Day 299: Sora
We start Day 299 with Axel and Saïx talking about what just happened. Shockingly, the film got over its hatred of Saïx long enough to realize this scene is too important to skip! Axel is questioning his actions after the fact, and Saïx asks him this: “If you could save one of them… why would you choose the puppet?” Dude, you are a chronic asshole. Your characterization as a gangrenous patch on my ass is one of Days’ great successes, I love it. “Or put it this way: which would you rather suffer the loss of: some make-believe friendship, or a real one?”
This is an interesting question that raises even more questions, but uh… seriously: who says, “Which would you rather suffer the loss of?” What awful phrasing. I have a feeling this line may have gotten mangled in the rush to include it in the trailer.
Saïx says that Xemnas is “exasperated by all the ‘fixing’ we’ve had to do,” which is clearly a lie, given how sedate Xemnas was in the private scenes we saw earlier. Saïx is just trying to guilt Axel into compliance, and makes this even clearer when he drops Axel’s birth name for the first time: Lea (pronounced “Lee” in the English version, but “Lee-ah” in Japan). This makes it crystal clear these two knew one another before entering the Organization. But Axel ignores him.
Leaving the film behind, we get a scene where Roxas is trying to track down Xion inside the castle. Luxord is polite to him, but Roxas is so angry about what happened that he’s rude to Luxord in turn. Roxas realizes he’s asked everyone he can find… except no, that’s not true, there is one more… another person Roxas has never turned to this entire time. We return to the film as Roxas heads to the throne room, to meet with Xemnas.
I like this scene a lot. Roxas has finally come to such an extreme that he goes begging to his master. Xemnas is left in the background of most of this game to improve his mystique, so this is where this mystique begins to pay off. Try to keep in mind some of the things we said about a ruler’s responsibility in Beast’s Castle in this scene, about Xemna’s right to rule, and some of the ones to come as we approach the finale. This is just our first taste of Xemnas in this game, after a considerable amount of thematic buildup. We won’t be seeing much of him overall, but his impact is still critical to how the game plays out.
Roxas gets straight to the point, and asks about Xion. To my surprise (keep in mind that our perception of Organization upper management has been driven by Saïx to date), Xemnas is outright polite and generous in his response! That said, we haven’t lost the taint of bureaucracy that permeates the Organization in Days: he sounds a bit like a corporate form letter, but St. Peter delivers the line in a way that’s almost fatherly and gentle, which makes it all the creepier and more effective! He says that Xion is important to the Organization and despite any impressions from Saïx, they’re going to look after her.
Reassured, Roxas realizes he has another reason to want Xemnas’ ear, since he’s here. He remembers his meeting with Xemnas in the Dark Margin from forever ago. Remember how Xemnas asked Roxas if he knew his true name? It seems he actually told him on the way out, and didn’t simply mouth it. As a result, Roxas remembers the name “Sora” now. He asks Xemnas about it. Unfortunately, now that Xemnas is off his corporate script, he becomes his usual cagey, opaque self. He says Sora is the reason Roxas and Xion are connected, and also “the reason I placed Xion among our number.” He then threatens Roxas, which I wish he hadn’t done as it breaks the fatherly impression from before. He says if he wants Xion to be all right (i.e., threatening to hurt her if he doesn’t), he’ll stop asking questions about Sora. Roxas understands, and leaves. We’re not actually done with Xemnas, as he reappears after this mission, so we’ll try to get back to him as soon as we can.
…So does Xemnas just sit in that throne brooding all day, or…?
Roxas returns to the Grey Area, understandably snubbing Axel on the way in. If you chat to Xaldin while you’re here, he’ll complain about Xemnas coddling Xion, so I suppose word gets around quickly!
Xigbar’s offering a side mission at this point, if you’re interested: to equip a weapon with four panels. Depending on your setup, this may be a little more irritating than the past equipment missions. You may be comfortable with a three-panel weapon, and adjusting your deck temporarily just to get your prize might feel like more trouble than it’s worth! Still, the prize is a Gold, which can be a pain to get as I described during the last promotion, so you’d better suck it up.
Mission 76 turns out to be a Shadow Glob mission in Neverland. Considering you can fly wherever the heck you want, you’d think it would be easy to find the Shadow Globs, but surprise! You’re now in a new area, and the Shadow Globs are hidden on the sides of this area’s many, many, many-many rocks. You’ll also have to search The Jolly Roger itself, which is accessible at the north end of the map. There’s no sign of Hook, Smee, or anyone else for that matter.
In the end, that’s the major problem with this mission: with no plot importance and a quickly completed stock mission, Mission 76 feels far less like the single mission highlight piece it’s supposed to be. You find the globs, some Wavecrests ineffectually chase you, and you leave. If you moved that previous sentence up one paragraph, I’d have described the entire mission in just one block of text!
To make things even sillier, your prize for this mission a normally valuable Glide LV+ panel… which you probably can’t use. Your current Glide panel only supports two upgrades, and if you’ve been on top of the ball, you already have two: one that’s been on sale since Day 225, and another was practically hurled at you in Mission 68. Obviously a new Glide panel with more slots is coming, but that doesn’t make ratty-old Mission 76 feel any more rewarding.
After the mission, we get a cutscene with Xemnas and Saïx, where they explain some critical information about the game’s plot. Xemnas says that Xion has “strayed from our original designs,” but that this has led to an unintended benefit. First he adds context for the audience: “Xion’s exposure to Roxas effected a transfer of power, as we had hoped.” This is interesting: it seems to imply that Xion gained her power from Roxas, which (though you’re probably unlikely to notice this in your first playthrough) is why she initially couldn’t attack or use magic when you first met her, though she’s gained one skill after another after being deployed with you. So they didn’t trust Roxas with a command during your zombie days – they just wanted him to transfer powers to Xion. That honestly makes more sense than if they had! But why would Xion be like this?
Xemnas is about to throw on more mysteries before we’ve even finished processing the last answer: he says that, thanks to Roxas, Sora is having an impact on Xion, “to shape ‘it’ into ‘her,’ giving Xion a sense of identity.” He explains that this discouraged him at first, until he realized that if Sora’s memories were leaking into Xion, Naminé might never be able to restore them to Sora. This means Xion is serving a similar role to Roxas during the KH2 prologue, except 1) the Organization are in control of the situation this time, and 2) there’s a second layer getting in Naminé’s way that will be relevant to the rest of the game. This also handily confirms a few things we’ve already likely guessed about Xion’s little shape-changing stunt on Destiny Islands.
This is followed by a brief exchange about Riku, basically to explain why you aren’t sent after Riku over and over again until you finally kill him. The game has Xemnas compare Riku to a “gadfly” and even made a subsequent pun about gadflies, but the film’s lines just sounds stilted and forced. I guess that’s maybe preferable to Xemnas punning, but choose for yourself.
In her bedroom, Xion gets to (understandably) mope about her imprisonment, still hoping to return to Riku, and not knowing that (scene transition) he’s in the Dark City at that very moment, unable to reach her. By the way, this is that one shot of the Dark City I mentioned earlier – the only one that takes place prior to the end of the game? Aren’t you glad the devs expanded on its role in the lore?
Day 300: Shutdown
Big Day #300 sees Roxas sent straight back to Neverland, without so much as a “if you sent me on important missions in the first place, I wouldn’t have to keep going forward and back.” Mission 77 has you hunting down yet another Tailbunker family member, the Phantomtail (second cousin twice removed). You might be wondering: “What the heck kind of recolour is ‘Phantom’? It’s not Fire, or Thunder, or anything! I signed up for the ‘Cliché Recolours Only’ package, this is an outrage.” Well, you’re going to have to hold that thought, because Neverland actually remembered to bring plot and gameplay this time around, and it would be rude to leave them waiting.
Roxas returns to the same section of sea from yesterday, and is once again unable to fly. Thankfully he finds Tinker Bell at once, but not in ideal circumstances: it seems Hook has caught her snooping around, and has stuffed her into a bag until he can reach the contractually obligated lantern-prison. Roxas (who learns Tinker Bell’s name in this process) realizes that he’s been a jerk to Tinker Bell on his last few missions even though she’s done nothing but help him, and finally decides to help her even though it will interfere with his mission. Well, I mean, nominally. He can’t fly, and so helping her actually does progress his mission, but that’s neither here nor there. Hmm… I suppose this is supposed to be Neverland’s theme? Roxas becoming a hero? Then again, Roxas being a hero doesn’t mesh with his KH2 personality, so one has to question if that really benefits the plot-at-large…
…We’re almost in the last 50 days of the title, so it may be time for me to admit that I don’t think Roxas is going to successfully match up with his KH2 self by the end of this product. Just a little gut feeling.
Your inability to fly forces you to head off to the Jolly Roger straight away, so no dawdling. Once inside the captain’s cabin, you find Hook and Smee once again arguing over maps. Hook tears up a map, saying he checked it the other day, but as you might suspect from some of Smee’s dialogue, he actually hasn’t checked this particular map. More on that in a moment. For now, Smee and Hook once again discuss the maps, revealing information the player… already knows? Namely that the maps are fake and that Hook thinks the fakes are there to throw him off the trail of the real treasure map. Roxas knows this, Smee knows this, we know this… I guess they just wanted to be sure we were all on the same boat and refreshed on all this setup?
Smee and Hook then walk out of the cabin into… the ether… and Roxas comes in to free Tinker Bell. We get a brief Static of Sora and Tinker Bell, and Tinker Bell unusually points to one of the scraps of the torn-up map. Since this is a map they haven’t searched yet, I’m not sure why she’s pointing it out to you. Is she trying to reward you for your rescue with Hook’s forgotten treasure? No, that can’t be right, there are whole piles of extra maps she could point out. Is she trying to point you towards the Heartless, having realized you’re out for them and that benefits everyone? No, that can’t be right either: remember, Hook needs to get mad at the chest being full of junk before the Heartless are drawn to him, as Roxas will soon discover when he opens the first chest. Oh sure, it’s important that Roxas learn that Hook is summoning the Heartless unintentionally, but unless Tinker Bell is confused about that too… I’m at a loss.
Since Hook hasn’t yet dug up all the treasure chests in this mission, you’re going to want to find the map pieces if you want to find all the Mission’s treasures. Another one of the pieces is in the cabin, as you’d expect, but if you keep searching the cabin like a logical person, you’re going to be disappointed: somehow the last map piece ended up on the bridge after Hook tore it up, despite the windows being closed in the cabin, and no amount of reasoning will explain how that happened. Once you have the three map pieces, the map fragments actually overlay on the bottom screen to reveal the treasure locations and show you which sections of the map are still missing. It’s all rather clever. Once you arrive at the location of a chest, you’ll have to dig it up. Oh, you forgot to pack your shovel? Then you’ll have to attack the right clod of dirt to dig. This is unintuitive, but since “Examine” and “Attack” share a button in Days, I imagine most players lucked into the right way to dig while trying to “Examine” the dig site. I know I did.
Mind that, as I said above, finding the chests doesn’t get you any Heartless at all, so you can’t complete the Mission by opening forgotten chests (that mechanic is just a bonus, and frankly most of the prizes are junk or easily farmed elsewhere). Luckily, once you get the first piece of the map from Tinker Bell, you spot Hook and Smee at work on the next map. Once again, they uncover nothing of value, Hook gets angry, and this time the Phantomtail appears. Wow, you really lucked into that one, Roxas! How did the Organization even know that would happen? (They didn’t, and you’re not supposed to think about how the objectives work.)
So what kind of cliché element is “Phantom,” anyways? Once you take a swing at it, you’ll learn for yourself: Phantom teleports away almost every time you make contact. It may seem to trigger randomly at first, but that isn’t entirely true: the Phantomtail is actually teleporting each time you hit its vulnerable head. Your options are to either go heavily into magic, or to clip at its wings as carefully as possible.
Orrrrr… neither? The biggest problem here is an unintended side effect of the game’s progression. Yes, you could attack the Phantom with magic and use careful targeting on the wings, but when has the game trained you to do that? The low viability of magic in the early game has caused tons of players I’ve seen to give up on magic entirely during the early game, and the HP sponge enemies have discouraged any manner of play but button-mashing. I know that my initial reaction to the Phantomtail all those years ago was to just power through its teleportation with rapid attacks (especially Roxas’ limit break), and I doubt I was alone! RickyC does the same!
After the battle, Roxas RTCs, but the camera lingers and Pete arrives, once again wondering why his great plan is going so poorly. He decides that next time, he’s going to go to special lengths to aggravate Hook’s greed, in hopes of getting one big Heartless instead of several small ones. You know, it occurs to me that I’d have liked to have seen Pete’s “private” army in full at some point, bosses and all. I doubt it was even completely drained by the end of KH2, even if it was too diminished to contest the Organization. Maleficent’s probably still sitting on a few thousand!
There are two scenes after you leave the world. The first sees Roxas, Axel and Xion reuniting for the first time on the clock tower, none of them saying a word. This is a real sweet scene, how they all came back in spite of it all (though the diary suggests it’s supposed to be sad, so maybe it’s not effective after all?), and a little sad, and as a result I hate to rag on it at all, but… the Organization is letting Xion move around without a leash? Does this bother anyone else?
The second scene is arguably more important, featuring the “Shutdown” of this day’s title. We find ourselves next to Sora’s hibernation pod with Naminé, who reluctantly informs DiZ that she’s done all she can, and can’t free any more of Sora’s memories. Given the scene we saw with Xemnas and Saïx earlier on, the player should recognize what Naminé means when she says “Unless something is done…”: Roxas or Xion (or both) is going to have to be integrated into Sora or no progress will be made. DiZ agrees, saying “The gloves must come off,” and adds that Nobodies shouldn’t exist to begin with. He even seems to bully Naminé into agreeing with him, which is rather easy as Naminé caves easily to pressure. Yikes, he’s got Naminé agreeing that Nobodies, like her, should not exist. Keep an eye on this.
Your highlight prize for Mission Mission 77 is your first Lv Tripler, which means the next few missions are going to be even harder…
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).