As Terra is leaving Neverland, he sees an intense light, and heads towards it only to find himself on Destiny Islands itself. You’ll remember that after Ven went to Destiny Islands, it appeared as a ball of light on the map – this is because both Terra and Aqua are drawn there by its light, and since it makes more sense to indicate this cinematic-only, unrevisitable world with an unusual icon, the devs chose the light to represent it.
Terra is standing by the beach and recovers a paopu fruit from the water, realizing that he’s come to the world that inspired Aqua to make the Wayfinders. Spotting the paopu tree on the islet, he decides to go to it, and the only way to get to the islet from ground level without kooky platforming is to walk through a small shed that used to house a save point in KH1. Since this is a respectable cutscene and not some gauche parkour video, Terra enters the shed, and the game curiously doesn’t render the room but rather uses this as a curious excuse to show him walking in darkness and musing to himself. This may have been done for effect… but I imagine it was mostly done because Terra ends up walking over more ground than was ever rendered in KH1, including the staircase that leads from the shack back to the outdoors, and it was easier to just use the blackness to pretend it all exists rather than actually make it exist for this one shot.
As he walks Terra reflects unconvincingly about how heartbroken – or possibly bored – he is that he’s fallen apart from his two best friends, several worlds ago, in a single fight, without any real discussion of this central plot point in the in-between. After he finishes asking his question, the game plays a chime and a light glows, as if the upcoming scene is going to somehow answer his question. And I suppose you could read it as doing so but if that’s the case, the developers have something of a dark sense of humour.
Terra returns to the outside, but before he can reach the tree, Young Sora and Riku, just a few years old, run past him! And they do it like he’s not even there? I’m serious, this is how I’d shoot this scene if Terra were some kind of invisible ghost. All you need is a “‘Scuze me!” In any event. I don’t believe I said so at the time, but Young Sora and Riku weren’t voiced during flashbacks in KH1. Those scenes, like KH1’s Final Mix additions, were eerie and text-only. As a result, this is the first time the characters have had alternate voice actors. Young Sora is voiced by Luke Manriquez, who also voiced the character of Bubu the ant in Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, which was a Dora The Explorer style show about the Chinese language and the Chinese diaspora. Luke’s debut was just a few months before his appearance in BBS! Young Riku was voiced by Ty Panitz, who had been acting for quite a bit longer, most prominently as Booth’s son Parker in Bones from 2005-2013.
Terra realizes he’d be imposing if he sticks around, and is about to leave the boys to their play when he suddenly recognizes the strong light in Riku. Sora suddenly starts shouting to someone off-screen, whom we later learn to be his unseen father, come to get them in a boat! Sora has a father?!? In any event, while Sora finally takes notice of Terra on his way down the beach (which only makes his ignoring him earlier seem stranger), he ultimately walks past, while Riku stops to say hello. Realizing he doesn’t recognize Terra, Riku asks him if he’s from another world, all while Sora’s dad, who should probably be asking similar questions, simply doesn’t appear in the following wide shot. I guess he’s still out to sea? It doesn’t help that Sora is looking into the boat that’s already present, as though his dad rowed up to the dock and then instantly fell asleep inside the boat, but even that proves impossible as we soon see the boat from another angle!
Despite meeting someone from another world, Riku asks Terra no questions, not quite obsessed with escaping Destiny Islands like he would be in ten years. Riku tells Terra a story about how there was “a kid” who left Destiny Islands in the past, and he plans to do the same. This silently implies that, to Young Riku, escaping the islands to see other Worlds must not be so hard to do and will be something he just naturally achieves with time. As he tells this story, a new image fades in that you may have forgotten: remember the start of the game, and the silver-haired young man who stood on the beach and spoke in David Gallagher’s voice, before being replaced with Master Xehanort? The game is reinforcing that Master Xehanort came from Destiny Islands as a young man! This suddenly makes all his remarks about being trapped on his homeworld in certain reports all the more striking, even moreso when you realize he only went on to be trapped by his role as a Keyblade Wielder!
Even Terra seems to see this vision of Young Xehanort, which is very strange, but he also sees Riku’s potential to become his own adult self (doubly serving to underline the connection between Xehanort and Riku that I was just talking about). He asks Riku why he wants to know about other worlds, and Riku says he wants to become strong so that he can “protect the things that matter. You know, like my friends!” Oh pee-yew! I thought Luke Manriquez was the one working in edutainment! Remember what I’ve said repeatedly about earning this kind of stuff? Young Riku has been on screen for just over a minute, so it suffices to say that he hasn’t. The idea of him idolizing Xehanort for escaping and becoming strong kind of worked on its own, given Riku’s future development, but since Riku doesn’t learn the value of his personal strength/darkness until CoM, trying to sell that he had a completely different childhood personality, something that could have been believable with more buildup and followup, just comes off as trifling in isolation.
At this point, Terra seems convinced, and he tells Riku the truth about the larger world, and then summons his Keyblade. Boy, better hope Sora and his dad aren’t looking at this, huh? He then holds out the Keyblade so that the grip is offered to Riku, and he recites the poem we first heard in Ven’s flashback, slightly modified and with a new verse that Terra seems to have composed on the spot:
In your hand, take this blade
And so long as you have the makings,
Then through this simple act of taking,
Its wielder you shall one day be.
And you will find me, friend—
no ocean will contain you then.
No more borders around, or below, or above,
So long as you champion the ones you love.
Riku then reaches out to grasp the Keyblade’s grip, and curiously, nothing appears to happen. At the time of release, some fans said that the Japanese release featured a particle effect when Riku touched the hilt, which was curiously removed internationally, but looking at videos of the Japanese Vanilla and Final Mix proves that no such thing exists, so I’m not sure where the rumour came from, unless I’m looking in the wrong place? As it stands, it appears to be intentional that there is no grand impact from this ceremony, and you know? I kinda like it! This isn’t the same as wehn Xion recovered her Keyblade in Days, perhaps because Riku won’t gain his Keyblade for real until many years later. It feels much more subtle as well. Indeed, some fans have suggested that this ceremony doesn’t give someone their Keyblade so much as “introduce” them to the world of the wielder, and they’ll have to prove themselves later, at which point Terra would have intended to collect Riku and begin his training. For all we know, something similar may have happened to every wielder in the game, except perhaps Yen Sid (because who knows what’s up with Yen Sid).
Sora calls to Riku, despite no sign of his father having reached the docks, and Terra tells Riku that he has to keep this a secret, has he loudly and brightly disposes of his Keyblade. Also: good job hitting the Stranger Danger key points there Terra. Riku promising to keep this a secret is the only explanation we ever get for his not mentioning any of this during the events of later games… either that or he simply forgot the particulars, seeing as how he’s somewhere between four and six during this sequence (depending on how old you imagine the Destiny Islands trio to be during KH1). It’s a thin explanation, and definitely one of BBS’ weaker moments as a prequel, but as they go, it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen, hell even in this series.
Sora asks Riku what the hell was going on, and we see that he really will keep the secret, and Terra muses on the idea that he has to “protect the things that matter.” This seems to energize Terra in a way, and as the world closes out, he’s given the second of his late-game Keyblades (after the Pixie Petal): the Ends of the Earth, a strength-based Keyblade and the evolved form of his starting Earthshaker. Kingdom Hearts veterans will recognize this Keyblade, because it’s the blade that was originally wielded by the Lingering Will.
The Badlands, Revisited – Terra
As Terra is flying off between worlds (and players start to get a little itchy about how long it’s been since they were allowed to save), he sees a bright star in the distance and somehow intuits that it’s Ven. Before he can investigate, however, Master Xehanort speaks to him telepathically, and Terra flies off like a dog to his master. Well, I’m glad the last four Disney worlds and Destiny Islands taught you all about running your own life and learning your own life lessons Terra. Have fun being a henchman, you dumb sack of rocks.
For whatever reason, Terra stays on his Keyblade glider when he arrives at the Badlands, possibly because Master Xehanort is standing on a pillar of rock for no reason – or in real world terms, the developers put Master Xehanort on a pillar of rock for no in-narrative reason so that Terra would stay on his glider. It appears that Ventus has just been to his Badlands revisit and has learned the truth about Vanitas, and has rushed off to confront Eraqus. Master Xehanort continues his trend of drumming up convincing lies by telling mostly-truths, saying that Ventus “stumbled” on the information about Vanitas. This is why the developers felt the need to spoil that information earlier, in my opinion. They essentially decided it was worth it to spoil Ven’s storyline mid-game to make Terra’s belief in Xehanort more convincing (which Ven would spoil by end-game).
Xehanort then says that he’s afraid Ventus may try to attack Eraqus into getting the truth! I’m not sure why he doesn’t bluff what Eraqus is actually about to do, since he surely must have realized Eraqus would do it given his behaviour to Ven, and it would have helped Terra players understand what’s going on when Terra arrives in the middle of the scene. It does seem more realistic this way, though, and Terra is in a panic, so I suppose it worked even if it wasn’t ideal. Xehanort urges Terra off, doing nothing himself, and while I suppose we could argue that Terra is best for this situation given his relationship with Eraqus, surely such a dire situation demands a little more personal action? After Terra flies off, Xehanort then starts chuckling. Let’s be clear that just because the developers wanted Terra’s behaviour towards Xehanort to believe Xehanort doesn’t mean they ever, ever intended the player to do so. Unfortunately, that’s fundamentally part of the problem with making Terra’s behaviour look believable. Since the player never believes Xehanort is on the level, Terra comes off as a complete fool!
Terra ominously earns the “Dark Impulse” Command Style from this, named after Riku’s 3-card Duel Sleight from Re:CoM. Dark Impulse is a Level 2 Command style that… well actually, why don’t we wait for an appropriate context?
Land of Departure, Revisited – Terra
Presuming you don’t ignore Terra’s urgent concerns for Ven’s safety by fucking off at Disney Town eating ice cream, the player is able to go straight to the Land of Departure. Terra arrives back at his home just in time to see Eraqus draw his sword on an unarmed Ventus and threaten to kill him, cutting in the way just as we’ve already seen in Ven’s tale. As a quick play-by-play to get everyone back up to speed: Eraqus threatens to kill Terra as well, and Terra ignores Ven’s pleas to let him die. After a brief exchange of blows, Eraqus begins to power up with Light, so Terra gives in to his inner darkness to defend himself and resolves to protect Ven at any cost, pushing him through a portal of light to a safe place at the forefront of his mind: Destiny Islands. Ven does not see what follows, though if he returns to the Land of Departure after the fact… well…
As we’re now about to learn, there was no more dialogue after the portal closed. Instead, Terra and Eraqus immediately engaged in battle, and the very first thing that happens in battle is that Terra immediately engages the Dark Impulse Command Style! In fact, Terra can barely escape the Dark Impulse command style: once it exhausts by using its Finish attack, Terra is briefly left in his default mode, but will automatically jump back to Dark Impulse the next time he fills his bar, instead of using any other Command Styles or Finish attacks! (I’m not sure on what happens if you use Ice Cream here – has anyone reading this ever tried?)
Dark Impulse uses wide, actually rather graceful swinging attacks with extra range, speed and nominally higher damage. It also has a Finish attack where Terra melts into a pool like a Shadow, and then attacks with a huge hand made of darkness from below (the hand also appears with his combo finisher. Hirokey123 reminds me that the Lingering Will had a magical hand attack that probably inspired these). The problem here is that Eraqus is resistant against Dark attacks, meaning that most of Terra’s attacks end up doing less damage than normal despite the damage boost from Dark Impulse. Some kind wiki user actually put up Dark Impulse’ numbers, so by doing a little math I can definitively say that Terra ends up doing 90% regular damage with most attacks, but thankfully still gets a measurable boost from his combo finisher and Finish attack, even if it’s not the damage he’d do against regular enemies. You’ll almost want to stay in your powered down form, but the game won’t let you do it! I understand that, narratively, if Terra hadn’t given into the darkness, Eraqus’ power boost would have overwhelmed him, but mechanically we’re being punished and it gives a terrible first impression of Dark Impulse!
As a final insult, though a narratively appropriate one, Terra can’t make connections to any of his friends via D-Links in this battle. Aw, c’mon Terra, not even Maleficent?
As you’d probably expect from most of Kingdom Hearts’ human-sized late-game duels, this is basically an endgame level boss in disguise, ala Captain Hook in CoM. Like many other such duels, a good solid strategy is to use Blocks and counter-attacks when Eraqus is using his default combos, but those won’t last forever. They also won’t give you the opportunity to use your Finish attack, since the bar will never fill if you keep waiting for attacks to come to you. Also, bear in mind that he’ll respond to combos with a counterattack, so be prepared to block or dodge the moment you’re done! Eraqus seems designed to take advantage of your use of Commands, so best to focus on the quickest commands in your deck, or anything that renders you entirely invincible. If you must use other abilities, make it projectiles when Eraqus is far enough away to ensure your safety.
Most of Eraqus’ attacks are physical combos at this early stage of the fight, though he can also summon a barrier of swords and then launch them as projectiles that you can deflect. Below half health, Eraqus will begin mixing in new attacks. First is a Hades-esque spinning attack, this time with wheelspokes of light. Eraqus will stop this rotation to trick you into taking a hit, so it’s probably better than you jump them than walk along with them like you do with Hades, since it’s easier to keep moving while jumping (with Air Slide, if needs be) than it is to stop moving at a moment’s notice. At this point he also begins launching new styles of projectiles (orbs) and will occasionally use his own form of Sephiroth’s Firaga Pillar, except in triplicate. Most of his original attacks still exist
Eraqus is a real shit during the battle, too. He keeps calling your attacks “Weak” and will address Terra as if though he’s not a person any longer, saying “Let the darkness die!” When he’s defeated, he even has the nerve to say “How could you…”!
After Eraqus is defeated, he’s in very poor shape, and the reality of what he’s just done starts to sink in for Terra. While incredibly upset, Terra repeats his case about Ven. Despite Eraqus’ “How could you…” loss quote, Eraqus surprisingly agrees, having apparently changed his mind in just these few seconds of calm! Whatever moves the scene along, I suppose. He even blames himself for Terra’s darkness… which is honestly still a shitty thing to say, but perhaps that’s the point… and recognizes that he just tried to kill his two sons and that that’s horrible. Terra kneels before Eraqus as though about to beg for forgiveness, which is why he doesn’t notice when something comes up from behind and strikes Eraqus with a flash of darkness, killing the Keyblade Master. Eraqus collapses into light as his body, perhaps in reference to Kairi in KH1, falls into Terra’s arms.
Terra is distraught at his master’s death, and it’s not entirely clear if he saw Eraqus’ attacker, but it doesn’t matter as Master Xehanort soon walks forward and begins to lecture Terra even in his moment of grief. Xehanort tries to deflect what he just did by pointing out that Terra was right to attack Eraqus in the first place, which is another instance of his mostly-truths, but Terra isn’t buying it any longer and demands to know why Xehanort killed his brother-pupil. Master Xehanort ignores him, and asks why Terra hasn’t given into the darkness. Terra doesn’t understand why Xehanort wants that, and Xehanort says that he’ll make Terra understand: he invites him to the Keyblade Graveyard, and says that he’s going to kill both Ventus and Aqua “and the last light within you will die!” (Actually, he threatens that Ven and Aqua will “meet their ends,” which makes sense given what he intends of Ven, but the threat of death is what’s important at the moment).
Notably, Terra stops calling Xehanort “Master Xehanort” during this scene. It’s that old Square Enix tradition, that I’ve been calling the “quilt squares problem” over on the Final Fantasy side of the blog: we may have gotten here for stupid reasons or no reasons at all, but now that we’re here, the scene is great!
Xehanort raises his Keyblade, and creates a familiar orb of Darkness: the same kind that destroyed Destiny Islands at the start of KH1. Sure enough, this rips the Land of Departure to pieces, leaving it in the state we remember from Ven’s tale. I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t outright summon Darksides to make the connection even clearer, but I suppose Terra would go and fight them, and then there would be no reason for the Land of Departure to survive for Ven and Aqua players to see it… oh well, maybe this is best. While Xehanort taunts Terra with the destruction of his homeland, I can’t imagine he needed to do this to goad Terra along, so I can’t help but imagine that Xehanort tried to destroy this world for personal reasons.
Xehanort flees, and the floor of the arena where you just fought splits away… and in a manner very similar to Ven’s broken heart at the opening of the game! Terra watches this in shock for a long stretch of time, before he recovers and remembers Xehanort’s other threat. Terra pulls out his Wayfinder and promises that he’ll keep his friends safe at any cost.
Leaving the world, Terra is rewarded with a new Keyblade: the Chaos Ripper, a black and red Keyblade marked with the eye of darkness on both the blade and the keychain. This all-eggs-in-one-basket Keyblade gives you an unbelievable +10 Strength when only post-game Keyblades are willing to go beyond +6 in anything, and even they never go up to +10. The price is a minus 2 to Terra’s magic, and also a fairly low crit rate, though its crit multiplier is adequate. Whether or not you use the blade is up to play-style, roleplay, and challenge.
You also receive Xehanort Report 8. In this report, Xehanort talks about Eraqus’ light-extremism, and how Xehanort genuinely believes that too much darkness has been “stamped out” and that the world might soon fall into misbalance (whether or not that was actually the case is impossible to prove, since our only window into those years is Xehanort himself, and not only is he biased, but he says so very little that there is close to nothing on the subject whatsoever). He then talks about his sense of freedom after breaking with Eraqus and how he has so much left to do. He debates taking an apprentice, but is so ambitious, and so advanced in years, it’s as though there isn’t enough time to do that, or anything else for that matter…