Chapter 12 begins with Yuffie running into the room just in time to see Vincent smacked into the wall by the Lifestream. Meanwhile, outside of the city, it seems like the WRO has managed to destroy basically every part of the city but the reactors. A great pillar of Lifestream rises up and tendrils of mako energy shoot out to reactors, as the Omega Weapon manifests in the ruins of Midgar and the clouds open to reveal Kingdom Hearts. Urm… the moon. The clouds open to reveal the moon.
While Kingdom Hearts fans are used to secret endings in their games, Birth by Sleep: Final Mix went in a different direction by including not just a second secret ending, but an entire secret, playable chapter. This “Secret Episode” is also known by the name “A Fragmentary Passage,” but as this is now also the name of Kingdom Hearts 0.2, I don’t intend to call it that. I don’t call KH0.2 that either, but that has more to do with its title being an engorged word vomit that only deserves to be addressed by the shortest title we can manage to spite its hubris. So everybody wins, except for the words “A Fragmentary Passage.”
Heading inside the next building, the party found a pod for Shelke, though it’s unclear what it’s supposed to… do for her. Is it a Deepground-model healing tank that uses magic/radiation instead of fluid? An MP recharger to make up for her draining herself with the Shield Materia? Is it a mako replenisher for Shelke’s essentially-forgotten mako dependence? We just don’t know! And never will!
For starters, let’s talk about that Combat Lv boost I mentioned a few times towards the end. This is frequently unknown or misunderstood around the fandom (no thanks to Square Enix’s poor implementation of the feature), so I’ll try to pass on the research others have made to clear this up.
What the game wants to do is this: after you complete the Final Episode, the three completed save files “attached” to the Final Episode will have their Combat Lvs overwritten with higher ones to make grinding easier. Unfortunately, should you open a regular character file after beginning but before completing the Final Episode, it will screw up the Battle Lv. for Radiant Garden, which is supposed to be the highest of all, meaning any grinding you do will be slowed! The best course of action, frankly, is to be ready to go into the Final Episode the moment you first complete each character file, but failing that, overwrite the Final Episode by re-completing any character file you dare to open. One commentor I saw online suggested you get rid of old BBS save files whenever you play the game again, too, but I’m not sure that’s necessary. We’re still not sure of many of the details, but that’s the best we have at the moment!
This chapter begins with Shelke reminding you about those big scary defences she was talking about earlier, and how they’re still a thing. Oh and extra bad news, because apparently none of your allies have managed to scratch the reactors. On the other side of the coin, Vincent has arrived at the Shinra building, however many hours late. Shelke tells him that the entrance to Deepground is in the building somewhere, but she doesn’t know where. Oh, it’s okay, Shelke, it’s only a secret elevator hidden in a building that’s 70 storeys tall, no big deal.
…Hey, wait, Shelke, didn’t you come out of this building just a few weeks ago? You know, through the entrance to Deepground?
The Final Episode begins with an extended cutscene. The cutscene begins with Aqua taking Ven’s body out of the Mysterious Tower, and as she muses about needing somewhere to put him, his hand moves and summons his Keyblade, making a portal of light. Aqua sees inside it (though we cannot, even when looking at it) and she laughs and says “All right, if that’s where you want to go.”
After a loading screen, we see that Ven has brought them back to the ruins of the Land of Departure. Even though you could have come here with Aqua during her save file, it’s impossible to get to the entrance to the castle, so she still has some ugly discoveries to make. Chiefly, she finds Eraqus’ Keyblade, the Master’s Defender, still lying among the wreckage. She collects the Keyblade, musing about how some of her last words to Eraqus were about Terra’s strength and light, given the outcome in front of her.
In between Chapters 6 and 7, Kyle and I made a discovery in the gun upgrade screen: Gun frames that have reached a certain level can no longer receive traditional, flat upgrades, but you must instead choose an upgrade path from a list of three. This, by the way, is why the game offers base-level gun frames for sale, so that people who just love customization can take their favourite guns down multiple paths, or so players who have made a mistake can correct it at a cost. Our beloved Cerberus pistol frame was at this point Level III, but we didn’t have the money to upgrade it down any of the three paths (which cost the same, as you can see in the attached screenshot). Meanwhile, our Griffon submachine gun frame was Level II and couldn’t go any further without branching (this is odd, as the Hydra sniper rifle frame also goes up to Level III, so only the Griffon stops at II), but we could afford the upgrade. We had to choose between the powerful and accurate P Griffon, which had a shitty magazine size as a downside; the longer range but otherwise unremarkable S Griffon; and the jack-of-all-master-of-none M Griffon.
At this point, I’m going to address late-game content that appears in all of the three characters’ folders. Bear in mind that these sorts of things should be done before moving on to the Final Chapter that I mentioned briefly earlier in the Retrospective. While the Final Chapter does have some access to main-game content, including the Mirage Arena, I don’t actually recommend that any players do any optional play in the Final Chapter, as it’s an invitation to disaster. Should you do grinding, questing, or anything of any substance in the Final Chapter, you run the risk of learning that you’re locked out of some post-game bonus because its criteria is no longer available in the Final Chapter, and all that work will go to waste. Ideally, players should use the Final Chapter to follow the Final Chapter’s story and nothing else.