Day 358: Believe
Trigger Warning: Suicide.
The next day, Roxas arrives at the World that Never Was, suddenly wielding two Keyblades, which he transform into the Oathkeeper and Oblivion. If you’re a new player, you might come into this sequence with shock, because it seems for a moment as though you’ve been given an answer for Roxas’ second Keyblade: it used to belong to Xion! Sure enough, another part of the scene seems to believe that this is the case as well! But believe it or not, later games would come up with a different explanation for Roxas’ second Keyblade, so I suspect that Nomura was being a bit too frugal with his secret notes.
(Ed. Hirokey123 informs me that this was probably never a retcon, since Nomura was ready with his real explanation in early interviews, implying that this was just an unfortunate coincidence! You can read his post here.)
Dual-Wielding Roxas is actually his own character as far as Days is concerned, and you can unlock him in Mission Mode through a special Easter egg: simply equip Roxas with the post-game Zero Gear and three Ability Units. If you want to use the Zero Gear in Mission Mode with three abilities units and not become Dual-Wielding Roxas, you basically have to use Xion instead. See, the mechanical difference between Roxas and Xion all makes sense now that we’re at the fucking end of the game.
Roxas has to fight past several Neoshadows, all of which seem to have only 1 or so HP, though their shockwave attack is just as dangerous as ever. Finally, he comes to Memory’s Skyscraper, fights more Neoshadows, and trades blades with Riku. As Riku receives Roxas’ second Keyblade, he looks at the Keyblade and sees his own fading memories of Xion. Again, this seems to imply that someone on the dev team thought this was Xion’s Keyblade until the plan was changed. Riku is still plagued by memories when he lands, but once Roxas joins him, things return temporarily to the way we saw them in KH2:FM+. But remember! Large swaths of this sequence were being seen by international audiences for the first time, since they never got FM+!
The memories of Xion soon fade entirely from Riku’s mind, but here we interrupt FM+ to add a brand new text sequence that’s new on top of the FM+ scenes. Roxas insists that if Kingdom Hearts is destroyed, things will return to normal, but he’s having trouble remembering what “normal” even means. He and Riku can still remember Xion’s name for the time being, but they’re having trouble, and Riku says that he’s going to stop Roxas from getting himself killed by the Organization. Umm… Riku, if they kill Roxas, his memories will go back to Sora. You just opened a huge can of worms, buddy. You probably should have said “captured” by the Organization, which really would stop DiZ’s plans.
This begins the game’s Technically-Final Boss: a duel against Riku to end the game. Riku has two major phases, and since he has the Oblivion, you’re back to being normal Roxas, though the game silently slips you the Oathkeeper (Zero Gear with one Ability Unit) while you’re fighting. The first and second phases are largely identical, though Riku doesn’t stagger when hit in the second half and can use Dark Aura. Generally speaking, Riku just attacks with a mix of his accumulated KH1, CoM and KH2 arsenal. It’s a tidy, agreeable duel that ends the game on a fair, if not spectacular note. Sadly, Days’ rudimentary graphics made “spectacular” almost impossible, but I’d rather have something tight like this and Final Xemnas from KH2 than something sloppy like the World of Nothingness, or giant Xion for that matter. The boss music here is a remix of the music from the KH1 secret endings, “Another Side -Battle Ver-.” In Mission Mode, you get to fight Anti-Riku, just like Anti-Saïx. Naturally, that version of the fight is identical.
After the battle, Riku loses to Roxas and then recovers for a second round, as per the scenes from KH2. The new addition is that now, as the scene plays out, we see shots of Roxas, Axel and Xion roughhousing on the clock tower on the bottom screen (the film intercuts this into the main video, which is an excellent second-best technique). The scene continues to play out as written in KH2, including now-perplexing lines like “I guess you are his Nobody after all,” which Riku must have known. We wouldn’t be here if he didn’t know that. There are justifications you can make, but I feel it just doesn’t work, and the fact that this is a retcon simply screams through. Xion speaks up in Riku’s heart in the middle here, to help nudge Riku along into transforming to Ansem (perhaps Riku giving into the Darkness to become Ansem seemed too arbitrary to audiences after it was released in FM+, so Xion was added to help explain it?), and Riku transforms into Ansem to stop Roxas. As Roxas lies unconscious, we see more of the roughhousing on the bottom screen, though this time Xion fades away, and in an outright platinum-level transition, Roxas turns away from her at just the right time and the memories blend seamlessly as though he had never been interacting with her at all.
Finally, we repeat the lines between DiZ and Riku from FM+: “Oh, he told you how he ‘felt,’ did he? Ridiculous. A Nobody cannot feel anything.” If it hadn’t been crystal clear in FM+, it now should be: DiZ has no idea what he’s talking about when he talks about Nobodies, and he was so blinded by his own bigotry that he is about to do something awful. He erases Roxas from existence, killing one person for the greater good.
Or… is this awful? Well, yes it is, it’s fucking despicable, but the game decides to object all the same. Here it comes, my hated scene: a voice over by Xion over a black screen, like an edit that couldn’t have been placed over any actual scene. Xion talks about how everything will be all right, because the silver lining is that she and Roxas will be united in Sora, no matter how much the game seems to have condemned their unusual deaths in previous scenes as horrible, even bigoted actions in Roxas’ case. Heyhey! Fuck you! Thankfully, Kingdom Hearts will attack this addendum in its own good time. The portable trilogy continues, and comes at this same subject from a very different angle in BBS, and a very different angle again in coded. There is much left to say.
In one final scene, Roxas wakes up in Twilight Town in his false personality on the first day of the prologue. He then runs off to join Hayner, Pence and Olette, and talks about how eager he is to go to the beach. In six days, he’ll be gone. In six days, Roxas will be gone, and on the seventh, 365 in total, Sora will revive.
The credits proceed with only a clip show of shots from the game to accompany it, though they are often presented in dual-screen “tower” format on the DS. The final shot after the credits shows Roxas outside Sora’s pod on day 364. But there are a few things left for us to discuss as we move into the post-game.
After you return from the end of the game, Roxas is “promoted” to Legend Rank, unlocking a final bevy of purchases. He can buy one more of each Gear upgrade Unit (besides Ability Units) and gains access to the Zero Gear as well, a special Gear indeed that unlocks each characters’ “best” weapons. For the Organization, this typically means their weapons from KH2, while we’ve also got Riku’s Way to the Dawn, Donald’s Dream Rod and Goofy’s Dream Shield. I won’t be discussing every character’s Zero Gear weapons in detail, but they’re all very nice. While the Zero Gear has one less slot than other top-tier gears, it’s typically the best gear for most Challenges.
One special power the Gear has for Roxas and Xion is to produce multiple Keyblades: the Zero Gear on its own produces a strong version of the Kingdom Key. Throwing in one Ability Unit will transform the Zero Gear into the Oathkeeper (and gives it 1. Defender). Two will turn it into the Two Become One (1. Defender, 2. Damage Control). Three will give you Dual-Wielding Roxas in Mission Mode, as I said above, while it gives Xion and single-player Roxas just another Kingdom Key (it gives you 3. Second Chance either way, so it’s tempting!). I can’t help but wish they turned it into the Ultima Weapon instead of a third Kingdom Key, but oh well. Notably, Axel’s abilities with the Zero Gear are also the same as his best friends’!
As for Rings, Heart Point Rings include:
- The Critical Sun, a Ring that ups your Critical hit stats, has Critical Boost on top of that, but is weak in Defence compared to almost all of the game’s post-Novice Rings.
- The Deep Sky, a ring with Combo-Air Slide, letting you Air Slide in mid-combo, and Aero Boost.
- The Princess’s Crown, which provides an HP boost, EXP Boost LV2, and Potion Boost LV1.
As for Synthesis, Legend Rank unlocks some synth options that simply weren’t available prior to the post-game, including both Mithril Rings and Orichalcum Rings. Mithril rings include:
- The Imperial Crown, an HP-boosted but low-Defence Ring with Brick Wall and Magic Finale.
- The Lunar Strike, which boosts your Critical hit stats and your Moon defence.
- The Might Crown, a Jack-of-all-master-of-none ring with an HP boost, +10% defence to all elements, and EXP Boost LV1.
- The Protect Ring, which gives you Defender and spends its evenings wondering why it was isolated to the post-game when its Striker counterpart was an Expert-level Ring – two promotions back!
- The Three Stars, the Official Ring of Grinding: boasting Lucky Strike, EXP Boost LV1, and for some reason Potion Boost LV1.
- Lastly, the Witch’s Chaos, which boosts your Strength and offers the Damage Control ability, but is punished with low Defence for a Ring. It is also punished with Elemental Curse, a negative Ability that inflicts the player with status effects whenever they’re hit!
There are a lot more Orichalcum Rings (fourteen in total!) but this is for good reason: there are thirteen Orichalcum Rings that exist purely to make you immune to one of the game’s thirteen elements. I’m afraid they are also armed with the dark power of puns, from the Nothing to Fear, which makes you immune to Nil, to the Dying of the Light, which makes you… not… die of Light. The only other Orichalcum Ring is simply called “Extreme,” and besides the Orichalcum, it requires 8 Moonstones, 4 Luck Techs and twenty Dark Ingots! This powerful ring offers no boosts to your stats, not even the traditional Defence boost, and has the ability HP One, which does exactly what it says: it leaves you on 1 HP. Why use it? Well, at 1 HP, you have permanent access to Limit Breaks, plus the Ring also has the ability Hi-EXP Boost, which doubles your EXP returns. But can you stand the penalties?
There are also two more characters you can unlock for Mission Mode at this stage, though not for free: you’ll have to buy some truly expensive Heart Point items to get them, and you’ll have to unlock those items before they even appear in the store. You can unlock the item Return of the King for beating every mission in the game, which allows you to play as King Mickey in Mission Mode. You unlock the item Soul of Sora by clearing all the game’s mission bars 100%, which allows you to play as the other guy in the big shoes.
You’re basically familiar with how Mickey and Sora play after all these games (they’re nowhere near as different as Days version of Riku was compared to past versions of Riku) , so I’m going to cut straight to their weapons. One of the key things to understand about both of these two post-game characters is that their weapons’ stats are through the roof, even if you’re using an early-game Gear.
Mickey’s default weapon is the Kingdom Key D, which shoots up to +120 strength in its ++ form. Its abilities are the same as Roxas, Xion and Axel’s Zero Gear weapons: 1. Defender, 2. Damage Control and 3. Second Chance. Mickey’s Pandora’s Gear weapon is the Star Seeker, the Keyblade Sora got from Yen Sid in KH2. Unusually for a Bonus Character, Mickey’s Zero Gear weapon is also the Kingdom Key D, called the Kingdom Key DΩ (that’s an omega, if you can’t see it for any technical reasons), which is just a lazily upgraded version of his other weapons, with the same abilities.
Sora’s default weapon is the Kingdom Key, but with heavily upgraded stats in comparison to Roxas and Xion’s base weapon (although, Sora’s so-called Kingdom Key++ is weaker than Roxas and Xion’s Kingdom Key+, which is confusing until you remember that the Gears are different). Sora’s Kingdom Key shares the same abilities we just listed for Mickey and the Sea Salt trio’s Zero Gear weapons. Sora’s Pandora’s Gear weapon is the Bond of Flame of all things, presumably to highlight Roxas’ relationship to Axel. Curiously, Sora’s Zero Gear item isn’t the Kingdom Key, but the Dream Sword!
While we’re here, let’s discuss post-game challenges. For starters, let’s discuss the post-game rewards for playing Mission Mode and Challenge Mode, which you could have qualified for some time ago if it weren’t for their Legend Rank-only restrictions. Notable Mission Crown prizes include Slot Releasers, a LV Quadrupler and a big (6-slot!) LV Doubler, and also a number of Gears and Rings. Let’s take a look at them:
- 160 Crowns returns the Crimson Blood, a Ring that gives you Grand Slam.
- As mentioned elsewhere, 180 Crowns would give you the Pandora’s Gear in the Japanese version. In all other releases, 180 Crowns simply returns 2 Adamantites.
- 200 Crowns gives you the Rune Ring, a Ring that gives you our beloved Second Chance in exchange for the damnable Elemental Curse.
- The prize for getting 358 crowns is the terrifying Master’s Circle, a Ring that makes you immune to all elements at the cost of not just Risky Play but also Perma-Plight, an ability that prevents you from healing yourself at low health! On the other hand, these two abilities give you pretty convenient access to Limit Breaks (without the permanent danger of the Extreme), so are you up to the challenge?
As I said when we were first discussing Mission Mode, an additional prize is available for completing every mission in Mission Mode: a Limit Pass, which opens a new menu that lets you cheat with Limit Breaks in Mission Mode, turning them on at all times, or off entirely. Because hell! You’ve cleared the game twice at that point, once in single-player and once in Mission Mode. At that point, what do they care if you cheat? That’s the Goldeneye 007 approach to rewards that I like to see in my games!
As for Challenge Sigil rewards, I’ve already discussed how you need to be in the post-game to unlock the final Glide LV+ and Haste LV+ panels (at 170 and 200 Sigils, respectively). The post-game Sigil list also includes a LV Doubler and a Tripler. As I said earlier, in international releases the base-level Pandora’s Gear is unlocked by finding all the Secret Diaries, which is also Challenge-related in an indirect sort of way.
The prize for getting all 255 Sigils in Challenge Mode is the Ultima Weapon panel, which actually isn’t a Gear like you’d expect: it’s actually a single panel that you can install anywhere on the grid that evens out the strength of your weapon so that any Gear will function at an end-game level. This allows you to choose a weapon based on its other strengths (its combo or its abilities) instead of its stat boost. Guest party members don’t seem to abide by the same rules, but generally speaking, when it comes to Organization members, the Ultima Weapon rounds off nearly every Gear’s strength to +100. There a few exceptions that are meant to be stronger as part of their appeal: namely the Ultimate Gear, Omega Gear+, Pandora’s Gear and the Zero Gear. Unfortunately, since those Gears are already really good, it seems so much easier to just take the Ultima Weapon strength boost and keep going with them, doesn’t it? Kind of undermined their own point!
While those end-game prizes are all nice and shiny, the average player isn’t going to come anywhere near them. Still, it’s worth the trouble to clear out some early missions, especially when you’re in the mid and late game, which will unlock some easy prizes.
There’s only one major topic left to go, but before we get there, some miscellaneous points of discussion. Remember Sora’s flashback of Kairi in KH2’s Halloween Town, in her KH1 appearance? This now seems even more consistent now that we know that Xion is Sora’s memories of Kairi – that is to say, Sora’s memories of Kairi when she was young!
Here’s another neat point. Remember when Xion fainted nearly off the tower on Day 224, and Axel and Roxas caught her? I believe this is intended as foreshadowing of the ending, or perhaps foreshadow an ideal, alternate version of the ending, where Roxas was able to save his friend. Hell, he even dropped his ice cream to do it, and I think in a way that’s always made him clinging to ice cream as a concept in the real ending all the more irritating, for me not that it would have changed anything.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Let’s move on to our final topic: the most notable Secret Diaries., or technically: the “Secret Reports.” One of the Secret Report for the tutorial, unlocked by default after beating the game, informs us that Xion’s name is an anagram of “No. i,” as in “i” the imaginary number! Cute. Another explains that Roxas and Xion were kept apart as long as they were at the outset to test Xion’s functions as a Replica on her own, before she started to absorb memories.
Diary entries confirm that Sora’s Story in CoM took either 3 or 4 days: Day 24 to either Day 27 or 28. It’s impossible to tell where R/R ended, as the diaries end on 28 and lurch ahead to Roxas’ recovery on Day 50. Axel does remark on “losing track” of the others as late as Day 52, but I doubt he means it happened that exact morning
On Day 95, Xion remarks on not having any memory of the day she met Roxas or Axel. This may go so far as to imply that she didn’t form any memories until Axel opened his heart to her on Day 74, but it’s hard to say.
Axel confirms he and Saïx were pre-Organization, pre-Nobody friends on Day 96.
Saïx makes an inexplicable reference to “the next lot” of Replicas on Day 171, even though Axel and more importantly Vexen mentioned there only being two Replicas in previous Secret Reports! If there are more Replicas, they certainly haven’t been mentioned in three games since!
On Day 224, Axel concedes that the Riku Replica was a real person and he was wrong to use him the way he did, again leading to our theme of these “artificial” people having value of their own. He says the bonds they form are more important than whether or not they exist, which in the Kingdom Hearts cosmology, might be literally true!
On Day 255, Xemnas discusses how Xion takes different forms depending on the onlooker, for anyone who missed that important detail. Xemnas says that Xion already looks like “the hero of the Keyblade” to him.
On Day 256, Xigbar confirms he knew Xion was intended to duplicate Sora’s powers, and talks about her appearing as “…him,” aka the Chaser from the “Birth by sleep” trailer, not that Xigbar necessarily explains that here or anywhere else. Very odd. He also remarks on his suspicions about Xemnas, saying he thinks Xemnas sees “entirely something else in her,” making it possible that when Xemnas said Xion looked like “the hero of the Keyblade,” he might not necessarily have meant “Sora.”
On Day 277, Saïx says the Organization has moved beyond the Replica Program and that their “true goals lie elsewhere.” I’m not sure what he means, considering nothing is honestly done and Xemnas seems to stick with Xion for the rest of the game. Maybe he’s talking about their upcoming plan for KH2 ahead of time? On Day 322, Xemnas talks about maybe never allowing Sora to wake up, which does seem to suggest they were planning to let him wake up before this idea came for him?
On Day 355, Xigbar says that things have been going so badly that Kingdom Hearts must be rejecting Xemnas: “—no, rejecting Xehanort.” Well that’s interesting. Not only does this tell us that Xigbar knew the original Xehanort, but that he seems to feel this rejection somehow comes back to Xehanort’s true personality. But why?
Day 356: Saïx confirms that he and Axel (“Lea”) joined the Organization with an agenda already in mind, though he doesn’t elaborate, as Axel has now abandoned those plans.
Finally, on Day 358, Xemnas writes our final entry, describing plans that don’t match his stated goals in KH2 or Days at all. He says instead that “I must become one with Kingdom Hearts. I will become a higher existence. All of my true ambitions begin there.” I’m not remotely surprised that Xemnas was lying to the Organization about wanting to restore his heart, or wanting to restore anyone else’s for that matter, but what is his real plan? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out, starting in the next Kingdom Hearts!
So after all I’ve said negatively about Days’ story, do I feel it’s a failure overall? No. Absolutely not, in fact I feel it outclasses some of the other games in the series by reaping the rewards of is risks. Yes, its lows are very low (the downside of its risks), even low in terms of the fundamental premise of the plot, like the way it doesn’t mesh up with KH2 as a good prequel, or the gameplay. But in the end, even if Days had been a by-and-large failure, I would have better respected a product that tried and failed more than a product that didn’t try at all.
KH1 was magical but not ambitious for an action-RPG, and so depending on the day, I might feel it wasn’t trying very hard and didn’t reach the same heights as some of its cousins, even if it had a reliable, solid core. In a one-on-one battle of 3D action-exploration games from the sixth generation, I would happily pick Psychonauts over KH1, and that’s a consequence of Psychonauts’ risks returning strong rewards in my eye. Still, KH1 solid, polished base makes it perhaps my favourite of the three action-RPG styled Kingdom Hearts games we’ve discussed in the Retrospective to date. KH2 is at the bottom of my pile so far for not trying to have a central plot at all: it had a number of unrelated subplots held together by… I want to say “twine” but I feel that doesn’t capture the problem, but we’ve discussed this at length so I don’t see any reason to go into it any further. Days, however, feels like is being held together in my mind, however poor the merits of its actual contents, and that makes a great deal of difference to me in the end.
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).