Day 193: Xion Awakens
Day labels, what did I say about spoilers? Oh, why do I even bother.
After the time skip, we get an extended, bottom-screen recollection of Sora giving up his heart to Kairi and she having to watch him dissolve in her arms. But to our surprise, when the top screen chimes in, it’s Xion we’re looking at, if only for a moment. Xion wakes up, and finds Roxas looking over her, leaving it unclear whose memory we just saw.
This seems as opportune a time as any to explain the title, especially considering Nomura made an unreasonable assumption of how the title would even be read, much less understood. Again, the title should be read: “358 Days over 2.” The idea behind it is that we’d be seeing “358 days” over 2 perspectives, Roxas’ and Xion’s. Well of course, why didn’t I see it before? If a native Japanese speaker would like to tell me if the title sounds any less asinine in the original language, please do, but I’m doubting it.
The first thing Xion notices as she wakes up are the seashells Roxas has gathered, I like how Roxas couldn’t be tidy with the seashells like Xion did, and just puts them in a pile. There’s a personality moment for you, very nice touch. Roxas tells Xion how long she was out, and says that he and Axel were worried. This is where Xion points out the boiling and obvious: “weird that we can feel anything at all, huh? Without hearts to feel with.”
Xion, showing no sign of exhaustion, atrophy or lingering injury, says she wants to get up immediately, which can only end well. The film wanders off at this point, because a Saïx scene is upcoming and god forbid the film include it.
In the Grey Area, Saïx is there to greet you, if you call “Well, well. It lives,” a greeting. Xion ignores Saïx and demands to go on Roxas’ next mission with him. It doesn’t seem like Xion is going to back down this time like she has in the past, but as in the past, it helps that Axel arrives and suggests he go along as well as a babysitter. I’m glad to see some development for Xion here but I wish the devs would stop relying on this exact plot structure where Axel is always saving the day for our two babies.
But I’ve been glossing over the most important part of this scene, which is so important that I feel the film really suffers for its absence. You see, during this scene: Xion’s hood “thing” returns, where it can be on or off seemingly at random, and it’s right in your face this time. You can’t ignore it. And it can’t be a coincidence after the game raised the question of whether it was Roxas or Xion who had the memory from Hollow Bastion. Something is up with Xion. In fact, if you’re like me you may have noticed exactly when the hood is on and off: it seems to be on in every shot that’s shot from Saïx’s perspective. Let’s look back at the cutscenes from Mission 23… Shit, that’s it exactly: her hood is up in every scene that’s shot from Axel’s perspective, or when she is talking to Axel. The hood thing stops when after Axel accepts her request to be friends! (This is why I considered the game version of that scene superior: it’s not clear that this shot of Xion without her hood is from Axel’s perspective). The fuck. I was freaking out over this during my first playthrough! “What do you two see in that thing,” Saïx says. “Just look at it.” Saïx has been seeing Xion with her hood up this entire time!. The hell is going on, and what does it even mean?
In fact, Days is a game that benefits heavily from a second play-through, probably why both Holo-Missions and Mission Mode repeat cutscenes in full, and why it this was the first game shipped with Theatre Mode in the vanilla release (Theatre Mode is a feature where you can re-watch cutscenes after beating the game – it was first included in KH2:FM+ and Re:CoM, which as you’ll recall were released together, and has been in every game since Days, even though KHX and KHUX both dragged their feet on it for a while!). It’s telling that this is my first Retrospective with extensive use of spoiler tags, indeed I considered going even more extensive with them, but decided it was best to stick to my original premise of following the path of a first-time viewer. Still, if you’ve only ever played Days once, I recommend playing it again after some time away… and I do mean playing it, not watching the film, which has too many excisions even if the acting and models are much better.
Saïx doesn’t seem to be in the mood to argue today, and he agrees to the trio’s request, even though the Organization has never fielded a three-person team in the past. And never will again, in fact. I wonder why? The narrative reasons are clear (why spread resources so thin?) but the developers didn’t have to write things that way. The game can clearly handle the additional party members, so were there fears of technical issues that never arose? Difficulty? Frankly, AI companions are more trouble than they’re worth and you might be itching to turn their AI off in the menu, but I don’t think the developers were aware of that or they might have fixed some of the underlying AI problems. The uselessness of the AI partners as-executed aside, I found this mission to be a lot of fun conceptually, and I think they could have justified at least a handful of other two-partner missions.
Before the mission, you can do another of those synthesis “sidequests” for Xaldin. He wants you to combine a Moonstone and a Shield Tech, two pretty ancient ingredients at this point in the game, because he claims to “not know what they create” because he “lacks the ingredients.” The… the Moogle gives you a list that tells you what synthesis creates, you know that right, Xaldin? You could just ask! Xaldin? In any event, the result is a Perfect Block panel, which eliminates recoil from blocking if your timing is good. You get a useless Range Tech for the “favour.” The game is clearly trying to hoist upgrade panels on you. Personally, I don’t even like Perfect Block. Give me one of the elemental blocks any day. Those cause status effects!
As you might expect from what I’ve been saying, Mission 56 is more of a fun-time party than serious business, even though Saïx throws you against two midbosses instead of just one. You’re in Twilight Town, because of course you are.
This mission is packed with Minute Bombs, including their upgraded counter-parts, Detonators. Detonators are, uh, Fire-aligned bombs? As opposed to the fire of regular bombs? Detonators are durable and have a large explosion, though they’re not eager to use it. Just freeze the bastards, or at least, freeze them on any other mission. You might want to hold off today, because today one of your midbosses is weak against ice and you’ll want to save your shots.
The midboss I’m referring to is the Heat Sabre, a Fire-aligned Zip Slasher, backed with a Barrier Master. The Heat Sabre is a lot more likely to attack you than any of the other Heartless that have accompanied Barrier Masters in the past, which makes this even more frustrating than it sounds. After the Barrier Master is dead, the Heat Sabre is exactly like the Dual Blade (including the part where you don’t have the third-tier spell – Blizzaga, in this case – that you need to stun it), so there’s nothing else to say.
Unfortunately, the film comes back to us towards the end of the mission, which is never a good sign. As you reach Station Plaza, Xion simply faints. We see why in a moment: she’s having another rush of memories to the bottom screen, and this time it’s very clear that she’s the one remembering Sora and Kairi’s past, not Roxas. In this glut, she remembers Kairi fading into Sora’s arms during the Night of Fate at Destiny Islands, and later Kairi giving Sora the Oathkeeper and having him promise to return it. Unfortunately, this is when the second Heartless boss appears. Axel catches Xion as she falls, and Roxas and Axel wordlessly lock eyes and agree on a plan: Axel will take Xion aside and Roxas will fight the Heartless. And then… they say the plan out loud that they seem to have worked out wordlessly! Thanks for removing the subtlety.
The second midboss here is a Destroyer, a recolour of the Guardian from way back in Mission 11. The Destroyer’s super-lasers are fire-aligned, and the game makes things even more complicated by having Minute Bombs spawn so that the Destroyer can set them alight with its attacks! Yes, yes, that’s very cute, but this is still a recolour of the boss we fought 3 missions out of the tutorial, so it’s not exactly a challenge.
Xion still hasn’t recovered after the battle (though she is muttering Sora’s name). The boys decide to take her back to the castle, because they’re morons. The Org doesn’t seem to have any dedicated medical care, couldn’t you at least check in to an inn and give her to sundown? I know they don’t know that she’ll be fine by the end of the day, but they must know that if they go back to the castle… yup, yup, there he is. Shocking no one, they bump into Saïx right at the gate. “Well, that didn’t take long. Did it break again?” What the hell did they expect?
This situation is manufactured, but while my disdain for manufactured situations grows deeper and deeper with every Kingdom Hearts game from KH2 through BBS, that doesn’t mean the payoff can’t be good from time to time. While Roxas tires to start a fight, Axel just walks past Saïx with Xion, saying “Keep your mouth shut.” Ooh! Love Axel here, though, guy knows what’s not worth fighting. Saïx mutters “You have changed,” but it’s clear he’s come up short in this exchange. “Something at Castle Oblivion changed you. Does the past mean nothing to you now?”
For the record, this scene is in the film, as are other Saïx scenes, so Ginpei Sato can’t have been completely unavailable…
In Xion’s room, Roxas asks Axel if he’s worried, and Axel admits it outright, which implies that in brushing past Saïx, he’s also pushed past whatever barrier was keeping him from admitting that he was experiencing emotions, too. Roxas confronts him with this, but in a teasing way. “You hate complications,” he says, echoing a previous line. Axel isn’t really in the mood for teasing, however. After some preamble, he admits to the others and to himself that the two of them are his best friends, and repeats Genie’s word from earlier: “inseparable.” This game loves its callbacks, it’s one of the things that rewards a second viewing. Xion is awake in time to hear this. Everything seems fine, even though by rights she should honestly stay in bed this time (but won’t).
In the Mansion at Twilight Town, we see that Naminé has drawn a picture of our hooded trio.
Big haul today: your double-boss mission seems to reward double prizes, with both a Level Doubler and the new Thundara spell. Thundara is similar to Thunder from KH1: a deterrence spell in an area of effect around the caster. I’m not all that fond of it compared to Thunder’s multi-hit possibilities and Thundaga’s sheer force, but to each their own.
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).