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Kingdom Hearts 2 Retrospective



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LightUpTheSky452

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I'm mostly caught up with the retrospective now (and man, has it been amazing; I've also linked people to it and talk about it all the time, when trying to explain to people the problems in II and why Nomura needs to be aware of them so he hopefully won't make the same mistakes again), and I love everything about it (though you know this, Blackdrazon, as I've fangirled about your posts enough in the past):D

Anyway, I just thought I'd talk about the SRK reunion myself here (as that's the part of the retrospective I just read) and vent a bit about it, if that's okay (mainly the Sora/Kairi part), because after eleven years I think I finally know how to put into words all my feelings about it and all the terrible things it actually led to with Kairi's portrayal in the series. (And I look forward to your further review on it, Blackdrazon, because if I read that part of the retrospective right, didn't you say you'll be coming back to talk about one of the problems with it in the future, but can't now because of spoilers?)

Anyway, this post by one of the mods on KH-Info-Block on Tumblr basically summarizes how I feel about the Sora and Kairi reunion these days. *ahem*

"You know, it’s been ten years, and my feelings on this are still kind of split.
With Kairi and Sora, their parting was so…grand. And sentimental. They were literally torn out of each other’s arms by the cold, uncaring forces that govern the universe. We saw them reaching for each other across the void, calling to each other from across the stars… It was epic and huge. And their reunion is very much the opposite. They just kind of…walk up to each other in a hallway somewhere. And awkwardly exchange one very uncomfortable hug.
It’s easy to see that and think, “Well, the writers half-assed it.”
But, then, isn’t that real?
Like, doesn’t that say something?
You spend all this time building something up in your head, and then the moment comes, and it’s not remotely what you expected.
It doesn’t feel like you expected.
You don’t know what to say.
Your hands are cold and clammy.
It’s completely unromantic.

And here’s what drives it home for me: In the scene itself, it’s clear to see that Sora’s kind of disappointed, too. That’s what makes me think this is more than just a lackluster writing fumble.

Kairi’s super into it. She’s happy just to be there. She’s not picky about the moment. She’s happy just so see him again. She’s whispering, “This is real,” like she literally can’t believe it.

But Sora just has this unmistakable look and about him, this awful reluctance. This tangible sense of unease. He was expecting something more. He doesn’t want to be ungrateful, and he especially doesn’t mean to diminish the moment with his own negativity, but…deep down, he can’t deny it: He was expecting something more. He wanted to give her something more.
He didn’t want their big reunion…to be this.
And…I don’t know. That disconnect between his emotions and her emotions, and that quiet conflict, that almost shameful feeling inside him – that kind of speaks to me. I feel like means something. I feel like that’s important.
The only thing that kind of ruins it for me is the fact that it never really goes anywhere. You know, immediately after this scene, Kairi basically stops having lines, and all the rich, emotional stuff that’s happening here gets shoved aside and forgotten. It never gets to build or resolve or do something.
It just…fizzles out.

So, in the end, I’m not sure what to say about it.

It was a bold choice.

It certainly could have had potential.
But, in the end, was it worth it?

I don’t know. I go back and forth a lot.

I don’t know."
The Kingdom Hearts Info Block.

It also really, really bothers me that Kairi was kidnapped by the enemy because of Sora--who had her for who knows how long, and could have been doing God knows what to her--and none of the characters even ask her if she's okay! Or seem to be worried that she could be/could've been hurt, or rightfully upset, at all! And this is just such a slap in the face to me, because you compare it to how Sora reacted to Naminé's imprisonment in CoM (or even how he reacted to Belle's kidnapping in CoM, or the Beast yelling at Belle in II), and Sora doesn't seem to be concerned about Kairi at all!

TV Tropes put it best, I think, when they said that if you came into the series with this game, you would have NO idea that Sora spent an entire game before this looking for Kairi based on his reaction to her here.

Frankly, it's abysmal and it's insulting and I HATE it. And it's just another example of how the girls' trauma in this series gets pushed to the side and never examined at all.

This scene is also the start of the stupid "Sora and Riku hate Kairi" arguments that we see in this fandom to this day. And while clearly misguided, I can't blame them for thinking that!

Even casual fans, such as the people at HellfireComms (who do know the series quite well, and aren't diehards or shippers trying to use this scene as evidence to support whatever ship they're longing for), when replaying Re:CoM after this--and seeing Sora forget Kairi--have the reaction that, "To be honest, Kairi isn't that memorable", and essentially people begin thinking she must mean very little to Sora and he must not care about her at all. Surely Riku, Donald, Goofy, Naminé and everyone else means much more to Sora than her.

The series has had problems with "telling and not showing" before, but this is where it just becomes inexcusable for me. Because once again, take the scene I was talking about above as an example. NTom64 of Hellfirecomms has played these games before. He knows the plot and what's coming, and probably does realize that Kairi is supposed to mean a lot to Sora--even if the games do a poor piss job of showing it--and yet in going to CoM again after KHII, he thinks Kairi isn't important to Sora at all! Even when the game he's playing will soon pull a "Kairi is the most special person to Sora ever, so to get him under their thumb, the Organization's going to have Naminé erase his memories of her--and then pretend to be her--so that he'll do whatever their prisoner tells him to! But then Sora's going to choose to go to sleep to get his memories back--because he just can't live without his memories of Kairi, don't you know?!--and literally his memories of her are going to be the key to wake him up!", and NTom knows this, but the games have done so poorly in orchestrating Sora and Kairi's connection now that most people don't even believe it!

Or just don't get what the game's saying. And once again, I don't blame them, because for all the world we hear just how gosh dang important Kairi is to Sora, but we never actually see it or understand why. Even in the moments they're together!

This scene really was the turning point for this fandom when it comes to Kairi, and not in a good way. In everything until this scene, I completely believed a hundred percent (even if we didn't see them together much) in Sora and Kairi's strong friendship with each other. No longer do I do after it.

And it's even the same for Riku and Kairi's relationship! Though not developed as much as Sora and Kairi's one is, until this point we saw A) Riku trying to save Kairi the entire first game and telling Sora to take care of her at the end of it. B) Riku being so sad that the Kairi of his memories disappeared in CoM, and then getting the confidence to use the darkness because of what he thought Kairi was telling him at the time. C) Riku protecting Kairi a few times in KHII, and having this really gut-wrenching and emotionally beautiful reunion with her. But after this moment, Riku pretty much ignores Kairi for the rest of this entire franchise and it makes absolutely no sense at all.

I also hate this instance because it throws all of the good development that Kairi got in this game into the trash can. She stops having lines after this--even when Mickey is saying that "you can't have one without the other, because darkness is half of everything" with a literal Princess of Heart standing right behind him, proving that isn't true!--and she stops fighting and her Keyblade disappears with no explanation at all.

And despite the fact that she says she's tired of waiting many a time (she's been feeling this way from the get-go), the game sidelines her every chance it can get. So much so, that she gets sent back to the Island while Sora and Riku are fighting the remnants of Xemnas and when Sora returns to her then, he's happy to see her and reacting to her the way you'd thought he would've to begin with! This is literally the game saying, "What? How dare you be off the Islands, Kairi! Shoo! Shoo! You go back to them right now, and wait for these boys to come home to you like a good girl--because don't you know you made Sora feel so bad for breaking his promise to return there to you with Riku?!--and THEN and only then will you get any attention again and the reunion that you deserve."

All of this is so hair pulling out frustrating, and I hate it I hate it I hate it!

Edit: Okay, finally caught up with the retrospective and I must commend you on all your hard work, Blackdrazon. It could not have been easy for you, especially since KHII was slowly starting to drive you mad (and for good reason), but I thank you so very much for writing this wonderful thing and I can't wait to see the rest of it. -bows-

But just a few things I was thinking while reading it... I somehow never realized that Roxas says, "Get real! Look which one of us is winning!" in Sora's voice, and now I feel pretty dumb because it was oh so obvious and makes so much more sense!

And I forgot about Riku asking what some of the devices in the castle are for in one of his text bubble scenes! Good on you for wondering, Riku, but unfortunately we'll probably never know:)

Also, am I the only one bothered by the fact that Ansem the Wise apologizes to Roxas before his intended suicide, but not also Naminé? You know? The girl who was kind and worked around him for a year--doing what he wanted her to--that he then wanted Riku to take out back and shoot like a dog, without even give Kairi and Naminé the respect of at least giving Naminé the option of returning to Kairi if he wanted her gone? This series is so awful with how it hates on/disregards its own girl characters' suffering, that it would almost be funny if it wasn't so effing sad.

I also agree that Kairi was probably supposed to be playable at one point--and as was probably a lot of other people in the Disney worlds--and the more you point it out, the clearer it becomes. But the scene where everyone is standing around in different directions, and Donald compliments Kairi's fighting, really makes it the most obvious. I wish that was the KHII we would've gotten:/

Anyway, these last pages in particular have been so good. That one section in particular where you said something like, "Sora is ANGRY, even though the game gave no hint until this that he was. Sora MISSES his friends, while he cries at the feet of one of them and completely ignores another one..." is something I want to send to Nomura and nail to his door, tbh.

And I had no idea that party members' AI in KHII was so abysmal. Wow. KHII just keeps finding ways to be a let down from the first game more and more these days. >_>





 
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dlppictures

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I think you're right about the two-party member system probably having been a thing at one time. I wonder why they backtracked on it? Too bad. It would've been so fun to play with Nala, Kairi, and Hercules. Could the PS2 not support KH2 with that much going on or something?

I think you might be on track with the PS2 possibly not being able to handle it. Although I think lack of disc space is morelikely to be the culprit.

Now, I'm not a hacker/modder, or what else you call those who extract game files and look into what is on discs and such, but I do know about how much random cut stuff, was still left on the KHII vanilla disc, that wasn't removed before release. (I also know that most games have cut content still on disc, and that this is not a KHII exclusive.)

But still I look at how pathetic the party members in KHII were, especially considering that, whilst still not mensa level smart, the party members of KHI did for the most part know a strategy against enemies, (like Donald casting Fire on Blue Rhapsodies) instead of casting Fire on Hades (KHCoM/KHII).
How they act in KHII, makes me think that they could not be that data/code heavy, and thus they could probably easyly have included two Party members per world, given the time of course.

But when you mentioned that, it made me think of this from a different view point. Maybe the Party members are so near worthless, because there was no more space or memory on disc for more advanced programming?

Having spent the entirety of 2007-2009 almost watching nothing but KHII & IIFM hacked videos on Youtube, I do have a general idea of how far it was possible to stress the PS2 with the game before it gave up. And looking at the party members, I don't think that would affect the hardware much, even if there were three Party members on screen with Sora at once.
(Example of Six Goofys on screen at once)

Popular Hacked KHII vids back then were Sora fighting 2 different Bosses at once. Although many fans in the comments begged for one '3 Bosses' fight after another, almost never were they possible as Bosses as a standard were too data heavy for the PS2 to handle them. With a few exceptions. (Example of 1 v 3 Bosses)

That is not to say, that it is not possible to fight 4+ Bosses. As long as they are the same Boss, so that they use up less space. Lingering Sentiment/Will's limit seems to be at 10, as 11 freezes randomly, and any more freeze immediately.

And then we come to...

Maybe that's why the 1000 Heartless battle was disappointing

Ahh, yes. The 1000 Heartless battle. That is definately because of Harware limitations, I feel confident enough to say.
I remember several people trying to make hacked videos with the 1000 Heartless battle, and back then everyone, without failure, would sooner or later crash. Mostly sooner. I think "recently" (as in 5 or 6 years ago, after I stopped watching these videos religiously), they did find the limit at which they could hack the battle without it crashing, but it is very small.
This talk has actually reminded me of a video where they hacked Zexion into the 1000 Heartless battle, and when Sora was transported into book world, of course the 1000 Heartless background was still there, but in the few seconds it took before the game creashed, it spawned all the 13 Mushrooms as well. Man Zexion and Xigbar, could really give some strange results, due to their teleporting Sora around.



This wasn't meant to be directed at you, Tartarus, your comment just made me go off on a tangent, which I thought might be interesting to some.


And as an extra bonus, because why not at this point?
Battle of the Keyblade Masters
 

Blackdrazon

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Although I wonder if it isn't just as likely that Kairi might've been tacked on, but was originally absent for the entire game except for her appearances to Roxas in the intro and the ending where Sora takes her hand in the ending CGI scene. Most of her "plot," which is barely anything, seems extraneous and unimportant. Axel was supposed to die after the fight with Roxas originally, too. It explains the nonsensical Keyblade because they weren't really thinking about her at all and why Sora only cried about Riku. I'm guessing the game was supposed to center around Sora's search for Riku before he could return to Destiny Islands where Kairi was waiting.

That would definitely also work, which makes me wonder: if they were going to do that, why change anything? Did they realize it would disappoint fans, and so included her... but not enough to actually fix the problem? Maybe it was last minute?

Also, am I the only one bothered by the fact that Ansem the Wise apologizes to Roxas before his intended suicide, but not also Naminé? You know? The girl who was kind and worked around him for a year--doing what he wanted her to--that he then wanted Riku to take out back and shoot like a dog, without even give Kairi and Naminé the respect of at least giving Naminé the option of returning to Kairi if he wanted her gone? This series is so awful with how it hates on/disregards its own girl characters' suffering, that it would almost be funny if it wasn't so effing sad.

Aw shoot, and I didn't take note of her there, either! I'll have to edit that in, thanks!
 

h.e.hassanein

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Oh hey, I got the weirdest shoutout I can imagine getting :biggrin: Thanks for that portion, and yeah overzealous does seem to describe this mystery modeler well
 

ornamentelle

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About leveling up summons, I don't recall if you've mentioned this previously, but Mushroom V is great for it. That Gambler room in Yen Sid's tower is probably the best place for Master Form leveling in FM too.

The bit about the models was... ahm... interesting. I knew about Kairi, but not Riku. Odd.
 

ornamentelle

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Just the Drive Converter shenanigans with the Gambler's mini games. Winning a game will stun all of the Gamblers and make them drop munny, so a good chunk of that gets turned into Drive Orbs. This can be done pretty much infinitely because I don't think the Gamblers take damage from the games (though sometimes they need a little boop to get them to trigger the RC), and if they happen to get close to dying, you can just leave the room and come back. You get enough Drive Orbs to the point where you generally don't even have to go back to the world map to refill gauge. (Though I'd suggest for low level/level 1 players to occasionally leave the room just in case to save progression. I've... ah... had a couple embarrassing deaths grinding in there. ._.)
 
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KHHacker6595

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another great page of the retrospective, however I don't see anything wrong with Cindy's design in Final Fantasy XV. There's a huge difference between sexy and sexist. I do agree on all the points about Kairi tho.
 

FudgemintGuardian

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another great page of the retrospective, however I don't see anything wrong with Cindy's design in Final Fantasy XV. There's a huge difference between sexy and sexist. I do agree on all the points about Kairi tho.
With Cindy, I think her design is fine....if she wasn't a mechanic.
She's dressed like she has no idea what a mechanic does. She's completely exposed to burns, sharp things, toxic fluids, etc. The only thing she's not exposed to is common sense.

If she wasn't a mechanic I'd have no issue with her design, but she is and because of that her design makes her look incompetent. Whoever designed Cindy just wanted to draw a sexy lady, with no care as to what she does. And because of this I consider her design sexist.
 
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rokudamia2

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Really liked your rant about how kh2 damaged this series reputation.
 

KHHacker6595

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With Cindy, I think her design is fine....if she wasn't a mechanic.
She's dressed like she has no idea what a mechanic does. She's completely exposed to burns, sharp things, toxic fluids, etc. The only thing she's not exposed to is common sense.

If she wasn't a mechanic I'd have no issue with her design, but she is and because of that her design makes her look incompetent. Whoever designed Cindy just wanted to draw a sexy lady, with no care as to what she does. And because of this I consider her design sexist.
So if she happened to be a male character that looked like this, would you say the same thing.

k8cwnuaaususf0juf5yv.png
 

KHHacker6595

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[FONT=&quot]Oftentimes out there on the internet you’ll see casual fans or non-fans of the Kingdom Hearts series giving their opinion on Kingdom Hearts, saying: “Kingdom Hearts is X, Kingdom Hearts is Y.” Except I often find that, on close observation, these casual fans really mean to say: “Kingdom Hearts [/FONT]2 is X, Kingdom Hearts 2is Y.” This is because they often don’t want to play the games that followed, or considered them invalid or lesser, or simply because KH2 left a bigger impression on them. After all I’ve written here in this Retrospective, if you’re still reading, I think you can understand why I’m bothered that the internet at large holds up Kingdom Hearts 2 – this rushed, fractured, incoherent, hypocritical game – as the ur-example of the series. To me, it’s like someone saying they hate The Empire Strikes Back because Jar-Jar Binks was irritating and that makes all Star Wars irritating. In spite of impressions, I don’t hate KH2 (hell, I’m not even that bothered by The Phantom Menace), and I’ll gladly replay it alongside the others every single time I play the series. But I hate what it’s done to the series’ reputation.

Its like you took the thoughts right out of my head. Bravo.
 

Elysium

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So if she happened to be a male character that looked like this, would you say the same thing.

Probably not, since his arms and (I'm assuming) lower body is covered. Cindy looks more like one of those girls who wash windows for charity than a mechanic.
 

KHHacker6595

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Probably not, since his arms and (I'm assuming) lower body is covered. Cindy looks more like one of those girls who wash windows for charity than a mechanic.

I just think this whole thing is a biased view on what we perceive as objectification and sexualizing. Ironically my cousin is a mechanic who dresses very similar to Cindy during hot weather and on the job. Japan is just different culturally when it comes to these things and they don't see it the same way we do. They don't apply politically correct standards to such minor things like character design in a fictitious video game world.

I for one think designing Cindy as a male pretty boy showing his abs would be just as problematic from that sort of moral standard, but I don't feel its an issue either way. The same people complaining about this are the ones petitioning to have Tifa's breasts reduced in size in the remake because somehow large breasts is inherently more sexist of a design choice, which ironically is just as much body shaming as they like to label it.
 

Elysium

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Sorry, a guy showing his abs and a girl showing her entire body minus the nipples/nethers is not in any way an equal comparison.

And I have no problem with Tifa's or Lulu's breasts, btw. Although it's interesting Tifa didn't look that way in KH2. I mean, it's a series where you can see a little girl's panties in two different games (Selphie in KH1, Kairi in KH2), there are 15 guys to every 1 girl, and Kairi is basically an object more than a character, so it's not exactly a shining example.
 

KHHacker6595

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Sorry, a guy showing his abs and a girl showing her entire body minus the nipples/nethers is not in any way an equal comparison.

And I have no problem with Tifa's or Lulu's breasts, btw. Although it's interesting Tifa didn't look that way in KH2. I mean, it's a series where you can see a little girl's panties in two different games (Selphie in KH1, Kairi in KH2), there are 15 guys to every 1 girl, and Kairi is basically an object more than a character, so it's not exactly a shining example.

I see your point, but tell me in real life do you ever see guys walk around with barely anything on, cause I sure don't. A lot more women however do, its just different.
 

Dandelion

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I see your point, but tell me in real life do you ever see guys walk around with barely anything on, cause I sure don't. A lot more women however do, its just different.

Yes? Do you live somewhere without the sun?

I see men walking without shirts incessantly, and in many places it's not legal for a woman to do the same. A lot of that is because of the over-sexualization of a woman's body which is an actual repercussion of sexism and depictions like Cindy - that's why it's annoying. It's not just a difference of opinion, or how disgruntled you get when a woman says "this is nonsensical and only done to objectify someone"
 

BlackOsprey

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I see your point, but tell me in real life do you ever see guys walk around with barely anything on, cause I sure don't. A lot more women however do, its just different.
I can, actually. During the past few months, I've seen a lot men walking around downtown in nothing but shorts and sandals, completely bare-chested, due to the sweltering heat. The women, by contrast, usually are wearing tank tops at a minimum. I should add that we're at least 5 hours away from any nearby coastline or major body of water, so no excuse there.

Maybe women dress more... loosely... in media, but I see far more scantily clad men in real life than I do women.

Ha, looks like I got ninja'd by Tinny. Point still stands though.
 

KHHacker6595

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Yes? Do you live somewhere without the sun?

I see men walking without shirts incessantly, and in many places it's not legal for a woman to do the same. A lot of that is because of the over-sexualization of a woman's body which is an actual repercussion of sexism and depictions like Cindy - that's why it's annoying. It's not just a difference of opinion, or how disgruntled you get when a woman says "this is nonsensical and only done to objectify someone"

I was arguing the point that a male version of Cindy would be just as sexist under that mind set. His response was that it wasn't, because he wasn't revealing enough, I argued that most men don't dress as revealing as some women, so the criteria for what constitutes as objectifying for each gender must be different according to that logic.

Based on your aggressive response, may I ask, are you an active tumblr user?

The other side to your argument is that women deal with more over-sexualization, which I agree with, but however in Japan its a culturally different situation and can't be judged on the same moral standards as in the West. If Cindy is a great character in the final game, I see no problem with her design no matter the context. Its the same argument I hear against Quiet from Metal Gear Solid V. She was a fantastic character and her design embraced her sexuality.

Like I said before, there's a difference between sexy and sexist. Its like saying Thor is problematic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since he has scenes of him getting shirtless inserted in the trailers to show off his body, which is technically objectification based on that same line of thinking.

My point being, sex sells and its never going to stop selling, as long as the characters are well written and effective, I don't mind.
 
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