Back to the story. Here to stop you and your multitudinous strategies and confusing options is a new Unversed, the Shoegazer. This Castle of Dreams-inspired enemy is, just like it implies, an Unversed shaped like a boot (actually, it looks like Flood hiding inside of a boot). The Shoegazer’s most important power is that it can hide in the boot and become entirely invincible, even to the almighty ball of yarn. Ah good, at least one Unversed as a defensive strategy after all! While that doesn’t exactly stop you from rolling around the room on your unstoppable woolen war-machine, Shoegazers have a way of upsetting your regular combat at the worst possible time. As enemies go, they’re probably the most interesting we’ve seen so far, or will see for a while yet. Unfortunately.
After clearing out the first room of dress materials (including several that require the balls of yarn), it’s time to crawl into another mouse hole to find some more treasures. Here, you’ll have to navigate on fork springboards and a movable matchbox platform, making this honestly the best area in the game in my opinion. I mean: you knock cheese from a spider web to form a series of platforms! This is fantastic! The rest of the game’s interactivity and platforming sadly pales in comparison. You know. To the cheeseweb.
While you’re here, you might also have your first encounter with Prize Pods, a rare Unversed spice pot that spawns only in certain locations, and only if the room chooses to use the “right” set of enemy spawns when it loads. Prize Pods are meant to be kept alive if possible (though you’ll want to kill at least one to get it in the journal), as they drop special synth items every time they’re hit. These prizes vary by world, so you’ll have to find them in several worlds to get the synthesis done. The easiest way to do this is with the Magnet series of spells, which will cause them to drop prizes like a busted vending machine, but that’s not an option at the moment (Ed. Hirokey123 points out that it actually is if you’ve used Command Board… but not if you’re playing as Aqua!). The strangest thing about the Prize Pods, however, are the prizes themselves: “Birthday Cake?” “Crystal Sugar?” What on earth are we synthing with these?
Since I’m talking about miscellanea and journal-related content, I should also mention that BBS’ journals, properly called “reports,” no longer cover the world’s story as it proceeds, ala KH2, and that that feature has not returned to the series since, which is more than a little disappointing. This doesn’t stop the game from having an incessant flow of “New” prompts, mind you. You’ll soon learn to put it out of mind. I personally only clear its entries when I end a world. Another report downgrade is that, instead of putting out-of-date report entries into a separate section (the way KH2 replaced the hooded Org members and their generic trivia with unhooded ones with specifics), BBS keeps both entries around together, one out-of-date and one in-date, and will go to curious (though also clever!) lengths to include multiple character costumes. On the upside, BBS’ reports’ enemy entries has a conversational, informal style, often making awful jokes, and they know it. I’m a big fan.
So you end up popping out of the wall in all sorts of different places and finding all the items you need for the dress. After collecting all the ribbons and the like, it’s back to Jaq, who only now announces that there’s one other part they need: “a pretty-pretty pearl.” Unfortunately, when you arrive on-scene, you discover the pearl in the possession of “Rucifee” – Lucifer the cat. Lucifer’s cat noises are credited to Jon Olson, a character actor and creature voice actor with unknown credits in Kingdom Hearts 2, as well Disney credits in Epic Mickey and Disney Infinity, Square Enix credits for Lightning Returns, and not to forget numerous LotR spinoff credits, including the The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies film.
Lucifer is sleeping, and Ven nearly gets away with the pearl only to be caught in the act. He’s saved by Jaq, who throws enough balls of yarn into the room that it’s weird when they vanish a few seconds later. That’s a little surprising, since all that thrown yarn seemed like a setup for a boss mechanic! …Just me?
Lucifer knocks Jaq down, which prompts him to moan: “Ooh, that hurts.” Jaq, don’t be silly, there’s no fall damage in this game. Ven rescues him in turn, starting off our first Disney boss battle: a Keyblade warrior of justice and light, versus a housecat! Take your bets!
The fight with Lucifer honestly is a lot easier than the Mad Treant, something I credit to this being the demo level from E3 and all. But that doesn’t really capture the… “all” of it. Lucifer often jumps up to high places, then jumps back down. No, I didn’t misphrase that: yes, sometimes he pounces at you from high, but sometimes he just… jumps back down. Like he got bored of being up there. Like a cat. Or maybe he’s not “just jumping down.” Maybe they didn’t quite program the pounce for all areas of the room, and it led to this situation where you “dodge” just by standing still? The fight is also very slow. The developers did capture the sense of a cat playing with its food, but it doesn’t always make for the most engaging boss battle.
Probably the most involved part of the battle is when the game prompts you to “jump up on Lucifer’s back.” Don’t do this. The game is lying to you. You actually have to use a Reaction Command of sorts to get on Lucifer’s back, and literally jumping won’t work. Tooltip, you continue to betray me! “Fly close to the buildings,” “jump onto his back…” yeesh. If you do get on Lucifer’s back, you have to hit a number of QTEs to stay there, after which you get a finishing attack that stuns the cat for additional blows – although frankly, the fight will be mostly over if you complete the ride.
After the battle, Ven meets up with Jaq and learns that he got away fine with the pearl. “No thanks needed,” says Ven. “You saved me before, so I saved you. That’s what friends do, right?” Rush into mortal peril, right? This is my only context for friendship! Together, the new friends finish the dress and unveil it to Cinderella when she arrives. Seems Jaq does good work with one button and what seemed to be barely a yard of four different types of fabric combined, because the dress is now complete.
Now that Cinderelly is off to the ball, Ven and Jaq sit together in the light of the massive, skyscraper-like castle in the distance. There, they discuss what dreams they have for the future – erm, sort of. Seems Jaq’s only dream right now is Cinderella’s dream for the future, and as we watch, Ven recalls Terra’s dream to be a Keyblade master in flashback, and claims that’s probably his dream too. I really wish we saw something implying that Ven actually wanted that himself, because as it stands Ven’s basically just taking his lead from Terra. It’s essentially the same thing as Axel and Roxas all over again: the younger blonde character lets the older character put words in his mouth, relies on him for elements like basic opinions and dessert preferences, fuck, I don’t know. I’m not sure if this is something of a cultural divide or what, but what seems to have been scripted as “Terra inspires Ven” comes across to me as “Ven allows Terra’s dreams to override his own.”
It’s not just a matter of Terra putting words into Ven’s mouth, but also the contrast against Jaq. Jaq basically has no dreams of his own: he may as well be saying “I hope Cinderella’s dream comes true, because I’m a good friend, but also because I’m a supporting character and have no dreams of my own due to underdevelopment and a tight film focus. Hey Ven, you’re a lead character, what’s your dream?” And Ven replies, “Huh, I guess I’m also driven entirely by another person instead of myself, just like you, who lacks dreams because he literally lacks a developed character,” and no one noticed anything was wrong with that. If they had wanted Ven to be inspired by Terra and to want to be a Keyblade master, they could have done so, but instead they did… this!
You know, I’ve seen well-written characters that are driven almost entirely by others, but not only are these two not in the same league, but a lot of those characters? Not very happy stories. Not very happy stories at all.
I’m not going to mention Unversed Missions from here on out (until we get to Terra) so that means there are three prizes here, sort of four. We get started with the Diamond Dust Command Style, the Blizzard-aligned command style named for Sora’s Keyblade in KH1 international and Shiva’s attack in Final Fantasy. Next is the Stroke of Midnight Keyblade, a balanced Keyblade with a high crit rate. Frankly Ven has a higher starting crit rate than his siblings, so I don’t really care for it compared to the Treasure Trove. Frankly, this is more of an Aqua Keyblade than anything, since it’s the same as her starter plus crit rate, whereas both Terra nor Ven would lose strength by equipping it.
The second prize for the Castle of Dreams is Cinderella’s D-Link, which has a few renamed, rudimentary commands (plus “Wish Shot,” a command that seems exclusive to her) and its finishers, two QTE-heavy, damage-low finishers that just aren’t worth the trouble. Are Cinderella’s exclusive abilities to Regen and negate status effects worth the useless finisher attacks? You decide, though bear in mind that the answer is actually “no.”
The third and final prize for the Castle of Dreams is the Castle of Dreams Command Board. I know I still haven’t described Command Board, but I wanted to mention that playing on this board can reward two of the game’s three Commands that can only be won via the minigame, and I’m mentioning it now because one of them is a personal favourite. The exclusive command that I’m talking about is Focus Block (Focus Barrier for Aqua, but don’t expect me to clarify that every Block command is a “Barrier” for Aqua from here on out). You can also earn Meteor Shower, a high-hit, uselessly low-damage shotlock that’s only exclusive here for Ven and Terra but can also be synthed by Aqua if Command Board has driven you up the wall. If you want to complete the reports, you’ll have to go for Focus Block/Meteor Shower eventually, and I think Focus Block is worth it, even if Meteor Shower is not.