Much to my disappointment, the Combat Lv in the next three worlds (four if you include Never Land) is identical across all three characters, meaning you go to the worlds in the same order so long as you don’t go out of your own way to break it up. I can understand Disney Town, which doesn’t have much in the way of mandatory combat and probably should be first, but surely they could have swapped up Deep Space and Olympus Coliseum, maybe to explain why Ven gets to Deep Space last in the official timeline?
Another problem with the second set of worlds is that they have very, very few exclusive areas: none in Disney Town or Olympus Coliseum, only a handful in Deep Space and Neverland (most of them boss arenas!). Between both factors, the second set of worlds feels unoriginal across the three characters. Not only is that going to take a word count toll on the Retrospective, and is definitely a letdown for me after completing my first character in a playthrough.
On to Disney Town. Terra begins the world actually standing out-of-bounds in an area the player can’t reach in-game! He’s standing next to a racetrack, and sees several Unversed jetting around the track. These are Glidewinders, who are basically new to us since Ven could only encounter them during the mini-game we’re about to examine. We’ll discuss their combat potential on another world. For now, let’s just laugh together as Terra is nearly run over by a stranger in a dark-purple costume. Who is this mysterious man?
Terra is saved at the last minute by Queen Mickey, who’s too polite to get angry at him (“I’m sure you have your reasons, but I can’t say that I approve either!”) so Chip and Dale, who are running this minigame, get angry at him for her. Terra insists that “rules don’t apply when you’re up against the Unversed.” You can see what he’s trying to say, but Chip (who doesn’t understand the big picture here) calls him out on dismissing the rules, and tells him he sounds just like “Pete.” Just then, who should arrive on the scene but the mysterious man from earlier, dressed in a dashing costume: Captain Dark, the mysterious race car driver!
Captain Dark, voiced by Jim Cummings, is some sort of master of disguise mixed with a superhero. There have been plenty of fan theories about his identity, but none have ever been officially confirmed by Square Enix. Dark blames Terra for costing him the “track record” (even though he didn’t slow down at all), and even he insists that Terra follow the rules, even though Chip says that Dark has been cheating left and right. Terra and the chipmunks come to a consensus: Terra wants to “defeat the Unversed” on the track, and Chip and Dale want to rub Captain Dark’s face in a loss, so Terra should race to do both. As it happens, you can’t possibly kill the Unversed in the track any more than you can murder Captain Dark with a rusty tail pipe (and who would want to harm such a hero?), but these are our highly artificial motivations. Minnie even goes so far as to suggest that there are no Unversed elsewhere in Disney Town, which might be a remnant of an earlier design? In any event, Rumble Racing’s plot feels a lot like the shallow plot of other mascot racers. That might even be a compliment!
While Terra can go off and explore the world, buy ice cream and play other minigames, same as Aqua and Ven, and can learn his own style of Break Time in the pinball machine. The only outright new thing here is Terra’s “knocked in the air” counterattack, Payback Fang, found in the room next to the track. This counterattack is a swipe instead of a Strike Raid variant like Ven’s, and so has the potential to miss. There’s nothing else new here, so we’re going to focus on Rumble Racing and then head straight off-world.
Rumble Racing is a relatively simple mascot racer. Five laps around the track and the person who crosses the finish line first wins (I’d have preferred three laps to five, but that’s a preference thing). The player characters ride their Keyblade Glider. Unlike most Mario Kart-likes, you don’t pick up weapons in the field (although there are shields that will protect you from a single attack), but rather have attacks available at all times, excusing a quick cooldown. For Terra and Ven, this attack is a ramming attack that seems to speed you up a bit if you make contact, while Aqua can shoot arrows from her glider. Aqua’s attack can hit enemies at a distance, but lacks the handy speed-up feature of her brothers’. Your fellow racers also have attacks, though they use them a lot less frequently. To compensate for the relative availability of weapons, you get a warning when a shot is incoming, and also get a Barrier spell you can trigger at the press of a button to protect against them. Your opponents don’t even get that last thing! Beyond the change to weapons, things are otherwise recognizable to any Mario Kart vet. There’s no drift button, which makes corners trickier than they might have been in another game, but there are speed-up pads, ramps and optional shortcuts for you to master. It’s all very simple, but still fairly enjoyable. Sad to say that while this minigame would have made a perfectly acceptable split-screen racer, it’s not available in multiplayer except in the PSP version. I’m disappointed, but not surprised, considering that Command Board doesn’t have local multiplayer either and it would have been even easier to program!
Your fellow racers are always the same: one Glidewinder of each colour (red, blue and yellow), the duck siblings (Huey, Dewey and Louie) in tiny propeller planes, and Captain Dark in his overlarge car. The only difference between these characters seems to be their size and attacks, so the idea that Captain Dark is cheating or even winning races is debunked the moment you finish your first race. Racers can end up completely scrambled and Captain Dark has no advantage over the others. Their weapons vary, but don’t seem to help much. Glidewinders have a ramming attack not unlike Terra and Ven, the ducks launch cartoon missiles, and Captain Dark throws bombs if I’m not mistaken. It’s hard to say, because you’re less likely to encounter Captain Dark since he’s the only one of his type on the map! If I am mistaken, please correct me!
Oh, and I should probably add that while the game has five laps, it actually disables its rubber band AI during the final lap. You can see your character get a serious lead if you keep on top of your game.
To advance in the story, Terra has to get in first place in the first Rumble Racing track, Country Chase. This map is relatively straightforward and only features a single shortcut, as well as some annoying tornadoes for you to use Barrier against towards the end. For interest’s sake, we’ll check out the remaining racetracks while we’re here. The next two maps all begin in the same location as Country Chase, only branching off the path later in the course. Disney Drive sends you through Disney Town with a few ramps and a tricky shortcut that involves speeding up a ramp but then stopping before you fall off a ledge. Grand Spree is mostly just Disney Drive in reverse, though the track layout was changed to eliminate the shortcut I just mentioned, forcing you to do most of the race on the level.
The last racecourse is easily the most difficult, even to the point of being unfair. Instead of running through town, this race runs through the castle. First, you have to navigate a series of branched paths through the castle gardens, and then underground through the basement, which includes two paths that are stacked on top of one another. The trick for the gardens section is that there’s one path that is demonstrably better than the others, and not taking it for even a single lap might as well be a loss! Once you do take it, you end up on the upper path in the basement, and don’t you dare fall of or you’ll lose a shocking amount of ground via a time-wasting (and incredibly boring) horseshoe in the top-left of the map. This also implies you’re about to lose. It feels more like a mean-spirited, time-consuming puzzle than an actual race.
I believe that simply participating in Rumble Racing also unlocks the game in the Mirage Arena on the PSP, while in 2.5, it’s available on the outset (I’m not sure which is the case in FM PSP). Clearing courses in either location will unlock later courses (in 2.5, Country Chase and Disney Drive are both unlocked at the start), but just to be irritating, there are two different sets of prizes depending on locations. In the Arena, you can get Arena points for racing and also rank advancements if you can clear time trials, but in Disney Town, you get items if you win and can’t qualify for time trials! All these differences despite there being no gameplay difference between the two locations! This two-pronged approach means that if you want all the prizes, you have to play each course at least twice, once in Disney Town and once again in Mirage Arena for the time trial, doubling the time spent on the game through tedium alone. This also happens with Command Board, and is even worse there. At least Rumble Racing only takes a few minutes of your time once you get used to the courses!
Despite some sources online claiming that you get the Disney Town prizes for simply placing in the top three, this is not true in all versions I’ve played (it could still possibly be true of Japanese Vanilla or Japanese PSP FM). In versions I’ve played, you only receive the Disney Town prizes for placing first. You get a useless Hi-Potion for Country Chase, and of course, Terra has to clear Country Chase this to progress Disney Town’s storyline. Later courses return, in order: 2) an equally useless Fire Dash, 3) a moderately useful Aerora, and finally 4) the Victory Line, a Keyblade. This is a lot of work for a single prize, even if it is a Keyblade, so I’m sad to announce that’s not even that great a Keyblade. The Victory Line is a Strength-focused Keyblade that is more or less in-line with what I’d have expected from Disney Town’s Keyblade if it had been unlocked by default. The Victory Line is a great example of why DDD decided that all its minigame Keyblades would be endgame Keyblades.
After Terra puts Captain Dark in his place and does absolutely nothing about the Unversed, Captain Dark complains and runs off, causing Chip to mention the voting for the Million Dreams contest, ala Ven’s storyline. It seems Captain Dark thought he could win by becoming a racing star and a heel (double meaning there, hope you caught that). Now that we’ve passed along that information, Terra says that he learned that he doesn’t always “have to bend the rules to reach [his] goals,” and he monologues about how just because he’s staring into the darkness doesn’t mean he has to give in. Wow, and this is like… maybe five minutes since Radiant Garden, right? Assuming you went straight to the races and won Country Chase on your first try. And now Terra’s completely completed his character arc! What a reversal! Terra, I’m starting to think your heroic flaw is weakness to peer pressure.
So, like… we’re done, right? This is the end of Terra’s arc. There’s no conceivable way it could continue after this resolution. Game over! Come back next update for nothing, apparently. Absolutely nothing at all!
Since Disney Town’s rooms are all unlocked for every character, Disney Town’s Unversed Challenge is finally back in the same room for every character: the street outside the race track. This Challenge features the Ringer, a recolour of the Prize Pot. The Ringer teleports around the map to pre-set locations, and after it spawns, it throws up a beacon to help you locate it. You have to quickly run to its location while trying to keep your eye on the Unversed itself, as once you get close enough, the Ringer will summon a number of clones and your only means of identifying the real one is to keep an eye on it as the fakes appear. Oh and watch out, because you’re on a timer.
This challenge can be incredibly tricky given the way the clones are summoned in a swarm, often obscuring the real Ringer. Even worse: it’s possible to get too close to the Unversed without a chance of seeing it split up, meaning you’ll have no clue which one is real! This means that the way you approach the Ringer is more than half the strategy.
To make matters even more complicated, the Ringer is immune to all most projectiles and indeed spells of all kinds. You all but have to take it out at close range. Thankfully you only have to tag it with an attack, not damage it, which means using any close combat abilities would probably be a waste of time compared to your basic attack. This leaves you with only a few options: Dash techniques (risky), regular attacks, mobility upgrades, and good old fashioned player skill! There’s no way to cheese your build to win instantly, like a lot of the other Unversed Challenges! Hey, this might be the best Challenge yet by my standards, good for them!
The prize for this is the Illusion-R, which transforms you into a Ringer. This is probably the most specialized of all Unversed transformations, as it had no attacks at all! Instead, your Ringer self will drop HP orbs and munny when you’re hit by enemies (remember that transformations are invincible), all of which your transformed character will swiftly collect. I imagine this might have been a bit more interesting in a support role in BBS:FM’s PSP multiplayer, but it’s certainly not bad on its own, and I’ve even seen it used to heal against a certain superboss, who makes traditional Cure spells… undesirable.