What Makes The Marluxia Data Battle So Awesome; Kingdom Hearts III Limit Cut Deep Dive #4

The Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind DLC contains my favorite content in all of gaming thanks to its stellar and cathartic added story content, phenomenal new music, and unrivaled boss design. However, even after a year and a half since this DLC’s release, I still find its reception relatively underrated. The numerous qualitative boss battles, in particular, warrant the perceived hefty price tag in my book.

But, what is it about these fights that I love so much? Well, I intend to discuss that point once again today, and 9 other times, as I attempt to rattle on why I love each of the 13 data fights in Kingdom Hearts III’s Limit Cut episode.

If you missed them, check out my appreciative pieces on the following data fights:

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The fourth data fight I will discuss is Marluxia, who is around the middle of the pack regarding difficulty when taking the full data roster into account. Thanks to his scythe, he is a mid-range fighter, though he can swiftly transition to long-range maneuvers by throwing his weapon around the arena. Data Marluxia also sports a few unique mechanics that make him simultaneously distinct and stress-inducing. However, let’s dive into his characterization and history first to better appreciate the nuances of this particular combative encounter.

Marluxia is a fan-favorite character who debuted in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, the title taking place between the first game and Kingdom Hearts II. He is usually calm and collected while being noticeably cruel if the situation demands it. Additionally, he was a member of Organization XIII sent to Castle Oblivion alongside several other members on assignment. But, he and another member, Larxene, intended to betray the Organization by using Namine’s abilities to overwrite Sora’s memories, making him a puppet. By having control over Sora, they would powerfully confront the Organization and perhaps even overtake it knowing his combative prowess.

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Marluxia was the final boss for Sora in Chain of Memories, and he was defeated, though his story obviously doesn’t end there. After being absent from the series, save for his Absent Silhouette and data battle in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, he reappeared story-wise in Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross]. His original name is Lauriam, and he was one of the five Union Leaders, a group guiding Keyblade wielders after the Foretellers were no longer present. As if that revelation wasn’t enough, it was also revealed that he had a sister named Strelitzia, who was disturbingly murdered.

Needless to say, he endures quite a bit of heartache in Union χ[Cross], as his search for his sister drives him into an almost uncontrollable state of mania. By the title’s conclusion, he and several other characters take devices that lead them to varying points of time, and at least in Marluxia’s case, he experiences amnesia. Still, before moving on, it is worth further acknowledging Strelitzia.

While merely speculation and not confirmed in any way, there is a popular fan theory that the angel of death Marluxia rides upon in Re:Chain of Memories’ final Sora boss fight is now representative of his sister. Aside from vague resemblances, a flashback in Union χ[Cross] has Strelitzia stating her desire to guard Lauariam’s back while he takes the front, highly reminiscent of that aforementioned phase.

Kingdom Hearts Union Cross

Anyway, let’s actually discuss his data battle in the Limit Cut episode. Data Marluxia can admittedly be one of the most overwhelming bosses to learn. His speed between attacks can be jarring, and when dealt with alongside armor bars and summoned flowers that shoot projectiles, it can all be just a bit much. Still, a few of his openings are simple to parse. For the most part, Marluxia tends to conclude his combos with an unguardable strike that, if evaded, leads to an opening. Some of these combos are straight up from his Absent Silhouette and data battle in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, making for neat callbacks.

And, speaking of callbacks, the flowers Marluxia summons originate from his second phase battle in Chain of Memories, though they’re far more threatening in this iteration. They shoot out projectiles in set intervals and can be deadly if not adequately accounted for alongside Marluxia’s own swift movements. Thankfully, there is a simple and effective way to deal with them; Counter Impact. This counter is probably the least used for many players as it doesn’t deal severe damage, instead only being primarily helpful for disrupting crowds. However, in the context of this fight, Counter Impact can eliminate all surrounding flowers in one blow, making it indescribably worthwhile.

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However, equipping the ability can be seen as a compromise, leading to one particular facet of this fight that I adore. For as moot as Counter Impact makes the flowers, it’s far from ideal to use for the rest of the battle since that’s the only situation where it’s genuinely beneficial. So, players must choose between going with Counter Slash, Kick, or Guard. This is a legitimately thought-provoking dilemma that some of the other data fights don’t necessarily benefit as enormously from, making data Marluxia even more standout.

Due to how Marluxia occasionally throws his scythe and initiates attacks a fair distance away from Sora, Airstep is a vital mechanic to use throughout this battle. It immediately closes the distance. Though this mechanic isn’t transparently taught how to effectively utilize throughout the title, battles like these greatly profit from it. Still, despite the range Marluxia has, he spawns whirlpools and winds that drag Sora to his location at points which aids the process of finding openings and evasion not be one-note.

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His DM (Desperation Move) directly calls back to his Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix variation, at least in concept. When beginning the sequence, Marluxia whispers into Sora’s ear, mimicking the movements from KH2 Final Mix. It’s likely that this one-sided exchange of words is simply an incantation from Marluxia, signaling the Death spell. A number then appears atop Sora’s head, though, unlike KH2 Final Mix, where that number was a hit counter, it is a timer in Limit Cut.

As if that fundamental change in approach doesn’t alter his DM enough, Marluxia then covers the entirety of the arena in a whirlpool of darkness. Players must deplete his armor bar before the timer runs out, making for a unique style of battle that none of the other data battles boast. The timer brings with it a distinct sense of panic that can throw first-time players off their game.

To capitalize on this stress, Marluxia eventually summons an enormous skull from the ground that, from my viewings of other people’s attempts, always catches them off guard. This skull is likely just meant to represent Death, given Marluxia’s association with it being present in other aspects such as the countdown timer and the cherry blossoms in Japanese culture symbolizing the eventuality. For the theorizers out there, though, it’s possible that this skull can be yet another allusion to Strelitzia, which would be concerningly grave. Aside from potential story implications, the gameplay incorporation of this skull is one of the most underrated components of the battle since it has one of the most subtle warning signs before appearing; a bright, orange light shining toward the center of the whirlpool.

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It always pays to be attentive during data fights. Still, with how instrumental this attack is for many players’ failed attempts, its subtle telegraph is a courageous design choice by the developers. It essentially requires players to be cognizant of their surroundings in an environment emitting more intensity than usual, blatantly showcasing the development team’s faith in us learning and prevailing.

Not counting the DM, there are a few instances throughout the battle where Marluxia will have an armor bar. Using Fire on Marluxia when donning this new health gauge causes it to deplete entirely. Alongside being a crafty opening with magic at the forefront, it can be seen as a reference to his battles in KH2 Final Mix since exceptionally proficient players would use Fire in the center of the arena right before Marluxia teleported to prevent him from spawning whirlpools. This callback may not be intentional, but in my headcanon, it is.

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The conclusion of the battle results in yet another Death timer, except its strain is amplified tenfold. Marluxia delivers an endless barrage of scythe swings that are all clearly readable, but the very end of the sequence has players needing to perform just one attack to defeat him before the timer overtakes them. This design choice gets the better of all players at least once and is undoubtedly frustrating.

And, while I also view it as such, I also view it as mechanically incorporated imagery of how sudden the realization of death can be, tying into Marlxia’s own shocked state regarding his sister’s murder. I don’t think it’s supposed to be fair for a first go-around because aside from encouraging repeated attempts of honest, gradual learning, the approach of death, in both real life and in-game, can arrive from seemingly nowhere, even amidst warning signs. Not to mention, Marluxia’s element of sorts is Death, making this rapid timer relate to his mastery over causing its infliction.

In hindsight, it’s rather ghastly how Marluxia possesses control over Death, given Strelitizia’s cruel fate. While she has returned in some form or another, she’s clearly changed, perhaps beyond perceptible mental recognition.

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I’ve neglected to mention this blatantly, but each of Marluxia’s attacks are undeniably symbolic of his prominent moniker, ‘The Graceful Assassin.’ His movements are quick, yes, but when coupled with cherry blossom petals and teleportations of visual flair, ‘graceful’ is a fitting descriptor. Further, his face reveal in Chain of Memories capitalizes on these petals, granting further notability to his appealing features. After all, he’s a fan-favorite character for more than one reason.

The battle theme for data Marluxia is an arrangement of “Lord of the Castle,” his final boss track from Re:Chain of Memories. While I think this song overshadows “Graceful Assassin” and “Scythe of the Petals” from the same title, this is the most iconic track fans tie him to. Grandiose is the most evident way to describe it as there’s over a minute and a half of continually rising anticipation. Eventually, at roughly 1 minute and 40 seconds in, every pore of tenseness euphorically culminates into a state of absolutely transfixed splendor. During my first time attempting this battle, I paused the game because I was simply in awe of how magnificent this arrangement was. It excellently pays homage to prior versions of the track while simultaneously feeling like its own previously unrealized beast.

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Regarding battle quotes, Marluxia sports a few well-known ones that merge with his demeanor and honed hostile nature, such as “Settle down!” and “I’ll scatter you to the wind!” “Sleep for all eternity!” is a favorite of mine because it can be seen as a nod to Chain of Memories with how Sora’s finale results in him going into a year-long sleep to regain his original memories. Further, when Sora encounters Marluxia in the Tangled world in Kingdom Hearts III, Marluxia casts a Sleep spell on him, stating, “You always were such a sound sleeper.” The two lines I just mentioned can also be perceived as references to Dream Drop Distance since Sora dives gradually further into Sleep throughout the title due to the Organization’s desire to make him a vessel.

It has become routine for me to say this for each of these articles, but Marluxia’s data battle is truly splendid. While it contains clear telegraphs and several attacks that reference previous encounters, just like every other data fight, its unique timer mechanic and overt, literal presence of Death teaches players humility when attempting these fights. Failing is expected and necessary to better understand the consequences of each attack that leads to players’ respective deaths. Still, being well-designed and, above all else, consistently fair, makes this and every other data battle an addictive series of processes leading to cathartic fulfillment.

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.