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July 5, 2018

Kingdom Hearts III NEEDS A Goofy Movie World (Part 2)

Akihiko, you wanna take this one?

Ah, yes.  That’ll do.

It's been a while since the first post on the subject, so let’s not delay any longer.  I don’t expect there to be a world based on A Goofy Movie in Kingdom Hearts III, even if it gave Squeenix the “justification” to pack in some extra DLC.  So barring some miracle shot out of a cannon from Mount Olympus, getting that world is nothing but a fever dream.  But since we’re dealing with hypotheticals, the question remains: how do you do it?  How do you squeeze that world in?

Luckily, I have an answer.  Here’s how I would handle it if someone was brave enough…crazy enough…?  Well, something enough to toss me the keys.  Let’s get in there.

First things first: while it’s established in canon that A Goofy Movie starts off in “Spoonerville”, a not-insignificant chunk of the movie takes place outside it.  Given that, one viable name in-game would be “Open Road” as tribute to the similarly-titled song.  Second: it absolutely wouldn’t be the first place Sora and crew visit in-game.  Due to story reasons, it looks like Olympus Coliseum is up first in KHIII.  So ideally, this one would get slipped in somewhere in the middle of the game.  Possibly closer to the back half.

The real issue here is that we’re all in the dark on the game’s progression.  That is, will KHIII follow the first game’s example and make each world a one-shot experience?  Or will it be like KHII and have players visit each world twice?  I’m going to assume it’s the latter, because of the realities of modern-day game development and the need to reuse multi-million dollar assets to the fullest.  I’d prefer the first approach because it might give us a better shot at meaningful content, but for the sake of this post?  Aside from some modifications, I’ll follow the KHII style and split one adventure -- and vignette in the overarching story -- into two.

Here’s the setup.  Sora, Donald, and Goofy are riding along in the Gummi Ship, en route to their next destination (Open Road isn’t on the world map at the start; it’s just a generic gray bubble in the way of another world that’s fully revealed).  Sora’s at the helm, as always, but he gets antsy because their trip to the next world is taking too long.  To fight his boredom, he starts indiscriminately mashing buttons on the dashboard; Donald screams at him to stop, for fear that he’ll send the ship into a crash landing.  Naturally Sora ignores him, but stops once he discovers that the ship he’s been using for ages now (relative to however much time has passed in the KH universe, minus Sora’s year in cryosleep) can play music.

It ends up switching to a song Goofy likes, and he starts jamming along to it in his expected, dorky way.  Sora gives no shits.  He offhandedly declares the song “lame”, then switches to something different -- say, a punk rock remix of his main theme.  Goofy gets up and switches the song back.  Sora switches it back.  Goofy switches it back.  And they go at it again and again until, just like in the movie, the machine breaks and they’re left with no music.  

Sora’s about to mouth off at Goofy (parroting Max’s lines from the movie), but before he can finish, Goofy snaps at him first.  It’s uncharacteristic of Da Goof, and the outburst leaves the Gummi Ship completely silent.  Having realized how much he screwed up, Sora starts indiscriminately mashing buttons again -- and not only sends the ship into crash landing mode, but also ejects himself from the craft during atmospheric entry.  Relative to the “atmosphere” being a barrier for the Gummi Ship.  Space-time ceiling might also suffice.  In any case, Sora gets separated from the others and lands face-first in -- you guessed it -- Spoonerville.

Our hero bumbles his way into Max’s high school, and the jury rigged attempt at a Powerline concert.  Because this is a KH game, Sora has to stave off incoming Heartless while Max performs, and while PJ and Bobby run things backstage.  Despite their best efforts, though, Max can’t quite get the game-winning kiss with Roxanne.  A powerful Heartless -- let’s just say it’s an opera singing, fat lady valkyrie -- disrupts the school even further, thanks to the machinations of…I don’t know.  Let’s say Saix.  He seems like the type to hate children, love, and pop music.

Anyway, the most Sora and the boys can do is help everyone get out of the auditorium -- Roxanne especially.  Sora might be able to bash Heartless, but tussling with an enemy ace and an Organization member while keeping innocents safe is too much for him to handle alone, so in the end he’s forced to bail.  Once there’s some peace back in place, Max blabs to Roxanne that he’s going to be there onstage for the Powerline concert.  Roxanne buys into it, even though Max is just sweating over the massive lie he just told.  As she leaves, Sora reassures Max that things will work out.  How could they not?  Now that they’re friends (because of course they are), Sora makes it his personal mission to get Max to that concert.

Just two problems.  The first?  It feeds right into the Organization’s hands.  The second?  It runs counter to Goofy’s plans.

On the former case, Open Road has been a sort of testing ground for the Organization, through a campaign overseen by Saix.  It’s all in service of finding new, more efficient ways to harvest mass amounts of hearts in a single sweep, or at the very least manipulate them until they get the intended results (be it creating Heartless/Nobodies or spawning potential soldiers/cannon fodder for another Keyblade War).  To help him out, he’s got Demyx by his side, and --

Okay, real quick?  I don’t know if Demyx is back for the next game, and I kind of doubt he’ll return, but screw it.  This is a what-if scenario, and we’re gonna roll with it straight to the grave.

So Demyx is by his side, because he has a better understanding of what’s “hip” and “what kids want”.  True to form, Demyx wears his heart on his sleeve and is just as eager to have the Powerline concert as Max is to see it.  It kind of creates an “odd couple” dynamic between Saix and Demyx, a straight man/funny man routine so that, while simple and well-traveled territory, at least manages to characterize the Organization further by way of giving them more interactions.  So yes, Demyx is willing to support his superior officer Saix in his own snivelling way.  He’ll just be a pain in the ass about it.

But the guy gets results.  He succeeds in capturing Open Road’s version of Goofy, after all.

Unbeknownst to Sora, Saix wants to put the good guys into a lose-lose situation -- made possible by corrupting everyone in reach.  Manipulating the people’s consciousness via song (i.e. a darkness-infused version of Powerline’s music, thanks to Demyx acting as the shadow MC) could produce the results he’s looking for, up to and including another artificial Kingdom Hearts…just in case they need it.  

More pressingly, it’s a way to drive a wedge between the heroes.  Taint Sora’s heart through a combination of anger, doubt, frustration, and the like, and he might become a fresh new vessel.  Alternatively, taint Goofy’s heart so that he falls to darkness (which to be fair is pretty unlikely) and the unthinkable fallout from that, from one of Sora’s closest companions falling prey to evil, would then corrupt Sora.  Or just have them destroy each other from the inside out, paving the way for unimpeded progress towards the Seekers of Darkness’ goals.

So while Saix and Demyx work to infect the concert, Sora and Max head to the Goof house to get ready for the trip.  Sora thinks it’ll be a breeze to get there with the Gummi Ship, only to remember how it must have been trashed by a clumsy entry.  The thought of it makes him worry for his friends’ safety, and the worry only increases when he sees Open Road Goofy getting carted off into a dark portal by Demyx.  Max just so happens to miss the exchange, and inadvertently plays into the Organization’s hands.  Donald and KH Goofy show up, and Max mistakes the new guy for his dad in a different set of clothes.  Sora tries to correct him, only for Goofy to gleefully play his role as “dad”.  And because of it, he says it’s time for a road trip to Lake Destiny.

Donald says that it’ll take time for the Gummi Ship to be repaired (via self-repairs or transport back to Chip and Dale for maintenance, take your pick), so they’re stuck where they are now.  Once they learn the extent of the situation from Sora, Donald then says it’s best to try and rescue OR Goofy; the alternative means leaving Max without a father, though he’s wary of the fact that their meddling means a tussle with the Prime Directive again.  

Sora is firmly on Max’s side, so he says it’s best if they head for the concert and says (with shaky logic befitting an idiot like him) there’s a good chance OR Goofy will be there.  Yet Goofy is willing to shrug it all off and pretend like everything will be okay if they just head to Lake Destiny.  For reasons.  Dad reasons.  Inevitably, he slides into the role of Papa Goof, right down to donning his AU self’s clothes, and signaling for Sora and Donald to do the same.  (They oblige, which means they get to indulge in some sweet, sweet, mid-90s fashion.  RADICAL!  Or whatever.)  So with Goofy at the wheel, he, Sora, Donald, and Max all hit the road.

It’s here where the gameplay really starts to assert itself.  Sora and Max conspire against Goofy to dodge the crap out of Lake Destiny, so true to the movie, they make pushes (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) to divert towards the concert.  Basically, this means that choose the route you want under one condition: you have to prove your worth to Goofy by expertly handling the Heartless along the way.  Enemies will attack at specific points during the trip -- on the road, even, necessitating stops and rooftop battles -- and how well you’re able to overcome them determines what turns, if any, Goofy will decide you’re allowed to make.  (Side note: Max is a party member in this world, fighting with a skateboard a la Beat from The World Ends with You, and occasionally slipping into his Powerline costume for stronger attacks.)

If you’ve ever played a Platinum game, imagine the scoring/ranking system there and transpose it.  Earn top marks?  Then you can choose whatever route, pit stops, landmarks, and attractions you want.  There can also be progressively better treasures along the way -- BUT with a caveat.  While you can choose your route, you’re also choosing your difficulty and the strength of the enemies you face along the way.  It’s a risk-reward system where you can prove how much of a man you are to Goofy.

Crap, wrong movie.

In any case, Goofy acts well out of character by virtually ignoring Sora and Donald unless absolutely necessary -- and when he does acknowledge their existence, he treats them like his kids.  (That goes for Max, too; even if you’re getting platinum ranks, he’s still accidentally condescending to his “son”.)  Sora plays along at first, but as the trip wears on, he starts to get more and more frustrated with Goofy’s antics.  He even starts to call the dippy dog out on it, but Donald has to hold him back.  Notably, the pants-free duck comments on (and laments) the fact that he has to be the level-headed, responsible one for a change.  Why?  Well, for the moment he’s willing to stay tight-beaked on that subject.

It all comes to a head when the party reaches Lester’s Possum Park (an unavoidable event, to be sure).  Max gives Goofy a piece of his mind and storms off, as you’d expect.  Goofy’s distraught, only for Sora to lay into him in turn, and Donald to try -- and fail -- to play mediator.  To their surprise, Goofy lashes out too -- not with shouts or fury, but a level of gravity and fearsome tranquility that Sora didn’t even know his pal could make.  It’s such a turn that Sora’s taken aback.

It doesn’t last, though.  The Heartless attack and chase Max deeper into the…forest?  Swamp?  Fuck it, it’s a swamp now.  And the heroes have to chase after him before the Heartless do what they do best.  Too bad Saix is there to muck everything up.

Sora and the gang fight their way through the Heartless horde and catch up to Max, only for Saix to show up in the middle of the rescue op.  With everyone stressed beyond belief, Saix tries to coax the heroes -- and even nearby tourists -- to give into their negative feelings and let the darkness take over.  Sora rushes in to shut him up, but Saix shrugs off his attack while batting Donald and Goofy around.  Having given himself to the Xehanort bunch, the Organization baddie throws Ansem’s famous words in Sora’s face: “One who knows nothing can understand nothing.”  He chides Sora for thinking that everything will be okay as long as he smashes the bad guy, and doesn’t even realize how close he is to losing the hearts of his comrades.  

With his giant fuck-off sword-mace, Saix overpowers Sora again and again, and breaks through his puny defenses despite the Keyblade’s mystic might.  Just when it seems like he’s about to take a lethal blow, Max jumps in for a sneaky surprise attack that manages to throw him off-balance.  And piss him off, in tandem; he turns his lunar fury on the young Goof, pushing Sora and Goofy to simultaneously, in perfect sync, call out Max’s name and dash toward Saix to stop him.  And they do…briefly.  But he brushes them off again thanks to his lunacy.

Luckily, the gang gets a last-minute assist.  A gaudy RV comes barreling through and rams Saix out of his berserker rage…and into a tree.  Who’s their savior?  Why, none other than OR Pete.  True to form, he manages to be both a general asshole while simultaneously giving Goofy, Sora, Donald, and Max a pep talk.  They make good use of it.  BOSS FIGHT TIME!

Thanks to Sora and Goofy’s teamwork -- let’s say they use the Knocksmash Limit from KHII -- the heroes manage to push Saix back and force a retreat.  With the battle over and the Heartless receding for the moment, the gang manages to take a collective breath…only for Pete to cut the reprieve short.  Not only is he mad about the damage to his RV (which to be fair was probably just a ploy to get the Goof to pay for more tacky add-ons), but he rightfully calls out Goofy and Sora -- but mostly Goofy -- for failing to protect the boy.  

It’s the one thing that leaves Goofy heartbroken…but just in case you needed someone to push that knife a few inches deeper, Max steps into the scene and asks if he can ride with PJ and Pete for a while instead of continuing the road trip with Goofy.  Goofy obliges, on the grounds that -- however false -- Pete will take much better care of his “son”.  He slinks back into the park to be alone, leaving the others to pick up the pieces.

Some important details come out as a result.  PJ reveals that he has a ticket to the Powerline concert.  As does Pete.  As does Bobby.  As does Roxanne.  As does a huge chunk of the population of Spoonerville, and then some.  Not only is Max’s lie about to be exposed harder than any lie ever told before, but it’s clear that there’s something amiss -- especially since the tickets were free and just started showing up at random -- in hands, on tables, in the streets, and even from the sky.  It’s almost as if the Organization is up to something…

The bigger takeaway from this is the emotional impact.  Sora meets up with Goofy, who’s doing nothing but watching despondently as the broken animatronics cling desperately to un-life.  Despite his standard cheer and optimism, the words -- or meaningful ones, at least -- don’t come to Sora.  He doesn’t know how to cheer up Goofy.  That in turn triggers a realization: he doesn’t really know anything about one of his closest comrades.  He knows he’s a friend of Mickey.  He knows he’s a knight.  He knows he’s clumsy.  But what else?  He can’t help but draw a blank.  Maybe if he bothered to know or understand Goofy, it wouldn’t be a problem.  But he hasn’t.  He’s just been taking his support, and his presence, for granted.

Sora admits as much as he takes a seat next to Goofy.  In turn, Goofy gives him a pat on the back and says not to worry about it.  It’s not like he wanted Sora to know, he explains with a smile.  Before Sora can press him on what he means, Goofy says that they have more important things to worry about.  With the Gummi Ship long since repaired and Max in good hands (?), they’re free to take the fight to the Organization as needed (which gives players a chance to switch worlds if they want.)  Sora and Goofy head for the exit, but before they can leave, Goofy tells Sora not to worry about -- or mention -- the plight of the Open Road.  In order to preserve their journey full of smiles, they’ll act as if everything is fine.  Even if it isn’t.

Sora agrees -- and barely five seconds later, Goofy is (seemingly) back to his usual self, with a pratfall for good measure.  Because of it, Sora is back to his usual self, too.  Or at least a cheap version of it.  And with that, the first half of the Open Road draws to a close.  

What’s in the second half?  Well…

What’s going to happen now that there are so many Powerline tickets flying around?  What’s Goofy’s secret?  Will he ever be able to bond with his son?  Will Sora and Da Goof ever truly patch things up?  Can our heroes find the OR Goofy and save him from the depths of darkness?  Will I ever explain how Pete managed to deus ex machina his way into a supporting role?

You’ll find out…next time.  Except for that last part.  But this is Kingdom Hearts, so just roll with it for now.

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