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Cruelty of Destiny

It’s been 2 years since the release of Dark Road and going on hiatus. Now we were graced with a pile full of cutscenes to it’s Finale, I can finally speak my thoughts on the entirety of the story with gameplay, presentation, the revelations, the whole sha-bang. Before I dive into this, before you consider reading, I must warn you that there are spoilers ahead. There is so much to tell my feelings toward this particular title. If you wish to avoid that, I’ll at least start with the artist notes of my Dark Road poster I did back in 2021. I’ll even briefly speak on gameplay because there’s not much to it honestly. But after that, spoiler overload. Let’s start with the summary of the story: A young boy, Xehanort, had left his tiny world of a home and arrived in Scala Ad Caelum as an apprentice to become a Keyblade Master alongside his best friend, Eraqus, and his fellow classmates. One day, their teacher informs the classmates that the upperclassman have gone missing. So he assigns a mission to Xehanort and the others to explore the worlds in search for clues of the missing upperclassman. Little did he know that this mission would change him forever, that it would lead down a dark path… (Thoughts on story are past the spoiler point) __________ Starting with gameplay! It’s pretty similar to the gameplay in Union Cross, but you’re using cards (which is ironic because the original browser version also used cards then the mobile version made them medals). Much also like UX, there is an option to auto play, which to some is instantly a wasted game. I can agree to some extent. I mainly use auto play to grind and be away from my phone for awhile. However, I do play manually on certain bosses in the story or just tougher bosses in general. It ironically felt quicker doing it manually anyway considering the auto play felt slower. Another aspect of the gameplay that’s different from Union Cross is choosing your party members throughout the story. This only occurs mainly in the first 3 chapters. The characters you choose are 4 of your classmates with different abilities: Hermod for attack, Bragi for defense, Urd for Blizzard, and Vor for magic boost. Despite what you choose, there are certain cutscenes that allow you to choose a character to be put in said cutscene. It doesn’t change the outcome of the scenario, but the character interactions are slightly different. There is one character I will not name I chose for awhile for their ability in combat, but there was one scene where another character had a certain interest I just couldn’t refuse picking them out. I felt they purposely made it this way that will stick with you in a way that is impactful. That will be saved in the spoiler section. In regard to grinding, I feel is what keeps people away from giving the gameplay a chance. Keep in mind, it’s no longer online meaning no gacha system can stop you for feeling robbed aside from time. The way to earn and purchase certain cards in the game, you have to earn BP. The caveat to this is that BP is also your EXP for Xehanort. So, it can be difficult to choose between cards and your exp. So, it feels like you have no choice but to grind away for who knows how long just to continue the story smoothly. In fact, I don’t blame anyone for skipping the gameplay and look up the entire story online instead without any worry about grinding. That being said, I was pretty lucky to save my app for the entirety of that hiatus to maintain my data I’ve saved for the past 5 years since I’ve had Union Cross. Because Dark Road also gave free BP after however many hours you’ve left the game untouched. Sadly, that is no longer the case after the update. But I sure had a lot more than I thought to purchase all the cards with my BP. As such, I got through this in a breeze within 4 hours. The gameplay is not the draw of Dark Road, it can be tedious depending on your position. That was mostly for those who just downloaded the game or, based on certain reports, corruption of their progress. There is something else regarding the gameplay I’d like to briefly speak about. But that will be saved in the spoiler section. ::::: ARTIST NOTES So, I actually first shared this back in 2021 during the March Caprice online event. But it was the only place I uploaded to. With that out of the way, the art piece itself was very fun to do. Obviously, I’ve been drawing Young Xehanort a lot recently (in case you don’t know, he’s my favorite character) and this drawing is just one of the many. The biggest challenge for me was the background. The sky was pretty straightforward, since it was inspired by the sky in the opening of KH3. However, doing the islands in a silhouette night setting reflecting the waters was a tricky thing to do. I’ve always wanted to seen Scala at night and I just drew what I envisioned. The main color I choose was purple. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the title being green for Dark Road in particular. I do understand that it’s meant to connect to the Union Cross era. But the story of Dark Road would be more suitable for with purple. So, I give this art piece some purple vibe. ———————————— So now, with that out of the way, I warn you again the heavy spoilers ahead because I have so much to say. Please please PLEASE be sure to watch or play the game first before proceeding the spoiler section. I also want to share a link of my review on KHUX finale here >>> https://www.kh13.com/gallery/image/69286-the-final-break/ I will bring up some points from that review and utilize this here. Now, without further adieu, here are my rambling thoughts. ⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️ Bit of a background here. I’ve played Union Cross when it first released respectfully inl the U.S. back in 2016. Little did I know that eventually, 5 years later, in 2020, another story would be integrated in the same app. In other words, you could play 2 games in one app simultaneously, in a sense. Of course, during that year it was released, they graced us with only 3 chapters. It only took a couple more years to finally experience the rest of the story to 8 chapters altogether. The question stands: was it worth the wait? It depends who you ask. Some will play the game regardless the progress and others would watch on YouTube. As someone who did play the game since it’s release and finished the finale within 4 hours, here is my perspective on how it impacted me as a KH fan and a loyal player to this app game. I think I mentioned this in my KHUX finale poster that I’m not into MMOs. However, this game has given me a tiny taste of sticking with this world and it’s story for a long period of time. Like watching a long-running show, movie, and game series, you are attached to the world you live in. They eventually had to come to an end and seeing it happen leaves a bit of grievances. This happened for me with KHUX. Now with Dark Road finally completed after 2 years of a hiatus, this gave me somewhat the same thing. The difference is said hiatus and that it dropped all episodes in one to naturally complete via quests. I feel it would be more impactful if they had uploaded the episodes one by one within the 2 year gap. However, the story itself is still quite an emotional experience: more so than I could ever imagine. Enough beating around the bush, Let’s get to the meat of this! VVVVVVVV SO……the story….OH MY GOODNESS THE STORY…..is one of the best written in the series! I cannot say whether or not it’s better than Days writing, but I adored how DR was handled with the delivery and execution. This is also a bonus since Young Xehanort is my favorite KH character and to see him get the spotlight is all the more reason to love this title. I can’t even stress enough how much I enjoyed Xehanort’s character in-sight throughout the game. Seeing him actually be genuinely funny and even moments of vulnerability, especially surprisingly his elder self, was a delight to watch despite him being presented as a 2D flat model with no voice acting. This made me love Xehanort even more, especially his younger self. This is the most character I have seen from him and it’s in a mobile game. Let me remind you that there were only 2 animators during this project in particular. Despite the small number, they managed to animate the characters quite well. I’ve said this back in the UX review, and I still find it impressive. Not jest Xehanort, but for all the characters and environments. That being said, I still hope that Square would consider giving Dark Road a chance to have proper production quality and value via Unreal Engine 4 or 5 as a remake game or a movie. Not just Dark Road, but the entirety of the χ Saga, including Missing Link. One of the coolest things they did in Dark Road is the integration of Disney worlds made us for world building in the world of KH. Each world had served a purpose for the growth of the characters and how crucial they are to the world order. The only title that was close to that was KH1 and a bit of Birth by Sleep. The rest of the games had suffered that issue and were made only as filler. Of course, you could argue that you can view them as parallels to the themes and certain characters with their circumstances or just want to visit these worlds because we love Disney, both reasons are completing reasonable. However, with how much the series is growing and gaining more world building, I feel it was time to make these worlds useful and utilize them to help the characters (both original and Disney characters) with their growth and have consequences. Dark Road is one that did the Disney integration the best so far. In light of this, if Disney steps back a bit aside from being picky with stories and sticks with being picky over design choices and character sustenance in certain properties they own, then perhaps the future titles can allow the Disney worlds to be more interesting with different or tweaked plots to make them important to the already huge world of KH. ————————— I would like to share my favorite moments that stuck with me, but I’d like to share one more thing. I mentioned previously a certain gameplay aspect I wanted to talk about in the spoiler section. The bosses I fight since the beginning of chapter 4 were interesting to say the least. After finishing the story, I can fight them again for bigger BP and to fill my album. This is where I bring my point on why I wished they still let us play the game within the 2 year hiatus. It feels pointless to continue grinding after you finish the story. I have yet to hear any confirmation that there is a secret secret episode after completing your library of enemies and such. I gladly can rewatch the cutscenes I theater mode, but the gameplay felt even more wasted. Continuing on the bosses, there is one boss I felt didn’t feel as impactful like KHUX did. The final Boss you fight in the story is a Hearltess. Not just any heartless, it is one connected to one of the characters names Baldr (we’ll get to him in a bit). A reminder that all the classmates aside from Xehanort and Eraqus are named after Norse Mythology. So, how poetic that the Heartless under Baldr is named Hringhorn, which is the name of Baldr’s ship in said Norse mythology. There’s no denying that it’s an incredibly cool reference. However, I feel it would be more impactful if I fought Hringhorn first then fight Baldr as the final boss. I’ll get to why in the favorite moments section. ————————— I got a LOT to say about the scenes that stuck with me. I’ll be honest, it’s quite a lot. I’d argue that the entirety of Dark Road is just my favorite altogether. I will try my best to condense as much as possible to make make it too long. But, truthfully, I really want to share my love for this title. Regardless, buckle up, have some popcorn and a drink! This is not in order, this is more of a ramble if anything LOL 1. The biggest focus of the story is on Xehanort make no mistake. However, this is where I condense my list a bit by mentioning his relationship with Eraqus in particular. The chemistry could make a list of each moment. Their bond throughout the story is what made it enjoyable. Whether they argue on their beliefs, roast each other, dealing with their trauma, or just chilling & playing chess. Those two have the best chemistry in the series and it did not require a third person to make that bond special. No matter how you look at it (a ship, friendship, brothers, etc.), there’s no denying that it’s real wholesome and charming. Seeing their progression as individuals, how to they sort of grew apart, and even giving me a whole different view when rewatching them in the past games (particularly BBS and KH3). 2. Did I mention how kinda funny Xehanort was in DR? I could could name a few that struck me in the funny bone, especially the carpet scene. However, the one scene that really made him shine with a bit of comedy was his first time meeting the Master of Masters before the remind scene. It was not only funny, but it also combined with a good dose of your typical KH psychology on light and darkness, the strong and the weak, etc. I recommend you see the scene yourselves. I’d argue that it’s up on my top 5 favorite scenes in the series. We just need voice acting from Ray Chase and Ben Diskin alongside some good quality production treatment & you have a perfect scene! 3. One small thing I want to share that made me glad to choose the character Vor in Wonderland is what made a scene with her in Dwarf Woodlands so memorable. She was the first characters to display some character compared to the others. The beginning of chapter 4 made it more so and why she was my favorite classmate. She saves the dwarfs from a a boulder blacking a passage….by over-shouldering the big massive boulder despite her size. I had to leave the app to contemplate and ponder, eventually concluding her as the best classmate. This will eventually lead to an event that made me feel validated why choosing her in a cutscene in Wonderland made a scene later on more impactful. - This event was when we learn that all the students get taken out by Darkness. Of course, seeing Vor being one of them is incredibly heartbreaking. I knew the moment she had a personality and the fact that she is adorable and sweet compared to the others gave me a gut feeling that something big will happen to her and it wasn’t the fan theory hope she was Kairi’s grandmother. Seeing her die in Eraqus’s arms and Xehanort tears up alongside Eraqus made it all the more heart wrenching. 4. One of the most heartbreaking and shocking scenes in this game is learning how much loss Xehanort and Eraqus went through. I remember the first time seeing the end of the first chapter. It shows Xehanort laying flowers on 4 graves. This leads to assume that his fellow classmates have passed away. Of course, within the 2 years on hiatus, we theorize and speculate so desperately for any hope that some students survived. The cemetery scene was one of my favorites for awhile. But after Xehanort lost not only his own (including Baldr), but the missing upperclassman whom he confronted which was now all for naught, it made the cemetery scene [in chapter 1 and the last chapter] all the more powerful. - (Side note, when I first saw end of the first chapter, considering that it was raining in the game, it was also raining + thundering on my end and I was eating ice cream…this is definitely the game for me LOL) 5. Remember when I mentioned how DR has shown Disney worlds being utilized as crucial elements that help the story’s world building? A great example is old man Master Xehanort revisits the mirror in Dwarf Woodlands after 64 years to ask it some questions. These questions he asked and how he responds to the answers given by the mirror, it surprised me to see him genuinely vulnerable at that old age. It’s always quite a treat to see a different side to him we’ve em ever seen since the first time we saw him. I’d say even since meeting Ansem SoD the first time back in KH1. 6. Another huge thing I need to talk is a moment that broke me. In the secret ending of DR, we rewatch the scene from KHUX of a young woman giving away infant Xehanort to the blue-robes figure. We move to a few years later from that (or rather 9 years ago before the current events of DR), we then meet with a supposedly 6-year-old Xehanort snuggled on the blue robe person. We learn quite a few things from this conversation. One I want to speak on is a line that truly hurt in the heart. There were theories about the woman that gave Xehanort away was either his mother or it wasn’t. But this line he says confirms this by saying, “when I get strong enough, will I get to see my mom again too?” I can’t even tell you how much that line broke me. I always have a sensitive spot for kids who don’t have parents (whether one lives or both not present at all). It makes me more than eager to learn more about his mother (especially since Nomura has confirmed she is related to a crucial character). Speaking of relatives… 7. We learn that Xehanort was in fact a descendant of Ephemer, the leader of the Dandelions back in KHUX. Not only that, the crucial character I mentioned is that Xehanort’s mother is related to Skuld. I don’t know how, but I look forward to Missing Link to answer all these questions. 8. You may notice I did not mention another crucial thing: Xehanort being a reincarnation of the player. Welp…..looks like Nomura did a bait-in-switch on us all. Turns out that it’s not the case. We learned that Xehanort can feel and see through other people’s hearts (aka, an empath apparently). As such, he was confirmed by the blue-robed figure to be the Child of Destiny, a special child that hails from the isles of Destiny who can embrace the hearts of others and to save the world from Darkness. Of course, that obviously not the case to which it is implied that it was very likely Sora. What does that have to do with the player you ask? Well, the reason we see the memories of the player is the for mentioned ability of Xehanort he can see other people’s hearts via dreams. But where did he get it from? Well, we are not Xehanort….we raised him! The blue robes figure was the player all along living it’s second life time! 9. Burton here is so many to share I couldn’t make it longer. But one more I want to share that is just heartwarming. The players last words for Xehanort, and to us as the players since playing KHUX, were truly inspiring and beautiful. If there’s anything the player character can do is pull our heartstrings with their speech. The words they say were for Xehanort’s Journey to his Destiny. However, we know the tragic outcome of his fate. Despite that, what they say not only foreshadows the true Child of Destiny, but they’re words were also for us to keep close to our hearts as the audience. This speech was also powerful when “Friends in my Heart” plays to further pull my heartstrings. ————————— I could go on and on on the many scenes that I love. Truthfully, all scene Xehanort have been my favorite. In other words, the entirety of Dark Road! I love this title so much! I may put this at my top 3. Yes the gameplay is still pointlessly grindy with or without the hatch’s system. But the story is just so incredibly written. I would sell my solid for giving it a chance of having a proper unreal engine treated production and voice acting, as remake game or movie. If there’s any hope for lore Xehanort content, I will be on board all the way. Heck, Nkomura himself has said that despite the Dark Seeker saga being compete, since his villain role is done, we may see more of Xehanort should the opportunity be open. The artwork that Nomura shared on Dark Road’s release brought fans (including myself) the possibility that Xehanort might be in the world of Unreality, Quadratum. Xehanort did say he wishes to expand 14 lifetimes after all, 13 to rebuild the world and the 14th to explore the world…. ————————— Anyway, that is my review! I apologize if this was too long for you. This is somewhat a love letter to why I love Young Xehanort as a character. Dark Road was an incredible story and I hoped you enjoyed it as well. If anything, as I write this, that is all the posters I have! Since 2018, it was to promote KH3 and now we’re at the next stage. I don’t know how long Missing Link will last to make a proper review and poster. Perhaps I’ll do a first impression poster, but it will depend. Keeps your eyes peeled regardless.

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