What Makes The Vanitas Data Battle So Awesome; Kingdom Hearts III Limit Cut Deep Dive #3

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 10 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 third data fight I will discuss is Vanitas, who is considered the middle of the road regarding difficulty. He has some generous openings, though a few of his attacks require dexterous evasion to extents that rival Master Xehanort’s and Xion’s data variants. Let’s talk about Vanitas as a character first, however, to better appreciate his data battle.

Vanitas, to be as blunt and direct as possible, is simply an embodiment of darkness. He debuted in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep as he was revealed to essentially be Ventus’ dark half that was forcefully extracted by Master Xehanort following a failed training session. Due to his intense cynicism and disdain, Vanitas views all opposing forces as specks of dust to be wiped out. Though, with recent revelations regarding Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross] and Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind, Vanitas may have ties to the willful Darknesses that have sowed disastrous seeds of chaos.

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Regardless, he’s bad news. His appearance sans mask can be alarming and cause a great deal of confusion, but it’s just due to his connection to Ventus and Sora. During Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Ventus’ fractured heart formed a bond with a far younger Sora. Due to how intricately connected everybody is in this series, Vanitas’ appearance adopted the then-future Sora because of how Sora’s heart played such an integral role in aiding Ventus. There is much more that goes into it, but that’s basically the gist. Additionally, the fact that he essentially revived thanks to the screams of children from Monsters Inc is absolutely genius.

I’ve always found Vanitas to be an engaging antagonist despite his lack of depth when compared to other villains of the franchise. As he tells Sora and Ventus, “All [he] is, is darkness.” His voice acting and general line delivery are stellar and make him a joy to see on screen. Since his voice actor is the same as Sora’s across both the English and Japanese dubs, there is a great deal to appreciate when their performances are contrasted. I genuinely think Haley Joel Osment has a more enjoyable time voicing Vanitas than Sora with how much he carries the former’s almost comically destructive tenacity.

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Vanitas’ appearance alone makes the concept of battling him as Sora really damn cool, even though he wears his mask for the duration of it. Still, aside from concepts, the actualization of this battle is nothing to scoff at. Similar to Young Xehanort’s data battle, Vanitas’ can be seen as a redemption for his more ineptly designed iterations. In Birth by Sleep, Vanitas was an infamously horrid opponent due to his lack of sensical stagger. Though his attacks could be appropriately blocked and evaded, the lack of rhyme or reason for whatever he did made him a chore to fight.

Further, his super boss variant in that same title, known as Vanitas Remnant, is one of the worst-designed fights in the franchise. While boasting interesting gimmicks, like healing itself if players utilize Cure, his design issues from the story battles were amplified here tenfold. Plus, the only feasible ways to defeat him have nothing to do with reading and reacting to attacks, instead just abusing game mechanics.

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Thankfully, his data battle in Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind is leagues above his prior appearances. His attacks are ripped straight from Birth by Sleep, and though he was fought during the end of Kingdom Hearts III’s base game, the added attacks and generally greater difficulty highlight the individuality of his toolkit all the more. Vanitas has an affinity for Fire, using it fairly often, with some casts being noticeably slower than others. I like to view the slower Fires as potential references to Crawling Fire, a spell from Birth by Sleep that casted a lingering, longer-lasting variant of the element.

He also teleports quite frequently, a trademark aesthetic from every one of his other encounters. During his data battle, his maneuvers, including the teleports, are clear to detect, so there is never any questionable implementation of artificial difficulty. Still, that doesn’t necessarily equate to him being a simple foe. Vanitas is swift, and a few of his later moves require memorization of patterns to prevail against reliably. His DM (Desperation Move) is an undeniable example of this design philosophy.

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Hearkening back to his Vanitas Remnant iteration in Birth by Sleep, he sends out waves of clones in set intervals and patterns alongside silhouetted Keyblades. This move is legitimately one of the most overwhelming DMs in the game as it isn’t entirely reactable on the fly during a first try. Initial attempts will undoubtedly result in death. Whether fitting or not, given how Master Xehanort caused him to exist, the flying waves of clones are similar to Master Xehanort’s own DM, which is ingrained with the same idea.

Perhaps more than the other data battles, Vanitas’ fight heavily rewards you for understanding the intricacies of his movements. For example, one of his attacks begins with summoning a lengthy tornado of Keyblades to ride upon, referencing his teased appearance during the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and the same attack he performs in Birth by Sleep and the base version of Kingdom Hearts III. If activated, Vanitas spends an almost uncomfortably long period of time riding atop these Keyblades, shooting unblockable Blizzards at Sora. However, it is possible to completely negate this attack altogether by striking him soon before he jumps to begin the maneuver, particularly with Thunder.

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Further, this negation technique even applies to his DM, and if correctly done, makes the process of his fight significantly more manageable. Other than, say, Yozora, I don’t think any of the other super bosses reward players for knowing moves quite so drastically to a point where it becomes possible to skip attacks outright. If anything, this aspect helps grant data Vanitas a stronger sense of identity that also makes his moves more distinct compared to his untimely contemporaries.

Personally, Vanitas’ battle quotes are on the same level as Xigbar’s in terms of impact and memorability. While not a part of the data fight, during the battle against him as Aqua in the Land of Departure, he spouts, “Alright! Let’s see what you’re made of, Master!” This line gives me shivers with how legitimately enthused Vanitas sounds to fulfill the vendetta he’s possessed since their last bout. This venomous tone is amplified with “See? You’re nobody’s master anymore!” when losing to him as Aqua. The Re Mind story episode has 2 more genuinely chilling quotes; “Let’s not disappoint our Masters in this fight” and “Once again, you couldn’t save him” when starting the battle and losing as Aqua, respectively. I think it’s because of how specific in subject matter his battle quotes are in comparison to other antagonists that make them that much more appealing.

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As for the data battle itself, one iconic line was revived strictly for this occasion; “Too slow!” This line originates from Birth by Sleep and became a massive meme in the community, so seeing it return in Limit Cut, especially in such a slyer, more insidious tone, brought a legitimate grin to my face.

As for this theme, Vanitas’ battle track is “Enter the Darkness,” which perfectly encapsulates him both title and content-wise. I’ll be candid and admit that this track is not my thing as its instrumentation is too heavy for my liking, but I can’t help but appreciate it, for it is an undeniable match for the character. It consistently emits havoc, fitting for his destructive flair and impulses.

Vanitas’ data battle stands out as redemption of his ill-realized design from the past in a perhaps almost as equally pronounced way as Young Xehanort’s. Not only is he now a fair, punishable foe whose attacks are both visually stunning and sensically incorporated, but his strikes coalesce so strongly with his personality. He is a joy to battle, and regardless of whether he appears in the future, I’m indescribably glad he received an enjoyable combative encounter.


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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual. Fan of JRPGs, Action, Platformers, Rhythm, and Adventure titles.