Day 151: Distress
Judging by the lounge chatter, Roxas walks into the Grey Area on 151 just a few seconds after Xion has left. On the other hand, we have Luxord: “What this game needs is a few thrills. Don’t you agree?” Luxord, I never have any idea what you’re talking about. For a sidequest, Axel wants you to pop open 130 chests for a measly Shield Tech, though once again the real prize is 130 boxes worth of crap!
Talking to Saïx, he totally over-warns you about today’s mission. “Today you must exterminate a powerful heartless. Go in prepared.” It’s just a Tailbunker recolour, man, calm down. It’s even got an obvious elemental weakness. Why does Twilight Town attract these stupid bats, anyways? While Saïx doesn’t have an in-universe reason for his panic, there is a real-world reason: this mission is going to a little more complicated than Saïx intends. In fact, it’s the only Mission of its kind.
Mission 44 opens with Roxas arriving in Station Plaza. As he arrives, his eyes are drawn up to his usual spot, and he sees Xion sitting up there. Being a good friend, he goes to see her and she explains that she was also assigned to a mission in Twilight Town for the day, and is just putting it off. After a delay, Xion apologizes for running off the other day, and partially explains her situation with the Imposter, although she doesn’t say anything that we couldn’t have gleaned from the two flashbacks – hell, she doesn’t even know the name “Riku,” so we’re a step ahead of her! Xion puts on a tough face about Saïx calling her a “mistake,” but it’s clear something is still bothering her. To try to cheer her up, Roxas suggests they team up and do their missions together, so that they’ll finish faster. This leads into the game’s one-and-only double-objective mission.
To complete this double-objective mission, you’re going to have to complete Xion’s Organization emblem collection mission on top of your Tailbunker recolour hunt. Granted, that’s a little busy, and goodness knows I’d rather it have been anything but an emblem collection mission, but we can handle this. Here’s the biggest problem with this double-objective mission, and it’s probably not what you expected: the mission bar tries to simultaneously represent both objectives, and the mission bar for Org emblem missions was sketchy to begin with. Remember, you get almost no feedback from the emblems, making it incredibly hard to tell if you grabbed them at the right time. Now it’s outright unreadable, and good luck shooting for 100% when you have no idea where one mission ends and the other begins.
But at the same time… that’s also my only problem with this mission! This double objective thing is working pretty well! I’m not clear on why they didn’t do this sort of thing more often, it seems to work fine! They sort of did it with Phil’s training, but it wasn’t official. You can imagine it pretty easily: defeat Shadow Globes and kill three Aerial Masters, Investigate and kill a boss, it would really liven up the thinner or drier missions.
Even without the GUI issues, this mission can be a tough one to 100% (indeed, this mission’s Challenge is simply to reach 100% with no offensive magic!). The Org emblems are spread far apart, there’s a speed bump in the middle of the level involving some gate switches in the underground, and most importantly, every enemy in the level is a tank: Poison Plants, Gigas Shadows… once again, your only low-HP relief is a single Cymbal Monkey in an obscure corner. On your way to RTC after killing Roxas’ target, you can also fight some Neoshadows that try to cut you off from the portal, though they’re arguably too far away from most of the emblems to be of any help finishing that objective (unless you forgot the easily missed one right next to the portal!). Neoshadows are far more dangerous in groups, and you may have to confront them, because there’s an emblem just to the right of your starting point and you may have missed it!
There’s a clever narrative-through-mechanics work going on in this mission. This mix of Twilight Town, Xion, and even the Poison Plants is clearly here to invoke a sense of “the good old days” when you were first working together. This underlines just how distant Xion is acting in comparison, it’s well done.
You finally find Roxas’ target in the Sandlot, where for some reason the game highlights it by having the camera focus on a force field… which rises in front of an Organization X-field. It’s like watching a cartoon character slam multiple doors shut over the same door-frame. The force field is technically there to round off the arena, but they didn’t have to draw attention to it. What’s hidden behind this two-doored safe, the developer’s room?
Roxas’ target, the Tailbunker recolour, is called an Avalanche. Remember that Tailbunkers are also all remodels, not just recolours: the Avalanche has a spear-like head, with larger feet and a wide tail. It drips chunks of hail in its introductory cutscene, which is a very nice introduction effect. So sad that it’s weak to Fire, a panel you have in bulk. I have nothing else to say, the poor thing is screwed.
After you dodge the Neoshadow and RTC, the pair goes to the Tower, but Xion is still distant and not really listening to anything Roxas is saying. We go into her head and see the scene with Riku again, complete, voiced and in order this time. Xion, hooded, is disarmed by Riku, and she collapses. Curious as to her identity, Riku goes over to her and pulls back her hood (and pushes up his blindfold) only for him to gasp and pull away. Xion wakes up here and replaces her hood. We see the usual CoM mystery technique of providing the player with a reasonable answer but with possibility of doubt: it would make sense if Riku had gasped to see Kairi’s face on a black-haired girl he doesn’t know, but why does the game not let us see to be sure? The game has introduced a new clue, or at least a new doubt, if you happen to be paying attention.
Riku says “Your face… who are you, really? And why do you have a Keyblade?” Xion turns the question on him, asking what he’s trying to accomplish, and he just says: “To make sure my best friend sleeps in peace.” He returns to the original subject, picking up her Keyblade and saying: “I don’t know who you’re supposed to be. But you can’t fight fire with sparks. This Keyblade, it’s a sham—worthless.”
Given how much Xion has fought to keep her Keyblade, it’s understandable that this cuts her deep. She picks up the Keyblade and rushes him, only for Riku to take her down bare-handed. Obviously this was spur-of-the-moment, but it only seems to underline that her Keyblade may be fake, inadequate. He warns her to leave the Organization, what with them being evil and all. Emotionally hurt and physically clobbered, Xion is reduced to calling names, and calls Riku “the real sham.” Riku just lets this bounce off, saying that’s probably fair. “You could say I’m… the biggest nobody of them all.” Heh. Left with nothing, Xion lets out a scream of anguish that’s become somewhat famous in the fandom. A lot of people seem to like it, even people that don’t seem to like Days, but I personally think it’s a little much.
Notably, despite Xion’s muttering earlier, Riku never actually called Xion herself a sham, just her Keyblade (this is ultimately true even in the film which, as I described in the previous entry, confused the issue thanks to a change in dialogue). I think it says a lot that Xion inferred one from the other, as though her Keyblade was emblematic of herself. Remember: Xion was convinced that without her Keyblade, the Organization would kill her, so you can see how she arrived at this conclusion!
Xion has been in flashback so long that back in the real world, Roxas notices and asks her if she’s okay. Xion shakes off the moths, and asks Roxas why they’re working for the Organization. Roxas just echoes the mission statement he’s been told, because he has no independence whatsoever. Xion says she’s starting to wonder, and that she’s having strange dreams, though she claims to not remember enough of them to be able to elaborate. The film has a nice touch here where she says she wakes up “scared,” obviously playing off our previous scene with Roxas and Axel (from the previous day/post), where Axel reminded us that Nobodies shouldn’t be feeling “scared.”
Roxas tries to cheer Xion up by telling her what Xigbar said on Olympus Coliseum about the two of them being special, but she doesn’t care. She repeats what Saïx said about her being a mistake, and says: “You and I may both be exceptional, Roxas, but I don’t think we’re the same.” Ouch, walked into that one, Rox.
Speaking of “elementary mistakes,” Xion walks off, and in the game, Axel immediately walks in through the same path, and acts like he didn’t see her. Since he has no reason to lie, I get the impression that Axel is supposed to have arrived considerably later. Unfortunately, there was no hard cut, just a change in camera angle, so he really does appear on the scene seconds after she left, via the same route. The film would have been utterly incompetent not to dust this off, so they did double. Firstly, there’s a camera pan to imply that time is passing, and then the film has Axel arrive from the opposite side of the tower for the first time ever, just to underline that he couldn’t have possibly bumped into Xion. Thank goodness for this fix! Roxas doesn’t mention the fight, and the scene immediately ends, so in a manner of speaking, this addendum existed purely to show that the game devs lacked basic cinematic training.
On the bottom screen, like a Static, Roxas gets a fairly clear picture of the opening of CoM, when Sora came to the crossroads (though technically this higher-quality visual comes from the end of the Deep Dive trailer). The implication, I feel, is that maybe Roxas too is having a dream…
Your prize for Mission 44 is not only a Sight Unit for 100%, but also the High Jump panel for completing the mission. Your new mobility not only speeds up travel and helps in some fights, but it will help you backtrack to nab things from old missions. If you weren’t able or willing to master the Lift Gear trick in Agrabah, that scaffold will be easy to reach now, though sadly some platforms will remain out of your reach. It’s just nice to know that we’ll be missing less prizes from here on out (a refreshing period in any Metroidvania, if you ask me), and that sort of peace of mind is worth filling up the panel slot, even on a flat world like Halloween Town.
Sorry for the short post today: the rigid mission-block structure of Days is binding my hands to a certain degree. It was either expand the previous post to a towering 6000 words, expand the next post to a towering 6300 words, or enjoy this breath of fresh air in the middle.
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).