiler policy, I can discuss the Mushrooms in a little more detail. By clearing the Mushrooms at high levels, it’s possible to not just acquire their Tranquility synthesis ingredients, but to earn top-level equipment for Donald and Goofy!
Mushroom II, the one who shoots you with beams in Christmas Town, is still best dealt with using Reflega and Stitch if you ask me, though it’s a popular strategy to change into Final Form instead, as you can use the way the Keyblades spin around you in an active block to automatically deflect the Mushroom’s attacks.
Mushroom III, the one that drops items at Beast’s Castle, is greatly simplified by using a high-level Glide, though I find Quick Run to be a little easier to work with in a pinch. An unusual strategy from KHI user Kazr recommended using the Two Become One to enter AntiForm to chase the orbs!
The infinitely duplicating Mushroom IV at Land of the Dragons is still probably best dodged with the help of Wisdom Form, though some recommend using Final Form’s attacks and spells to do similar work.
Mushroom V, who regenerates and sleeps his way through your battle in Agrabah, can be almost instantly killed by Limit Form’s basic ground combo. Don’t use any limits at all, just attack him on the ground. There’s really no nuance to it, and so V has become my favourite means to farm Tranquility ingredients if I’m in a pinch.
Mushroom VI and its crops of clones in the Underworld are best memorized in your first pass and then eliminated in a later attempt using any of the magically-oriented Drive Forms. Not a huge challenge, but time consuming.
Mushroom VII, the bum-rusher from Twilight Town, can be instantly defeated by Final Form and Reflega if you use a simple trick: jump first, and spam Reflect as you fall. You don’t really need to know the specifics, as it’s all going to happen too fast. Jump first, spam Reflect, release Reflect, and you win.
Mushroom VIII, the underground juggling act from the Mysterious Tower, has already been discussed from an endgame perspective, and is still a random pain in the ass.
Mushroom IX, the spinning top from Radiant Garden, can be cleared with Berserk Charge, and is one of the Mushrooms where it’s better off to have as high a combo as possible. Don’t mind the specifics here either, just trust me that the extra hits in the combo will help.
Mushroom X’s shell game at Port Royal nearly demands the use of Final Form, which is just arbitrary and infuriating. If it had been more like the Black Ballade it would have made more sense… and they should have come up with a brand new idea in the first place!
Mushroom XI’s hit counter in Timeless River would seem like something you’d want to take out with Final Form’s fast attacks, but it’s a lot easier to use Wisdom. In this case, I recommend using Negative Combo and even maybe the Fenrir to get Wisdom’s rapid-striking combo finisher into play.
Lastly, Mushroom XII’s game of hide-and-seek at the Twilight Town death manor is still best played by Wisdom Form, so my advice for this hasn’t changed.
Once you’ve completed all twelve Mushrooms, you have to go to The Great Maw in Hollow Bastion, the room where you fought the 1000 Heartless. This is a task the game doesn’t tell you about despite hinting about every other quest in the endgame journal! Here, the Mushrooms will show up, and will either celebrate or vanish depending on whether or not you’ve hit their target scores. If you’ve done them all, teeny little Mushroom XIII will descend from the sky on a beam of light and reward you with the final prize.
(Encountering Mushroom number XIII will also likely clear the Heartless section of your Journal if you’ve already been to the Cavern of Remembrance, which is worth an achievement and is pretty stupid, considering they held off the achievement until you ran into 13 nearly identical mushrooms. Also: copper trophy my foot!)
You get three prizes from the completed Mushroom XIII. The most tangible is the Winner’s Proof Keyblade. This mushroom Keyblade is the game’s best magic Keyblade, with high strength besides, but suffers compared to the Ultima Keyblade: Ultima has far less magic, but does have MP Hastega. The Winner’s Proof has… EXP Zero, which isn’t just a problem in its own right but also represents a lack of some better skill! Suffice to say, the Winner’s Proof isn’t for every situation.
Clearing the Mushrooms also gives you the “Proof of Peace” item. This is a sphere depicting a Mushroom, the menu describing it by saying: “Proof of appeasing the Mushroom XIII. Perhaps it has changed Sora.” This item doesn’t do anything. It’s essentially a pre-Achievements achievement. Similar items exist in the Final Fantasy franchise from the same era: indeed, the name “Proof” seems to come from FFVIII. Latter-day Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy games just used achievement systems (internal or external), and “Proofs” disappeared.
Coming in hand with the Proof is a strange Crown. This is an actual, physical copper crown that appears lopsided on the head of Sora’s in-game model, though you may have trouble seeing it against his brown hair. It also appears on his icon in the corner. You get the Copper Crown after completing the first of the post-game challenges, no matter which one that is. You proceed to the much more visible Silver and Gold crowns as you grab the remaining post-game challenges. And speaking of the others…
In case we’ve forgotten: the Cavern of Remembrance is a brand-new dungeon in FM+, which can be found in Hollow Bastion/Radiant Garden following the Battle of 1000 Heartless. However, once you try to discover it, you may find that its passages are blocked. Maybe. Specifically: the Cavern is the only place in the game that actually blocks your progress depending on your mobility upgrades. You’re going to need High Jump and Aerial Dodge to scale its walls and Quick Run and Glide to overcome its obstacles (Dodge Roll can go soak). And even if you make it to the end, you still need to clear the game to get all its rewards! I considered returning to the Cavern every time you got a new Drive Form, but the content in between each “gate” is sometimes only a few rooms, so I figured it would be better to put the whole dungeon off to this final section, even though a player should probably search it earlier on just to get some easy prizes!
The Cavern drops you deep into the purple rock under the Bastion, though you’ll see many of the Bastion’s pipes while you’re down there. At the entrance you find a small object I can only describe as a balloon. This balloon exists strictly to help you recharge your Drive Gauge, as if you harass it, it will drop Drive Orbs and, rarely, whole Drive Recovery items. It only restores so much of your Drive Gauge before running out of orbs (you’ll be lucky to fill even a single bar), but it recharges fully if you’re willing to leave the room come back. You won’t be able to go any further without a sufficiently levelled High Jump or Aerial Dodge, though transforming to Valour Form with the help of the Drive Orb balloon could help you get in if you’ve really been slacking, which is probably its purpose. dlppictures points out that this balloon and others like it later in the dungeon are colour-coded to hint at which Drive Form you should use to proceed through the nearby puzzle-gate – in this case, the need for red-coloured Valour Form to get High Jump to jump over the ledge! Very clever!
Further inside, you’ll encounter one of the first truly complex level layouts in the whole of KH2, with platforming like you haven’t seen since KH1. And I think it works here! There are a few exceptions, but I was impressed. The whole dungeon is like that, making use of your mobility upgrades to build genuinely complex areas to explore. There’s very little middle ground: KH2 has been relatively flat and unremarkable, the Cavern has all sorts of level design variety.
This first major room is more of a trap than some of the others: you start on a number of platforms that lead to a door, and there’s a lower level below. With careful use of mobility upgrades, it’s possible to navigate this room without any additional fuss, but should you fall to the ground, there will be hell to pay, as enemies spawn all around you.
The enemies in the Cavern are all new, but also all recolours. For what it’s worth, they’re recolours with significant new abilities alongside their high stats! They drop special “Remembrance” materials for synthesis. Also, remember how late-game worlds can alternate between Heartless and Nobodies? Many of the rooms in the Caverns seem to also have two enemy lists that they’ll choose from when you enter the room instead of the usual one, except both have Heartless on them. This means that you won’t know which enemies you’re about to battle until you’re surrounded!
There are quite a few enemies in the first room. Let’s take them one by one: first off, the “Beffudler” [sic], which suggests that Square Enix’s localizers might not be using a spellchecker in 2014. The Beffudler is a Hook Bat recolour that is immune to Blizzard, and doesn’t seem quite as easy to nab with Bat Cry. Next: the Magic Phantom, a Trick Ghost recolour that is outright immune to physical damage while it is in its flying mode, forcing you to use magic or run. Next, the Necromancer: this is a Shaman that can turn invisible. They drop a new staff for Donald, though it’s not really worth it unless you come here very early – but of course, there was nothing to stop you from doing that! Camo Cannons are a Cannon Gun recolour that attacks your weakest party member and is immune to Fire and Thunder. This is why Beffudlers are immune to ice: if you fight Camo Guns, and Beffudlers in a group with Magic Phantoms, it’s hard to tell which spells to equip and cast!
The room might also place you against Iron Hammers and Mad Rides, which are Hammer Frame and Hot Rod recolours respectively. I’d personally never been able to work out what makes them different from their originals, but Eamonn informs me that Mad Rides can change their mode at will (rather than waiting for half health) and Iron Hammers may only be vulnerable while attacking.
You make your way out of the room, where you’ll come to the Mineshaft. You may learn to hate this room. The Mineshaft houses most of the dungeon’s mobility “gates.” You have to upgrade your Drive mobility upgrades to navigate the Mineshaft, and you never know if you’ve levelled it high enough until you get here and try it out! Unfortunately, the mobility gates aren’t perfect. You can often snag yourself on a loose bit of piping and fall to the ground. Sometimes this makes it hard to tell if you screwed up, the level screwed up, or if your Drive just isn’t levelled up high enough! Also, since this was a somewhat hastily put together area, and is one of Kingdom Hearts 2’s few rooms with multiple entrances accessed at different points in the world, the Sequence Breaking Fairy descended backwards through a seam in the geometry and gave us a glitch to skip basically the entire remaining Cavern of Remembrance. But for those who aren’t planning on cheating, this might take a while.
The first gate in the Mineshaft, pictured above, is meant to be crossed using Quick Run to slide right through the pipes. Once on the other side, a group of Heartless will jump you with a force-field ambush the first time you visit here. There are no new Heartless here that you couldn’t have seen in the previous room, so back we go to the exploration.
While you may be drawn to the large, white door in the wall, you’ll find your way forward blocked by a series of huge, screw-like barriers. Sora actually has to go down a side path in the previous room, where he’ll find a large engine. There, you have to attack three valves on the engine to activate it. The valves have their own HP bars and will rapidly regenerate even if “killed,” but it’s not so hard to “kill” them at the same time, especially with Explosion. Hell, Sliding Dash works almost as well, and it was learned ages and ages ago during your first trip to Land of the Dragons. Still, it’s a close call, and I’m sure others might have better strategies than me.
Activating the engine lowers the barriers and activates a number of fans and pistons in the room beyond the white door. You can explore the place for plenty of treasure. Some fans don’t seem to like this room much, but for me, finally getting to explore in KH2 was honestly the most fun I had in the entire KH2 Retrospective playthrough! Why couldn’t the rest of the game have been like this?
Once through the room, it’s back to the Mineshaft for another mobility test. This one forces you to drop down a pit to get under a barrier, then to Aerial Dodge on the other side to grab a ledge. It’s tricky to perform, much less to work out!
More Heartless wait on the other side, including a number of new varieties. Runemasters are probably the most annoying: they’re Bookmaster recolours, except their books are now shields that you’ll have to circumvent. They drop their books as a new shield for Goofy, though it isn’t as perfect as their version. Aerial Vikings are a sped up Air Pirate recolour, nothing to write home about. Spring Metals are a new Bell Wizard, an Emerald Blues recolour that can summon the devastating tornado attack at any time. Lastly, the Lance Warrior, which Eamonn informs me are immune to Thunder and charge more often.
Past the next door, Sora will enter the Engine Room, where the Heartless are unavoidable. This room features a series of conveyor belts, so almost all the enemies present are fliers. Depending on the randomized enemy group, Aerial Champs may greet you at the door. These are Aerial Knocker recolours have more aggressive AI (thanks again to Eamonn), though Jiminy’s Journal acts like they have some sort of upgraded attack, which doesn’t seem to be the case (I say “Jiminy’s Journal” even though he’s clearly abandoned us on his way to Elysium). After climbing to the second level of the room, steam vents will slow you down as you encounter the worst of the new enemies: the Reckless, a Devastator recolour that uses its transformation from flier to land-tank as a deliberate attack instead of an incidental one. Since the Devastators’ transformation was one of the most powerful attacks in the game, this upgraded enemy is frightening, and you have to fight it on these damned treadmills! The Devastators are the only enemies in the game that carry Remembrance Crystals.
If Sora makes it to the top of the Engine Room alive, it’s on to the last of the Mineshaft challenges: Gliding. The Glide challenge can be particularly tricky. I recommend you High Jump (level 3) from the starting platform, then Glide (level 3) as far as you can, saving your Aerial Dodge in case of emergency. You also have to be careful not to fall down the Mineshaft, or you’ll lose several rooms worth of progress!
Oh, and don’t think about getting past using sequence-breaking tricks: there’s an invisible wall (later on, I believe) preventing you from getting through to the end of the dungeon until you’ve beaten Roxas on The World that Never Was (i.e. when you should naturally learn Glide). I’m generally against blatant anti-sequence breaking measures done by the developers (you may recall a somewhat out-of-place attack on the European version of Metroid Prime earlier on in the Retrospective), and I don’t feel any different about this.
Beyond the final white door, Sora finds himself not in another mining chamber, but a marble-lined hall! This big surprise is called the “Transport to Remembrance.” On the right side of the room are gaps opening directly into the Rising Falls from KH1! You head down this luxurious hallway until you’re ambushed by Dusks part-way down the hall. What are they doing here? The fighting doesn’t stop with the Dusks. There are no less than three ambushes down the hall, Nobody groups after Nobody groups. The third ambush has so many waves that I outright lost count as Sorcerers and Dragoons chased me around the room in AntiForm! I was out of Potions despite having something like 8 item slots, and my teammates kept dropping dead the moment they revived. This ambush is so serious that you earn an Item Slot just for clearing it!
Clearly the Organization doesn’t want you in here. You break through the last door, and find a remarkable sight: an Organization-marked platform inside the Rising Falls, exactly where Sora landed during KH1 (or so I conclude based on the position of Hollow Bastion). That doesn’t really strike me as… credible, as nice as it is to be back here. I can’t imagine the Organization hiding something like this in the open air (remember that Sora travels via spaceship), but it’s not the worst thing the game’s done for visual appeal. In the middle of the platform is a large computer. Sora activates the computer, and up to thirteen doorways appear around the platform, each marked with an Organization member’s weapon. To be specific: a certain number of doors appear based on which bosses you’ve defeated (including Absent Silhouettes), with a curious distinction for Roxas, whose door only appears after you clear the game, alongside Xemnas (thanks dlppictures!). Since you can’t come here before beating Roxas on TWNW, that means you can see as few as three doors (Axel, Xaldin, Demyx), but glitches and hacking seem to confirm that the game is programmed for other combinations. Lastly, a different sort of door opens in the back. This serves as a shortcut back to a hallway in Radiant Garden (the exit appears covered in a sort of transparent film, as though it were a hologram, lovely touch!). You’ve made it.
I’m sorry if that wasn’t the most entertaining entry, with so few narrative segments to address. Nevertheless, clearing the Cavern of Remembrance was honestly some of the most fun I’ve had in Kingdom Hearts in a long time, full of a lots of good mysteries and surprises (though the not-quite-natural feel of the Mineshaft gates could use work). It goes a long way to show why FM+ is the definitive version of KH2, and it’s a damn shame the games that follow have lost their exploration segments in favour of refining the beat-em-up.
This room with the thirteen doors is the Garden of Assemblage, site of perhaps the most time-consuming of the post-game challenges, if only because most of the Mushrooms were introduced during the main game. Each door leads to a battle with a “data” version of one of the members of the Organization, cranked up to maximum power. Each one is a superboss in their own right, and it can take some practice to even stand up to them without dropping dead the moment the game starts moving. That is… unless you use the Fenrir Trick.
The Fenrir Trick is relatively simple: Fenrir, Negative Combo, and no Combo Pluses, leaving you with a combo of one attack: the Finisher. Jump, attack. Jump, attack. Jump, attack. No matter what the boss does, ignore them. They can’t escape the stunlock if you keep up the timing. Jump, attack.
For those who don’t want to use the Fenrir trick or haven’t had any luck performing it, I’ll discuss the changes made to these data-battles. A lot of thanks goes out to dlppictures, as I haven’t been able to beat most of the data battles myself and my initial coverage was embarrassing.
We’ll go in reverse this time, XIII down to I. Roxas is little changed for this new battle, save that he’ll only rarely use Duel Attack, considering how Duel Attack helps you more than it ever helped him. His projectiles are also faster, but all things considered, it’s not the hardest improvement in the set.
Take Larxene, for example. Larxene opens with her limit break, which will kill Donald and Goofy if you don’t rush into Final Form at the start of the battle, and if you do, you’re going to leave yourself open for whatever attack she has going by the time 2.5’s awful load times finish bringing the Drive form to bear. If you can get on top of things, you’ll probably be fine, but you can never predict what’s coming.
Marluxia’s changes are similar to Roxas: his pattern’s changed, but not much else. I got to the final stage of the battle in only a few attempts. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish him off, since he’s invincible when he turns into a pinwheel, and he does it a lot more than the original fight. It might go without saying, but Marluxia is probably the boss fight that benefits most from level ups, since it not only increases your stats but also your Doom counter.
Luxord no longer turns you into a die or a card at the start of the battle, an actual downgrade, and isn’t much changed until you hit a huge one at the very end (though dlppictures notes that his gambling has higher punishment and rewards to the Time bars). The big change? If you lose Luxord’s Limit Break gambling game at the end of the fight, he’ll regain time as you lose it. This means you must win the final gambling game to win the fight. If you can overcome this one-sided gambling challenge (perhaps by pausing KH2 to cheat at his limit break game?), Luxord’s probably the easiest refight in the set.
Demyx is pure spite. You have to clear four sets of water forms before the fight can even begin, and at the end of the fight, you have to clear 99 forms in 30 seconds. Oh, and the water forms had their reaction command disabled, I can’t believe I forgot to mention that for years after posting this. Fire, preferably boosted by a magically-inclined Drive Form that can move on its feet, is almost essential. In fact, you may as well keep using Fire at all times. Besides the water form challenges, Demyx himself is little changed and will probably quickly fall once you’ve overcome the frustration of his gimmick.
Axel is probably the most interesting of the refights, since we go all the way back to the prologue to get his battle. In a nice catch, Data-Axel mixes in voice quotes referencing Sora instead of Roxas. Glad they realized that needed fixing! Axel jumping out of the ring of fire and jumping back in on top of your head is best treated with Reflect, in fact Reflect should be abused throughout the Data fights whether I mention it or not. You also have to keep in mind that you must use a certain reaction command against Axel should he set the floor on fire. If you don’t, he simply can’t die. It’s arbitrary and has confused a lot of players.
Saïx’s changes are straightforward but also total: he doesn’t bother fighting you unless he’s berserk, making this a very different fight. He simply charges up with moon power for his next rampage instead of wasting his time on low-power attacks, and then goes ballistic. And he doesn’t seem to ever stop being berserk, at least not on his own: you either have to catch him with one of his discarded Claymores or hit him with a finisher attack, or his berserk state will never end! And to make matters worse, his Claymores vanish after only a few seconds! Sheesh, at least he stands still for the rest of the fight!
Zexion, being one of the most complicated Organization fights to begin with, hasn’t changed at all. He simply mixes up his attacks. I’m actually a little surprised how little he changed: it would have been simple and cruel to make this fight harder, so I was almost surprised that they didn’t!
Lexaeus doesn’t seem to have changed at all. In fact, as I write, the KHWiki has no additional advice for his data battle that they didn’t already suggest for his Absent Silhouette! There’s just a conspicuous, empty “Strategy” entry and a stub tag at the top of the wiki page. Goes to show, don’t you think?
Vexen’s most obvious change is the fact that you can’t escape his the clone scanner, ever. It might as well be glued to your feet. As a result, clone Sora is just going to have to be treated like a fact of life, using techniques like Explosion to keep him off your back while you go after his master. Alternately, you could try to put off killing the Level 1 clone Sora as long as possible, but I don’t know how feasible that strategy really is. dlppictures also notes that Vexen has a (possibly) new, extra-long special desperation attack that leads to all kinds of trouble.
In life, Xaldin used his Aero shield only occasionally, but in data, he seems to never stop using the Aero shield, which forces you to Learn the Jump command from him to disrupt it or face the consequences. Like Larxene, he’s very good at killing Donald and Goofy as he goes after you, so switching to most Drive Forms can be complicated. I haven’t had much luck with this fellow (I’ve already told you how terrible I am at fighting his real self), so can’t give much of a report on later stages of the fight. dlppictures notes that he keeps teleporting in later stages, and recommends a specific strategy to overcome it.
Xigbar doesn’t have to reload his Arrowguns in data form, and that’s terrible. You practically have to deflect a shot into him in order to damage him, not to forget his obnoxious Limit Breaks.
Last of all, Xemnas’ battle is two-staged: you have to win both the fight at Memory’s Skyscraper and the final battle with Riku, one after another. Both fights are little changed, though Xemnas in the first battle seems a lot more aggressive with his Guard technique. I haven’t had much luck with this guy, either.
Clearing a data battle gets you either a Lost Illusion (if you fought an Org Member that was originally an Absent Silhouette) or a stat-up item (for the rest). Clearing the entire set earns you the Proof of Nonexistence (haha, harsh), and an upgraded Crown. Wow! After doing all that, the last challenge has got to be easier! Right?