Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Gunpowder Deku Sticks

days-2016-11-26-13h08m38s612Day 173: Lies and Days 174-176: Action, Reaction

Promising title for Day 173, very promising.

At the start of the day, Axel fills Roxas in on the fact the he couldn’t squeeze any information about Xion out of Saïx. Roxas is clearly let down, so Axel suddenly sputters: “But he did say he would take back calling her broken, if she proves herself more capable going forward.” Wow Axel, now you’re acting like you have a heart. And there’s no way this lie can come back to bite anyone at all!

…What’s that? It doesn’t come back to bite anyone at all? Wow, first we get accurate emotional portrayals, next they discard clichés. Did I put in the wrong game yesterday or something?

If you chat with Axel after the lie, he’ll give you another of those boring weapon check-up sidequests (this time it’s to see if you have a weapon with three panels installed). I know there’s a need to keep a new player on their toes, but I’ve had a weapon with three panels for most of the game so far, and you could easily have four. This sidequest unlocks an optional mission, and I supposed it’s one that can be a kick in the pants, so the weapon check-up at least makes sense here, if only accidentally.

days-2016-11-26-13h11m44s629In other sidequest news, Luxord wants you to combine some stuff together for no clear reason, similar to the sidequest Demyx gave you ages ago. This time, the items combine to make a Chrono Gear+, just in case you haven’t been keeping your Gear up to date. If you show Luxord the Chrono Gear+, he’ll give you a bonus Shining Gem. …Wait, the game’s idea of keeping your gear up to date with incentives is to have you make an out-of-date magic-centric Keyblade? I suppose it’s a better way to encourage magic use than nothing, but if the player can’t be trusted to keep their Gear in date, can they really be trusted in the more complicated task of keeping their Magic in line? I’m surprised there are no “have you equipped magic” sidequests, in fact!

The Bonus Gauge for this mission block is a little more heavily weighted this time, compared to past mission sets. On the other hand, none of the prizes are that grand this time around. I recommend tripling Mission 55, as it has multiple components for bleeding edge Gears and Rings (Gear Component B and Dark Ingots!). Mission 52 has Fira for a 100% that’s also good on the high-end. 53 is offering a moderately rare Luck Tech that might excite you since this is your first chance to get it, but they are common enough late in the game that I don’t feel you have to bother. Besides: Mission 53 unlocks a mobility upgrade you’ll want to equip as soon as possible! Lastly, Mission 54 is almost completely worthless: there are Frost Gems for making my precious Blizzaras, but there are other ways to get those.

days-2016-11-26-15h03m26s767Mission 52 is mandatory: a second Heartless hide-and-seek in Halloween Town. While you can start hunting immediately, you can’t proffer Zero’s services until you follow the plot a little. In the graveyard, Jack is showing Zero a lantern he’s invented, which doesn’t explode or anything! I knew you could do it, Jack! Zero vanishes after the cutscene, though he eventually shows up with no fanfare later in the mission. I realize they wouldn’t have wanted to let him loose before you explore every room in the level but this is a little sloppy. In any event, you’re going to have to keep looking on your own for just a little while longer.

(Jack’s balloons, by the way, are in fair numbers in this mission, making this mission their last, sputtering hurrah.)

Unlike the balloons, Jack’s lanterns aren’t tied to Heartless, but rather to doors. By lighting all the lanterns in a room, you can open Halloween Town’s old secret passages. You can use Fire spells to do this, but you don’t need to: the pumpkin bombs work just as well, and respawn on re-entering the room, should you screw up. After you do this twice, you’ll arrive at Moonlit/Curly Hill, where, you guessed it, Lock throws a pumpkin bomb in Roxas’ face.

For some reason, the imps seem adamant you not go past them, and they seem to have a reason for doing so. Personally, I feel the devs disguise this well by having the imps pretend that they’re just being jerks, but Roxas treats it as obvious that they’re cutting him off for An Important Reason. C’mon devs, give yourself a little credit! On the other hand, this is a reverse of the usual stupid Roxas, so that’s good character development too, right? The imps chuck another bomb at Roxas, and this time he summons his Keyblade. Oh good, we’re assaulting children again. Now this is truly a Kingdom Hearts game. And we’re ANGRY about it this time!

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Roxas beats on an unconscious Barrel.  Look, it’s not even subtext at this point.

This is the easiest fight you’ve ever had with these three, and that’s saying a lot. Shock and Barrel seem to have lost the “kick” they used to have in their special attacks, and while Lock is now throwing pumpkin bombs, they aren’t very powerful (the pumpkin bombs are still an improvement over his old strategy of… uh… actually I don’t remember Lock impacting battles in any way in the past, so this promotion was definitely warranted). To make matters worse for the imps, there’s another lantern puzzle in this room, which means that there are pumpkin bombs in this room that you can happily use on the midbosses. They’re screwed.

After the fight, Roxas asks why they’re being little shits about him being here, and Barrel implies they’re hiding something “back there” before clamming up. The imps manage to get away from Roxas, however, by exploiting Roxas’ biggest weakness: an substandard understanding of basic vocabulary and humanoid behaviour. They mention “pranks” and he’s so confounded by the idea that people find pranks fun. And not because he disagrees! You can tell he’s confused by the word: it’s in the exact same way he was confused by “love” and “expectations.” He just stands there, ticking like a broken clock, as they get up and throw another bomb in his face.

By the way, I hope you enjoyed that, because that was the second and last Disney fight in the entire game. And while I generally like the idea of there being more Heartless bosses in Kingdom Hearts, even if it means more Heartless fights than Disney fights, two Disney bosses is just embarrassing!

The imps bolt, and use one of their bombs to crack one of the fences so they can escape. They again retreat to “Our secret hiding spot!” You mean… the one that turns out to be in the opposite direction? The direction you were trying to stop Roxas from going? They run past Jack, who saw the explosion, and gets inspired to enhance his Halloween plans with more explosions! Jack, I’ve blown up so many pumpkins in my three trips that I’m pretty sure your entire town is coated in gunpowder. I’m afraid to cast Fire spells within city limits. Please stop this Jack. Stop this while it can still be stopped.

days-2016-11-26-15h05m45s394Returning to Moonlit Hill, we have that lantern puzzle I was talking about. This one can be a bit trickier, because there are normal pumpkins blocking your path. After KH2 wisely flattened the decorative pumpkins in this room, Days’ foolish point-for-point loyalty to KH1 makes it even harder to navigate this room than ever thanks to these chunky pumpkins. Remember when I mentioned getting snagged on a broom in Beast’s Castle? The hit detection on small objects is just wonky in this game, and I’m not sure why.

After you’re done this puzzle, you might want to consider one of the more unusual secrets in this game. Should you take a pumpkin bomb and use it on the crack the imps made in the wall, you’ll actually blow it clean open! This makes a shortcut between Moonlit Hill and the first section of graveyard, circumventing the second section (the room in KH1 where the Mayor held his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Simon Says game with ghosts). After this hole is opened, it is permanent in every mission that follows (even if you open the hole in a Holo-mission – wrap your head around that). Nothing else in the entire game works like this, and I’m surprised they did it both at all and only once!

Once you’ve done the last lamp puzzle, you’ll have full access to the map, and to Zero. There’s nothing else new after that point, so tip the dog on the way out and head on home.

days-2016-11-26-15h07m18s673Mission 53 sends you to a new world, so of course it’s mandatory. Yes, another new world. This is the other world I said used entirely new content, though I’m considerably less impressed with it than I was with Agrabah. The level of effort in this world is so minimal that I can only imagine it was done on a shoestring budget. Welcome back to Neverland, except still not actually Neverland. No: last time it was just the ship, and this time, it’s a bunch of random islands that aren’t the main part of Neverland at all. The actual chain of islands you visit varies by mission (there are three in all) but only one of them has anything in them that’s from the film. That is… besides the Jolly Roger, Hook’s ship. If you were sick of it from KH1, good news! You can be sick of it here too.

This first particular chain of islands is dominated by the large one you’re standing on now. Roxas knows the world name going in this time, so I can only assume someone else investigated prior to you. Like CoM, Days spells “Neverland” as two words, “Never Land,” but for the record the film and books use the single-word version of “Neverland,” so don’t expect to hear the two-word version from me. Roxas takes in the sights, no doubt marvelling at the strangely up-scaled plant life and over-high cliffs. Hmm, it’s almost as though this entire map were designed to be seen by someone from a distance and not up close, as though soaring through the air perhaps, but of course (he says, scoffing) that would be ludicrous. Over the ledge I mentioned, Roxas spots two figures in the distance: Captain Hook (his low-res model completely bug-eyed) and Smee, the latter digging a hole.

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Those eyes are about to escape.

Hook has a map, and the two of them have an odd discussion. Hook says “There’s no mistaking it this time! The treasure’s most certainly here!” Smee replies: “That would be a nice change from the last dozen places, eh, Captain?” It seems they’ve found a whole stack of treasure maps, but all they’ve found by following the maps is buried “junk.” Hook is convinced that most of the maps are decoys while one of them leads to the real treasure. No matter what the reality, it’s clear the tedium is wearing on Hook. Hey, me too, man, the Infernal Engine taught me that! Hook’s anger grows so great that he glows with darkness, and an Air Battler Heartless is summoned. Air Battlers are weaker versions of the Aerial Masters you fought in Agrabah, even after you account for level-scaling. There’s not much more to say about then.

Okay, it’s fairly clear what happened from our perspective: Hook, tired and angry, summoned the Heartless in the same manner as Clayton. I wish we saw more of this sort of thing, since it connects the Disney plot to the Heartless in a more direct way than we usually see, but we’re seeing it now so I won’t complain for the time being. But Hook doesn’t seem to understand, and seems to think the Heartless came from the chest, and implies this has happened at the past few treasure chests as well. But how doesn’t Hook know he was the one who summoned it? He was at the council meeting with Maleficent where they discussed Clayton. Maybe he never had the power to command the Heartless (he was essentially just Maleficent’s driver), but I’m surprised he never absorbed this basic information. I know Hook is a comic relief villain in many ways, but this is straining credulity, alongside my suspension of disbelief!

Hook and Smee flee, and Roxas says ” Now’s my chance to take out those Heartless.” This seems to imply this mission was a generic heart hunt at some point in development, though in the current version, your orders are to find a Tailbunker recolour called a Wavecrest, which would arguably be less tedious than a heart hunt for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

days-2016-11-26-15h08m45s620The Air Battler gets some buddies in on the action: these are new bell wizards – wait, wait, don’t run away, I don’t have much to say this time! These are tame, KH1-styled bell wizards, not those monsters from Wonderland! These wizards are called Turqoise Marches that cast Water spells. These spells are kind of hard-pressed to hurt you at a distance, since they essentially drop straight to the ground like a real dollop of water. The dollop of water does splash a bit when it hits the ground (even moreso if it hits the water, not that that’s typically a problem) but by-and-large, the spell is so ineffective that you really only have to worry about a Turquoise March while you’re in direct, melee combat with one.

After the battle, Roxas chests the hole to find a dirty old box inside. If you search the hole yourself, you’ll find a Gust Shard, which isn’t exactly junk, per se, but I guess Hook is looking for good old fashioned doubloons rather than RPG items.

The holes Hook has dug essentially serve as Neverland’s local gimmick: you go find Hook’s chests and defeat the Heartless he unleashed at each location. Unfortunately, this leads to a number of programming issues. For starters: chests aren’t properly counted in your GUI like they are in every other mission in the game, which just seems like an oversight. More bothersome, however, is that if you open a Neverland chest, the game has to reload the entire map just to “turn off” the chest’s monster flag. This reveals the Heartless in the box, and once you kill them, the game has to reload the map again so that the chest can be used more-or-less normally. Days has other loading problems like this but nowhere is as obvious as here in Neverland.

days-2016-11-26-15h09m13s179Roxas goes to the end of the island, since he doesn’t really have anywhere else to go. There, he spots Tinker Bell spying on Hook and Smee. Roxas Statics back to Sora, which for once is plot important – just give it a minute. Tinker Bell sees him and tries to communicate, but of course isn’t able to speak. She seems to want Roxas to go to the ship, and long story short, she sprinkles him with pixie dust.

(This is just me talking as an ex-developer, but it’s pretty clear to me that the pixie dust doesn’t quite match up her flight path. I bet you this visual trick only works from a particular camera angle. If you zoomed out, you’d see Roxas standing in a patch of sparkling, sourceless rain, and that’s funny to me).

Thanks to Sora’s memories, Roxas works out what Tinker Bell can’t communicate on her own. He also realizes that the pixie dust will allow him to fly so long as he believes he can. Nice job, clown shoes, glad you’re still part of the team. Oh, and in reference to the scene where Sora jumped off the diving board and flew for the first time: this scene ALSO has a tacky, slow-mo instant replay! I… don’t know if that’s actually very admirable!

Tinker Bell then flies off to the ship, expecting you to follow. And Roxas, our hero… doesn’t. I know, he’s not a hero he’s nominally a villain, but this is super petty and goes on for multiple missions, so I just feel a little tweaked. “I feel bad not helping her, but I can’t risk being spotted. The mission comes first.” Screw you, man. This is just you being too childish or robotic to think for yourself again. In hindsight, I can tell that this is all trying to play into Neverland’s theme, but coming at from the front it just looks like another instance where Roxas refuses to think for himself even though we’re in the second half of the game and his arc.

days-2016-11-26-15h10m03s027It has to be said that the game is doing a terrible job of making Roxas appear as a villain to begin with. This isn’t out of the question – if you think about it, KH2 never actually implied that Roxas ever did anything particularly villainous, and it makes sense that he would be too busy trying to defeat Heartless to, say, seduce Edgar from The Aristocats into doing evil. True, Days still has to make Roxas into more of a hardass to be in line with KH2, but they were never obligated to make him a villain, and so they by-and-large didn’t… and that left him with no personality here. Even if he had been a villain and chose to ignore Tink of his own free will, that would have been more satisfying to me than this!

The flying controls are similar to KH1’s (KH1’s Japanese controls, that is, since Days using the Japanese controls in all versions): you tap Y in mid-air to start flying, Y is up and Jump is down, which is more logical than it sounds since Y is the upper button and B is the lower. If you didn’t like the flying controls in that game, you’re going hate them here, since Roxas is just as stiff as ever and certainly more stiff than Sora in KH1. To make matters worse, there’s no easy way in to swap panel layouts in this game except to save an entire second deck, so it’s hard to have a “flying deck” ready at any given mission. And you probably won’t be prepared the first time you do 53!

At this point, you have to go about the island, finding Captain Hook’s old chests, and waking the Heartless he left behind there. How he climbed up some of these great spires, I’ll never know. All you really have to do is find the chest that “contains” the Wavecrest, but if you want the other chests, feel free… not that they’ll encourage you. Some of the chests really are filled with junk, like Panaceas. The Wavecrest itself is no big deal if you read the brief and decoded that it was a water monster weak against Thunder. Unlike other Tailbunkers, the Wavecrest can’t ever be grounded (given the peninsula-like structure of Neverland, this was a good call), but who cares when Thunder causes multiple hits? Just make sure to physically tag the bastard if it gets Jolted for free damage, and you’re golden.

days-2016-11-26-15h10m27s114Back at the tower, Roxas is giddy to tell Axel that he flew. Axel just sort of accepts this jabber; besides trusting Roxas, I guess he’s seen weirder stuff than this in this line of work. Roxas nearly clues in to the fact that he has flown in the past (and his journal entries does catch on that “the guy in red” from his Statics must have flown in the past. “Is that it?”), and says he can’t wait to tell Xion.

After this mission you get Glide at long last, which is in the “Items Collected” section of the mission wrap-up rather than the Mission Rewards, since it wasn’t actually given to you by the Organization. Nice touch! Glide is also learned by your teammates after this mission block (teammates during this mission block do not get it, because you could have played the missions in any order). You shouldn’t think too hard about how they got it. The ability works the same as it ever did in past games, and will dramatically improve your speed-run times – in fact, if you’re like me and know Glide is coming, you might have skipped most of the speed-run Challenges until now, since they’re so much easier with Glide! Also, depending on your play-style, Glide may outright deprecate Air Slide for you, so if you want to clear out some panel space, be my guest. Air Slide is at least good at dodging attacks in mid-air (better than KH2’s Aerial Dodge ever was), and it’s got a lot of combo panels you can make use of, but if you’re not using it, ditch it!

(EDIT: Hirokey123 tells me that if you Aerial Dash and then immediately Glide, you’ll Glide at full speed from the outset.  Handy for speedruns!)

days-2016-11-26-15h11m18s096The remaining optional missions are simple, as they have been these last few blocks. Mission 54 sends you to Halloween Town to kill something called a Dual Blade. Days loves using the town square in Halloween Town as an arena to kill large Heartless, so get used to this. The Dual Blade is a Zip Slasher recolour, the first time you’ll be forced to fight a Zip Slasher outside of Challenges. I told you the original Zip Slasher was missing several attacks, so it’s time to learn what it was missing. The Zip Slasher’s cousins can launch spells depending on their alignment (in this case, Aerora), can do a stomp attack with shockwave, and can also charge up an attack you can block to stun it. For some reason, the game also lets you stun the Zip Slasher recolours if you hit them with a specific spell while they’re charging (indeed, their journals don’t mention the Block technique at all, which is just misleading). But I really do mean a specific spell, just like the Morning Star.  If you want to stun the Dual Blade, you have to use Thundaga, not Thunder or Thundara. And you don’t even have Thundaga!

A few more complications make this battle irritating, so irritating that it has an Ordeal Blazon (obviously, it’s worth waiting until you have Thundaga to try the Challenge!). First off, there are Skater Bombs present, and your teammate for this mission is Demyx, who is armed with a fair compliment of Blizzard spells that will be of no use against these. Second off, there’s a new Rare Vendor enemy to distract you when the fight starts! The Rare Vendors are recolours of the old Bulky Vendors. They can be tricky with their high HP, so much so that I made it through the whole retrospective playthrough never managing to finish one off. Lastly, there are pumpkin bombs. These can be handy, but don’t invest too heavily in them or you’re going to get Air-Tossed by our friend with the sword hands!

Oh, and once the room has cleared, you can easily fetch an Aerial Recovery Lv+ panel from a chest.

days-2016-11-26-15h15m25s719Mission 55 is an Organization emblem hunt in Wonderland with Luxord. Besides taking place in the largest space of any Org emblem mission you’ve seen so far (spanning the entirety of Wonderland), there’s nothing particularly special about this mission (except the enemies you have to kill to restore the Org emblems are so flighty!).  Oh, and I should say that you need Glide to get 100%, which is a little underhanded given that you quite possibly won’t have it yet. Once you’re done hunting, feel free to use your free reign to search that secret passage to the tea party garden, where you can find another Aerial Recovery Lv+ panel.

This level introduces’ the Rare Vendor’s distant evil cousin, the Tricky Monkey. A Cymbal Monkey resize and recolour, these things have a Flip-Foot attack that’s much harder to dodge, what with their size and increased survival time. Better left ignored, if and when you can help it.

Should you be at the bleeding edge of Challenge Sigil collection, this is around the time you might collect the Rage Gear (at 120 Sigils), which is ahead of the curve. The Astral Blast Keyblade it grants you has a number of mobility-related upgrades as its Abilities, along with the ability Chain Power, namely: 1. Chain Power, 2. Combo-Jump and 3. Combo-Air Slide.

That’s it, go home.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – The High Point
Next: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – A Trio in Action Together, At Last!


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).

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