Monday, April 15, 2013

Why KH2 DOESN'T Suck


April is the month where my brother and I first played "Kingdom Hearts II", the full sequel to the original "Kingdom Hearts" game, also for the PS2, and the grand conclusion to the original storyline that was told in the first KH and the side game "Chain Of Memories". Let me tell you, back when this game was in development, there was massive hype for it. It was one of the most anticipated games ever. Everyone was expecting it to be great: expecting it to be awesome, epic, and even better than the original! All the trailers, magazine scans, and various promotional material only gave us more things to look forward to. Finally, the game was out in the US at the end of March. We got it right when it came out and played the whole thing through April. We really, really enjoyed it and loved how it closed out the story that we'd been following since the first game. It was satisfactory happy ending. So what was the general reception for the game? Well...it received mostly positive reviews and heaps of praise. Critics even rated it a smidgen higher above the first KH. (which I don't agree with, that score would belong to the Final Mix+ edition only.) And yet it was still a Contested Sequel. There was, and still is, a crowd of original KH fans who were severely disappointed or underwhelmed by this game. "Well" they said "KH2 sucked the big one!" What? Were we playing the same game as these people? Sure it had flaws where the story and some of the gameplay was concerned, but what was good about it totally outweighed all the bad stuff. But to see it get a hatedumb that was just nitpicking at every last detail they felt the game "got wrong" and were thus shunning it away from the previous two games was so irritating. And now even when the KH franchise has gone waaay downhill, and the quality of the games and their Kudzu Plot storyline has gotten far worse than anything KH2 did, these people still cite KH2 as the point where the "Kingdom Hearts" series Jumped The Shark simply because it's where most of the franchise's major problems began to really surface. But that's bullshit, since the game was still a fun, exciting, engaging, magical experience and the fact that it finished the story the first KH began absolves it of any "Jump The Shark" claims for me. I've always been fierce in defending this game and it's place as the Kingdom Hearts Trinity finale, and I'm putting my foot down to write this blog entry on why "Kingdom Hearts II" does NOT "suck the big one."

To do this, I shall lay out the common claims that the douchey mcnitpicky haters make against the game and it's quality, and rebuking them with my own opinions. Sounds as fun as KH2 itself, huh?

Disney is reduced to pure filler! - Wrong! A lot of people take the simplistic look at this games' Disney world events, particularly in comparison to the first KH, where every story in a Disney world was tightly connected and used to move the game's overarching original plot along in some way. But you gotta look at this aspect harder, and in two ways: are these worlds and events meaningful to the original plot of KH2? And are they meaningful to the overall storyline of the KH Trinity? In short: what contributions do they make? Let's see...Land of Dragons: from a KH2 standpoint, it's the starter world. From a Trinity standpoint, it follows up on the character of Mushu from the first game. Beasts' Castle: from a KH2 standpoint, it's where you deal with Xaldin. From a Trinity standpoint, it's the pinnacle of the Beast's character and story arc. Olympus Coliseum: from a KH2 standpoint, it's where you first face Demyx and fight in the Hades Cup to get stronger. From a Trinity standpoint,
it wraps up the Coliseum story arc of Sora, Donald, and Goofy becoming true heroes. Disney Castle/Timeless River: From a KH2 standpoint, a very important event where we properly meet the Disney Castle residents, learn of Maleficent's return, learn about Mickey and Pete's past, and save that entire world. From a Trinity standpoint, we finally visit Disney Castle! Port Royal: from a KH2 standpoint, it's where you deal with Luxord, whose plan hinges on something set up in the first visit. From a Trinity standpoint: ....fuck y'all, it's Pirates! Christmas Town: from a KH2 standpoint....
I guess it's a Christmas special! From a Trinity standpoint, it adapts the "Christmas" part of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" that was missing before. Agrabah: from a KH2 standpoint...OK, it's filler. From a Trinity standpoint...it gives (unneeded) closure to the cast of "Aladdin." Pride Land:
from a KH2 standpoint...fuck y'all, it's the Lion King! From a Trinity standpoint, it follows up on the character of Simba from the first game. And it's the Lion King, something Nomura had wanted to do since day one. Space Paranoids: from a KH2 standpoint, very important events that tie into the plot of the hub world of Hollow Bastian/Radiant Garden takes place here. From a Trinity standpoint...well, same thing. Hundred Acre Wood:...well this one's kind of always filler in every game, but it is FUN filler! Atlantica:...yeah, this is filler too, though at least we get a surprisingly awesome Prince Eric out of it. From these standpoints, it becomes clear that these Disney worlds do contribute stuff to the game and the overall experience. So the Disney aspect is still strong and it's NOT pure filler!

But what reason do they have to go to these places? Where's Mickey, Riku and Kairi? - In the first go round of world visits, they stated the reason. It wasn't just to look for King Mickey and Riku:
it was to open more pathways between worlds that the worlds were preparing, and to look out for activity from the Heartless and the Nobodies as well in order to keep these worlds safe. It wasn't
as consistent and interconnecting as the reasons for going to worlds in the first KH, but it was something and it was there. The revisiting of worlds, however, had no given reason for them. At all. This was just terrible storytelling on Nojima's part. Sora, Donald, and Goofy received a box with ice cream and photograph of the Twilight Town mansion from Riku, which was a clue to where they were meant to go and what they were supposed to do next. And yet Sora then says "think the other worlds are in more trouble?" and they go revisit every other world we've been to BEFORE going to Twilight Town to follow up on the clues! And half of those revisits were definitely filler. Bad, bad writing!

All the Disney Worlds' plots just recycle the plots of the movies! - No, not all of them. Only the first visits to Land of Dragons, Port Royal, and Pride Lands do this, though we do get some blatant movie rehashing in Atlantica, and in the revisits to the Underworld, Agrabah, and Space Paranoids. But you think this is bad? Look at BBS and KH3D, where lazy movie rehashing gets so much worse!

Original and Final Fantasy characters dominate the game! - Wrong! Adding more original characters (the first KH only had Sora, Kairi, Riku, and the Heartless/Ansem) does not mean that they're completely taking prominence away from the Disney cast. And even the first game always had an original plot (though tailor-made for Disney) where the original characters took prominence in. In order for this epic to work, you need original characters mixed in with the Disney characters! Seeing the anime-esque original characters and their own plotlines going on in a world full of Disney is part of the games' biggest delights. As for the Final Fantasy characters...again, adding more in mostly for fanservice reasons does not mean they dominate the game. Between original, Disney, and Final Fantasy characters, the latter has always been the least important of them due to being guest stars in another series. The original and Disney characters are the main and supporting cast of the KH canon's universe. The Final Fantasy characters are guest stars. Out of all of them, only Leon,
Yuffie, Aerith, Cid, and one world party member Auron were supporting characters in their own right. Literally every other Final Fantasy character made no big impact on the overall plot of the games.

Horrible retcons, especially Ansem not being Ansem and the Heartless not being those without hearts! - Wrong! Granted, Ansem not really being Ansem was a big character-related plot twist for the sake of being such. In theory, that should be bad writing. But it was executed very well, and we got two great characters out of it: Ansem the Wise, and Xehanort. The explanation for the mistaken identity isn't really that convoluted: Ansem the Wise was a researcher and king of Hollow Bastion. His apprentice was Xehanort, who stole his identity and became a Heartless (the villain of the first KH) and a Nobody (the villain of KH2). It's really Riku taking on the identity of "Ansem", and the real Ansem taking on the identity of DiZ who once also impersonated "Ansem" that clutters things up. Everyone is Ansem! And that's not getting into everyone being Xehanort later down the road! As for the Heartless...were you people not paying attention to that scene in Traverse Town from the first KH where we see a Heartless getting created? And to the Ansem reports, which explicitly describe what a Heartless is? The Heartless were always creatures born of hearts that were consumed by darkness. They weren't just creatures without hearts: they have no heart because they are made of hearts. The hearts are their bodies and the darkness is their essence. KH2 did not retcon the Heartless' existence just to make the Nobodies work. They were always born of hearts!

Organization XIII were bland, shallow villains and terrible characters who never should've been! - Wrong! Organization XIII was a solid concept, an awesome boss squad, and great villain characters. There are a number of reasons people hate on them, and they barely fly. Bland? They're all so colorful and variative in their designs, weapons, elemental powers, roles, and personalities. Shallow? Only half of them are lacking in depth (Xigbar, Xaldin, Lexaeus, Zexion, Demyx, and Luxord). The other half (Xemnas, Vexen, Saix, Axel, Marluxia, and Larxene) are well characterized individuals. Terrible characters? None of them are, not even Lexaeus! Axel gets the most flak mainly due to his derailment past the point he was initially supposed to die, but for the time he was an Organization member, he was the best there was. Simply put, Organization XIII are the best group
of villains Square has put in their games since Shinra Inc., and they did a splendid job of setting the stage for the sequel of the first KH and then moving the plot along to it's epic climax and conclusion. The Kingdom Hearts Trinity is lucky to have them, and without them it just would not be the same.

The Organization is severely underdeveloped - Not in Final Mix, they're not. Now with this, I'm not referring to the characters themselves 'cause as I said before, only half of them are well developed in characterization. This refers to the Organization itself as...an organization. They were advertised as an evil organization that's making plans that they enact all over the universe, and "organization" is in their name! And yet in the original edition of KH2, they only have one scene where they're all together: they all appear, taunt Sora, and then leave. The only other interaction between members is a brief exchange between Xemnas and Saix during the finale. We never see them in meeting councils together, there's no group dynamic, and they're always encountered separately in different worlds at different points of the story. With the exception of Xemnas and Saix, their roles went like this: meet them in a first encounter, kill them in a boss fight in the second encounter. In comparison to the Disney Villains of the first KH and the Castle Oblivion sector of this very Organization in CoM, this was a total freaking rip-off! I was so disappointed with them in this area. Sure, they were great at being antagonists who offered a villainous threat and great boss fight challenges, but if not for the black coats they all wear, you wouldn't be able to tell they belonged to the same order. However, the Final Mix edition of KH2 rectified their portrayal. Not only did the game add in 5 scenes of the group in meetings and fleshed out the 4 less developed members a bit more, but it also added boss fights against recreations of the 5 deceased members from Castle Oblivion. Something about this made Organization XIII's role and portrayal in this game feel complete. And it's better off left that way. When we see a full view of how the group operates in "358/2 Days"...I'd rather not have known that.

Yet the Organization totally steals the show from the Disney aspects! - Wrong! A criticism
of KH2 is that Organization XIII took focus and importance away from the Disney aspects because Disney was just "filler" used in between events of "the Organization XIII show." Many have called the Organization a Spotlight Stealing Squad because of this. First off, CoM was much more of "Disney filler in between the Organization show" than KH2 is. Secondly, a Spotlight Stealing Squad is required to, y'know, hog the spotlight? Compared to all the Disney in this game, the Organization rarely ever appear! There's in fact a huge gap between when you meet Demyx and when you can meet Saix, in which Maleficent and Pete become the primary villains instead. The criticism these fans are looking for is the fact that the Organization stole the pretense of importance from the Disney, not the spotlight. The start of the game hypes the Organization and Nobodies up as the major enemy of the quest and the focus of the story, but underplays Pete, the Disney Villains, and the Heartless. Then when Maleficent is revealed to be alive, not much is made of it. She's not called out as a big threat like Organization XIII was. We have to consider this another script writing blunder.

The Organization are retconned into Nobodies who want their hearts back! - Wrong! The idea that the Organization were humans or human-form Heartless who just wanted to unlock the mysteries of the heart in CoM is asinine. Did you miss the lines like "We're Nobodies, Vexen. Now you can be nothing instead of just being a Nobody." and "Perhaps a Nobody best conveys the idea!"? Also, despite what fangirls have misunderstood, they did NOT want their hearts back. At all. They wanted to get have their cake and eat it too: to obtain hearts in order to exist as their own beings, fully and completely. It wouldn't be their own original hearts they would get. It would be new hearts from Kingdom Hearts that would allow them to exist as their Nobody selves. No going back to being Braig, Dilan, Even, etc. And they were screwing over countless worlds and hearts to do this. And of course, Xemnas wanted to use all hearts' power to take over the universe. So they were still the villains.

The Organization subliminally have gay sex with each other! - Wrong! This one is not true AT ALL. Fanboys just assume that since fangirls make yaoi fanart, fanfics, fanvids, etc. characterizing the Organization as gay faggots who all like to have sexual affairs with one another, they had to have got this interpretation from somewhere. Nomura and Nojima must have written these characters in a way that would appeal to yaoi fangirls. The entire Organization XIII is yaoi fangirl bait, nothing more. The fact is, the only thing they do that turn the fangirls on is look pretty. There is nothing in their individual characters that reflect any sort of gay subtext or yaoi fanservice: they're all just a bunch of Disney villains. The fangirls just see what they want to see in them because fangirls are self-deluded and fucking crazy. In cases like these, the creators should not be blamed for the actions of the fans.

Convoluted and horrible storyline! - Wrong! You think THIS storyline is convoluted and horrible? Wait 'til all the games that follow! Personally, I don't think the KH Trinity has a Kudzu Plot, at least not one that can't be gradually cut down through enough thought, speculation, and analysis, as opposed to one that just makes your brain hurt. The Kudzu seeds were planted in CoM and the plants bloomed and grew in KH2, but this game still had a solid story beneath all the convoluted, clusterfucked elements that Nomura snowballed into the plot. And compared to literally every KH game after this one, the Kudzu of KH2 looks like small potatoes these days. KH2's story can still be enjoyed on it's own and in the trilogy. It's loose ends are largely irrelevant to the conclusive wrap-up.

The novels tell this story so much better! - Wrong! I do not care how bad a writer you think Nojima is, how sloppy a director you think Masaru Oka is, and how crazy a creator Tetsuya Nomura is and was becoming at the time. Tomoko Kanamaki is a crazy ascended fangirl who's running the asylum as a hack writer of what is essentially an alternate telling KH fanfiction. Nothing this woman writes matches up with what is actually displayed in the canon games. After how she wrote Vanitas in the BBS novels, there's no mistaking it! The novels' telling of the story is false and sucks the magic out.

THE NOBODIES! - Kinda right, kinda wrong. The Nobodies were a solid concept as a counterpart creature to the Heartless. It's just that Nomura took a perfectly good idea and snowballed it. Kept rolling it along by adding new aspects to the Nobodie's nonexistence in order to make them "deeper" and more "complex", which only made them confusing. This is one of the original concepts that's never really rectified in later installments. It only got worse in "358/2 Days" and KH3D killed it.

The Nobodies are Designated Villains - Wrong! As I stated earlier, the Nobodies were not seeking to "get their hearts back." They just wanted hearts to make them, as Nobodies, into complete beings who could truly fully exist. Sympathetic goal? Yes. Tragic existence? Hell yes. But that does NOT make their actions acceptable. They were messing up worlds and destroying lives all so they could obtain something they felt they were entitled to have. And Sora was not just "brainwashed" by DiZ, Yensid, and Mickey's words about Nobodies having no hearts or feelings, not existing, and being evil. The Nobodies actions against Sora spoke for themselves. There was no reasoning with these malicious beings. When Xemnas said "I hoped we could be friends", it was sarcastic, said to mock Sora. He and his organization never had any intention of playing nice and making peace with him. They were sociopathic dicks. The writing could've made it clearer, but they were true villains.

But you spend the first 5 hours playing as an Organization member/Nobody only to kill them off in the main game! - Wrong! Apparently because Roxas, the star character of the Prologue, was a Nobody who used to belong to Organization XIII, and was being used and antagonized by DiZ, fans got the impression that the Nobodies and Organization were supposed to be sympathetic protagonist characters and DiZ was the true villain. In their minds, Axel trying to get his best friend to come back to the Organization was a good thing, and DiZ needing someone to destroy Organization XIII was a bad thing. But...Roxas was not a member of the Organization during the Prologue, his personality was a fabrication, he's a very special Nobody who does have true feelings as if he had a heart, and
we were meant to sympathize with him, Namine, and Axel exclusively here, not Nobodies in general. Since it was such a complex and confusing situation, many people just misinterpreted the Prologue.

The enemies should've just been the Heartless, the Disney Villains, and Ansem! - Wrong! That would just be exactly the same as the first KH! There'd be no new conflict in this game!

All beautifully constructed themes from the first KH were raped! - Kinda right, kinda wrong. They weren't "raped", they were just a little messed up from what they used to be. For instance, light and darkness were changed to physical forces of the universe rather than metaphors for good and evil. However, after the horrible attempt at "Dark Is Not Evil" in CoM's Reverse/Rebirth mode, KH2 actually rectified this by saying that light is the "good" force while darkness is the "bad" force, but neither of them are truly terrible because one cannot exist without the other. They're both needed for universal balance. That was actually a great theme to be brought up. Also, hearts were still used to symbolize someone's feelings, emotions, and inner character. Ansem the Wise makes a whole lesson out of how "a heart is much more than any system, and cannot be contained by data." And    let us again overlook the games made afterwards that totally did contradict this. The points is that in KH2 where the Kudzu was short, I think the central themes of the KH mythos were still pretty safe.

Sora is now an immature idiot hero who is gay for Riku! - Kinda right, but wrong. I do really like how the older Sora is characterized for the most part. For a kid who started off as a half Disney, half Square hero with the Disney side as more dominant, it makes sense that his Square side would come out more as he aged, meaning he now acts more cocky, fierce, fiery, dorky, funny, and generally more like Tidus! He's usually portrayed well enough in the main story. The problems come from when he's either too much of an idiot, too much of a Gary Stu, or too much of a jerk. His exaggerated childish idiocy pops up a lot during the first visits to Disney worlds, while his complete 180 Gary Stu-ishness becomes a recurring problem during the revisits. And his jerkishness usually comes when he's up against villains. I know they're the enemy, but Sora was never THIS hostile and rude to them before! He also suffers from ping-pong competence. One minute he's a badass, the next he's an incompetent bumbler. But he is not, NOT gay for Riku. He was looking all over for him for most of the game because he still needed to find him, didn't know where he was, and at times wasn't even sure if he was still alive or not! And aside from one badly executed scene in which Sora kneels at Riku's feet and cries over how much he's missed his friend, the dynamic between these boys is something you'd find in a lot of Japanese shonen works, or even other works of fiction, even so far as Frodo and Samwise! His and Kairi's romance isn't as big a focus as it was in the first KH, but it doesn't need to be, lest players start to tire of it. In the end, Sora's still a great character and as straight as he's ever been. Him and Kairi as an Official Couple is made pretty clear at the end.

Riku ("Ansem") is a bland, monotonous emo and a non-character - This one's right, actually. Though to his credit, he at least knew his place either at DiZ's side or as Sora and Kairi's silent mysterious protector. At this point in the storyline, Riku's character had been so thoroughly derailed since his arc in the Reverse/Rebirth mode that we probably wouldn't want to see that much of him. He could be like his emo self from "358/2 Days" for all we know! Thankfully, he stated to break out of this boring cipher role in the finale level and completely redeemed himself once he was de-Ansem'd and fought alongside Sora in the final battle. He's not as cool as he used to be, but he's found a fine balance within himself. And he's kept that in KH3D, though at the cost of being a boring Badass.

Kairi and Namine recieve severe underexposure and minimal development - This one's right too. Now Namine actually gets something over on Kairi here in that her case in more understandable. She didn't really need that much more exposure and development since her primary role was to reset everything she'd done in CoM and provide exposition and guidance to the players...err, to Roxas during the Prologue. Afterwards, she'd just come in the finale for closure just like all the other main characters. Maybe they could've done a little bit more with her, but I was fine with what I got. Kairi,
on the other hand, was a guest starring character at the beginning, middle, and end portions of the game, with nowhere near the development and prominence she had in the first KH. Her personality was also kept rather static, not getting rounded out any further than it had been before. Things about her and her position changed rather than anything in her character, and most of those things revolved around her being "Sora's girl." She was clearly just here to be the love interest. Her role as Princess of Heart? Never spoken of again! But to Kairi's credit, she got a better deal than Riku, and like Riku was able to make up for where she was lacking during the finale, where she made a badass jump from a high ledge, got her own keyblade and became a full-fledged member of the Six Man Band.  Oh, and her poem ends up saving Sora and Riku's lives in the end. That is just pure awesome.

Namine was retconned into being Kairi's Nobody instead of a witch with powers over memory! - Like this claim with the Organization, Namine was NOT "retconned" into being a Nobody. She was always a Nobody! Remember lines like "I don't exist anywhere." and "I am the shadow of Kairi." And really, do you think that she was just an unrelated little witch who just happened to look a lot like Kairi? Her taking Kairi's place in Sora's memories as part of Marluxia's evil plan didn't have any greater significance? The shot of Kairi and Namine both there on the credits had no symbolic meaning? Fans can be such morons! Or maybe Namine just messed with their minds....

Axel is a raging pedofag who wants to molest Roxas! - Wrong! I can see how they can get "pedophilic stalker" out of Axel and his relationship with Roxas in this game, especially after the Prologue in which he is going after Sora specifically so he can get Roxas back and is behaving like
a needy ex-boyfriend. But Axel and Roxas were just "best friends" within the Organization. Nothing more. The age had nothing to do with anything. And no, Axel and Roxas are not and were not lovers. That would be gay pedophilia romance and it would never ever pass in a fucking Disney game. Heck,
it wouldn't even pass in a Square Enix game! Akuroku and the yaoi fangirls who ship it can f**k off.

Roxas sucks! - Kinda right, kinda wrong. Roxas was advertised in a way that made it seem like he would play a bigger role than he ended up playing. It seemed as if he'd be the deutoragonist of the game who would have exciting adventures of his own. His name and face wasn't even revealed for
a long time, even when most people guessed that he was eventually Sora. And frankly, he is the blandest, most confusing, least developed character in the entire KH Trinity. But to be fair, his Twilight Town persona is pretty likable and he's a very sympathetic, tragic character with an interesting story. Take him beyond that and look at his time as a member of Organization XIII (as seen in "358/2 Days") and his failings are even greater than his failings in KH2. Take him beyond
even that and he gets even WORSE! Roxas' suckiness in literally every other installment of the series makes me thankful for what we had in KH2. He was as developed as he needed to be here and hit all the right notes well enough to leave an impact. The hate initially came of Prologue fatigue.

That Longest Prologue Ever sucked! - Kinda right, but wrong! The Prologue is a Love It Or Hate It affair, and is especially polarizing upon first playing and experiencing it, even more so for those who didn't bother to play "CoM" before going into KH2. However, I did play CoM and I knew enough details about what was going on in the Prologue to understand it, so personally I enjoyed it. It has it's flaws, but the complicated, mysterious, twisted Twilight Zone-esque story that's at the center of this laid back little tale was really gripping and very good. Plus, most of the exposition that is given comes from Christopher Lee's voice: how awesome is that? And speaking of...

Ansem the Wise is a old, boring Mcpurple prose racist peice of shit. He's not the one true ANSEM! - Wrong! Ansem the Wise/DiZ is an awesome, wonderfully crafted character. He IS the
real Ansem: a better researcher and king than I could ever picture the fake Ansem being. He's far too intriguing and complex to be boring. His prose is no more purple than the convoluted, overwrought KH terminology that other characters use. And seriously...Christopher Lee does his voice in the US version. THE immortal legendary Christopher goddamn motherfucking Lee was brought in to do a voice in a Disney game! That is seriously epic and it makes the character that much more epic too.

Mickey Mouse should not be a badass: that is out of character! - Wrong! Mickey was originally
a mischievous and adventurous mouse who loved getting into exciting situations, and in several side mediums, especially comics, he could be quite the badass. And he's Disney's mascot character, which is unfortunately what derailed his character into being a boring straight man nice guy who just sits around reading the paper while all his pals get into exciting adventures without him in the first place. So making him arguably the biggest badass in the whole story just feels right to me.

Maleficent suffered Villain Decay! - This is one I'll always defend. People expecting Maleficent to go right back to being the Big Bad after her revival are the same types of people who expect Azula
to go back to being her old devious self after recovering from a total mental breakdown. Look at what Maleficent had to work with here: two of her old allies were missing, one of them was imprisoned, one of them was dead, the one who was available was (as always) putting his own self-interest first, she only had an old run-down small castle to use as her lair, Organization XIII were out acting as the main villains and she had to fight them for control of the Heartless and Kingdom Hearts, and her main henchman now was a total imbecile. Of course she's not going to be the fierce uber-villain she once was! What matters is that she made the most of what she had and in the end she clawed her way back to the top of evil power, gaining full control of the Heartless once again. This is what makes Maleficent still a villain who commands fear and respect, no matter what position she's put in.

Cloud's Side Story sucked! - *sigh* This one is totally 100% correct. Let's forget it ever happened.

Gameplay is no longer challenging! - Not as much as the first KH, yeah. But it's so much FUN! Drive forms, easier to use special moves, epic reaction commands, an actually fun Gummi Ship mode! The only two things that were a downgrade were an inferior magic system and the removal
of the always useful Dodge Roll. That latter one was, thankfully, fixed in the Final Mix+ edition.

Too many boring long-ass cutscenes! - Wrong! While some cutscenes do get a bit too drawn out and there might be more than was necessary, to be fair, I think the first KH sometimes didn't have cutscenes where they should have. Even though the technology for cutscene animation was available and plenty of voice actors were on board, a good many cutscenes suddenly cut off and transitioned into text bubble exchanges, which felt like a rip-off. Make use of what you've got!

These worlds are not fun to play through! - Wrong! This complaint comes up because the worlds aren't "big" like the ones in the first KH, and their events are much more linear. I say...so what? What makes the worlds fun to play through for me is how much they resemble the worlds of their respective Disney movies and how much enjoyment I get out of exploring them and getting wrapped up in their events. Bigger does not always equal better: smaller can be fun too, as this game proves.

The finale to the story was awful! - WRONG! The finale to this story, which occurs in The World That Never Was, was perfect. It was a better closure to the KH Trinity's story than I could've imagined or asked for. Literally the entire main cast plays some part in it, the final showdowns against the Organization and the Nobodies are epic (especially the fight inside Kingdom Hearts and the final battle with Xemnas), all major loose ends are tied up in a satisfactory way, and the ending... the ending is beautiful. It's the happy ending I was hoping to see ever since the first KH ended in a bittersweet cliffhanger. The poem, the last scene, the song, the door to light...a perfect closure.

The experience is not magical whatsoever because the Disney magic was consumed in a Nomura explosion! - The tone being less magical and "Disney" than the first KH does not mean it's not a magical Disney game experience, and a valid part of a larger magical Disney experience. The people who make this claim likely skipped out of CoM and thus weren't prepared for the slight shift in tone. Much like how "Alien" is a horror thriller movie whilst "Aliens" is an action thriller movie, KH was a pure classic Disney masterpiece whilst KH2 is a Disney Shonen action-adventure. CoM was the literal shifting between these tones, bridging KH and KH2, transitioning everything towards the sequel. All these games had their own magic in their tones, all feeling like the part of one Disney epic. Literally the only other KH game to capture this sort of magic beyond the Trinity is "Birth By Sleep", which itself feels like an old-Walt Disney themed Disneyfied take on a "Star Wars" prequel. And the other three entries in the series just feel like a bad Shonen saga. More original characters, original concepts, and FF cameos do not make Nomura's grip on this game strong enough to overshadow all the Disney elements. He got more creative freedom in this game, true, as is the case with most sequels, but he didn't go overboard with it for the most part. That started happening after the Trinity's story was done. This is why "KH2 Final Mix+" is where the KH series peaked, and (after) BBS is where it dropped downhill. For this reason, we should always be thankful for the original trilogy of KH games. For myself and others, KH2 is where Sora's story truly ended. (Still no KH3!)

EPIC MICKEY shall be the true spiritual successor to the magical first KH. - This was said by many Disney stans back when "Epic Mickey" was still in development, before "Birth By Sleep" was even out yet. While I found "Epic Mickey" more enjoyable than BBS, it's nowhere close to the magic of the first KH or even the entire original KH Trinity. Also, how did it all end up again? Oh, that's right.

16 comments:

  1. Atlantica sucked this time around. ;)

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    1. XD Yeah, I pretty much said that when I discussed filler. The only things I took away from it were Ursula's song and Prince Eric actually being kind of cool.

      Other levels I despised were the return visits to Land Of Dragons, Agrabah, Halloween/Christmas Town, and Pride Lands. Didn't much like the revisit to the Underworld either, but Hades and Auron made that one worthwhile. ^^

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  2. Sigh. I didn't hate "Epic Mickey 2", but my God was it a dissapointment.

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    1. I know. It could've been good, but the incompetence of it's design is just astounding.

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  3. Now, regarding the actual complaints:

    * Yeah, not being as important on the whole like in the original KH does not "pure filler" make. Not to mention it could be MUCH worse. I can merely compare the most important Disney aspects of KH2 to the most important Disney aspects of the latest game, KH:3D, and it's obvious which one uses Disney more substantially: KH2.

    * There is no defense for the writing of the worlds revisiting phase. None. "Bad, bad writing!", as you said. Why couldn't Daisuke Watanabe have written this game's scenario?

    * Once again, a case of "Be thankful what you've got. It could be worse."

    * They may have gone a tad overboard with the new original and FF characters (Did we really need Hayner, Pence, and Olette? Or Setzer and Vivi?), it was nothing terrible.

    * The Ansem thing is a YMMV kind of deal, and the Heartless thing (as you said) is flat-out misinformed. Still, there were SOME lame retcons. Kingdom Hearts can now be brought about through the collection of hearts from the Heartless? How the hell does THAT work? You gonna explain? No? All right....

    * People who bash Organization XIII are probably just acting out backlash against Sephiroth's popularity or something, just because Nomura designed both. Lame.

    * I was so, SO disappointed with Organization XIII in the original version of KH2. After all the build-up for them, we end up just seeing and offing them individually, with no behind-the-scenes scheming moments that were so fun to watch in KH and COM. Thank God for Final Mix....

    * How can Organization XIII be severely underexposed AND steal the show? These are oxymoron complaints!

    * The only thing worse than fans giving the Draco In Leather Pants treatment to Organization XIII is them giving it to Vanitas.

    * I don't think there was any appealing to yaoi fangirls going on in KH2, no. AFTER KH2, though, once Square was more aware of the rabid fanbase they could rely on for cash....

    * Convoluted? Yes. Horrible? No, no, no, nooooooo.

    * SERIOUSLY!? The dumbass light novels, written by Tomoco Kanemaki, self-admitted drunk and Queen of the Draco-In-Leather-Pantsing of Organizaiton XIII and Vanitas!? Fans actually think Nojima is worse than THAT!? Yeah, this one just offends me.

    * Don't remind of KH:3D's Nobody retcon. Of all the nonsensical, pandering....

    * I think it was an acting fumble to have Sora sound so brainwashed after Yen Sid told him about the Nobodies. That really didn't help!

    * Most times, I love the Prologue. Other times I wonder if it's more trouble than it's worth!

    * Technically, the villains WERE the Heartless, Disney Villains, and Ansem! But the Nobodies and Organization XIII were now included with Ansem, as he is Xemnas this time around.

    * Really, very few themes got ruined here. The mood may have gotten more dark and existential, but the themes were largely the same.

    * I'm still wondering if the scene where Sora reunites with Riku was Square getting ahead of the curve in pandering to the fangirls or if Nojima really was just THAT incompetent in writing it.

    * I prefer KH Riku to KH2 Riku, but I'll take KH2 Riku over COM Riku, Days Riku, and 3D Riku any day! I'll take him over that pseudo-Riku from Coded too!

    * Hey, remember when Kairi was deceptive about her past? Insecure about her future and place in the world? Troubled about Riku's growing darkness? Had complications in her relationship with Sora, embodied by the "Simple and Clean" song? Well, we're not getting it here! Kairi's just Sora's "Mary Jane" now! Sigh. At least she got to be awesome for two scenes, even if the designers forgot to animate her Keyblade in for the second one.

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    1. * Namine's role and presence in KH2 is perfectly legit, but it kind of irks me too. All the problems with her started here, and from KH2 Final Mix to Days to Coded to "Blank Points" and 3D, it all snowballed! My God, if I see that goddamn drawing room one more time.....

      * I. Do NOT. Want to talk. About AXEL! Haven't I done that enough?

      * No "kinda wrong" about it, Roxas does quite suck. Sorry, I'm bitter.

      * See my response to the Nobody pity complaint above.

      * CHRISTOPHER FUCKING LEE. All arguments are now invalid.

      * LOL, he's out of character for being GIVEN character?

      * And this was just the beginning of Maleficent getting short-changed as a threat by the series' writing!

      * Play Final Fantasy VII. Hell, play Dissidia! DON'T play through this garbage.

      * I found it challenging enough. And Final Mix adds a greater difficulty level, so once again it's fixing a problem.

      * Also, you can actually SKIP the cut-scenes this time around. That's a benefit.

      * If bigger was always better, than Monstro from the original KH should be considered a good level. And it wasn't. At all.

      * Uh uh uh, don't brush this one off, this is a valid complaint. It feels like the developers rushed through this part of level design and just didn't care to place puzzles and secret treasures. Again, Final Mix offers improvement in this area.

      * I'm not even gonna dignify this one with a retort.

      * You want Disney magic consumed by a Nomura explosion? Go play KH:3D. Wow, I'm bringing that one up alot here, aren't I? Such a stupid, stupid game....

      * And we come full circle. Warren Spector, you learned nothing!

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    2. - I've heard there are actually people who think 3D handled the Disney stuff better than KH2. I don't get it either.

      - Or Watanabe could've planned the scenario out along with Nojima. It worked wonders in FFX!

      - Setzer and Tifa were pretty fucking terrible. But no other new additions were.

      - I don't think the Organization's plan to get Kingdom Hearts counts as a retcon so much as it is an unexplained means to a clear end. But they had to do something or it would've been the Heartless' plan all over again, and would turn the Princesses of Hearts into dumbasses in distress. Which would be especially bad for poor Kairi, who already gets kidnapped twice in the game as is!

      - And they're not even all like Sephiroth! Axel, the most popular member/target, is flat-out Reno!

      - "Not a very organized Organization!" Exactly.

      - Again, fans get "spotlight stealing" confused with something else entirely.

      - The only thing worse than giving the DILP treatment to Vanitas would be to give it to Xehanort...

      - Everything Sora/Riku and Axel/Roxas related in the original trilogy was accidental. The first real thing in the history of KH that was yaoi-bait was that dumbass Axel/Roxas ghost moment in Final Mix. A huge misstep.

      - To call it horrible just for being convoluted would be like calling "Metal Gear Solid" horrible. You think THIS is horribly convoluted? It hasn't even really got going yet!

      - Y'know what? I actually miss Nojima. He only ever did work on the KH Trinity and now he's gone from the series. I know he was kind of inept, but at least he could write good dialogue!

      - The Prologue was certainly something "special." As enjoyable as it was problematic.

      - I think the themes got more messed up in CoM than they did here, actually! What KH2 did was clean up the mess, though not to how good it was in the first KH.

      - Like I said, it was accidental. Nojima was just that incompetent. The yaoi bait didn't start for real until Axel and Roxas' farewell.

      - And I would've really liked 3D Riku too had they not been overcompensating his earlier Badass Decay with shallow uber-badassery now.

      - She's like Mary Jane's development/status as a character from the first installment and the third installment flipped around! To her credit, the ending also kind of makes Kairi's first scene in KH2 reteroactively awesome, given what that poem in a bottle ended up doing...

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    3. - MY GOD! MYYYY GOD!

      - Roxas "suckiness" in KH2 was more about disappointment than it was his actual character (the BHK was a classic KH mystery, and most people were underwhelmed by the "solution."). Like everything else in the series, after KH2 is when his character got irksome, appearing in literally every single fucking installment of the series! GAAAH!

      - While well-written, I could see why DiZ/Ansem would be considered grating in the original version due to that froggy voice of his. In the English version? Nothing wrong anymore!

      - At least in KH2, there was a reason for Maleficent's Villain Decay and it made absolute logical sense. Her diminished threat in "Coded" and "3D" is simply inexplicable.

      - I'm so glad we played FFVII after playing the first KH and before KH2, 'cause this subplot extremely misrepresented Cloud, Sephiroth, and Tifa.

      - Oh yes, thank heavens for cutscene skip! No more listening to Ansem rambling about the final keyhole and Kairi's heart!

      - Exactly. Not everything's worse for being bigger, but not everything's better for it either. What matters is the quality of the design itself.

      - In hindsight, yes that was lazy. "We designed vast, detailed Disney worlds and the events for them. Now let's throw out some treasure chests in plain sight and call it done!"

      - I guess people are just bitter about the finale for the whole story playing out in the Organization's world. >_<

      - If we spotted the fin with Xion and saw the series jump over the shark with Sora the super special Messiah, then Joshua fucking killed it.

      - HE learned nothing? Well...he did, but that's something he shares with our pal Nomura!

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    4. The nobodies were NOT retconned in 3D the series has consteadly been building up that the "nobodies" did have hearts.

      And I'm sick and tired of hearing people bash the later games for being "convoluted", Nomura himself has stated that he always thinks of the next game, there was lot's of forshadowing and build up to the later games, KH2 didn't exactly tie up all it's loose ends, and Roxas Xion and Axel/Lea are all coming back.

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    5. Uh, no they have NOT been. "Nobodies don't have hearts" was first given to us as a firm, established, inarguable fact by Yen Sid. Then 3D claims that it was all a lie made up by Xemnas. Spot the problem? How did Yen Sid ever hear of a lie that Xemnas supposedly just told his fellow Nobodies? Xemnas couldn't have told him that, so how where did he pick up that lie and why would a wise man like him tell it to Sora, Donald, and Goofy without being more informed on the truth first? It made no sense whatsoever and was done purely because fans couldn't wrap their heads around why Organization XIII could display emotions without having hearts, so Nomura decided to pander to them yet agian.

      Because they are convoluted. And Nomura's stated that he thinks of "questions that he'll answer in the next game" when working on a game, and thus in the games he provides "answers", he thinks of new questions to raise. Which is awful storytelling - if you set up a mystery, you had better damn well know the answer to start with, not this "create a mystery now, think of the solution later" approach that Nomura goes by. No, KH2 didn't exactly tie up ALL loose ends, but the right approach to rectifying that would be a game made to tie up the remaining loose ends rather than bringing in EVEN MORE loose ends like Xion and Lea and all that other crap.

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    6. Exactly. Nomura thinks of the next game's base CONCEPT while making a game, and he thinks up mysteries to put in the current game that can be answered in the next game. When it comes time to actually EXECUTE that next game's concept and ANSWER those questions (since he holds off thinking of the answers until this point), he fails. He fails big time.

      And that's just the first of his three fatal flaws as a director. The other ones are his tendency to create ridiculous concepts and answers to questions for the sole sake of "being surprising" (this is an even bigger flaw that his above mentioned one), and his constant habit of retconning previously established elements and going backward rather than moving forward (this is the worst flaw of all and the one that really took the steam out of this series...the forward momentum between KH2 and KH3 has been awful. AWFUL.)

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  4. I agree with this so much! I don't see how people can hate this game but not the ones released on the Nintendo handhelds (especially Re:Coded and 3D). What do you think of the complaints of the dialogue sucking? I personally disagree with them (best script goes to Sora's Story in CoM), while I disliked some of the ones from the later games, like:

    Days: "Who else will I.." (You know the rest.)
    Coded: "Did someone say Bug spray?" (Can't remember if it was D. Sora or D. Riku.)
    BBS: "What, you wanna piece of me too?" (Ven -> to a pendulum.)
    3D: "Dream Eaters? That's a funny name!" (Sora. If you thought KH2 Sora was stupid, then 3D Sora is...I'm not even going to finish that. Can you imagine if in KH2, someone next to him yelled "A Nobody!" or something like that, and he said, "Your name's Nobody?"?)

    And much more.

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    1. Because the story and the characters became much more developed in the games after 2, and I'm sick of hearing the later games get bashed and accused of "retconning stuff" when they don't understand the writing or where the story is going.

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    2. "More developed" is not always automatically good if the powers that be are terribly inept at developing those aspects and actually telling a good story. Which is the case with the KH franchise. We accuse the later games of retconning stuff because THEY RETCON STUFF. I'm sorry, but you cannot convince me that certain plot points, twists, and characters were planned out in advance during the making of the games because if they were, they would have been properly foreshadowed and built towards, but they're NOT. "Days" tells us that Castle Oblivion was being used as the base for this Keyblade wielder replica creation plot, but we saw no hints of this back in CoM. "Coded' runs on the premise that data can replicate hearts and stuff, but didn't Ansem the Wise learn otherwise back in KH2? ("A heart is much more than any system.") The plot of "Coded" is built on the fact that Namine had done something with the journals that we were given no indication she did or even had the ability TO do, and of an unkept promise that Sora supposedly made her that he NEVER did (It was Jiminy and the others who had the "thank Namine" exchange - Sora and Namine only promised to see each other again one day, which had already been fulfilled as of "Coded.") BBS explicitly tells us that the X-Blade can be forged from a heart of pure light and a heart of pure darkness, but then 3D introduces the "7 Lights, 13 Darknesses" crap. And to go through all the nonsensical retcons of BBS and 3D would be a waste of time and energy. Bottom line is that this "saga" is not a well written one. At all.

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    3. Ah yes, the pretentious "you just don't understand!" card that Nomura's shills always tend to pull out. Have you ever asked yourself that maybe the problem isn't people not understanding, but Nomura making it so damn hard to understand? That maybe he doesn't have the talent he thinks he does to pull off something with depth and it instead is just a bogged-down mess?

      And the way the story and characters have been "deepened" just plain doesn't work, especially not in a freaking video game series, because it grinds forward momentum to a halt. COM moved forward from KH, KH2 moved forward from COM...but then, with Coded, Days and BBS, we've only ever gone backward, with only 3D giving us any sort of forward momentum and even IT was marred by how it was so weighed down by those backwards games and so heavily tied to them rather than presenting us with something new. Ugh, at least we only have KH3 left now.

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