Day 276: Disorder
The scene opens on Destiny Islands, where, in the DS version, we find Roxas looking sad out to sea, as the opening moments of KH1 play on the bottom screen, with Sora being woken by Kairi. In the film, the bottom screen takes place first, but with only half of its sounds – none of the voices are present – to show that the sequence is artificial in a different manner
Roxas collects a seashell and thinks of Xion, only to spot a cloaked figure that appears to be her crossing the islet bridge. He runs over and confronts her, but when she removes her hood, it reveals Zexion’s face! The screen begins to glitch. Zexion gestures and says “Surely, you must have known this was going to happen?” This is a spectacular choice of line. The player has no idea what’s he’s talking about, so it’s precision weighted to throw you into a confusion spiral.
Just then, the camera cuts back to Roxas, and reveals that Riku is standing behind him in his KH1 garb. “Why would I know?” he says. The two begin to circle around Roxas, and gradually veterans will realize what is going on: this is the climactic encounter between these two characters from CoM, in R/R. This is a fairly obscure scene and it’s good to see getting some extra credit, and is curiously relevant once you realize what’s going on in later viewings. The scene is also excellently shot, with Roxas’ confusion as the scene plays out even more dynamically than it originally did in Re:CoM. Due to Re:CoM’s descent from the GBA game, which could only show many of its characters from one angle due to sprite limitations, Re:CoM had an oddly static feel, but this scene somehow feels more dynamic than even the average KH scene, and makes the upgrade feel even better.
Zexion continues his speech. “[…In] your memory, you’ve been to a number of worlds before this one. And of course, in those worlds—” suddenly, the screen begins to glitch, and both Vince Corazza and David Gallagher voices are reading Zexion’s lines, “—the only beings you met were the dark kind.” Roxas begins to collapse as the glitches begin to take over. “That’s all that’s left in your heart, the darkest of memories. Your memories of home are gone—every one.”
Riku shouts “That’s a lie!” and I realize an interesting trick the actors employed in this: only the voice actor who should be speaking is emoting, while the “echoed” voice, in this case Zexion, is reading in a monotone. “I remember everything from the islands!” Just then, Roxas himself glitches out (and the glitches stick to him, not the screen, for the remainder of the scene). As the camera moves up in a sweep, we realize he has been transformed into Xion by the glitches. “They’re my… my closest friends,” says memory-Riku. As Xion rolls onto the ground, she becomes Riku, clutching his head. Zexion is still talking: “And who threw away those friends? Maybe it’s your own actions you’ve forgotten.” The camera suddenly zooms into our protagonist’s eye, which transforms to Sora’s. “It was you who destroyed your home!”
Sora is in a good deal of pain when the screen fades to black. When we cut back, we are looking at Xion’s face, as she is cradled by Riku in his current appearance, as she babbles about her identity, half-asleep. Riku has a look of astonishment is on his face, and he brushes away her hair as though afraid to touch her there. Remember, the last time Riku saw Xion’s face, it was with astonishment and revulsion. Something has changed between them. I feel it’s one of the best bit of character model emoting in the series.
We cut to Twilight Town, where Riku is meeting in the white room with Naminé. We later learn this is a flashback. Riku asks Naminé to fill him on why it’s taking so long to restore Sora’s memories. She says that “Sora’s memories are escaping through Sora’s Nobody into a third person, and now, they’re starting to become a part of her.” Her phrasing is odd at first, as though we were supposed to be questioning who “Sora’s Nobody” is really supposed to be. But unless Axel has secretly been the Nobody of Sora’s early 20s punk phase all this time, it doesn’t seem possible for Sora’s Nobody to be anyone but Roxas, just like he’s supposed to be. A localization problem, perhaps? In any event, Naminé is saying that: “Sora’s memories are escaping into Roxas and then to Xion.”
Naminé explains that if Xion simply “has” Sora’s memories, floating around inside her, that would be fine, but as she begins to “remember” them, they become her memories, and that means Naminé’d have to detach them first, then attach Xion’s own memories again, and DiZ would never allow that kind of delay. In the game, Naminé says it might even take years. She can’t brute force it either – she doesn’t describe the specifics but she says that if she did: “I risk Sora waking up to find out that nobody remembers him anymore,” as we saw is already the case in the present, as the Final Fantasy and Destiny Islands characters had forgotten him by the start of KH2, but we can assume that in Naminé’s hypothetical it would never get better.
Naminé says that the problem, in a dark and brutal way, is that Roxas and Xion keep trying to be their own people, and in forming their own identities they are laying claim to these errant memories and are preventing her from using them. She says that sadly, the ideal solution to this problem on Sora’s part is if both Roxas and Xion… “go away.”
This is all illustrated via in a shot of Roxas and Xion on a black background. In the game, Xion is unhooded, but in the film, the hood is up. There’s a good reason for this: Naminé is about to finally explain the mystery of the hood… at least in part. The player will at least now have a foundation on which to guess the remainder. Naminé explains that Xion wasn’t born… with a face. “Did you know her face was blank at first? […] But now, there’s a face that is clearly visible.” One very nice touch from the film is that as Xion comes in from the dark, her face becomes more visible, though the film has to eventually do a jump cut to swap out her model and remove the hood as it becomes relevant.
But why? Who on earth is born with no face, and where did it come from? All Naminé says for now is that this thing about the face “proves some of Sora’s memories are inside her.” (The film gets confused and says “That proves she has entered Sora’s memories”??). Naminé says that with the memories divided between three people – Sora, Roxas and Xion – she has no choice but to accept that Roxas and Xion have to die somehow if Sora has to be revived. Naminé uses different phrasing for this in both versions, but doesn’t seem willing to actually say “they need to die”: in the game, she says “All I can do is pick up the pieces once what has to be done, is done.” In the film, she just says: “…I’m afraid there’s no other way.” Riku agrees.
Back on Destiny Islands in the present, where Riku is still cradling Xion, Riku sees Roxas running past into a Dark Corridor. We’ll get back to that weird detail later, as it’s complicated. For the time being, the game and film head into Xion’s dream, where she, Roxas and Axel are hanging out on the paopu tree, in the same positions shared by Kairi, Sora and Riku (respectively) in KH1. This scene opened the original trailer for Days, so the recordings sound just a little different – maybe it’s my familiarity with the scene from the trailer, but another trailer moment is shows up later in the game that sounds almost out-of-character, and that may explain why I’m feeling a similar sense of “difference” in other trailer scenes.
Xion asks her friends if she’s not supposed to exist, and dream-Axel asks what she thinks. She says all she wants is to be with the two of them, but that she can’t come back, “Not the way I am now. …But… what would it take for me to be like you?” This is a very peculiar question, perhaps unexplainable at the moment, but the dream-friends do not reply.
We leave Riku and Xion behind at this point and return to the real-world clock tower, where Roxas finds Axel waiting for him. Roxas takes his seat (a distance apart from Axel, as though leaving space for Xion), and tells Axel a strange story. He says he was indeed at Destiny Islands today, and saw a girl that “looked kind of like Xion… but I couldn’t get close enough to tell for sure. […] To be honest, I’m not even sure today’s mission really happened. Feels like I just woke up from a dream or something.”
With this sort-of-evidence, it becomes possible to try to put the scene together what happened during this scene on a second viewing. Because Sora’s memories are flowing into Roxas and then into Xion, it seems that Xion is having some outright tangible identity problems and is actually seeing herself as them. I’m of the opinion that while we were following Roxas earlier in the scene (when he was on the beach), once we got to the islet we were actually following Xion in Roxas’ form, living out Roxas’ own intent to find Xion. The reason she began to contract Riku’s memories was either due to his physical proximity or just thanks to the way memories interconnect in the Kingdom Hearts universe.
Alternately, Roxas was only in the final shot and we were following Xion for the majority of the scene, beach and all. It may be that Roxas was actually in town for part of his mission, and “the girl that looked like Xion” may have actually been Kairi?
Alternately-alternately, Xion might not be at Destiny Islands in the first place! I wonder if she may still be at Castle Oblivion, and the Roxas we saw was a memory or mind-screw? That theory could stand on its own, but I could take it to another level. By rights, Riku is the only person still alive who still remembers the showdown with Zexion, but if this was Riku’s memory-room being projected on the walls to begin with…
Okay, maybe I don’t know what’s going on in this scene.
Back at the tower, Axel decides that thing have gone far enough. He stands up, and asks Roxas if he wants to look for Xion, Xemnas’ orders be damned. Axel really is the best, here. They’ll use their spare time after missions to go and find their friend at last.
No mission in this block.
Days 277-280: Searching
Curiously, despite defeating Leechgrave, you aren’t given a promotion at the start of this block! But don’t worry, it’s not because they don’t value your services: it’s just because you’re about to fight another boss and they wanted to reward you for both. You know… with one prize. Corporate efficiency and all that.
Despite Roxas presumably wanting to spend all his spare time looking for Xion, there is a sidequest in this block, and it’s a weird one. Demyx wants you to find all the hidden Halloween Town Heartless in Mission 62… which wasn’t a hidden Heartless mission in the first place? Hmm. This is the Carrier Ghost mission, and it seems there were Heartless hidden in that mission all along! Problem: Zero and his bones aren’t in this mission, so you’re going to be all on your own. Thankfully, there are no hidden Heartless in the room with twenty Hover Ghosts, so you can use the shortcut without worrying about missing anything!
Clearing this sidequest earns you Mission 71, which Demyx claims was supposed to be his mission… which makes no sense, because it’s a “Test your endurance” mission? I can understand Demyx saying “Roxas, can you do my homework?” but saying “Roxas, do my gym test?” doesn’t even make sense!
The big prize for this mission set is Thundaga, one of my favourites, so I recommend you leave Mission 69 for the tripler (in fact, it has Thundara recipes to make the transition to Thundaga even easier!). Mission 71 has Aerora recipes if you’re a fan, but the remaining prizes are all synth ingredients as is so often the case at this stage of the game, so what you sacrifice and gain is up to the individual. If you’re interested in Thundaga, I’d put Mission 72 in the doubler, as it offers up Lightning Gems you can use in the synthesis process to get more later on.
Mission 69, the only mandatory mission, is the most dangerous one in the set, as it’s the boss mission. It sends you to Wonderland on your own for the first time in ages, and the Cheshire Cat points this out when you arrive. He says if you’re trying to find the boss, you’ll need to “scour the shade,” but the moment you shrink down, there it is!
This mission is why I felt Mission 65, the Novashadow, had been modified at the last minute. First off: Mission 65 felt ragged at the end. Second: this mission feels ragged at the front, with no “scouring the shadows” at all. Indeed, the boss is the only enemy in the entire mission. Third: this boss appears in the same location as the Novashadow, with it coming out of the shadow you created in Mission 65. Four: turning on lights to create a shadow in the Bizarre Room was your mission in KH1, when you were trying to find the Trickmaster. Five: the Cheshire Cat deliberately references that instance in KH1 by saying “Are you quite prepared? If not, well… good-bye…” instead of “Too bad!” Six (yes, we’re up to six): this boss is a Trickmaster recolour. It seems pretty clear to me that the lamps from 65/Day 255 were supposed to cause this boss to appear.
I imagine the mission was changed because that double-sized maze from Mission 65 was not only too much effort, and perhaps because the previous Wonderland mission demanded Luxord’s presence? Note that they’ve barely moved the boss: in the finished version it’s after Leechgrave, while in the presumed earlier draft it was just before Leachgrave. But mostly, I imagined it was changed because this boss, the Crimson Prankster, is a piece of work.
The first thing the Prankster does on opening the fight is to split into two, and you groan and think “I wonder which video game doppelganger cliché this is going to be.” But after a few tests, I imagine some players will be very confused while others will feel a pang of terror. This isn’t a clone battle where one is “real.” They’re both “real,” which means there are only two possibilities. Maybe one of them will go berserk when the other dies? Or maybe… no, it couldn’t be. Even the most jaded veterans have only seen that mechanic once or twice in their lives, it’s just too unfair! It can’t be that. It just can’t.
This boss isn’t a blow-over like the Guard Armour in Olympus Coliseum: the Crimson Prankster is (“the Crimson Pranksters are?”) dangerous. Able to summon fire at will, nearly all the monster’s fire attacks are nearly lethal. You can drop from perfect health to death in a second, there is almost no room for error and the sometimes-instant, surprise deaths you suffer here just don’t feel normal for Days, which has always had something of an attrition-driven combat system. This feels like something out of KH2:FM+’s Critical Mode!
But the worst part is once you learn your worst fears were true: the Crimson Prankster is a “splitter” monster ala FFIII, a kind of enemy usually found among the rank-and-file, but almost never the bosses. Days went there, and you will suffer for it. Like lesser splitters, should one of the Pranksters die, the other will duplicate itself at identical health. Some splitters out in video game land will split their health between each new “half” but not the Crimson Prankster! This means that if you focus on one boss, the survivor will split back into two at full health and the fight will essentially start over! The only way to fight these bosses – who can instantly kill you in a blink – is to let them both live! You have to divide your focus, magic and health between the two of them, and the challenges only make things worse by adding an “HP Drains on the Ground” corollary.
The Cheshire Cat congratulates you after this mission, and Roxas decides that he might as well ask the cat what his deal is. The Cheshire Cat says it’s up to Roxas, which seems actually rather wise, but the cat is coming at it from a different angle than me: “Once you believe, the truth and a lie are quite the same thing. Let your heart decide—it’s in your heart you must confide.” Hmm……… oh! Sorry, thinking about the ending. Roxas wonders how he’s supposed to do that when he doesn’t have a heart. Well Roxas, keeping in mind that many of your memories aren’t actually your own, you’re in a position to choose what you claim as your own reality, “truth or lie,” and that doesn’t really depend on a heart after all, does it Roxas? Just a thought.
This mission was pretty short, which takes a lot of the pain out of it. I’ve often said that Super Meat Boy has a lot to teach the industry: don’t stretch things out and let me right back in and I’ll do any absurd thing over and over and over until I do it right!
After the mission, Roxas searches Beast’s Castle for Xion without avail.
Clearing the Crimson Prankster mission gets you Thundaga. Thundaga is one of my favourite spells, but there’s no nuance to it. You cast it and, after a half-second delay (and so long as there isn’t an obstacle in the way), a massive lightning bolt will strike your target and any others nearby, doing some of the highest damage of the entire spell-set. It’s relatively quick-firing, idiot proof, and naturally some enemies are even weak against it, much to their sorrow. You just have to mind fast-moving targets thanks to that half-second delay, and you can even destroy groups. Devastating.
Mission 70 sees you fighting… Deserters? I sort of forgot they existed! You team up with Axel even. The only nuance to this fight is the fact that a Barrier Master is guarding the Deserters. Cute, but harmless. Remember that Deserters barely attack on their own (only in response to the death of other Deserters), so they’re quite likely to leave you alone once you push the Barrier Master out of their scrum. That poor magic-weak Barrier Master would be in even worse shape if you come with Thundaga, though I did recommend you hold off on getting Thundaga so that you can triple it on the bonus bar. There’s a free bonus Slot Releaser in this mission.
More worrying is Saïx’s warning that a powerful, optional Heartless is nearby in the Deserter mission, which is something you haven’t seen in a while. It might have been interesting if this Heartless was guarding the Deserters (hey Square, if you want to add that as a bonus mission in a remastered version, go right ahead!) but in actuality it’s guarding the way back to the Corridor of Darkness. This is the game’s first Invisible, which (thank goodness) no longer use their super attack from KH1, but have added shockwaves and dark orbs to their arsenal, and can go invisible while their sword flies around and irritates you. Frankly, the best course of action is to ignore the bastard entirely, as it has so much HP it’s not worth the trouble. In fact, you never have to fight a single Invisible in the entire game: they’re all optional, and they don’t drop the world’s greatest items, either!
After this mission, Roxas searches Halloween Town for Xion.
Should you decide to do Demyx’s beep test for him in Mission 71, you’ll once again find yourself in the Hall of Empty Melodies being thrashed by Dusks, except this time it’s a two minute timer, and Samurais start showing up at the one-minute mark. The Challenge for this mission wants you to “collect munny,” which is just a coded way of saying “kill regular enemies instead of running away.”
At exactly 2 minutes, this was also a short mission. We’ve got a weird little trend in this mission set! There is no cutscene of Roxas searching for Xion after this optional mission.
Mission 72 has you teaming up with Luxord to go to Halloween Town and defeat Heartless! H-hey, I have an idea! It’s a great plan, you’re going to love this: let’s never go to Halloween Town, ever again. Thankfully this mission is also short. You just head to town square and fight not one but two Dual Blades, as well as a Rare Vendor and a number of Creepworms that scuttle around trying to distract you. Unless you’re doing the speed run, I’d ignore the chubby things for last and focus on the real danger – even the Rare Vendor doesn’t seem like the brightest use of your time.
The biggest trouble with this mission is that I recommended you triple Mission 69, so if you follow my advice, you’ll have to do this mission without Thundaga. Unfortunately, the Dual Blades are weak to and are stunned by Thundaga! Oh well, we suffer for our prizes.
After the mission, Roxas goes looking for Xion in Agrabah. Wow, that set was a breeze to write about!
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).