Month: October 2016

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Don’t Wake the Clock

Days 75-79: Inseparable

At the start of Day 75, Roxas and Xion go to ask Saïx to pair them up. Saïx’s furious, given that half the Organization has been wiped out only a month ago and you’re asking to narrow their resources even further. Our teen heroes look like they’re going to give up on the spot, and are only saved from instantaneous retreat by Axel, who says, “Put two half-pints together and you get a whole.” Roxas follows his lead by saying that with the two of them together, Saïx can assign them to harder missions. This also has no gameplay effect, but maybe it’s time I stop harping on that.

Nevertheless, Saïx seems to like the idea now, though he has a caution: “You had better prove that two people can work like three, or this arrangement comes to an end.” I love that threat. And with that, you’re off.


FFVII Crisis Core – Petnapping

Zack woke up in the next chapter, thinking he was hearing the voice of his mother. This one line does, in fact, seem to be voiced by a unique character for a single line of dialogue, but I’m afraid I can’t find a credit for the actress! The whole scene starts becoming really Freudian when Zack wakes up and meets Aerith Gainsborough, one of the future party members of FFVII, and immediately gets a crush on her. Aerith is just a year younger than Zack, though it’s hard to say exactly how old, considering Crisis Core spans a fair chunk of time and it’s never clear exactly how much of it has passed at any given moment (although a look at the wiki timeline suggests that Zack and Aerith are both 16 and 15, respectively. Yeah, sure). While I can’t place the voice of “Zack’s mother,” Aerith is voiced by Andrea Bowen, my favourite actor in the role. Bowen would go on to cameo in the role in Dissida 012 and actually appears in an unrelated bit part in Advent Children. While she’s never voiced Aerith in Kingdom Hearts, my Kingdom Hearts-covering gut instinct is to point out that she voiced Faline in Bambi II. Besides voice acting, Bowen is also known for live acting and music.


Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – The Second Great Crayon Hunt

Day 73: The Promise

On Day 73, Roxas finally notices Xion has been missing for a week and a half (or as we discussed above, perhaps upwards of three weeks) and he and Axel discuss the matter. Axel points out that he doesn’t know Xion like Roxas does (you can see his self-interest struggling valiantly against his persona of generosity), but since Roxas is her friend, he says that he’ll ask Saïx about her after work today. Personally, I think the fact that Axel is ultimately willing to do a favour for a friend of a friend says more about him than any number of scenes on a clock tower, so this feels very real to me.


Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Duck and Cover

Day 72: Change

Day 72 begins with Saïx coming to chew Axel out for going missing for two months, though Axel holds his own in the argument with game-exclusive lines like “Oh, good to see you, too. You’re welcome, thanks for the kind words.” Saïx holds his own by ignoring his glib replies entirely and proceeding with his debriefing. You get the impression that these two have gotten really used to working with one another. From the debrief, we learn that the CO crew was searching the Castle for the Chamber of Awakening, but “That’s like counting grains of dust in a building full of sneezing people.” Ah, I feel like I’ve met Seifer’s poetic mentor. Saïx asks about Naminé, but he had no luck finding her either, or so he claims.

As Saïx is leaving, Axel makes a surprise announcement, which feels like a power-play between him and Saïx in and of itself: he announces that the reason he killed Zexion, something that seemed motiveless in CoM, was for Saïx’s benefit. “That’s how you wanted it, right? I’ll play it your way… for now.” A few word choices in the film imply that killing Zexion was part of Saïx’s plan all along, but no matter who was responsible for the plan, this is still a look at the insidious, villainous Axel we used to know from CoM. And now it’s time to see how he got from there to where he was at the start of KH2.


FFVII Crisis Core – Zack! Zack? Zaaaaaaack!

At the start of the next chapter, Zack reported the Wutai War was over, and then grumbled and added: “Everyone’s real happy.” Naturally, this implies another time skip, and naturally we’re not given any specifics. Sephiroth then called him on his cell phone, ordering him to the director’s room. It’s been a few months, but judging from my notes, Kyle and I found the idea of great, grand, big-bad Sephiroth calling Zack casually on a cell phone to be hilarious.


Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Challenging Affairs

Day 71: Reunion

Wow, they had to crack Roxas over the head the last time they wanted to skip this many days! And in doing this, they really reveal all the extra wiggle-room they where they could used to play with the Org members who died during CoM. If they had stuck these 17 days before the events of CoM, we certainly wouldn’t have noticed, but 17 days means upwards of 17 missions worth of story! They could have gotten something done while the CoM cast was still alive! I’d have much rathered something closer to a hundred, but if they had given the CoM cast another month or so, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed to begin with? Again, I suspect the real problem was ultimately one of budget, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain about the problems it caused.


Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – A Long Snooze

Day 27: The Dark Margin

Day 27 sees Roxas flashing back to his conversation with Xemnas at The Dark Margin from KH2 (the version where we can actually hear Roxas’ voice, if you were worried about that). This flashback calls some of Days’ narrative decisions are called to task: like the fact that this conversation supposedly takes place during Roxas’ first six “zombie days,” but he’s able to form many full sentences and even speak with accusation in his voice. This won’t be the last time Days’ treatment of Roxas is out of line with the portrayal in KH2 and FM+. To make matters worse, you’ll never get a proper explanation for why Roxas and Xemnas were even doing at the Dark Margin, essentially letting a mystery from KH2 die. At the end of the KH2 version of the scene – wherein Roxas was unable to give his true name – the scene continues, and Xemnas (suddenly unhooded) walks past Roxas, mouthing the name “Sora.”

In the present, we see that this may not have been Roxas’ flashback after all. Roxas has been brought to his room, where he is in a coma. Xemnas is looking over him, raising the possibility that the flashback to the Dark Margin was actually his flashback!

Xemnas asks Saïx if Roxas is likely to wake. Saïx says it’s likely. …Actually, he says “I am told,” but who told him? It’s not like the Organization has a staff doctor! As you may have suspected given the timeline and Roxas’ vision of Naminé, Saïx explains that Roxas has fainted because Sora has been put into hibernation during CoM. He implies that Roxas won’t recover until Naminé has finished stripping Sora of his memories before she begins the process of reconstructing them. They’re not sure how long that’s going to take, since she’s not exactly sending them Christmas cards.

Saïx tries to give some good news: “Xion has gained power over the Keyblade, just as we intended. She can fill Roxas’ shoes for the time being.”

The film cuts out here, but the game continues: Xemnas asks Saïx if the Castle Oblivion crew or the scouts that followed have found the Chamber. In the west, this was the first time we had heard about any “Chamber” and it was intriguing. Unfortunately, it was also incomprehensible, as the game seems to assume you already know what it’s talking about from KH2:FM+, and won’t fill in the details! Nowadays, we know that Xemnas is talking about the Chamber of Awakening, counterpart to the Chamber of Repose he constructed in Hollow Bastion. Saïx says there has been no progress, and leaves. Xemnas remains by Roxas’ bedside, saying “So, sleep has taken you yet again.” But what could he possibly mean? Prior to now, neither Roxas nor Sora has been “asleep” in any notable way. I didn’t actually catch his meaning until I was writing this very sentence, this game can be pretty subtle at times! If you’re new to the series, I’m afraid you’re not going to be able to work it out at all!

With that, Roxas’ coma continues, and we watch in astonishment as the current day counter appears and rolls past an entire month, coming to a stop on Day 49.

Day 49

This scene is short, and the day unusually has no subtitle. It shows Xion visiting Roxas and talking to him as he continues to sleep. She tells him she went to a new, beautiful world today, and promises to visit him tomorrow, leaving a seashell by his pillow, next to more than twenty others placed in a tidy square, one for each day he’s been asleep.

(HEAVY SPOILERS but I have nowhere else to put them: It might be logical to assume that Xion just went to visit Destiny Islands, and it’s later implied that she has been sent there somewhere between getting the Keyblade and that future scene, but speaking logically, if she’s been giving Roxas shells for 20 days, she must have been there for a while! Hm, given Xion’s resemblance to Kairi and Kairi’s connection to Sora, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were sending her to be near Kairi on purpose. The fact that we’re about to see a glimpse of Kairi should have made that obvious to me years ago.)

During this scene, we first hear Xion’s theme, “Musique pour la tristesse de Xion.” Yoko Shimomura started naming a lot of her tracks in other languages around this point, which would become a major thing on the DDD soundtrack. The name means “Music for the Sadness of Xion,” and the track is exactly 3:58 on the BBS OST bonus disc. It’s a great track, reminiscent of Roxas’ theme / “The Other Promise.” The track itself is lovely and sad, a piano theme meant as companion to Roxas’ theme, and it’s one of the series’ best. But enough about the music, let’s talk conspiracy: I’m convinced that “Musique pour la tristesse de Xion” wasn’t the track’s original name! You see, the name first appears on Piano Collections: Kingdom Hearts Field & Battle in 2010, attached to a medley that just happens to include Xion’s theme. When it said “Music for the Sadness of Xion,” it meant “Music” in the plural, referring to all the songs in the medley, of which Xion’s theme was only a part! Oh well. The name has since been canonized as the name of Xion’s theme alone by the BBS/Days/coded OST, so I might as well suck it up.

As Xion leaves, we get the first of Days’ interesting use of the top and bottoms screen dynamic, as, even though the action has been in the top screen for the entire game so far, a video of the end of CoM plays at the bottom. In this shot, Sora is sealed in the strange white bulb, clutching something in his hand – presumably the Oathkeeper pendant, implying this memory was provoked by the shells Xion brought to Roxas. The game makes careful use of the screens to convey which visuals are “real” and which are from the mind: the dream of Sora is on the lower screen, since Sora is on the other side of Roxas’ heart. The game is very consistent about this in scenes to come, and I feel it’s a very clever use of the dual screen system that’s sadly lost on the film, though the film does an admirable job to make up for its absence.

Day 50: Familiar Sound

Roxas is woken by a memory of Kairi waking Sora at the start of KH1, and despite a month asleep, doesn’t seem to have any trouble getting up and waltzing around. It must be late in the day, as he finds no one at the Grey Area, and he goes instead to the tower in Twilight Town, where he finds Xion sitting alone.

Roxas understandably has questions, so Xion fills him in. “You were sleeping, a long, long time.” Maybe you shouldn’t be sitting on that ledge, in fact! In the game, she has a confusing line where she says Saïx told them you might never wake up despite his telling Xemnas in private that you would. It’s not clear what Saïx would have gained from saying this to the other members of the Organization (except to be a dick), so the film scrubbed it, and Saïx instead told the whole Organization that they didn’t know when he would wake up, just like he did Xemnas.

Xion hands Roxas this day’s seashell, and tells you to hold it up to your ear. Hearing the sound of the sea provokes another memory for Roxas, of Sora and Kairi on the docks on the bottom screen. This is shot in a way that seems to imply Roxas is having a nostalgic flashback to one of Sora’s memories all of a sudden, so let’s set aside the fact that this screenshot comes from the scene where Kairi used her princess-powers and sensed that Riku would become evil during the events of KH1 and maybe they should run away from one of their best friends. Good… good choice of happy memory. The day fades out.

Note the strange blank entries in Roxas’ diary on Days 27 and 28.

Day 51: Missing and Days 52-54: Solitude

The other Organization members seem relatively pleased to see Roxas up on his feet the next day, in their own unique ways. Even the Moogle, who says he was worried he wouldn’t be able to swindle you anymore! Aren’t you a nice little fuzztop.

The game gets a wobbly here if you don’t go straight to Saïx: if you talk to Xigbar, he’ll announce that while you were asleep, they learned everyone at Castle Oblivion has died – it seems that Axel has not returned, so the Organization thinks he’s dead too! If you talk to Saïx, Roxas still asks about the others, and is told that they don’t know how many people have died! The film’s text-only summary of this section favours Saïx’s explanation, but what a weird inconsistency!

Naturally, Saïx is keen to throw you back into work. He’s got a block of missions for you, which lead to our strange header today. The first day is treated as “Day 51: Missing,” but after you complete it, you move on to “Day 52: Solitude,” even though you’re still in the middle of the same mission block! The game does this a handful of times in the future. My best guess? I suspect that it’s an artificial coding limitation designed to facilitate two separate features. Firstly, it allows Roxas’ diary to be updated twice, and secondly, it allows the devs to shuffle around the occupants of the Grey Area, and to change their dialogue. This is the kind of solution that programmers call a “hack” or “kludge”: it’s clearly not the right way to do things, and may bite you in the ass long run, but it works, so who cares? Could they have programmed this some other way? Yes, in fact in this case I’d even say “easily,” but they clearly didn’t, and all I can do to explain it is this short lesson in kludges and other poor-form computer science techniques. Now, don’t get me wrong, kludges are so common that they’re in every large project that has ever existed, and probably most of the small projects too. They’re certainly no great evil, just an everyday reality of the programming industry, but they’re typically kept below surface level. Not this one! This one’s on the surface for everyone to see!

Because this is purely a narrative level hack, the missions in this block and others like it are still collected together in the Holo-Mission menu.

Speaking of things being rearranged in the Grey Area: while things are normal on Day 51, Saïx will give you a phenomenal prize when you talk to him on Day 52 (the second day of this mission block). This prize is a Level Doubler. This linked panel is meant to be plugged with Level Ups, each of which will count as 2 instead of just 1. A considerable upgrade! A little known fact about the Level Doublers (and later Level Triplers) is that they’re all designed to fit together on a single panel card, so if you ever get a new one and can’t seem to fit it anywhere, consider dumping everything out temporarily, and putting the Level multiplier panels together in one big Tetris block.

Now that I’ve told you about the Level Doubler, this tempting prize might make you consider taking one of this mission block’s weaker missions first, just so you can get your doubled level ups right away, but hold your horses! There are more new things to consider. While you were asleep, the Organization decided to implement a number of new features, with some special ones designed specifically for optional mission blocks like this one. We’re still missing the stupid Challenge mode, but everything else is here.

The first of these long-lost features are Unity Badges. These are small, red badges you’ll find hidden in most missions from here on out. Essentially, these Badges unlock the missions in Mission Mode. All the missions before this one were unlocked by default, and all missions after this point require the Badge. Fortunately, you get to keep the Unity Badge should you withdraw from a mission (similar to a chest) so if you missed the Badge during your first attempt, it won’t take long to grab it and leave on a second. While it’s a little hard to tell (thanks to the way Roxas has been unconscious for a month), you might notice that these badges debut just one mission into Novice Rank, and that’s not a coincidence: the previous mission in Agrabah (Mission 15) wasn’t available in Mission Mode at all, so in a manner of speaking, every mission from Novice and above has a Unity Badge! Typically, the Unity Badge is easy to find and won’t require any mobility upgrades, but unless my memory’s gone foul, they do require mobility upgrades from time to time… and I have to wonder why. I don’t mind unlocking features in a game, but by delaying certain missions until you get a mobility upgrade, all you do is give the player and their friends underlevelled mission that won’t be a challenge by the time they’ve finally unlocked it!

The second regular feature you’ll meet here is your first proper sidequest… or at least that’s what I’m gonna call them. They’re not exactly like the sidequests you’d imagine from other video games. Sidequests in Days are unlocked by talking to Org members in the Grey Area, and they’re completely missable, so it pays to be attentive: if you aren’t done them by the time you’re done the current mission block (and they can appear attached to single missions as well!) you’ll miss the chance entirely. The rewards aren’t always worth it, but they’re something to do and they’re also usually low-effort. The sidequests often aren’t even trying in their own right. A lot of them just remind you that certain features exist, like the previous mission block’s half-hearted: “Go equip a Gear you lazy bum.”

This sidequest is a little more involved. Demyx charges you to collect all the chests in Mission 14 in exchange for a Shining Shard (on top of the prizes you’ll get from the chests in Mission 14, of course!). Judging from his dialogue, Demyx seems to be sending you on one of his assignments so that he can slack off, though it’s not clear why he was assigned to collect things in one of your missions in the first place. Best not to think about it. This is one of those places where I wish you could have played one of the other Org members during the main storyline. Demyx was supposed to do this mission, so why not let us control Demyx for the duration of the sidequest?

The third new feature you’ll see during this mission block is the Bonus Gauge, which takes a little getting used to. The Bonus Gauge only appears during optional mission blocks – you’ll never find it attached to single missions. You can see it in the corner of the mission select screen, made up of several boxes of different heights: first small boxes (marked “x1”), then medium (“x2”), and usually a third tall section (“x3”). As you hover over a mission, a certain number of boxes will be highlighted: this tells you that clearing that mission will fill that much of the Bonus Gauge. After you’ve cleared the mission, the game checks the updated Gauge: if you’re still in the x1 section after the mission is cleared, things behave as normal, but if you are in the medium section, you’ll get double your mission rewards, which includes the two prizes you get for clearing the mission, the prize for getting 100% on the Mission Gauge if you earned it, and also the Random Completion Bonus if you’re lucky enough to win one. If you’re in the tall section of the Bonus Gauge, your prizes are tripled. One-time rewards aren’t multiplied, like unique items and Lv Doubler panels, but generic prizes like items, recipes and even spell panels are. Once you’ve placed a mission on the Bonus Gauge, it’s thankfully locked there. Should you come back to the mission as a Holo-Mission and earn a forgotten 100% prize, the prize will still be duplicated or tripled, as appropriate.

The player observes Mission 17. The Bonus Gauge shows that this mission returns 2 blocks.

The Bonus Gauge isn’t just an incentive to complete missions, but to plan the order in which you complete them. As a result, I’ll try to touch on some advice every time we come to a mission block from here on out.

There are four missions in this block, and the Bonus Gauge only goes up to double here, not triple. Even though the missions increase the Bonus Gauge by different amounts, the game is misleading you this time around: no matter what combination you attempt, you’ll get a 1x multiplier that first mission, and a double for every time that follows. The most prominent prize attached to any of these missions is an Elixir Recipe attached to Mission 16 as the 100% prize. But this is misleading, arguably even a trap. While you can and should put Mission 16 into the 2x section of the Bonus Bar so that you’ll get double Elixir Recipes later in the game, you can’t 100% Mission 16 during your first trip, and can only double the Elixir Recipe as a Holo-Mission!

Regardless of the order I may have played the missions myself, we’re going to be covering them in numerical order here in the Retrospective. That means it’s time for our false friend, Mission 16, which is in Agrabah. For the first time in the game, you’ll be running a mission solo, with no AI teammate. Mission 16 is the only mandatory mission in this mission block, and as is often the case in mission blocks, this means it’s also the only one with any narrative content. As the mission begins, Roxas overhears Aladdin and Jasmine talking, and it seems they’ve clued into the fact that the Heartless are connected to the sandstorms, though what can they do about it? Roxas decides that this is none of his concern, so he heads off on his mission: to hunt Dire Plant recolours called “Fire Plants.”

Despite being recolours, all Fire Plants have in common with Dire Plants is immobility, as their attacks and stats are entirely different. Fire Plants are capable of spitting bowling ball fireballs just like Scarlet Tangos, as a result, you can’t deflect their shots like the Dire and Poison Plants of yesterday. Instead, it’s best to catch them from the side or behind, and rely on their very, very slow rotating speed to trip them up.

If you keep your eyes open, you can find a Loaded Gear+ in this mission. This gives the Pain of Solitude a single upgrade slot, which isn’t much but is better than you have. These are the trifles of the early game. That said, this upgrade slot can be used to give Roxas Fire Finish, a powerful ability that turns your finisher attack into a Fire attack, potentially causing Ignite! You might remember that the Sign of Innocence had Thunder Finish with Jolt, but I suspect the two status effects don’t have equal chance of being inflicted.

Roxas knocks the Bookkeeper’s book aside.

There’s an additional complication waiting for you at the City Gates. There, a Barrier Master Heartless is waiting with a crop of Fire Plants. The Barrier Master is a recolour of the Bookmaster from KH2, but it doesn’t share any tactics in common with its original. Instead, the Barrier Master casts impenetrable barriers over every other Heartless in the room. The Barrier Master doesn’t benefit from its own shield, but it is protected by its book, which blocks attacks. In concept, this not unlike the Runemaster from KH2:FM+, but in practice, the book is easily overcome by close-hand attacks, so that’s what you want to do. If you can peg the Barrier Master, it often ends up stunned, dropping its book, at which point you can attack either the Master or its book to separate the two via knockback. Once the Barrier Master recovers, it will try to reunite with its book, and until it does so, the barriers will remain down. The Barrier Master has quite a bit of HP. I think the devs expected many players to separate it from its book and then attempt to destroy the other Heartless while the Bookmaster and book were apart, but it’s far easier to just grind away at the Barrier Master itself even in spite of its HP, especially if you’re willing to spend a few casts of magic, because it’s particularly vulnerable to spells once you’ve separated it from its book-shield.

After you destroy one of the Fire Plants on the upper level, the game yanks the parking brake, interrupting the entire combat to show you a cutscene. I can’t believe the game interrupted you mid-combat like this! Its just… I feel silly saying this but… it’s rude! In the cutscene we see Aladdin and Abu. When Roxas sees Abu, he suddenly gets a flashback to Sora, and we see Sora on the bottom screen surrounded in static. Because this happens so often, I’m going to refer to these as “Statics,” similar to our beloved but forgotten Mopes of yore. In the present-day cutscene, Aladdin chastises Abu for stealing, as it seems Aladdin has turned over a new leaf, as he no longer needs to steal to survive.

After this cutscene, you’ll discover the fact that you can’t 100% the mission during your first attempt, just like I said when we were discussing the Bonus Gauge: without the crate in the Marketplace, there’s no way up on the nearby scaffold, and sure enough there are Fire Plants up there. Dejected, you RTC and Roxas returns to Twilight Town, where he’s surprised to find no one waiting for him at the Tower. This is a sad reminder that Axel may have been killed, but is surprising that there’s no sign of Xion, after she spent the last twenty days making regular visits to Roxas’ bedside!

In the diary entry for Days 51 and 52 (though technically, the entry for Day 52 won’t show up until after the mission block clears), Roxas remarks on feeling “choked up” about Axel, and in the entry for Day 52, he adds that “[t]hat weird lump in my throat won’t go away.” Roxas also remarks on seeing the memories of Sora, so it that it’s clear that these static-shots aren’t simply just a gameplay artifice.

Mission 17 sees you returning to Twilight Town, where Roxas is sent after a Heartless called a “Tailbunker.” Tailbunkers are based on the Wyverns of KH1, but they’re actually remodelled, now featuring a giant, ankylosaur-like club tails. This isn’t the last such Wyvern remodel we’ll see in Days, and I’m going to refer to this “family” of Heartless as the Tailbunker family. While the Wyverns may have been minor enemies in KH1 and CoM, the Tailbunker line are midbosses here in Days. Roxas finds his target lording over the Tram Common, stomping and screaming from a high perch – the Organization is lucky this town is perpetually vacant!

While most of this game’s midbossses have been oversized normal enemies with the same simple AI as their lesser cousins, most but not all of the Tailbunker family follow a two-staged battle. First, you have to ground the monster by attacking its wings and tail, each of which counts as separate lock-on target because of how the game works. This will eventually cause the thing to fall to the ground, stunned. After it recovers, it will attempt low-flying techniques and rams for a while before returning to the glides and fireballs from stage 1. Once the Tailbunker is grounded, it becomes possible to target its head (you can still attack its head prior to grounding the Tailbunker, but as you’ll learn to your dismay, you can’t target the head until it’s grounded, which makes things much more complicated than they might sound). Hitting the head with Blizzard is the best way to cause damage, though the fight is still going to drag out a bit. This isn’t going to be quite as rapid as the Guardian midboss fight from earlier, though with a little luck with the Freeze status effect, it can be!

Mission 18 takes place in Agrabah and introduces a new mission format, and it’s a weird one. Nominally, this is another of the Organization’s attempts to “determine your fitness for future missions,” but I’m not sure how this determines your fitness for anything. It just seems like the devs has a weird idea and put it in whether it made sense or not. The name of the game is “Collect the Emblems,” and the mission has you running around an environment collecting floating Organization emblems that have been scattered by another member. Let’s try to focus on using a lower-case “e” at the start of the word “emblem,” so we don’t get them confused with Emblem Heartless in a game focused on Emblem Heartless. Look, it’s not my fault the localizers didn’t have a thesaurus.

These Organization emblems appear with a large ring around them. The rings are at full size at the start of the mission and gradually shrink. Grab an emblem while the ring is present, and you’ll get full points on the mission gauge, and the rings on all other emblems will restore to full size. Should you pick up an Organization emblem after the ring has shrunk away however, you’ll get less points, and I’m afraid to say that you’ll no longer be able to get 100% on the mission gauge during this attempt. To restore the rings around without collecting a dud emblem, simply defeat a Heartless, but don’t get cocky! The Heartless are always sparse during an Org emblem mission. Thankfully, you can hit the minimum mission score in every emblem mission without keeping up with the rings, but even if you don’t plan to get 100%, the rings do make things a lot faster. Collecting a dud emblem even restores the rings around other emblems, just to speed things up!

One thing that annoys me about Org emblem missions is that if you get a close call, you have no way of telling if you grabbed the emblem in time or not. There’s no visible or audible difference between an emblem collected in time or a dud (a different chime would have been a nice start!), so unless you’re carefully watching the mission gauge instead of the top screen, there’s always going to be a sense of unease.

Returning to the subject of Mission 18 in particular: while you can clear this particular mission 100% on your first attempt, none of the emblem missions are very easy before you get mobility upgrades. Your prize for getting 100% is a boring old Blizzard panel (or two, with of the Bonus Gauge was in x2), so you could do worse than to pass on this mission with less than 100% for the time being.

The last mission in the set, Mission 19, is simply a Deserter mission. Or at least, it’s “simply” a Deserter mission in story mode. This mission is different in multiplayer, featuring only a small number of Deserters at a time, which is infinitely more frustrating than a huge crowd of Deserters. The fact that the story version of Mission 19 is essentially a duplicate of the Twilight Town Deserter mission suggests to me that they planned to use the small number of Deserters in both the Mission and Story mode versions of 19, but decided it was just too irritating for a single player-character!

Even though this is our second block of optional missions, I wanted to discuss the fact that mission blocks essentially have no “ending.” The next cutscene you see after a block of optional missions will always be the first custscene of the next part of the story, not a finale to the block you just finished. This is fine, but could have been better. I think the lack of a payoff at the end of an optional mission block hurts the end product from a gameplay perspective. With no reward, your actions feel empty, and they only add to the sense of repetition that permeates Days, not unlike CoM. In most other KH there was always a sense of gameplay progression, you were at least in new areas with each battle, solving new puzzles when available and seeing new plot. The repetition in Days and CoM is built into their very gameplay structure. You move through a stage, then RTC back across the exact same stage with usually no variance, and then you go to another mission, which just happens to be on the exact same stage again, moving through the exact same stage with just a little variance, then you RTC back across that

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Next: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Challenging Affairs

This retrospective’s screenshots come from RickyC’s longplay of the DS version of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days at World of Longplays (YouTube), and from Brian0451’s recording of the 1.5HD cinematics of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days at World of Longplays (YouTube).

FFVII Crisis Core – Detonating an Old Lady

Heading out of town the other side, Tseng called us to a cliff side which overlooked a factory just outside of town. It seemed Genesis’ forces were using the factory as a base, and Tseng ordered us to “attack from above” rather than approach through the front doors like an idiot. You know, like in the last mission. And every other mission in the game. Tseng may be a trifle bit better at the whole “tactics” thing than Zack, I think. Around this point in the game, we received a company-wide email from Lazard, talking vaguely about an “unspeakably tragic incident” (presumably the defections at large) and babbling somewhat incomprehensibly about biological and non-biological ties leading to “ill-blood,” and trying to focus on risk prevention in the future.


Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Exploring the Armoury

Day 26: Terminated

Roxas wakes up the next morning, still sleeping on top of his sheets. I’ll stop bringing it up when it stops being silly. The first thought on his mind is Xion. Wait, I think I’ve read this romance novel! It’s called: every romance novel, and if Square didn’t intend this scene to look romantic (and that’s probable, given that Kingdom Hearts treats romance like a grade school treats cooties) they probably shouldn’t have used such a prominent romance trope. You just can’t misuse staid genre tropes like this! Imagine two other genres getting mixed up! Imagine a Hardy Boys novel with a Prophecy that they’d destroy the Dark Lord of All Evil. Imagine an educational film stopping dead in the middle of a lecture about mitosis to look slowly up at the camera to say “…The call was coming from inside the house!”

This wake-up scene is missing from the film. Actually, the film has a huge break here with no text interlude to fill the gap, the first of many where the cinematic-only format outright fails the viewer. What makes this even more unusual is: an upcoming sequence with Saïx is included as a cinematic, but the part without him isn’t! In the game, Roxas proceeds to the Grey Area still on his happy buzz, only to find Xaldin and Demyx shouting at one another. Roxas asks Xigbar what’s up, and Xigbar tells him the bad news: CoM has just come to an end, and the Organization is getting news that “at least one of the folks we sent to Castle Oblivion has been terminated.”


Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Vanishing Berserker

Day 23: Silent Companion

At the start of the day, Saïx comes to Axel and tells him that Xemnas has secretly organized this whole Castle Oblivion jaunt partially in hopes of exposing and executing a few traitors. Axel is to find and eliminate them. The big surprise here is that Axel suspects that those orders don’t come from Xemnas at all, but Saïx himself!