Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – “You Look like a Demon to me” is not a compliment

days-2016-12-29-10h54m15s395Day 352: Sunset

Day 352 starts with Xion having a flashback to Day 255, where we finally see the conversation with Riku that led to her fleeing the Organization. Firstly, she asks him about Kairi, since she keeps popping up in her memories. Riku says “To Sora, she’s someone very special.” But that’s just a preamble to what she really wants to ask: why on earth does she have Sora’s memories to begin with?

Riku provides an extended explanation about what Replicas are, just in case you weren’t keeping up or had never played CoM. What really matters here is that Xion has Sora’s memories, and now he needs them back. Riku asks Xion to come back with him so that Naminé can take the memories out, but she’s reluctant, not wanting to abandon Roxas and Axel. Riku suggests she come back when she has “[an answer] that works best for everybody, you and your friends and everyone else.” I bet he’s come to regret saying that in the hundred days since.

days-2016-12-29-10h54m47s703By the way, there’s a line in the middle of this scene where Xion suddenly snaps: “So, do you hate me for taking your friend away from you?” There’s more emotion in this line than most of Xion’s lines in the entire game. The reason for that is clear, but strange: Alyson Stoner recorded it for the trailer, probably before she knew much about Xion or possibly just for trailer effect. You can even hear something of an audio break in the final recording as the new recordings chime out and the trailer recording chimes in.  I don’t have the audio industry vocabulary to qualify this “break,” perhaps they’re of different recording quality? In any event, let’s talk about the emotion of the line. I think I’d have preferred the more emotive Xion to the one we have (it even seems to match her dialogue portraits, some of her actions, etc). More of that personality comes across in the remastered version, but it’s a shame it took so long, and even then it seems lacking. Between Xion, Marluxia and Zexion, this is starting to become a bit of a Kingdom Hearts-wide problem, where interesting characterization is squashed somewhere between the script and the voice acting. I suspect it has to do with the difference between how Japanese and English speakers emote, so every time the localized characters are told to emulate their seiyuu counterparts, they come across as bland to an English ear like mine?

days-2016-12-29-10h55m55s388

Terrifying, dire couches and loveseats!

Back in the present, we leave the movie behind, as Saïx is about to show up and you know how that goes. The scene starts with… an unusually ominous camera pan through The Grey Area? Bear in mind that we’ve entered the Grey Area without an ominous pan 60 to 85 times already, so this is about the nosiest way they could have expressed the idea that “Something is wrong!!!!!” Xion is here, and Roxas tries to talk to her, but it appears she’s in a rush to get on her mission and she leaves immediately.

Saïx shows up at this point and tells Roxas he has “a special mission for you and your Keyblade.” But for some reason, Axel shows up, asking if you really want to go on this mission. By this point it would be clear that something was up even without the nearly screaming camera pan from earlier. When asked why Roxas should be concerned, Axel mentions Roxas’ poor condition lately. Oh, good, I was worried this wouldn’t happen: Axel is referring to Roxas’ condition on Mission 82, twenty-one days ago, which means that yes, even the last mission block and time skip in the game shows signs of being added to the plot at a later stage, just like most of the others. I was worried we might miss this one. Saïx growls at Axel for this interruption, and I can’t blame him. Axel’s using an absolutely terrible excuse, especially considering that I can’t imagine Saïx excusing Roxas from a mission for any reason whatsoever. Axel must have just learned what’s going on only moments ago, because he’s usually a better liar than this.

Roxas doesn’t catch on to Axel’s hint, because he doesn’t have two brain cells to rub together, and the camera stays with Saïx and Axel so that Saïx can say: “Can’t you just let things run their course?”

days-2016-12-29-10h56m55s278There’s only one other thing to do in the Grey Area before you go, but it’s a doozy. Xigbar remarks “Girls don’t want to be with anyone weaker than them,” (charming as ever) and assigns you a sidequest to get fifty kills with your Final Limit, an infinitely worse sidequest than the plain old Limit Break kill quest from earlier in the story. Xigbar, even though he must know what Saïx is up to, makes up this bullshit mission about you killing 50 enemies with Final Limits, which means you’d have to waste time in the simulator to complete the sidequest. I bet Saix was livid, and I bet Xigbar was laughing all the way to the bank. This sidequest isn’t remotely worth it, by the way (the prize is another synth Crystal you have no reason to care about) and just goes to show how little thought went into some of these sidequests.

Once you arrive in Halloween Town for Mission 88, Roxas muses briefly about Xion’s bad mood, but is quickly distracted when he finds the town mysteriously empty. Now, I’d argue this was a mistake on the part of the developers. While they chose this place for its dismal atmosphere, the sad fact is that since Halloween Town plays host to hide-and-seek missions, we’re kind of used to it being empty. I know that I started banging around on walls trying to find Heartless, which breaks the atmosphere they were trying to present! All you’re supposed to do is grab the Slot Releaser and Unity Badge in town square and carry on to the graveyard, but I must have been here for five solid minutes!

days-2016-12-29-10h58m42s305Once in the graveyard, you finally locate your target: an Invisible recolour called an Orcus, named after the Roman god – or, more probably, the demon lord from D&D, famously featured as an idol on the cover art of AD&D 1e. The Orcus isn’t very distinct from the Invisible – in fact, despite what a lot of sources say online, claiming the Orcus is an upgraded Invisible, a quick wiki-look at its stats will confirm that the Orcus is weaker than the Invisible, boasting half the HP, and around half the Strength and Defence. The only thing the Orcus actually has over the Invisible is better elemental resistances (outright absorbing Thunder), despite having arguably worse status effect resistances. On the other hand, you’ve been able to skip all the Invisibles in the game up until this point, while the Orcus is mandatory.

But just when things are looking rough, you make another discovery: the mission ends early, around half the Orcus’ HP. So not only is the Orcus half as strong as the Invisible, but you don’t even have to do that much damage? Sheesh. If you’re interested in fighting the full battle, you can come back in Mission Mode, where the fight isn’t interrupted midway, and you can instead fight the Orcus to the death and RTC.

For whatever reason (and this is really obnoxious if you’re doing fine), Roxas announces that the Orcus is too powerful and that he has to perform some kind of all-or-nothing attack. You know, call me crazy Rox, but I’m fairly sure you don’t have any of those. It’s like the “the final boss always has multiple forms” rule from Dragon Ball Z and CoM: now we have the “there’s always a suicide attack” rule from Dragon Ball Z and Days? This might be a little disingenuous of me but maybe we should all take a moment to get together and crawl out of shounen’s ass?

days-2016-12-29-11h00m37s779Just then, Roxas’ attack is intercepted mid-air by Axel, and we discover that he has also intercepted an attack from Xion? Furthermore, the Orcus has vanished. Both Roxas and Xion are baffled, and Axel explains: the Organization used magic to make both Roxas and Xion appear as an Orcus to one another, and they were battling each other to the death. This was why Halloween Town was empty earlier: Xion cleared out the Heartless before you got there.

Roxas and Xion are still reeling, so Axel takes them both back to Twilight Town and the clock tower. Oh good plan, you three. They wanted you both dead so you flee to the first place they’ll look. You are… fleeing, right? Because they just tried to kill you, and Axel will… no, they’ve got to be fleeing, they couldn’t be that stupid…

It seems our trio is trying to keep their minds off of what happened, and Axel randomly brings up the subject of the WINNER sticks from earlier. This reminds Roxas that these things exist, which was probably a good idea on the developer’s part, since it hasn’s been mentioned in 203 days.

Xion then starts musing about the sunset, and says “If only things stayed like this.” She’s obviously talking about things between her and her friends but… Xion, I’m not convinced the sun actually moves in Twilight Town, so it probably will stay like this. Forever.

days-2016-12-29-11h01m46s787Roxas suggests that if they want things to stay this way, they should do what I’ve already suggested: run away. Xion protests that they don’t have anywhere to go. Wait, seriously? Xion, tell them about Riku. Go to your rendezvous with Riku and this will be over and you’ll have completed the perfect escape. Granted, Xion doesn’t know that DiZ has become almost murderous (more on that in just a few lines), but I’m sure they could talk him down if they showed up together. Now at this point in my first draft, I had originally written some very nice things about the writing and how the characters are being restrained by their abusive relationship with the Organization and literally can’t see a way out, but given the writer’s lack of awareness about abusive relationships with Axel and the others, this is starting to look more like a writing mistake than intent. I certainly can’t compliment the game’s portrayal of abusive power relations in one moment when I’m still sore about the poor portrayal of the same subject in another!  The Organization are going to try to kill you guys, you know that, right? All three of you. Maybe they’ll only erase Xion’s memory or something, so they can keep their Keyblade wielder, but one way or another, people are going to stop existing.

Axel then says that so long as they think about one another, they’ll always be together (in the game, Xion calls this a “hokey speech”). This is easy to miss, but implication seems to be that digital Hayner’s out-of-nowhere sentiment in KH2 on the same subject was actually Axel’s line bubbling up in Roxas’ memory. And with that, the three of them go back to the Org! So… we can say it now, right? The game is not going to mesh properly with Roxas’ characterization in KH2 and it becomes more and more annoying to me each time they pass up an opportunity to try. All they needed to do was to have Roxas become a bitter, independent ronin type who flees the Organization to learn about himself and his relationship to the Keyblade.  Okay, that’s not a small task, but instead of getting close and mixing the mark, they seem to have completely flipped it and made him a hyper-dependent child who should have fled the Organization earlier, but didn’t, for no reason, and has no curiosity about the Keyblade whatsoever. Un. Believable.

days-2016-12-29-11h02m21s331In a final scene, we cut back to the pod chamber for a moment from the trailer: DiZ declares that Riku “knows what needs to be done” and sends him out after Roxas and Xion. Note that he took fifty-two days to do this, but we can assuredly credit that to the way times skips and optional missions weren’t accounted for in the plot – more than one of them this time!

Your prize for this mission is a Lv Quadrupler, which I like to believe Saïx only put on offer to goad you to your death. He probably felt pretty sheepish having to actually hand it over. Of course, any comical sheepishness is bound to have burned up the moment he tries to murder these idiots in their beds, but what can you do.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Forget Xaldin
Next: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Goodbye, King Ears

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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