Back to the narrative. Ven climbs through a scenic garden packed with Unversed until he arrives at the steps below the building that will one day become the Hollow Bastion. It’s easy to miss, but if you look to the “door” you just left, you’ll see that Ven just followed a twisting mountain path off-screen, an impressive, cartoon-styled detail that goes easily overlooked! Another easily overlooked detail is the fact that there’s a staircase between the Bastion and the town square you used to enter, but it’s been closed off and is never opened! Keep that staircase in mind because we’re going to bring it back up when we get to Aqua’s trip to this same world.
Ventus climbs the stairs leading up to the Bastion, presumably still following Mickey, when he sees two guards covering the entrance. To our surprise, these turn out to be familiar faces: they’re two of Ansem the Wise’s apprentices! The first is Dilan, the original self of Xaldin, still armed with a spear, while the other is Aeleus, the original self of Lexaeus, here armed with an axe that actually looks like an axe. Both are voiced by the same voice actor as their Nobody, and take that as a given for any other original selves we might encounter in here and later games.
One bit of detail-work here is that the guard uniforms on the men bear a heart emblem, presumably to explain why the emblem was all over Hollow Bastion despite BBS being set before Maleficent’s takeover!
The guards initially appear to be in meditation (a pretty darned stupid practice for guards), but they block Ven’s path when he arrives and, when he protests, tell him that they haven’t seen Mickey come by. It’s not clear if they’re telling the truth or not. You might be inclined to think that Mickey just went in for his famous meeting with Ansem the Wise, but later evidence will make this impossible, so he can’t have gone to meet the big man. This might seem a little out-of-character for me, the grand nitpicker, but I’ve never been that concerned with the truth of the matter. Look, here’s the facts: Mickey shows up in this very room during Aqua’s scenario. Did he walk in and out of the door without ever encountering Ansem, or did the Star Shard teleport him away and then back a few minutes later? Nothing changes if one is right and the other wrong, and that’s how I arrive at disinterest.
As Ven is about to give up, there’s a disturbance from the stairs and a boss-sized Unversed appears in the air. This grabs everyone’s attention, and Ven runs off in the lead. The two guards start to follow but are interrupted by the arrival of a third apprentice, Even (pronounced “Evan”), the original self of Vexen. Even chides them from running off on their duty, and says that Ven is a “special exception.” At first you might think he somehow recognizes the Keyblade (perhaps having encountered Mickey?), but instead, he begins to speak to himself once the others leave him alone, and says that Ventus heart has been “stripped clean” of darkness! Even finds this “questionable,” as do I. Is that even possible? We’ve certainly seen that Ventus had a violent restructuring of his heart sometime in the past, which led to Master Xehanort trying to leave him for dead, but who could have done that, and moreover, why? Would it even have been intentional? And what does it mean for poor Ven considering that a heart without Darkness is one of the seven most important powers in this universe? And how the crap does Even see this? Fun fact! One of these questions will not even be answered!
Ven follows the strange Unversed boss back to the town square, where he finds it confronting Scrooge McDuck. Ven rescues Scrooge with a Strike Raid, causing the Unversed to flee. Ven tries to go after it only for Scrooge to chastise Ven to a stop as Scrooge tries to “reward” him. A lot of the little details are great here, it’s a genuinely funny scene. Scrooge, previously silent, is now voiced by the late Alan Young, Scrooge’s most prominent voice actor over the past fifty years. Young was otherwise best known as Wilbur on Mr. Ed, though he also voiced several of the original Smurfs. Scrooge calls Ven over to him and whispers from behind his hat that he realizes they must both be from other worlds, and explains that he had Merlin the wizard send him out here on a business venture. What does this have to do with the reward, you wonder? Scrooge reveals his prize: three “lifetime passes to Disney Town,” for “you and two grown-ups.” It’s clear from these lines that these are like lifetime passes to Disneyland or Disney World, and that there’s a Disneyland-inspired world upcoming! Right? Well… not quite, but you can see what they were going for!
Ventus resumes his chase but is once again interrupted in the very next room, where Merlin the Wizard is drawn out of his house by the sound of the Unversed boss flying past. Merlin takes a good look at Ventus and suddenly announces that you must be “another scamp looking to wake the powers inside him.” Hm, seems like one or more of the other playable characters have been here. He directs you inside, where – whoa! BBS is so flat that even Merlin’s stone table from KH1 and 2 has been hammered into the ground! …Sorry, back to business. Merlin points you towards the Winnie the Pooh book at the back of his house, which is supposedly the way to “wake the powers inside you.” Yet once you open it, all you get is an optional Command Board for the 100 Acre Wood! That was a lot of fuss for nothing, wouldn’t you say?
Personally, I have a theory about this: I believe this might have not just been a single Command Board in earlier plans. I suspect it might have originally unlocked the entire Command Board feature. I’ve got a few reasons to suspect this. First of all, Command Board is the only game in all of Kingdom Hearts to lack a “home” in the real world. Oh, sure, it’s in BBS’ arena after a fashion, but while its look and tone doesn’t completely match Merlin’s House or the 100 Acre Wood, it definitely doesn’t match the arena. The Command Board’s introduction in the tutorial was sloppy and inappropriate, as I commented at the time. Furthermore, early access to the Command Board breaks the at-the-time fundamental Kingdom Hearts rule of “No Cure until you’ve cleared some worlds,” though that may have just been an oversight since it’s not obvious you can win Cure there. It makes more sense to me that Command Board would have a home in the game like every other minigame, and that that home would be a few worlds into the game, and there’s no other obvious suspect than here, since it’s the only time you earn a Command Board during the events of a world instead of in Wrap-Up!
After you leave Merlin’s and return to the trail of the Unversed boss, you come across one of the few dedicated platforming rooms in the game! This one uses water spouts to help you climb up a tall fountain. It’s nice and the sort of thing I’d like to see more of in the series: platforming where failure only sets you back a few seconds, and not minutes because it dumped you to another room or into deep water where you have to swim out. You also can’t easily reach one corner of the maze without some upgrades or trick jumping, which means this room also has a Metroid-style puzzle. Ven players will want to come back to clear this one, since it contains his counterattack command, Counter Rush! It’s refreshing after so long without this sort of thing, and mixed in with challenges like Maleficent’s maze, the Dwarf hide-and-seek, and hunting for dress materials, BBS seems to be doing better at exploration-based challenges than its big sister KH2. Or at least… Ven’s story is.
At the top of the fountain, you’ll encounter another high-level Unversed, the Chrono Twister, recoloured bright cyan in FM. This Unversed is shaped like an hourglass (you can see the actual body of the Unversed rolling around in one of the glass containers), and if it’s allowed to drain its sand from one side to the other, it will cast Stop. It has a few attacks while it’s waiting, to boot, having teleportation powers and an attack involving numerous energy spheres. Definitely one of the more interesting Unversed in my mind, with no particular downsides or complaints.
While I don’t have any complaints with the Chrono Twister itself, I do not like the Stop status effect. Stop forces you to rotate the control stick, as do a few other places in the game. Really, developers, have we already forgotten the lessons of Mario Party 1? Never forget Mario Party 1. Too much hardware has lost its life to rotate-the-control stick segments.
The next room, Ven finds an aqueduct that starts inside and heads outside. This room has a minor curiosity I’m going to complain about just because I’m that kind of awful. You see: there’s a pump in the inside region which has a very thin pipe on one side that seemingly blocking access on that side. Why inconvenience the player like this with a tiny decorative pipe that didn’t need to be there? I suspect the pump itself was placed too close to the wall, enough to block access, and the pipe was placed to signify that the route was blocked from a distance, but I’m disappointed that the developers went to those lengths instead of, say, changing the size of the pump or platform for ease of access.
Once you head onto the aqueduct itself, it’s time for another encounter with Mandrakes, which are positioned within the lowered section of the aqueduct, and are almost immediately undone by their natural predator, a slightly raised sidewalk! Almost as comically undone are the Tank Topplers that appear here, which can escape the lowered part of the aqueduct by bouncing, but will become trapped inside after they’ve been provoked to explode! The only enemies that can reach you on the sidewalk at all times are Archravens and the Blue Sea Salts, and the Archravens hardly even count!
Past there, Ven finally catches up to his quarry, and to everyone’s surprise, he’s not alone! Terra is already on the scene, and Aqua arrives at the same time (from another entrance, as we’ll discover in good time). No sooner have they seen one another than the boss Unversed arrive… all three of them. It turns out your friends have been chasing their own Unversed bosses and they all arrive and Voltron together into an even larger Unversed, the Trinity Armour (dark coloured in Vanilla, blazing white in FM – seemingly to make it resemble the FM version of the Guard Armor in KH1!). A battle begins, with both your friends as AI controlled allies!
The Trinity Armour boss fight is identical across all three folders, so I may as well speak generally. The battle consists of two strict phases, though you could arguably say that there’s three. First, you fight the armour as a whole. Technically, the armour is still being treated as three parts, but it sticks together and has unique attacks in this phase, most noticeably a barrage of energy balls released in a large spread, which can take Terra and Ventus by surprise (Aqua, who doesn’t use a Block technique but rather a 1080° Barrier technique, wins every time). After you’ve done enough damage, the Armour parts will split, leaving you to mop up the pieces one by one. One thing to look out for is the fact that the detached arms and body shoot a lightning attack, but that’s easily dealt with by killing the low-HP arms… or is it? The trouble starts once you enter the pseudo-third phase, which occurs when the torso is the only part left alive (Eamonn tells me you can’t kill the torso during stage 2 no matter how hard you try, though you can get a head start). The biggest change in this phase is that the torso can fire lightning around the arena with impunity, though it’s rather dense about doing so, since you can nearly sit underneath it as it rotates.
Clearing the battle as Ven gets you Ven’s first Level 2 Command Style, Cyclone. Level 2 Command Styles can be tricky to trigger, since you have to first trigger a level 1 style and then trigger the second while the first is still in play! This isn’t just complicated, but it demands either carefully built deck or carefully measured play to trigger. Cyclone requires quick and aerial attacks to trigger, and ends with an impractical spinning top attack. Personally, I think it’s one of Ven’s worst Level 2 Command Styles, but that makes a certain amount of sense, since we got it first!