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Kingdom Hearts CoM – Appendix and Tie-Ins

Screenshot_2Now here’s an interesting set of choices. In the KH1 manga, we saw an adaptation that largely copied the events of the original game with only the smallest injection of personality.  I said I wasn’t much of a fan, because I couldn’t see any reason to pick it up over/alongside the original product unless you had a full-out genre preference.  Now, in this second adaptation, we have personality so strong it arguably overwhelms the depiction of the original plot.  There are definitely reasons to pick one version over or alongside the other, but are they reasons that favour the manga?

Here’s where the changes get unusual.  Despite being an adaptation of one of the darkest games in the franchise, the CoM manga is a comedy product.  Except when it’s not.  I mean, a boy does die in the middle.  And that seems like it should be our first point of discussion.  Was it really a bright idea to surround all this death and misery with slapstick?  It certainly can work – all it takes in the right kind of writing.  But therein lies the problem: I don’t think the CoM manga has that kind of writing.  Even more damning than that: I don’t find it very funny at all?  In fact, as time has gone on, I’ve become more and more disinterested in the discussion of whether the CoM manga was tonally appropriate.  These days I just look back at the whole experience, think of one or two of its worst jokes, and sigh.

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Kingdom Hearts CoM – The Road to Dawn

com-2015-12-28-13h05m59s599.pngOn B1, Riku and Mickey have a discussion about fighting Ansem. Riku tries to insist that he needs to face Ansem alone, and furthermore, if he should fail and be possessed by Ansem, he wants Mickey to be safe and ready to… ahem… put him away. Mickey interrupts Riku mid-sentence by saying “Sure, I’ll save you, pal!” He refuses to even acknowledge Riku’s request to be killed should things go sour. Mickey not only refuses to kill Riku if worse turns to worse, but insists on going with him. And thank goodness: during my first playthrough, I was screaming inside my head at the idea of fighting the final boss without Mickey after two worlds without him. The King insists Riku will be fine, and that they’ll pull through this together.

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Kingdom Hearts CoM – King of the Buckles

com-2015-12-21-22h56m12s294Back with Riku, the inevitable has happened, and Ansem comes to chat with him now that he’s embraced the darkness. This chat is rote, and it becomes even more rote when Mickey yet again arrives to save Riku. This is just tedious in the remake where it’s happening for the third time – in the original, it’s still happening for the third time but remember, Mickey partially failed the second time and is only now returning after a long absence! But there’s one difference in both versions, as this time, Mickey is actually here in the castle!

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Kingdom Hearts CoM – Zexy

com-2015-12-21-14h45m44s412It’s been a long time since we saw cutscenes on both sides of the staircase. Back in the dark room, Zexion… I guess “smells”… Lexaeus’ death and acts somewhere between neutral and upset. The dark meeting room is starting to look very lonely. Axel decides this is the right moment to intercede. Zexion’s strangely neutral toward Axel (“neutral” is the key word with Zexion) considering that he earlier describe Axel killing Vexen as “deplorable.” Axel says that he wonders who will be next to die, which is lovely dinner conversation, and Zexion shows a sense of humour by saying “I thought perhaps it might be you.”

This gives Axel an excuse to show us where we are in the plot: Sora has just thrashed him and is on his way to Marluxia. At least this time the time skip makes sense: Riku was unconscious just now.

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Kingdom Hearts CoM – Alternate Universe Curbstomp

com-2015-12-18-12h08m09s656Now that we’ve got the worst of the Disney worlds out of the way, what’s next? In my last playthrough, I decided it was time to go to Halloween Town to get Riku’s only reliable form of healing: the Oogie Boogie card. The Halloween Town deck is a powerful deck in the remake, packed with 7s and 9s. It’s a terrible duelling deck, since you have few to no low-valued cards to pair against the Heartless (short of entering an Almighty Darkness room) but it’s the easiest floor in which to enter Dark Mode. The original game had a mid-level deck, instead. I imagine it may have been upgraded to help you trump Oogie’s dice, but I still don’t recommend that particular strategy.

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Kingdom Hearts CoM – Bottom of the Barrel

com-2015-12-13-14h02m28s532We actually cut away to follow the Replica before we catch up again with Riku. He returns to the basement meeting room of doom, where for once in this series’ life, no one lectures him for losing a single fight as though it were the end of the world. Instead, they ask him if he’s like to meet Sora, and Riku Replica seems pretty eager to murder him, even without invitation. In the original, Vexen says he doesn’t necessarily want Sora dead, but that’s okay with the Replica. “Sora’s just one more person to crush on the way to Riku.” Shit, going to fill out all the evil clone tropes, aren’t you?

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Kingdom Hearts CoM – Stink, Stank, Stunk

com-2015-12-07-10h57m21s828After Hollow Bastion, Riku’s story collapses into a truly abbreviated form. There are no in-world stories. None, from here to the end of the KH1 Disney worlds. The structure of the worlds has also been radically condensed, and there is typically only one tween-floors story segment instead of the two from Sora’s Story. For what it’s worth, this means I’ll be able to make some serious tracks here in the Retrospective… once the mechanics are out of the way.

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Kingdom Hearts CoM – Revenge of the Plot

com-2015-12-03-15h53m30s244God dammit I’m going to have to talk about basic game mechanics again. God dammit…

Yes, Chain of Memories actually has two story modes, one starring Sora and one starring Riku, which is unlocked after completing “Sora’s Story.” The GBA game even has two separate save files for Riku mode games, to match the two it gave Sora (make sure not to save over your Sora clear data in the remake! The files are separate!). Riku’s mode is called “Reverse/Rebirth” (the Japanese words are homophones), with “Reverse” as a reference to the term from Tarot, not to mention a few other metaphors. And yes, it is a more-or-less a full game, or at least it contains a full twelve floors: the same floors as Sora’s Story, minus 100 Acre Wood.

From a retrospective perspective, R/R is a lot easier to cover, since you know all the basics and the story is limited for reasons you’ll see in a moment. Still, it’s exciting to play as Riku for the first time, and it’s also faster to play through than Sora’s Story, so it drags less than you’d expect (though that may not be much comfort if you thought the game was already done!). I find I can do each world in under half an hour and not feel like I left much behind, while Sora’s story was closer to a full hour. The design even seems to encourage rapid play. Why, it’s almost as though the developers realized a full-length portable game had already gone by and they were just grasping at straws! One of the major appeals of R/R on the GBA was that it was a challenge mode, for a variety of reasons you’ll see as we go, but the remake removed the “challenge mode” angle, realizing CoM’s gameplay was not particularly popular but the story still very important. They… probably could have done more to create a fluid experience.

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Kingdom Hearts CoM – Thank Naminé

com-2015-11-27-16h32m37s098Marluxia is killed (in the GBA he actually explodes into petals, probably the inspiration for the “consumed by the element” idea in KH2), and Sora returns to the hall, where his first response is to… seal the door with the Keyblade? If there’s something worth sealing away back there, they sure didn’t spell it out to me. Am I wrong? Is he afraid of the room itself and its starry expanse? Or is he just that angry? You can tell from this screenshot and the events of the last entry that Sora is furious, I don’t doubt that, but I still don’t see what this accomplishes. Donald and Goofy even pre-empt his actions by closing the door in the first place, and they aren’t angry at all!  You have to make up an answer to make this work, because the game isn’t talking. Sora’s response isn’t that extreme on its own, but it is an extreme response to the stimulus, which is to say: no stimulus at all!

(ShardofTruth made an interesting point about this scene in the Retrospective’s thread at KHI.  I’ll discuss it again towards the end of the KH2 Retrospective, but if you’re familiar with the series already, you may want to check it out here.)

Let’s not even begin to talk about why Sora doesn’t just imprison villains in rooms to begin with. From what we see in the series, while the Keyblade can unlock anything, it’s only ever used to lock specific locks. I’m just not sure why this is one of them!

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