In Defense of Yen Sid's Mark of Mastery Test (and some criticism)



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Grono

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Dream Drop Distance was released in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS, and the game itself brought us a lot of questions and plot holes that would go on to be analyzed in essay form thousands of times on this website. Of these questions, I want to give my hot take on one question that bothered me in particular when I started this game up: why the hell is Yen Sid's Mark of Mastery test so involved?

Now, while this question initially filled me with rage and confusion the more I thought about it, this actually makes more sense to me than it originally did, and there's one big reason why. You see, what I came to discover is this: Eraqus' test just wasn't very good.

Now, I'm not saying that Aqua didn't show some qualities of being a master initially, and I'm not saying that this concept didn't go unexplored towards the latter half of Birth by Sleep; it completely did. However, everyone that played Dream Drop Distance, for the most part, had this impression that Eraqus' test equaled good while Yen Sid's tests equaled frivolous exercises of character. But, why do we think that Eraqus' test did accomplish anything to begin with? When you think about it, the test consisted of them beating up enemies then sparring each other one-on-one, which certainly wasn't enough to prepare them for the worlds lying ahead. Hell, Sora spars against four of his friends on the island, 3 simultaneously at one point, including Riku, and he was less qualified to go into the outside world as a keyblade wielder than Aqua, Terra, or Ventus were? And don't give me the "he couldn't fight heartless with the wooden sword" bullshit, because once he got the keyblade he was just as competent, if not even more competent at completely obliterating those shadows than Aqua and Terra were at beating up those orbs.

Now, let's look at where his test left us: it was addressed that Eraqus was foolish to base Terra's worth by the darkness he held inside of him, yes, but even still he's used as a template for how these tests usually go. Wait, back it up there, Yen Sid: you're telling me that most keyblade wielders, including Terra, Aqua, and Ventus are trained in an environment like that where they're completely sheltered by how strong the darkness really can be, and that Sora and Riku actually getting shit done is the exception to that rule?! THAT'S. RIDICULOUS. Why does everyone act all confused when they look at Mickey's training in Birth by Sleep and wonder how he became a master when he was consistently going after the villains, protecting civilians, and trying to save his friends from impending doom as he was discovering himself and trying to take down an impending threat to the entire universe? Of course he got his keyblade back at the end of the game, it'd be a crime for him not to become a master after all of the times he'd proved his worth in battle. This goes for Sora and Riku as well: if he feels that he wants them to save these sleeping worlds to get their marks, I think that's a hell of a lot more productive than having them snap a couple of brooms and spar to get them and become masters.

Now, there's still a lot of problems with his execution of the test: why did he feel they hadn't already proved themselves in the first two times they saved the universe? Why did he feel their keyblade wielding was "improper" if it still got the job done and saved everyone's asses? Why not just let them keep the fighting styles that already worked and build upon them to get more refined keyblade wielders and have them learn the power of waking through the journey? This is all still bullshit, but I think the initial idea of Yen Sid's tests as opposed to Eraqus' still hold up better than people give them credit for. But of course I'm not the only opinion here, so tell me: what do you think about these scenes? Do you feel Eraqus' was fine, or do you agree that, while you may not like the execution of Yen Sid's tests, that they did accomplish more in the ideas of them? Whatever you think, comment below, let me know, and I'll see you guys in the next topic!
 

Sephiroth0812

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To put things into perspective a little, Yen Sid did state in DDD itself that the way he administered the test there is not how it is usually done.
You must understand, this examination is in no way how the Mark of Mastery is usually found. However, in light of what they must do next... it was a necessity. If Sora and Riku complete their test, by finding the seven doors corresponding to the seven pure lights, they will return home with a new power.
The main aim with the whole sleeping world stuff was that both Sora and Riku obtain the power to awaken lost hearts, something which according to Yen Sid is an essential asset in rescuing Terra, Aqua and Ventus.

On the flip-side, the Mark of Mastery exam seen in BBS administered by Master Eraqus is called the traditional examination (can be looked up in Xehanort's Letter) and was performed because Xehanort suggested Eraqus doing it that way (also addressed in that letter).
It is not known what Eraqus actually had in mind for the exam before Xehanort's letter arrived and he took up MX's suggestion.

Eraqus did also not fail Terra because of the existence of Darkness inside him, but as is stated directly because he was incapable of controlling it or keeping it in check.
(Never mind Eraqus being too stupid to see that Xehanort was tampering with things, but that's probably because of plot demands and also yet another discussion topic).
Aqua did manage to do so and therefore passed.
Having Darkness doesn't automatically disqualify you from being a Master, it's how you handle it that decides the outcome.

In Yen Sid's exam though, which is noted to be different in both make up and ultimate goals in-game, obviously the way grades and verdicts are formed are also different.
 

Grono

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To put things into perspective a little, Yen Sid did state in DDD itself that the way he administered the test there is not how it is usually done.
Sorry, did I not make that clear? I tried to say that Sora and Riku's test was not normal, but if you're saying that I didn't clearly illustrate that in this post I'll be more than happy to clear that up :)

The main aim with the whole sleeping world stuff was that both Sora and Riku obtain the power to awaken lost hearts, something which according to Yen Sid is an essential asset in rescuing Terra, Aqua and Ventus.
Same as above, did I not make this clear enough?

On the flip-side, the Mark of Mastery exam seen in BBS administered by Master Eraqus is called the traditional examination (can be looked up in Xehanort's Letter) and was performed because Xehanort suggested Eraqus doing it that way (also addressed in that letter).
It is not known what Eraqus actually had in mind for the exam before Xehanort's letter arrived and he took up MX's suggestion.
I thought by suggestion he just meant co-examining his students, not outright redoing it altogether?

Eraqus did also not fail Terra because of the existence of Darkness inside him, but as is stated directly because he was incapable of controlling it or keeping it in check.
I'd say that this isn't what happened in the game. While he said that he couldn't keep it in check, he also had a different standard for keeping it in check than most people in this universe, and what he called keeping it in check was simply displaying any signs of darkness at all, since he did keep it in check. He dispelled it, remember?

(Never mind Eraqus being too stupid to see that Xehanort was tampering with things, but that's probably because of plot demands and also yet another discussion topic).
Agreed, although I honestly see how Eraqus was deceived easier than I see how Terra was so easily deceived.

Aqua did manage to do so and therefore passed.
Having Darkness doesn't automatically disqualify you from being a Master, it's how you handle it that decides the outcome.
Exactly, which is where Eraqus' exam failed: he saw it and called it out as unacceptable control of the darkness, but he didn't even use it and he was able to very quickly dispel it. See why I'm saying that Eraqus and his exam were both flawed in design and execution? It doesn't make it a bad scene; rather, I feel like adding a mistake like that to his character makes his role more fleshed out and realistic. Rather, I think it was a mistake that should be addressed and discussed.

In Yen Sid's exam though, which is noted to be different in both make up and ultimate goals in-game, obviously the way grades and verdicts are formed are also different.
Again, was this unclear? I'm really not trying to be rude here, but I tried to explain through the article that its abnormality is what made it the superior test overall. If I was unclear in this, please ask me to clarify further :)
 

Sephiroth0812

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Sorry, did I not make that clear? I tried to say that Sora and Riku's test was not normal, but if you're saying that I didn't clearly illustrate that in this post I'll be more than happy to clear that up :)

Same as above, did I not make this clear enough?

I thought by suggestion he just meant co-examining his students, not outright redoing it altogether?
It's a little weird I admit, as the answer of the question why Yen Sid's test is "more involved" is then already given by itself, because of the extraordinary circumstances requiring a more proactive "field-test".
On the other hand though, you do not have extraordinary circumstances and emergencies everytime in your corner of the universe, so a test variant is needed that can still judge an aspiring wielders heart and his/her qualifications for mastery nonetheless.
In the end the MoM is foremost a test of the heart which can be done in various ways and which version is "superior" I say does not depend on what the test consists of, but what the general criteria applied are.

The way it is worded in the letter with things like "taking precautions" etc. sounds to me like Xehanort is the one proposing to perform the traditional exam, especially since he ends with "the choice is yours".
This is probably also yet another example how Xehanort even indirectly via written words feeds on Eraqus' outright Darkness paranoia in order to get his plans running better.

I'd say that this isn't what happened in the game. While he said that he couldn't keep it in check, he also had a different standard for keeping it in check than most people in this universe, and what he called keeping it in check was simply displaying any signs of darkness at all, since he did keep it in check. He dispelled it, remember?

Agreed, although I honestly see how Eraqus was deceived easier than I see how Terra was so easily deceived.
Who exactly is "most people" here though? And no, Xehanort, Maleficent or Hades obviously don't count.
Keeping your Darkness in check also involves not letting it physically flare up and form an energy aura which could very well go haywire, as Terra showed later on thrice, once in Radiant Garden which cost Braig an eye (and which Terra himself was upset about because he knew he lost control), the second time at LoD when he was trying to protect Ven where he let things spiral out of control so far that in their following battle he managed to wound/weaken Eraqus enough that Xehanort could effortlessly finish him off and the third during the final battle which eventually resulted in the well-known Grand-Theft-me.

Riku too is always wary of actually letting his darkness powers physically manifest, the only exceptions being Dark Firagaing Heartless and when he was desperate to finally defeat Roxas.


Exactly, which is where Eraqus' exam failed: he saw it and called it out as unacceptable control of the darkness, but he didn't even use it and he was able to very quickly dispel it. See why I'm saying that Eraqus and his exam were both flawed in design and execution? It doesn't make it a bad scene; rather, I feel like adding a mistake like that to his character makes his role more fleshed out and realistic. Rather, I think it was a mistake that should be addressed and discussed.

Again, was this unclear? I'm really not trying to be rude here, but I tried to explain through the article that its abnormality is what made it the superior test overall. If I was unclear in this, please ask me to clarify further :)
If you look at it from a different viewpoint though, if your student can't even control the physical manifestation of Darkness how can you expect him/her to assert control over even worse things it is capable of?
The general idea behind the verdict may thus not be necessarily wrong, yet granted, the way Eraqus teaches how you can do this due to his paranoia clouding his view during the BBS-era may be simply something that doesn't work for Terra so it is questionable if one can expect a student to display a feat that his beyond his/her ability due to a flawed teaching method.

See, and that's where I scratch my head since as I mentioned in the first paragraph above, you don't always have abnormal circumstances at hand that allow you to administer a live field test so a generalized variant is needed in order to test the hearts of aspiring Masters.
This is probably also a reason as to why "having already saved the universe twice" doesn't factor into Yen Sid's verdict, it would not provide a fair starting ground and since it is the hearts that should be tested, counting in past deeds would murk the general grading.
In Real Life exams, the grades of previous feats and successes also aren't counted to provide equal chances.

Who knows though, maybe there does exist a general simulated "field test" considering the whole issue with Mickey's "surfing on a book" during BBS and if this is the case I'd certainly agree that such a more practice oriented test would be overall superior.
"Traditional" stuff is often the prototype or "barebone" variant of something so maybe Xehanort specifically suggested it because of it having some flaws.

This could possibly even also traced to BBS' horrible story pacing and script, as an actual "field test"-exam could possibly have involved a bigger portion of Land of Departure and given the audience more time with TAV and Eraqus in a together-environment.
Would have served both characterisation and lore-building much better in the end, but that's why BBS in general is the pot of missed opportunities. ;P
 

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Someone made a form about this not too long ago that I think perfectly explains the differences between Eraqus and Yen Sid's tests. All credit goes to them
 

KeybladeKnightQ

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K so I couldn't make the link so I'll just type it. "Aqua and Terra trained their whole life for the Mark of Mastery. Sora and Riku didn't. Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery was also their training. Their Mark of Mastery wasso much more difficult than Terra and Aqua's because they had to make up for the years of training they missed. The Mark of Mastery and becoming a Keyblade Master isn't about whether you can save the world or not. It's about being traditionally trained. For example becoming a black belt in karate has nothing to do if you can save the world or win a fight or not. It has to do with if you have mastered the traditional skills you have been taught. The title of "Keyblade Master" is nothing more than a formality."
 
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Grono

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It's a little weird I admit, as the answer of the question why Yen Sid's test is "more involved" is then already given by itself, because of the extraordinary circumstances requiring a more proactive "field-test".
On the other hand though, you do not have extraordinary circumstances and emergencies everytime in your corner of the universe, so a test variant is needed that can still judge an aspiring wielders heart and his/her qualifications for mastery nonetheless.
In the end the MoM is foremost a test of the heart which can be done in various ways and which version is "superior" I say does not depend on what the test consists of, but what the general criteria applied are.
I mean, I guess so? Although I could easily see him taking them to some random Disney world and finding some sort of enemy there. Maybe it could have been done where the unversed were just discovered and their test is to see if they can help clear one world of these enemies, testing their effectiveness to protect the light in the process?

The way it is worded in the letter with things like "taking precautions" etc. sounds to me like Xehanort is the one proposing to perform the traditional exam, especially since he ends with "the choice is yours".
This is probably also yet another example how Xehanort even indirectly via written words feeds on Eraqus' outright Darkness paranoia in order to get his plans running better.
Aah, gotcha.

Who exactly is "most people" here though? And no, Xehanort, Maleficent or Hades obviously don't count.
Keeping your Darkness in check also involves not letting it physically flare up and form an energy aura which could very well go haywire, as Terra showed later on thrice, once in Radiant Garden which cost Braig an eye (and which Terra himself was upset about because he knew he lost control), the second time at LoD when he was trying to protect Ven where he let things spiral out of control so far that in their following battle he managed to wound/weaken Eraqus enough that Xehanort could effortlessly finish him off and the third during the final battle which eventually resulted in the well-known Grand-Theft-me.

Riku too is always wary of actually letting his darkness powers physically manifest, the only exceptions being Dark Firagaing Heartless and when he was desperate to finally defeat Roxas.
I mean, yeah, all of that did happen, but that was way after he gave them their mark of mastery exam. And it probably wouldn't have happened if Eraqus had communicated with his students better and been more wary of Xehanort. I always found it odd that Eraqus or Yen Sid never knew where he was in that game; what, you can't ask the stars or something?

If you look at it from a different viewpoint though, if your student can't even control the physical manifestation of Darkness how can you expect him/her to assert control over even worse things it is capable of?
The general idea behind the verdict may thus not be necessarily wrong, yet granted, the way Eraqus teaches how you can do this due to his paranoia clouding his view during the BBS-era may be simply something that doesn't work for Terra so it is questionable if one can expect a student to display a feat that his beyond his/her ability due to a flawed teaching method.
I'd argue that he very easily controlled the physical manifestation of darkness. It appeared, he immediately dispelled it, and they went on with their battle. He didn't use it, he didn't look like it was about to come loose, it was just a little slip that he quite skillfully controlled in my opinion.

See, and that's where I scratch my head since as I mentioned in the first paragraph above, you don't always have abnormal circumstances at hand that allow you to administer a live field test so a generalized variant is needed in order to test the hearts of aspiring Masters.
This is probably also a reason as to why "having already saved the universe twice" doesn't factor into Yen Sid's verdict, it would not provide a fair starting ground and since it is the hearts that should be tested, counting in past deeds would murk the general grading.
In Real Life exams, the grades of previous feats and successes also aren't counted to provide equal chances.
Yeah, but they're also factored in for a final grade. It seems like Yen Sid is saying here that they "saved the universe wrong" or something. He says they use improper methods of fighting, yet he refuses to consider that their methods could be just as good at saving the universe, preferring them instead to relearn how to use the keyblade pretty much just so that we have an excuse of starting at level one again. This feels weird because they could easily have a headstart on saving these worlds if they just kept saving the world in the way they originally did, and their battle styles could be more distinct, with Riku getting a host of dark powers and maybe command styles while Sora gets the dream eater interactions and drive forms.

Who knows though, maybe there does exist a general simulated "field test" considering the whole issue with Mickey's "surfing on a book" during BBS and if this is the case I'd certainly agree that such a more practice oriented test would be overall superior.
"Traditional" stuff is often the prototype or "barebone" variant of something so maybe Xehanort specifically suggested it because of it having some flaws.

This could possibly even also traced to BBS' horrible story pacing and script, as an actual "field test"-exam could possibly have involved a bigger portion of Land of Departure and given the audience more time with TAV and Eraqus in a together-environment.
Would have served both characterisation and lore-building much better in the end, but that's why BBS in general is the pot of missed opportunities. ;P
Agreed. It's nonsensical when you consider that there's a far more involved way of testing their prowess than just letting them smack a couple of orbs around and spar for a few minutes. While it is a test of heart, it should equally be a test of strength, since they're going to have to use that thing to, you know, FIGHT! I mean, think of it this way: Mickey started his adventuring days in Timeless River, then sometime after that was doing apprentice work for Yen Sid in various ways, from helping fight off a threat in Country of the Musketeers to helping Yen Sid around the tower and accidentally unlocking The Symphony of Sorcery in the process. Terra and Aqua... had never been outside of Land of Departure before. How great.
 

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K so I couldn't make the link so I'll just type it. "Aqua and Terra trained their whole life for the Mark of Mastery. Sora and Riku didn't. Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery was also their training. Their Mark of Mastery wasso much more difficult than Terra and Aqua's because they had to make up for the years of training they missed. The Mark of Mastery and becoming a Keyblade Master isn't about whether you can save the world or not. It's about being traditionally trained. For example becoming a black belt in karate has nothing to do if you can save the world or win a fight or not. It has to do with if you have mastered the traditional skills you have been taught. The title of "Keyblade Master" is nothing more than a formality."

I agree with everything in the post except the last part.
This is just not true per Yen Sid's words in 3Ds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idL-hEDRS6g (at around the 9:30-9:45 minute mark)

Granted, I'll admit that the motivations for your saying that are beyond me so I'm willing to listen to your POV as to why you say/think so; but, I would say based off of what we know that it's more of an indication that someone who holds the title has received X amount of guidance that lead to their being called "Master so and so"
 
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Sephiroth0812

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I mean, I guess so? Although I could easily see him taking them to some random Disney world and finding some sort of enemy there. Maybe it could have been done where the unversed were just discovered and their test is to see if they can help clear one world of these enemies, testing their effectiveness to protect the light in the process?
That could have been a more engaging task for the audience and even possibly give us a playable Mark of Mastery exam (ala SEED Field test like in FF VIII), not to mention possibly more TAV-Time (with Ven as observer alongside Eraqus).
Yet time-wise that would have required more development-time for Square which BBS in general apparently didn't get enough and story-wise would have required Eraqus to leave LoD which apparently is not something he wants to (or can) do all willy-nilly.
Having a field exam with Terra and Aqua actually having some freedom to move around it would have been also harder for MX to do such an obvious manipulative scheme.

Jeez, yet another of those hundreds of missed opportunities BBS had a great setup for but didn't act upon.

Aah, gotcha.
Aye, although it does make one ponder on what Eraqus had originally planned before MX stepped up.

I mean, yeah, all of that did happen, but that was way after he gave them their mark of mastery exam. And it probably wouldn't have happened if Eraqus had communicated with his students better and been more wary of Xehanort. I always found it odd that Eraqus or Yen Sid never knew where he was in that game; what, you can't ask the stars or something?
And yet these things happening after the exam give more credence to the decision to NOT make Terra a Master being right, y'know? Just like all the shady and outright cruel things Xehanort does serve to actually portray Eraqus' views as at last more palpable and reasonable on first glance.
Miscommunication is the 1st main problem creator throughout the whole run of BBS itself, lol, so that applies to everyone not only Eraqus.
If one is willing to stretch it a little one can even draw comparisons to Sora's situation in DDD with Xehanort's schemes. Had Yen Sid and Mickey bothered to inform Sora in more detail about what they learned in Coded, Sora might have been able to deal with Xehanort's machinations better just like Terra could have possibly have handled better with a little more broad teaching methods used.

Even the Queen's mirror had apparently difficulties to tracking MX exactly and we also don't know what Yen Sid's "stars looking"-dally is really capable of. Pinpointing people's locations might not be a guaranteed success in any case.

I'd argue that he very easily controlled the physical manifestation of darkness. It appeared, he immediately dispelled it, and they went on with their battle. He didn't use it, he didn't look like it was about to come loose, it was just a little slip that he quite skillfully controlled in my opinion.
True thing, that's something one can choose to grade positively and I bet if Yen Sid was the one overseeing the exam he would have graded it as such.
Yet this is Eraqus we're talking about and he does have Aqua as a counterexample: With her there isn't even the slightest bit of Darkness flaring up proving that she indeed hzas full control over it, no wavering and a strong heart worthy of being master material.
The "slip up" was what convinced Eraqus that Terra isn't ready yet, something which he more or less also states in their later conversation when he speaks about Terra being "obsessed with power" and states that by personal opinion he would like to name him master instantly, but can't due to duty reasons.


Yeah, but they're also factored in for a final grade. It seems like Yen Sid is saying here that they "saved the universe wrong" or something. He says they use improper methods of fighting, yet he refuses to consider that their methods could be just as good at saving the universe, preferring them instead to relearn how to use the keyblade pretty much just so that we have an excuse of starting at level one again. This feels weird because they could easily have a headstart on saving these worlds if they just kept saving the world in the way they originally did, and their battle styles could be more distinct, with Riku getting a host of dark powers and maybe command styles while Sora gets the dream eater interactions and drive forms.
Well, from where I stood I interpreted it more in the vein of "having saved the universe or not doesn't matter in this case" as that's not what earning the master mantle is primary about.
KeybladeKnightQ already gives a pretty good explanation on it so I won't play a parrot here, but I do see many fans falling into this "trap" of thinking that Sora & Riku should get bonus brownie points when that is not what this whole ordeal is about.
Granted, DDD does a somewhat slippery job of portraying this but when digging a little deeper one can piece together the reasoning behind it.


Agreed. It's nonsensical when you consider that there's a far more involved way of testing their prowess than just letting them smack a couple of orbs around and spar for a few minutes. While it is a test of heart, it should equally be a test of strength, since they're going to have to use that thing to, you know, FIGHT! I mean, think of it this way: Mickey started his adventuring days in Timeless River, then sometime after that was doing apprentice work for Yen Sid in various ways, from helping fight off a threat in Country of the Musketeers to helping Yen Sid around the tower and accidentally unlocking The Symphony of Sorcery in the process. Terra and Aqua... had never been outside of Land of Departure before. How great.
Strength of heart comes in several different forms though and it is certainly a mistake to place the most emphasis only on battle strength and fighting prowess.
Some wise people may even go as far and say that the truly strong ones are those who don't even let fighting break out in the first place. During the era of BBS Heartless couldn't enter the Realm of Light on their own volition and Xehanort mentions in his reports that the main work of the Keybladers is to stay on the sidelines and watch, identify possible problems and solve them before they get out of hand.

We don't know if Terra and Aqua ever went outside LoD or not though, unlike with Ventus where we got an in-game confirmation that his BBS excursion was the very first one he did.
 

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That could have been a more engaging task for the audience and even possibly give us a playable Mark of Mastery exam (ala SEED Field test like in FF VIII), not to mention possibly more TAV-Time (with Ven as observer alongside Eraqus).
Yet time-wise that would have required more development-time for Square which BBS in general apparently didn't get enough and story-wise would have required Eraqus to leave LoD which apparently is not something he wants to (or can) do all willy-nilly.
Having a field exam with Terra and Aqua actually having some freedom to move around it would have been also harder for MX to do such an obvious manipulative scheme.

Jeez, yet another of those hundreds of missed opportunities BBS had a great setup for but didn't act upon.
100% agreed, there could have been so much more to that conflict.

Aye, although it does make one ponder on what Eraqus had originally planned before MX stepped up.
I don't know what it could have been either, but it very well could have been more interesting, granted. Eraqus never hesitated to let Terra & Aqua leave after they finished their exam, so that gives me the feeling that them "going out to explore another world" wasn't a big deal to him, leading to (and I know I'm stretching here) him possibly having a MoM exam more like what I suggested earlier.

And yet these things happening after the exam give more credence to the decision to NOT make Terra a Master being right, y'know? Just like all the shady and outright cruel things Xehanort does serve to actually portray Eraqus' views as at last more palpable and reasonable on first glance.
Here's the kicker, though: everyone accuses him of doing it, and he really didn't. Most of it was not actually him at all, and before their initial falling out the only outright evil thing he did was when he was possessed by Maleficent, not even under his own volition. In my opinion, the only thing that set off the "this guy is going down a dark path" switch in my head was where he tried to free Xehanort and ended up disabling Braig in the process, which he still tried to do to save someone, not hurt someone.

Miscommunication is the 1st main problem creator throughout the whole run of BBS itself, lol, so that applies to everyone not only Eraqus.
If one is willing to stretch it a little one can even draw comparisons to Sora's situation in DDD with Xehanort's schemes. Had Yen Sid and Mickey bothered to inform Sora in more detail about what they learned in Coded, Sora might have been able to deal with Xehanort's machinations better just like Terra could have possibly have handled better with a little more broad teaching methods used.
Agreed, I should have factored the fact that it's intentionally poorly communicated into my initial thoughts. Sorry about that.

Even the Queen's mirror had apparently difficulties to tracking MX exactly and we also don't know what Yen Sid's "stars looking"-dally is really capable of. Pinpointing people's locations might not be a guaranteed success in any case.
True, he's never been very good at it, which could imply that it simply isn't that reliable to begin with. Again, my mistake.

True thing, that's something one can choose to grade positively and I bet if Yen Sid was the one overseeing the exam he would have graded it as such.
Yet this is Eraqus we're talking about and he does have Aqua as a counterexample: With her there isn't even the slightest bit of Darkness flaring up proving that she indeed hzas full control over it, no wavering and a strong heart worthy of being master material.
The "slip up" was what convinced Eraqus that Terra isn't ready yet, something which he more or less also states in their later conversation when he speaks about Terra being "obsessed with power" and states that by personal opinion he would like to name him master instantly, but can't due to duty reasons.
Yeah, that is the cool thing about the three masters; one let darkness take him, one let his obsession of light lead to darkness, and one realized that both of them were idiots and took the middle road altogether. That's what's always going to make Yen Sid superior in the end.

Well, from where I stood I interpreted it more in the vein of "having saved the universe or not doesn't matter in this case" as that's not what earning the master mantle is primary about.
KeybladeKnightQ already gives a pretty good explanation on it so I won't play a parrot here, but I do see many fans falling into this "trap" of thinking that Sora & Riku should get bonus brownie points when that is not what this whole ordeal is about.
Granted, DDD does a somewhat slippery job of portraying this but when digging a little deeper one can piece together the reasoning behind it.
Here's my thing, though; he decides, as a result of their needing to learn new powers, that they'll start at level one and be taught the "proper" way on how to wield the weapon. However, he doesn't explain what's wrong with their current powers, why they need to trash them entirely and start anew, and further fails to actually teach them the new way of fighting. Like, seriously, the closest they get to a teacher in that world are TWEWY characters only, while Yen Sid sits back and watches shit hit the fan!

Strength of heart comes in several different forms though and it is certainly a mistake to place the most emphasis only on battle strength and fighting prowess.
There's this concept in education called character teaching, where you teach your students how to interact with other people and how to confront new ideas through example. Yen Sid did that with Mickey, and Mickey gained his strength of heart through actually helping these people in the process. So, why is strength of heart shown in a one-on-one battle and an orb fight here? Maybe Xehanort designed it to intentionally be unhelpful? Or maybe the developers didn't think to add much to their exam to determine how they would even measure strength of heart. A perfect way to test this is to actually put them in a beginner's world, watch them interact with the characters, and save the world through their own actions: Aqua could be shown to be kind and helpful, while Terra is bumbling and good-intentioned, yet is easily strung along by the obvious villains of these plots, showing that Aqua had more potential in being able to make a difference and giving us a reason to truly side with Eraqus on just why Terra has to journey to discover who he is before he's ready to take on the mantle. This test really didn't do anything like that to show us who they were and why they would fail; hell, Aqua's an inch from cleaving Terra's face off at one point, and Eraqus doesn't even flinch.

Some wise people may even go as far and say that the truly strong ones are those who don't even let fighting break out in the first place. During the era of BBS Heartless couldn't enter the Realm of Light on their own volition and Xehanort mentions in his reports that the main work of the Keybladers is to stay on the sidelines and watch, identify possible problems and solve them before they get out of hand.
I'd say that this is accurate, except for the fact that the series, like always, includes a metric fuckton of meddling from the KH characters and having TAV practically being the main protagonists that string the plot along this time around, like Aqua rescuing Philip and taking down the dragon, Terra stealing Aurora's heart, Ventus transporting Snow White through the forest, and Aqua literally acting as the one-woman wrecking crew in Deep Space that's supposed to eradicate the unversed threat aboard the ship and find Stitch.

We don't know if Terra and Aqua ever went outside LoD or not though, unlike with Ventus where we got an in-game confirmation that his BBS excursion was the very first one he did.
You're pretty much right, they never tell us whether or not they've done this before.
 
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