A couple of days ago I thought it would be fun to do something I have never done before, because these days all I have is time. I decided it was time to fully explore the expansive universe that is Kingdom Hearts. I played the main Kingdom Hearts games when they initially came out; 1,2, and 3. But the ones in between I missed out on. Getting the full experience is something I figured I could dedicate time to now. Plus the ending to the third one was lukewarm to me but incredibly awesome to die hard fans who purchased several devices and endured many years of exposition. So why not give it the old college try? Much like college I discovered something about myself and gained some additional pounds.
I discovered that I am a half-assed completionist, and I don’t know how I feel about it. A piece of my is hypocritical, another part of me is perfectly fine with it. On one level, I want to feel the same intense excitement that others have felt over this beloved series, but at the same time I don’t know if I have the absolute patience to deal with all of it. Especially when it comes to just the individual games.
As of right now, I can beat Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Final Mix at any time. I can just go into the final area, and collect my reward and move onto the next game with the satisfaction that I did literally everything in the game; but I cant bring myself to do it. I still have a grocery list of things to accomplish and it all adds up to obtaining one single thing: The Ultima Weapon.
When I play many open world games I like to do everything on the map. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Horizon Zero Dawn are two other games that jump out at me when I think about lists and things to do. Both these games (and many more) do this trope like thing where the game introduces you to a locked room, tells you the room is locked and can be unlocked once you complete certain tasks, and oh boy do I want that room to open. I want to know what is inside it and I hope it’s something incredibly cool that makes me an unstoppable behemoth of power. But like most video game tropes, I discover that the only way to open it is if I have a number of keys which drop in respective places as the story progresses. It’s a way to keep players engaged, a clear cut tactic to lead you onto an adventure and keep you invested in said game. It also makes you pour an endless amount of hours into the game, preying on my mindset that I want the best stuff that time can buy.
Upon understanding development tactics and tricks to get people to stick with games, I come upon another realization: unless the game is absolutely amazing to a point where the annoyances are greatly outweighed by the good stuff; I will never play the game again. These days, games are so full of stuff to do and every time I play it or think about replaying it I am instantly bogged down with “the list.” Or I find reasons to not start the game at all. This happens with games such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, where I would jump back in but I don’t feel like dealing with certain elements of that game. Therefor I find it easier to just not play it, no matter how good the rest of the game is. I know, its a sad aspect.
For some reason, Kingdom Hearts is one of the few games that draw me back time after time. As a huge Disney fan, this game feels like I am visiting a theme park. It’s my home away from home, a source of comfort. Everything is delightful, from the lighthearted music of Traverse Town to the relationships between characters. Every replay it becomes harder for me to leave this amazing world and it’s characters behind. But in this case I have other games beckoning my call and I know they will return in one way or another. But I’m just not ready to move on yet, because I still have things to do. In a way, maybe the laundry list is a reason to keep me holding onto this game. Introspective aspects be damned, this could end up being my Rosebud.
As I said before, I’m at the end and I have just a handful of odds and ends that need to be wrapped up. Mostly synthesizing Ultima weapon, the most powerful weapon in the game. But it doesn’t come easy as it shouldn’t. It involves a huge time investment which equates to resource farming. I got to the end of the game at the 24 hour mark, but now I’m sitting at 40 hours, contemplating the urge to move on. I know all I have is time, and I could very well get everything done and obtain that weapon, but is the frustration worth it?
In the original Playstation 2 release of Kingdom Hearts, I obtained Ultima Weapon, and completed the game. But the Final Mix version makes earning Ultima Weapon an absolute chore, and displays itself as the true signature of 100% completion. Putting up with the pain in the ass material gathering pays off to those who want it, but my big gripe is when you get the weapon, and that happens more so at end of the game. About 98% of the game is done by the time you get the weapon because of what you need to do in order to obtain this ultimate weapon.
I am going to tell you what it is like obtaining this weapon as best as I can. Ultima Weapon requires several pieces of materials and one of them requires you to use a specific type of magic to complete. But magic is split into three levels, the third level being most powerful, so of course you need that third level. But you can’t just jump to the third level from the first because first level magic isn’t good enough to fight the boss with. So you have to unlock the second level of magic by finding pages to a book. After you gather enough pages you can go through an adventure and unlock the second level of that magic. Now you are equipped to fight another boss to unlock said third level of magic. But that boss is weak to three types of magic that also need to be powered up, so you have to do more tasks to unlock those upgrades. But that same boss takes up a lot of magic power, which means you are going to go through a lot of magic points (MP). So now you have to get a particular weapon that adds more MP to your magic pool. Obtaining that weapon means you have to fight another boss. But it doesn’t end there, it would be nice if it did but it doesn’t. Because now you have that third level magic that you needed in the first place and now you can obtain that one material that you needed. But that is just one part of the process. You need to obtain other pieces and not every piece drops from enemies. So you have to endlessly grind out battle after battle and it becomes so entirely monotonous that you question if the reward is even worth it.
The insult to injury comes when you are done and you you finally get the Ultima weapon only to use it on one single boss at the end because you defeated everything else just trying to obtain it. There should be more for me to do but there is nothing left, all the most powerful enemies are defeated in my wake, and I think that is a terrible payoff for people who strive so hard for this power. Because of this, it actually makes it harder for me to follow through till the end, and the completionist inside of me weeps. Before I continue to grind out materials and meet my certain madness, I have to ask myself: If I have 6 or 7 more games to get through, does this one matter that much?
Other games handle much better when it comes to ultimate weapons and endgame grinding. I mentioned both Assassins Creed and Horizon Zero Dawn as two open world titles that have huge maps and plenty to explore. They also have a way of rewarding you with amazing weapons and armor that you earn early enough where you enjoy your time with it. You learn how it changes how you play, you experience what it’s like to be powerful.
In Horizon, you earn a set of reflective armor which is amazing and really helps when you start taking some of the harder challenges in that world. It doesn’t make you too overpowered, but the fact that you obtain it early enough without it being too late makes me feel respected as a player. It makes me feel as if the developers know I want to spend more time feeling like an absolute badass, so they give me that opportunity.
Assassins Creed’s new RPG overhaul offers armor pieces and full sets that each attribute to specific styles of gameplay. The best armor or weapons in the game actually depend on how you like to approach specific situations. There are several different weapons with strengths and weaknesses, but you don’t have to spend a lot of time exerting yourself trying to earn them all. You can if you want, and doing so would give you an insane arsenal of weaponry, but there is no true endgame weapon, and you can stop when you want to. You can even save some challenges for when you do get that weapon, making you enjoy the fruits of your labor.
One game in particular that I absolutely love that needs to be recognized is Resident Evil 4. One of my personal top 5 games of all time had a system that allows you to upgrade weapons, and if you are smart with your pesetas, you could have the most powerful handgun early enough to actually have fun with it. Capcom even included a new game plus mode, so you can revisit parts of the game with a slew of ammo and powerful weapons, turning every boss from being absolutely terrifying into a naive bug. Except for Iron Maidens, they are terrifying no matter the circumstance.
As my contemplation of besting a game or not meets my urge to “compete it,” I hit a wall that just forces me to put an end to the madness and move on. But the other part of me will not let go of the fact that I put too much time into swimming around Atlantica, listening to the Little Mermaid soundtrack on repeat. Which is way worse than the time my wife and I were stuck on the “Its a small world” ride for 30 minutes because at the end of the ride the most we got from that experience was mild trauma and that doesn’t help me make the best weapon in a video game.