End Boss Month #22: Kingdom Hearts II

If you ever want to start an argument on Giant Bomb, just bring up the subject of Kingdom Hearts. Some people will immediately jump in and complain that we’re still getting side-stories, prequels, and sequels instead of the “true sequel” Kingdom Hearts III. Others will complain that the series has sucked ever since Kingdom Hearts II, and yet others will yammer about their distaste for Tetsuya Nomura, or Disney, or Final Fantasy, or all of the above. It seems that there are only a relative few that are fine with the way things are right now and are content to enjoy the games rather than find reasons to moan.

But, though my passion for the series has waned a bit (I never did get around to playing Re: coded), Kingdom Hearts II, my first experience with the series, ranks among the best and most memorable. This is largely due to its primary villains, Organization XIII. Organization XIII is comprised of Nobodies (not nobodies), beings that came into existence after their hearts were torn from their bodies and became Heartless.

If recent Reddit antics claiming that the story is somehow incomprehensible are now entering your mind, allow me to clarify, because Reddit certainly won’t. A dude’s heart is removed, and the heart becomes a Heartless. At the same time, a separate entity containing the memories of the former whole being also comes into existence, and is called a Nobody. If a Nobody has a particularly strong will, then they may also retain their human form. These sorts are exceedingly rare, and Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, is among the most powerful.

For soothe! I am a sociopathic jackass.
For soothe! I am a sociopathic jackass.

Xemnas was spawned from a researcher named Xehanort who betrayed his superior, Ansem, assumed Ansem’s identity, and then through his experiments managed to separate himself into both a Heartless (Ansem, the final boss of the original Kingdom Hearts) and Xemnas. There’s a bit more backstory, but this should suffice for now. In any case, Xemnas’s goal is to acquire the power of Kingdom Hearts, and as leader of Organization XIII, has those under him work toward bringing that goal to fruition under the belief that, should they acquire that power, they can use it to be restored to their whole selves. But how does one go about summoning Kingdom Hearts? By using a keyblade to harvest a whole lot of hearts from Heartless.

In short, Xemnas and his minions manipulate Sora into doing their work for them, and Sora has little choice but to cut through the Heartless in his path if he actually wants to stop Organization XIII. Xemnas is a crafty bastard that way. But even more bastardly is the fight against him at the end of the game.

On the morning I beat Kingdom Hearts II, I sat down and prepared for what I thought would be a fairly standard boss fight. What I received, on the other hand, was a battle that took me a significantly larger chunk of time to complete due to fairly low character levels on my part and a severe underestimation of the number and complexity of Xemnas’s forms. (Also, I didn't stop for breakfast at any point. That might have had something to do with it, too.)

Fighting Xemnas is basically like fighting four or five different bosses, each with their own life bars and gimmicks. Trying to even describe them all in any form of detail would simply take too long. There are multiple points where I thought, “OK, now the game is over,” only for Xemnas to return with yet another form. And his final form in particular was a pain, simply because of the point where Sora is caged and you briefly have to control Riku to free him before Sora’s life runs out. Why that part was so difficult for me, I don’t know. I lost count of the number of times I died on that part of the battle alone. And this is after fighting his regular form, his armored form (twice), and flying around on a jet bike to fight him in the air. Fighting Xemnas is like running a marathon that is actively trying to murder you at every mile.

Heck, just watching this video reminded me of parts that I had completely forgotten about in the years since I last played this game. Seriously, it's ridiculous.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It became ridiculous at points, but it did nothing to sour my taste on the game. Xemnas is a powerful foe, and he throws absolutely everything that he can at Sora before he finally goes down. He single-handedly makes the rest of Organization XIII look like child’s play in comparison. But hey, he is their boss.

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