What Makes The Xemnas Data Battle So Awesome; Kingdom Hearts III Limit Cut Deep Dive #11
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 over 2 years 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 2 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:
Xemnas is undoubtedly one of the more positively received villains in the series, being the primary antagonist of Kingdom Hearts II, and returning significantly throughout Dream Drop Distance and Kingdom Hearts III. He also had a prominent antagonistic role throughout Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Though, his first actual appearance was in Kingdom Hearts Final Mix; the director’s cut iteration of the first game. He was found in Hollow Bastion as the ultimate secret boss, intimidating Sora with allusions to the Nobodies, an umbrella of foe that he was not yet privy to.
As for who Xemnas is, he is Xehanort’s Nobody following his possession of Terra. Quoting my Ansem Data battle piece, Xemnas’ origins are as follows:
At Birth by Sleep’s conclusion, Terra’s body became possessed by Master Xehanort due to the latter’s need for a robust vessel. However, after a final confrontation with Aqua, this new iteration of Xehanort experienced amnesia, and he found himself under the tutelage of Radiant Garden’s leader, Ansem the Wise.
Then, after a vast degree of betrayal resulting from overt curiosity and conspiring with fellow apprentices, Xehanort discarded his-then vessel, forming a Heartless and Nobody. The former was Ansem Seeker of Darkness, who stole Ansem the Wise’s name, while the latter was Xemnas, the [eventual] leader of the original Organization XIII.
As the leader of the original Organization XIII, Xemnas led each member under the guise of them gaining hearts of their own via forming a version of Kingdom Hearts. Not so shockingly, as revealed in Dream Drop Distance, that objective was a ruse, as the true intention of the original Organization XIII was to scout them as vessels for Xehanort’s essence. Further, Xemnas reveals that Nobodies do, in fact, grow replacement hearts over time, solidifying how horrifically deceptive he was to those he commanded.
What makes Xemnas such a beloved antagonist, at least why I think so, is because of how simultaneously tragic and cruel he is. Of all the Nobodies, Xemnas is easily the most emotionless, resulting in an unavoidable and disturbingly pure sense of wickedness. This trait comes to a head at the end of Kingdom Hearts III, where Xemnas finally realizes that he did feel camaraderie toward the original Organization XIII. But, poetically, his first surge of emotion correlating to loneliness makes him realize how Sora and humanity, by extension, must be powerful. It’s a bittersweet farewell.
As for Xemnas’ Data Battle, he utilizes a varied array of moves from Kingdom Hearts II and Dream Drop Distance, creating what I consider to be his most imposing iteration. Firstly of note are his thorns, originating from his final Kingdom Hearts II battle. When Sora collides with these nothing-ness-infused swings, he is swung into the air and locked out of his commands. Interestingly, these don’t cause damage, instead serving to be a mild annoyance with the primary aim of disrupting your rhythm. Moreover, Xemnas has a habit of spawning barriers (also from past fights) that act as setups for future attacks. However, these barriers can also be destroyed via flowmotion or spells, making them multi-layered in application. It pays to be especially cautious of Xemnas’ indirectly damaging moves, which is a design choice I respect since it rids the traditional cycle of having to pay attention to your health when coming into contact with every attack.
Adding on to the past battle references, Xemnas consistently performs a series of kick and Ethereal blade-combined combos, reminiscent of his skillset back in Kingdom Hearts II. Additionally, these moves are purposefully designed to avoid being spam-guarded, as they require acutely timed, spaced-out blocking to negate entirely. This genius implementation blatantly showcases how the development team knew how some players would desperately embrace defense without considering the deeper intricacies regarding its usage. It’s also just immensely satisfying to block in perfect rhythm, making this Data battle feel more akin to a dance than any other encounter.
Another past battle reference I love is Xemnas’ sphere-shaped energy blasts that originate from his optional fight in Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. They have slight tracking, though swift movements eliminate their seemingly prominent danger. In a sense, they can be perceived as an intimidation tactic that usually gets the job done against new players. Then, as if all of those aforementioned previous battle references weren’t enough, Xemnas can summon an encircled array of crimson projectiles directly ripped from Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. This attack’s concept stems from the optional Xemnas battle in Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, despite their coloration being blue and not being identically shaped to future versions.
Data Xemnas’ openings primarily comprise catching him in brief moments of cooldown after his more flashy moves like the thorns or lengthy melee combos. They can take a bit of time to detect but are honestly some of the more straightforward openings to find throughout these Data encounters since they all have exceedingly similar roots.
Speaking of flashy, one of Data Xemnas’ most notable and original moves incorporates the barriers I mentioned earlier. When three are summoned onto the field, he initiates an almost humorously lengthy combo throwing Sora into the air. This series of strikes is chaotically fascinating, though, as I believe it’s the only part of the game that demands traditional air-related handling to such a detailed extent. Still, what I find most extraordinary about this specific setup is that once Data Xemnas is open at this sequence’s end, one can cause him to fall gradually and perform a diving strike for tremendous damage. It’s an excellent utilization of an overlooked mechanic in Sora’s extensive toolkit.
Finally, Data Xemnas’ Desperation Move is hands-down my favorite throughout any of the Data battles. Part of why has to do with it being a souped-up version of his iconic one at the end of Kingdom Hearts II. Following well-timed attacks mimicking his Ethereal blade and kick-infused combos, he initiates waves of bullets ripped directly from the Sora and Riku Reaction Command sequence at the end of Kingdom Hearts II that require guarding. This cycle repeats three times, with the combos altering and the bullet waves incorporating occasionally unblockable bullets, making players not engage in sole relief once they believe they’re safe. This is what every DM should strive to be, a memorable, thrilling, and frightening spectacle boasting circumstantial inputs wholly dependent on players’ situational reading.
Data Xemnas’ battle theme is “L’Oscurità dell’Ignoto,” a melded arrangement of the track by the same name from Dream Drop Distance and Darkness of the Unknown from Kingdom Hearts II. This haunting, tension-filled theme is arguably one of the more recognizable ones throughout the series, never letting up on its tempo. As a result, I possess an immense degree of nostalgia for it. Yet, I also can’t deny that this arrangement breathes more cinematic life into the track, instilling an ever-more grandiose sense of majesty befitting Xemnas’ history and elegant fighting style.
Regarding battle quotes, this is the one facet of the fight where Data Xemnas is lacking. The most frequent one he voices is “Leaving?” which occurs whenever he sends out his thorns. Paul St. Peter does a stellar job with the delivery, but its sheer commonality is a bit much. At least when beginning the battle, he states a fitting, characterized line, “Why resist the emptiness?” “No escape” is another excellent one, as it’s said right as the wave of bullets during the Desperation Move begins. I can practically hear it in my head just by seeing the words. One last line that deserves mention is his victory quote, “I banish you to the void!” Considering Data Xemnas’ apparent emotionlessness, one can hear the dry exclamation present in this delivery, indeed hallmark work by Paul St. Peter.
Data Xemnas is probably my favorite Data battle throughout Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind. It consistently upkeeps a menacing tempo that provides a supreme sense of cathartic delight. From the fantastic Desperation Move to the inventive incorporation of the air, this fight never feels remotely stale. Further, the track acts as an inestimably hype-inducing motivator in continuing to learn the fairly created openings and pursue victory, a masterclass in boss design. Thanks to its lovingly and meticulously crafted references, it undeniably pleases veteran fans too. I consider this battle to be near the apex of challenge compared to the rest of the Data Battles primarily due to its unconventional rhythm, though it manages to remain consistent.
Next time, we’ll be discussing Data Xion, the semifinal Data bout.
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