As you’ll recall, when I came to Disney Town I said that it had an identical Battle Lv to another existing world, that being this one. Curiously, Ven actually arrives at this world before his friends, for the first time since the Castle of Dreams, though it’s a close shave for reasons I’ll explain when we come back here with Terra.
The plot of Olympus Coliseum takes place in a new area this time, in a “Town Near Thebes.” There, Ven runs into Phil, who’s clearly trying to avoid someone. Unfortunately for him, he’s pinned down by Ven and then by young Hercules, voiced here by the original young Hercules, Josh Keaton. Starcraft fans will know Keaton as Valerian Mengsk, though he would also go on to star as Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern animated series. Hercules shouts that he’s signed up, presumably for the latest tournament here at Olympus Coliseum. Just after saying that, Phil’s pursuer catches up to him.
This young man is wearing a helmet, which I’ll admit makes identifying him fairly difficult. For the sake of fun, let’s play ignorant and address him by voice actor: Rick Gomez, known for What About Brian and later known for TV series Justified. It seems Gomez’s character is here to be trained by Phil, who refuses to do so because… two words! “Student-teacher ratio!” Phil’s protests are interrupted by the arrival of a troupe of Unversed, and everyone (sans Phil) throws their weight into the battle for the only triple battle in the game outside the fights with the main trio.
You’ll meet some new friends here among the Unversed. New Axe Flappers join into the battle, which the first physically-aligned missile flyers in the series! …Okay, that was quite a few adjectives, so maybe it’s not all that surprising, but I’m used to the eighties, where birds shot feathers and eggs at you all day long, give me a break! The Axe Flappers also have a good recovery technique should you knock them to the ground, which has been an oversight in most fliers in the series to date (save the Wyvern remodels in Days, but those were functionally midbosses). Also new to this battle is the Buckler Bruiser, a sort of downgraded Defender. The Bruiser is invulnerable to physical attacks from the front (although magic not only works from the front, but seems to be especially effective), and the Bruiser is able to counter attacks from behind. Personally, I find the poor things tend to die when I use any sort of counterattack, even if that means using payback counterattacks like Ven’s Payback Raid then through any measure of skill of my own.
Also present in this fight are Jellyshades, which are weakling, multicoloured cream puff Unversed. Jellyshades would be hard pressed to hurt you if not for their incredibly simple strategy: all Jellyshades in the battle attack at virtually at the same time, meaning that any failure to dodge or block their attack can result in a startling amount of damage!
After the battle, which also introduces this game’s use of barrels (more on that in a moment), Phil looks pensive. It’s hard to blame him. If you took a close look at Hercules’ fighting during the battle, you could see that it was incredibly restrained and fumbling, not unlike Ping from KH2 but without the battle ending in a blink like your first run with Ping (I feel it still would have helped to see him trip up in a cutscene, however). Phil has a deal for both Hercules and Gomez: they’ll both enter the Games, and he’ll watch their performances and decide who he’s going to keep training. Ven gets excited at the news of a tournament, but Phil informs him that Gomez took the last spot, meaning Ven will have to satisfy himself with helping Hercules train for the tournament, since he obviously needs it. On the way to the old, familiar coliseum, Ven may encounter his first Yellow Mustards, the thunder-aligned spice pot.
The two of them get to work in the Coliseum. This introduces a new minigame that I find just a little underwhelming. You have to break a number of jars with your attacks, trying to outpace Hercules at the same task. Large jars are worth extra, and are also harder to destroy… for you. Hercules can do them in one! It won’t surprise you to learn that the game also features a number of barrels borrowed from Days, both the regular and explosive varieties. New to BBS is the fact that the normal barrels now fall on their sides after being launched, after which you can ride them like a ball of yarn (well, that was an interesting comparison). This doesn’t work perfectly, as the barrels have a lot of trouble getting back onto the central Coliseum platform if they fall off, and you have to be careful, because if you don’t “use upturned barrels up” by riding them, Hercules will grab them and toss them of his own accord! It’s all a surprisingly full-featured mini-game, but it’s also so easy and ultimately brainless that it’s hard for me to think very highly of it.
The rewards for Break the Urns (played twice, the second at higher difficulty) are pretty darned high: an HP increase for the first game, a Deck Capacity up for the second, and a free copy of Sonic Blade! This oversized prize is reflective of the prizes Terra and Aqua get during their visit to Olympus Coliseum for overcoming far greater challenges, plus Sonic Blade, which Terra and Aqua can only earn if they play Break the Urns manually after clearing Olympus Coliseum! Urm, good for you, Venny. I don’t know what you did to deserve double the prizes your siblings get for doing more work, but apparently you did it!
This Deck Capacity upgrade, by the way, is the last one Ven will get in Critical Mode, since he started with a bonus two slots. The remaining Deck Capacity upgrades are for Beginner, Standard and Proud players only.
After the training, Hercules explains his backstory (unexplained up until this point in KH lore), and Phil and Gomez arrive to start the tournament. Phil explains that the tournament is divided into two brackets, and that both Hercules and Gomez are in the West bracket. This is relevant because the East bracket has a “heavy-hittin’ contender cleanin’ up over there.” The boss of the world, perhaps? Hercules and Gomez fight their way through the tournament via a number of time-lapse freeze frame battles against the Unversed, finally getting me an unmissable shot of Hercules tripping up, far too late for it to really matter.
Both boys make it to the West bracket finals and promise “no hard feelings” over their upcoming duel. They fight for a brief, animated sequence before Phil runs in shouting that the Unversed are attacking the town. Naturally Ven runs out, saying he’ll deal with it while Hercules and Gomez fight their match.
When you arrive in historically illustrious Town Near Thebes, Ventus is surprised to find a colony of Jellyshades has moved in (including some truly awful-looking billboarded 2D ones in the background, made all the more visible by the HD release). Just then, Hercules arrives, saying this is far more important than the match against Gomez, and he and Ven fight together.
Naturally, this fight is a lot like the Rapid Thruster flocks in KH2, but with the added danger of the Jellyshades’ propensity to attack in groups (thankfully their group attack has a range, but you can still easily be mauled to death in a single wave if you’re surrounded and unprepared). Thunder attacks are incredibly valuable here. You can also turn to Hercules for additional help, as he launches you into a “rotate the controller” style throw Ven into the swarm… and like all rotate the controller segments, I hate every moment of it and once again worry the developers are doing the hardware damage. The fight’s ultimately not very hard, which is why I’m disappointed to say that it’s also this world’s boss. Yup, you won’t learn about the hard-hitting contender in the East Bracket until another storyline!
Your prize for clearing the jellies is the Air Slide technique from Days, a handy mobility upgrade, though not quite enough to get Ven to that upgrade in Disney Town. Unlike its Days incarnation, Air Slide can be used multiple times right out of the box, but should you use it twice in a row, the second dash will go somewhat further but will also trigger a short cooldown timer. This will cost you a bit of vertical height before you can use another dash. Naturally if you don’t use it twice in a row, you’ll be losing that vertical height naturally, so it’s better to take the bad with the good!
After the battle, Gomez arrives late to the party, protesting that he left only seconds after Hercules but just doesn’t run very fast. There must be a helluva distance between Olympus Coliseum and Town Near Thebes for that to make any sense, but if the Coliseum is still on top of Mount Olympus, maybe it does? The boys debate who won the match (later storylines imply that Gomez won via technicality) but Phil points out that he never said he’d coach the winner, just that he’d watch their performances to help make up his mind on who he’d coach in general. He declares that being a hero is also about caring about people, and that Hercules cared the fastest.
Gomez is upset, but as an optimist to rival Sora, he’s back on his feet in only seconds. In fact, he turns it around into an introduction, apologizing for not introducing himself earlier. He takes off his helmet, revealing the perhaps-familiar face of Zack Fair from Final Fantasy VII, who I’m embarrassed to say, is the only Final Fantasy character in the entire game. I’ve already discussed the trouble with Laguna Loire, and Nomura also mentioned the possibility of seeing a younger Cid Highwind at Radiant Garden, but in the final product Zack and the Moogles are all you get! Zack is mostly here to cross-promote Square Enix’s other big PSP game, Crisis Core –Final Fantasy VII–, released two years prior. So sure, not the timeliest cross-promotion in the history of advertising, but it certainly beats out KH’s usual brand of cross-promotion, promoting games like FFVII in KH1 (a five-year gap) and films that, due to Disney’s rotational release model during the days of physical media, might not have appeared on home video again for years! This cross-promotion of Crisis Core goes so far as to have Zack’s character profile say that his debut game was Crisis Core itself, instead of FFVII! Zack’s theme from Crisis Core, “A Date with Fate,” also plays here.
By the end of the world, Ven has a quick chat with Phil and seems to feel confident all of a sudden that he’ll patch things up with Terra and Aqua. It’s a little hilarious, then, that in Aqua’s storyline, she’s just a few worlds away from saying that everything is ruined and will never be the same again! I’m glad the three of you are having such disparate reactions to a single argument on Radiant Garden. Ven promises to come back when both of the others are “true heroes” (“Oh, so you mean never come back?”) and the world wraps up.
Your prizes for this world are the good old fashioned duo of a Keyblade and a D-Link, namely the Mark of a Hero Keyblade and the Zack D-Link (no sign of a Hercules D-Link, but that would be redundant). The Mark of a Hero is the usual all-strength affair we’ve come to expect from Olympus Coliseum, so no surprises here. The Zack D-Link, meanwhile, is a serviceable affair that evolves into an almighty finisher once you’ve collected both upgrades.