Day 224: Anomaly
Day 224 (wow, that may have been our largest time skip yet?) starts in the Mansion at Twilight Town, where Naminé is tending to Sora’s pod. DiZ comes in, once again (but for the last time) voiced by Christopher Lee, and states matter-of-fact that Naminé has stalled. Naminé admits that “A Nobody is interfering, I think.” She “thinks.” The picture she drew over a month ago, and the detail she’s about to provide, suggest she’s known about Roxas for a while but has just been hoping DiZ wouldn’t catch on, probably suspecting what DiZ would eventually do. But now that he’s confronting her, she buckles at once. Poor Naminé.
This is where the game starts to get a little confusing, and the not the complimentary and intentional kind of confusing like with Xion’s hood. This is the point where the developers start to falter on communicating their ideas even when it seems like they’re trying to be clear-cut. I had best quote Naminé in full:
“I keep trying to piece [Sora’s] memory back together, but what if some of the pieces got lost? There would be no way for me to finish. If that happened—and they found their way into someone else—he’d never get them back.”
DiZ says it doesn’t matter if Sora’s missing some memories, which is very practical – hell, DiZ probably doesn’t care if Sora misses a lot of important memories, either! I feel we’re meant to compare DiZ to Xemnas in this regard: Xemnas views Roxas as “the right tool for the job,” and DiZ sees the same about Sora. Keep in mind DiZ’s line here as we view Xemnas’ actions in the later game: “Oh, I think he can do without a memory or two.”
Naminé tries to hint to DiZ that something worse is going on (again, he’s a scary guy, and I don’t think Naminé wants to admit this, so her concern for Sora is being balanced against her fear of DiZ). She implies Sora needs certain memories to wake up, and they’re somehow in danger. DiZ then exposits about Naminé’s powers, just in case there’s someone new in the audience, essentially saying: “Well, you’re the expert.” At last, Naminé admits her specific fear: “If his memories become her memories…she will never survive it,” clearly talking about Xion. We will later cut to Xion to make this comparison adamant.
This confession turns out to be just as dire as Naminé feared. In a single word – “She?” – DiZ confirms he didn’t know Xion even existed before now, and he sounds pissed to learn. And given how we know he’s going to treat Roxas in KH2…
We essentially return to our oldest question from this game: no one ever mentioned Number XIV in KH2, and why is that? What happened to her?
In the Grey Area, you learn Roxas is teamed up with Demyx today for Mission 61. “Goooood luck with that!” says Axel. Demyx tries to delay the mission by sending you on another sidequests to clear out Halloween Town Heartless. Once you get down to work, it’s bad news: it’s big bad boss time at Olympus Coliseum. And since all bosses are solo affairs in Days, you can bet Demyx will drop you like a hot potato the moment you turn your back.
Saïx tells you to “inspire” Demyx with your work ethic. I do like moments like this where Saïx implies Roxas really is a hard worker, though they’re only implications. Remember, by the start of KH2, once Roxas recovers his memories, he destroys Axel, who had been CoM’s penultimate boss, and is ahead of the difficulty curve when he comes back in FM+. KH2 Roxas is supposed to be very good. Showing a power progression was something KH2 did very well, and I stand by it here in Days. There’s good foundation to believe that between Phil’s training and Saïx working you like a dog that Roxas comes out of Days as one of the franchise’s power players. And all you have to do to get to that point is… survive another major boss. Fine! That’s fine! I’m not sweating, you’re sweating!
Okay, I kid: this is probably the easiest of the major bosses, maybe even including the Darkside. The intended “challenge” here is the fact that you’re about to enter Phil’s Rookie Cup, and that means a semi-traditional tournament setup. Emphasis on the “semi.” By the time you get to the boss, you’re already kind of tired, so they didn’t go all hostile like with the Infernal Engine and Antlion. Let’s take their generosity before they change their minds, c’mon!
Do I even need to say that Demyx ditches you at the gate? Believe it or not, he tries not to: “Are you crazy? And risk finding the thing?” but he instantly changes his mind at the doors. Like I said: weird running gag. You probably shouldn’t waste time outside, but there is a Slot Releaser out there. I got hit while I was grabbing it and Phil admitted me into the games while I was actively on fire. Demyx shows up again (running gag!), including an actually funny joke. “Ahh, I follow you,” says Demyx, in regards to something Roxas just said. “I wish you would,” says Roxas. See? Sarcastic Roxas is great!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that as Phil’s going into the arena, the game does a confusing, dare-I-say dramatic close-up of the “Closed” sign that hangs in the arena, rather than focusing on Phil himself. There’s a related Static here that also doesn’t make any sense, showing Donald talking to Sora. Maybe it’s supposed to imply that Roxas… thinks of Demyx… the way Sora thinks of Donald? Huh?
The Rookie Cup is five rounds long, each with its own gimmick. Round one is just you and some Soldiers and Shadows, a direct reference to the opening of the preliminaries in KH1, plus a barrel that’s there just because barrels are the world’s local gimmick. After the battle, Roxas does Cloud’s behind-the-back victory pose from FFVII, which Sora borrowed in KH1. Of course, Sora borrowed it among others, while sadly Roxas only has the one victory pose. I know Roxas’ memories come from Sora, but this really seems like a missed opportunity here. Hell, why not bring in some new ones?
Round 2 is my least favourite of the set, as you fight repeat waves of Hover Ghosts with their hugs of death, who are just as irritating to fight as ever and easily dodge your barrels. It’s probably the longest round besides. Round 3 is against an Ice Cannon and some Striped Arias, which thankfully don’t have a de-spawn range here, so nothing special. Round 4: the arena is set in the form of a tall pyramid as you fight a Tailbunker, with some… are you kidding?… with some Yellow Operas that you haven’t seen since near the start of the game, which as far as I can tell exist purely to make you miss hitting the Tailbunker with the barrel that’s on the top of the tower.
After Round 4, Phil tells you that you’re going up against a mystery fighter in the finals. Phil’s all support: “Don’t let anybody else walk outta here with your title! Remember–I’m expectin’ stuff from you, kid!” Do you see where this is going? Oh Roxas. You’ve grown up so much in the past few days. It’s actually been fun to watch you and play as you, and Phil is showing you the kind of support Sora can’t even dream of. Please Roxas, I’m begging you, don’t— “Expecting… You mean you order me to win?” That’s it! That’s it, you’re disowned! I’m playing the rest of the game in Mission Mode with Larxene!
Phil isn’t as confounded by this as he should be, and says “It means I have faith you can win.” Roxas seems to understand what “Faith” means… I think. He does locks up just like every other word he’s never understood… Actually, maybe I’m being presumptuous: if Roxas knew what having faith in someone means as an idiom, he should have been able to work out what “I’m expecting stuff from you” means. This is one of the major problems with Roxas’ kindergartener language lapses: once or twice I could maybe understand (especially since this game wasn’t written in English) since almost no one is a master of their own language, but after a point I find it irregular that Roxas seems to have advanced command of the language one moment and doesn’t understand some very basic components and expressions the next.
Roxas walks out into the arena, but he’s got a surprise waiting for him: his opponent is Xigbar. I love how this was built up in all of Xigbar’s dogging you with sidequests to “bulk up” at Phil’s training, it’s clear he’s developed some sort of personal interest in seeing you here, maybe even fighting you here (after the mission, Roxas wonders if Xigbar was trying to test him – I wonder, was he trying to test Roxas, or Sora? Or both?). “Try to make it look real, Roxas!”
The fight against Xigbar isn’t quite as bad as it looks – he’ll stop fighting you well above half HP (60%?). Indeed, his strategies aren’t very good to begin with and if you come back later in the game, he tends to fall apart almost instantly. At this point in the game, however, he can be a pain, namely closing the gap between you and him. Use Glide as much as possible, even Air Slide if you think it might help. You could block his shots until he reloads, but it’s not huge deal. Lastly, you could run up to him and use Dodge Roll: if you have Auto-Dodge, this may be more appealing than it sounds, because Xigbar’s shots are so thin that Auto-Dodge will trigger reliably.
After Xigbar is half-drained, the fight is interrupted by the arrival of your real target: a… Guard Armour. A Guard Armour! It’s 2009, put the poor thing on the shelf! I understand the Darkside as an iconic boss since it was the first boss in the franchise, but this is the second boss! Do Final Fantasy games still include fights against Astos the Dark Elf? The only reason anyone remembers Dodongos was because they dislike smoke! The Guard Armour’s multi-part gimmick barely even works in this game, and if you can’t pull that off, what’s even the point?
Phil rushes off to find Hercules, and for a second it looks like you’re going to engage the Guard Armour with Xigbar, only for him to… walk off. Dude really is a putz. Okay, solo after all.
As the fight starts, the bottom screen shows an interactive Static of Sora fighting the Guard Armour in Traverse Town! This is an impressive effect, but I don’t think justifies this recycled boss refight. It’s nice to see Traverse Town and all, but if we had to do this, I still would have preferred we give the Guard Armour a break!
Despite the Guard Armour’s venerable, boring history, here it fights more like the Large Amours of this game: only vulnerable in the head. It also uses similar stomp attacks, though this causes it to lose its head, giving you a chance to use ground attacks.
After a certain amount of damage (and this seems to happen no matter how strong you are, there’s no way to kill this thing outright to rush through the speed run Challenge), the Guard Armour will suffer a short circuit and its arms and legs will walk off on their own. You can’t hurt the body and head during this phase, so you go off trying to destroy the parts as usual. Should you fail to catch them all, they’ll reattach, and the missing parts will temporarily and magically reappear until you short circuit the body again, when the “dead” parts will vanish. Once it’s out of parts, the Guard Armour just collapses and waits for you to finish it off. Another anticlimax to wrap things up!
Xigbar returns to compliment Roxas, and Roxas gets a chance to shout at Demyx for not helping as well. Demyx just puts on this act that he was really, really involved in watching the match. “And what a shocker to find out Xigbar was the other finalist!” I admit it, I laughed.
And then, undermining everything I said about Roxas growing up over the past few missions… he leaves, leaving the arena empty and Phil wondering if he fucking died or something. Jackass. You legitimately don’t care about Phil, do you? Wow. Phil runs in with Hercules, and in his confusion, mentions Roxas’ name in front of Hercules for the first time, even though he’s “been talkin’ about him for days now.” Herc says the boy he scouted wasn’t named Roxas at all, and Phil is left flabbergasted.
Back at the tower, Xion and Roxas are starting to talk about Xigbar arranging a fight with Roxas when Axel arrives. Axel is very rude to Xion, and she calls him out on it, pissed. He apologizes, and seems to mean it, which makes me wonder… why did he do it in the first place? We’re supposed to be getting across that he learned something upsetting or weird about Xion in that book about Naminé, but that he also still cares about her and is having conflicting feelings. Fair, fair. But it’s honestly rather heavy-handed and very quickly discarded, and I notice the film skips the initial argument entirely!
Now that they’ve… cleared the air?… Xion has a question for Axel about Castle Oblivion. Axel doesn’t have much to say. He says “The Organization uses it as a research facility.” Xion seems suspicious that neither she nor Roxas have ever been sent there. Thankfully, she has a reason to be suspicious, because otherwise her complaint makes no sense: sure, she and Roxas have never been there, but as far as we’ve been told, neither have Demyx, Luxord, Saïx, Xaldin, Xigbar… or for that matter, Xemnas himself!
Axel says “they probably just don’t need you there, that’s all.” In the game, I get the vague impression that Xion is angry at this dismissal (perhaps in a continuation from the fight at the start of the scene?), but the film, Alyson Stoner or her voice director chose a certain mix of disappointment and drowsiness, and for good reason. As Xion stands up to leave, she suddenly feels some kind of pain in her head and tips straight over the edge.
Roxas catches her at the last second, and is able to haul her back to the safety of the platform. There, she tries to wave off the boys, saying she’s fine, such that Axel sees the need for a new approach. Pretending the idea occurred to him randomly, Axel announces that on their next day off, the three of them should go to the beach (since Xion is so fond of the beach, what with the seashells). This is a legitimately great idea! So why is my only thought the three of them tanning on the beach in full Org robes?
Roxas catches on to what Axel is doing (and confirms in his journal for the day) and they both encourage Xion to go, though she’s initially reticent, saying “I’ll join you… if I can.” She ultimately agrees in the end, and seems to perk up a little.
Your prize for clearing this day is Firaga. The –ga level spells in this game are highly specific, which makes it hard to want to bring them into every mission like you would a handy seeker Fire or Freeze-certain Blizzara. To make matters worse, the game rarely rewards you with copies of –ga level tiles, forcing you to use synthesis and Recipes, and we’ve already talked about what a pain those can be.
Firaga is a mortar spell, which fires off into the air and comes down for an impressive area effect that may be too belated to be of any use. In fact the game seems to assure the fireball stays in the air for a certain amount of time no matter how you launch it, so the only way to “speed it up” is to be standing below an enemy when you cast it. It’s completely different from the instant-effect homing and dumb-fire shots you’ve seen for Fire in the past, which is going to make it harder to switch over, since the other two are so practical.
On top of this, if you happen to have collected nearly every single Challenge Sigil in the game at this point (including three of this Mission’s six), you’ll also win a prize of a 4-slot Glide panel, the largest Glide panel in the game, available at 150 Sigils. This will allow you to equip all three Glide LV+ panels available in the main game. The fourth and final Glide panel is arbitrarily locked off until the post-game, and you need to get 170 Sigils on top of that!
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).