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Kingdom Hearts FAQ #15: Re Mind and DLC

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?

Slice 'n DiceHell 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!

Stupid WhaleBoo 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?

KISS!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?

With gusto.

So do the new plot details at least offer something new for fans?

Nope!

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…

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #14: Kingdom Hearts 3

You said it, AxelSo, Kingdom Hearts 3 is the first Kingdom Hearts game since 2005, eh? How’s that working out?

Excuse me, but, despite the seemingly simple numbering of the third installment, there have been approximately twelve billion Kingdom Hearts titles in the last (nearly) fifteen years. And that’s something of a problem! All of those titles were very much Kingdom Hearts stories, but all of them (save Dream Drop Distance) primarily featured side characters, like Roxas, Ventus, or Aqua. And, because the Kingdom Hearts franchise has literally no idea how to write an ending, each of those characters wound up with unresolved stories begging for a climax come Kingdom Hearts 3. And does Kingdom Hearts 3 reach that long awaited climax for a cast of at least thirty freeloaders? … Wait, should that be a question?

Does Kingdom Hearts 3 reach that long awaited climax for a cast of at least thirty freeloaders?

Pretty much! It’s actually kind of impressive how many “side stories” have built up over the years, and Kingdom Hearts 3 ties up nearly all of them with a neat little (inevitably heart-shaped) bow during the final world.

Wait… “during the final world”? The game doesn’t gradually solve these problems over the course of the entire 20-30 hour game?

Oh my no. Have you played a Kingdom Hearts game before? All of that messy plot is saved for the final couple of hours, and the rest of the game is having fun around Disney-based worlds while creepy dudes in coats occasionally discuss their favorite Netflix shows (Ansem is apparently really into Ozark).

That sounds… bad.

That’s not a question. It’s a statement. A correct statement.

So is Kingdom Hearts 3 bad?

Poor girlCertainly not. In a lot of ways, Kingdom Hearts 3 is what the Kingdom Hearts titles have been striving for since the initial announcement of Squall Leonheart meets Dumbo. Disney worlds are huge and varied, NPCs actually exist (where appropriate) so Planet Tangled feels populated by actual people (as opposed to the Agrabah Marketplaces of the past that had apparently been struck neutron bombs), and the various worlds often contain mechanics that unmistakably separate the “levels” by something other than your Disney-approved guest characters. There are (relatively) Giant Robots in Toy Store world! A sailing system reminiscent of a mini-Wind Waker in Pirates of the Caribbean world! Big Hero 6 features a Crack Down-esque super-hero city playground! It’s pretty great, and a far cry from the themed hallways of some of the previous titles. In fact, in a weird way, it makes some of the more classically “videogame-y” worlds worse by comparison. Frozen is basically the ice level (complete with ice maze, ice tower, and the return of Square-mandated snowboarding), and Monsters Inc.’s factory stage is another fine showcase for our gaming friend, the conveyer belt. But those worlds aren’t bad! Just kind of ordinary when compared to exploring a gigantic toy store filled with murderous tsum tsums (which is rarely a destination for old-fashioned Chocobros).

So play Kingdom Hearts 3 for the Disney experience?

It’s certainly what is front and center. Four of the worlds are basically “play the movie” experiences wherein Sora gets to tagalong while a film unfolds (and, for some reason, a complete cutscene featuring the entirety of Let it Go), one world serves as a quasi-sequel (and inadvertent condemnation of capitalism), and two worlds seem to be excuses to hang out with a cool cast of characters. And that’s fun! It’s all very entertaining, and the only thing that really separates this whole experience from the much-missed Disney Infinity is that that “real” plot keeps rearing its ugly head (and Anna doesn’t get a grappling hook).

So the Kingdom Hearts plot is the worst part of Kingdom Hearts?

Not exactly. The narrative just…

Xenosaga Episode III Part 10: Fashionably Late

Previously on Xenosaga: I don’t know, it’s all starting to blend together. Shion did something reckless and potentially dangerous because of issues with some men in her life, but it worked out alright. Allen was insulted. I’m pretty sure there were some bad guys somewhere in there talking about nebulous, evil plans, too.

Oh, right, it’s the past, and Feb and Virgil are both alive. Virgil less so.

Note that Virgil doesn’t know (Kiddy) Shion’s name. A long, long time ago, someone stumbled onto Gogglebob.com with the search “why doesn’t Virgil recognize Shion”, obviously referring to their Woglinde encounter fifteen or so years later (than this scene). Here’s a fun question: do you remember every eight year old you’ve ever met? And there is evidence Virgil has face blindness

This is one of those “prequel problems” you see a lot. It was established that Feb was literally the last thing on Virgil’s mind when he died, so we know they had a significant (at least for Virgil) relationship. But when it comes time to actually see that relationship, it has to all be established in a time frame that will still hold the audience’s interest (you’ll note that both characters have the handicap of not actually being in the main party, either). So, like Romeo and Juliet, theirs is a love that is lasting and eternal and based on like two days of knowing each other.

I guess the explanation is that Virgil never knew true kindness before or after Feb. Cuteness ensues…

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #04: Sora

Hearts just know, ya know?Q. Why does Sora get to wield two keyblades?

A. Sora is some kind of bizarre heart hotel, and literally has been since birth.

Remember how I mentioned that in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Ventus gets tortured by Xehanort until he splits into Ventus and Vanitas? Well turns out that splitting one heart into two kind of messes a boy up, and Ventus was nearly a comatose vegetable that Xehanort was going to just dump on a random palm tree. BUT! Sora was just born, and apparently hearts are all-knowing at birth, so Sora’s heart was all like, “Hey, Ventus, looks like you’re going through a tough time, here, borrow some of my heart while you recover.” And Ventus got better! Vanitas had his own problems, and he supplemented them with the Unversed, but that’s an entirely different can of brain-damaged worms.

A few years later, Ventus, in an effort to foil Xehanort’s nefarious plan to make a keyblade that is, like, a double keyblade, kind of tore his own heart to shreds. This left Vanitas pretty much dead, and Ventus, once again, comatose. BUT! What was left of Ventus’s heart (which is akin to saying “what’s left of the Titanic”) decided to squirrel away in Sora’s heart. This will be important later, but this means Sora, at five years old, has 1.3 hearts.

This jerkOh, and Ventus’s body got ditched in some crazy castle by his best friend. Err… his best friend that didn’t become an unspeakable evil.

About a decade or so later, in Kingdom Hearts I, Sora is super best friends with Riku and Kairi. Kairi is secretly (even to her) a “Princess of Heart” from Radiant Garden (aka Hollow Bastion) (aka Square World), and Riku was once chosen by Terra to be a keyblade wielder, though everyone involved in that event seems to have forgotten. At this point, Ventus’s heart has probably recovered a little, so Sora has 1.5 hearts.

Everything is idyllic and grand on the Destiny Islands, until it isn’t, and THE DARKNESS invades. A lot of things happen at once here: First, Riku awakens to his keyblade. The physicality of this is kind of confusing, but just imagine if one day a sword was sticking out of your heart, and it wasn’t because you pissed off the wrong Spaniard. But Riku is kind of a jackass, so he momentarily looks away from the light and toward the darkness, and Sora is all, “yoink!” And, thus, Sora gets a keyblade, even though it was really the possession of his best friend. Kairi, meanwhile, as a Princess of Heart, has a heart that is completely incompatible with being consumed by darkness. As a result, Kairi’s heart takes a page from The Book of Ventus and jumps ship over to Sora’s heart. As a result, for the majority of Kingdom Hearts I, Sora has 2.5 hearts.

Sora The Cardio King stomps around various Disney Worlds until arriving at Hollow Bastion. There, he encounters a Riku that has mostly been possessed by Ansem, Seeker of Darkness (the dark half of a guy who already has a name that is one letter away from spelling “No Heart”), and Kairi, who is just a limp body. Riku plays the bad guy card way too hard until Sora just has enough of it and turns the keyblade on himself.

Creepy lil' fellowHere’s where the magic happens.

  1. Sora’s consciousness becomes a heartless. Given Sora is just about as evil as Mother Theresa, he transforms into the weakest heartless available.
  2. Sora’s… main heart? Prime heart? The part of Sora that was always Sora goes and hangs out with Kairi. Also: Kairi’s heart. So, for a few shining moments, Kairi has her own heart AND the heart of Sora. D’aww.
  3. Sora’s discarded body zaps over to Twilight Town, along with the Ventus heart. This whole jumble becomes the nobody named Roxas, who inherits the general body of Sora, and the hair color and voice actor of Ventus.

Shortly thereafter, Heartless Sora gets a magic hug from Kairi, Sora’s heart is like, “Oh, this is my stop, smell ya later.” And Sora is back to being one human boy with one heart.

Somewhere in this process is where Kairi’s nobody, Naminé is created. Given Kairi never actually loses her body (she appears to just be comatose for most of Kingdom Hearts I), Naminé raises a number of questions. Canonically, DiZ (Diligently Imbibing Zombie), who is supposed to know everything about everybody, basically just throws up his hands at her existence in KH2. Presumably, the universe just wanted a blonde, magical version of Kairi, and called it a day.

Man, poor kidI should follow the chronological through-line on Sora’s many hearts, so… Roxas.

Roxas has the worst life. At birth, Roxas is discovered by head evil nobody Xemnas, who gives him a stupid name and an even stupider hoodie, and then sends him off on increasingly stupid missions. Roxas is basically 358/2 days a slave. Then, Roxas makes a friend! Xion is a keyblade wielder/Xemnas slave, and looks suspiciously like a brunette version of Kairi. Roxas makes another friend in the form of Axel, who God, just Axel, ya know? Anyway Xion turns out to be a magical clone of Sora, because of course she is, and she’s having a bad time because her magic DNA is degrading or something. Xion breaks down so completely she is erased from existence, but not before Roxas absorbs her. Also, Roxas has been such a good little nobody, he’s started to grow his own heart. So Roxas has his own kinda-heart, Xion’s kinda-heart, and Ventus’s recovering heart. That’s probably like… 1.7 hearts there.

Ugh, now Axel is on my websiteRoxas is then kidnapped by DiZ (Deliberately Irritating Zebra), who erases his memories and sticks the poor kid into the Matrix. Roxas has a whole six days of being a happy teenager playing with his (completely manufactured) friends, and is then informed it’s time for Kingdom Hearts 2 to actually get going, so he has to be reabsorbed by Sora. And thus ends the sad existence of Roxas. This means that Sora has his own heart, Roxas’s heart (which let’s go ahead and call that one full heart now, having had such a happy time in the Matrix), Xion’s kinda-heart which Roxas absorbed, and still Ventus’s recovering heart. As of Kingdom Hearts 2 and onward, Sora has, by my calculations, 3.4 hearts. As a result, Sora is entitled to two (2) keyblades at one time. Whoopdeedoo.

Q. Sora has saved the universe on multiple occasions, why isn’t he a “keyblade master”?

A. Imagine you designed a laptop that was indestructible, had unlimited battery life, and could pull an internet connection anywhere on Earth. Then, you discovered a group of people cut off from society, and stuck in a time period approximately equivalent to the European Dark Ages. You observed these “backwards” people, and detected a king that you believed governed justly and, in this place of war and death, could rule the whole area and bring prosperity to his people. You decide to give your amazing, invincible laptop to this king, explain the basics of how it works, and then decide that you will return in a year to see how everything is going.

Lord ClobbersalotIn your absence, you imagine what this king may be doing with this laptop: discovering cures for diseases, researching efficient ways to end wars quickly, or even initiating governmental reform based on the millennia of experience now available at his fingertips. As the year grows to a close, you envision returning to a reformed utopia ruled by a philosopher emperor.

You return to find that, while the king you chose has apparently conquered the land, there is no change in quality of life for his subjects: they are all still wallowing, diseased in a feudal, filthy society. You approach the king, and inquire as to what he has actually done with the laptop.

He stuck the laptop on a stick, and, exploiting its “invincible” properties, used to it to clobber all of his rivals.

Would you call that king a computer genius?