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May 17, 2012

Kingdom Hearts: Much Ado About Roxas



I finished Kingdom Hearts 1 a few days ago with something very near a smile on my face. 

I acknowledge that it’s not the greatest game ever.  It has its fair number of faults, in its story and especially in its gameplay (which I’ll get to soon, as part of the retrospective).  Its worlds can inspire either wonder or an overwhelming desire to find the nearest steel wall to bash your head against.  But for what it’s worth, KH1 has aged surprisingly well -- much better than I would have expected.  So when I saw that final scene, with Sora, Donald and Goofy chasing after Pluto down a sunny road with smiles on their faces, I thought to myself, Yeah.  Yeah, this is all right.

KH1 has its flaws.  But it’s the ability of a good game -- no, a good story -- to leave you eager to praise it in spite of its faults.  It’s something along the lines of its net worth; add the positives and negatives together, and if you come out positive in the end, you’ve made a profit in enjoyment.  And overall, KH1 made a huge profit in my book.

So yeah.  I was feeling pretty good about the game.  But at the same time, there was a great sense of dread knotting up in my stomach.  I knew that I had to be fair and impartial.  I knew that if I gave one game a chance, I’d have to do the same for another.

And so, not five minutes after finishing KH1, I reset the PS2, took out the disk, and slid the next trial into the tray.

Kingdom Hearts 2, I thought, swallowing hard.  How bad could it be?

More than Three Hours of Gameplay Later...


Why?  Just…why? 

I know I’m not the greatest authority on the KH series.  That honor belongs to either the creators themselves (spearheaded by the infamous Tetsuya Nomura, as I understand it), or the dedicated super-fans who are hard at work analyzing and decoding the series’ secrets and mythos at this very moment.  So what I say next -- in case there’s anyone that needs reminding -- I say purely as my opinion, based on my observations and understanding of the games I’ve played and seen.

Sora symbolizes everything that’s right with Kingdom Hearts -- and by extension, the developer Square-Enix.  Roxas -- every version of him, with memories, without memories, as Ventus, and all of his spiky-haired friends -- symbolizes everything that’s wrong with Kingdom Hearts and Square-Enix. 


Before I get too ahead of myself, take a look at this snippet from an interview between GameInformer and Nomura on the subject of Kingdom Hearts 3D:

GameInformer: What do you say to the segment of Kingdom Hearts fans that believes the increasingly complex storyline of Kingdom Hearts stands at odd with the child-focused Disney element of the franchise?

Nomura: First of all, this series is not intended to be child-focused, and so the complexity of the story is purposefully made prominent. That being said, with a series being around so long, there are a few items I have in mind so that a wider audience range can enjoy the experience. For the time being Dream Drop Distance, there is a new function called Mementos, and in the section called Chronicles, the player can read a summary on each of the titles from the Kingdom Hearts series. Whether you are just starting out or you have played all the games before and need a refresher, it has all of the key information summarized.

…All right, let’s take this step by step.

One: “This series is not intended to be child-focused…”  Keep in mind that you owe half of your product to Disney, which THRIVES on appealing to children.

Two: Even if you aren’t focusing on children -- which is fine -- bear in mind that Disney is more than capable of being mature and deep (not just dark, mind you) in spite of its colors and big eyes. 

Three: “…And so the complexity of the story is purposefully made prominent.”   Making a story complex doesn’t automatically make it more mature and appealing to the teenage audience; it just makes it more confusing.  There’s a difference.

Four: By the sound of things, it’s almost as if the series’ intention is to alienate children.  Why would you even do that?  A cartoon dog and a cartoon duck are two of the series’ most prominent characters!

Five: Don’t make the complex story prominent if it means nixing what made the franchise in the first place: a fusion between Disney and Final Fantasy, a mix between West and East.  Why disrupt that increasingly-overtaxed balance?

Six: Likewise, don’t make the complex story prominent if you can’t even get the basics of storytelling and toddler-level reasoning right.  I don’t think I need to remind anyone of Terra’s “plot” in Birth by Sleep.

Seven: Better yet, why make the story complex at all?  Every new game adds a dozen more questions and complications; I sincerely doubt that people enjoy making forty-page summaries of your franchise explaining how six people can all be the same guy.

Eight: I like how the rest of Nomura’s answer shifts the focus to how he intends to have summaries included in-game.  A shame you can’t just weave those into the game’s narrative naturally.  But hey, Datalogs worked so well for Final Fantasy XIII.  There wasn’t a single person out there who hated having to stop the story, open the menu, and read about an element that should have been explained in one of the five hundred cutscenes.  

The masters of logic.

There’s a notable schism that started up in Kingdom Hearts 2.  It’s at that point where it starts to feel less like a Disney/FF fusion; the balance starts to teeter too far on the side of the pretty boys and absurd plots, rather than the whimsy and high spirits of the original.  Birth by Sleep is a pretty prominent example, given that Donald and Goofy are banished to the status of cameo roles, and the spiky-haired leads get to revel in angst and bad decisions.  But again, this trend was made clear as early as the Game Boy Advance release, Chain of Memories and codified for all the PS2 owners with the debut of KH2.

His name is Roxas.  And it’s his multi-hour escapade that very, very nearly made me shut off the game forever.

Okay.  Before I pick this kid apart, let’s see if we can reach a common ground.  There are at least three points, I think, we can all agree on when it comes to making a good character.  1) A good character should be interesting in some capacity -- i.e. they should have some charisma whether they’re good or evil.  2) A good character should have some effect on the plot, ranging from slight (like affecting another character) to substantial (like completely shifting the story in a new direction).  3) A good character should develop in accordance with the challenges he/she faces; if the character doesn’t have enough time to do so, then at the very least he/she should be put though meaningful trials. 

Over the course of three hours, Roxas fails at all three of these.  It’s incredibly jarring, especially if you’ve come to his part right after finishing KH1 (or just have fond memories of the first title).  It’s even MORE jarring when you finish Roxas’ prologue and start Sora’s story -- the main story -- in earnest.  I never would have considered it before starting this retrospective, but now I have a much greater appreciation for Sora and what he offered to Kingdom Hearts…which only helps highlight how utterly backwards Squeenix got it with Roxas.

So.  Once more, let’s take this step-by-step.

Good.  Stay just like that -- you look like you're facing the firing squad.  I like that.

Point 1: An Interesting Character
Sora’s Take
I’ve mentioned this in passing, but if there’s one thing that KH does well, it’s those over-the-top animations.  The power or the PS2 -- even as early as 2001-- was tapped by Squeenix’s much-adored predecessor Squaresoft to make some impressive facial animations.  It was tech used to great effect in Final Fantasy X, but I looked forward to KH’s cutscenes just to see the faces shift about.  A shame that it was a bit of a rare occurrence in the original game (replaced with some generic mouth flaps), but when the characters got to emote, man oh man did they emote.  Was it realistic?  Not a chance.  At times, their eyes, eyelids, mouths, cheeks and chins acted more like Flubber than human faces…and that was the point.  It was a stylistic choice.  It was to convey emotion, in the same way that a Disney movie would.

Sora’s the prime example.  In the first game’s opening, you get to see the look of terror on his face as he’s absorbed by darkness.  But you also get to see him smile like a goof, pout when he loses a contest, and look longingly toward his would-be girlfriend Kairi.  And all that gets taken up to eleven in KH2.  Not only are there more chances to show off his facial expressions, but his body language has evolved as well.  Based on his posture and the motion of his arms, even if you were to mute your TV you’d know when he’s goofing off, getting angry, acting brazen, or being the idiot we all know and love.  (Incidentally, Sora seems to have gotten a bit more aggressive going from the first game to the second…but I guess sleeping for a year and having pent-up puberty-bred hormones stewing inside you might cause a few imbalances here and there.)

"Let's go on an adventure, gu- GET ME CHEETOS, NOW!"

But beyond those superficial details, I’m convinced that KH is at its best when Sora, Donald, and Goofy are on the center stage.  They’re THE heroes of the story.  They’re THE trio we’ve been following since the start.  They’re THE characters we’ve grown to love.  Everything just clicks into place when they’re around; you feel the whimsy and sense of adventure you’re supposed to feel by exploring the Disney worlds.  It’s only exacerbated when you realize that Sora, naïve doofus that he is, fulfils his role perfectly.  He’s a stand in; his life is essentially what ours would be like if we lived in Disney World and spent every waking moment gallivanting about.  He’s always so excited when he sees new worlds and new experiences.  He’ll gladly throw himself into the fray even if it means violating the series’ Prime Directive (not like anyone cares) -- and defend the sanctity of the worlds.  Even if there are bad guys stomping about and his old pals are MIA, Sora keeps the angst to a minimum and his childish wonder at maximum.  He’s a fun character to be around -- AND he surrounds himself with fun characters.

There’s a lot to love about this kid.  A whole lot.

 Roxas’ Take
So Roxas --

Hold on, I need to smoke about seven million cigarettes.

So Roxas is the starting character of KH2.  Everybody knows that; before the game came out, I was one of the wide-eyed speculators, gathering as much info as I could to try and figure out just who the BHK (Blonde-Haired Kid) was supposed to be.  As it turns out, it didn’t matter nearly as much as I expected…but I’ll get to that later.

Point-for-point, Roxas’ three hours help establish him as Sora’s opposite in the worst ways possible.  Whereas Sora’s animations convey a slew of emotions, Roxas’s animations show him being uncertain, confused, gloomy, and downcast for all but five or six instances.  His motions are a lot more sedate.  Even his theme is depressing.  Compare his theme to Sora's theme...



And suddenly, you’ve got a good excuse to contemplate writing some awful poetry (which, incidentally, is the only qualifier for being a Squeenix writer).

There’s a huge difference between Sora and Roxas.  See, they have very different motivations; whereas Sora’s eager to get out there and explore the world, Roxas is right where he wants to be.  He doesn’t want to move or change or push his horizons as far as they’ll go.  He just wants to hang out with his friends and laze around town.  This is the complete opposite of everything the series stands for.  Why would you even create this character if you’re going to contradict everything your franchise has established up to this point?

Similarly, Roxas’ friends are incredibly disappointing.  Rather than partner him up with some other Disney characters, players get to spend three hours with Hayner, Pence, and Olette.  Pence and Olette are essentially the same person (except one’s fat and the other’s a girl), while Hayner  is the biggest shitstain of a teenager since The Breakfast Club’s John Bender…well, minus the roguish charm, wit, backstory, or hairstyle that doesn’t make me want to punch through a rhinoceros.  What do they add to the story?  In the case of “You are defined by the company you keep,” do they help develop Roxas?  Well, if you ever wanted three hours telling you “They’re friends!” or “Summer vacation’s almost over!” then have I got the game for you.

Dammit, if I have to bring back the Headdesk Counter…I already broke the damage cap, what more can I do?

Point 2: Effect on the Plot
Sora’s Take
He’s the hero of the entire series.  What the hell else do you need?

…Okay, that’s not entirely fair.  See, all throughout my playthrough of KH1 I’ve had a niggling thought in the back of my head.  He’s the main character, but is he really the hero?  With the advent of Birth by Sleep (urrrrgh), the once-almighty Keyblade in his possession is just one of thousands out there, and can be wielded by masters, villains, and idiots alike.  Sora had his Keyblade temporarily hijacked by his rival Riku.  His top priority in the first two games, arguably, was finding his friends and getting back to Destiny Islands; he just happened to wreck whatever villains got in his way.  Recent events in the series may be pushing him toward being the chosen one or some sort of messiah figure (as JRPGs are wont to do), but I prefer to think of him as a normal kid who got pulled out of his element, and is just taking on baddies as they come.

He's also an ultra-hardcore Rock-Paper-Scissors champion.

It’s not like he bears any ill will towards any of the villains he meets.  Even the series’ greatest villains, like Ansem (Ansem, Seeker of Darkness) and Maleficent are just enemies he’ll face as they come.  When he starts going up against Pete in KH2, there’s an almost playful element to their interactions.  Even against Organization XIII, he’s decidedly mellow.  He knows they’re baddies and he has to stop them, but he never devolves into base rage.  He still keeps the same general air about him.

That’s not to say he’s 100% predictable and clueless.  Partly, yes, but not entirely.  Sora will show that he’s been paying attention to what’s going on around him, and can surprise players with a few deft moves.  Stabbing himself in the heart with an evil Keyblade is one example, but getting down on his hands and knees in front of a villain is another, and a pretty telling moment about his character.  His motivations are simple, and his character by extension, but he’s actively pursuing a goal.  He’s moving toward something every step of the way.  And given that, how can you hate him for it?

Roxas’ Take
Roxas, as a lot of you know, is essentially Sora.  More specifically, Roxas is the physical refuse left behind when Sora decided to shove a dark Keyblade into his heart to save Kairi, turning himself into a Heartless.  What he didn’t realize was that with that deed, Roxas emerged and…went somewhere…and became a member of the villainous Organization XIII -- and because he was part-Sora, he could use the Keyblade for the sake of evil.  (Or anti-heroism, as it were.)  Anyway, Sora had to go into hibernation so Organization XIII could have their ace in the hole, Namine (Kairi’s physical refuse, or…something) screw with Sora’s memories and transfer them and their power into Roxas or…something…meaning that Roxas could do 100% of what Sora could do -- at least, until a year later when Namine started putting Sora’s memories back and Roxas lost his memories for…some reason…meaning that he had to stop existing and give Sora back his power -- from wielding the Keyblade to his very body.  Or…something.

“First of all, this series is not intended to be child-focused, and so the complexity of the story is purposefully made prominent.” 


You spend your fair share of time (three hours…) with Roxas.  But all the while, there’s a feeling of insincerity to the proceedings.  Roxas is so far removed from the events of KH1 -- Sora, Kairi, Riku, Donald, Goofy, King Mickey, and every character and world previously introduced -- that players are just counting the seconds till they get their hands back on the real hero.  Even the game doesn’t really take him seriously; Roxas’ prologue has about a dozen flashbacks to events from KH1.  It’s a refresher course and a necessary evil, but it cheapens Roxas as a character.  “Hey, remember all that stuff?” the game asks you.  “Don’t worry!  You’ll be continuing that awesome adventure soon enough!  Just keep doing repetitive minigames and meandering tasks until it’s time for Sora to wake up!”  The most we learn about Roxas as a character is that he likes sea salt ice cream and watermelon (and depending on how you interpret one scene, isn’t into girls).

But as a member of Organization XIII, surely he’s one of the most important characters around!  Given the hype surrounding him pre-release, you’d think that’d be the case…and yet, I can’t think of a single instance where Roxas manages to do anything besides be a passing reference.  After his prologue, he disappears and becomes a part of Sora.  Sure, you’ll see scenes where his body’s superimposed atop Sora’s, and there’s a scene early on where he uses Sora’s body to cry, but are there any lasting effects on the plot?  Ehhhhhhhh…I admit, I’m not done with my KH2 playthrough, but even then I doubt that’d change much.  Here’s what I remember most:

A) Axel, Roxas’ Organization buddy, hatches a plan to try and bring him back.  It doesn’t work.

B) The other Organization members see Sora, yet sense Roxas -- even calling him out by name.  Naturally, this has no effect on Sora.

C) Late in the game, Sora and Roxas fight inside…Sora’s…heart or something (only in a cutscene, of course -- unless you’ve got the Final Mix version).  Sora wins, and Roxas fades out again.  I sincerely doubt Sora even knows who he just fought.

D) In the game’s last cutscene, Roxas (still inside Sora) reunites with Namine (now inside Kairi).  They smile, and…roll credits.

Seriously, what was the point of this character?  Besides giving the writers fuel for more byzantine plot twists and Nomura another hairstyle to draw?

Clearly he needed the practice.

Point 3: Development
Sora’s Take
This is where things get a little dicey.  Sora’s story arc as a whole is incomplete; so long as Squeenix keeps pumping out KH games -- at least those that matter to the canon -- they can change and add to Sora as much as they like.  The kid who started out as a happy-go-lucky loser is quickly becoming something of an angelic figure of justice and hope.  (I personally prefer him when he’s not treated like a holy little snowflake, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

In my perfect world, there would be only one KH game.  Sora starts out as a dumb kid who has his hopes and dreams, but still remains naïve to a fair number of proceedings and just can’t quite get what he wants most (the love of Kairi, respect from Riku, proving to that mysterious cloaked figure that he actually knows junk).  I’d argue that the main force behind his evolution as a character is “perseverance” -- only by continuing his travels can he become stronger, wiser, and more capable of protecting his friends.  He’s exactly the kind of kid you’d expect to see in a Disney movie -- someone who’s good at heart, but just a little short of the gold and thus in need of “learning a valuable lesson.”  By the story’s end, he’s made it there, even managing to throw Ansem’s line (“One who knows nothing can understand nothing”) right back in his face like a lemon pie.

Where does that put Sora for the second game?  For the sake of argument -- and because I haven’t played or seen it -- let’s leave Chain of Memories aside for now.  Let’s focus entirely on KH1 and KH2.  Does Sora “go anywhere” as a character?  Ehhhhhhhh…yeah, I guess.  In KH1 it was downplayed, but if asked you could probably draw a line from Starting Sora to Finished Sora and have them end up in different places.  In KH2 it’s also downplayed, but for a different reason -- Sora’s already had his lesson learned, and his powers gained.  He’s already been put through his paces.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t any more challenges left for him, because there are; he’s just more suited to the proceedings than he was before, taking it all in stride, bashing enemies as they come, and making sure to leave time at the end of every world to have a group laugh that wouldn’t be out of place at the end of an episode of Full House.    He’s still an enjoyable character to follow -- even more so in KH2 than 1 -- but he gets fewer chances to shine as a result of the overall weaker events of the sequel.  Yes, I'm declaring that KH1 is better than KH2.


Hear me out before you consider kicking down my door.  In the original, Sora had to contend with Riku, his foil in plenty of ways: Riku was stronger, smarter, and more dedicated to saving Kairi, but was far more willing to play with the wrong crowd to get what he wanted.  There was an air of desperation around Sora’s search, knowing that the Heartless were consuming worlds like cupcakes, and that his friends were MIA and therefore in grave danger.  The Disney villains put Sora and company to work, proving themselves to be a constant threat -- along with Riku (naturally) and the true enemy Ansem.

In the sequel, Sora has to contend with Organization XIII…a group that, thanks to events in Chain of Memories, has had its numbers effectively cut in half.  He doesn’t even remember them thanks to Namine, so why should we care about them?  Why should we consider the group a threat when the most we see of all but three of them are their introductions, seeing them screw around in the Disney worlds, and the boss fight when they get killed by Sora?  Kairi’s safe and waiting at home for Sora -- at first -- so she’s in no danger (which begs the question why he didn’t check up on her from the outset).  All that’s left is to find Riku and King Mickey -- and by the halfway point, just Riku.  Sora’s out on another journey, but without any real sense of adversity or threat, it’s hard for him to have any sort of evolution.

That said, Sora’s still leaps and bounds above Roxas.

Roxas’ Take
I’ve heard that Roxas’ story isn’t quite done in the context of the franchise (the fact that he’s gotten a spinoff game, has a copy of him appear in another game, and was so blatantly wormed into promotions for KH2 are all proof enough).  But again, if we focus on the context of this game, what does he add?  How does he change?  What does he go through?

Roxas, I’d argue, goes through negative character development.  In my ideal world, character development should have a hero start off at one level and through certain events come out on a higher plateau by the end.  Of course, that’s not the only form of it out there; The Dark Knight had Harvey Dent go from a sharply-dressed ally of justice with a mean streak to the villainous, self-justifying Two-Face.  Shakespeare’s Richard III seems to have everything under control in accordance with his plans, but ends up falling apart by the end (and, you know, dead).  Those two aren’t what I’d call heroes, but their story arcs are satisfying, thoughtful, and most of all complete.

Pictured: beautiful storytelling.

Roxas’ isn’t satisfying, thoughtful, or complete.  Most of his time is spent looking grim and reticent, wondering what’s going on in spite of the obvious futility.  Answers to his origin’s questions are either underwhelming or danced around during his three hour prologue.  The charm and charisma you’d expect from the series -- either from the Disney-infused surroundings or its oddly-coiffed lead -- are absent, replaced by a teenager contemplating his ultimately pointless origin.  Sora is the hero of the story -- don’t waste our time trying to make us feel sympathetic about a character you yourselves can’t be arsed to make interesting.

You could argue that we don’t need a full game to get the full dish on what makes Roxas special -- and on that note, I’d agree.  You can do a lot with three hours of storytelling time.  Movies can start and end in that time, and you can have a decided understanding and appreciation for its characters.  You’ve seen their struggles, you’ve seen their enemies, you’ve seen their stakes, and you’ve seen their changes, either subtle or overt.  What does Roxas struggle against?  Trying to prove to Hayner that they’re still friends just because he got spotted within five feet of the local tough guy?  Who are his enemies?  Cannon fodder enemies, a guy introduced in the Game Boy Advance game, and someone who won’t appear in the main plot for dozens of hours (and uses this time to give cryptic advice)?  What are his stakes?  Trying to figure out what’s going on so he could go back to life as a teenager shooting the breeze with his friends?  That would work in any other game or story.  In Kingdom Hearts -- in a game BUILT on exploring new worlds and meeting new people -- it crashes harder than a Gummi Ship into an asteroid.

You would think that, even in such a small amount of time, Square-Enix would manage to give us some semblance of a character arc.  Something to latch onto, to convince us that those three hours weren’t pointless.  But they don’t.  Roxas starts as a gloomy sad-sack, and ends as a gloomy sad-sack prone to violence and lamenting his existence.  And then he disappears until roughly the last three hours of the game so he can lose to Sora.

Riveting.    

So what happens now?

Some bullshit about a sword made out of two giant keys, and -- no, no, not gonna get into that.

I need to switch subjects before I choke on my rage.

I don’t have a lot of love for Roxas.  Nor do I have any confidence if -- when -- Squeenix decides to properly bring him back into the series.  I’ll acknowledge that maybe he got something to make him more palpable in 358/2 Days, but that only makes me wonder why, in his grand debut, his only purpose was to try to earn the player’s pity (which he did, but for all the wrong reasons).  Was there anything related to Roxas that we absolutely HAD to know?  What makes him so special that he’s worthy of stealing the spotlight from Sora? 

What’s really depressing is that Roxas could have been a great character -- and a great character in the story’s main context, rather than flashbacks and side stories where it hardly even matters anymore.  Imagine if Roxas’ presence was more pronounced.  In a minor case, he could be trying to wrest control away from Sora, and return to his home in Twilight Town.  The two of them could clash against each other from within Sora’s heart, with Roxas posing questions and reasons Sora doesn’t have an answer to.Or consider this: make Roxas THE antagonist (or just barely below the second game’s Big Bad).  He could pursue Sora like the Dahaka from Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.    
 


Roxas could have been this vengeful, dedicated force on the villain’s side, ready to take what he thinks belongs to him.  You get a glimpse of the power he wields at the end of the prologue.  Imagine how dangerous he might be (and imagine how much he’d establish Organization XIII as a threat) if he used all those powers and more to try and take Sora’s power and heart as his own.  If your plan was to make the game darker, make a character who doesn’t go through the same arbitrary motions of friendship and peace.  Make him nastier, more cynical, more pragmatic -- all too eager to slice his way through Disney worlds to get what he wants.  Make him a force of nature that’d give even the lighthearted Sora pause.

Wishful thinking?  Sure.  There’s no sense in hoping for a story element that’ll never come.  We’ll just have to make do with what we have.  Right now, what we have is a delightful trio who make the franchise awesome -- a dynamic on the verge of being ignored and forgotten by Squeenix.  With any luck, they’ll pull it together of r the inevitable release of Kingdom Hearts 3.  Until then, I’m going to bide my time, and continue my playthrough of KH2.  Because luckily, at the very least, I managed to get past the prologue.

I will concede, however, that Roxas’ hair is infinitely less stupid than Sora’s.  

Oh Luxord...if only your hair was sillier, you'd have your own game.







6 comments:

  1. I wish I can say more on this topic, but I hadn't played any of the Kingdom Hearts games, and I can't really think of anything to say.

    But from what you present, you pretty much got it down pat. A character got to be interesting, have an effect on the plot, and develop.

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    1. Well thank you. I'd like to think that I know what I'm talking about every now and then, and NOT just resort to rambling about hot dogs.

      I still posit that KH1 is the best in the series, but I can't help but feel optimistic about the 3DS game coming out soon. (I might watch that on YouTube one of these days.) Hopefully it holds up, and hits the high notes of the original. I will say this about KH2, though: Donald and Goofy are more awesome than they've ever been. Seriously.

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  2. Rally late comment, but I must say this: that idea of Roxas being the antagonist? The game would have been better. He would have made a great, and sympathetic, villain. In the end he is just a guy who want his heart back, but it isn't really his to take. It would have been great, tragic, a little sad but above all it would have been excellent. Alas, it shall never be.

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  3. Hey, no worries about the late comment; this post has been one of the most popular on my blog since I first posted it. Hell, I'm pretty sure it's in the top ten right now -- if not the top five.


    In any case, looking back I think Roxas could have made a great antagonist, like I said. But at the same time, I think he could have made a good hero as well, or at least a foil or counterpart to Sora. He could have filled a role that Riku filled in the first game -- if not acting as a direct rival, then posing ideas for Sora that he didn't have an answer to. But whether he was a hero or villain, what Roxas needed most was "proximity"; he could have fit any role, and been used to establish any idea, any theme, or any threat. Sticking him in the first three hours and the last three hours of the game is NOT the way to do it.

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  4. I understand where you're coming from, and I agree with most of your points, eg. Roxas SHOULD have had more to do with the game. But the point of Roxas was the he was a nobody. He had no heart and was supposed to be emotionless. He's a reflection of the young Sora, the one who just wanted to get back with his friends to his home, except without his memories. its told in KH2 that riku captured him and put him in the Fake twilight town, and the he was rebelling against the organisation before hand. More of the game is built around him than you give him credit for. His prologue is actually ingenius, once you've played the full game. I agree, it was hard to get through the first time, and thats a problem, but his character was protreyed exactly as it should have been, and gave you questions to answer throughout the game.

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  5. Hmmm...yeah, I can see your point. I'll gladly give you that Roxas = young Sora, and Riku's involvement does offer a bit of significance. There's no mistaking that Roxas is a character with potential, and if my understanding of the rest of KH is right, then he's more important beyond the bounds of KH2.


    That all said...well, I respect your opinion and I'm glad you got some enjoyment out of him (and moreover, I'm glad you dropped in to read and comment), but I just can't bring myself to believe that Roxas in the context of KH2 is fully-formed. The intent is there, but I feel like his effectiveness has been hamstrung. I can buy that he was supposed to be emotionless, and it is a nice little commentary about the nature of a Nobody, but there's a problem. Just because you CAN make an emotionless lead -- emotionless, or empty, or whatever -- doesn't mean that you SHOULD. The game and its developers had three hours to sell Roxas as a character, and they couldn't; in contrast, KH1 sold Sora as a character in half the time, if that. In terms of who I'd consider more interesting, I'd pick Sora over Roxas every time.


    I'll acknowledge that there are plot-relevant mysteries behind Roxas, but with two caveats. First off, Roxas' mysteries are essentially wrapped up in the prologue: he's a Nobody, a rogue member of Organization 13, and he's a part of Sora. There's not much else to wonder about him, at least in my eyes; his story is wrapped up, and outside of the occasional glimpse (is he going to clash with Sora?) he's sidelined. Second, the game and its devs can't be bothered to tell Roxas' story -- even over the course of thirty to forty hours -- because this is Sora's story. It's not impossible to have them both share the spotlight, but it takes a little effort...and that effort is solely missing. And even when there IS effort, even when we're supposed to care for Roxas, I can't bring myself to. He's just not all that interesting.


    ...But all that is in my opinion. If you feel differently, that's great -- it's just that I've got to take a firm stand on this. Roxas is a divisive character, and by the sound of things we're on opposite sides of the fence. We can still be civil with each other, of course, but in terms of seeing eye to eye...well, I doubt that'll happen anytime soon.

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