You’ve been patient, and it’s finally here. A little over two months since the conclusion of Tetsuya Nomura’s Dark Seeker trilogy, Lore Reasons tackles Kingdom Hearts III. (Naturally, it took us nearly three hours.) Austin, Patrick, and Cado join our resident loremaster, Natalie, as we pilot our Gummi Ship through a bunch of narratively useless Disney worlds en route to one hell of an ending. And that secret movie? THE SECRET MOVIE? It’s all here. Let’s ride.
Just want to make sure that everyone knows the demon tower gives Riku a haircut somehow?
Also, the crew seems to have no idea who the nameless star could be. It is most likely Strelizia, another character from KHUX and Marluxia/Laurium’s sister. When Ava was setting up the dandelions she chose 5 members to be the new union leaders after the foretellers die in the keyblade war; Laurium, Ventus, “scarf boy”, and Strelizia among them. However they didn’t know who each other were until after the keyblade war so another character, Brain, killed her and took her place as a leader for currently vague reasons. Laurium would be the one she’s wating to remember and come save her. In his death scene he spoke a lot about remembering and reclaiming his identity so it probably happened then.
This episode finally introduces something I felt has been missing: The lore in context of how the games actually are. I think the lore is really cool in some ways and Austin seems to be on the same page. In a vacuum, like, in an explainer video it’s interesting.
But from what I’ve watched of KHIII and my memories of the first two games, the actual game itself and the direction often get in the way of the lore and dilute it. The way it is actually exectued on doesn’t deliver the points as sharply as they should be. Moreover the direction is mannered in a way that can be weird and underserve the actual story.
So I think it was important for the team, especially Austin, to actually encounter the story in the game instead of the story in a video or wiki. You can tell there’s still some interest in the lore but being in actual contact with it changes how it’s received, which I think is important. Lore is neat, but how a game serves as a vehicle and helps to bolster that lore is very important I think.
re: the secret ending- Sora is specifically in the The World Ends With You version of Shibuya, because we see the 104 building (which is the 109 building in actual Shibuya but the 104 building in TWEWY Shibuya). For those who don’t know, the plot of TWEWY is that you play as a kid in the Reaper’s Game, a game played by those who have recently died where the winner gets a second chance at life, which is to say all signs point to Sora currently being canonically dead.
On Riku’s side, it is Verum Rex, but there is speculation that Verum Rex is going to be what Nomura originally had planned for FF Versus 13, the original plot of which apparently had to do with people who could see the light of dying souls. Given the building Riku walks up to bears more than a passing resemblance to the citadel in Insomnia from FF15, Yozora is the spitting image of Noctis (who also had red eyes in the first Versus 13 trailers), and the music that plays when Riku walks up to the building and Yozora is shown sounds quite a lot like the opening of Somnus, the title theme of FF15 (which was also composed by Yoko Shimomura, who did the soundtrack for every KH game, and was originally written for FF Versus 13), I’d say this theory holds water. I guess we’ll find out in like 6 years or so.
Great episode, though one particular thing that they completely ignored/ misunderstood was all the Subject X stuff. The one time they bring it up, Natalie says they’re talking about “Xion or Namine” which is not the case. I wonder if they’re aware of the Secret Reports which clear up a lot of that potential confusion? Obviously Austin wouldn’t, and I highly doubt Patrick and Natalie have any interest in doing the post-game content, but I figured Cado would have done them. Still, since that’s just another case where the answer of “who is subject x” would just be “khux stuff,” I guess it ultimately doesn’t matter. But it’s core to Saix/Axel’s whole deal, which I found one of the more compelling through-lines of 3.
Also, one thing that disappointed me is that I was really hoping for Austin to stan over Scala ad Caelum. Maybe it’s just me, but Xehanort’s delivery on “Here, my other selves and I can be one. United. In… Scala ad Caelum!” followed by that pan up to the world’s title card was :. The whole aesthetic of that world was extremely my shit.
Lastly, I had no idea that the conversation with Namine in The Final World was missable. That’s wild considering that’s the explanation for where Lingering Will came from in the do-over.
FWIW: We definitely knew this is how it would go from the jump, and I think if you go back and listen to the first ep, we even get at that a little. We do games criticism during our main podcasts, during 101s, in our writing. This was never meant to be that, and probably won’t be in future series either, though I imagine we’ll still pair it with at least playing through one game or antoher, and I hope to continue to pick franchises where we have one person on the pod as a long time fan who can provide that context when the group is curious.
The real, and frankly difficult to work through, truth that seeing more of KH3 made me realize, though, is that I don’t think I actually like Kingdom Hearts. Or, maybe put more clearly: This weird format where I only engage in explainers is why i care at all now. I genuinely don’t like this method of storytelling, this style of dialog, or many of these characters as they’re presented directly (with some big exceptions). And that’s weird, because I am now deeply invested in them.
Which leaves me in a really bad place for whenever the next KH comes. Because I do want to know where all of this goes. As someone who loved the franchise hinted at in the secret ending, I’m very curious to see how it’s used in the next game. But also: I definitely don’t want to play that game. I suspect the lesson this has taught me is that KH will always be an “at a distance” thing for me, best understood in explainers and through the joy it brings others.
Honestly, as someone who’s been in this fan community for a long time, I think that’s how a lot of us feel. I do (mostly) enjoy these games in terms of pure gameplay, although they certainly have their rough spots, but a lot of the time the cutscenes, dialog and characterization are clunky at best. It’s thinking about the characters in the abstract where people start to become attached.
Case in point, Terra- in BBS, Terra is just super boring. (Sorry Terra stans.) His dialog is incredibly bland, he has almost no affect to his voice, and he just kinda goes around being trusting to a fault and screwing things up for it. But in theory, Terra’s fall to darkness and quest for redemption is pretty compelling, and he is, in parts, pretty badass (see: Lingering Will). I still want to see how that arc resolves. Similarly, Aqua comes off as pretty bland a lot of the time, but I still love her to death and would wife her in a heartbeat, because the concept of Aqua, Keyblade Master, who fought her way through the realm of darkness for 10 years by clinging to the hope of seeing her friends again one day and managed to come out the other side, is super compelling.
There are exceptions to this- for me personally, Roxas is the big one (“Looks like my summer vacation is over” still hits me like a punch to the gut every time), and I think Larxene has some of the strongest characterization and dialogue in the series (thanks in no small part due to her voice actress being incredible). But a lot of the dialogue is weird and indirect and feels like people aren’t talking to each other but at each other a lot of the time, and we just suffer through it because we’re attached to who these characters are at their core and their stories and their potential, even if the game’s presentation of them does them a disservice.
The World Ends With You: Final Remix released on Switch last year has a brand new secret ending that ends on a cliff hanger that says “a new game begins”. In other words, there’s a high likelihood that TWEWY 2 and KH4 are the same game.
And hey remember that story about how Nomura saw Les Miz and wanted to turn FFXV into a musical?
I think it’s a serious possibility Nomura saw an Avengers movie and thought “shit, i can do that way better”.
I just want to say, I love how back at (Re:)Coded the gang was complaining about putting core series lore in a phone game, and it broke them to the point they never even question UX and it’s associated movie being essential to the plot of KH3