Day 96: Xion’s Keyblade
You know, day labels, we have to do something about your spoiler problem.
Roxas and Xion say hello first thing on Day 96, but Saïx arrives moments later with unfortunate news: he needs them on separate missions today, on separate worlds. And this is interesting: Saïx doesn’t threaten them, he’s just being matter-of-fact. I get the impression that if Roxas and Xion could have split up for a day, they might have been returned to their usual partnership the very next day. He’s being about as generous as we could hope from Saïx. When they inevitably protest and try to refuse, you can imagine how rude they’re being from his perspective. He’s got too nasty a track record for me to actually feel sorry for him, but I’m as close as I could possibly be.
Saïx says there are two “major” Heartless to tend to: in Agrabah and in Beast’s Castle. He assigns Roxas to Beast’s Castle, Xion to Agrabah. The two of them can’t come up with any good excuses to stay together, so luckily Axel arrives to save the day. He says that he was the one who scouted the big Heartless in Beast’s Castle and that “You don’t want to pit Roxas against that. Not by himself.” This is a gargantuan bluff. I’ll risk a spoiler to explain: the Heartless Axel saw is a Big Dog recolour, barely distinct from the Snapper Dogs you’ve already been fighting. You know nothing about the Agrabah Heartless, but Saïx does, and I promise you: it’s worse. Axel’s lie stinks so bad it’s a miracle Saïx didn’t slap him. With his claymore.
Saïx asks what the hell he’s supposed to do with the Agrabah Heartless with both Keyblade wielders dealing with the dog, and when Axel volunteers to stall it for a day (why all these missions take a full day, I don’t know, maybe there’s an issue with travel time through the dark corridors?). Saix protests that Axel can’t collect hearts. This seems to confirm that the Organization really does need certain powers and flavours of Hearts, like Xaldin implied in KH2, because otherwise why would he care about just one heart that happens to come from a boss? Still, for whatever reason Saïx accepts, but says that this is the end of Roxas and Xion’s partnership.
If you’re wondering why Saix bought Axel’s bluff: he didn’t. As you head off to Mission 31 at Beast’s Castle, Saïx holds Axel back, calling the lie a “reprehensible performance.” Axel knows better than to stick around and leaves without saying anything more. You have to wonder what Saïx thinks you’re up to.
Down at Beast’s Castle, Xion is upset about being out of time, as you can imagine. If there wasn’t a problem before, there certainly will be now that Saïx has the evidence he needs to piece together their ruse. She tries to summon the Keyblade, but is only able to summon a pulse of light.
Just then, Roxas gets the brightest idea he’ll ever have. Hell, this might be the brightest idea anyone connected to Sora will ever have, either. We’ll just assign it to the whole collective, why not? He gives Xion his Keyblade, asking if she can still control his, and it seems she can. In the meantime, he will use… ahem.
“Roxas, that’s a stick.”
Yes, Roxas has somehow found a stick inside the secret, stone passage of Beast’s Castle, and not just any stick, but a greatly rescaled version of the stick Roxas will later throw over his shoulder at Riku in KH2. And yes: the stick is 3D, even though the Keyblade in Days is 2D, and here we are getting close ups of both. Everything looks awful. The stick looks awful, the Keyblade looks awful by contrast, and so the whole shot is deplorable. This may be the worst-looking frame in the entire canon, and if it’s not, it’s only because we already have that shot of Sora, Donald and Goofy starting at the back of a polaroid!
Similar to Sora using the wooden sword in KH1, Roxas’ attack power sucks with the stick, although Hirokey123 tells me that for whatever reason, Roxas’ equipped Gear’s Abilities are still in play when you use the stick! He also suggests that between you and Xion, it’s easy to keep enemies stunlocked. While this is try, I personally don’t even bother to attack enemies in this mission – I just skip past every enemy that spawns. I know you’re supposed to be helping Xion train the Keyblade, and during my first playthrough I was willing to roleplay my “helping Xion” by fighting every enemy in the Castle, but that was then. Now I just Air Slide from chest to chest. The game throws in a Bulky Vendor to taunt you. Ohhh no, I refuse to fall for your tricks!
Unlike the KH1 scenario, Roxas’ magic is still in perfect shape without the Keyblade, and the game knows it. Every enemy in the level is giant-sized (Mega-Shadows through Snapper Dogs), making them easy to hit and encouraging the use of magic. The mission is also packed with Ethers – six chests full, which is already a high number of chests for a Days mission. Bear in mind that the chests won’t come back on replays, so this mission will never quite be as easy as it is when you actually have chests, so you had better make the most of it. This “feature” of chests is technically a problem throughout the entire game, but it’s never quite as obvious to me as it is here in Mission 31.
Partway down this mission, you have to dodge past Cogsworth, which is the same as ever. Cogworth informs you indirectly that the Heartless have been distracting the Beast for so long that he hasn’t seen Belle in days. Xion notes how invested the servants are in Beast and Belle’s relationship, and also that they’re in a rush about it, but the duo agrees they can’t learn much more about it today. By the way, I like the failure text here: should Cogsworth spot you, he convinces himself that he only saw something because “The whole castle is enchanted, after all!”
As the pair goes on, Xion apologies for making things harder for you by taking the Keyblade. That’s sweet, I suppose, but if anything, we’ve been put in her no-Keyblade-at-all position during the events of KH1 as well, and I feel like I should be apologizing to her for not trying to help sooner. No time, though: your target, a Bully Dog, is waiting in the Ballroom. While I may have tried to take the wind out of this thing when I compared it to the boss in Agrabah (and I stand by that), the Bully Dog can be dangerous. Normally, when a game takes away a power from you, the enemy becomes weaker in some way. The Bully Dog doesn’t care about politeness. In fact, it seems stronger than you’d expect from a boss at this point in the game even if you were properly armed. Its HP is high to help it survive all your magic, and its attack is high for a reason you might not expect: to kill Xion. The devs didn’t want her to win for you, even if today’s story is about her. If Xion stayed alive, you’d be in no danger while you sniped the dog with magic. As a result, the dog was given enough attack power to snap poor Xion in two so that you’ll be forced to fight it instead! Some Keyblade practice this turned out to be! Bring enough casts of Fire (and level it up to Lv 2 or even 4) and things will even out considerably. Xion might even win the fight after all with a Limit Break, just to turn things around!
Hirokey123 recommends a strategy I overlooked: you can Block against the Bully Dog’s jump attack for a very impressive stun time. Definitely put that to use when the Bully Dog knocks out poor Xion and comes after you!
With enough high-powered magic. you might not have any trouble at all. Hell, because both of this mission’s Challenges both level-lock Roxas at a pathetic character level of 5, and because you’re still armed with the stupid stick during retries, you may as well do both Challenges now! There’s a lot of panicked running in the latter challenge, where the Bully Dog has an enemy level of +50, but it’s not that bad. Short of coming back with new spells (Blizzara comes to mind) or a mobility upgrade for the sake of running for your life while Xion is down, the extreme level cap means this challenge is barely going to get any easier, so why not earn those Challenge Sigils now?
After the fight, we unite with the film (which conspicuously only shows the Bully Dog’s heart, so they didn’t have to remaster the Heartless itself), and Xion returns Roxas’ Keyblade. After a solemn pause, she tries her own… and it works! Just like that! Wow, there’s an anticlimax. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted them to repeat the scene from the Darkside battle where she gets it dramatically in the middle of a battle, but how boring! Couldn’t they at least have jazzed up the summoning animation? I may have complained about excess special effects in the past, but I’m not outright anti-special effects, they still serve a purpose. Hell, wasn’t my choice for fifth-worst moment in the Final Fantasy Marathon so far the result of missing special effects?
In a manner of speaking, this no-special effect ending reveals the artifice of the entire plot arc. The arc wasn’t strictly there to talk about a wielder losing their Keyblade, it was also there to get the trio together as friends. The film mostly skips the entire affair! But here’s the confounding magic trick: even though this plotline’s immediate purpose was to unite our new trio, the “losing the keyblade” plotline wasn’t irrelevant at all. I think they just buried their clues a little too deep – so deep that even the movie didn’t notice?
Anticlimactic as this was, I do like the amount of time you spent fighting exclusively with Xion. You knew it couldn’t last forever, but I felt it surprised me by how long it did last. Day after day I was happily surprised it was still going, even relieved at points, without going over-long. The pacing for this arc was pretty much perfect for my tastes.
The duo returns to the tower, where Axel is complaining about the Heartless at Agrabah not holding still. Just you wait. In the game, Roxas teases him about being a “big boy” now, which is a lot of sass from our former zombie. The teens hold off the fact that Xion got her Keyblade back so that it will be a surprise, because they are giant dorks. After it’s out, Xion thanks Axel especially for the idea and for covering for them (twice), and it’s clear he’s embarrassed.
Later, as they eat ice cream, Roxas and Xion wish aloud that these days of eating ice cream and hanging out together will last forever. Ha ha, get it? Because they won’t! Like why would anyone even say that in media except as negative foreshadowing? It’s like how you’re not allowed to show sign of illness in a narrative unless you’re about to outright die. But cliches aside, if Xion’s setup sounds familiar, it’s probably supposed to. Twice even. Axel says nothing lasts forever, “least of all for a bunch of Nobodies like us,” but they’ll always have each other so long as they remember each other. Note how this connects back to Axel’s point about memories being a Nobody’s identity, but also how it comes back to that odd speech Data-Hayner made in KH2 on this exact same subject. While I think it’s fully possible that Data-Hayner made that speech on his own, it seems equally possible that Roxas’ memories were remembering this speech in a new context, a context of friends was also about to lose, something he may have subconsciously realized, since it had already happened before.
Your prize for clearing the mission is a Pack Extender, the only one of its kind, a marvellous four-slot panel that doubles any Backpack panels you stick into it. 4 panels is pretty hefty at this point in the game, but your carrying capacity issues will soon be a thing of the past… if you can find those other two Backpack panels!
If you’ve also been keeping on top of your Challenge Sigils (you know, in a way that’s basically unreasonable and potentially impossible), you might have been able to unlock the Phantom Gear+ at 70 Sigils. You probably need a few extra missions, given that you’ve had two boss-level challenges and a few yet-impossible Challenges to date. Still whenever you happen to unlock 70 Sigils, the Phantom Gear+ gives you the Crown of Guilt+ Keyblade, which is equipped with 1. Thunder Finish, 2. Magic Bracer and 3. Magic Finale, an ability that improves your last (or only) cast of a given spell. A great Keyblade for this point in the game. Or a few later points in the game, whenever you actually get it to show up.
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).