As Ventus leaves his third world (whichever that is), he gets a cutscene where, when flying between worlds on his glider, he catches sight of the mysterious boy in the mask. Seizing the opportunity, Ven follows along and is led to a strange, isolated world. The world is identified only after the fact as “The Badlands” or “The Haunted Wasteland” in Japanese. An experienced player should recognize it: it’s the battlefield from the Lingering Sentiment battle in KH2:FM+. There, the masked boy waits for Ventus, and we can only expect a fight.
Ventus asks the boy about what he said about Terra, but he apparently has nothing to add. Instead, pulls out a Keyblade, the Void Gear. Despite the similar name to Days’ power-up system, the Void Gear has its name because of its gear-like features. The boy demands a fight, which forces you into a short battle that is interrupted after you or your opponent deal enough damage. Odds are good that a new player will come up short on their first attempt, maybe even in the first few seconds due both to unfamiliarity with the Masked Boy’s attack patterns, and because you might still be at low level as a cascade effect from Dwarf Woodlands! But don’t worry quite yet. By the way, the boss theme here is the Masked Boy’s regular battle theme, “Enter the Darkness.”
Whether you “win” or lose, the Masked Boy announces that Ventus is “worthless” and says that he’s going to kill you even against “the Master’s orders.” He launches a fireball at Ven, though Ven is rescued at the last moment by the least likely figure: a young Mickey Mouse, wielding the Star Seeker.
There’s no time for explanations: Mickey just casts “Heal” (Mickey, that’s not the name of the sp—oh, forget it) and demands to know where the Masked Boy got the Void Gear, since “Keyblades are not something you use to just to bully somebody around.” Together, he and Ventus team up to fight the boy again.
This is your first NPC team-up in a Ven-first approach, so it’s worth saying that BBS’ support NPCs are very limited. You can’t heal them, for starters (even with multiplayer healing spells!), nor can you command them in any way. On the other hand, they sometimes offer Reaction Commands like the fairies did in the battle with Maleficent, and if nothing else they can distract a single opponent, which is what’s really going to save your life here against the Masked Boy.
The Masked Boy has a huge number of attacks, divided roughly into short and long range. At short range, your primary concern should be his ability to escape from stunlock (or sometimes even a single hit!), leaving an illusory “afterimage” or “shell” behind him for you to button mash against like a fool before the real Masked Boy jumps you from above. The ideal way to intercept this attack is to dodge roll to one side and then hit him again immediately, but the timing is tricky and, worse, he can drop another shell as soon as you get back into a combo! And if Mickey triggers this afterimage attack, the Masked Boy will nevertheless attack Ven, no matter where you are on the map! At long range, you have to put up with some of his strongest attacks, though they can be blocked (a good source of Focus if you’re using Focus Block). He can also teleport away from your shotlocks, though they’re still not a terribly bad idea. Your team-up attack with Mickey is called “Burst of Faith,” though it’s actually just a renamed Holy Burst from Re:CoM!
It’s a good thing Mickey provides all these advantages, especially in distracting the Masked Boy, because BBS can’t actually let you D-Link when a partner is in the field! I suppose this might be narrative (why call on your friends for help when you have a friend right here?), but I suspect it’s technical, though I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong with D-Links in particular, when Command Styles, Finish Attacks and Shotlocks still work. Maybe they’re worried about the elaborate Finish attacks attached to most D-Links? If I can’t point out what’s wrong with D-Links, why do I suspect the problem is technical? Simple: if BBS could have handled more teammate segments, it would have had some. There are plenty of worlds where you’re near an existing Guest party member but they simply don’t appear in certain fights, even though it would only take a few narrative tweaks to put them into play (or no tweaks at all! Indeed, the game already has a few narrative tweaks designed to remove at least one Guest!). If BBS could have handled a traditional walkaround teammate, it would have had one of those too! At this point, it just seems reasonable that there are technical problems with Guests, and since it looks like Guests are buggy, I’m more inclined to blame them for bugging up the Guest and D-Link snafu!
If all else fails against the Masked Boy, know that he’s actually vulnerable to several debilitating status effects like Sleep and Zero Gravity. The reason I don’t outright recommend using these is because few other bosses have this same weakness, and it pays to get used to the game’s fundamentals, but this is an especially tough early boss! Even worse, this isn’t the last time our friend in the Mask will be fought in the game (no surprise there), and while he usually retains these vulnerabilities, he doesn’t always, and it would suck to come to rely on them only for them to be taken away from you later on!
One funny observation I made here is that you can hide from the Masked Boy and, if Mickey is unconscious, he’ll stand around doing nothing. Perhaps his coding for this situation from was removed for this early fight, ala the Zip Slasher from Days?
After defeating the Masked Boy, he gets back up almost without any trouble. He gives a laugh and announces that Ven is “on probation,” though refuses to explain himself before leaving the scene through a dark portal. Left on their own and with nothing else to do, Ven and Mickey exchange introductions, and Mickey explains that he ran off from Yen Sid after learning the worlds were in trouble. On his way out he took the Star Shard, a magical artifact that casts teleportation spells. The devs introduced this to serve two purposes: 1) to mimic the plot of Sorcerer’s Apprentice by having Mickey take something of Yen Sid’s he doesn’t understand, and 2) to teleport him wherever they want him to be at any given time, causality and setup be damned. I’m not exactly happy about that second thing, but Mickey only ends up teleporting a small number of times (I won’t say how many, but it’s small enough number for me to call off the top of my head!), so it’s not as much of a narrative exploit as it might sound. In fact, Mickey arriving just in time to help Ven is probably the worst example of the Star Shard being used as a narrative exploit, and it’s already behind us!
Still, just as Ven and Mickey are talking, the Star Shard glows and teleports them both away. When Ven recovers, he finds himself in his armour floating above a new world, a world familiar to the players: Radiant Garden.
There is no sign of Mickey out in the void, though he did leave you a triple surprise: a new D-Link, a Deck Capacity upgrade, and the High Jump command! High Jump is just how you’d expect (though unlike the original Jump command, you can level this one up). The Mickey D-Link is an especially useful one thanks to its first level-up ability, Auto-Teleport. This ability will randomly teleport you away from damaging hits to a nearby part of the arena, saving you a huge amount of damage. His second level-up ability may be even better, since it gives you Double EXP. His Finish commands are reminiscent of the Fairies’ spell against Maleficent, using a tedious QTE wheel, but the regular attacks are more than worth the extra effort.
One thing I should reiterated to you about High Jump is that changing any part of your command deck causes the entire command deck to recharge. This is only fair if you just swapped out a combat ability that would need to recharge, as it keeps you from cheating, but it still applies to non-recharging commands like mobility upgrades, counterattacks and shotlocks, which can really hit you by surprise!