Day: September 17, 2016

Kingdom Hearts 2 – Appendix and Tie-Ins


The KH2 Manga has a hell of a publication history. Production began in 2007, however it was so delayed that by its fifth volume in 2009, the next game in the series, Days, had already been released! Production shifted to the Days manga, and this time they kept on schedule. When they had finished the Days manga, production returned to KH2 rather that proceed to BBS (indeed, the KH manga series ended with KH2). As a result, the KH2 manga ran for about eight years, and was not even finished by the time I started publishing the KH1 Retrospective! Indeed it wasn’t even finished by the time I finished my first editing pass of the KH2 Retrospective!

Similar to the CoM manga, the KH2 manga trims the plot into a trim new form: the first and second trips to each Disney world are condensed into one. I feel this is less than perfect. It causes Xaldin to rush haphazardly to his doom (indeed, Xaldin rushing to his defeat is treated like a joke, because there’s no other way it would make sense), and pacing is shot to shit almost as often as it’s improved. To put it another way: pacing is improved in worlds that tell a continuous story (except Beast’s Castle), and it’s ruined in worlds telling double stories.

In the face of all this poor pacing, Amano for some reason chose to create a whole new storyline that KH2’s packed plot sorely did not need. And it’s an awfully peculiar one, too. Thankfully he seems to have abandoned it during the six-year gap between volume 2 and 3, but I may as well address it: it’s revealed that Vexen was stockpiling Replicas of himself in Castle Oblivion (stacked up like cordwood, I presume), and one such Vexen Replica, No. 44, is ultimately responsible for the death of Xaldin. Sure Amano, whatever.

Amano also carries over the joke of Organization members being whackadoo cartoon characters, which earns no points with me for the first half of the manga. Thankfully, the Days manga seems to have left an impression on him, and the issues that follow the six year split seem to have been dramatically improved in every way. The biggest such fixes involve restricting comic relief to characters that were built for it, like Pete and Demyx. An episode where Kairi escapes from prison and Demyx has to beg her to go back is particularly funny. Actually, Kairi is fairly good in the manga overall, certainly in comparison to her pathetic in-game appearance.

Demyx’s death is also a fairly fantastic and divergent scene, which I want to highlight in particular. Rather than dying at the Battle of Hollow Bastion, Demyx survives to the final siege of the Castle that Never Was. He contests Sora after Saïx goads him into thinking of Roxas as a traitor. Wait, you say, doesn’t that invalidate the clever point from the game where Demyx really didn’t need a reason to attack Roxas, because he was a genuine Nobody without a heart? Well you see, Amano is going in a different direction. After Demyx dies (comically), the scene slows down to show him whimpering as he fades, and Sora is struck with a sudden guilt, realizing that Nobodies just might have hearts after all. Not only is the death handled with the brief seriousness I wish we saw even in the games at times, but it continues a key thread the manga had from Days and that the games had from KH2:FM+, which we’ll get into more in our coverage of Days.

All in all, the KH2 manga is the best of the three we’ve seen so far, despite its CoM-manga-esque first half, but I still don’t know if I’d recommend it compared to KH2 the game. We come back to the usual tangle: unless you dislike games but like manga, the manga is basically reserved for people who have played the game, and I feel it’s asking a lot to see all of that same content over again. I still think there’s a bit too much overlap? Bear in mind that the manga’s volumes cost about as much as the entirety of 2.5 HD, which contains two full games and also the cinematics from coded! And personally, I don’t know if I can justify that cost for content you’ve already seen. In fact, let this stand as a gauge of my true opinion of KH2-the-game: even though I feel this manga is fairly good, and great at characterization, I’d still rather play KH2 than read it?

If you’re up to paying for it, the manga can be a fair fun read, but if paying for something you’ve already seen is too much to bother, this one isn’t going to change your mind.

But next time…

Trading Card Game

Yup, there was a Kingdom Hearts TCG, published by Tomy in Japan and Fantasy Flight in the west. I don’t like collectable card games. Perhaps that’s a sign that I’m not the right person to talk about a TCG, so I’ll try to keep it short. Screenshots here come from the Break of Dawn expansion set’s manual.

The Kingdom Hearts TCG has an unusual format. Rather than the traditional Magic: The Gathering-style duel game, the TCG pits you and another player in something of a race. You start by selecting a Player card, which represents yourself. All other Player cards are set aside, and the remaining cards shuffled into your deck. The idea is to take your player through a Kingdom Hearts-style journey through multiple Disney worlds, which are represented on some of the cards in your deck. Each world card has a given World Level that represents its value and size. The player has to “journey” across a combined World Level of 13 to win the game. Alternately, if your opponent dies along the way by running out of HP, you win in their place. Ah, that good old Kingdom Hearts dark side!

To stop your opponent from charging from world to world unimpeded, you must play Dark cards against them, which represent foes and Heartless. As a result, both players play an unusual hybrid role of player and Games Master, both trying to accomplish their own objective while presenting the threats that confront their opponent. The number of Dark cards you can play on your opponent is restricted by the World Level of the world they’re currently visiting, so it’s possible to win the game by visiting a large number of weak worlds (avoiding powerful or numerous Dark cards in the process), a small number of dangerous ones, or some combination of the two. Since the world cards come from your own carefully-constructed deck, this is the one aspect of the “Games Master” side of things that’s wholly under your control.

You can’t proceed to a new world until all the Dark cards are clear, so as long as they’re in play, you’re going to have to fight. Your character has a few base stats, but that won’t work on its own. You’ll want to play one-time magic cards to help yourself out, or to play Friend cards to deploy allies. The Friend system is complicated. You can add Friend cards to your party ahead of time, but once a Friend card is used to help in a battle, they leave your party! But to play a Friend card you need a Friend card of at least one lower level to already be in your party. Yes, you read that right: you need Friend cards to gain Friend cards, but you lose them if you use them, making it harder to get new ones into play! There are also Attack and Form cards just to muddle things up even further.

On top of everything else, you can also attack the opposing player via a “Challenge,” though this only ever causes one point of damage and would have to be used repeatedly (or at just the right moment) if you want to take your opponent out-of-play for a win.

That’s the base rules, but after a few years, new rules were introduced to the Tomy release, which made their way to the Fantasy Flight release with the publication of the “Break of Dawn” expansion. Unfortunately, Break of Dawn was the last set that was ever published in the west before the game was shut down, and Tomy’s version didn’t last much longer. These new rules introduced Nobody cards (which function more or less the same as Dark cards), and phased out many of the old Attack cards and replaced them with Equipment cards, which could be attached to a Player card or Friend card permanently (or at least as permanent as a Friend card ever are). More important, Break of Dawn introduced two all-new player classes to join the existing Light-aligned player characters: Dark-aligned player characters and “XIII”-aligned player characters.

Dark player cards (which were Disney villains and the like) could not use Friend cards, Equipment cards, or legacy Attack cards, but could use Dark cards in the same fashion as Friend cards! This gives the bad guys a lot of tactical flexibility, since they can stack their deck with Dark cards and never have to worry about having the wrong card at the wrong time. Need a friend: give the Dark card to yourself! Need to delay your foe? Play it on them!

XIII players are very different. They can play Nobody cards as Friends, but can actually mix other XIII-aligned Player cards into their deck to use as Friend cards, summoning other members of the Organization to their side in battle. XIII players can also Challenge their opponent twice in one turn. You can see the narrative these new player classes introduce: the Light cards are trying to journey through the worlds, the Dark cards are trying to “conquer” the worlds, and the XIII cards could take over the worlds but are much better suited to taking out their opponent. It’s an impressive job of capturing the spirit of the original factions in the games!

Sadly, the TCG hasn’t been published in English for years. Still, you can easily get your hands on the rules: Fantasy Flight has always been generous about distributing copies of their rules for free, which I think is admirable. The more recent, Break of Dawn rules can be found here, and on a related note, here is a FAQ/errata published on the old forums, though be aware the FAQ may be for the original ruleset. Unfortunately, I can’t find the link to the pre-Break of Dawn ruleset link any longer, but if you’re curious, I do have a PDF if anyone wants to request it.

Because the game was dead by the time I even learned it existed, I’ve never played a game of it, so I’m afraid this rules summary is all you’re going to get out of me on this front. The fans I have heard from haven’t sounded all that impressed, but if you’d like to share your impression, feel free to do so in the comments!

Additional Voices

If you read the KH2 Retrospective after mid-January 2017, you probably noticed my adding a note about two voice actors I had originally missed in Twilight Town: Kevin Delaney and Adam Paul. This was a simple oversight at the time, but proved hard to rectify because of IMDb’s inadequate credits for both actors. In trying to look them up, I was reminded of another strange fact from IMDb’s credits list for KH2: there are several blank entries, actors unattached to any role. When I originally wrote the KH2 Retrospective, I assumed that these entries had been added by mistake. IMDb is run on user-submitted content, after all, and users make mistakes. Maybe one user had made several mistakes in a row? But as I was trying to track down Delaney and Paul, I realized that every one of these “blank” IMDb credits actually belonged to the authentic KH2 credits roll, and each one of them was under the useless heading of “Additional Voices.”

The Additional Voices credits, part 1.

Of the official list of Additional Voices, only a handful have been connected to a role by fans. Maybe you’ll remember them: Beau Billingslea, John DiMaggio and Adam Leadbeater played the three generic pirates, Rosalyn Landor played the Space Paranoids computer voice, and I just brought up Kevin Delaney and Adam Paul. The remaining Additional Voices credits are a mystery. Maybe they provided battle grunts or editing work, or cheered in the Olympus Coliseum ghost crowd? And there’s nothing stopping the voices we have identified from doing double duty under the same heading of “Additional Voices!” We can’t say with the information we have on-hand. Nevertheless, KH2 saw the need to credit them, and I feel the need to expand on those credits, so let’s take a deeper look into one of Kingdom Hearts 2’s forgotten corners.

To get us started, I’m going to touch on someone we’ve already seen here in the KH Retrospective: Audrey Wasilewski, whom we saw as the voice of Turk in KH1. Of course, Turk and all of Deep Jungle do not appear in KH2, even in flashback, so I can’t imagine she was being credited for archive footage, so what was she brought in to do? The great mystery of this appendix. But that’s all I can do for the moment, so let’s get on to new faces.

We’ll be going alphabetically by surname from this point on, meaning we start with A. J. Buckley, whom CSI: NY fans will know as Adam Ross. For a Disney connection, he’s Nash in The Good Dinosaur (and Disney Infinity) and has also appeared in recurring roles in Supernatural/Ghostfacers (Ed Zeddmore), Justified (Danny Crowe) and a few Marvel animated productions, which didn’t belong to Disney at the time.

Part 2!

Paul Butcher is a musician as well as an actor, and as an actor he’s known for a few minor but recurring roles in King of the Hill and Zoey 101, and later in the web series MyMusic. For a Disney connection he appears in Meet the Robinsons as Stanley. His IMDb bio also credits him as a young Bruce Banner in future Disney property, The Incredible Hulk film. I see no reason to disbelieve this, but sadly IMDb doesn’t actually credit anybody in the role of young Bruce! Does anyone know if it can clear up the matter?

Next up we have Robert Clotworthy. Some probably know him best as the voice of Jim Rayner in the Starcraft II games, but he also appeared in The Young and the Restless for eleven years and Days of Our Lives for two, and has played various minor roles in Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. He’s also appeared in DC and Marvel properties (in the case of Marvel, both roles were before and after the Disney takeover) and has a minor Square Enix connection as another “Additional Voices” credit in FFXV.

You might know Courtnee Draper, the voice of Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite. She’s also got a Disney connection as the voice of Marvel’s White Tiger, and a Square Enix as Clemente in FFType-0. Besides her prominent and recent video game roles, she’s also known for appearing in The Jersey for five years at the turn of the millennium.

You might also already know Bob Joles! As I post this in January 2017, we’re just one game away from my Marathon Journal coverage of Dirge of Cerberus, where he appears as the voice of Grimoire Valentine, and we’ll be seeing him again in Kingdom Hearts in Birth by Sleep, where he’s the voice of Sneezy the Dwarf. Since I’ve already written his bio for those two games, I think I’ll hold off on him here!

J. P. Manoux seems to have a knack for landing recurring roles in live action TV shows, appearing in, among others, Phil of the Future, ER, Community and Veep. He also had an incredibly curious recurring credit in Reno 911! as “Naked Armenian.” Voice acting seems to be an aside for him, but his one prominent voice acting role is a Disney one, playing the role of Kuzco in most Emperor’s New Groove spinoffs, including Emperor’s New School.

Hm… Bob Joles, J. P. Manoux, and don’t forget Rosalyn Landor. These are all actors with assigned Disney roles. I think we can see how they got called in to do a bit part in KH2, since they probably knew the same casting agents and were maybe just standing around the recording studio on the right day, but how curious!

Next up on our list we have Jon Olson, who is primarily a video game voice actor (which, as I remarked for Kevin Delaney, is unusual for a career this long, but interesting!). KH2 was one of his earlier roles. Like Bob Joles, we’ll be seeing Olson again in Birth by Sleep, and I’ve already written up his bio for there, so…

While we were in Beast’s Castle, I briefly touched on the odd case of Bradley Pierce, the original voice actor of Chip from Beauty and the Beast. Chip is unvoiced in KH2, but I suggested that Pierce might have been included to account for any archive sounds. However, when I began to investigate the KH2 credits, I noticed that the “Additional Voices” were listed separately from the “Disney Character voice talent[s],” which suggests that he isn’t being credited for Chip! Very strange. Well, whatever role he served, he deserves a bio. Besides Chip, you may also know Pierce as the voice of Miles “Tails” Prower from Sonic SatAM, and he did also appeared in the Little Mermaid TV series as Flounder and a few other miscellaneous voices (indeed, if it weren’t for the “Disney Character voice talent” technicality, you’d have to wonder if he’s on this list because of Flounder instead of Chip, but Flounder has had numerous voice actors since). In live action, he’s one of the two child leads in the original Jumanji, and he recently returned from a hiatus from acting to appear in a few TV shows and shorts, including a role in upcoming feature film, Deacon.

Kristen Rutherford is last on our alphabetical list, and while she does have a number of voice and live action credits to her name (including the voice of Futaba in Green Green and Durga in Halo 2), she’s primarily a writer, known especially for nonfiction like Attack of the Show!, The Nerdist and even Pop Up Video for those who remember that. What a curious industry… what a strange, strange industry, and isn’t that just the right sentiment for us to end on?

So that accounts for the KH2 Additional Voices credits list… or rather, that accounts for the English IMDb’s English credits list. The English IMDb’s Japanese credits list has even more blanks. Goodness sake, KH2, every other game in your series has a more complete credits list than this! Unfortunately, crediting Japanese seiyuu is maybe a little beyond the scope of this English Retrospective, but I do sorely hope that these actors are properly credited in Japanese-language resources. But given what we’re seeing on this side of the pond… I doubt it.

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