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January 29, 2016

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (Part 3)

Alright, we went through the Destiny Islands, we saw all that there was to see in Traverse Town, we ventured through hedge mazes and helped everyone retrieve their memories in Wonderland, now we’re at the Coliseum! To find out what happened in the previous worlds, read Part 1 here, or Part 2 here.

The first fights aren't too tough, since
Sora is alone to deal with the enemies.
Data-Sora steps into the Coliseum, breaks his first blocks, meets the first enemies. At some point, he thinks he may be noticing a muscular hero, but the guy leaves before Sora can talk to him. We also notice that the grey fiery terror of the Underworld, Hades, is there as well, planning something against Hercules. Now, the mythology fans among you will tell me that Hades was not a villain in the original mythology, that Disney got it all wrong, that Hera would have been a more fitting villain, that good and evil aren’t this much set in stone in Greek mythology… Hey, you really think a game following the storyline of the Disney movie would care? …Why am I bringing this up anyway? Let's just move on...

The one and only! Unless you count
the Marvel one.
On the second floor of the Coliseum, Sora’s path is blocked by piles of rocks, and after exploring what little of the zone he can check, he finds Hercules punching through one of the piles. They talk, Sora explain the broad strokes of the situation about the bugs – thankfully, because if he went in detail they’d be talking for an hour – and Hercules decides to join Sora’s team. They keep going and find the exit; meanwhile, Hades (still voiced by James Woods, funny as ever) is plotting with some odd human-like character with a single black wing... and a goddamn big sword…

How can he wield such a giant sword?
It looks more impractical than useful.
On the third floor of the Coliseum, they encounter and fight against the mysterious stranger, who turns out to be Cloud. Yes, THE Cloud from Final Fantasy 7. No, seriously. The Kingdom Hearts franchise always had this quirk of including actual Final Fantasy characters into its storylines; no matter how nonsensical it may turn out to be. In fact, Selphie, Wakka and Tidus, the trio on Destiny Islands, also was from the FF games. When Cloud is defeated, he leaves; Sora and Hercules then find the exit and move on to the fourth floor.

On the fourth floor, in the middle of smashing mooks and blocks, Sora and Hercules find Cloud also fighting enemies. They chase after him just as he’s cornered by a much larger Heartless, and decide to help him. After they defeat this large group of Heartless, Sora manages to convince Cloud to join. Ally Get! They reach the door leading to the fifth floor and cross it… The following floor is simple: Just a straight path leading to a staircase, and on top of the staircase, a plateau where the group has to fight… Cerberus, the three-headed dog!

What a multiple head case,

If you use everything you’ve seen in the Coliseum to its full potential, you can beat Cerberus with relative ease. However, when Cerberus is defeated, Hades appears in a puff of smoke and, pissed, challenges the heroes.

I knew Hades had all the requirements to be a great RPG
villain; he turns red when he gets angry during the fight.

Goodbye Data-Sora, it was nice meeting you.

What a villain this is! He hides behind his mooks! Pathetic!
Oh, who am I kidding, this early in the game? Hades is tough, but not that bad. If you didn’t waste all your resources on the fight against Cerberus, you can beat Hades pretty easily. Just deal with the minions he summons. He’s not that difficult, really, once you master the system. Sorry Hades, you’re kind of a pushover… you’ll have to do better than that if you want to rule the world! If you’re so pathetic, how can you ever dream of dating Maleficent? (That's from an episode of House of Mouse.)

Sora and Hercules go back to Phil and announce that the Coliseum is back to normal! (It’s not, but I’ll talk about that later.) Cloud has gone back to his own world, without saying goodbye to Sora and Hercules. Sheesh, I hope he wasn’t distant like that with his teammates… Well, this is another world completed.

"Playing dumb"? Look who's talking!
In Disney Castle, Data-Riku, the spirit of Jiminy’s journal, explains that whichever souvenirs showed up in the journal that haven’t been written there by Jiminy must have come from the actual Riku, in the real world. …I… I seriously don’t know what to say to this. Magic: It does anything. Expecto Patronum and Avada Kedavra, yadda yadda. On the screen, Sora comes out of the Coliseum when a large character walks up to him… a character easily recognizable as one of the longest-standing enemies of Mickey: Namely, Pete. He immediately announces his intention to take over the virtual world and that nothing will be able to stop him.

Wait a second, PETE was the one to hack himself into the computer? Let’s see… Let me just pull up the most convenient answer I can give to this… Got a nice set of cards with pre-written responses in such situations… Ah! There it is.

That’s what it is! Although… I’ll give the game that, Pete going into the journal and hacking himself a nice set of superpowers while inside in order to become the ruler of that world does sound like the sort of power fantasy he’d get… Now, we have no answers whatsoever on HOW he did it, because when you think about hackers, you don’t generally think of, well, people like Pete. Nor will we ever find out what exactly he did to get into the journal, by himself, when originally the journal’s spirit – Data-Riku – was the one to bring them inside itself (himself?), using the computer to do so. Either way, we gotta continue the story.

Game: Ever heard of "show, don't tell"?
Data-Sora chases Pete all the way to Agrabah, and finds the Arabian town mostly empty.  Venturing deeper into the town, Sora finds Aladdin who’s right in the middle of his own adventure, as he just got out of the Cave of Wonders and is looking for Jasmine. Yeah, I have a feeling this story will take a bunch of turns that weren’t in the film… Aladdin enlists Sora’s help to retrieve Jasmine, as she may be in danger. Sora leaves and soon finds Jasmine. Only downside: She’s being threatened by Jafar. Sora comes in, talks to Jafar and mentions Aladdin – smart move there, kid – and after Jasmine has run away, Jafar goes into fight mode.

Wait a second, I thought the Genie inside the lamp was
the one granting wishes, not the lamp itself! And if Jafar
uses the glitched lamp, won't his wishes be all glitchy?
Urgh, why am I overthinking again...
After the boss fight is over, Jafar escapes, Sora goes to Jasmine and brings her to Aladdin… Meanwhile, Jafar encounters Pete, who suggests they strike a deal. To pull Jafar into agreeing, Pete shows a virtual copy of the Magic Lamp.  When Sora finds Aladdin, Jafar comes in with his bugged copy of the Magic Lamp, kidnaps Jasmine, and freezes time in Agrabah. Mickey helpfully informs that the Keyblade is what allows Sora to be still able to move despite time being stopped, but someone else in the city is still able of movement: Iago, who steals the real lamp out of Aladdin’s hand and runs flies away.

Because nothing is ever simple for a hero, am I right?

And of course, this is a timed mission, so you need to be quick in finding Iago! Thankfully, killing enemies awards you some extra seconds. Sora finds Iago once, so the parrot escapes again, and this time Jafar has come back and sends “ghosts” of himself at Sora, making him lose previous seconds when they touch him. And those things are indestructible… Sora tracks Iago two more times, and recovers the lamp. Wondering just what could be so important about such an artefact, Sora rubs it and out comes the Genie!

That's a genie who sure lives large.

Robin Williams voice (sadly) not included, not even in the "Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX" fully-voiced version (instead replaced by Jim Meskimen). No resuscitation or instant love wishes, nor can you wish for more wishes. Magic Lamps Inc. declines all responsibility for any undesirable aftermath of the wishes in the near or far future.

After Genie presents himself in his unique way, Sora wishes for the place to “come back to normal” but Genie only interprets it as “erasing all the Heartless and blocks in Agrabah” and does so… but forgets to remove Jafar’s time-stopping spell. To repay his mistake, Genie brings Sora to the Cave of Wonders, where Jafar is. However, Jafar uses the power of the bugged lamp to lock himself inside the Cave of Wonders, leaving Sora outside; thankfully, a System Sector can be found, entered and completed to reopen the Cave.

Giant spherical stones following clear paths and which are too tall for me to jump over!
Oh, why did it have to be giant spherical stones following clear paths and which are too tall for me to jump over?

"You will pay for all my friends you smashed!
Especially that lonely Blox in Floor 3 of Olympus Coliseum!
I loved her!"
Within the cave, a bunch of traps await, but there’s also a new kind of enemy… see, those blocks are tired that you keep massacring them. So, some of them have grown spiderlike legs and decided to take revenge. The new enemy introduced here is called A Blox Bug (I should mention that the correct name for all the non-moving blocks so far is actually “Blox”, most commonly “Bug Blox”; for the sake of clarity, I’ll refer to the non-moving cubes still as blocks, and the moving ones, the cubes on legs, as Blox. Good? Good). When Sora reaches the end of this room, he finds the exit blocked by a cascade of sand. He has to find a System Sector in the trapped room, which requires some backtracking. Finally Sora moves to the next room, then goes down an elevator where he fights monsters – and must not fall off – and finally reaches the depths of the Cave, where Jafar awaits.

Obviously, when you leave your weak point hanging out,
you have to expect someone's gonna smash it.
And damn if the fight is on! First Jafar fights alongside two clones. When this still leads to the vizier’s defeat, he uses his final wish on the glitched lamp to turn into his Genie form from the end of the Aladdin movie. Sora finds the keyhole and enters the boss arena… Genie-Jafar is absolutely massive and cannot be harmed. However, some grand vizier had the "brilliant" idea to let his parrot fly around the room with his own magic lamp. Or, if you prefer, his weak point. You guessed it, it’s time to hack and slash at an annoying bird. Chase Iago, swing your Keyblade at him, fight the enemies that pop up, avoid Jafar’s attacks. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yeah, well, when that phase is over, Jafar summons blocks around the room and Iago goes flying a little higher to avoid Sora. It’s still manageable, though. Sora picks up the glitched lamp, and boom, Jafar is sent into it. Now Sora, just throw that goddamn lamp in the lava and be done with it!

Oh, I dunno, because you're always doing evil, perhaps?
Pete shows up, bitter that Sora has defeated Jafar, but vanishes right after. Oh, you, I wish I could just kick your ass back into the real world right here, right now! But I guess that’ll be later. Since Jafar’s defeat removed the time-stopping spell, Sora tells goodbye to the Genie, and tells him to bring back his own lamp to Aladdin. Sora then leaves the Cave of Wonders but finds Pete outside again. Pete presents another of his new allies to Sora… Maleficent. The Maleficent of the real world, who somehow also found her way into the journal. To prove just how dangerous she is, Maleficent uses her powers to steal Sora’s Keyblade, and then promptly destroys it. She then sends Heartless monsters at Sora, but Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Data-Riku appear. Pete then explains how he got in the virtual world… it’s so simple an idiot could have thought of this: He was spying behind the door to the computer room in Disney Castle, and when the bright light emitted from the computer – sucking Mickey, Donald and Goofy in – he opened the door enough to be sucked into the data world too. And somehow Maleficent was able to join them, as well.

Ah, no hacking then? And it (mostly) makes sense? Sigh. Can’t mock the storytelling when it’s done right… Well played, re:coded… well played… *slow appreciative clap* Although, this doesn’t explain HOW Maleficent could teleport into the journal’s data, since she doesn’t seem to know a thing about computers or virtual worlds… nor does it explain how Pete got himself a whole bunch of powers… You know what, let’s just continue the story.

Poor Riku. It doesn't matter which Riku it is, the real
one or the virtual one; he always ends up possessed,
cloned, mind-controlled, and thrown into the villains' plans.
Maleficent attacks the now defenseless Data-Sora, but Data-Riku gets in the way and blocks the attack... which leads to him getting captured by Pete. Now with the personification of the journal in their hands, Maleficent and Pete warp back to their base, Hollow Bastion. Which also turns out to be the final bugged world within the journal. Sora cannot defend himself anymore, and it’s impossible to hack a Keyblade into the virtual world while Mickey, Donald and Goofy are in it… But hope isn’t lost. They still want to help Data-Sora! Mickey leaves to do some heroics, leaving Data-Sora, Jiminy, Donald and Goofy behind, but as the latter three discuss ways to get things solved, Sora runs out to Hollow Bastion, determined to save Riku!

Despite being without any means of attacking, Sora finds a way to pen the great big doors of Hollow Bastion, and enters. However, he’s cornered inside by Pete, who traps Sora between walls of black blocks – which he can’t destroy, in a miniature arena with Heartless and Bug Blox attacking him. However, when everything seems lost, Goofy shows up with a shield and beats up these enemies in a matter of seconds. Oh hey, Goofy, you’re awesome! But instead of asking him to come back to the castle, Goofy joins Sora on the quest to kicking Pete’s ass.

Things works a little different here; since Sora cannot fight, Goofy (and later Donald) do all the fighting for him. Thus, Sora gives orders, they respond. And the orders are either to attack the monsters, break the blocks, or follow Sora’s steps. You can even activate special attacks for Goofy and Donald, but things may still get complicated in areas with a lot of enemies, as Goofy and Donald will follow the crosshair that appears on enemies targeted automatically by Sora. At the end of that room, Sora and Goofy find a door marked with the symbol of the Heartless, with four openings. For blocks. They need to visit each section of Hollow Bastion, find the pieces, and bring them to the door, as Pete is waiting behind that door with Data-Riku. Sora and Goofy visit the basement, where they find and save Donald, who found himself stuck in a room; he promptly joins the party to beat up some Heartless with Goofy under Sora’s command. What’s more, Donald is good with magic, so he can activate certain special switches.

After finding some of the emblems opening the door with the Heartless symbol, they step into Hollow Bastion’s library and complete the multi-room maze there, finding the last emblem. When they go through that door, they find themselves on a flying platform, beating up hordes of enemies – or, rather, Donald and Goofy do, while Sora somewhat commands them. When that’s done, Sora comments on how it’s great that he can count on his friends… what’s that, Data-Sora? New friends? Might it be that you’re evolving beyond your program? After which there’s another section to go through, a System Sector to go in, and finally we get to the room where Pete awaits.

Donald: Oft-forgotten champion of the Death Glare.

However, Pete proves himself smarter than you’d expect him to be, and knowing Data-Sora is powerless, he traps Goofy and Donald behind black blocks and menaces to crush them between the blocks. Pete then goes on about how Data-Sora is just data anyway, just numbers and commands, so why bother? And honestly, that was kind of my stance thus far, I seem to have been making fun of this Sora for being a fake. However, Goofy and Donald come to Sora’s defense, saying he was just as brave and nice as the real deal… I’d say that’s because “heart” is such an unclear concept here, meaning not only friendship but also bravery, strength of character, and more... But then again, it’s true that for a program, Data-Sora has been making a LOT of decisions by himself… decisions a logical computer program would not make.

And just as Sora is about to give up, a bright light appears, the black blocks vanish – freeing Goofy and Donald – and a brand new, non-virtual, heart-powered Keyblade appears in Data-Sora’s hands.

Oh Hell yes, now he means business!

…Wait, this means that Data-Sora’s heart, however virtual it may be, turned out to be powerful enough to grant him possession of a Keyblade? And that’s in no small part thanks to the links of friendship he has created with Mickey, Donald and Goofy?

…Awesome. In fact, that's when Mickey shows up to explain all of this. Because obviously they need to explain why this "isn’t" a deus ex machina.

Let's take it easy, what's beyond this keyhole will not
be simple to defeat. I mean, it's Pete. He's dumb, but he's
pretty tough.

Cornered, Pete escapes, but the keyhole appears. Data-Sora takes the reins, and chases after Pete, using his new and better Keyblade to unlock the keyhole and appear in Pete’s battlefield!

…Well everyone, I think I have to stop here for today. Join me in Part 4, where I will hopefully defeat Pete, go through the final two worlds, and prove that I, too, can be cool! …Oh wait, forget that last part. Okay, see you Monday!