So Kingdom Hearts 3: Re⏀Mind is DLC that is now available. What’s KH’s first DLC like?
I refuse to answer a question that comes from an incorrect premise.
Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Goggle Bob?
In a way, Kingdom Hearts has never not had DLC. The original Kingdom Hearts (1) had three different versions before we ever saw a sequel. It started with OG Japanese Kingdom Hearts, and then graduated to Kingdom Hearts: USA Version. Yes, in the original version of Kingdom Hearts, there was no Sephiroth, no sequel-teasing special movie, and a distinct lack of Kurt Zisa (don’t ask). This inevitably led to Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix, a Japanese version of the game that included all of the American content, a handful of new enemies/challenges, a smattering of mute cutscenes, and, most importantly, a secret boss and secret reports that more distinctly alluded to plot points of Kingdom Hearts 2, then still three years away from release. Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix even set the standard of sticking the next game’s final boss in a nondescript coat, and turning him (inevitably “him”) into a super difficult, super confusing battle. Yes! It was “DLC” that established KH’s love of zippered coats!
Wow! DLC in the bygone year of 2002? Wasn’t that pretty great?
Hell no. Unfortunately, this was the bad ol’ days of “full game ‘DLC’” releases (see also: Devil May Cry 3). If you wanted to see any of the new content (or, at least, any of the content that was actually worthwhile), you had to replay the game from scratch again, because every new version was technically a whole new game. It didn’t matter if you had a Level 100 Sora in Kingdom Hearts, you needed to grind all over again in Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix. No way you’re going to conquer that “bonus content” otherwise…
So you’re saying no one responsible for the Persona series’ last three entries ever suffered through Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix?
Yep. More’s the pity.
But at least you got more Kingdom Hearts content!
Well, not so much, either. Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix was initially never released outside Japan, so if you wanted that “Kingdom Hearts DLC”, say, because you were a bored college student sinking fast in the merit-based quagmire of the American educational system and you required Kingdom Hearts to bring your life meaning, you were pretty much out of luck unless you wanted to learn Japanese and pay exorbitant import fees.
Well, at least that only happened to Kingdom Hearts 1… Right?
Nope! Kingdom Hearts 2 had a similar trajectory. In fact, Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix had an even more alluring collection of “DLC”: it featured an all-new dungeon, rematches against the significant bosses of KH2, the prerequisite mysterious bonus boss battle, and all-new 3-D models of all the Organization XIII baddies that died alone and 2-D in the previous GBA game (Chain of Memories), so you could fight them “for real” in the Kingdom Hearts 2 engine. Oh, and the game included a full 3-D remake of that GBA game, too.
Wow! That is a lot of content!
Yep! And it didn’t make it across the Pacific, either. We did eventually get that GBA-PS2 remake on the PS2, though… but only as its own, separate budget release. No Kingdom Hearts 2 Lingering Will super battle for American folks.
Boo! Boo I say!
Boo indeed! And this continued to be the new normal for the franchise. Birth by Sleep (the PSP one) Final Mix featured upgrades like a battle against Pinochio’s Monstro, Coded got Re:Coded, and, in the end, it seems that poor Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days was the only Kingdom Hearts title to not see any gameplay changes after its initial release. … And that is the case only because it was repurposed as exclusively cinema scenes for the inevitable HD release. I shudder to think how many secret boss battles could have been squeezed in there if someone decided to properly convert the DS game.
So did America ever see any of this “DLC”?
Not for a very long time. But we did eventually see all of this content with the 1.5/2.5 HD remasters that were released in 2013/2014. Now, as of 2017, you can play all of this bonus content on your Playstation 4 as part of the Kingdom Hearts Complete compilation. So it only took an extra console generation, a whole new title, and XIII years for America to see Kingdom Hearts DLC. Seems about right!
So you’re saying we should consider ourselves lucky that this DLC is a worldwide release and only $30?
Yes. Please bring Nomura gilded zippers as an offering of goodwill.
So how does Kingdom Hearts 3: Re¤Mind shake out?
Your mileage may vary, but, as these things go, this seems to be pretty beefy DLC. First of all, there’s the signature “Final Mix” difficulty mode, this time allowing for some interesting challenges or lack of challenges. You can make the game more difficult by adding conditions like a HP drain, or make the game easier with one-hit kills for your opponents. It’s like a built-in Game Genie! There’s also a boss rush of some significant opponents, and the requisite secret boss du jour. And there’s an expansion to the “photo mode” of the original game, with the ability to set up dioramas so you can see what it would look like if Riku and Sora kissed in new and interesting worlds. We’ve also got additional keyblades, Oathkeeper and Oblivion, that were conspicuously absent during the initial release, and some additional battle options that manage to change the entire feeling of Sora’s combat. … Actually, I think those items are free as part of the DLC’s update, but it’s really hard to keep track of what is what. I know for certain that the new plot elements are part of the DLC, though!
A new plot?
Well, “new” is kind of a misnomer here. On one hand, for the first time in a Kingdom Hearts “Final Mix” situation, there is a significant amount of entirely new voice acting, new cinema scenes, and wholly new scenarios (you get to play as new characters!), on the other hand, almost all of this content is in some way “recycled” from the main game. Most of what you’ll find in ReØMind is either something that was already in KH3 but now seen from a different perspective, or a battle repurposed from its original context. The first bit of gameplay in KH3: RM is a struggle against what was previously the only wholly optional heartless in KH3, and that seems to be stating an opening mission statement of repurposing many of KH3’s “scraps” into complete meals.
So it’s just warmed up leftovers?
Yes, Kingdom Hearts 3: Re⍟Mind is leftovers. But they’re super delicious leftovers. This is some prime rib going in your lasagna leftover repurposing.
Is… is that something you actually eat?
So do the new plot details at least offer something new for fans?
What the hell!?
I know, right? Kingdom Hearts 3 ended on a very confusing finale. (Here’s where the spoilers for the franchise start in earnest). Kairi was killed (or… turned in a l’Cie?) during the events of Kingdom Hearts 3. Naturally, during the ending, Kairi is alive and well, and Sora fades from existence. After that, it was revealed that Xigbar was a body-hopping immortal that had been searching for a literal mystery box with his furry buddies. And, after that (assuming you collected all the various doodads of KH3), there was a movie about Riku and Sora and some weirdo with heterochromatic eyes hanging out in what appeared to be something like real world Shibuya. Literally none of this was explained in the context of the game itself, and, while there were some general clues available from earlier dialogue and spin-off titles, there weren’t any concrete answers for exactly what happened in these three (possibly?) separate scenarios.
So the DLC fills in the gaps?
It fills in at least one gap. The other two gaps are only widened. The whole DLC starts off with Xigbar bopping around the universe and chatting with various buddies across the timeline of Kingdom Hearts 3 proper. These can be interpreted as “deleted scenes” from KH3, and basically reveal that Xigbar had some ulterior motives going right from the get go. Considering this kicks off the DLC, you may be surprised to learn that this is not addressed ever again. There is certainly a mystery surrounding Xigbar, and the DLC goes out of its way to remind you of such, but, sorry, you won’t be getting any answers in this game.
Okay, so what about the Kairi/Sora thing?
That actually gets explained. It was all there in the original text to begin with, but at least we get a concrete (and interesting!) answer on exactly how it all went down. Long story short: Sora saved Kairi through keyblading, but he keybladed too hard, so now he has to be banished to the Shadow Realm.
Give us the long story!
Fine! So back in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance it was established that really adept keyblade wielders can travel through time, because why the hell shouldn’t teenagers have access to powers that can destroy all of time and space. However, right from the get-go it was proven that using such powers came with a terrible price. For instance, Xehanort (occasionally aka Ansem) used this power extensively in his evil plans, and, as a result, he went bald. In Kingdom Hearts 3 (pre dlc), Sora and the gang get wiped out thanks to a Xehanort sneak attack, but, before the whole of the universe is destroyed, Sora “uses the power of waking” to travel back in time and create an alternate timeline where Donald Duck didn’t die pulling a Tellah on the big bad. So, yes, Sora can travel backwards through time through sheer force of will.
Damn. So Sora just travels through time again and saves the day?
Nope! About ten seconds after “real” KH3 ends, some magical combination of a teddy bear and a chipmunk explains to Sora that he already used his one continue credit on breaking the timeline once, so this time he has to go through a whole lot more trouble to rescue Kairi. And, regardless of success, the end result of his efforts will be being tossed out of his universe and into some undefined “world” where he will be reduced to Level 1 just in time for Kingdom Hearts 4.
Harsh. So what has Sora gotta do?
First and foremost, Sora is not allowed to actually change anything that happened in the original timeline. This may seem antithetical to his goals, but it just means that he has to save Kairi in a way that no one (including his past self) actually sees. This has to be a stable time loop, because otherwise I wouldn’t get to make another reference to Disney’s Gargoyles. This means that Sora is going to operate as, basically, a Sorawraith, a ghost that is forced to bop around the hearts of his usual buddies. The plan thus becomes pretty simple: Sora is going to relive the final battle(s) with Xehanort, and save Kairi somewhere in there. When? Well, this is Sora we’re talking about, so he’s just going to wing it… but I’m sure it will all work out.
So where does that leave the gameplay?
It means you’re going to go through the whole endgame of Kingdom Hearts 3 all over again. On one hand, dirty pool, Squeenix, I already played this whole thing once (and, incidentally, you have to have a completed save file to start this DLC story), and shouting the same exposition at me again for a few hours is not exactly the first thing I wanted out of my DLC. On the other hand, the Sorawraith conceit allows you to not only see different, previously unknown facets of the story, but also play as other Sora companions. Riku, Roxas, Aqua, Kairi, and even Mickey Mouse are controllable in these scenarios, so, while you’re generally fighting the same fights you did before, at least you’ve got a new way to play. Additionally, there’s an entire parallel adventure that happens while Sora Prime is fighting the final-final boss, so there’s a new level to explore and an entire lengthy event/battle that features the rest of the cast fighting against the forces of darkness.
And does Sora eventually rescue Kairi?
Of course. I mean, we already saw the result of this bonus adventure in the original Kingdom Hearts 3 ending. Now there are a few additional scenes in the ending that reveal Sorawraith and Kairi were having adventures in the background the whole time, and at least Sora and Kairi get to hang out a little before Sora inevitably fades into another dimension. Happyish ending for everybody!
But what happens next?
The next part of the DLC, duh. Completely new to the Kingdom Hearts 3 “timeline” is the next part of the Re◍Mind Adventure, Limitcut Episode.
Shouldn’t that be “Limit Break” Episode?
You’d think, right? Nope, it’s Limitcut for this game where nobody actually gets a scratch from all these “sword” fights.
So what’s Limitcut all about?
Well, it’s a year later (in DLC that was released a year after the game’s release, cute), and the various heroes are all trying to find a way to rescue Sora. For instance, the Birth by Sleep Trio are searching the Realm of Darkness together, and the group from 358/2 are sitting around eating ice cream, because that has worked out well for them in the past.
What about Kairi?
Oh, Kairi has been in a grief coma for the last year. I assure you, this did not cause me to immediately exclaim “What the %*!#, Kingdom Hearts!?” at my screen.
What about Riku?
Well, Riku is more or less the star of this piece, as Team Final Fantasy has finally decided to pop up, and they are presenting a new lead on finding Sora to Riku.
Oh, cool, the Final Fantasy characters are back. What have they been up to?
Nobody knows! Aerish, Yuffie, Cid, and Squall/Leon have apparently been living in the same dingy house since Kingdom Hearts 2, and, aside from standing around and being window dressing for this mini-adventure, they apparently haven’t been doing a blessed thing since their last appearance.
Not a thing. Now, I’m not saying Square Enix is blowing an obvious opportunity to recast the beloved 90’s sitcom Seinfeld with the cast of Final Fantasy 7/8 here (“You’re killing independent Cid!”), but you’d think they’d throw a bone to some of its most recognizable characters.
Oh! Where are Cloud and Sephiroth?
Off preparing for Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Apparently Cloud Strife needed time to rehearse for his re-debut.
So what is Riku doing with the Final Fantasy gang?
Apparently Cid managed to reconstitute a “data” version of Sora, and that may be a way to find the real Sora. Unfortunately, New Data Sora (please do not ask why I have to say “new” here) materialized in a weird room where the members of Organization XIII also appeared. So, because this is a battle-based universe, Riku has to control Data Sora and defeat Data Organization XIII.
So it’s a boss rush? This is all preamble for a boss rush?
Against bosses that you already had to fight for the first part of the DLC? Bosses that you had to fight once before that just to unlock the DLC in the first place?
Dang. That sounds terrible.
It’s not all bad. While you’re absolutely fighting copies of copies, metaphorically and literally, all of the bosses have new techniques and challenges available. And, given how cinematic KH3’s battles are already, there are some genuinely thrilling moments available from the “basic” premise of fighting that jackass with a scythe all over again. And, for better or worse, all of the fights are pumped up to maximum difficulty, so there’s certainly a challenge involved for the person that has already beaten everything in Kingdom Hearts 3. These are the Ultima Weapons of Kingdom Hearts 3 (though, to be clear, Ultima Weapon just delivers the mail and occasionally menaces Leon in the KH universe).
Is there at least some new content in Limitcut?
Technically Xion never completely fought the good guys (she defected spontaneously with her introduction), so the battle against Data Xion is almost wholly new. Oh, and there’s the fight against Yozora.
Yozora? Who dat?
The short answer is that he’s the super secret optional boss that, per Kingdom Hearts tradition, will likely be the focal point (and possibly final boss) of Kingdom Hearts 4. The long answer is that he’s an action figure that became a real boy.
Can you explain Yozora?
Back in the Toy Story universe, Sora appeared for all the Pixar residents as a toy. Rex, the excitable toy dinosaur, believed Sora to be a toy version of Yozora, who, in the Toy Story universe, starred in a Final Fantasy-esque franchise. Yozora’s whole (fake) parent franchise appears at the local toy store, and it pointedly resembles Final Fantasy 15. At the time of Kingdom Hearts 3’s release, it was assumed that Yozora and his whole fictional franchise, Verum Rex, was some kind of weird copyright dodge-y way of including Final Fantasy 15 without forcing Noctis into the KH plot quagmire. Verum Rex translates to “True King”, and the whole “universe” brings to mind the techno-magic world of FF15. Yozora also looks like a cross between noted fisherman Prince Noctis (star of FF15) and KH mainstay Riku. In fact, the name “Yozora” seemed like a silly wink to begin with, as it roughly originates with the Japanese word for “night sky”, while Sora means “sky”. He’s just a combination of Sora and Noctis (aka latin for “of night”)! But, still, the whole of “Yozora” and his world seemed like some odd way for Nomura to sneak in a Final Fantasy expy without having to clear it with the Disney Overlords.
So Yozora only appears in the Toy Story universe?
That appeared to be the case for the average KH3 player. But there was the distinct possibility that Sora’s new home in the original “secret” video was Verum Rex, and the dude overlooking the scene was Yozora. The new DLC actually confirms this theory.
So… Sora wound up in Yozora’s Verum Rex world? Doesn’t that just mean he’s in some mundane game-within-a-game world?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Is some additional Yozora information revealed?
Well, from a story perspective, Riku futzing around with Data Sora during Limitcut doesn’t actually do anything. Upon finishing Data Organization XIII, literally nothing happens, and Cid’s computer crashes. However! Thanks to some magical assistance compliments of Merlin, Riku reveals that he’s been dreaming the original Kingdom Hearts 3 secret movie (starring Riku, Sora, and Yozora). This doesn’t really help the search for Sora, but it does unlock the final piece of the DLC, Secret Episode.
What happens in Kingdom Hearts 3: Re◷Mind: Secret Episode?
Well, for one thing, we get to see good ol’ “for real” Sora again. It appears he’s been chilling out in some magical limbo for the last year, and his first visitor is Yozora. Thanks to his experience in the Toy Story World, Sora immediately assumes Yozora is a fictional character, but because Sora had that perfectly reasonable thought, it must not be the case (“When Sora thinks, he is always wrong” is a rule of this franchise). Yozora explains that he doesn’t look like how he normally looks, someone stole his body (or something), and apparently some random bit of dialogue that Sora heard back in KH3 (but, to be clear, was somehow not part of the dialogue that was repeated for the DLC) confirms that there’s a woman that lost her heart or body or something out there looking for the “real” Yozora, too. In short, it is immediately established that Yozora is as “real” as Sora, and now they gotta fight.
What? Why must they fight?
Have you played Kingdom Hearts before? Come on.
So what happens?
Yozora is easily the most difficult fight in the game, not only because he’s fast and strong and oh so handsome, but he also has the magical ability to steal Sora’s keyblade, leaving the poor doof completely defenseless. Get ready to dodge roll for a solid minute! Possibly because of the high difficulty of this battle, there is a variable ending according to whether or not you succeed or fail… but it basically shakes out to the same finale either way.
So what does Yozora’s ending reveal?
Nothing. Just… nothing. In both cases, Sora is left in the magical skyworld, and Yozora wakes up in the back of his car, presumably on his way to the set for The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. The victor of the battle gets to have the final word, which, in both cases, is the statement “None of this makes sense to me”.
So the KH3 DLC explains one mystery, dodges answering a second mystery, further stokes the flames of a third mystery, and then ends with a character plainly stating that everything is confusing?
So Nomura is just trolling his audience at this point?
Well, that’s one explanation. Another is simply that someone behind Kingdom Hearts (I hate to name names) is 100% aware of what Kingdom Hearts has ultimately become for its fanbase, and decided to lean all in on the crazy for DLC that is likely only going to be purchased by the fanbase in the first place. This DLC barely has any references to Disney (and I could say there were absolutely no connections if the duck, dog, and rat weren’t running around), and is just full-tilt Kingdom Hearts nonsense from top to bottom. Time-traveling teenagers, data recreations of people that weren’t people in the first place, mystical dreams, the word “darkness” roughly 80,000 times: Re🔃Mind has got it all. And if this seems accidental, keep in mind that the opening, Xenosaga-length cutscene(s) contains a flashback to Xehanort’s time as a young man. During this scene, a new character is introduced (well, theoretically, there are going to be even odds on every other “new” character that is introduced from this point on is another version of Xigbar). This character is (per KH tradition) completely hidden in his black robe and remains unnamed. It is also heavily implied that he is the reason Xehanort wound up becoming Xehanort in the first place, so it’s generally likely this guy could be the next big bad of the franchise. And, on top of all of this, in stark contrast to stiff Final Fantasy end boss wannabe Xehanort/Ansem, he moves like he’s a Disney villain. He moves like a cartoon.
Dude might be the source of all evil in the KH universe, and he is just having fun with it.
And I’m going to say that’s the moral of the DLC for Kingdom Hearts 3.
Kingdom Hearts 3: Re Mind: It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but just have fun with it.