kingdom hearts 2

Kingdom Hearts 2 – Appendix and Tie-Ins

Manga

gallery_17795_85_16690The KH2 Manga has a hell of a publication history. Production began in 2007, however it was so delayed that by its fifth volume in 2009, the next game in the series, Days, had been released! Production shifted to the Days manga, and this time they kept on schedule. When they had finished the Days manga, production returned to KH2 rather that proceed to BBS (indeed, the KH manga series ended with KH2). As a result, the KH2 manga ran for about eight years, and was not even finished by the time I started publishing the KH Retrospective! Indeed it wasn’t even finished by the time I finished my first editing pass of the KH2 Retrospective!

Similar to the CoM manga, the KH2 manga trims the plot into a trim new form: the first and second trips to each Disney world are condensed into one. I feel this is less than perfect. It causes Xaldin to rush haphazardly to his doom (indeed, Xaldin rushing to his defeat is treated like a joke, because there’s no other way it would make sense), and pacing is shot to shit almost as often as it’s improved. To put it another way: pacing is improved in worlds that tell a continuous story (except Beast’s Castle), and it’s ruined in worlds telling double stories.

In the face of all this poor pacing, Amano for some reason chose to create a whole new storyline that KH2’s packed plot sorely did not need. And it’s an awfully peculiar one, too. Thankfully he seems to have abandoned it during the six-year gap between volume 2 and 3, but I may as well address it: it’s revealed that Vexen was stockpiling Replicas of himself in Castle Oblivion (stacked up like cordwood, I presume), and one such Vexen Replica, No. 44, is ultimately responsible for the death of Xaldin.  Sure Amano, whatever.

Screenshot_2.pngAmano also carries over the joke of Organization members being whackadoo cartoon characters, which earns no points with me for the first half of the manga. Thankfully, the Days manga seems to have left an impression on him, and the issues that follow the six year split seem to have been dramatically improved in every way, mostly restricting comic relief to characters that were built for it, like Pete and Demyx. An episode where Kairi escapes from prison and Demyx has to beg her to go back is particularly funny. Actually, Kairi is fairly good in the manga overall, certainly in comparison to her pathetic in-game appearance.

Demyx’s death is also a fairly fantastic and divergent scene, which I want to highlight in particular. Rather than dying at the Battle of Hollow Bastion, Demyx survives to the final siege of the Castle that Never Was. He contests Sora after Saïx goads him into thinking of Roxas as a traitor. Wait, you say, doesn’t that invalidate the clever point from the game where Demyx really didn’t need a reason to attack Roxas, because he was a genuine Nobody without a heart? Well you see, Amano is going in a different direction. After Demyx dies (comically), the scene slows down to show him whimpering as he fades, and Sora is struck with a sudden guilt, realizing that Nobodies just might have hearts after all. Not only is the death handled with the brief seriousness I wish we saw even in the games at times, but it continues a key thread the manga had from Days and that the games had from KH2:FM+, which we’ll get into more in our coverage of Days.

Screenshot_3.pngAll in all, the KH2 manga is the best of the three we’ve seen so far, despite its CoM-manga-esque first half, but I still don’t know if I’d recommend it compared to KH2 the game. We come back to the usual tangle: unless you dislike games but like manga, the manga is basically reserved for people who have played the game, and I feel it’s asking a lot to see all of that same content over again.  I still think there’s a bit too much overlap?  Bear in mind that the manga’s volumes cost about as much as the entirety of 2.5 HD, which contains two full games and also the cinematics from coded! And personally, I don’t know if I can justify that cost for content you’ve already seen. In fact, let this stand as a gauge of my true opinion of KH2-the-game: even though I feel this manga is fairly good, and great at characterization, I’d still rather play KH2 than read it?

If you’re up to paying for it, the manga can be a fair fun read, but if paying for something you’ve already seen is too much to bother, this one isn’t going to change your mind.

But next time…


Trading Card Game

Screenshot_4Yup, there was a Kingdom Hearts TCG, published by Tomy in Japan and Fantasy Flight in the west. I don’t like collectable card games. Perhaps that’s a sign that I’m not the right person to talk about a TCG, so I’ll try to keep it short.  Screenshots here come from the Break of Dawn expansion set’s manual.

The Kingdom Hearts TCG has an unusual format. Rather than the traditional Magic: The Gathering-style duel game, the TCG pits you and another player in something of a race. You start by selecting a Player card, which represents yourself. All other Player cards are set aside, and the remaining cards shuffled into your deck. The idea is to take your player through a Kingdom Hearts-style journey through multiple Disney worlds, which are represented on some of the cards in your deck. Each world card has a given World Level that represents its value and size. The player has to “journey” across a combined World Level of 13 to win the game. Alternately, if your opponent dies along the way by running out of HP, you win in their place. Ah, that good old Kingdom Hearts dark side!

To stop your opponent from charging from world to world unimpeded, you must play Dark cards against them, which represent foes and Heartless. As a result, both players play an unusual hybrid role of player and Games Master, both trying to accomplish their own objective while presenting the threats that confront their opponent. The number of Dark cards you can play on your opponent is restricted by the World Level of the world they’re currently visiting, so it’s possible to win the game by visiting a large number of weak worlds (avoiding powerful or numerous Dark cards in the process), a small number of dangerous ones, or some combination of the two.

Screenshot_5.pngYou can’t proceed to a new world until all the Dark cards are clear, so while they’re in play, you’re going to have to fight. Your character has a few base stats, but that won’t work on its own. You’ll want to play one-time magic cards to help yourself out, or to play Friend cards to deploy allies. The Friend system is complicated. While you add a Friend card to your party ahead of time, once a Friend card is used to help in a battle, they leave your party! But to play a Friend card you need a Friend card of at least one lower level to already be in your party. Yes, you read that right: you need Friend cards to gain Friend cards, but you lose them if you use them, making it harder to get new ones into play! There are also Attack and Form cards just to muddle things up even further.

On top of everything else, you can also attack the opposing player via a “Challenge,” though this only ever causes one point of damage and would have to be used repeatedly (or at just the right moment) if you want to take them out-of-play for a win.

That’s the base rules, but after a few years, new rules were introduced to the Tomy release, which made their way to the Fantasy Flight release with the publication of the “Break of Dawn” expansion. Unfortunately, Break of Dawn was the last set that was ever published in the west before the game was shut down. These new rules introduced Nobody cards (which function more or less the same as Dark cards), and phased out many of the old Attack cards and replaced them with Equipment cards, which could be attached to a Player card or Friend card permanently (or at least as permanent as a Friend card ever were). More important, Break of Dawn introduced two all-new player classes to join the existing Light-aligned player characters: Dark-aligned player characters and “XIII”-aligned player characters.

Screenshot_6.pngDark player cards (which were Disney villains and the like) could not use Friend cards, Equipment cards, or any legacy Attack cards, but could use Dark cards in the same fashion as Friend cards! This gives the bad guys a lot of tactical flexibility, since they can stack their deck with Dark cards and never have to worry about having the wrong card at the wrong time. Need a friend: give the Dark card to yourself! Need to delay your foe? Play it on them!

XIII players are very different. They can play Nobody cards as Friends, but can actually mix other XIII-aligned Player cards into their deck to use as Friend cards, summoning other members of the Organization to their side in battle. XIII players can also Challenge their opponent twice in one turn. You can see the narrative these new player classes introduce: the Light cards are trying to journey through the worlds, the Dark cards are trying to “conquer” the worlds, and the XIII cards could take over the worlds but are much better suited to taking out their opponent. It’s an impressive job of capturing the spirit of the original factions in the games!

Sadly, the TCG hasn’t been published in English for years. Still, you can easily get your hands on the rules: Fantasy Flight has always been generous about distributing copies of their rules for free, which I think is admirable. The more recent, Break of Dawn rules can be found here, and on a related note, here is a FAQ/errata published on the old forums, though be aware the FAQ may be for the original ruleset. Unfortunately, I can’t find the link to the pre-Break of Dawn ruleset link any longer, but if you’re curious, I do have a PDF if anyone wants to request it.

Screenshot_7Because the game was dead by the time I even learned it existed, I’ve never played a game of it, so I’m afraid this rules summary is all you’re going to get out of me on this front. The fans I have heard from haven’t sounded that impressed, but if you’d like to share your impression, feel free to do so in the comments!


Additional Voices

If you read the KH2 Retrospective after mid-January 2017, you probably noticed my adding a note about two voice actors I had originally missed in Twilight Town: Kevin Delaney and Adam Paul.  This was a simple oversight at the time, but proved hard to rectify because of IMDb’s inadequate credits for both actors.  In trying to look them up, I was reminded of another strange fact from IMDb’s credits list for KH2: there are several blank entries.  When I originally wrote the KH2 Retrospective, I assumed that these entries had been added by mistake.  IMDb is run on user-submitted content, after all, and users make mistakes.  Maybe one user had made several mistakes in a row?  But as I was trying to track down Delaney and Paul, I realized that every one of these “blank” IMDb credits actually belonged to the authentic KH2 credits roll, and each one of them was under the useless heading “Additional Voices.”

days-2017-01-13-22h36m43s151Of the whole list of Additional Voices, only a handful have been connected to a role.  Maybe you’ll remember them: Beau Billingslea, John DiMaggio and Adam Leadbeater played the three generic pirates, Rosalyn Landor played the Space Paranoids computer voice, and I’ve already brought up Kevin Delaney and Adam Paul.  The remaining Additional Voices credits are a mystery.  Maybe they provided battle grunts or editing work, or cheered in the Olympus Coliseum ghost crowd?  We can’t say with the information we have on-hand.  Nevertheless, KH2 saw the need to credit them, and I feel the need to expand on those credits, so let’s take a deeper look into one of Kingdom Hearts 2’s forgotten corners.

To get us started, I’m going to touch on someone we’ve already seen here in the KH Retrospective: Audrey Wasilewski, whom we saw as the voice of Turk in KH1.  Of course, Turk and all of Deep Jungle do not appear in KH2, so I can’t imagine she was being credited for archive footage, so what was she brought in to do?  The great mystery of this appendix.  But that’s all I can do for the moment, so let’s get on to new faces.

We’ll be going alphabetically by surname from this point on, meaning we start with A. J. Buckley, whom CSI: NY fans will know as Adam Ross.  For a Disney connection, he’s Nash in The Good Dinosaur (and Disney Infinity) and has also appeared in recurring roles in Supernatural/Ghostfacers (Ed Zeddmore), Justified (Danny Crowe) and a few Marvel animated productions, which didn’t belong to Disney at the time.

days-2017-01-13-22h36m48s456Paul Butcher is a musician as well as an actor, and as an actor he’s known for a few minor but recurring roles in King of the Hill and Zoey 101, and later in the web series MyMusic.  For a Disney connection he appears in Meet the Robinsons as Stanley.  His IMDb bio also credits him as a young Bruce Banner in future Disney property, The Incredible Hulk film.  I see no reason to disbelieve this, but sadly IMDb doesn’t actually credit him in the role as young Bruce, or any other actor for that matter.  Does anyone know if it can clear up the matter?

Next up we have Robert Clotworthy.  Gamers probably know him best as the voice of Jim Rayner in the Starcraft II games, but he also appeared in The Young and the Restless for eleven years and Days of Our Lives for two, and has played various minor roles in Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.  He’s also appeared in DC and Marvel properties (in the case of Marvel, both before and after the Disney takeover) and has a minor Square Enix connection as another “Additional Voices” credit in FFXV.

You might know Courtnee Draper, the voice of Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite, and I don’t need to say much more than that.  She’s also got a Disney connection as the voice of Marvel’s White Tiger, and a Square Enix as Clemente in FFType-0.  Besides her prominent and recent video game roles, she’s also known for appearing in The Jersey for five years at the turn of the millennium.

days-2017-01-13-22h37m28s765You might also already know Bob Joles!  As I post this in January 2017, we’re just one game away from my Marathon Journal coverage of Dirge of Cerberus, where he appears as the voice of Grimoire Valentine, and we’ll be seeing him again in Kingdom Hearts in Birth by Sleep, where he’s the voice of Sneezy the Dwarf.  Since I’ve already written his bio for those two games, I think I’ll hold off on him here!

J. P. Manoux seems to have a knack for landing recurring roles in live action TV shows, appearing in, among others, Phil of the Future, ER, Community and Veep. He also had an incredibly curious recurring credit in Reno 911! as “Naked Armenian.” Voice acting seems to be an aside for him, but his one prominent voice acting role is a Disney one, playing the role of Kuzco in most spinoffs, including Emperor’s New School.

Hm… Bob Joles, J. P. Manoux, and don’t forget Rosalyn Landor.  These are all actors with assigned Disney roles.  I think we can see how they got called in to do a bit part in KH2, since they probably knew the same casting agents and were maybe just standing around the recording studio on the right day, but how curious!

Next up on our list we have Jon Olson, who is primarily a video game voice actor (which, as I remarked for Kevin Delaney, is unusual for a career this long, but interesting!).  KH2 was one of his earlier roles.  Like Bob Joles, we’ll be seeing Olson again in Birth by Sleep, and I’ve already written up his bio for there, so…

days-2017-01-13-22h37m54s312While we were in Beast’s Castle, I briefly touched on the odd case of Bradley Pierce, the original voice actor of Chip from Beauty and the Beast.  Chip is unvoiced in KH2, but I suggested that he might have been included to account for any archive sounds.  However, when I began to investigate the KH2 credits, I noticed that the “Additional Voices” were listed separately from the “Disney Character voice talent[s],” which suggests that he isn’t being credited for Chip!  Very strange.  Well, whatever role he served, he deserves a bio.  Besides Chip, you may also know Pierce as the voice of Miles “Tails” Prower from Sonic SatAM, and he did also appeared in the Little Mermaid TV series as Flounder and a few other miscellaneous voices (indeed, if it weren’t for the “Disney Character voice talent” list, you’d have to wonder if he’s on this list because of Flounder instead of Chip, but Flounder has had numerous voice actors since).  In live action, he’s one of the two child leads in the original Jumanji, and he recently returned from a hiatus from acting to appear in a few TV shows and shorts, including a role in upcoming feature film, Deacon.

Kristen Rutherford is last on our alphabetical list, and while she does have a number of voice and live action credits to her name (including the voice of Futaba in Green Green and Durga in Halo 2), she’s primarily a writer, known especially for nonfiction like Attack of the Show!, The Nerdist and even Pop Up Video for those who remember that.  What a curious industry… what a strange, strange industry, and isn’t that just the right sentiment for us to end on?

days-2017-01-13-22h39m50s034So that accounts for the KH2 Additional Voices credits list… or rather, that accounts for the English IMDb’s English credits list – the English IMDb’s Japanese credits list has even more blanks.  Goodness sake, KH2, every other game in your series has a more complete credits list than this!  Unfortunately, crediting Japanese seiyuu is maybe a little beyond the scope of this English Retrospective, but I do sorely hope that these actors are properly credited in Japanese-language resources.  But given what we’re seeing on this side of the pond… I doubt it.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Appendix: The Original Draft?
Next: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days – Why the Sun Sets Red

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Kingdom Hearts 2 – Appendix: The Original Draft?

kh2-2016-09-09-00h13m41s546

You have no idea how hard it is to keep coming up with unique flashback screenshots for these things.

If I had to point out what I think was the best element of KH2, it would be the User Experience (UX).  KH2 plays smooth as butter – no! – smooth as whipped cream, with plenty of transition animations for Sora, special attacks and simple movement that the series wouldn’t even attempt to recapture for the next three games.  Even though I’ve lambasted the combat gameplay of KH2 as shallow, that was more of a factor of level and enemy design, as the game plays so well that I didn’t notice the game’s problems for several playthroughs.  The UI is an especial high point of the overall UX, since the UI is top-of-the-board across the entire game, with a special prize for the dramatically improved gummi editor.  The UI is so good that the only game-wide UI problem that I can think of off the top of my head is the fact that the game only tells you how to level up Drives and Summons in an obscure tooltip, and if that’s all it has going against it, it’s riding high!

On the opposite end of the scale, we come to what I feel is KH2’s lowest point, and despite what you might expect, it’s not the narrative, though that’s probably my #2.  It’s also not the developer’s lack of respect for the player, which is more of a design philosophy problem than an element of the game.  No, the element I’m thinking of is the game’s simply… wretched editing job, with gaps, disjointed plots, and sometimes simply inadequate fixes riddling the final product.  And I say we’re going to take that shoddy editing job!  We’ll take it and we’ll use it to try to learn about the earliest plans for KH2, and maybe find out just what they were trying to fix. (more…)

Kingdom Hearts 2 – Blasts from the Past

Screenshots in this post pertaining to “The Gathering” come from Spazbo4’s longplay as usual, while all other screenshots come from KH13‘s video archive, using a fan-translated version of FM+ PS2.

kh2-2016-09-08-23h53m34s332The Lingering Will

The moment you’ve loaded a clear save after clearing all the game’s worlds, the game informs you that: “A new enemy has materialized on one of the worlds.” I don’t know why they’re so coy about which world, considering you get a new episode prompt the moment you return to the map. By the way, when I say that you have to clear “all the worlds” to unlock this boss, I mean it.  You have to clear not only Space Paranoids (which requires you clear Olympus Coliseum and Pride Lands) but also Atlantica and 100 Acre Wood.

As you’ll discover, this new episode is in Disney Castle, though there’s no particular reason for it to be there. KHI user maleficentfan123 suggested that it was probably because Disney Castle wasn’t in the second loop and deserved the extra spotlight.

When you arrive, you find Chip and Dale yapping about the Cornerstone of Light. They claim to have just been “checking” on it. Sure guys, you’re not trying to rob anyone at all! Today, they found more bad news: a giant, dark portal starting to spread on the back wall of the room. I wish it weren’t on the back wall. Every time you die trying to fight this boss, you respawn at the front of the room and have to skateboard to the back, wasting frustrating seconds every time you die! And you will die.

Everyone in the castle is distressed about the portal so you had best check it out. Not that you’re necessarily going to be able to do anything about it, but… you know.

kh2-2016-09-08-23h55m18s232Through the portal, the party finds themselves in some kind of badlands, which may or may not look familiar depending on what content you’ve completed up to this point. A sand storm blows through the area, but when it clears, the trio is left standing by what seems to be a man in armour, not unlike the armour seen in the FM+ exclusive scene with Xemnas in the Chamber of Awakening. Unlike that armour, this armour is brown and black, with a long cape, where the armour in the Chamber was silver and blue. The man is kneeling, and carrying a massive Keyblade.

In direct reference to the KH1:FM battle with Xemnas, the man in armour speaks in text only. He says two names: “Aqua” and “Ven.” Sora and the others arm themselves, which Sora should really stop doing, as it only draws attention to his Keyblade. The sight of the Keyblade provokes the figure into saying they’ve met before, only to change his mind after a moment. “No… It isn’t you… You’re not the one I chose… Why are you not him?” The figure in the armour gets more and more upset with each statement. While it’s a bit easier to understand this scene after playing a certain, upcoming game, it’s not impossible to work out what’s going on here: judging by the fact that the figure identified you by your Keyblade, this fellow seems to know Riku, not you. Remember, you’re walking around with what used to be Riku’s sword!

kh2-2016-09-08-23h57m26s918Unfortunately, this prompts the stranger to make a much less rational conclusion: if you’re not Riku, you must be Xehanort. It’s not clear why he jumps to this conclusion (though for what it’s worth, once you understand his position, his conclusion does make a certain amount of sense). And just like anyone else would do if they ran into Xehanort, the figure arms for battle.

This fellow is known as the Lingering Will (sometimes called the Lingering Sentiment after an older fan translation), and ohhhh boy, am I not the one to talk about this. The Lingering Will is one of, if not Kingdom Heart’s strongest superbosses that’s still fighting fair (I say, while shooting BBS a dirty look), and certainly the most complicated. My ability to survive the early stages of the fight make it impossible to talk about the later, except to watch YouTube videos as my brain fuses. FM+ really does know how to throw a post-game party.

The music playing in the background is “Rage Awakened,” a tune that will let you know just how screwed you are.

It’s kind of remarkable how KH2 can be so bad at minor enemy encounters but so good at these superbosses and late-game bosses. It may that the issue is exactly as written: the game is just good at one thing and bad at another. It may be that enemies needed better, more complicated environments to fight in, like the Cavern of Remembrance helped the exploration. It may be that the Osaka team that worked on FM+ had the benefit of hindsight and were able to work around it. It’s probably a combination of both: even Osaka team’s “new” enemies in the Cavern of Remembrance were restricted by the options already available in KH2, so they could only be so good.

kh2-2016-09-08-23h58m06s584

If you look closely or click for a zoom, you can make out the crown on Sora’s head.

I’ll try to address the key points. Previous bosses in the game had only so many attacks and they came at you in phases. Breaking this pattern, the Lingering Will seems to have multiple sets of possible actions, and the set you face appears to be chosen at random: so you might enter the battle facing attacks 1-2-or-3, or you might see 4-5-or-6. After you damage the Will, it will eventually recover from stunlock, react, and then switch to another set of potential attacks. That means you have to get used to quite a few things before you’re even going to be able to begin the fight!

The attack pattern I’m best at countering centres on the Lingering Will transforming his Keyblade into a gargantuan cannon. And that’s kind of nice in a way. “What are you best at?” “Oh, I’m best at dealing with the gargantuan cannon.” It’s self-affirming! This attack is a modification of Zelda’s so-called “Dead Man’s Volley.” You know: when you and the enemy knock a projectile back and forth between one another until one of you gets hit? The trick here is that the Lingering Will doesn’t wait for the deflected shot to come back to him like a Zelda boss, and will instead magically direct it back in your direction after only a few seconds of flight.  Worse, if you’re too close when it finally does hit him, the resulting explosion will still hurt you, so you have to find the exact sweet spot where you’re close enough to hit him but far enough away to survive.

Clanky also likes a standard combo, or to transform his Keyblade into a sort of jet bike. the jet bike is so preposterous as an attack that surprise alone nearly killed Kyle the first time he fought it. Both of these can be simply Guarded, or preferably Reflected.

kh2-2016-09-08-23h59m44s394After you first land an attack on our new friend, he’ll respond with magic. One of his attacks is to summon a magic orb that will prevent you from either attacking or from using both magic and items depending on the orb. Once the orb is stuck to you, you have to use whichever commands you still have available destroy the Will’s connection to the orb (I don’t know how else to phrase it). This can be tricky if you’re both attack-locked and out of MP! Instead of the orbs, he may occasionally summon attack drones (reminiscent of Marluxia’s second form in Re:CoM) to take pot-shots at you.

That’s all I can really tell you. I’ve never survived to see its limit break, though I read that the fight starts going full-random after it uses it. Should you make it to the end, the Lingering Will will seemingly recognize that you’re not Xehanort and sink back into the sandstorm. Your prizes for winning include a Drive Gauge upgrade, a Manifest Illusion that isn’t really worth the fuss, the Proof of Connection and the final Crown upgrade.


kh2-2016-08-13-23h54m27s774The Gathering

Like KH1:FM, KH2:FM+ has two separate secret endings: the original and the one from the remake. Also like in KH1:FM, the original video is available “for free” when you clear FM+, and unlike KH1:FM, the original video isn’t wiped out by earning the second. You get to watch both, instead!

If you are playing Vanilla, earning the secret video is going to cost Standard players dearly: the entire Journal has to be completed. Major challenges include Sephiroth, all the game’s mini-games including the Olympus Coliseum score challenges, and the Synthesis Notes section, which must be completed with a considerably lower drop rate than FM+ players and their multiple Lucky Rings. Proud Mode players need only clear the Worlds, which you’ll probably do anyways, unless you have trouble with rhythm games.

If you’re playing Standard on Vanilla… it’s not even worth it. I did it myself and felt outright ripped off. The original secret video, “The Gathering,” is about the same length as “Another Side, Another Story…”, but has nowhere near as much intrigue or even content. Worse, “The Gathering,” has been all but completely decanonized by BBS, the game it was trying to promote!

kh2-2016-08-13-23h52m56s759“The Gathering” begins with the text of the original Ansem Reports flying past scenes of the badlands that later played home to the Lingering Will in FM+. Ansem Report 9 is quoted at length, wherein the Seeker of Darkness asked questions about the origin of the Keyblade, and recounts the story of how it was used by other wielders in the past, implying that this video is set in the past.

The video then cuts to three armoured figures. The first is the Lingering Will, who stands in front of a monster’s corpse, though the corpse is very unclear and I know I’m not the only person who didn’t notice it existed. The second figure is wearing the silver and white armour from Xemnas’ Chamber. The third, silver and black, is unknown to even FM+ players. Only the Will has a Keyblade.

The three figures step forward, and we see three Keyblades stuck in the ground before them: Sora’s Kingdom Key, Mickey’s Kingdom Key D, and Riku’s Way to the Dawn. The Will takes the former, the silver and blue figure the Kingdom Key D, and the new figure, who we now see is shorter than the others, takes the Way to the Dawn. As the Will approaches, the monster corpse collapses into dust. Back in the day, I still wasn’t able to make out that it had been a monster.

kh2-2016-08-13-23h55m42s789The camera zooms out, and we discover the three are standing in a crossroads formed by a field full of discarded Keyblades, stretching as far as the eye can see. They then look up, and see a figure walking towards them in the sandstorm. The trailer then throws a number of phrases at you, including “The lost two,” “Keyblade War” and “Memory of Xehanort,” before saying “It all begins with Birth by sleep.” That’s the end.

Well! That taught us absolutely nothing! There are no characters I care about in the scene, they’re not doing anything, the scene seems to stop before anything interesting happens. The only item of any real import is the massive field of Keyblades. And I’ll be honest: I saw that, said “Oh, there used to be lots of Keyblades instead of just a handful,” and went about my mental business!

(KHI user Black Osprey made this post discussing the scene in the light of BBS (spoilers for BBS) that I think is fairly worthwhile reading, but I still think this “trailer” isn’t very effective as a trailer.)

kh2-2016-08-13-23h57m27s829One of the weirdest elements of “The Gathering” is the term “Chasers,” which shows up in the final spam of catch phrases. “Chasers” was the term Nomura and the fans used to refer to the three armoured figures prior to the release of Birth by Sleep, so we’ll be able to make use of it here in the Retrospective. Funny, then, that the term “Chasers” never appears in Birth by Sleep! Indeed, the idea that the characters were chasing anything isn’t really that prominent in the game! They all find the people they’re chasing so early in the plot that the chase quickly falls into the background! It makes “The Gathering” seem even more out-of-date!

What a waste.


kh2-2016-09-09-00h02m53s359Birth by sleep

But this. This is worth it. In fact, the FM+ secret ending may be the most exciting single piece of content in the franchise to date.

Unlocking it won’t be easy. Critical Mode players not only have to beat Critical Mode, but get the Gold Crown, which means clearing both the Lingering Will and all 13 Data battles (and the Mushrooms, but that’s almost a footnote compared to the others). Proud Mode players will have to do that and clear Jiminy’s Journal. This isn’t as hard as it was in Vanilla thanks to your new Lucky Luckys, but it’s still a pain. Lastly, Standard Mode have to clear all Gummi Missions, which as far as I can tell include the EX Missions. That’s six missions a route! Worse still, many of the EX missions don’t allow you to fly the Doughnut Ship, so you’re going to have to spend hours actually getting good at the mini-game – it would probably be faster to learn how to play Critical Mode and start KH2 over from scratch!

The new trailer in FM+ is called “Birth by sleep.” Yes, that’s the name of the fifth game in the series, Birth By Sleep, except with different capitalization, so I’ll try to make sure I always surround “Birth by sleep” with quotes so that we can tell them apart! The music playing here is “Fate of the Unknown.”

We pick up where we left off after “The Gathering,” though the three armoured figures are carrying their own Keyblades instead of the ones from “The Gathering” (remember, “The Gathering” was essentially decanonized). The figure approaching out of the sand is revealed to be an old man, bald with a goatee, but despite that evil signifier and a countenance to match, he is also wearing several items commonly associated with Sora: namely Mickey Mouse gloves and a red and black colour scheme.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h03m36s614As the man approaches, a mirage-like after-image slips off of him, and transforms into a young man in armour resembling Riku’s dark armour from KH1 and CoM, except red-lined. He is wearing a solid mask over his head (not unlike a motorcycle helmet, if I’m honest), and he draws a Keyblade that resembles a red gear. The three Chasers react with hostility to the sight of this pair, though the Lingering Will stops the shorter Chaser from going forward, and rushes the pair himself. The old man gestures with his hand, and a massive pillar of earth slams up out of the ground to carry the Will away. The old man then raises himself and his partner into the air on a taller pillar. The armoured young man jumps down and strikes the Will with a Thunder spell, tearing apart much of the Will’s armour. Final Fantasy spells have never really looked quite as deadly as they do in this video, or at least not that I’ve seen!

The Chasers continue their attack, the two Chasers engaging the boy in armour. The old man looks down on them and gathers a swarm of discarded Keyblades with his magic, and sends them after the combatants. The boy in armour rides this “snake” of Keyblades, and he fires lethal looking Blizzard spells after them.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h05m54s959Meanwhile, the Will is trying to ascend the earth pillar to engage the old man. The Keyblade swarm attacks first him and then the silver-and-blue Chaser, who is slammed hard into the ground. The silver-and-blue Chaser’s armour is heavily damaged, and they remove their helmet to reveal the face of a blue-haired young woman. She casts a magic spell (reminiscent of Wisdom Form’s 360 degree Block) to protect the Lingering Will from the swarm. Indeed, this carries her friend all the way to the top of the pillar, where the old man simply detonates the whole affair with Firaga.

Nevertheless, the Will makes it to the top of the pillar, where he attacks the old man. The old man draws his own, elaborate Keyblade to fight back. He catches the Will with a Blizzard spell that spreads frighteningly up his arm. The spell’s damage looks so bad that you can’t help but worry that he might lose the arm! Just then, the third, younger Chaser, forgotten until now, tries to jump the old man from behind, but is caught. The old man crushes the Chaser’s helmet, and the young man in the bike helmet knocks the Lingering Will off the pillar.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h06m29s195Left alone, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the old man from using his magic on the young Chaser, freezing him completely with that terrifying ice magic. He then tosses the Chaser from the pillar, the Chaser’s Keyblade snapping in half on the way down. The young woman goes to her friend, to find his helmet shattered. The Chaser is a young boy, alive but struggling. More notably, and to the viewer’s sudden confusion, the boy appears to be Roxas, which is utterly impossible!

Atop the pillar, as the music rises, the old man casts a spell of darkness into the sky, and the clouds part to reveal Kingdom Hearts as it appeared in KH2 and Deep Dive. His pillar rises to carry him towards it, as the Chasers look on. The trailer presents a tagline: “Destiny is never left to chance,” as we focus on the Will, who is struggling to his feet. He tears off his helmet to look up at his quarry, revealing a young man with brown hair, but with the unmistakable face of Xehanort.

In the distance, a young Mickey Mouse arrives on the scene, ending the video.

kh2-2016-09-09-00h08m10s611When I had originally written my “predictions” to the “Another Side, Another Story” and “deep dive” trailers of KH1, I had planned on making similar predictions for every promo trailer to follow. Unfortunately… these two trailers don’t leave much to guess at, do they? It’s fairly clear that the Chasers will chase down their prey (an old man and a boy in a motorcycle helmet) to a place with a whole field full of Keyblades and then fight over Kingdom Hearts. “Birth by sleep” prefers contextualized, unanswerable mysteries (like “How on earth did Roxas get here?”) over the potluck display of spectacle from “deep dive” in KH1. I’m not assembling a group of disparate puzzle pieces this time around, and there wasn’t much more to do than wait in anticipation for the next game.

But it wouldn’t happen quite yet. Because before we could turn to Birth by Sleep, Square Enix attempted to show off the multiplayer capabilities of the Nintendo DS…

Oh, and before that, a few final thoughts on KH2.

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Digging for Shrooms
Next: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Appendix: The Original Draft?


This retrospective’s screenshots come from Spazbo4’s longplay of the 2.5 HD version of Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix+ at World of Longplays (YouTube).

Kingdom Hearts 2 – Digging for Shrooms

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Flashback screenshots again!

Post-Game

KH2:FM+ is the only game in the entire series that I consider to have a proper post-game: a whole bunch of stuff that’s unlocked after the final boss. There are other post-game examples in the series, but none feel like a dedicated section of the game the way this game does.  For example post-KH2:FM+ games tend to have at least one post-game boss, but that’s usually the end of it, with BBS showing the rare ambition to have a whole two instead!  (Ed. when I originally posted this, I legitimately believed the later games unlocked their post-game bosses in late-game instead!  Whoops!).  CoM’s post-game cards and a certain feature from Days are also technically post-game, but both are there on a pure technicality and could hypothetically be done with in only a few minutes.  KH2:FM+, on the other hand, knows how to throw a post-game party, with piles of new gameplay and also new narrative.  Strictly speaking, there are three post-game bosses (one with two forms) and one post-game Mushroom XIII, but since they belong to sets that include eleven other late-game bosses and all the other Mushroom XIII, the whole thing feels like a unified post-game experience.

On top of that, while it’s possible explore the Cavern of Remembrance earlier in the game, you couldn’t unlock all its content, so I threw in the entire Cavern of Remembrance as a main course with all this added spice. There really is a lot. I was describing the post- and end-game content to Kyle from the Marathon during the writing process, and was struck by how the list just went on and on. Indeed it’s hard to understate just how strong an impact FM+’s additions are to the game as a whole, including balance changes, the mechanically solid Absent Silhouettes dotting the game, and of course Critical Mode, which goes a long way to explain why I’m so fond of the remake that I’d put up with 2.5’s Xemnas glitch and still come out singing FM+’s praises.  So let’s take a look at its post-game. (more…)

Kingdom Hearts 2 – You’re Home

kh2-2016-08-13-22h46m05s789…So Xemnas sucks the three of you into the Realm of Nothingness, which is a weird bendy white world with black stripes. He’s dressed for the occasion in a similar gettup, leading to what KHI user Sephiroth0812 once dubbed a “lightsaber zebra.” Sadly, Xemnas has one last villain speech to make and it’s just as bad as the others. Here, he decides for no reason to declare that since light and dark are eternal, nothing must be eternal. Okay. At this point his plan gets a little fuzzy to me and he declares this means he must be eternal too, either because he commands nothingness, because he is “a nothing” (the latter is what he says, but it makes no sense considering nothings and darknesses have been dying this entire game, so I’ve presented the former as a counter-argument). Maybe it’s just that he’s on a heady ego trip. (more…)

Kingdom Hearts 2 – That man is playing Galaga!

kh2-2016-08-13-21h00m37s397After the battle, we arrive to find everyone standing around, as though they had never been separated, as of course it’s my theory that they had not been. Kairi is here in her “active” idle, and… look, maybe I’m pushing my theory too hard, but I swear that she’s not facing Xemnas the way her model should be? She’s just facing forward, staring into empty air. Just like last time, she looks like she was re-edited into this scene: either to include her at all, or to edit out her weapon. Kairi’s Destiny’s Embrace never reappears after its first appearance! Why not have her carrying it in situations where it would be practical, like now? And why does it look like they edited it out?

Okay, I can’t prove Kairi was ever really in the party. But it is clear to me that someone at Square Enix certain wanted Kairi unarmed, even if it wasn’t a last-minute edit. She had to play the harmless damsel even if not the helpless one. Taking out Kairi’s teeth was important to someone in the dev team, this was something that was done deliberately. We will be talking about it again, especially in later games, which, as you’ll recall, Kairi is not in. In the meantime, let’s get together as a family and watch a man die.

kh2-2016-08-13-21h02m28s290Xemnas is ranting, saying he needs “more rage… I need more… hearts…” Sora, our little angel, takes pity on him and lowers his weapon, making a speech about hearts having “all kinds of feelings.” It sounds hammy at first, but Haley Joel Osmet sells the final line when Sora hesitates and says: “Don’t you remember?” St. Peter plays off this well by sounding just as genuine and spiteful when he replies “Unfortunately… I don’t.” Xemnas dies.

Everyone starts jumping around to celebrate (Donald, Goofy and Kairi’s tiny, silent background celebration is both cute and silly with their tiny celebration hops). But Riku is standing aside, and when Sora goes to confirm with him that he’s coming back to the islands, Riku angsts: “I had given in to the darkness!” Oh for goodness sake Riku. Look, everyone has their own breaking points, but this is mine. Riku’s angsting worked fine for me in previous scenes, but now he has gone from 0 to 100 in seven words. But before that can even settle in, Sora makes a funny face and we whiplash back in the other direction!

kh2-2016-08-13-22h22m36s040Just then, the Castle starts collapsing, because this is a video game and we’re lucky it hadn’t collapse earlier. Riku tries to open a portal, but it seems he’s lost that kind of dark power. Great for his personal arc, but bad for everyone’s survival. Just then, a ghostly afterimage of Naminé appears and makes an extra-large portal, and it’s clear from everyone’s actions that no one can see her but the Destiny Islands trio. Pluto shows up (oh hey, remember Pluto? Not me! I hate to admit it, but I’d have probably left him to die!), and the Disney characters run through, leaving the humans to chat with Naminé. Don’t run for your lives or anything.

Kairi thanks Naminé to which Naminé replies “Sure,” which makes me laugh, because it’s so understated. Naminé then turns to Sora, and says “See? We meet again, like we promised.” Sora is confused, but not nearly as confused as when Roxas outright walks out of his body like a ghost to continue the conversation with Naminé.

kh2-2016-08-13-22h25m53s814Naminé and Roxas’ conversation is sweet, but a little… strange. First off, McCartney and Snow deliver a mis-matched performance. Roxas acts like he knows exactly what’s going on, as does Snow… until the moment where she doesn’t and is suddenly surprised by everything Roxas is saying? Roxas repeats Naminé’s promise: “You said we’d meet again, but when we did, we might not recognize each other.” Roxas claims that he did recognize her, which is unusual. He then says: “I see myself the way you remember me. And you see yourself the way I remember you.” The way you remember her… from your six minutes of contact together? You don’t actually know one another, you remember that, right? I feel the game is trying to cast this as romantic, which is even more confusing. Now don’t get me wrong: I’d be fine if they were attracted to one another, go right ahead.  But I’m not talking about flirting here, I mean romantic, like you’d see in a standing, solid relationship, which seems like it’s missing a few steps. Is it just me? Unfortunately KH2 has never even heard of “a logical progression of events,” and is doing it usual thing: burning context, setup and plotlines alive and hoping you never question it. So here you have it: Roxas and Naminé have maintained their identities against the press of oblivion because… they’re… in… love? I don’t know. Folks, I gave up during the dragon mech sequence.

There’s a little more romantic awkwardness between Kairi and Sora, and Naminé and Kairi take one another’s hands, merging together for good. Sora is gawking, and Roxas him to “Look sharp!” which I like to believe is emblematic of what their relationship might have been like if they had been allowed to meet in normal circumstances. A good contrast of their characters in two words, and a good outro to the scene even if I didn’t like the scene itself. Roxas returns to Sora, and it seems like all will be well.

Welp, time to fuck things up.

kh2-2016-08-13-22h37m00s830Kairi walks into the portal, when suddenly things shake, and the portal collapses, taking her away with it and leaving Riku and Sora behind. I imagine that someone deliberately shut the portal to trap Sora and Riku here, but imagine if the portal had only collapsed because the castle was shaking?  That would mean that Sora and Riku were trapped here because they were too busy being dramatic to escape, and that’s… that’s just hilarious.  But no, it seems something is up, and Sora and Riku spot the dragon mech re-activate in the distance and take to flight. Whoops, guess you didn’t smash enough of the insides, huh?  I personally suspect that in early drafts, the dragon mech was making its first appearance at this moment, and not during phase 1 (which would have just been Kentauros and King), and so naturally it wouldn’t be damaged it all.

At this point, a weird visual effect happens. It’s hard to describe, but the Dark City goes berserk. It’s infinite in all directions now, and also on the ceiling (check out the screenshot above for a close-up). The dragon knocks over the Castle that Never Was, but don’t worry: there’s a tandem jet bike nearby that Sora and Riku just happen to find off the edge of the castle. Congratulations: you’re the luckiest shits in the face of pure chance.  Riku takes the driver’s seat, while Sora stands on a preposterous ride-along platform, wielding the Keyblade.

The music playing here is the first motion of KH2’s legendary Final Boss track, “Darkness of the Unknown,” which in my opinion has yet to be topped, even after all these years.

kh2-2016-08-13-22h38m25s003I’ll take one last opportunity here to throw a bone to my theory about Kairi being a playable character. I’m not certain whether or not Kairi would have stayed with Riku and Sora during phase 2 of the Final Boss sequence.  As I told Divine Past on the forums, the ending works well with her having returned to Destiny Islands, but I also think that Divine Past made some good points in the opposite direction. The answer might lie in the tandem jet bike. Riku drives it and Sora stands on a stupid-looking open air platform, swinging his Keyblade. The bike honestly looks lopsided to me. I can’t help but imagine the bike with another Keyblade platform on the right, with Kairi or Riku taking the other side and the other one driving.  It’s just a thought.

The battle with the dragon consists of the mech flying around in front of you on canned animations while you control Sora and Riku on the X and Y planes, as per Gummi Mode. But the canned animation bit really sticks with me, it’s like there’s a strict division between depth levels. Unlike gummis, the dragon doesn’t react to your combat by flashing or flickering or basically in any way until it starts losing parts. It also doesn’t attack you, per se.  It does use missiles, okay sure, but its primary attack is a series of laser lances that come from nowhere and essentially exist on the “TV screen” depth level with the player. I’m reminded unfavourably of the bad interactivity of 90s FMV games, though on the plus side, the developers seemed to be at least somewhat aware of the interactivity problem and made it very hard to miss your shots. Still, Sora and Riku don’t feel like they’re in the scene they’re pretending to be in.  You could be running any visual in the background with lasers spawning around you, and the connection would be just as logical. It could be a video of the dragon mech, the King mech, or a 10-frame animated gif of Gary Busey, the veneer of interactivity is very thin.

(The laser attack is borrowed from Ansem SoD’s final boss fight in KH1, which is neat in its own right, but I’m still focusing on the depth problem at the moment.)

kh2-2016-08-13-22h40m23s934After a short time, some Nobody gummis appear at a similar depth level to the player, and actually interact with you. Spiked Rollers will shoot at you, and Bomb Bells will float around again, existing almost purely for you to use against the boss. Oh, video games… ugh. You have three buttons to use as controls. Riku can pound on a laser to do minor damage to the dragon (and possibly the Spiked Rollers – this section is a little confusing so I can’t be sure) while Sora can use Attack on the Bomb Bells with his Keyblade, knocking them into the dragon just like the hexagons during phase 1. You have to bear in mind that the ship is essentially lopsided. This makes for odd controls as you try to swat things with your avatar’s extreme right side instead of the middle. If Kairi had been on the opposite side, the speeder would have essentially been a whole attacking hitbox, instead of this lopsided affair we have right now. The lopsided nature of the speeder does make the boss fight a bit more challenging, so you’re going to have to make up your own mind about this.

Alongside swatting Bomb Bells into the dragon and dinging its paint job with lasers, you can use Drain. This allows you to gradually absorb the laser fire from the Spiked Rollers to charge a “Megalaser” that can blow away most of the Dragon’s hit bars and is very easy to hit with. Apparently the Organization arms its teeny tiny speeders with a laser powerful enough to destroy any of their major war machines, isn’t that polite? You have to rip the dragon apart one part at a time, until it finally crashes down in the Dark City.

kh2-2016-08-13-22h40m57s877This sequence really is something else. It’s bad enough that I feel it warrant specific scorn. In fact, I’m going to go out of my way to cite a professional.  Specifically, I’m going to turn to Dr. Ernest Adam’s famous “No Twinkie Database.” Adams is one of the most prolific authors on game design and development, and I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to quote him. His PhD is on interactive storytelling, and you can download it from his website. But his most famous series of articles is the sometimes farcical but always honest No Twinkie Database: a list of admonitions against certain bad design patterns. Not long after I finished KH2, I caught up on the No Twinkie columns, and discovered a certain entry in one of the most recent columns. Published just a few months after KH2’s western release, this column advised game designers to avoid “Extreme Rule Changes When Fighting Boss Characters.” As Adams puts it: “when the changes are so great that all your earlier experience is worthless, the game is being unfair to the player. […] Fights with boss characters should build upon what the player already knows, not replace it entirely.” This is the dragon mech battle to a T. It’s the World of Chaos from KH1, too, and the Spectre from the original GBA CoM, but KH2 goes even further by almost changing genre entirely. Coincidentally, the No Twinkie Database also features entries for “Wrecking a Game’s Balance for the sake of a ‘Cool Feature'” and “Forcible Gameplay Style Changes.” This final boss segment is like an embodiment of everything game devs were doing wrong in the mid-naughties.

Sora and Riku fly close to the crashed dragon, and discover what they had probably already guessed: Xemnas is alive, well, and still driving the mech in his three-tonne suit of armour. It may be that he never left the dragon in the first place and the rest was an illusion. You know, guys, you two don’t actually have to kill Xemnas at this point, if you don’t want to! I’m reasonably sure all three of you are trapped in an infinite, non-Euclidean cityscape, with no escape for any of you. Better to give in to death.

kh2-2016-08-13-22h41m38s474Our duo drops of the speeder and into the crown structure, and we get a dramatic shot of the speeder being blown away by magic wind. The duo even looks surprised. Do you believe this? We just had a plot development in a serious section of the game about a character forgetting to set the parking break! What the heck!

To my shock and surprise, the devs chose this action-packed moment to insert a new FM+ sequence, with voice acting and everything! This one was a surprise for me too – unlike every other new FM+ scene, I had never heard about this one before playing! Remember in CoM, when Sora promised to thank Naminé, but then he didn’t because KH2 Vanilla treats CoM like gum that gets stuck to your shoe? Well it seems that the developers knew fans were angry about Sora not thanking Naminé, as FM+ has him actually addressing the issue. He says: “I couldn’t bring myself to [thank her]. Not until everything was back to the way it was before.” Riku tells him he’ll have plenty of time to thank Naminé later. This is sweet, and I appreciate that the scene exists.  That said, it doesn’t really seem like this is the best time? On one hand: yes, this scene is the first scene they could have edited since Naminé appeared on top of the tower, but it’s so unrelated to what’s happening in front of us that Sora might as well have added: “Oh by the way, Aladdin says hi!” If I had my preference, I think this should have gone in a slow, talky section of the ending (you know which one I mean), but oh well.

This repeat battle against Xemnas in his armour isn’t an exact duplicate of the one from phase 1. Xemnas now uses his force fields all the time, though it’s hilarious to watch Riku if Xemnas misses hitting him with the force field: Riku will just stand politely outside the force field waiting for it to drop. Just hangin’ out. Unfortunately for Xemnas, between your Cure spells and Riku’s Cure spells, your chance of actually dying here at the recommended level is very low, so most of this battle is a formality. The game knows it, because it draaaaaaws out the formality as long as possible.

kh2-2016-08-13-22h42m33s866I’m referring, of course, to the extended sequence where Xemnas knocks you from the dragon mech with his long spear weapon, and you’re forced to glide back down to it, once again whether you’ve unlocked Glide or not. Wait, hold on. Gliding is supposed to be horizontal. Isn’t Xemnas… below you? Holy crap, you are in non-Euclidean space! I should have expected no less from the infinite double layered Dark Cityscape sandwich from hell! After knocking you and Riku out of the grown Xemnas raises a preposterous, giant, physical shield over the crown and starts chucking buildings at you, forcing you to dodge the moving one and locate any buildings that are just floating in mid-air, as you can use these stationary buildings to damage Xemnas’ shield. The tooltip you get is not very helpful about this. “Move close to the buildings to use reaction commands,” says the tooltip, without specifying that the moving buildings are dangerous and won’t work! Tooltip! You betrayed me again!

This whole time, Xemnas is going on with this babble about the two of you betraying each other, I’m not even sure why. “Riku, are you sure you’re not jealous of Sora? “Sora… are you sure you can trust… Riku?” This is so half-hearted that I wonder if it’s supposed to sound half-hearted? That is to say: that you’re supposed to recognize these two are inseparable at this point, and Xemnas just doesn’t understand because he lacks a heart? Xemnas also keeps saying “Nothingness… is… eternal!” Oh, stop harping on that, didn’t you get the memo that we’ve all but dropped the idea of “nothingness” being a thing since the original KH1 drafts? God, it’s like he expects this to go to the Realm of Nothingness, which hasn’t even been mentioned by name since KH1:FM in a back-corner journal. That would be a crowning failure of buildup…

Prev: Kingdom Hearts 2 – Screaming Noise
Next: Kingdom Hearts 2 – You’re Home


This retrospective’s screenshots come from Spazbo4’s longplay of the 2.5 HD version of Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix+ at World of Longplays (YouTube).

Kingdom Hearts 2 – Screaming Noise

kh2-2016-08-13-20h32m02s885We return to the main plot on The World that Never Was, where everyone’s still hanging around in a safe zone atop the castle. A bridge of light leads to the big floating door, and the three Keyblade wielders the game actually cares about raise their Keyblades the sky to open it, like a series of spotlights. It looks nice, but I’m going to bring up an old chestnut from CoM and wonder if they could have tried the handle. (more…)

Kingdom Hearts 2 – Light! Dark! Neutral Gray!

kh2-2016-08-13-20h20m28s409The Vanilla version of KH2 shipped with only a single Superboss (same as the original Japanese KH1), and we’re going to attend to it now. Yes, it’s that loose thread left over from Hollow Bastion: Sephiroth from FFVII!  Unlike most Kingdom Hearts Superbosses, Sephiroth is actually tied to a number of plot sequences, though your rematch is the first step in the process, so getting started is as easy as poking him in the thigh. At any point after you clear Space Paranoids, Sephiroth can be found at the Dark Depths, the room where Saïx told Sora they were using him to complete Kingdom Hearts. He’s looking out over Villain’s Vale, probably wondering why Villain’s Vale was added to the game when you can’t visit it and it adds nothing to the narrative. I know I am. (more…)

Kingdom Hearts 2 – The Cricket Whip

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Welcome back to flashback screenshot theatre!

End-Game Challenges

Before we talk about any specifics in KH2’s end-game challenges, let’s talk about one thing I like above all, maybe my favourite single mechanic from KH2: once you’ve cleared the entire game, the game will hint at the things you’ve missed. This doesn’t happen quite yet, but it exists and it’s wonderful. The journal and the Moogle shop add question marks to their list, implying missed content. It doesn’t tell you what’s missing, though you can often derive from context, and that’s clever too. In a game so packed to the gills as this, this is invaluable.

Lovely as this is, the first thing that will probably catch many players’ eye after clearing Xemnas’ first battle is the New Episode prompt that comes to greet them on the map. As such, it’s a great time to return to… (more…)

Kingdom Hearts 2 – My Irrelevant Friends are My Power!

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Here we go again!

I need a break. How about we all take a break? Let’s talk about something nice, and interesting. Remember when I promised that second pass of the reunion scene?

This was something interesting during my retrospective playthrough, that I brought up in discussion with KHI user Divine Past that caused it to spiral out of control. You can see the original discussion starting here, but I’ll try to summarize the key points. (more…)