Since Terra has no particular objective at this point, the game teleports him back to the the lower levels of the aqueduct, where he’s greeted by a familiar stranger: Braig, whom we saw at the end of Ven’s storyline. Dressed in a palace uniform and a torn red scarf, Braig is still in possession of both eyes, has no scar on his face, his eyes are not yet yellow, and while this was visible in Ven’s storyline, I forgot to mention that his hair is all black instead of black striped with grey like Xigbar’s. Speaking of the uniform, Braig’s connection to the palace goes largely unexplained until a much later scene, and you could be excused for not noticing the uniform under that scarf, especially if you came to Terra’s storyline first and have yet to catch sight of Dilan and Aeleus with Ven!
Braig gets straight down to business: he says that he’s taken Xehanort prisoner and that Xehanort has been asking for Terra ever since. Terra doesn’t believe him, and Braig doesn’t have any proof besides Xehanort’s name, so this doesn’t exactly look on the level, even for a kidnapping. Braig also doesn’t give any motivation, and only has a single demand: for Terra to come to a place in the Outer Gardens. Please don’t confuse that with the “Gardens” from Ven’s route, but feel free to blame the developers for the similar names. Terra admits he still doesn’t believe it, but decides to humour this stranger, because he really does have nothing better to do with his time.
The Outer Gardens are the room where Ven found Terra at the end of Ven’s meandering Radiant Garden finale, so off you go back to the courtyard and then to the gardens to find the building in the centre, which I mentioned briefly in Ven’s scenario. He enters the door and finds a huge a cavernous underground room that the game will identify on revisits as a water “Purification Facility.” Terra finds a boss arena conveniently constructed over the facility for his viewing pleasure. Fun fact: there’s a football field-sized arena originally built into the White House laundry room for the final boss battle against James K. Polk, but he never showed. Terra finds no one waiting for him on the platform, and gets a smug look on his face that Braig never showed up in this small corner of the giant room! Well, time to go home.
The game shows a little cinematic cleverness when Terra finally takes over the rail and the camera pivots to stay locked on his eyes as he looks down, meaning the camera is looking up and behind him, revealing Master Xehanort chained to a pillar on a higher platform! Terra senses this somehow and wheels, discovering Braig at the entrance. Braig claims to have been torturing Master Xehanort for information on the Keyblade, including the infamous self-deprecating joke “It seems like these days everybody’s got one of those.” I’ve never minded the proliferation of Keyblades in the series, but out of respect for those who do, I’ll repeat my old complaint that just because you’ve hung a lampshade on it doesn’t mean it’s out of the room!
Braig says he wants a Keyblade, and he very pointedly says that Xehanort called Terra “Keyblade Master material.” By the way, remember that we’ve already seen these two talking before we came to Radiant Garden, so it’s clear that this is one of Xehanort’s schemes. So Xehanort must have told Braig was told to say that, right? That’s clever, that’s very clever. Braig, now wielding a crossbow, figures that if he can defeat someone like that in a fight, he’d become a wielder in his place. But despite his seeming pretence of fighting fair (as opposed to whatever he did to Xehanort that obviously didn’t get him a Keyblade), when Terra charges him, Braig announces that he’s wired Master Xehanort with explosives! Left with no choice, Terra stands his ground and defends against Braig’s attacks until he’s exhausted, prompting Master Xehanort to urge him to fight even at the cost of his life, but it’s no heroic speech: he’s basically trying to shame Terra into fighting to avoid reproach from his family. Terra stands and, between his beating and the shame, Terra is shaking with Dragon Ball Z-esque power and rage. Braig then loudly announces that he was bluffing about explosives. Yeah, if you can’t tell, something’s more than a little suspicious going on here, but even though that last line sells it… I also can’t imagine any other way to conduct the scene? Like, if Braig hadn’t set up explosives and Xehanort couldn’t be certain (as implied here), how else could they reveal that without having Braig announce it? But there’s something about his tone that makes him sound scripted, and you’d be right to suspect it. But first things first.
The boss fight against Braig is heavily reminiscent of the fight with Xigbar in KH2, which is bad news for you, because that was when KH2 woke up and decided to start playing hardball. Still, Braig isn’t as strong as his original self, though I needed Hirokey123’s help to spot most of the differences. Curiously, Braig already exhibits some of his space powers. He can already teleport around and fire homing arrows. It’s just that most of those attacks that are there are much weaker.
I should probably be more concrete about what I’m getting at here. Braig’s fight begins with Xigbar’s sniper attack, which you can deflect to break just like before. Unlike in KH2 where Xigbar would hang in the air at almost all times during the regular battle, Braig will alternate between the air and the ground. He also has a running and firing attack that’s brand new, but that’s partially because Xigbar never ran at all. His shots are much easier to dodge, even at a simple run, and he cannot yet fire his ricocheting spread shot, but he does have a homing charge shot instead (which you can disrupt by hitting him enough times, though this is incredibly risky since it puts you right in front of him when he’s ready to fire). Naturally, you can’t use the Warp Snipe Reaction Command, and as I said, Braig has no Limit Break and lacks the ability to change the terrain. So long as a veteran can adapt to the differences between Sora and Terra, there should be no surprises for them here.
The boss theme here is the curiously named “Black Powder” (possibly supposed to be “Black Power?”), a song not actually associated with bosses, but with Terra and his darkest moments. You can certainly see why after the fight, when Terra, so enraged by everything that’s just happened, begins to glow with darkness, which he unloads in a projectile that cuts across one side of Braig’s face, taking out his eye. Terra charges up another attack, and it’s clear that Braig thinks it’s meant to kill him for a moment, but Terra actually sends it off to free Master Xehanort. Seeing an escape opportunity, Braig, who now has a patch of darkness flaming on the opposite side of his face (which are busy causing his famous scar) that absolutely was not there before, breaks for the entrance. I can’t believe the fire on his face was missing in the earlier shot, the fact that there are two injuries is what’s important for BBS’ narrative! Sure, Xigbar famously only had one eye and only sort-of famously had a scar, and BBS felt the need to set that up, but within BBS’ own scope, it’s more immediately relevant that that Master Xehanort scarred Eraqus (and only nearly took out his eye) with a dark attack during a flashback in Ven’s tale, making this a parallel between Xehanort and Terra! As for Braig, when I say he “breaks for the entrance” I mean he bounces out of the room like Tigger, and it looks even sillier than it sounds.
Master Xehanort jumps down to Terra’s platform off-screen and compliments him on wielding the darkness, as though this were his first time doing so. It might be, but unfortunately the game’s systems can undercut this. Terra has a small handful of dark attacks available to him (Dark Firaga, Dark Haze, his ultimate attack Chaos Blade, and arguably Blackout, though that’s available to everyone), but they can all technically be fused at this point. The game is basically relying, as it is for difficulty by now for narrative, on the obscurity of the Command Melding system to keep you from finding these powerful end-game abilities!
Despite Xehanort’s praise, Terra is ashamed, and confesses to stealing Aurora’s heart as well. He says he can’t return home, and Xehanort offers him the option to become his pupil as well. He says that Eraqus’ fear of darkness has gone so far that he too has become an extremist, not consumed by excess darkness, but light. We’ve already seen the extents he’ll go to save the world from Ventus and Vanitas meeting again, and I’ll admit that Xehanort’s generally new idea of light extremism is undercut by this, but I’m still favouring my chosen play order. Hell, in Ven-first order, we can see Xehanort is correct even though we know Xehanort is ultimately a “bad guy,” and that’s a level of depth Kingdom Hearts has rarely approached! Xehanort also claims that Aqua and Ventus are “too bright” and are casting “shadows on your heart” (jealousy), which is obviously bullshit by Kingdom Hearts’ standards, but I guess it helps to know who’s the villain here.
Xehanort claims that it should really be the Keyblade wielders’ role to balance light and darkness, not to fight darkness alone. He urges Terra to explore the other worlds to see that he’s right, and reiterates his pledge to destroy Vanitas so that it remains clear to Terra that he’s not completely opposed to stopping out-of-control darkness, and then as one final carrot, he then names Terra “Master Terra.” All-in-all, a pretty effective argument for a bad guy. Indeed, some fans debate to this day whether or not Terra should be addressed as a Keyblade Master, because it seems clear that all you need to be a Master is to be appointed one by an existing Master, and Xehanort technically qualifies, even if we the players know that he should be stripped of his title and jailed. All that’s really lacking is Terra’s own consent, which is my personal stopping point, but I agree that if he wanted it from Xehanort at the time, he could probably have taken it and worn it for as long as he wanted it.
After the fight, Terra gets two prizes: the Dark Volley shotlock and Xehanort’s Report 2. After Xehanort’s big argument, I was hoping this Report would be equally appealing about the darkness, and while it does touch on the darkness, it would probably be better described as the other half of Report 5, the one you got from the Mirage Arena, which discussed means of travel between the worlds. In Report 2, Xehanort talks about how he has to wear armour between worlds to prevent being corrupted (and so we get our explanation for the trio’s armour at long last), and he laments the sheer size of the world and the rule of maintaining the world order, as not only can he not visit every world, but he can’t even share knowledge with those he does visit. You really do get the sense of someone still restrained by his purpose, trapped in a systemic prison. It’s easy to feel sorry for this younger Xehanort, even though he hasn’t done much to garner sympathy since and in response to then.
Terra returns to the surface where we get his goodbye scene to Ven, shot from slightly different angles. The scene now makes a bit more sense now than it did in Ven’s storyline, as we can see now that Terra is afraid of hurting Ven with the darkness, and that Master Xehanort was just urging him to stay away from his siblings. You can also see the dark implication behind “When I really need you, you’ll be there, ” and oh wow, isn’t it twisted how Terra is secretly saying that he knows Ven will be there to stop him if he goes dark, but it ends up being Ven who requests Terra put a stop to him? BBS can hit a high point every once and a while if it really tries for it!
One weird break that exists between the two versions of this scene is that the door to the Purification Facility is open in Terra’s storyline, but closed in Ven’s. This is because they in-game cutscene is shot in the character’s current maps, and I’m surprised they did it that way, considering the two scenes are nearly identical up until the moment Terra leaves the world!
There’s one more scene before we go, however. Back in the Purification Facility, we find Xehanort minding his own business when Braig shouts at him at starts opening fire at his back! Xehanort looks bored and uses some kind of magic to defend himself, and we see Braig, now with bandages on his face, complaining about how “You said I wouldn’t get hurt! I didn’t sign up to be collateral damage!” Okay, so these two were working together, but… what? This is a moment I liken to a frequent complaint of mine from FFVI: developers, you’re aware you’re making a game about people chopping up other people with swords, right? The insinuation that we’ve gone through not just the entire boss fight with Braig, not just all of BBS, but KH1, CoM, KH2, Days and BBS, and never so much as cut the skin our opponent without outright killing them, is a joke. I’ve had my issues with HP systems even pre-OD&D, but this seems to be part of a larger problem, wherein KH2 can claim “No injuries unless the plot says so!” and FFVI can claim “War is acceptable, but war that hurts people is beyond the pall!” There’s just something about video games and their omnipresence of combat, that seems to make certain developers forget that the combat is even there. I honestly believe that they forget after a while!
Xehanort gets Braig to back off by holding up his Keyblade. We don’t get a very good look at the thing, but I’m going to describe it now for the sake of it. It’s an elaborate, shining grey sword with what appears to be a goat on the guard, and thanks to Hyperion09 for pointing out that it was confirmed as a goat in KH0.2, though according to one of the interim Ultimanias it was called a “horned lion” for a stetch. We can also see the “Eye of Darkness” higher up the Keyblade. This is a fan term for an eye that appears on several Kingdom Hearts weapons, starting with the Soul Eater (and the Way to the Dawn, which is based on the Soul Eater, and on Ansem SoD’s dual-spear version of the Soul Eater). The Eye would go on to appear in several Keyblades starting here in BBS, including twice on Vanitas’ Void Gear.
Braig backs off, insisting that Xehanort “still needs [him] to do something, right?” He insists that “all I’m asking is that you hold up your end of the bargain.” It’s never explicitly made clear just what Master Xehanort offered Braig for his services, though some have offered believable suggestions that we’ll see before the game is over. In any event, Braig says he feels lucky because Terra didn’t steal his heart, and Xehanort reveals what I’ve been grabbing my wrists not to type by accident: that Terra never stole Aurora’s heart in the first place, and indeed wouldn’t be capable of doing it in the first place because he still has too much light. Rather, Xehanort stole the heart and arranged the whole charade with Maleficent as part of whatever deal they had running behind the scenes. Terra never learns this information, and is forced to carry the burden of guilt to the end of the game.
Your primary reward here is Deck Capacity upgrade for defeating Braig, which is Terra’s last upgrade in Critical Mode.
The Unversed Mission here has a funny detail to it right from the off. You see: Terra and Ventus play their Radiant Garden Unversed Mission in the Outer Gardens, while Aqua plays it in Central Square. The thing is… all three characters can go to Central Square, meaning it easily could have been there for everyone! I don’t claim to understand.
Curious challenge here: you face a Tank Toppler recolour known as the Belly Balloon which is all-but constantly inflating. As usual, attacks from the front will cause it to inflate faster, and attacks from the rear will cause it to deflate, but the Belly Balloon will never explode and will indeed get bigger than usual, and will deflate to the point where it becomes extra small and changes its AI to scurry about like a mouse. Your job is to fully deflate the monster, as indicated by a gauge in the top-right, and to do so within a target time limit. Your prize is another Illusion item, Illusion-B.
While there are a lot of abilities here that will dramatically reduce the difficulty of this challenge, I like the challenge a bit better than the previous ones, since you still have to be able to manoeuvre your character no matter which abilities you use. This is more than I can say for some of the other challenges once they were trivialized. Let’s see if the game can keep up the curve!