“It’s not entirely clear what’s going on, but that’s not a fair criticism of the game, given that seems to be a feature and not a bug.”
–Josh, on the last few hours of Kingdom Hearts
We made it, guys! Spoiler alert: In this edition of Clickbait Boyfriend, Josh actually finishes Kingdom Hearts. I never thought this day would come. I thought he would quit long ago. Yet, against all odds (and despite spending a good chunk of the game completely confused), he made it to the ending…and the secret ending, but more on that later.
(Behind on the action? No worries! Catch up on all the hilarious past installments here.)
“I’m putting my life on the line here, and this is how the game rewards me. Pretty stones.”
-on disappointing chest contents
I never thought about this too hard when I was playing Kingdom Hearts, but it would be weird in real life to open a chest and find a single gummi brick, three lost puppies, or a freaking rock inside. A lot of work fighting Heartless to be rewarded with a similar prize as I get from my younger sisters when I play with them on the beach.
Alternate theory: Kingdom Hearts uses “pretty stone” in the same way as I might say “huge rock” in reference to diamond jewelry.
“I knew this was going to be what happened.”
-on returning briefly to each world
It’s like a video game yearbook. You look back on everything you did the past year before you jump into the fiery pillar that is finals.
“What a tease. I’m back in Deep Jungle and I don’t even get the music.”
-on soundtracks that haunt my dreams
As you might recall, the music from Deep Jungle was a real favorite at Talk This NYC HQ. Here’s a taste for those who have successfully scrubbed the tune from their brains (teach me your ways):
“That’s the most powerful shield? That’s a frisbee.”
-on the confusing ratio between strength and aesthetics
Kingdom Hearts really functions best if you don’t think too hard about any of the mechanics of it all. It makes no sense that Goofy, a knight of the King, would fight by bludgeoning enemies with his shield, let alone that smaller shields would be more powerful than larger ones. It works in the thematic context of the sword/staff/shield trinity from the tutorial, but not in any rational sense. Then again, Goofy is an anthropomorphic dog…fetch, boy!
“This reads a little bit like Nietzsche…or a high schooler’s emo poetry.”
-on the Ansem Reports-
It’s shocking that it’s taken this long for Nietzsche to be featured on Clickbait Boyfriend, given that Josh has a huge man-crush on him. Is it the philosophy or the mustache? Despite a comprehensive Google Images search, I could not find an image of Nietzsche baring his man cleavage, so I’ll have to settle for a comparison of Ansem and Friedrich’s writing styles. Evidently, they both resemble a fifteen-year-old’s LiveJournal poetry, not to mention a shared obsession with darkness.
I’ve been surprised at how much Josh has latched onto the Ansem Reports. It is objectively weird that so much necessary plot information has been silo-ed into what amounts to poorly written blog entries, but it’s perfect for Talk This’s resident philosopher. In a game which seems to have suffered very few localization problems, I wonder if the Ansem Reports are a casualty of translation. Otherwise, it’s a question of whether or not they’re intentionally bad.
“Is this Night on Bald Mountain??? I have such an emotional connection to this, you have no idea.”
-on the nostalgia finally kicking in
Josh watched Fantasia many times as a kid, so I guess Chernabog brings back some happy childhood memories for him. He’ll be majorly disappointed when he reads this, but I’m not sure I knew that Chernabog wasn’t a Kingdom Hearts original when I first played the game…
Bonus quote: “That was the single best moment in the Kingdom Hearts franchise so far.”
“That is actually a substantive philosophical thesis that people argue about.”
-on Kingdom Hearts’ epistemology
One of these days, we’ll get a Clickbait Boyfriend guest post on the philosophy of Kingdom Hearts, but for now, enjoy this side-by-side comparison of two of the greatest philosophers of all time.
Nothing screams “deep and meaningful” like a sunset on the ocean! On a side note, a disturbing percentage of these quote posters are attributed to Billy Zane, who is the voice actor for Ansem. I have never understood why people do this. Billy Zane is playing a character, people, and a villain at that! I highly doubt he subscribes to the same view of knowledge as Ansem. The same thing happens with book quotes and authors, and it’s irresponsible to attribute writing in that way. Characters don’t always represent the views of their creators. You’d think that would go without saying, but here we are, internet quote creators of the world. You brought this lecture upon yourself.
I don’t know what Mushu does, but I bet he’s awesome!”
-on Mushu, part one.
“This is pretty useless.”
-on Mushu, part two.
It hurts my Mulan-loving heart to say it, but Mushu is a waste of MP. Here’s a free Kingdom Hearts strategy tip: never summon him, especially in a boss battle.
“Did they consult a geologist for this?”
-on dark Destiny Islands
I can safely say that no, Josh, Square Enix did not consult a geologist on the design of the cratered Destiny Islands, nor in the design of the aforementioned pretty stones.
“Is that dude pelvic-thrusting lasers out of his crotch?”
-on Ansem’s demon Guardian
This is where the game gets weird, people. I know what you’re thinking: “you’re saying a Final Fantasy character flying around to Disney movies with a giant key wasn’t weird?” Of course it was. But the final boss battle sequence takes that weird to a new level. Josh pointed out to me after he finished the game that it’s bizarre that we don’t meet the real antagonist of Kingdom Hearts until the story is roughly 90% complete. The plot spends something like eight worlds setting up Maleficent as the Big Bad only to pull the rug out from under you in Hollow Bastion with the reveal that Ansem isn’t a mild-mannered scientist after all (something you’d only know if you bothered to read the Ansem Reports), but some kind of evil wizard. Those of us who are more familiar with the series have gotten used to these kinds of twists; it seems like it happens in every game at some point. But for a first time Kingdom Hearts player, it’s still genuinely surprising and, apparently, feels a little cheap. Better buckle up for those sequels, because this is just the first dip on the roller coaster, buddy.
All this to say, where does Ansem’s demon friend come from? Why does he turn into a massive, multicolored Heartless creature (other than the Kingdom Hearts law which states that all bosses must have a giant form)? I have no answers for these questions. Pelvic-thrusting laser are the least of our logical problems.
“I’ll be honest, not super impressed so far. This is easy as sh#!t.”
-on Ansem, battle #2
I take full responsibility for this one. As Josh’s de facto Kingdom Hearts coach, I might have been overly cautious about endgame level grinding. My excuse is that I last played this game on Proud Mode, but it has more to do with my having no memory for what an appropriate level for taking on Ansem is. Sora et al. might have been a wee bit overpowered.
-on Ansem, battle #2.5 (get it? It’s a joke about how these games are numbered. Super original humor!)
…or maybe my training regimen was perfect after all. Don’t let that ego get the best of you, Clickbait Boyfriend!
“They should have had ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ on the soundtrack. Pretty much a perfect summary of the game.”
-on missed opportunities
Can’t argue with that one.
“Is this his little darkness spaceship?”
-on Ansem, battle #3
If only he had learned to use the gummi workshop, Josh too could have had a a super cool spaceship. Wouldn’t be surprised if Chip and Dale could use the power of darkness to get the blocks to look fly as heck.
“He seems to only be able to say the same three things.”
-on limited combat dialogue
By which Josh means one thing, by which he means DARKNESS.
“How many times do I have to beat the same dude in this boss battle?”
-on endless Ansem battles
Just you wait, buddy. Just you wait.
“Does he have blue highlights? He’s consumed by darkness and he has the time to put highlights in his hair.”
-on the importance of style
Based on extensive online research, it does not look like Ansem actually has blue highlights. Seems like a good potential addition for Kingdom Hearts 1.74920/4 Re:ReMIX Final Edition.
“Who is this discount Mickey Mouse voice actor?”
-on cheap alternatives…or not
It’s actually Wayne Allwine, the official voice of Mickey Mouse. Pretty much all of the Disney characters are voiced by their official actors! Also, jeez, Josh, pay attention to the ending!
“What is this discount Destiny’s Child?”
-on “Simple and Clean”
Oh no. No no no. This is disrespect that I won’t tolerate. “Simple and Clean” is definitely in my top five video game songs of all time. The slow version from the end of the game isn’t included on the English soundtrack, so I remember Illegally downloading it as a teenager. I felt tremendously guilty, but I loved the song so much. I worried when I began this series that Josh would hate the game and quit halfway through, which could have been devastating for our relationship (kidding, but not really). That didn’t happen, obviously, because here we are at the very end of the game! Still, this quote feels like a personal attack. If you insult “Simple and Clean,” the darkness wins!
“How did Disney sign off on this?”
-on inscrutable creative decisions
Emma and I discussed this on our most recent full episode, but it seems like you could pitch pretty much anything to Disney’s video game division in the early 2000s and they’d be like “yeah, sure, why not?” As grateful as I am for Kingdom Hearts and Disney Extreme Skate Adventure, I could not explain to you who made those business decisions, particularly in the case of the former. What I would give to have been a fly on the wall in that pitch meeting.
“It’s not just a secret, it’s a special secret???”
-on bonus movies
Josh did not get the super special secret bonus ending for getting 100% completion, but he did manage to beat the Hades Cup, seal every keyhole, and rescue all 99 Dalmatians, so he got this little gem:
“Was that like the gritty reboot of Kingdom Hearts? What was that?”
-on bonus movies part two
I finally mostly understand the bonus movie, and it’s taken like a decade. That probably says it all.
And now, while the credits roll, a little wrap-up. Sharing games with the people you love is a wonderful experience, but it can also be a scary one. In the same way as lending a friend your favorite book or watching your favorite movie with someone who’s never seen it before, there’s always that worry they won’t get it. Kingdom Hearts is such a weird little game that I was actually nervous to let Josh play it. What if thought it was boring, or too confusing? What if he quit playing because it was too cheesy and dumb?
Even as he made his way from world to world, I still felt a little guilty each time I suggested he play, pretty sure he was just doing it to humor me. I don’t think he’ll ever love Kingdom Hearts the same way I do, given that I still get a little choked up at the ending fifteen years later. But it was still very cool to get to share this experience with him and see a game that’s held a special place in my heart for years through fresh eyes. In Kingdom Hearts terms, it’s like I gave a small piece of a paopu fruit in the form of a game disk.
Video games are often such a solitary (or at least anonymous, for online multiplayer) art, and after watching Josh play through this game (and secondarily, watching the adorable friendships formed in Dad of Light, another Final Fantasy-based property), I really want to strive to connect with people through games more often! So if you have recommendations or games you particularly want to discuss, I want to know! Gaming friends are the best kinds of friends!
But that’s not all, folks!
Despite roasting everything from the gameplay to the story to the design over the course of this blog series, Josh still wants to play Kingdom Hearts 2! Clickbait Boyfriend will return soon with thoughts on the longest tutorial in gaming history, the ever-thickening plot, and, of course, the gummi ship.
And don’t forget: