Day: September 10, 2016

Kingdom Hearts 2 – Blasts from the Past

Screenshots in this post pertaining to “The Gathering” come from Spazbo4’s longplay as usual, while all other screenshots come from KH13‘s video archive, using a fan-translated version of FM+ PS2.

kh2-2016-09-08-23h53m34s332The Lingering Will

The moment you’ve loaded a clear save after clearing all the game’s worlds, the game informs you that: “A new enemy has materialized on one of the worlds.” I don’t know why they’re so coy about which world, considering you get a new episode prompt the moment you return to the map. By the way, when I say that you have to clear “all the worlds” to unlock this boss, I mean it. You have to clear not only Space Paranoids (which requires you clear Olympus Coliseum and Pride Lands) but also Atlantica and 100 Acre Wood.

As you’ll discover, this new episode is in Disney Castle, though there’s no particular reason for it to be there. KHI user maleficentfan123 suggested that it was probably because Disney Castle wasn’t in the second loop and deserved the extra spotlight.

When you arrive, you find Chip and Dale yapping about the Cornerstone of Light. They claim to have just been “checking” on it. Sure guys, you’re not trying to rob anyone at all! Today, they found more bad news: a giant, dark portal starting to spread on the back wall of the room. I wish it weren’t on the back wall. Every time you die trying to fight this boss, you respawn at the front of the room and have to skateboard to the back, wasting frustrating seconds every time you die! And you will die.

Everyone in the castle is distressed about the portal so you had best check it out. Not that you’re necessarily going to be able to do anything about it, but… you know.

kh2-2016-09-08-23h55m18s232Through the portal, the party finds themselves in some kind of badlands, which may or may not look familiar depending on what content you’ve completed up to this point. A sand storm blows through the area, but when it clears, the trio is left standing by what seems to be a man in armour, not unlike the armour seen in the FM+ exclusive scene with Xemnas in the Chamber of Awakening. Unlike that armour, this armour is brown and black, with a long cape, where the armour in the Chamber was silver and blue. The man is kneeling and carrying a massive Keyblade.

In direct reference to the KH1:FM battle with Xemnas, the man in armour speaks in text only. He says two names: “Aqua” and “Ven.” Sora and the others arm themselves, which Sora should really stop doing, as it only draws attention to his Keyblade. The sight of the Keyblade provokes the figure into saying they’ve met before, only to change his mind after a moment. “No… It isn’t you… You’re not the one I chose… Why are you not him?” The figure in the armour gets more and more upset with each statement. While it’s a bit easier to understand this scene after playing a certain, upcoming game, it’s not impossible to work out what’s going on here: judging by the fact that the figure identified you by your Keyblade, this fellow seems to know Riku, not you. Remember, you’re running around with what used to be Riku’s sword!

kh2-2016-09-08-23h57m26s918Unfortunately, this prompts the stranger to make a much less rational conclusion: if you’re not Riku, you must be Xehanort. It’s not clear why he jumps to this conclusion (though for what it’s worth, once you understand his position, his conclusion does make a certain amount of sense). And just like anyone else would do if they ran into Xehanort, the figure arms for battle.

This fellow is known as the Lingering Will (sometimes called the Lingering Sentiment after an older fan translation), and ohhhh boy, am I not the one to talk about this. The Lingering Will is one of, if not Kingdom Heart’s strongest superbosses that’s still fighting fair (I say, while shooting BBS a dirty look), and certainly the most complicated. My ability to survive the early stages of the fight make it impossible to talk about the later, except to watch YouTube videos as my brain fuses. FM+ really does know how to throw a post-game party.

The music playing in the background is “Rage Awakened,” a tune that will let you know just how screwed you are.

It’s kind of remarkable how KH2 can be so bad at minor enemy encounters but so good at these superbosses and late-game bosses. It may that the issue is exactly as written: the game is just good at one thing and bad at another. It may be that enemies needed better, more complicated environments to fight in, like the Cavern of Remembrance helped the exploration. It may be that the Osaka team that worked on FM+ had the benefit of hindsight and were able to work around it. It’s probably a combination of both: even Osaka team’s “new” enemies in the Cavern of Remembrance were restricted by the options already available in KH2, so they could only be so good.


If you look closely or click for a zoom, you can make out the crown on Sora’s head.

Let’s start the fight, and I’ll try to address the key points. Previous bosses in the game had only so many attacks and they came at you in phases. Breaking this pattern, the Lingering Will seems to have multiple sets of possible actions, and the set you face appears to be chosen at random: so you might enter the battle facing attacks 1-2-or-3, or you might see 4-5-or-6. After you damage the Will, it will eventually recover from stunlock, react, and then switch to another set of potential attacks. That means you have to get used to quite a few things before you’re even going to be able to begin the fight!

The attack pattern I’m best at countering centres on the Lingering Will transforming his Keyblade into a gargantuan cannon. And that’s kind of nice in a way. “What are you best at?” “Oh, I’m best at dealing with the gargantuan cannon.” It’s self-affirming! This attack is a modification of Zelda’s so-called “Dead Man’s Volley.” You know: when you and the enemy knock a projectile back and forth between one another until one of you gets hit? The trick here is that the Lingering Will doesn’t wait for the deflected shot to come back to him like a Zelda boss, and will instead magically direct it back in your direction after only a few seconds of flight. Worse, if you’re too close when it finally does hit him, the resulting explosion will also hurt you, so you have to find the exact sweet spot where you’re close enough to close on him to attack after the fact, but also far enough away to survive.

Clanky also likes a standard combo, or to transform his Keyblade into a sort of jet bike. The jet bike is so preposterous as an attack that surprise alone nearly killed Kyle the first time he fought it. Both of these can be simply Guarded, or preferably Reflected.


The “attack drones.”

After you first land an attack on our new friend, he’ll respond with magic. One of his attacks is to summon a magic orb that will prevent you from either attacking or from using both magic and items depending on the orb. Once the orb is stuck to you, you have to use whichever commands you still have available destroy the Will’s connection to the orb (I don’t know how else to phrase it). This can be tricky if you’re both attack-locked and out of MP! Instead of the orbs, he may occasionally summon attack drones (reminiscent of Marluxia’s second form in Re:CoM) to take pot-shots at you.

That’s all I can really tell you. I’ve never survived to see its limit break, though I read that the fight starts going full-random after it uses it. Should you make it to the end, the Lingering Will will seemingly recognize that you’re not Xehanort and sink back into the sandstorm. Your prizes for winning include a Drive Gauge upgrade, a Manifest Illusion that isn’t really worth the fuss, the Proof of Connection, and the final Crown upgrade.

kh2-2016-08-13-23h54m27s774The Gathering

Like KH1:FM, KH2:FM+ has two separate secret endings: the original and the one from the remake. Also like in KH1:FM, the original video is available “for free” when you clear FM+, and unlike KH1:FM, the original video isn’t wiped out by earning the second. You get to watch both, instead!

If you are playing Vanilla, earning the secret video is going to cost Standard players dearly: the entire Journal has to be completed. Major challenges include Sephiroth, all the game’s mini-games including the Olympus Coliseum score challenges, and the Synthesis Notes section, which must be completed with a considerably lower drop rate than FM+ players and their multiple Lucky Rings. Proud Mode players need only clear the Worlds, which you’ll probably do anyways, unless you have trouble with rhythm games.

If you’re playing Standard on Vanilla… it’s not even worth it. I did it myself and felt outright ripped off. The original secret video, “The Gathering,” is about the same length as “Another Side, Another Story…”, but has nowhere near as much intrigue or even content. Worse, “The Gathering,” has been all but completely decanonized by BBS, the game it was trying to promote!

kh2-2016-08-13-23h52m56s759“The Gathering” begins with the text of the original Ansem Reports flying past scenes of the badlands that later played home to the Lingering Will in FM+. Ansem Report 9 is quoted at length, wherein the Seeker of Darkness asked questions about the origin of the Keyblade, and recounts the story of how it was used by other wielders in the past, implying that this video is set in the past.

The video then cuts to three armoured figures. The first is the Lingering Will, who stands in front of a monster’s corpse, though the corpse is very unclear and I know I’m not the only person who didn’t notice it existed. The second figure is wearing the silver and white armour from Xemnas’ Chamber. The third, silver and black, is unknown to even FM+ players. Only the Will has a Keyblade.

The three figures step forward, and we see three Keyblades stuck in the ground before them: Sora’s Kingdom Key, Mickey’s Kingdom Key D, and Riku’s Way to the Dawn. The Will takes the former, the silver and blue figure the Kingdom Key D, and the new figure, who we now see is shorter than the others, takes the Way to the Dawn. As the Will approaches, the monster corpse collapses into dust. Back in the day, I still wasn’t able to make out that it had been a monster.

kh2-2016-08-13-23h55m42s789The camera zooms out, and we discover the three are standing in a crossroads formed by a field full of discarded Keyblades, stretching as far as the eye can see. They then look up, and see a figure walking towards them in the sandstorm. The trailer then throws a number of phrases at you, including “The lost two,” “Keyblade War” and “Memory of Xehanort,” before saying, “It all begins with Birth by sleep.” That’s the end.

Well! That taught us absolutely nothing! There are no characters I care about in the scene, they’re not doing anything, the scene seems to stop before anything interesting happens. The only item of any real import is the massive field of Keyblades. And I’ll be honest: I saw that, said “Oh, there used to be lots of Keyblades instead of just a handful,” and went about my mental business!

(KHI user Black Osprey made this post discussing the scene in the light of BBS (spoilers for BBS) that I think is fairly worthwhile reading, but I still think this “trailer” isn’t very effective as a trailer.)

kh2-2016-08-13-23h57m27s829One of the weirdest elements of “The Gathering” is the term “Chasers,” which shows up in the final spam of catch phrases. “Chasers” was the term Nomura and the fans used to refer to the three armoured figures prior to the release of Birth by Sleep, so we’ll be able to make use of it here in the Retrospective, however briefly. Funny, then, that the term “Chasers” never appears in Birth by Sleep! Indeed, the idea that the characters were chasing anything isn’t really that prominent in the game! They all find the people they’re chasing so early in the plot that the chase quickly falls into the background! It makes “The Gathering” seem even more out-of-date!

What a waste.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h02m53s359Birth by sleep

But this. This is worth it. In fact, the FM+ secret ending may be the most exciting single piece of content in the franchise to date.

Unlocking it won’t be easy. Critical Mode players not only have to beat Critical Mode, but get the Gold Crown, which means clearing both the Lingering Will and all 13 Data battles… and the Mushrooms, but that’s almost a footnote compared to the others! Proud Mode players will have to do that and clear Jiminy’s Journal. This isn’t as hard as it was in Vanilla thanks to your new Lucky Luckys, but it’s still a pain. Lastly, Standard Mode players also have to clear all Gummi Missions, which as far as I can tell include the EX Missions. That’s six missions a route! Worse still, many of the EX missions don’t allow you to fly the Doughnut Ship, so you’re going to have to spend hours actually getting good at the mini-game – it would probably be faster to learn how to play Critical Mode and start KH2 over from scratch!

The new trailer in FM+ is called “Birth by sleep.” Yes, that’s the name of the fifth game in the series, Birth By Sleep, except with different capitalization, so I’ll try to make sure I always surround “Birth by sleep” with quotes so that we can tell them apart! The music playing here is “Fate of the Unknown.”

We pick up where we left off after “The Gathering,” though the three armoured figures are carrying their own Keyblades instead of the ones from “The Gathering” (remember, “The Gathering” was essentially decanonized). The figure approaching out of the sand is revealed to be an old man, bald with a goatee, but despite that evil signifier and a countenance to match, he is also wearing several items commonly associated with Sora: namely Mickey Mouse gloves and a red and black colour scheme.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h03m36s614As the man approaches, a mirage-like after-image slips off of him, and transforms into a young man in armour resembling Riku’s dark armour from KH1 and CoM, except red-lined. He is wearing a solid mask over his head (not unlike a motorcycle helmet, if I’m honest), and he draws a Keyblade that resembles a red gear. The three Chasers react with hostility to the sight of this pair, though the Lingering Will stops the shorter Chaser from going forward, and rushes the pair himself. The old man gestures with his hand, and a massive pillar of earth slams up out of the ground to carry the Will away. The old man then raises himself and his partner into the air on a taller pillar. The armoured young man jumps down and strikes the Will with a Thunder spell, tearing apart much of the Will’s armour. Final Fantasy spells have never really looked quite as deadly as they do in this video, or at least not that I’ve seen!

The Chasers continue their attack, the two Chasers engaging the boy in armour. The old man looks down on them and gathers a swarm of discarded Keyblades with his magic, and sends them after the combatants. The boy in armour rides this “snake” of Keyblades, and he fires lethal looking Blizzard spells after them.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h05m54s959Meanwhile, the Will is trying to ascend the earth pillar to engage the old man. The Keyblade swarm attacks first him and then the silver-and-blue Chaser, who is slammed hard into the ground. The silver-and-blue Chaser’s armour is heavily damaged, and they remove their helmet to reveal the face of a blue-haired young woman. She casts a magic spell (reminiscent of Wisdom Form’s 360 degree Block) to protect the Lingering Will from the swarm. Indeed, this carries her friend all the way to the top of the pillar, where the old man simply detonates the whole affair with Firaga.

Nevertheless, the Will makes it to the top of the pillar, where he attacks the old man. The old man draws his own, elaborate Keyblade to fight back. He catches the Will with a Blizzard spell that spreads frighteningly up his arm. The spell’s damage looks so bad that you can’t help but worry that he might lose the arm! Just then, the third, younger Chaser, forgotten until now, tries to jump the old man from behind, but is caught. The old man crushes the Chaser’s helmet, and the young man in the bike helmet knocks the Lingering Will off the pillar.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h06m29s195Left alone, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the old man from using his magic on the young Chaser, freezing him completely with that terrifying ice magic. He then tosses the Chaser from the pillar, the Chaser’s Keyblade snapping in half on the way down. The young woman goes to her friend, to find his helmet shattered. The Chaser is a young boy, alive but struggling. More notably, and to the viewer’s sudden confusion, the boy appears to be Roxas, which is utterly impossible!

Atop the pillar, as the music rises, the old man casts a spell of darkness into the sky, and the clouds part to reveal Kingdom Hearts as it appeared in KH2 and Deep Dive. His pillar rises to carry him towards it, as the Chasers look on. The trailer presents a tagline: “Destiny is never left to chance,” as we focus on the Will, who is struggling to his feet. He tears off his helmet to look up at his quarry, revealing a young man with brown hair, but with the unmistakable face of Xehanort.

In the distance, a young Mickey Mouse arrives on the scene, ending the video.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h08m10s611When I had originally written my “predictions” to the “Another Side, Another Story” and “deep dive” trailers of KH1, I had planned on making similar predictions for every promo trailer to follow. Unfortunately… these two trailers don’t leave much to guess at, do they? It’s fairly clear that the Chasers will chase down their prey (an old man and a boy in a motorcycle helmet) to a place with a whole field full of Keyblades and then fight over Kingdom Hearts. “Birth by sleep” prefers contextualized, unanswerable mysteries (like “How on earth did Roxas get here?”) over the potluck display of spectacle from “deep dive” in KH1. I’m not assembling a group of disparate puzzle pieces this time around, and there wasn’t much more to do than wait in anticipation for the next game.

But it wouldn’t happen quite yet. Because before we could turn to Birth by Sleep, Square Enix attempted to show off the multiplayer capabilities of the Nintendo DS…

Oh, and before that, a few final thoughts on KH2.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Digging for Shrooms
Next: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Appendix: The Original Draft?

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).