Terra’s journey to the Dwarf Woodlands begins with the evil queen from Snow White summoning the Spirit of the Magic Mirror to ask her iconic question. I don’t know, something about country fairs, I don’t remember. Naturally, the mirror reveals that the queen has been pushed down in the local fair’s beauty contest by Snow White. We’ve already discussed how the Queen is voiced by Susanne Blakeslee, while the Spirit of the Mirror is so Corey Burton that I didn’t even need to look it up. Hey by the way, did you know the Evil Queen in Snow White is named “Queen Grimhilde?”
Terra arrives in the middle of the scene, even though as we later learn this is in the middle of a godforsaken dungeon. I’ve stopped questioning Kingdom Hearts dropping people into weird places, let’s just roll with it. Just promise me that in some future game, Sora’s moment 1 appearance on the Home on the Range world will be of him buried up to the neck in sand, traditional Western-style.
Terra is intrigued by the all-knowing mirror, and even moreso when it changes up its script a little to warn the queen about Snow White’s pure heart. Unfortunately (and a little hilariously) this causes Terra to break his internal monologue and talk out loud, asking if Master Xehanort might be here looking for the pure heart. Spotted, he decides that since he dug this hole, he might as well drill all the way to the bottom, and he asks Grimhilde about Master Xehanort. She doesn’t know anything about the man, and Terra turns to leave, only for her to realize she could offer the mirror’s services to find Master Xehanort in exchange for a little task…
I’ve gotta say, despite the conversation itself having a fairly natural flow (Jason Dohring also sells his abrupt entrance as a confrontational gesture, which is nice), the scene as a whole suffers in how Terra notes the magic mirror’s seeing abilities but leaves before even asking about it, Grimhilde having to put the pieces together all on her own.
Terra seems already on his guard with Grimhilde, but asks what she wants all the same. And this is where Dwarf Woodlands dangles a nice, plump, conceptual carrot, as Grimhilde offers Terra the role of the Huntsman from the original film: kill Snow White and bring back her heart. The game even goes to the trouble of modelling a film prop, the box intended for Snow White’s heart, in strict defiance of Kingdom Hearts’ only-if-necessary NPC and prop policy (“Level design only!”). Terra, apparently more fascinated by the bit about the heart than the bit about murder, asks Grimhilde if she’s looking for the hearts of pure light too, and the localizers work some nice assonance with “What I demand is her life. I have had more than enough of her light.”
Terra finally turns the subject to murder, and is told that Snow White will be picking wildflowers outside the castle. Terra leaves, thinking that Snow White might be his best connection to Master Xehanort, but he worries the he might unconsciously take her heart just like he did with Aurora. Terra, buddy, your brand-new baby PTSD is showing, do you need a hand there? No? You just want me to handle the combat controls as usual? Well if you say so.
Like I said earlier, Terra is in the middle of a dungeon, one that Aqua will later navigate in the other direction, but it’s a dungeon that arguably seems to have been built to be navigated in Terra’s direction, given one puzzle that doesn’t make sense in the other direction. It seems like, contrary to the film where the Queen’s black magic chamber was in a tower, it’s now in the basement, in an extended laboratory (the “Vault”) full of jars, potions, and sewage. The potions take the form of large flasks that gradually change colour. Smash them when they’re green, and they’ll drop health orbs. Blue: D-Link crystals. Red? Red explodes, but you do get a generous amount of time to get away. Maybe too generous, honestly, as I don’t believe I’ve been caught by an explosion, even during my first playthrough and certainly not since?
You don’t have to go far to encounter that one-direction-only puzzle I was talking about. There are two boilers here on the bottom floor, and one of them has to be lit with Fire magic… assuming you have it. Terra doesn’t actually get Fire for free until the very next room, so the only way past this puzzle is to come back later or to have picked up Fire from Command Board, a Moogle or a Red Hot Chili. Also, did I just take bad notes, or is the mandatory boiler (the one pictured here) turned off at some point? I didn’t realize there was a discrepancy in time to check it. That’s on me, but if you know what’s going on with this, I’d appreciate a comment. Returning to the matter at hand, the boilers are also subject to my complaint regarding the dynamo in Disney Town, in which you might have to equip the spell, wait for your deck to recharge, use the spell, unequip the spell, wait for your deck to recharge…
In any event, once lit, the boiler will produce bubbles that can launch you into the air and to a higher platform. The optional platform hides a few treasures, and gives you access to a Sticker that you can’t reach without mobility upgrades.
The next room, the Underground Waterway, contains both a main path and an alternate path you can only use by hitting winches (pictured) meant to raise gates, which will cause the gate to open for a timed stretch. The alternate path contains both some chests and an additional gate you have pass through using the same timer as the gate you used to enter, forcing you to do the puzzle twice to grab everything.
After you’re done here, it’s back to the surface, where you enter the Courtyard where the Prince and Snow White first met in the film. This is a safe zone where you’ll find a chest frustratingly out of reach in one corner. I’d like to take this opportunity to compare the two Metroid puzzles we’ve seen in this world so far: first, the Sticker that you can get in the Vault by riding a fire-triggered boiler puzzle and then using mobility upgrades to grab the Sticker in mid-air. Should you fail you’ll fall to the ground and have to start all over with the boiler. The other Metroid puzzle, this chest in the courtyard, is right next to a save point you can use to enter the world in the first place. One involves dexterity and a penalty for failure, while the other is practically handed to you for remembering that it exists after you get the right upgrade. There’s a wide degree of variance in what I consider a “Metroid Puzzle,” is I guess what I’m saying, and I find the latter very disappointing, especially since it contains an incredibly valuable Fission Firaga spell! Fission Firaga is useful on its own and for fusion, meaning it far outclasses the Sticker at the point in the game when you can reach either.
Oh, and by the way, that “when you can reach either?” You can reach the chest just a minute from now (and Hirokey123 points out that you can reach it right now if you use similar tricks to the sequence break that allowed Ven to get Superglide early). I don’t know what was going through their heads, placing a Fission Firaga so early in the game, but I think it was a consequence of Aqua not being able to reach that same chest until much later in the game, even though Terra can. Hrm, some parts of the world seem designed for Terra, others for Aqua… at least it’s equal opportunity inconsistent!
Terra leaves the castle and arrives at the field of wildflowers mentioned by Grimhilde (the room where Ven’s trip here ended), and sure enough Snow White is at play in the flowers, having already gathered a bouquet (another prop!). She’s also being circled by one of those perennially mockable songbirds you see in parodies of Disney princesses to this day. Wow, who found the intern to make all the props for this place? Terra approaches and is so shocked by her calm reaction that he declares she must be have a heart full of light! Geeze, someone’s a little cocky about his appearance, innit he? Once again, BBS unintentionally makes me laugh by drawing attention to Terra’s inner monologue (or lack thereof, as it was with Queen Grimhilde), this time by having Snow White ask why he just shut up and started into space for about twenty seconds. He asks her about Xehanort, and luckily it seems that he hasn’t been here yet. Unfortunately, Terra doesn’t seem to have planned any further ahead, and is now out of ideas. Thankfully, circumstances are going to save him from any embarrassment, but not in a way he’s going to particularly enjoy.
A Flood appears behind Snow White, and Terra draws his Keyblade just in time to make it appear to Snow White that further Unversed are appearing on his command. Yup: the story she’s about to tell Ven about Terra’s siccing monsters on her was just a sitcom misunderstanding, a comedy of errors! Except replace “comedy” with “mistrust and belief that your older brother is becoming a murderer.” You can start to see why I went Ven-first, considering the alternative was to go through Ven’s storyline knowing Terra was occasionally not just innocent of his crimes, but also about as innocent as a Three’s Company plot. …Eh? Too dated a reference? Surely there must be other misunderstanding-based narratives I could compare to? Okay, maybe there are, but I think comparing BBS to a dusty, unfunny, ~30 year old stock plot emphasizes the problem. Maybe misunderstanding-driven plots still have life in Japan, but over here, Three’s Company drove it into the ground, and so long ago that BBS looks especially tired to my eyes. I imagine Japan has thirty year old narrative pariahs that I’m not familiar with either. Of course, if misunderstanding-driven plots are just as mocked over there as they are over here, BBS has no excuses!
The Unversed just happen to attack Terra the moment Snow White’s back is turned, and you have to fight a few waves – nothing more frightening than triple Bruisers, and the last time you fought those, you had to keep them off of Cinderella, so this should be a breeze!
Clearing the Unversed ambush gets Terra the Air Slide ability. Note that Air Slide needs to be levelled up for full distance, which may prevent you from getting the sticker in the Vault, though Fission Firaga is still just waiting for you in the Courtyard!
Terra starts to run after Snow White, but decides… eh, fuck it. Our hero. At least he’s consistent about his laziness? He decides instead to go interrogate Grimhilde, which I suppose is somewhat heroic, though the part where Terra abandoned a terrified, teenaged girl to dark and unfamiliar woods isn’t exactly going on the highlight reel. His excuse for not using the door to the woods, by the way, is “There’s nothing down this way.” Like hell there isn’t! In any event, you walk back through the dungeon, which is a lot easier than leaving it since all you have to do is fall through the Vault.
Once you’ve caught up to Grimhilde, since you didn’t even have the common decency to bring her a deer’s heart as a human’s. God, were you raised in a barn? Grimhilde seems to know you haven’t killed Snow White, either, since she blames you the moment you enter the room. I suppose she might have used the mirror, which I’m sure you can see is out-of-keeping with the film. Terra decides to go full-on paladin in response, calling her out for being a jealous monster. The Queen replies by demanding the Magic Mirror use its magic to “consume” Terra.
This is where we hit what may be the most inexplicable narrative version change in Kingdom Hearts history. With the censorship in the past, I’m sure that even if we might not agree with the developers’ decision, we can at least follow their line of reasoning. Re:CoM: Riku, as the hero, should not murder Lexaeus. KH2: Keep guns out of children’s media. KH2: Burning to death is terrifying and it’s significantly worse when the hero does it to somebody else. This one is a little… harder to explain.
In all versions of the game, the Mirror refuses the queen’s request, in English saying that he only has the power to provide answers. In the Japanese version, the queen enters a rage and begins to glow with red energy, overtaking the mirror and causing the mirror to attack in spite of itself. In international releases and all releases since, including Japanese versions of BBS:FM, the Queen does something off-screen, and we see a rather hurriedly modelled potion having been broken against the mirror after the fact. This causes the Mirror to attack instead. In the English version, the journal claims that the potion transformed the Spirit of the Mirror into an Unversed! I don’t know for certain if later Japanese versions also include this mention of the Spirit becoming an Unversed, but I doubt it, if only because it would be easier just to re-use the old translation.
What happened here? What was so wrong about the Queen’s darkness overtaking the heart of the Mirror? Pay especial attention to the fact that this change was retained in BBS:FM in Japan, even though changes like this usually aren’t. Indeed, later in BBS we’re going to see a narrative change that was changed for Japan’s FM release and later remained separate in 2.5! But the potion was carried over to all versions? The potion change must be either superior in their minds – and it seems almost too insubstantial for that to be the case – or was somehow mandatory. Did Disney step in and object, but too late to object to the Japanese Vanilla release? Or someone else?
In any event, the Spirit of the Mirror absorbs Terra into the Mirror itself for a boss battle, which takes place on a mirrored floor with walls of smoke that you can never reach, making the battlefield effectively of infinite. While the Mirror has a few direct attacks (which should be Blocked, not dodged, if you can help it), most of the battle is spent coping with its special clone techniques. There are two of them. The first, and perhaps more dangerous of the two, has the Mirror encircle you with clones, which will launch fireballs at you, forcing you to dodge or jump to avoid the projectiles. After the mirrors’ initial attack, you’ll be able to approach the mirrors and attack them, but you can only hurt the “real” Mirror, and will have to identify it by its smiling face. The second clone attack includes an infinite corridor of mirrors, all of which will attack you in a sort of wave. These attacks are easily dodged, since you should be moving forward to find the real mirror anyways. It’s a bit harder to find the real mirror here (once again, it is smiling), as if you miss it you’ll probably carry on down the corridor until the attack ends, but I wouldn’t consider you in much danger. Honestly, so long as you dodge the direct attacks, you’ll be mostly secure.
The Mirror’s only big surprise is the fact that it’s very hard to hit with Shotlocks, so if you’ve been relying on those in the past, this might pull the rug out from under you. Still, once you’ve mastered the fundamentals and the mirror’s few tricks, you’ll surely win the day, and while you’re at it, Terra’s copy of the Firestorm Command Style.
Terra is spat back into reality after the fight, and is no longer willing to put up with Grimhilde’s questions. But despite putting on a good confrontational face in all previous scenes, Jason Dohring suddenly drops the ball with a weaksauce demand that Grimhilde show him what he wants to know in the Mirror. No, Jason, put less feeling into it, we wouldn’t want her to feel threatened while you’re threatening her.
Grimhilde realizes she’s defenceless and obliges (in rhyme!), and the Magic Mirror tells Terra about Master Xehanort’s location via riddle, which the player might have expected, and it’s just as useless as you’d expect from a riddle. Here it is:
Beyond both light and dark he dwells
Where war was waged upon the fells
Naturally, this is useless to Terra, though anyone who’s been through the game with Ven or Aqua may recognize that this refers to the Keyblade Graveyard. Terra complains as much, but he technically got what he asked for and leaves with his tail between his legs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Terra does not get the Snow White D-Link for clearing this world, which compensates for his Maleficent D-Link and leaves him with the same number as everyone else… at least for now.
Clearing the Spirit of the Magic Mirror gives you the Firestorm command style and the Treasure Trove Keyblade. The Treasure Trove really plays to Terra’s strengths, though it could stand to be longer blade. Longer blades are especially valuable for sluggish old Terra.
The Unversed Challenge for Dwarf Woodlands takes place in the Underground Waterway for Terra and Aqua, but in the Dwarf’s Mine for Ventus. This once again makes for a different experience, but I find the challenge to similar for the one, no matter the arena.
Your enemy here is the Vitality Vial, a recolour of the Vile Phial. Counter-intuitively, the Vitality Vial will cure the player whenever the player lands a hit on them, which is good because the Vial’s only attack is to flood the entire arena with toxic, HP-draining gas! You have to survive 2 minutes to win your prize, an Illusion-V that will turn you into the Vitality Vial (which doesn’t get the gas attack, I’m afraid). Once again, while you can work out a clever strategy to survive for two minutes by chasing the Vial and using Cure to make up for any faults, this doesn’t feel so much like a challenge as it does an Ability-checking machine. The Lone Runners were checking for Mega Flare and other huge-range area attacks, while the Vitality Vial feels like it’s checking your ability to stack your deck with Curaga! Disappointing.
At least the Illusion-V’s many cure spells can guarantee you make it back to full health in the future!