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.

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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19 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

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.

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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Posted by Video_Game_King

@Hailinel said:

(I never did get around to playing Re: coded)

You probably shouldn't.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I will admit to beating this game and not having much if any trouble with the final boss. However, I literally couldn't remember a thing about the story, and I don't plan on purchasing a copy of KH2 to recall it unless I want to write a blog as sarcastic as the one for Final Fantasy X-2.

Also, are bonus bosses part of this? Because Sephiroth is a pretty good example of both Kingdom Heart's hard-on for fanservice and he's way harder than the actual final boss.

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Posted by Hailinel

@ArbitraryWater said:

I will admit to beating this game and not having much if any trouble with the final boss. However, I literally couldn't remember a thing about the story, and I don't plan on purchasing a copy of KH2 to recall it unless I want to write a blog as sarcastic as the one for Final Fantasy X-2.

Also, are bonus bosses part of this? Because Sephiroth is a pretty good example of both Kingdom Heart's hard-on for fanservice and he's way harder than the actual final boss.

Nope. This is final bosses only. Though Sephiroth? Oh, man. I tried fighting him once, died inside five seconds, and decided to just move on.

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Posted by Video_Game_King

@Hailinel said:

Though Sephiroth? Oh, man. I tried fighting him once, died inside five seconds, and decided to just move on.

I fought him, died in five seconds, and decided to beat his punk ass for revenge. Hell, Kingdom Hearts II introduced me to YouTube, which introduced me to the technique of "hovering over his stupid sword moves so I can whack the shit out of him five seconds later".

Posted by Mento

You started at Kingdom Hearts II? And your favorite part was Organization XIII? You know, I generally concur with all your JRPG-advocating antics but in some ways we are very different people.

As for my experience with the series I, uh... stopped at KH2 as well. But I did download that demo for that upcoming 3DS one, so I might as well check back in.

Moderator Online
Posted by Irvandus

KH2 had some great bosses. Remember the colossus style one in the Lion King level?

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Edited by Encephalon

I'm not gonna sit here arguing the finer points of Kingdom Hearts' baroque metaphysics, but I will say this:

There are, presently, three common fantasy world-building tropes that instantly make me say "fuck your story," and the tapestry of the KH universe is deeply woven with all three of them.

EDIT: No, two. The third is an edge case. I'll allow it.

Posted by Hailinel

@Mento said:

You started at Kingdom Hearts II? And your favorite part was Organization XIII? You know, I generally concur with all your JRPG-advocating antics but in some ways we are very different people.

As for my experience with the series I, uh... stopped at KH2 as well. But I did download that demo for that upcoming 3DS one, so I might as well check back in.

Well, truly, my favorite part of the game weren't just Organization XIII but all of the original characters. I had more entertainment from them and the ways they went about that crazy Disney/Final Fantasy mishmash universe than I did from either the Disney or Final Fantasy characters. (Though I thought the KH incarnation of Fujin was pretty amusing).

But yes, I did start with Kingdom Hearts II. I was convinced to try it by a friend that thought I'd probably enjoy it more than the first game just because the mechanics were vastly improved. She filled me in on anything I really needed to know before I started it.

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Edited by TepidShark

Now that I think about it, Kingdom Hearts II probably had the best end boss of the series so far. As much I rave about how Birth by Sleep is the best overall game in the series, I don't recall the end bosses in Birth by Sleep being anything that spectacular.

PS. Having played through Re: Coded, you needn't bother. That game is insanely terrible.

Posted by Hailinel

@Irvandus said:

KH2 had some great bosses. Remember the colossus style one in the Lion King level?

Oh man, I do. That was one of the weirder worlds just for having to fight that thing while in lion form.

@Encephalon said:

I'm not gonna sit here arguing the finer points of Kingdom Hearts' baroque metaphysics, but I will say this:

There are, presently, three common fantasy world-building tropes that instantly make me say "fuck your story," and the tapestry of the KH universe is deeply woven with all three of them.

EDIT: No, two. The third is an edge case. I'll allow it.

I'm curious to know what those tropes are. (And weren't you going to write a blog on KH a while back? What happened to that?)

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Posted by Hailinel

@TepidShark said:

Now that I think about it, Kingdom Hearts II probably had the best end boss of the series so far. As much I rave about how Birth by Sleep is the best overall game in the series, I don't recall the end bosses in Birth by Sleep being anything that spectacular.

The boss battles themselves weren't particualrly spectacular, but their set-ups and set pieces were pretty stand-out. The true final boss in that game wasn't particularly difficult, but there was a lot of crazy stuff that had happend or was in the process of happening at that point.

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Posted by TepidShark

@Hailinel: Yeah, the story (which has a surprisingly dark ending for something with the name Disney on it) and the re-vamped battle system are easily the best parts of Birth by Sleep.

Edited by Encephalon

@Hailinel: At the risk of sounding flippant about your blogs, which I am enjoying greatly, I realized I didn't care enough to write a blog. There are plenty of things I think I do care enough about, but my desire to shout about them into the yawning void of the internet is fleeting. Better to wash my hands of the whole thing. As for my dealbreaker tropes, they are:

1. Reification of light and darkness

2. Reification of emotions such as love, friendship, etc.

To be fair, I can tolerate, though never truly enjoy, these tropes if done well. But it's such a fine fucking line you'd have to walk to get there that I'd rather just not deal with it.

Posted by Doctorchimp

@Hailinel said:

@ArbitraryWater said:

I will admit to beating this game and not having much if any trouble with the final boss. However, I literally couldn't remember a thing about the story, and I don't plan on purchasing a copy of KH2 to recall it unless I want to write a blog as sarcastic as the one for Final Fantasy X-2.

Also, are bonus bosses part of this? Because Sephiroth is a pretty good example of both Kingdom Heart's hard-on for fanservice and he's way harder than the actual final boss.

Nope. This is final bosses only. Though Sephiroth? Oh, man. I tried fighting him once, died inside five seconds, and decided to just move on.

But then you missed out on the keyblade Cloud gives you that actually looks like a key.

I also remember that boss fight lasting about 10 minutes of some pretty button mashing. That game could have used some disney whimsy from the first game that wouldn't have made it seem so juvenile.

Posted by Hailinel

@Doctorchimp said:

@Hailinel said:

@ArbitraryWater said:

I will admit to beating this game and not having much if any trouble with the final boss. However, I literally couldn't remember a thing about the story, and I don't plan on purchasing a copy of KH2 to recall it unless I want to write a blog as sarcastic as the one for Final Fantasy X-2.

Also, are bonus bosses part of this? Because Sephiroth is a pretty good example of both Kingdom Heart's hard-on for fanservice and he's way harder than the actual final boss.

Nope. This is final bosses only. Though Sephiroth? Oh, man. I tried fighting him once, died inside five seconds, and decided to just move on.

But then you missed out on the keyblade Cloud gives you that actually looks like a key.

I also remember that boss fight lasting about 10 minutes of some pretty button mashing. That game could have used some disney whimsy from the first game that wouldn't have made it seem so juvenile.

I didn't really find the game that juvenile. The characters are fun, as is the gameplay (keep in mind, I love me some Dynasty Warriors). And there's plenty of whimsy to go around, too. Honesty, the game isn't that much darker than the original Kingdom Hearts.

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Posted by MrXD

Ah man remember the good time with Kingdom Hearts 2 with my siblings. We spend good hours the game, there's even time when my sisters play Kingdom Hearts 2 without me or my brothers.

As for the boss battles in the game, they were great.

@Hailinel said:

Though Sephiroth? Oh, man. I tried fighting him once, died inside five seconds, and decided to just move on.

You don't know how much pain I went though to beat that guy....

Posted by Jay444111

@Hailinel: I should mention the fact that the dragon form of him was actually supposed to be way more awesome! Basically, instead of a dragon it would be Xemnas's upper body made out of building from the world that never was and would fight you like that. (It looked quite a bit like his throne form actually.)

The second form of that is INSANE... Imagine a city sized Centaur... that is what you were SUPPOSED to fight in the original boss fight with him... but they changed it to a dragon.

Posted by Hunter5024

You know I never thought that the story to Kingdom Hearts was very complex because I never had too much trouble understanding it, but now that you've laid it all out like that... I can kind of see where all of the confusion comes from. I hope if they ever get around to making a Kingdom Hearts III that they make everything a little less complicated.