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FGC #136 Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy

What?Have you ever dealt with a baby? I’m sure I have some parents reading this blog, and, while I’m not one myself, I have been conscripted in a few babysitting duties over the years (presumably because people mistake me for a responsible adult [before they see my Transformers collection]), which means I have occasionally been subject to the fun of child negotiating without all the love and affection one might have for the little proto-humans. I’ve found that my number one problem with babies (yes, this blog is taking the bold stance of “babies got problems”) is that you can never be completely certain what they want. Crying is happening! Does that mean you’re hungry? Thirsty? Need to be changed? Need your Goggle Bob licensed Goggle Bob doll? Need to watch that one video with the letters coming out of the tree for the 87th time? You are making noise, you are upset, I know you need something, but what? I’m doing everything I can! What do I have to do to please you!?

This, of course, makes me think of fans.

It’s hard to be a fan of something. Recall your fourth grade English class, and remember that the word “fan” is short for “fanatic”, and “fanatic” means crazy go nuts squirrels in your pants bonkers. When I’m talking about being a “fan”, I don’t mean “I kinda like stamp collecting, I think it’s neat.” What I mean is you are a fanatic, and would dash into rush hour traffic if it meant retrieving a mint copy of the Earthbound official strategy guide. Fans would die for their fandom, and anyone that is already in that mindset is going to have some opinions on things. Talk to a typical fan, and you’ll find that, inevitably, they have much more detailed and elaborate plans for their favorite franchise than the actual caretakers. They understand the characters so much more than anyone ever could, and, if you’ll just sit down and read this fanfic novel I wrote, you’ll realize that Modo is truly the most sensible and emotionally evolved of the Biker Mice from Mars.

HUGZAnd, to be clear, I’ve written thousands of words on the topic of a teenager that hangs out with a duck and a dog and swings a giant key around to fight thirteen old men that are all the same old man. I have no delusions about my own standing in the fan spectrum.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that fans like stories. It’s not enough to simply have Guile and Ken fight each other, there has to be some story, some meaning there, and it’s all the better if there are secrets and relationships and maybe someone married the sister of the other guy’s wife. When there is even the tiniest coincidence between two characters (say, Ryu and E. Honda are both from the fairly large nation of Japan) that has to be exploited and explored and layered into the narrative. Fans eat this nonsense up, and I would love to show you my collection of Street Fighter story guides sometime to confirm this fact (thanks Udon!).

And even more than stories within a world, fans absolutely adore stories about worlds colliding. I want to say this is some sort of basic human desire to see everyone hang out (as proven by the sheer number of GI Joes that have rescued Barbies over the years… or vice versa), but it seems to reach absurd levels in the more nerdy fandoms. Star Trek: The Next Generation meets The X-Men? Sure, Patrick Stewart is down for that. Every Red Ranger coming together to form the Mightiest of Morphers? Alright, that seems doable. Viewtiful Joe vs. Deadpool? Well, that was just bound to happen.

Final Fantasy always seemed destined for this kind of thing. Practically from the get-go, the Final Fantasy Franchise has loved a good story, and featured characters that were just well defined enough to be distinctive, but just broad enough to be your computer boyfriend. You know Barret would buy you flowers every day if you met IRL, right? And, what’s more, Final Fantasy games always seem to take place in different worlds HA HA HA(universes? They can’t seem to pin down one afterlife…), so, under normal circumstances, Selphie would never get to meet Sephiroth, which is a failure of the space-time continuum. This mistake must be rectified! Sabin must be allowed to suplex a dreadnaught!

And for years fans took up that torch. Webcomics featuring poorly ripped sprites gave us worlds were Edward the Bard could be insulted by Edgar the King. Fanart featuring Squall and Bartz comparing Omega Weapon prizes. And I’m pretty sure flash animation had existed for a whole five seconds before someone started their epic tale of Edge training Locke to become an assassin. And the omnipresent prose fanfiction? Did you ever read that story about how Red XIII had kids because he hopped dimensions and seduced Angelo the dog? It was surprisingly graphic!

So it’s no great surprise that after years of sitting around watching the cease and desist orders pile up, Square Enix finally decided to give the public what it evidently wanted and smush all the Final Fantasy heroes and villains together into one giant brawl. Cloud could now fight Kuja! Onion Kid vs. Jecht! Firion vs. Cloud of Darkness! I mean, who among us hasn’t wondered about who would win that battle?

And there was a story! This was no Smash Bros. where everyone is just a doll or whatever excuse we need to get Donkey Kong and Samus Aran in the same universe; no, this was an epic battle between good and evil on a stage beyond time! A conveniently even number of heroes much fight an equal number of villains for the title of most brave, and, after an inevitable second act dark age, the heroes rally and banish chaos from the universe. And maybe Kefka gets to call Squall a poser.

But fans, as ever, wanted more. More characters! More Final Fantasy variety! And, maybe most important, more story. Final Fantasy Dissidia told the tale of ten heroes and ten villains, but there wasn’t much time to breathe. Aside from battle intros and a story mode that boiled down to random team-ups, no one really got to interact. Cloud got to yell at Sephiroth again, and Golbez (Jecht) got to be all mopey about tormenting his brother (son), but these RAWRwere all stories we had already seen, taken to the mean of PSP story allowances. Squall got less development than in his origin game, but Firion got so much more. And the audience got a tantalizing sampling of what could be.

Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy was meant to fill in those gaps. Dissidia was supposed to be the lucky thirteenth time the “tournament” occurred, so here’s one story back, when everything is weeeeird and craaaaazy. Tidus, Terra, and Cloud are all on team Bad Guy. Jecht is a good guy, and he’s got friends like Kain, Lightning, and Yuna. Father and son Laguna and Squall are the same age and working together. And in addition to Chaos’s Minions, we’ve got an army of unbeatable crystalline entities breathing down the heroes’ necks, and an immortal death dragon at the top of the heap. Dissidia 012 is no mere crossover game, oh no, this is a story worthy of its own Final Fantasy universe.

And it was dumb as shit.

In a lot of ways, there are very few other ways that could have gone. I’m not going to say that the glory days of Square storytelling are gone forever (or never existed…), but a story full of main characters is always going to be unwieldy. Aladdin or Mulan were designed to be main characters that carry entire stories on their own, and Squall and Cloud are no different. Slot them into roles where they have to share the spotlight… and they just don’t work. Terra instantly shrinks from conflicted heroine to brainwashed damsel. Kain is boiled down to betrayer in chief, and Tifa comes off as, at best, confused. Amusingly, Lightning makes out best because she becomes the “main character” and leader of the 012 generation, so her characterization can be consistent with the Lightning we all know and love. So, with Lightning reliable and the rest of the cast reduced to caricatures, we’re looking at, what, a 3% success rate? I can’t imagine why the fans weren’t pleased.

Bang, zoomAnd it’s a shame, too, because, once you take an hour or so to understand the intricacies of the Dissidia battle system, it’s a pretty fun game to actually play. While it might appear to be random numbers smeared across the screen while two characters inexplicably fly around final boss arenas, Dissidia actually offers a pretty engaging little battle system. Yes, the leveling/equipment system should be left at the curb (you’re either over or under leveled, thus the battle takes too long, or you’re evenly leveled… and then it’s the enjoyable, straight match it should have been in the first place), but the idea of stacking particular accessories for rigidly defined battle strategies offers something of a Pokémon Planning-esque strategy to a fighting game. What’s more, while it can be annoying as hell to watch, this is the first I’ve seen a fighting game really capture that “anime fight” feeling of characters zooming into the air and clashing blades at Mach speed. It takes a fair amount of getting used to (“Wait, I’m not doing damage, I’m doing damage to his ability to do damage?”), but once you’re in the zone, you’ll be tossing around ultimate attacks like a champ.

But that’s not what anyone remembers about Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy. What’s remembered is a plot that is a plane crashing into a train wreck that also happens to be on top of a volcano. No gameplay firefighters are ever going to douse that blaze, and it’ll keep burning well into the next century.

Did anyone expect anything different, though?

Fans clamored for some Final Fantasy crossover for years, and Dissidia delivered with all the most popular Final Fantasy characters. This isn’t Cait Sith LOVE ITbattling Maria, this is Cloud and Sephiroth, the toughest of the toughies in the Final Fantasy pantheon. Yes, there had to be concessions to get a plot out of these guys, and, yes, any new villains introduced would inevitably pale in comparison to the murderer’s row of murderers already featured. Dissidia 012 has its share of problems, but, given everything included, it’s probably the best of all possible Final Fantasy Fighting worlds available to 2011.

But still the fan uproar continues. Still every Final Fantasy Fan and their dog has an opinion on how this could be done right, and here’s a twelve hundred page document on what would be the best way to go about that. No, Square, you don’t understand these characters, this is stupid. Here, pass me the controls, I’ll show you how it’s really done, and don’t try to stop me…

Fanatics, you have everything you need. You have exactly what you asked for. It’s all right here!

And the crying continues.

FGC #136 Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy

  • System: PSP, though also available as a download for the Vita. Good, another fighting game that will never see a second player.
  • Number of players: Two, but, again, you’re going to have to find someone with another copy and a PSP. I don’t know how the Vita emulation works on that front, but I’m going to go ahead and assume no one in your area owns a Vita anyway.
  • Favorite Character: Laguna Loire. I blame it on my impressionable teen years, but I’ve never felt such a great kinship with any other video game character. I can’t imagine why I’d be so enamored with a wannabe writer with horrible romantic skillsDon't feel bad and an inexplicably supportive network of friends. He’s also fun to actually, ya know, play in Dissidia. Bartz gets second place (and first for Dissidia [1]) for making the cost-cutting “mimic character” into something actually viable and interesting.
  • Backwards Compatibility: I want to say this is one of the few games I’ve played that involves leveling but allows you to transfer levels between games. Square seems to love ignoring the ability to import save data (just let me take my Final Fantasy 10 PS2 save to FF10HD, dammit! The data is right there on the hard drive! I found all those damn ciphers already!), and in a game where grinding was about the only way you’d see the villains become at all viable, it’s very welcome.
  • Just play the gig, man: Submitted without judgment, a portion of lyrics to the battle anthem “Cosmos”:

    The Pilgrims are gathering and the marching band, the marching band’s howling
    Compassion is the flag a righteous man, a righteous man will hold
    The Pilgrims are gathering and the marching band, the marching band’s howling
    Compassion is the flag a righteous man, a righteous man will hold

    The Spirit is over town, waiting for me to hit the floor
    Blooming white sky for the voice of one calling tonight
    Tonight fate is the red crown, the red crown around your door
    Time is scattering the seeds of the mourning daylight

  • Skinner Box: Dissidia and Duodecim also included early Square attempts at guilting the player into firing up the game once a day. Moogles send you mail on a daily basis, and if you’re not around to answer their inane questions, you don’t get nearly as many baubles and beads for powering up your fighters. Combine that with daily EXP/GP bonuses, and, well, have you Dissidiaed today?

    I hate you
  • Goggle Bob Fact #1: My Final Fantasy is Full of Laudable Women article was written for the Talking Time forums before this site launched. As a result, I knew I wanted to post it on this site somewhere, and I considered posting it as the review for one of the Dissidia games. I decided against that, because not only does Dissidia have a teeny tiny female cast, it also drastically undermines the contributions of characters like Terra, Yuna, and even Edea (should Squall even know who Ultimecia is?). Duodecim, if anything, seems to reinforce the idea that the female leads are “secondary characters” like Kain or Laguna. So, yeah, posted that article as its own thing after a while.
  • Goggle Bob Fact #2: I know there’s a new Dissidia in the pipeline. If that game decides to follow the story of the original Dissidias, I’m going to write a Kingdom Hearts Explained-esque series for the franchise. Someone remember to hold this statement against me later.
  • Did you know? Cid is simultaneously a man from the past of Final Fantasy I and a moogle in this one. Seems like it took a while for that to happen, kupo.
  • Would I play again: I admit that I enjoy playing this game. I don’t touch the story mode with a ten foot pole (who cares that the overworld is back? Not me), but I do like firing up the occasional pickup match on the Vita. Ya know, just to see if I’ve still got it.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bionic Commando for the NES! Ah, now that’s one way to get into the swing of things. Please look forward to it!

Laugh later

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #08: Square

Honestly?  This scene always gets me.Q. So what about the Square Characters of the Square/Disney Crossover?

A. Oh, you know, they’re doing this and that.

Note that this post will contain vague spoilers for not only Kingdom Hearts, but also a myriad of other Square games. Though I am rather proud of myself that I don’t think I distinctly noted the fact that Aerith dies.

First, a history lesson for any young whippersnappers wandering around the site and perhaps my lawn, which you should vacate immediately. Back in the day, when Squaresoft was young and gay (see Tobal No. 2), Final Fantasy plots and characters were a one-off event. Sure, you may see a Cecil cameo in a virtual reality nightmare world, or Black Mage kicking off the era of the sprite comic, but, by and large, when a Final Fantasy game hit “The End”, you were never going to see those characters again. Ultimecia may as well have won, because all of her opponents stopped existing about fifteen minutes after her death. Nowadays, you have your Dissidias and Theatrehythms and The After Years and we know exactly how Kefka would react to Squall, and how many children were conceived during the ending of Final Fantasy 4, and the mystery is just gone.

Kingdom Hearts (1) was released before even Final Fantasy 10-2, so not only was it a chance to see all those fresh faces from Final Fantasy 10 again, but it also featured a number of “old favorites”, like Cloud and Squall, characters that hadn’t been seen on anything but rad Versus posters for years. I literally cannot describe how amazing it was, at the time, to see these characters returning to an active role. They could just show up, say three lines, and then disappear into the ether, and it would be exhilarating.

So that’s exactly what Square did.

Good job, guys. Nice hustle.

Scampering aboutTidus, Wakka, and Selphie all appear on Destiny Islands as a sort of cameo balance to protagonists Sora, Riku, and Kairi. They’re all Sora-aged, so they look much younger than in their original appearances. They all play (literally, no euphemism here) with Team Sora, and, when their entire world is destroyed, Sora never mentions them ever again throughout the franchise. Selphie appears briefly as Kairi’s friend in Kingdom Hearts 2, because, with Sora and Riku off planet and adventuring at the time, Kairi has no other friends, and must settle.

Squall decides to call himself Leon for some reason or another, and also decides to be a very confusing character for the KH universe. Squall and the remaining Final Fantasy characters in Kingdom Hearts 1 all used to live in Radiant Garden, a happy shiny world ruled by Ansem the Wise in its better days. Then Xehanort took over without anyone noticing… or… something. Radiant Garden became Hollow Bastion, and anyone worth a damn got exiled to Traverse Town. Leon, using a gummi ship provided by Cid, traveled the universe, and did bupkis. Seriously. There’s this whole backstory where he earned Mickey’s trust for all the effort he’s putting in and all the hearts he’s saved, but when you go to the other worlds, there’s just no mention of the guy, or even the slightest bit of evidence any other off-worlders have been curbing the heartless onslaught. Best guess? Leon is completely fabricating his own history. Oh yeah, I saved… uhhh… Victory Through Air Power world. Yep, totally saved. Oh, you’ve never heard of it? Oh, that’s alright, it’s not really a mainstream world.

So fuzzySomehow Leon got King Mickey’s attention, and rather than Mickey, Keyblade Master, just explaining keyblade history to Sora himself, Mickey chooses Leon to be his proxy. Is Mickey secretly ashamed of his squeaky voice? Whatever the case, Leon is basically the lore-meister for the entirety of Kingdom Hearts 1, so any plot irregularities stemming from basic keyblade knowledge can be placed squarely on his shoulders, or at least his silly little half-coat.

In KH2, Leon heads up the committee to make his home planet look less like a depressing, dark hovel. This goes against everything I understand about Squall.

Aerith is here to be Team Final Fantasy’s mom, which is a common problem in Kingdom Hearts. Basically, every good guy group has to have one character, always female, who stands around and worries about what the boys are doing. I will remind you that this is Aerith, who, aside from that whole end on her knees business, spent a lot of Final Fantasy 7 sneaking out to escape her mom to meet up with boys. Also, she’s one of only two FF7 playable characters to join the party that doesn’t already have some kind of weapons/warrior training, which has to take some level of lady balls (MASTER level lady balls). But, no, KH Aerith just stands around, elaborates on whatever Leon is saying, and then looks concerned. In KH2, she joins in the battle… as an unarmed white mage. Sigh.

It's weird, right?Yuffie is also Leon’s sidekick. While she is at least the rare “active” woman in the Kingdom Hearts universe (you can actually fight her and Leon in Olympus Coliseum), she still doesn’t do much of anything in either game.

Cid rounds out team Final Fantasy, and he’s basically there to maintain your gummi ship. This is a very Cid appropriate task. In KH2, he is replaced by a pair of chipmunks. This, most unfortunately, does not lead to Chip ‘n Dale ‘n Cid: Rescue Rangers. Sit your ass down in that chair and eat your goddamn cheese!

Cloud actually has something of an interesting go of it in KH1. He appears as a minion of Hades in Olympus Coliseum, which grants Cloud the honor of being the only Final Fantasy character to appear on a Disney planet in KH1. This Cloud looks a lot like Vincent Valentine, and it would completely make sense if this “role” was originally supposed to go to Vinnie. After all, in the backstory of FF7, Vincent was nearly killed, So pointystored in an underworld like basement, and then eventually revived to a world where he decided to fight against the evil that once injured and imprisoned him. Unfortunately, as well as that would fit the motif of Hades’ underworld warrior, they decided to go with Cloud, who, in the backstory of FF7, was nearly killed, stored in an underworld like basement, and then eventually revived to a world where he decided to fight against the evil that once injured and imprisoned him. Totally different scenario.

Also, Cloud checked out his new Hades powers/look (the single batwing, the power of flight, increased durability, “dark powers”, aversion to sunlight) and deduced he had become a mummy, so he wrapped his sword in bandages.

Cloud fought for Hades, but then couldn’t bring himself to kill Sora, because Cloud knows that he might be able to mow down hundreds of unnamed soldiers, but he draws the line at some kid with spikey hair and an unusual sword. Cloud officially becomes a hero for voiding his contract, and then proceeds to not do a single other thing.

Smash Mouth loves itSephiroth is lurking around as a bonus boss in Kingdom Hearts 1, but doesn’t get any kind of a storyline until KH2, where it is revealed that he is the darkness in Cloud’s heart… or… something. As a result, it’s kind of fuzzy on whether or not Sephiroth is actually genetic-freak Sephiroth, a normal human being, or even just a belabored metaphor. We just know he is responsible for some amazing voice acting. Related: KH2 introduces Tifa, who is supposed to be the light to Sephiroth’s darkness. Tifa also proves she can punch through steel walls… and then proceeds to spend the rest of the game worrying about Cloud. Kingdom Hearts, you have a lady problem.

So sadI should probably mention Auron at this point, as he pretty much fulfills the same role as KH1 Cloud for Kingdom Hearts 2. Auron is plucked out of Hell by Hades. Auron is supposed to fight against Hercules/Sora, but resists. Auron learns a very valuable lesson about never losing your sunglasses. Despite the fact that the events of Final Fantasy 10 cannot have happened in the Kingdom Hearts universe (reminder: Tidus and Wakka are children), Auron has a brief flashback to losing his friends during some kind of heroic journey. Given Yuna’s state in KH2, I choose to believe a drunken Jecht and Auron traveled with a magical fairy Braska to stop Monstro, and failed. Someone please contact fanfic.net about this.

Speaking of which, Yuna, Rikku, and Paine (aka the Gullwings) are magical fairies in the service of Maleficent. There is absolutely no explanation for this phenomena; it is unknown if Maleficent transformed the girls, if they’re just part of a completely unseen fairy race, or if Still love their theme songRikku cast the wrong spell at the wrong time and it led naturally to hijinks. The Gullwings help Maleficent until… they don’t. Again, pretty much no explanation for anything these three do. I kind of assume their existence is owed to a weird dream someone had.

Seifer and his disciplinary committee buddies appear as young teens in Twilight Town. Given the difference in their ages, Leon either must have received his trademark scar from some random heartless, or he is a phenomenally poor swordsman. I suppose it could be both. Seifer is basically there to be a rival to Roxas in the very beginning of KH2, and while he doesn’t really accomplish much, he does firm up his place as “biggest jerk in the Final Fantasy series”. He could do worse.

Now, you may have noticed that all of the Final Fantasy characters have hailed from Final Fantasy 7, 8, and 10 at this point. There is a very particular reason for this: no one on the staff has played any other Final Fantasy games. To prove this, Vivi of Final Fantasy 9 My life is lame in this pile.  Ante up?appears in Twilight Town, and his entire contribution is being replaced by a random malicious mook. He speaks, without exaggeration, maybe nine whole words. Setzer of Final Fantasy 6 also appears, and the “noble gambler with a heart of gold” is an adult trying to bribe his way to victory in a children’s bopper game. My reaction to this can be summarized in the immortal words of Vivi, “…”

Zack Fair, who just about appears in Final Fantasy 7, drops by for KH: Birth by Sleep. In a radical change of pace for the series, Zack is tricked by Hades into fighting Hercules at Olympus Coliseum. Final Fantasy characters find faustian bargains to be sweeter than honey. During his downtime, Zack also finds time to ask Aqua out on a date, which I believe makes him the only character in all of Kingdom Hearts to Poorest guyplainly display a libido. Good for you, Zack, I’m sure you two crazy kids have a wonderful future ahead.

Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance does not feature any new Final Fantasy Characters… or any Final Fantasy characters, I think. But it does feature a healthy portion of the cast of The World Ends With You. Those whacky kids are back to their old Reaper Game shenanigans, and, while a tutorial is mixed into the plot, this appears to be the first time in the series where a straight “Square World” plays out similarly to Disney Worlds hewing closely to their original plots. Of course, for some stupid reason, Team TWEWY is stuck in Traverse Town, as opposed to their own, personal setting. Hey, it’s not like the actual geographic location of TWEWY played any part in the gameplay or plot.

This article ends with youSo what does this all amount to? Not much. Team Final Fantasy doesn’t really accomplish much of anything in the grand overarching plot of Kingdom Hearts, and, by and large, most of the characters are simple caricatures of their former selves. It’s pleasant enough to fight against Squall or Cloud or Zack, but nothing of value is added, no great insight gleamed, and, in many cases, it’s just a brand name attached to a role that could be played by any ol’ NPC. I think we can all agree that perhaps after spending twenty hours with someone hunting movers in a dank cave, you don’t want to see that person ever again…

And the odds of Lightning being seduced by Hades into fighting Hercules in Kingdom Hearts 3? Staggering.

FGC #026 Final Fantasy 8

LIONHEART!A very common trope in stories, and particularly JRPGs, is the concept of “friendship saves the world”. How many times have you seen the hero struggling against his final nemesis, barely able to muster the strength to land any blow at all, left alone the final one, until, suddenly, his (inevitably “his”) friends all rally, send their best wishes, and now protagonist has the power to strike down evil and save the world? This trope has rung hollow for ages for some key reasons:

  1. Reality doesn’t work like that. It never works like that. I, personally, have some amazing friends, but it takes multiple spousal permission slips and a three day waiting period just to move a couch. I’d really like to help you with this final boss and save the universe, Goggle Bob, but I’ve got a presentation at 9 AM tomorrow morning.
  2. The moral is friendship. Really? I understand there are some deeply lonely people out there, but does anyone really need to be told that friends are important? Oh, that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all this time? I need to actually talk to other people? Oh, thanks for the tip, shonen manga!
  3. Nine times out of ten, it’s just an excuse to revisit the cast and key story beats of any given tale. Edbard the Spoony died like twenty hours ago, but, wasn’t that part cool? Here’s his ghost to help out and cheer you on! … Wait, he’s not dead?

This all rings hollow…er in your average Final Fantasy game. Yes, it’s nice when, during the finale, the entire playable cast pipes up and waxes poetic about how the quest has changed them and they’re all like one, single gauntlet holding the sword together or some such nonsense, but, in the end, a Final Fantasy game isn’t about a group of misfits coming together to conquer the unconquerable, it’s about you, one person, holding the controller and guiding these whackos through a world filled to the brim with lethal fauna. Yes, Cyan, it’s very nice that you learned something important about yourself on this quest where I stuck you on bench duty from the moment we met, now get back to being the absolute last character I want to see used in this battle.

Final Fantasy, the franchise, went to this well in the finale of four games prior to Final Fantasy 8 (five if you include Ben and his buddies in Final Fantasy Gaijin), and while it always made a special point about how all the members of your party are super best buddies and Cecil and Kain have a special bro bond that can never be broken, or Setzer has some fabulous fashion advice for Gau, the games always fell short of portraying convincing friendships between these characters. Keep in mind that these are people that will and sometimes literally do die for each other. Hell, General Leo went to the grave thinking Sabin René Figaro had the same name as a TV show from the 70s.

Final Fantasy 8, finally, made friendship worthwhile, and is only one of two stories in all of fiction that I have ever encountered where the end moral (friendship is important, can triumph over anything) is supported by the character’s actions from beginning to end, as opposed to simply some finale lip service. To illustrate this clearly, I’m going to take a look at all of the important components involved in this story from absolutely most worthless to most important.

Gonna blast some dudesIrvine Kinneas is first on the hit list. If FF8 is trying to deconstruct tropes anywhere, it’s with Irvine, who is a seventeen year old boy, and is somehow in the running for greatest sniper on the planet. Come to think of it, he might be the only sniper on the planet. Regardless, Irvine’s main character trait is how he watched way too much X-Men The Animated Series as a kid, and seems to believe he’s the reincarnation of That Scumbag Gambit. Or, at least, that’s the veneer he projects: in truth, he’s a little shell shocked by apparently being a phenomenal murderer well before he’s old enough to know not to wear a cowboy hat with that many ear accessories, and uses the “badass” personality to repeatedly fail with the ladies. Irvine’s most important moment in the game is during the infamous ending of disc 1, when Super Sniper fumbles the one task he was specifically hired to perform, and can’t bring himself to shoot his adopted mother in the face. Way to not man-up, bro. To completely over psychoanalyze the polygonal fellow, we’re looking at a guy who drastically overcompensates for his own perceived masculine failings (that he’s not an unstoppable terminator) via an overinflated and garish libido. While he never grows completely out of this behavior (his final scene involves hitting on Quistis… not that I can blame him), it’s clear throughout the game that his friends and Selphie specifically grow to accept the “real” Irvine, and he seems to gradually forsake the pickup artist nonsense over time. Either that or the writers forgot he existed after the second disc. Lord knows I did.

SUNFISTIf you’re an appropriate age, you probably met Zell Dincht in college. He lives on campus, but his home is like five minutes away. He’s really anxious to show off his family, everybody knows his mom as a mom, and she’s very accommodating to all those hungry students running in and out of the house. He actually likes the cafeteria food, because, when you get right down to it, he has a choice (he can go home for a meal, afterall), so everything hasn’t turned to sand in his mouth after the first month like everybody else. He’s joyful and manic, because, in the end, he doesn’t need your approval or anyone else’s, he can head home to the hug-o-zone, where Ma Dincht will tell him he just needs warm milk and another face tattoo. Zell wants to be a soldier not because of his own drive, but because he adores his grandfather, and wants to follow in his footsteps. Over time, he gradually matures, not because of any focused effort, but because he gets further and further away from Hometown, and actually learns about the world and his place in it. By the end of the journey, he’s not a completely changed person, but he is a better person, because he learned how to properly work with and rely on his own peer group, and not the previous generation and all its damn contemptible unconditional love.

How do you learn to shoot missiles?Quistis Trepe is a lie given flesh. Quistis is defined by her early career accomplishments (achieving SeeD rank at age 15, and then a teaching position at 18), and falls fast and hard into the trap of believing her own hype. At Balamb Garden she is stuck in an endless cycle of simultaneously trying to live her life and live up to the accomplishments she seemingly accidentally accomplished three years earlier. She’s not a good teacher, but everyone expects her to be, so she not only MUST be a good teacher, but she has her own fan club. By the time FF8 begins, Quistis can’t even properly acknowledge what she wants (dudes with sweet scars) without believing she is betraying herself, a person she ultimately doesn’t even seem to like. Like exactly zero people who run headfirst into the Peter Principle, she is eventually fired from teaching, and sent off to play with Squall and company. More than anything else, in an often unseen moral in videogames, Quistis learns to fail, first in her firing, then again during the Edea assassination attempt, and then from being exposed to the master of failing himself, Laguna Loire, a man who failed so badly at being a slave, he became president. Quistis learns to stop caring so much about other’s expectations and simply enjoy the role she sets out for herself, which is “big sister” to a group of overpowered army brats.

Oh, and on that note, the idea that Quistis only liked Squall because of misplaced, forgotten big sisterly feelings? Bullshit. Girl has it bad for ol’ Lionheart, but she’s smart enough to know when she’s beat, so best just to play up that platonic role, and “Big Sister Quistis” will be right there with a sympathetic shoulder when that hussy Rinoa inevitably screws up her perfect relationship with that bushy haired hunk of man meat. The game completely supports this theory, as you may have noticed; Quistis’s main skill is learning techniques from complete monsters.

You are my inspirationAlmost by default, I now have to mention Selphie Tilmitt, whom, on a personal note, I loathed with the fury of a thousand suns when I played the game in high school, and now, as an adult, unapologetically love. Why? Girl has a blog! Seriously, somehow, two months before even Livejournal (never forget what communism has taken from us) was founded, Final Fantasy 8 accurately predicted the teenager that loves producing content for an unseen audience that is totally going to give a thumbs up to that link she posted to a magazine article from a couple decades from before she was born. Selphie is the most despicable of all creatures on this Earth: a post whore.

Unrelated, but please feel free to respond to this complicated essay on the themes of a fifteen year old children’s game with accolades and encouragement. I do accept Mr. Game & Watch Amiibos, if anyone wants to send gifts.

Back to Selphie, that filthy, rotten female that only posts on the internet for adoration: this behavior follows her IRL, where she’s super energetic and… bouncy because she has to be. Guys, I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a festival coming up, here’s a flyer, please pass it on, and I’ve been planning it for a while, and it’s important, because I’ve been planning it for a while, and if it doesn’t go well, I am going to cry right here on the front steps of the school, and you wouldn’t want that, would you? She’s aggressive because she knows nothing is going to get done if she isn’t, and it’s through her friends that she mellows, finds the support she craves, and becomes a better person. She’s still Selphie, but her more… obviously annoying traits seem taped down. Also, she gets to pilot a friggen space ship.

Also consider: her limit break is a slot machine. See the connection? It’s fueled by sheer optimism. Come on, guys, give it another pull, I’m sure this time we’ll get a result that’s super lucky!

Like clawsCid & Edea Kramer get a mention here. Note that I’m talking about Edea-Edea, and not the possessed lunatic that seems to get more screentime throughout the game. SeeD and the Gardens, the absolute origin and base for the events of Final Fantasy 8, are started by Cid because of an act of absolute, pure love. Cid just wants what is best for the love of his life, which is clearly starting an elite mercenary brigade of teenage soldiers armed to the teeth and trained to murder her. …I’m sure it made sense at the time. Couldn’t just build a panic room? No? Going the “entire army” route? Alright. No matter, seems both Cid and Edea were on board with this plan, marking yet another example of a relationship between people giving way to something amazing when simply one person would fail. Not surprisingly, when Cid becomes estranged from his (currently insane) wife and prime investor NORG, ol’ sweatervest gives up the reigns of his empire to the next generation, and never attempts to take them back.

Where's Xu?I’m going to mention Xu here because nobody ever remembers Xu. Admit it, right now you’re trying to figure out if I’m making up a character, or talking about some enormous, deadly bird. She was in the ending, people! Anyway, she’s not really all that important, but I just wanted to note somewhere that SeeD has plenty of people not in the immediate party but still actively supporting the cause, which is a rarity for the franchise, where, say, Cecil originally commands an unrivaled air force, but ends up having to tackle an entire celestial body during the finale with only four companions. Most games don’t have a Xu and crew, and I speak from experience when I say it’s not easy to successfully crash a flying college into another, also flying college. Without a Xu in your corner, it’s damn near impossible.

Dog summons!Argh, who am I kidding? I’m just trying to delay talking about Rinoa Heartilly. Wait. The two chief protagonists in a love story have the last names Leonhart and Heartilly? Mrgrgr. I’m going to be pissed off for the whole rest of this paragraph now. I feel like I don’t need to delve too deeply into what Rinoa is. I mean, they spell it out in her first real appearance, right? She’s the princess. Likely due to her Disney-esque origins of losing her mother at a young age and her father assuming the role of General Triton, Rinoa is a spoiled little brat that doesn’t know how good she has it, and seems to suck hapless males into her gravity so they can orbit around whatever ridiculous plans she’s developed. Was she really planning on kidnapping a president? Is she seriously dragging her dog into battle after reading a few pet magazines? Has her plan adapted to joining a group of elite, highly trained mercenaries with her friggen combat Frisbee?

What I’m saying is that Rinoa obviously has the brain problems.

Someone who isn’t still pissed off about this whole heart thing would probably be generous enough to point out that Rinoa and Squall bond because they’re both (somewhat inexplicably) young leaders that feel isolation in their similar positions, and maybe, just maybe, their love develops not because of some plot-based mandate, but because these are two hormonal teenagers that genuinely improve each other’s lives through mutual sacrifice (Squall is willing to risk his life, over and over again, to help Rinoa; Rinoa is willing to wear Griever themed jewelry, which doesn’t go with her kicky cyan duster at all, but she perseveres) and, yes, a love that brings them together through the murky roads of time.

Dammit, SeiferOne central theme that you may have noticed at this point, mainly because I keep hammering it like a witch, is that people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. But what of people that spurn other people? Meet Seifer Almasy. Seifer loves himself some power. He’s the leader of the SeeD Disciplinary Committee, and uses that position of power not to do anything important, but mostly push around Zell. When Seifer, due to his own actions, fails his test to become a SeeD (and thus gain more power), he goes with the only other game in town, and joins Team Ultimecia. Ultimecia very deliberately keeps Seifer at arm’s length, and forces Seifer into the kind of abusive relationship where the poor blonde is completely alone even when he’s standing next to his charge. Seifer eventually goes completely insane, likely because of his mistress’s inability to properly pronounce the letter C. In what is completely canon and I will not hear any dissent on this matter, Seifer is eventually defeated by a former villainous general who once decimated an entire army in the name of evil, but eventually turned around and saw the light of friendship and not being kicked around by the end boss all the damn time. In the end, Seifer forsakes omnipotent power, and, while he doesn’t make friends with Team Squall, he does find friendship with his toadies, Fujin and Raijin, whom he vows to treat as equals until the very moment that becomes inconvenient. Oh, wow, did somebody just improve their life through friendship? Booyaka, Final Fantasy 8.

Just talk about hot dogs!Seifer has a toxic relationship with Squall Leonhart, the most misunderstood character in gaming since the previous Final Fantasy protagonist. While I love to mock the guy, he’s not emo (even though you totally know he writes poetry about how sad he is all the time), he’s not goth (even though he dresses in mostly black with custom made jewelry you can totally buy at Hot Topic), he’s not even all that complicated; he’s just a teenager. He has problems expressing himself, he wants to do good, but has a hard time identifying the “right” path, and has general issues with leading others. It’s an odd trick, but if the player accepts Squall’s faults as opposed to immediately chastising them, one may find that Squall is much more the fabled “everyman” than the average wholly silent, tabula rasa JRPG protagonist. He just has the unfortunate handicap of being an actual teenager.

At this point, I’m sure you’re getting the picture, and Squall is the most obviously “wow other people are making a difference in my life” character in the game, because that’s the damn theme of the game, and Squall is the main character. In lieu of recapping the entire plot of FF8, I’ll just point out something else interesting about Squall: nearly every other Final Fantasy protagonist, before and since, has some sort of crazy origin that has to be triumphed over and/or accepted to showcase growth. Cecil is a half moon-man with a nefarious moon-bro, Bartz is the son of a legendary pan-dimensional warrior and destined to live up to the legacy, Terra is half magic and exploited for it, Cloud’s origin is so stupidly convoluted even he can’t remember it most of the time, Zidane is a secret world destroying monkey from the planet Vegeta, Tidus is the dream of a moron, the list goes on and on. Now consider Squall. What’s his great secret origin that has to be triumphed over to show character growth? He’s kind of an anti-social dick. By the end of the game, as the result of his adventures, he’s not. This hero’s journey amounts to, in the end, “stop being a damn teenager”.

Alright, enough with the krapYou can’t look at a story without analyzing its villain, so kan we start Ultimecia time? It has been said that Ultimecia is one of the thinnest characters in Final Fantasy lore, completely devoid of motivation beyond being eeeeeevil. I posit that that is only half right. Ultimecia is a completely shallow character, but that’s because she’s supposed to be; infact, she’s not even supposed to be a character at all, she is a primal force, like a hurricane or Black Friday: Ultimecia is loneliness. In a game that is all about people and their connections to other people, Ultimecia is the ultimate loneliness, the void that is not having anyone. You will note that Ultimecia’s only real, willing ally is Seifer, a character that is A. crazy, B. self-destructive, and C. quits the minute he accepts friendship. Beyond that, Ultimecia is alone: she does not have generals or companions in her castle, she just has hordes of monsters of varying size and rank. Her castle, one of the largest single structures in the game, is devoid of any soul other than Ultimecia. And her goal? She seeks ultimate power, yes, but not to the traditional end of ruling the world or becoming a true, omnipotent god, no, she wants to create Time Kompression, a vaguely defined concept that culminates with her being the only thing in existence, not ruling like a deity, but wallowing in her own eternal loneliness. Everything Ultimecia does is to facilitate this crazy goal. Obviously, it’s ridiculous, but Ultimecia is meant to be a ridiculous, living metaphor of a character. Final Fantasy 8, at its core, is a modern fairy tale, Squall is prince charming, Rinoa the princess to be rescued, and Ultimecia the evil queen that is less a person and more a pure, malevolent concept. Maleficent and Ultimecia basically went to the same finishing school.

DOINK!Up to this point, I have only discussed the characters of Final Fantasy 8, which is fair if I were to claim that FF8 is only a story about friendship, but, no, this is a game about friendship-saves-the-world, so how is that implemented in the game portion? GFs or Guardian Friends. While I’m still a little confused on what exactly GFs physically are (Brothers, Ifrit, and Bahamut are all active physical entities, Shiva and Quetzalcoatl are downloaded from a computer terminal, Leviathan and Eden are “drawn” from opponents, and nevermind how a gigantic cactus creature is “equipped”), it is clear that, from the mechanics of the game, GFs are the only real way to facilitate power in the FF8 cast. Anyone that knows the mechanics of FF8 can tell you that a “naked” Level 100 Squall has a worse chance of defeating Ultimecia than a Level 1 Squall loaded to the bear with multiple Guardian Friends. Even if they do eat your memories in exchange (I’ll admit it, I had a number of friends when I was a teenager that actively made me dumber), the message is clear: you will not succeed without relying on a power that is not your own. This is also an extreme rarity for the Final Fantasy franchise, as the method that makes your party stronger is usually completely contrary to the plot itself. Let’s see here, which Final Fantasy haven’t I picked on yet? Oh yes, Final Fantasy 12, where you command a band of noted outlaws, some that have been opposing the ruling monarchy for decades, who all must take a timeout between battles and make sure they have the proper “licenses” to use the life saving weapons and spells they find randomly in abandoned treasure pots. Remember the start of The Dark Knight, where the Joker finally passes that test and acquires his Commercial Driver License so he can successfully and legally drive a school bus from that bank robbery? Good times.

So, yes, friendship saves the world in Final Fantasy 8. Loneliness is defeated by affection and companionship, and these themes are reinforced every time you rearrange your magic loadout. There’s also a million little nods to the theme throughout the game that I haven’t even begun to mention (Balamb Garden gains the ability to friggen fly only after all of its residents learn to live in harmony, the Ragnarok is infested with “pairs” of monsters that must be eliminated accordingly, Adel rules alone and is almost pure evil, and her later solitary confinement causes problems for the whole world as she tries desperately to reach someone, anybody with her cries for help, etc), but I think I’m running low on words at this point. To be precise, Final Fantasy 8 is the most fully realized video game about teenagers exploring the social links between themselves and others, and using the assistance of mythological creatures to defeat a malevolent allegorical force. It’s a shame the Final Fantasy franchise has never been that focused since, as these themes and ideas really seem like fertile ground for perhaps an entire franchise all its own. Whatever.

FGC #26 Final Fantasy 8

  • System: Playstation, and then again on the Playstation 3 & Vita. Has this one been ported to phones yet?
    Number of Players: 1… but you can have a friend watch!
  • CRAMP!Feel like you’re forgetting something? Oh, look, I didn’t even get into the details of Laguna and company, and how they so obviously work into this friendship theme. Why would I neglect such a thing? Maybe it’s because Laguna Loire is the best character in the entire franchise, and writing about a writer seems gauche. Okay, maybe I can try it now. Let’s see here… ow… crap… my right leg just cramped up… ugh… I’ll tackle this another time… gotta retreat…
  • Care to embarrass yourself? Alright, fine. Apropos of nothing, back in the day, I was so enthralled by this game that I taped the ending and showed it to my girlfriend. Like, this is the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen, oh my gosh look at this.
  • You’re not getting off that easy: Fine! I showed it to my girlfriend immediately after the prom. Mere hours later, I would be getting stitches at the ER. Technically, these two events are only related in a karmatic sense.
  • Favorite Guardian Friend? Tonberry, now and forever. “Doink”? Gets me every time.
  • Final Fantasy 8 HD: I really hope Final Fantasy 7 HD does well and leads to a complete remake of Final Fantasy 8. I realize that Final Fantasy 7 success has never lead to Final Fantasy 8 success, but at this point, I’d just settle for a Final Fantasy 8 Advance with a new dungeon or two. It’s kind of weird that with the “Advance” remakes up to six, a complete remake of 7, and HD, “international enhanced” remakes of 10, 10-2, and probably 12, Final Fantasy 8 and Final Fantasy 9 might wind up a sort of “lost generation”.
  • What about the Final Fantasy MMORPGs? I don’t understand that combination of words.
  • Did you know? I somehow got through a 4,000 word post on Final Fantasy 8 without mentioning Triple Triad.
  • Would I play again? I played through the entirety of FF8 around this time last year, so it’s going to be a while before I do it again. That should give SE enough time to put together a few new features…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sega Superstars Tennis for the Wii. Oh boy, I think Ulala is in that one. Please look forward to it!

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #03: Potpourri

Q. What is Leon’s Deal? When did he change his name from Squall? Why?

What a ponce.A. It’s not confirmed anywhere in the mythology, but it is confirmed that Squall did it in response to some mysterious tragedy. A lot of people believe it was the tragic death/deheartening of Rinoa, given Leon wears a coat with Rinoa’s signature wings motif.


“Leon” is Final Fantasy 8 Squall + Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Angel – Selphie (as she’s on an entirely different planet). Those of you that are good at math may recognize this as the equation for OMEGA ANGST. As such, I have always assumed that Leon’s tragic past involves being suspected of shoplifting at Hot Topic, and, unable to live with the ACCUSATIONS, SHAME, and DESTRUCTION OF HIS FREQUENT SHOPPER CARD, Squall was forced to change his name.

Q. Why do the heartless have hearts and the nobodies have bodies?

A. There’s a stupid explanation for that!

DO NOT TOUCHHeartless devour hearts. Heartless come from the Realm of Darkness (Space. It’s just space.) so they desire hearts (hearts are pure muscle tissue light), kind of like how bats long to consume the sun [citation needed]. Heartless reproduce like the undead: anyone who has their heart devoured by a heartless BECOMES a heartless, a byproduct of the (indigestible) darkness in the victim’s heart. Yes, the heartless are basically heart-poop. This is why Mickey Mouse wears gloves.

So, heartless are generally full of hearts in the same way that most people are full of hamburgers, or how this plot is full of a different digestive consequence.

Nobodies are another heartless byproduct: When a heartless devours a heart, they don’t give the tiniest damn about the body around it, and, as heartless are all skilled cardiologists, the body is pretty much unaffected. Just like during the Metro City incident of 199X, a heartless body will flash and disappear to parts unknown. But, thanks to Kingdom Hearts 2, we now know where that body goes! The answer is… somewhere. Hollow insideUsually Twilight Town, but apparently any other “inbetween world” will do, and as the Kingdom Hearts Universe used to be produced under some kind of deadline, Twilight Town is the only modeled location that fits the bill. Anyway. It’s a commonly held belief that most people suck, and the concept of Nobodies all but proves this: most people, like everybody in the universe except a whole 14 guys (excuse me, 12 men, 2 women) becomes a freaky spandex zipper creature based on whatever Final Fantasy 5 class Gilgabot randomly chooses. Given most nobodies are basically animated, empty robes, the name does make sense.

However there are a whole fourteen “Nobodies” that have such strong wills, they kept their bodies looking like… well, bodies. These nobodies are pretty much indistinguishable from normal humans, except they don’t have hearts, and thus cannot experience emotion, and, on a whole, they feel bad about that.

Over the course of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 2: Nobody Cares, Sora (with a little help) slaughters a murmuration of the twelve main nobodies, absorbs his own nobody, and lets his girlfriend eat up #14. As a result, all of the known bodied-nobodies are now gone, so all we have are the hollow zipper creatures wandering around.

So heartless are digesting hearts and nobodies don’t have bodies. Everything makes sense all over again.

Q. Why is King Triton the only person who knows about the Keyblade in Kingdom Hearts 1?

Are... are you named after your weapon?A. The events of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, wherein Keyblade users are plentiful and combing the universe, only occurs about a decade before the events of Kingdom Hearts I, and it seems to be implied through Old Man Xehanort’s extreme oldness that keyblade users had been zooming around for decades before that. So it seems completely within reason that a keyblade user would have dropped by and met King Triton before Ariel was even born, and since keyblade users are supposed to be a stealthy lot when it comes to interfering in the events of other worlds, it’s also likely Atlantica was the only world where a “good guy” met a keyblade user.

And Triton is a wise-old king archetype, so it’s also possible King Mickey, keyblade master, stopped by at some point to confer on kingly matters. It’s basically how the mouse hooked up with another wise, old king, Ansem the Terminally Stupid.

Either that or Atlantica used to have a bitchin’ space program that failed under Triton’s rule, and that disaster is what has caused Triton to be so adamant about Ariel sticking to the ocean.

Q. Why don’t the giant heartless fleets Sora is always fighting via gummi ship just invade the worlds?

ZOOOOOOMA. It’s pretty straightforward: The entire point of Kingdom Hearts 1 is that Sora is locking keyholes to prevent that exact thing from happening, as each planet is protected by some kind of magical o-zone bubble (actually made of gummi ship materials, for whatever reason) that only allows in human-sized or thereabouts heartless that bleed through the keyhole. Once the keyhole is unlocked and the “world is connected to the darkness” all bets are off. Basically, the fleet invasion is exactly what happened to Destiny Islands at the start of Kingdom Hearts 1. You didn’t think a million cat sized heartless just gnawed the planet to dust, did you? … Though that would be rad.

Also, goes without saying, but the reason for the “Heartless Bleed” through the keyholes is, of course, Labcoat Xehanort mucking things up. He’s really accomplished at universal destruction, intentional or not.

Q. Where are all the parents?

A. Canonically, Riku’s parents have never appeared, though he makes mention of leaving his parents, so they likely at least exist in the present.

Is anyone at all worried about this woman?Kairi had a grandmother, we’ll call her Steve, back when she was a lil’ child in Radiant Garden. Kairi was shipped off from that planet when she was a young’un and Labcoat Xehanort was wrecking up the place. Steve’s fate is unknown.

It’s worth noting that Kairi is a “Princess of Heart”, which would imply she’s actual Radiant Garden royalty. And the only king in Radiant Garden is… Ansem the Easily Bamboozled. But no one, not a single person, has ever inquired about this possible connection in Kingdom Hearts. Kairi isn’t remotely curious about the parents she apparently never knew, which is kind of a thing in this universe…

Sora, coincidentally the hero of the piece, is the only member of the Destiny Islands crew that has had a parent appear on screen. Actually, she didn’t appear on screen, but Sora’s Mother can be heard calling Sora for dinner shortly before her entire planet is flushed down the darkness toilet at the start of Kingdom Hearts I.

Come to think of it…

Kingdom Hearts I opens with the entirety of Sora and Riku’s planet being destroyed by the heartless. Other planets that have been confirmed to be destroyed are The Lion King’s Pride Lands and Mulan’s The Land of Dragons; however, like Sora, both Simba and Mushu are refugees from their respective worlds, and aid Sora during Kingdom Hearts I.

Thanks to Sora’s efforts, all of the destroyed worlds are reformed during the finale of Kingdom Hearts I. When Sora reencounters Simba and Mushu, they both remember Sora from their previous adventure. So, they must also remember the destruction of their worlds; however, no one else is wandering around shell shocked at the thought of having been plunged into hell for an indeterminate amount of time, so it’s assumed that everyone else on the “destroyed” planets simply doesn’t remember the heartless invasion/annihilation.

So, Sora’s mother calls Sora for dinner, but he’s already left to visit Destiny Island, on a boat, in a storm. He and Riku are sucked off planet, the heartless destroy the world, nothingness, then the world gets undestroyed, and Sora and Riku stay off planet. Everyone is back and fine and normal on Destiny Islands, except Sora and Riku are just… gone.

Kairi is back on Destiny Islands at its reformation, though, so it’s possible she tells Riku and Sora’s parents about the fact that, yes, your sons are missing, but they’re on a magical journey through space on a ship made of gummi with a talking dog and duck on the search for a warrior king mouse. And they saved our world! With a key!

The parents would have to assume their kids are dead, right? Drowned in the storm, most likely? Never going to find a body.

I'd like to forget...A week later, the events of Chain of Memories occurs, and Sora is erased from everyone’s memories throughout the entire universe. So Mr. and Mrs. Sora’s Parents look longingly at their lost child’s room, still grieving, trying to muscle through funeral arrangements and talking to the police and then, poof, no more memory of ever having a child. What’s all this teenager stuff doing in this room doing here? No idea. Weren’t we going to have kids? No, I guess that never came together. Why are we such close friends with Riku’s parents? I guess we just like hearing stories about their kid. A shame we never had one of our own…

And then, nearly a year later during the opening of Kingdom Hearts 2, as recounted by Kairi and Leon on two separate planets, everyone just suddenly remembers Sora again. By Zeus! We have a son! And we forgot about him for a year! And he’s missing! What is going on!?!

And then, a few weeks later, Sora and Riku triumphantly return to Destiny Islands for the first time in at least a year to find… Kairi, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy waiting for them. Sora’s parents are probably “resting” at the Destiny Islands Home for the Mentally Unsound.

Sora is just a kid with a lot of heart.