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April 29, 2012

Kingdom Hearts: Another Herp, Another Derp





…All right.  Let’s talk about Birth by Sleep.

You know, I’m a big fan of the reviewers over at Channel Awesome.  Many of them take the worst products from their medium -- comics, movies, video games, anime -- and give them the sound thrashing they deserve.  With pinpoint precision and savage criticism, they’ll point out all the plot holes, clichés, and just plain ridiculous moments for the pleasure of net junkies (and nerds, natch) everywhere.  It’s a skill commonplace among the team; it’s a skill that, for the longest time, I thought I didn’t have.

I always thought that I didn’t have much of a critical eye -- and because of it, my skills as a writer were hampered.  “If I can’t find a fatal flaw in someone else’s work, how can I find one in my own?” I asked myself.  “If I can’t dissect what isn’t working with this work’s style, is mine destined to suffer?” I thought.  It certainly didn’t help that at the time, I was around people who routinely did better; they were like doctors of the highest caliber, and I kept touching the sides in a game of Operation.

"Almost...almost...almost got it...GAAAAAAAAAAAH!  Screw it, I'm still going to med school."

I’ve gotten better about it since then.  I’m a bit more confident.  One could argue that it’s from age and experience, and a fair amount of learning.  One could argue that having experienced so many stories, I can see what works and what doesn’t work.  But as of this moment, I think I can chalk it up to one thing in particular.

Hate.  Pure, scalding, forest-clearing, baby deer-mutilating hate.

I make a note of not seeing bad movies, or not playing bad games.  But sometimes, it’s unavoidable.  Sometimes my faith is betrayed, like with Grandia III or Final Fantasy XIII.  Sometimes I’m put in an unexpected situation, like watching Percy Jackson and the Olympians with company, or finding myself being dragged (figuratively) to see The Thing remake instead of Real Steel.  It’s when there’s a product presented to me that’s so awful, that’s such an affront to my senses that my true critical power is awakened.  I know it’s especially active when a product gives me a headache.  Yes, some stories are so bad it actually causes me physical pain.

It’s a rare occurrence, but a real one indeed.  And I have this character…

…And this man

…to blame.

I’m resolved to watch the entirety of Birth by Sleep on YouTube.  Every last video of the game, from its highest highs to its lowest lows.  I was eager to see Aqua not suck by any means necessary; I was willing to sit through Ven’s faffing about in regards to friendship and meaningless revelations.  I was willing to sit through a game where Disney worlds are both the focus and filler material.  I was willing to accept that I’d have to sit through thirty-six videos, at roughly fourteen minutes each, to get to the story that was actually (hopefully) interesting.  Eight point four hours gone, because I had faith.  Even with a great sense of dread and foreboding with Terra’s story, I’d soldier on and prove that it was worth it; that I could have my exciting story, and prove my loyalty as a Kingdom Hearts fan. 

Kingdom Hearts fans, are you…are you happy with what you got?  Are you happy you spent money on this?  Are you happy you got to play trhough Terra’s story?  Because -- and I’ll be frank here -- if I paid money for the game and got that, I would be extremely fucking pissed.

Let’s start with the blue whale in the room.  Look at this guy.

This is the weapon he uses.

Given these facts, would you trust this guy?  Would you be inclined to work with him?  Would you let him within the same dimension as the people next to you?  If you answered no to any of those questions, congratulations!  You’re smarter than ninety percent of Birth by Sleep’s cast!  Bonus question: would you trust the word of this man over your friends, the teacher who considers you his son, and all logic and knowledge of the situation at hand?  If you answered no, then congratulations!  You’d make a better Keyblade wielder than Terra!

Terra takes idiocy to levels so high you’d need the Hubble Telescope to spot them.  As proof, let’s take this step by step.

--Terra and Aqua, as part of their test to become Keyblade Masters, engage in a duel to see who’s worthy in front of their teacher, Master Eraqus, and his guest, the INCREDIBLY OBVIOUSLY EVIL Master Xehanort.  The goal is to prove themselves as noble warriors, uncorrupted by the darkness.  You would expect Terra to NOT cave in and use the power of darkness to win the duel…you know, within spitting distance of their master, someone who’s learned and trained in the ways of light and Keyblade wielding.  But then again…

--Terra wanders off, wondering where the darkness came from (even though Eraqus gave him an answer just five minutes ago), and stumbles upon Master Xehanort.  In spite of the obvious warning signs, he lets the old guy suggest that the darkness can be channeled and that his teacher’s a chump.  Rather than keep an eye on him, he lets Mr. X -- should be “Master Xehanort” at all times because there’s like six versions of him in the KH canon now, but I’m not typing that out anymore -- walk away, and he doesn’t bother asking about just who the hell that guy was.

--Not five minutes later, Terra and Aqua are asked to go on a mission to find Mr. X and protect the seven Princesses of Heart (Disney?  In my Disney/Squeenix crossover?  No way!) from monsters called the Unversed.  Just when he’s about to take off -- eager to take advantage of an opportunity for redemption -- Terra runs into Ven.  Rather than telling Ven he’s off on official business (as is Aqua) and everything will be fine, he just tells him “Don’t worry, BRB” and zooms off on his Key…bike.  This will in no way affect the story whatsoever, I assure you.

*Headdesk count: 6

--Terra goes to the Sleeping Beauty world to investigate, and stumbles upon the INCREDIBLY OBVIOUSLY EVIL Maleficent doing her thing: being evil and manipulative.  To be precise, he meets her on the castle’s bridge, and then again in Princess Aurora’s room (not bothering to question how she got in there just as he did).  He gets possessed by her and steals the princess’ heart, just as Mr. X prescribed Maleficent to do.  Terra blames himself, which I can’t fault him for, yet is irritating nonetheless for being completely unable to detect signs of trouble beforehand or out-think a hamster.

On the plus side, Terra can stuff more food in his cheeks.

--Next, Terra heads to Snow White’s world to protect that princess (fun fact: Snow White is really damn annoying when you’re not a sugar-addled six-year-old).  Except he doesn’t run into her first; hoping to get a lead on Mr. X’s location, he comes across the Queen and her BFF the Magic Mirror.  They strike a deal; if the Queen gets Snow White’s heart in a box, Terra gets his info.

It’s right here where I have to raise a red flag.  Comments on YouTube argue that Terra’s not stupid, just really gullible and trusting.  Maybe that’s true -- and maybe it’s a little rash to judge people based on their…well, obnoxiously evil appearances and voices.  KH fans have known long before the game’s release that Mr. X was going to be a villain, thanks to the secret ending at the end of an updated release of KH2.  And anyone who’s ever heard of Disney knows that certain characters -- the Queen, Maleficent, etc. -- are evil based on their mannerisms and knowledge from nostalgia.  A fair argument…

…Except that argument DOESN’T WORK when the villains oust themselves as villains in the middle of a conversation and Terra does nothing about it.  The Queen doesn’t want Snow White’s magic heart the series is known for; she wants her REAL HEART IN A BOX.  She even tells Terra, point-blank, that she wants him to kill Snow White.  TERRA.  DOES.  NOTHING.  No reaction.  No suspicion.  No thought.  Thankfully the dumb bastard doesn’t do it, but the fact that he was willing to walk away when there was someone espousing attempted murder does not bode well for his intelligence.  Anyway, moving on…

*Headdesk count: 10

 --Terra doesn’t kill Snow White, but she gets attacked by Unversed.  (While I hate this character with the unholy heat of a black star, I will concede that his fighting style is pretty cool; nice to see a samurai instead of Sora/Ven’s boosh-boosh-boosh-flashy millions of hits and wings style).  Unfortunately, Snow White runs off into a dark forest to escape.  You would think that Terra would chase after her to make sure one of the Princesses of Heart doesn’t get nabbed later, or that he’d put that Keybike of his to good use and fly above the forest to find her instantly (or barring that, just speed through the forest Return of the Jedi style).  But then again…

--Terra confronts the Queen and demands to use the Mirror to find Mr. X…which he could have done in the first place, but whatever.  The Queen throws…some stuff on the mirror and Terra gets sucked inside it, provoking a boss fight (which is decidedly creepy).  After he wins, Terra gets the info he needs in the form of a riddle: "Beyond light and darkness, he dwells; where war was raged upon the fells".  (Fans already know he’s in the Keyblade Graveyard even without playing through Ven’s story, because Squeenix had the bright idea to spoil the climactic scene years before the game even came out.)  No big issues here, but I’d like to think that Terra was positively bewildered at the thought of words being able to rhyme. 

--Terra goes to Cinderella’s world next, and learns a valuable lesson: believing in your dreams can actually -- get this -- help them come true!  What a revelation!  And here he was, about to give up on his dream!  Oh man, bullet dodged!  Anyway, Terra escorts Cindy (who, to my shock, is voiced by Jennifer Hale) to the ball by fighting off Unversed.  Terra smashes, Cindy gets to the ball, no time paradox, blah blah blah.   Miscellaneous note: I find it hilarious that the developers saw it necessary to make scenes where there are hundreds of bobbing enemies on screen, but can’t be arsed to put more than a half dozen NPCs to make it look like a ball instead of the world’s saddest bachelor party.

Such brave souls, holding back the tears.

 After that bit of Disney Animated Filler, Terra meets up with Aqua and trades info with her; there’s a boy in a mask controlling the Unversed, and meanwhile Ven has gone looking for Terra (see?  Didn’t I tell you that wouldn’t affect the plot?)  Sadly, Terra just can’t quite seem to put together that the Unversed may have something to do with Mr. X, so he heads off.

--Terra heads to the Mysterious Tower and meets with Fantasia’s Yen Sid -- you know, this guy:

Yen Sid -- who I’d like to think is pissed that Terra hasn’t put two and two together yet -- tells Terra to think as the Unversed/Mask Boy and Mr. X as the same problem.  Unfortunately, Terra doesn’t get the signal, so Mr. X just has to outright call Terra to his hidey-hole.  Hey, if it saves our hero the opportunity to prove he’s engaging in the plot or having any sense of drive, it’s fair game, right?

*Headdesk count: 14

--Mr. X reveals that his “plan” is to stop Mask Boy, Vanitas (sounds like “fajitas”) and protect the light.  Also, Vanitas is the dark part of Ven, but this is Terra’s story and I couldn’t even give a sixteenth of a shit about that.  Mr. X tells Terra to go to Radiant Garden because that’s where Vanitas might strike next (in spite of there not being a Princess of Heart there, which is kind of the whole point of the plan), presumably having to give Terra more and more precise directions until he just takes him there himself in his Key-Winnebago.  Now, you might be wondering why Terra doesn’t make a pitstop at Keyblade HQ and report to Master Eraqus about Mr. X’s plan and location, or why he doesn’t take Mr. X back into custody.  That’s because thinking is prohibited in this game.  But then again…

--After a boss fight in the Radiant Garden, Terra reunites with Aqua and Ven.  I already talked about this earlier, but it bears repeating: Terra blows off his friends -- the two people he SHOULD be trusting -- and starts thinking that Mr. X is the only one who understands him. 

Red flag.  Red…red flag, right here.  You’re telling me that Terra is more than willing to trust someone he just met over his two best friends?  It’s here where another one of Terra’s massive flaws is revealed: he’s taking a sledgehammer to the theme of friendship that KH revolves around.  Apparently, you’re friends as long as they don’t question your obviously shady actions and rationale, and don’t express concern over your sliding off the slippery slope.  Friends should also never disagree with you, never take actions that can only protect and benefit you, and never side with anyone else who expresses deep, familial concern.  If this is an underhanded way of showing that this is NOT how you should act in the name of friendship, Squeenix, this is overkill.  It’s bad enough that we only see one cutscene with all three of them enjoying each other’s company at the game’s start (peppered with meandering flashbacks because…hey, flashbacks), but worse when you zigzag between “we’ll always be together” and “GTFO” and “we’ll always be friends.”  I don’t believe these people are even in the same room when they’re talking, much less able to share dreams and camaraderie.

"How DARE YOU make me a necklace symbolizing our friendship!  Fall in a pit and die!"

Compare that to KH1.  It had a prologue that worked beautifully: an opening that pulled you into the action and set the stage (the Dive into the Heart sequence), a period of world-building (exploring Destiny Island), establishing relationships (Sora’s friends and rivals with Riku, they’re both pining for Kairi, Riku > Sora), and all in a succinct amount of time (an hour tops, if you’re struggling).  Their relationship is weaved into the story at present, not cramming in flashbacks; things develop and evidence is given in real time, giving it much more of an impact.  We see the struggles their bonds face, and the inevitable reconciliation.  They fight, and they lose their way, and even fall into darkness, but it all works out in the end.

Birth by Sleep doesn’t have that.  I assume it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the much-reviled Roxas prologue of KH2, which -- in its three-hour span -- has been known to instill clinical depression.  It strips away everything but cursory details so the player can do some flip-de-loops and go boosh-boosh-boosh. 

This game…is this game going to be my new Final Fantasy XIII?

*Headdesk count: 32

--Terra faffs about Radiant Garden for a while, and then runs into resident gunslinger Braig -- and apparently he’s captured Mr. X.  Terra springs into action, and finds the INCREDIBLY OBVIOUSLY EVIL Master chained to a pillar.  After taking a few shots from Braig, Mr. X -- in a speech that you’d swear he ripped from Palpatine -- convinces Terra to use the darkness to beat him.  Terra does, in spite of presumably everything he’s learned in his life telling him not to.  You may think that Terra would wise up and realize how close he’s come to the edge when he scars Braig -- something that he’s never done before with that key of his.  You would think that he’d start to realize, “Hey, maybe this is what Eraqus and Aqua were talking about when they say I’m crossing the line.  Maybe I should cool off.”  But then again…

--After the fight, Mr. X steps up and gives Terra a pat on the back for harnessing the darkness.  Terra’s less than pleased, and -- realizing that it’s been too long since the last dramarama -- declares that he has no home to go back to.  (He does, of course, but this is Squeenix, a company that specializes in dishing out angst like free samples.)  Terra accepts Mr. X as his new master, and Mr. X gives him the title of “Master Terra” even though I sincerely doubt he has that authority.  Terra bails because he needs to…uh…go somewhere, but not before spotting Ven.  Ven wants to come along with Terra, but Terra won’t allow it.  So…not only does he ignore the obvious sign that his little buddy still ahs faith in him and -- once again -- doesn’t tell him where he’s going, meaning that Ven will continue wandering around the universe…but he also leaves Ven (someone who’s clearly vital to the villains’ plan, given the stink raised about his origins) alone and unguarded.  Terra, has all that hair gel started seeping into your brain?

--Terra heads to Disney Town --

*Headdesk count: 64

Why?  Just…why are you going here?  Okay, maybe Vanitas might be there, but this is not the world you want to go to right after Terra goes into angst mode and becomes the villain’s patsy.  Squeenix, you can’t have a character face his darkest hour and expect to keep a serious air when he goes here…

Meets this guy…

And decides to go kart-racing on his Keybike -- which he apparently decided to give a paint job.

People, are you starting to see a divide here?  Do you start to get the sense that the proceedings are bogus?  Kingdom Hearts is -- or was supposed to be -- a crossover between Disney worlds and Final Fantasy characters.  While the two have their similarities, you have to play up their strengths without one undercutting the other.  Birth by Sleep fails HARD at this. It tries to be serious and meaningful, but it’s impossible to have that when all the conflict is generated by contrivance and heavy-handedness.  These conflicts are all entirely preventable, and it’s made more obvious because the conflicts -- and these absurdly-haired characters -- are on the center stage.  The game, the supposed fusion of Disney and Squeenix, is overwhelmingly slanted to one side.   You’ve undercut one half of your crossover, Squeenix -- and now every time you try to introduce that other element, it undercuts you right back.

Urrrrrgh.  So Terra enters a race against Pete and wins, taking out the Unversed racers in the process.  Terra (I shit you not) learns a valuable lesson: you don’t have to bend the rules to win.  Thank you, Disney critters!  It’s not like those monsters based on negative emotions were doing any harm to your world’s well-being, and you could have cancelled the race so Terra could work on exterminating them and saving everyone so you WOULDN’T have any problems for the rest of your festival.  Hell, Terra could have just bashed them when they were all gathered in one place at the starting line.  Wouldn’t you have allowed that?  And why not raise objections when Terra starts sideswiping racers -- including the not-a-monster Pete -- off the track?

I would ask if we could get back to the plot now, but I’m afraid I won’t like what I see.

This is my "srsly?" face.

 --So after visiting Filler Town, Terra heads to Hercules’ world.  After saving Hercules (in his younger incarnation…even though he doesn’t need saving because, you know, super-strong, virtually invincible demigod), Terra decides to enter the coliseum games -- gladiatorial combat, in a nutshell -- to see if he’s gotten any better at controlling the darkness inside him.  You would think that Terra would realize that it’s only when he’s fighting that the darkness comes out, and therefore he would reason that maybe instead of fighting more, he should stop fighting and go into a long period of training, mediation, and self-reflection to put his corrupted heart at ease.  But then again…

--Terra talks with Hades, Lord of the Dead without batting an eyelash, suggesting that Terra use the darkness inside him to his advantage.  Ignoring the fact that Terra is getting all buddy-buddy with a villain again (and that this shit is getting real old), I have to wonder: what role does Hades play in all this?  Did Vanitas or Mr. X show up and tell him, “Hey, there’s a doofus in golden samurai pants heading your way, so screw with his head a little”?  If so, why?  Terra’s already following Mr. X’s orders, and it’s likely he doesn’t need any more provoking.  If not, what’s Hades’ stake?   Hercules’ world doesn’t have a Princess of Heart, nor does it have any role to play in forging the Sword of MacGuffins χ-Blade (pronounced “key-blade” because lord knows THAT won’t get confusing) or this “Keyblade War” that makes Mr. X’s trousers tighten up.  So…what’s the point of this world?

--Oh, right.  A Final Fantasy cameo!  And what a surprise -- Zack from FF7 makes his return!  Except Squeenix revealed that Zack would be in months before it came out.  Smart.  Anyway, Terra manages to bash Unversed without using the darkness (which he’s been doing since the game’s start), so Hades brainwashes Zack and has him go to town on Terra, spiky-hair to spiky-hair.  Hades suggests that this the power Terra could have if he gives himself to the darkness -- made notable as Zack goes boosh-boosh-boosh all over Terra -- and wants him to let loose…except that Zack clearly doesn’t have a shred of darkness inside him, and Hades brainwashed him and bolstered his power to get Terra riled up.  Dammit Hades, this is worse than that time you got trapped under a box because you were following a trail of candy.

Anyway, Terra wins and learns a valuable lesson: the ones who judge if you’re a hero are the people who receive your acts of patronage.  It’s a lesson that would have had a bit more impact if Squeenix had bothered to use an asset besides the empty arena from KH1.  But as noted by YouTube commenters, at least you get to see empty stands with ghosts cheering at you.

--While travelling through space, Terra gets pulled aboard a passing ship -- one that Disney fans might know as the ship from Lilo and Stitch.  He gets taken captive, but breaks out because of -- what else? -- Unversed.  Amidst the ruckus, he comes across an imprisoned Dr. Jumba.  Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Lilo and Stitch, so I’m not 100% familiar with this guy’s story.  Fortunately, the internet has this to say:

“A self-proclaimed ‘evil genius.’
He was imprisoned for illegal genetic experimentation to make the mightiest creature in the galaxy: Experiment 626, whose only instinct is to destroy everything he touches.
He keeps his other creations besides 626 close at hand, in pod form.

Uh…huh.  Well, at least Dr. Jumba won’t oust himself as a villain who, by his own admission, created a living weapon of mass destruction.  Oh, he did?  Well, not like it matters; he’s imprisoned, so he’s already pretty much guilty.  Oh wait, no he isn’t.  Terra’s busting him out and travelling alongside him.

*Headdesk count: 296


I…I can’t take this world anymore.  Terra says “you tricked me”, boss fight, Stitch’s heart grows three sizes, Terra remembers his friends, end scene.  Christ…

--Okay, so Terra heads to Neverland and saves Captain Hook and Smee from Unversed.  Fair enough.  Captain Hook isn’t THAT obnoxiously evil, and from what I can gather all he cares about is killing Peter Pan, not any of Mr. X’s plans.  It’s made pretty obvious when he’s about ready to abandon Terra on the spot, leaving behind his pirate’s chest.  He makes an offhand reference to Smee about light, prompting Terra to ask about the light.  And then, with a fiendish smirk, Hook dupes Terra into protecting his chest full of booty, saying that it’s full of light and Peter Pan’s out to nab it.  You would think that Terra would have wised up by now considering how many times he’s been duped so far, or suspect something’s up when a grown man is talking about harming a boy, or decide to see if the chest actually contains light since that’s a part of his mission, especially because he has a magic key that can unlock anything in the universe, which he’s been using on treasure chests littered across every world he’s visited.  But then again…

Terra fights Peter Pan, the treasure chest spills open revealing Hook’s booty (“I’ve been tricked!” Terra gasps), Terra fights Unversed, to save Pan and pals, Terra learns a lesson about friendship and precious things, Terra leaves.  I suspect that he’s forgotten this lesson the moment he realizes it’s been too long since he’s been to the salon.

And with that, Terra -- or rather, the player -- has no more reason to visit the Disney worlds to continue our idiot hero’s story.  Splendid.

--Terra -- for some ill-explained reason -- is drawn to the Destiny Islands, better known as the first level from KH1.  He runs across a Paopu Fruit, remembering how Aqua made these…

Beforehand.  (I’m still sore that you blew her off, Terra.)  While there, he meets a young Riku -- the main rival of Sora in KH1.  Sensing Riku’s potential -- and holding a conversation with a five-year-old with ten times his brainpower -- Terra decides to make Riku the successor to inheriting his Keyblade.

"Hey there, champ.  Want a power miles beyond human understanding?"

And right here is where I have to pause.  It has nothing to do with the discrepancies it creates in the canon -- why Riku didn’t inherit the Keyblade, how there are suddenly thousands of them, why Terra would violate the Prime Directive and doom Riku to a life of mystic warfare, why Sora never brings up the fact that there’s some weird guy with a giant magical key talking to his pal (nice stealth there, Terra), why the door hidden in the area’s cave that’s been of some importance to Sora and Riku since hour one of KH1 isn’t even referenced -- but to make a comparison.  Ven is to Sora as Terra is to Riku.  A fair parallel.  The only issue is that, as far as I’m concerned, Riku is leagues ahead of Terra in terms of likability.  And intelligence, but that’s not saying much; a paper bag could outdo Terra at a spelling bee.

Riku’s brazen.  Rebellious.  Antagonistic, but (at first) in a joking, brotherly way.  He knows what he wants, and goes after it.  Apparently, having any sort of ambition in this series makes you evil, so it isn’t long before Riku starts playing on the dark side of the fence.  But Unlike Terra, who mopes about because there’s black and purple mist that shrouds him when he gets mad, Riku uses the darkness to his advantage.  Yep, that’s right: a fifteen-year-old kid who barely even knew the concept of a Keyblade can outdo a candidate to be a Keyblade Master.  What’s more, he’s not using the darkness so he can win a fight; he’s using it for an acceptable, identifiable goal.  He’s doing it so he can save his girl Kairi.

Does Riku do stupid things too? Yep.  He, too, decides to partner up with Maleficent, doing her dirty work and teleporting all over the Disney realms.  But I suspect he’s a lot more aware that Maleficent isn’t his friend; it’s even shown that he doesn’t trust or respect her, telling her off when she gets too close.  It’s clear that he knows what he’s doing is risky, but -- in his own words -- “I’m not afraid of the darkness!”  He’s pragmatic, and much more proactive in achieving his kindhearted goal -- even if that means he has to get his hands dirty.   (It’s certainly more than Sora’s doing.)

But more importantly, Riku has something that Terra doesn’t: charisma.  I don’t want to meet the person who’d argue that Riku isn’t a douche, but he’s spirited enough to make you forget that.  To make you realize that you wouldn’t mind if you played as him instead.  He’s much more expressive and emotional, with motions that exude both passion and confidence.  When he calls Sora out, you think “But you’re on the wrong side!” as you should…and on the other hand you think “Shoot, maybe he has a point.”  You’d think that a moral gray area would be impossible to have in a world that’s half-Disney, but Riku pulled it off a full ten years ago.  Things eventually spiral out of control for Riku (naturally), but you know that he had good intentions.  You identify with him, and feel for him.  You almost think of his descent as tragic, and you feel for him when he tries to redeem himself -- an action taken for Kairi, Sora, and the worlds. 

I’ve seen rocks with more personality than Terra.  Most of his animations -- in a game heavily dependent on its animations -- are spent looking grimly at the ground/his hands/his shoes to make sure they’re tied, or showing flashes of anger.  He smiles maybe three times over the course of the game.  His voice acting makes him sound like he’s just gotten out of bed for ninety percent of the game, with the only highlights being when he’s fighting or getting angry.  In a game where you contract Mark Hamill and Leonard Nimoy to voice side characters, you would hope that the absolute one character that Squeenix has to put some serious coin into getting right is one of the three playable characters.  And that hope would be betrayed, stepped on, and given the good-old behind-the-toolshed treatment.

His character arc bounces around more than Tigger on a sugar high.  His dream is to be a Keyblade Master (for…some reason), but screws it up.  When given a chance to redeem himself and earn Eraqus’ favor, he faffs about kart-racing and freeing alien terrorists.  He’s wary of the darkness, but can’t decide on whether he wants to contain it, use it, or remove it.  His friends alternate between being important to him to distractions to people he can never associate with again.  He has yet to learn a single thing from any of his experiences thus far, from “don’t trust obvious villains” to “don’t go out on your own and do something stupid.”  Terra’s tragedy -- and you know it’ll end in tragedy because Squeenix already spoiled it -- lacks intrigue or impact because his actions create pointless conflict.  He’s not appealing in the slightest, and we know he’s going to die anyway so there’s no point in getting too attached.

I don’t -- I CAN’T -- care about this character at all.

*Headdesk count: 623

--Mr. X tells Terra to get his ass in gear and head back to Keyblade HQ; Ven has just figured out his dark origin, and now he’s heading to HQ “with a look of rage in his eyes” presumably to wreck Eraqus.  (Untested Keyblade n00b versus Master Keyblade samurai warrior and the trio’s teacher…yeah, Eraqus is screwed.)  Terra makes it back just in time to stop Eraqus before he stomps Ven into powder, and in order to stand against his master Terra taps into the power of darkness.  It ends about as well as you’d expect: Terra beats Eraqus so badly the old man’s left enfeebled -- enfeebled, and left with remorse.  Suddenly, Mr. X shoots Eraqus in the back and kills him, making him vanish before Terra can even hold the master in his arms.  With the last hero of light gone (I guess there really were only four members of the organization), Mr. X shrouds Keyblade HQ in darkness and calls Terra out to the Keyblade Graveyard.  You would think that at this point Terra would stop trying to be the Lone Ranger and team up with Ven and Aqua, mostly because he utterly fucking sucks at this hero business and FINALLY realizes that he needs someone to babysit him before he bashes the good guys to death.  But then again…

--All right, let’s wrap this shit up.  Terra heads to the Keyblade Graveyard, giving pause only to admit to the approaching Aqua that he should have been watched and contained this whole time.

*Headdesk count: 2,875

As Ven emerges, so too do Mr. X and Vanitas, and things play out just as they did in that video…only in a radically inferior graphics engine.  Riveting.  With Ven frozen and Aqua tending to him, Terra takes on Vanitas and Mr. X in a two-on-one battle; Vanitas bails to fight Ven and create the Sword of MacGuffins.  Terra has to fight off Mr. X on his own, and -- at the recommendation of Mr. X -- summons more darkness to fight.  You know, the same darkness that his master warned him not to use yet has decided to use anyway, thereby spitting on his grave, all because the person he’s actively trying to kill AND the person who conned him out of a family and home, told him to.  Terra, you…you know what “learning” is, right?

*Headdesk count: 5,289

--Terra uses the power of darkness to win the fight, just as Mr. X planned.  Mr. X sends his heart into Terra’s now-corrupted body and takes over it, becoming…”Terranort” or something.  Basically just a tan Terra with white hair and yellow eyes.  But -- surprise!-- Terra’s somehow still alive, takes over his armor, engages in what looks like a cheap-ass boss fight, wins, and…doesn’t get his body back.  There’s just a huge explosion, Terranort’s unconscious, Terra crouches down and plants his Keyblade into the ground, and looks primed to spend the rest of his days atop a plateau.  His last words?

“Aqua…Ven…someday, I’ll make this right.”

*Headdesk count: 9,999

No you won’t, Terra.  No you won’t. 

You could have made this right at any given turn.  You could have realized something was amiss and reported back to your real master, or your comrades.  You could have used some common sense, or any level of reasoning that a toddler already enjoys, and put an end to this.  You could have thought less about yourself and how to control your darkness, or how to get your title, and more about others -- and the effects of your actions.   You could have been this deep, flawed, tragic character who started off as a champion of light, but due to powers beyond your control fell into darkness.

But you didn’t.  All you had to do -- all your creators had to do -- was think.  With just five minutes, or even one minute of thought, you could have created a thoughtful, meaningful conflict -- AND have come up with a bittersweet yet satisfying answer to any problems you faced. 

But you didn’t.   You didn’t think at all.  And now we know that all the problems the KH universe faces -- the Heartless, the Nobodies, Xehanort, every last bit of it -- was because of one idiot who couldn’t think.

You would think that an entire franchise couldn’t be sullied by a single character and his moronic misadventures -- that the joy and whimsy couldn’t be wrecked by one character’s angst and ineptitude.  You would think that one character couldn’t signal the end of what made the original game so great, to be replaced by drivel and fancy particle effects.  You would think that, for a franchise that popularized the song “Simple and Clean” that it would keep an air of charm and refreshment so needed amongst games today -- a beckoning to a brighter, happier time in our collective childhood.  But then again…

*Headdesk count: 10,000

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