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  • 8.8: GameSpot gave the game a 7.5. Cue the angry mob.
  • Accidental Aesop: Forgiveness can backfire (just ask Eraqus note ), The Power of Friendship can fail (the main trio get a Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending despite giving it their all), and The Power of Hate can be your best friend (it's what lets Terra create the Lingering Will, the ultimate Spanner in the Works against Big Bad Xehanort).
  • Accidental Innuendo:
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    • Vanitas would occasionally tell Ventus to "Join now with your better half" during his boss fight.
    • "Dimension Links" are shortened to "D-Links". "The D" is common slang for male genitalia. After you complete every world, the game tells you "You have made a D-Link with Terra / Aqua / Mickey..."
  • Anticlimax Boss:
    • Captain Gantu may be physically imposing and armed with a ray gun, but in battle, his moves are pathetically easy to avoid and leave him wide open to attacks. There's even a Reaction Command that stuns him for a few seconds, letting Aqua whale on him with impunity, but she won't need it.
    • For all the buildup of Master Xehanort as a powerful and despicable villain, Terra's final fight against him is remarkably straightforward. It's even possible to beat him just by tapping the attack button and watching him make little effort to avoid getting comboed to death. Of course, this is all according to plan, and the fight's second phase completely turns the tables on Terra.
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    • The final boss of Aqua's story, Ventus-Vanitas. Whereas Terra's final boss is That One Boss, and Ventus's final boss is a magnificent three-stage fight, Ventus-Vanitas's attacks are easy to avoid and recover from, and Mickey helps out throughout the fight. Even Braig immediately beforehand eclipses this foe in difficulty. Like Master Xehanort above, Aqua has to fight a much harder True Final Boss, but not until the Final Episode, and as this is Vanitas's last hurrah in the story (assuming you played Aqua last), one would expect this character to put up a bit more of a fight.
  • Audience-Coloring Adaptation: The game's portrayal of Lady Tremaine would result in the fanbases for both Kingdom Hearts and Disney seeing her as not just a Gold Digger and Sociopath, but also a Black Widow, as the attempted murder of Cinderella can prove.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
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    • The 2.5 Remix re-release adds in a small scene at the end of Terra's story where the Lingering Will sprouts a cape from its armor after defeating Xehanort, allowing continuity between this game and Kingdom Hearts II to be retained.
    • The game's lineup of new worlds, draws more on classic Disney films like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, alleviating complaints that Kingdom Hearts II had placed too heavy a focus on recent releases.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • All three protagonists fall under this:
      • Terra is either a tragic character, or a complete moron that got everyone in the mess they were in because he always seems to trust the Obviously Evil villains.
      • Ventus has a lot of fans, but also has plenty of detractors. Fans see him as one of the series' biggest woobies due to his past with Master Xehanort and his eventual recovery from Xehanort nearly killing him and being able move on to become a strong Keyblade wielder makes him one of the most relatable characters in the series. Detractors however see his personality as a complete retread of Sora's and think he was only written into the series just to explain why Roxas doesn't look like Sora despite being his Nobody.
      • Aqua has a lot of detractors who find her a boring character with not a lot of personality to her outside of being the Team Mom of the cast whose inner doubts and struggles with her inner darkness aren't really explored for very long. Also, in terms of being made out to be a strong female character that she is frequently presented as, fans either think she lives up to it while others don't since she has had to been rescued a lot more than Terra and Ventus.
    • Vanitas. Some regard him as one of the best villains due to his intimidating presence, an awesome boss theme and a sympathetic backstory in the novel in which they hope that he will get an redemption arc in later games. However, some fans don't think he deserves a redemption and just wish he would stay dead, since his overall effect on the story is minimal. The fact that he looks and sounds like Sora causes quite a stir as well, as some think it creates a contrast to our happy go lucky hero whereas others think that if he didn't look like Sora, Vanitas wouldn't be that interesting.
    • Master Eraqus is either seen as a goodhearted Parental Substitute towards his students who's Black-and-White Morality status is seen as understandable due to the series' Broken Aesop portrayal of darkness and is also liked due to the excellent performance from Mark Hamill, or he's seen as a complete idiot who's responsible for everything that has happened since he was way too forgiving of Xehanort and did not warn his students (Especially Terra) to be cautious around him since he already knew Xehanort has been taken by the darkness and knew of his plans to trigger another Keyblade War.
  • Best Boss Ever:
    • Terra gets the Magic Mirror, an Unexpected Character (since the screenshots depicted Aqua fighting it instead, something that was proven true) but also Peter Pan,Experiment 221, Braig and is the only one to fight Master Xehanort directly - something not done until Kingdom Hearts III. To say nothing of Eraqus, a truly emotional battle.
    • Ventus gets to make Captain Hook's day a living hell, he also fights Maleficent, Lucifer, and his final boss fights with Vanitas. Between an amazing battle theme, Beam Spam and just how little room for breathing he gives you Vanitas makes for a very memorable boss.
    • Aqua gets the Magic Mirror, Gantu, Maleficent Dragon, and an empowered Braig.
  • Best Level Ever: While the 358/2 Days version of Never Land had a better theme, the Birth by Sleep version is often considered to be the best one, in part because you actually get to go to Never Land instead of the outskirts.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • The fight against the Spirit of the Mirror is this, from Aqua's perspective. She enters the castle looking for the Queen, enters the room with the mirror, immediately gets sucked into it, fights the Spirit, and when she wins, the mirror just says, "Queen's gone, nice job beating me, peace out".
    • When Terra visits Destiny Islands, he briefly sees Riku (who is a small child at this point) as Young Xehanort, then as Riku's 16-year-old self from Kingdom Hearts II. No explanation is given for the latter, let alone why this random future self of a little boy would mean so much to Terra.
  • Breather Boss: Peter Pan, fought in Terra's story, is almost laughably easy no matter the difficulty. Despite Vim and Vigor playing throughout, he spends much of the fight slowly floating out of reach until he decides to use one of two easily avoided attacks, after which you can wail on him. You don't even have to deplete all of his health. While it's justified since Peter isn't taking the fight seriously, it doesn't help that he comes after Zack and Experiment 221, and before Eraqus.
  • Broken Base:
    • There's also slight debate on the continuity of the novelization of the game concerning Vanitas's backstory that paints him in a much more Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds light. Some people think that it doesn't make sense when compared to the actual character in the game and enter it under Fan Discontinuity (not hard to do, as the novels are a separate continuity to game canon), while others accept it and think it fleshes the character out more. Then there's fangirls who take it as an excuse for Draco in Leather Pants towards Vanitas.
    • Whether or not Aqua was right and justified in following Master Eraqus' orders to basically spy on Terra and basically make Ventus return to the Land of Departure is a big point of contention between fans. Detractors state that Terra and Ventus were completely in the right to feel betrayed at Aqua and Master Eraqus' lack of trust in the two, citing this as argubly the biggest factor that leads to them falling into Master Xehanort's plans, which would not have happened if the other two placed more faith in them. Defenders point out that if it was for Aqua following Eraqus' orders as closely as she did, she wouldn't have been there to fix the messes Terra and Ventus left behind after visiting various worlds, more or less proving Eraqus' orders were the right call. They also point out that had they actually took the time to properly listen to Aqua's arguments and reasoning, Terra and Ventus wouldn't have become pawns to Master Xehanort to the extent they end up becoming.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • It wouldn't be a Kingdom Hearts game if it didn't give you the satisfaction of beating the crap out of all the Disney villains you hated during childhood. This game lets you finally beat up the terrifying Magic Mirror that frightened so many children, Lady Tremaine and her daughters experience a Karma Houdini Warranty after 60 years without punishment, and Captain Hook can be chucked into the water to be attacked by the crocodile.
    • The final battle for Ventus and Aqua give you the satisfaction of finally shutting Vanitas up and wiping the grin off his face after spending the whole game a smug Jerkass that torments the protagonists.
    • The final battle of Terra’s story After being manipulated by Xehanort for the entire game, culminating in Terra’s body being stolen by the man after being tricked into weakening his heart by using darkness. Terra having his soul posses his Keyblade armor out of rage and rage alone. and beating the man into unconsciousness while Xehanort freaks out due to this being one of the very few things that he didn’t see coming feels amazing.
  • Character Tiers: The characters are typically ranked in reverse order of what the story encourages you to play. Early-game the tiers are Terra > Ventus > Aqua, with Terra having the best HP and Attack stats of the three to take advantage of the powerful physical commands in most D-Links, while Aqua takes an enormous number of hits just to kill a basic Flood. Worse still, because Aqua can't D-Link with herself, she's the only one to start with no form of immediate access to Cure without use of the Command Board. Late in the game, and especially in postgame, this relationship inverts: the Bonus Bosses all do such outrageous amounts of damage that relying on HP is a pointless endeavor, with the most viable strategy being to instead abuse invincibility frames to avoid damage altogether. Ventus and Aqua can both have perfect i-frame coverage by spamming their basic Dodge Roll and Cartwheel abilities, while Terra's Slide leaves him vulnerable at the start and end of it, turning Mysterious Figure in particular into an outright Luck-Based Mission. Ventus, in both early and endgame, stays squarely in the middle.
  • "Common Knowledge": Terra is best known to be incredibly trusting of all of the Obviously Evil villains and easily tricked into working for them, but this isn't true. He's immediately suspicious of most of the Disney villains and just plays along with their plans for a bit, with Jumba and Hook being the only ones to successfully gaslight him. The misconception stems from Terra's interactions with Xehanort, which happen frequently and are integral to making the plot work, and even then, Xehanort purposely makes himself seem sympathetic to Terra by acting as a mentor to him, so Terra trusting him isn't even that unusual.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: The Command Deck system used in this game, Re:coded and Dream Drop Distance is highly vulnerable to this in general, but Birth by Sleep is the worst about it due to the ease with which powerful commands can be synthesized early in the game. Most decks will only contain one of four commands: Thunder Surge, Mine Square, Mega Flare, and Curaga. The game has approximately fifty different commands that can be equipped, but all of the others are inferior versions of these four.
  • Contested Sequel: There are a good many people who regard this game as one of the better in the series, if not the best, mostly due to its battle system, the interesting story and refreshing three-POV narrative. However, the game also has many detractors among both fans and critics alike due to combat-related issues (including the lack of enemy knockback and unpredictable boss AI among other issues) and story-related issues that weren't present until this entry in the franchise. Nonetheless, it's usually considered the best out of the myriad of non-numbered spinoff titles released between II and III, all of which are Contested Sequels in their own right, particularly with its Final Mix version.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • The Mandrake Unversed, small plant-like enemies that shoot projectiles at you from a great distance and tend to spawn in trios, ensuring a constant rain of fire. They'll interrupt your attacks, stun you for other enemies to land hits, and will definitely annoy the hell out of you. They also attack outside of combat and are unable to be targeted by Shotlocks until they pop out of the ground! And then when you approach them to kill them, they spray a mist that variably inflicts Confusion or Poison on you.
    • Wild Bruisers are tough and can hit hard with their widespread area damage. These enemies are also completely immune to magnet magic unlike other enemies.
  • Disappointing Last Level: The final world is exactly three screens long. Enter it, pick up the treasure chests in the first screen, go to the second area and fight your way past some Unversed to get to the third area with a save point, shop, and no enemies. That's all there is to it, and if you're quick you don't need to fight the Unversed in the second area.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Vanitas. Although few fans will argue that his actions in-game aren't evil, there's a lot of support for his Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds characterization from the novelization, as well as the idea that Master Xehanort was an abusive master towards him and his motive to join with Ventus and become whole again was sympathetic in a way. There's even speculation that he'll get a redemption arc later in the series. However, some fans will use this to make out Vanitas to be a person who never did anything wrong and really is polite, anxious, desperately craving love while the game contradicts this. In order to make Vanitas more sympathetic, Ventus, Aqua and Terra are pieced to be monsters in fanon works, suggesting Aqua attacked Vanitas without warning with a cheap shot, the trio ruthlessly slaughtering unversed with no remorse, Ventus rejecting Vanitas as a selfish need, not because his very existence was being threatened.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Vanitas. You don't realize this until the end of Ven's story, when he unmasks himself and reveals that he looks just like Sora, except with a more muscular build, black hair, and gold eyes.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Many fans ship Terra/Aqua. Yep, for once a frequently-shipped pairing in this fandom that ISN'T a slash pairing (though Vanitas/Ven counterbalances this).
  • Foe Yay:
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • Everything Zack says, from proclaiming he's going to be a hero someday to asking Aqua out after he becomes a hero. We do not know what happens to him later, but we have not seen him in games taking place later, and we know what happened to him in his series. The final end credits sequence shows he looks startled and then disappears leaving nothing but a single black feather. Three guesses who took him, and the first two don't count. It's even worse with Ventus:
    Zack: Stop by once me and him are both heroes.
    • One of the things Goofy calls Ven when he's messing up the kiddo's name is Veggie. Take into account Ven's fate and that comatose people can be referred to as vegetables, and suddenly something so innocent gets cringe-worthy.
  • Game-Breaker: On the series' page, here.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Braig's much more popular in the US than in Japan. Maybe his Californian accent in the English dub has something to do with it.
  • Goddamned Bats:
    • Tank Topplers are large red enemies that are very easy to damage, but when you hit them enough they turn red, become invincible, then roll around to distract you and eventually explode to damage you. The only way to prevent this is to hit them from behind, or to kill them so quickly they don't have time to turn red.
    • Archravens steal dropped Munny you haven't picked up yet and are difficult to hit due to flying high up in the air. They're not the slightest bit threatening, but they will definitely waste your time in the Mirage Arena or other forced fights unless you have Magnet (or variants) to bring them to you.
  • Goddamned Boss:
    • Considering who his Nobody was, Braig proves to be just as annoying a boss as his Nobody was in Kingdom Hearts II, with some even claiming he somehow manages to be even more annoying in this game than his Nobody was!
    • Ventus's final boss, Vanitas, specifically phase 3. A Puzzle Boss in a game where they're few and far between. The boss can't be damaged by normal means; Ventus has to build up his Finish gauge in order to deliver a single final blow. Problem is, unlike every other battle where the gauge builds up with every successful attack, the only way to build up the gauge here is waiting for Vanitas to attack, copying the same attack, and doing an action command. Use the wrong attack, or attack at the wrong time, and you're a sitting duck. And if you let up attacking for too long, the gauge will start to deplete. Finally, to add insult to injury, the finishing attack can miss. Verges on That One Boss territory because, due to the mechanics of the fight and the fact that your Fragile Speedster hero can't heal. Oh, and if you lose, you have to fight the boss's previous phase again, too.
    • Hades, whether you fight him as Aqua or as a Bonus Boss in the Mirage Arena. In both fights he relies on another boss to fight for him, and once his help is defeated, he attacks slowly, with attacks that are easily blocked and punished. However, he has one attack that, while easy to avoid, lasts a good few seconds, leaves him completely invincible, and can be spammed with no warning or delay at all. Be prepared to waste a lot of time if the A.I. Roulette isn't in your favor.
    • Iron Imprisoner IV, another Mirage Arena Bonus Boss, mainly uses attacks you've already seen in his other forms. When he gets low on health, he starts to use desperation attacks that look very powerful and threatening...but actually aren't and only serve to waste time while leaving the boss invincible, much like Hades.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • When Aqua's story is completed, you're allowed to save new data for the Final Episode. In the Final Episode, due to a boss waiting there, the battle level for Radiant Garden is higher. However, a glitch randomly causes the battle level for Radiant Garden to increase in any of the normal three stories you have saved, too. Battle level is basically how strong enemies are in a world, and the normal battle level for Radiant Garden is 6, but the glitch raises it to 9 or 10. This means Level Grinding is much faster due to the higher-level enemies, and Radiant Garden happens to have one of the best grinding spots in the game before the fact anyway. All in all, players were hoping this glitch happened to them, to save them time grinding levels for the post-end game Bonus Bosses.
    • Most of the time, Terra-Xehanort will eventually escape with a quick dodge if you hit him too many times in a combo, like most other humanoid bosses...unless you punish a specific attack, his shotlock, in which case he never tries to escape for some reason. Abusing this lets you use Ultimate commands and devastating Command Styles against him with impunity. On the more Boring, but Practical side, this also allows you to stun-lock him with Firewheel as Aqua in his Final Episode boss fight, in which case the only thing keeping him above Zero-Effort Boss territory is his second phase.
    • Mashing forward on the joystick while using Aqua's Raging Storm changes it from dealing one hit every second to dealing constant damage to anything caught in it while it's active. This shreds through HP bars of bosses and Mooks alike like a knife through butter, and is really effective against huge targets. It's hard to tell why it does this, but it's definitely not intentional.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Master Eraqus is voiced in English by Mark Hamill, who also played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. The Star Wars movies released after Disney bought Lucasfilm both saw Hamill reprise that role, and took some similar turns to this game. For instance, Eraqus is eventually betrayed by his student, Terra. Luke is betrayed by his student and nephew, Kylo Ren. Also, a young female protege inherits, in one way or another, the master's old weapon. Are we talking about Rey or Aqua? It gets worse in The Last Jedi, where Luke also considers killing Ben when he fears darkness has overtaken him, and that's what leads to the latter turning on him and his training ground's destruction. The film's climax also has Luke going face-to-face with Kylo Ren which ended up with Luke's death, although Luke's death was the result of him using his powers instead of being killed by Kylo. At the same time, though, both Rey and Aqua carry on their respective Masters' legacies following their deaths.
    • Master Xehanort explaning he that has "many roads" even if his Battle in the Center of the Mind with Terra/Eraqus doesn't work out for him. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance reveals that he wasn't kidding, in perhaps the most-Up to Eleven way possible: His actions in this game were merely one part of a customized Stable Time Loop to get multiple Grand Theft Me vessels at once, space and time be damned — so even if he loses Terra's body, he still has many potential replacements to fall back on.
    • When Stitch pickpockets Terra's Wayfinder, an item that symbolizes the bond of friendships Terra has with Ventus and Aqua, Jumba proclaims that it's "marked for destruction". Later on the friendship Terra has with Ventus and Aqua deteriorates and Aqua falling to Darkness not helping matters which Terra notes later on.
    Dr. Jumba Jookiba: "Too late, is already marked for destruction."
    Terra: "Looks like all the things once held us together just push us further away."
    • Happy of the Seven Dwarfs during Aqua's story in Dwarf Woodlands said they were too late in regards to saving Snow White. Aqua echos this same sorrowful sentiment in regards to herself to Mickey.
    Happy: "An'by the time we got here... Well, it was just too late."
    Aqua: "Mickey, you're too late."
    • Axel's original self, Lea, explaining how he can live forever in people memories becomes far more poignant after Keiji Fujiwara's death in April 2020.
    • The main reason Xehanort stole Terra’s body was due to the belief that he was too old to see the end of the Keyblade War. Both of his voice actors ended up dying before Xehanort’s story ended up ending in KH 3
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Jason Dohring voiced Terra and sadly does so as a case of Dull Surprise. Then Master Xehanort commits Grand Theft Me, resulting in a Xehanort voiced by Richard Epcar, and Terra goes straight up to Large Ham.
    • Regarding Richard Epcar, his "Terranort" voice is the same one he'd later use for "Old" Joseph Joestar, which can take some of the drama out of his scenes if you recognize the voice.
    • Lea holding Ven's wooden Keyblade, considering that years later he would get his own.
    • Braig musing that "Yep, it seems like these days everybody's got one of those...even grandpa there." becomes hilarious given the events of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance and Kingdom Hearts III. Axel of all people gets a Keyblade by the end of the former, and in the latter, five more Organization members are revealed to be former Keyblade wielders from the distant past, one of those five being Braig himself. And in the epilogue of III, Braig, now going by Xigbar, reveals that "grandpa's" Keyblade was actually his own the whole time.
  • Idiot Plot: Everything that had happened to the protagonists could have been avoided if Eraqus warned them about Xehanort since he already knew he was taken by the darkness and knew of his plan to create another Keyblade war.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • Master Xehanort possessing Terra's body.
    • Unmasked Vanitas taking the appearance of Sora. It was a huge surprise when the game was initially released, but these days it's difficult to even look him up on the internet without seeing what he looks like without the mask.
  • Iron Woobie: Regardless of the main trio's flaws, hardships or no, they all keep trucking. And while the end result is largely a disaster, they do manage to collectively derail most of Master Xehanort's plans, with the remaining pieces failing into place for Sora and co. to clean up a decade later.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Eraqus. Yes, he's an anti-darkness Knight Templar, but it's hard to blame him when Xehanort uses darkness to ultimately ruin his and his pupils' lives.
  • Memetic Badass: Vanitas has been propelled to this title, alongside being crowned as a Memetic Molester. However, it is notable that he later went on to get booted out of this status in Kingdom Hearts III due to his memetically embarrassing defeat at the hands of Sully in that game, catapulting him straight into Memetic Loser territory to the current Kingdom Hearts fandom.
  • Memetic Loser: Terra is seen as a joke by the fanbase and remembered as a huge idiot in general due to his Horrible Judge of Character plotlines in this game. However, as stated under the “Common Knowledge” entry above, Terra does almost always have his suspicions about the Obviously Evil villains he works with, and in most cases only plays along to get more information. Only Hook, Jumba, and Master Xehanort himself manage to get his complete trust and fool him. It is a huge fail that Master Xehanort of all people got his unwavering trust, but in fairness, Xehanort was someone that Master Eraqus, his own mentor, assured him was a friend, meaning that Terra’s horribly misplaced blind trust in that case was just as much Eraqus’s fault as it was Terra’s.
  • Memetic Molester:
    • And as mentioned above, Vanitas.
    • Many fans raised an eyebrow in the ending when Ansem the Wise is walking in a dark corridor holding the end of a young Ienzo.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Thanks to the secret ending and perceived Narminess, it's become a meme to look up at the sky and say "Sora" as Dearly Beloved plays in the background.
    • About 80-90% of the fanart for Terra, Aqua, and Ven together has them sleeping.
    • A minor example: Because the Queen throws a green potion on the mirror, some fans joked that she threw Mountain Dew on the mirror and that it causes people to go crazy.
    • BOORAY!
    • Various jokes about the square button being abused in some particularly difficult boss battles.
    • Thanks to Just A Pancake, Master Xehanort saying "χ-Blade."
  • Mis-blamed: Yep, a few scenes were changed. Braig's telescopic scope was modified to look less realistic (and he's not shown attaching his guns into a sniper rifle) in the international release. But would you believe that some people are actually thinking that a scene in Dwarf Woodlands was censored? In the Japanese version, the Queen gets mad and grunts at the mirror, while her anger possesses it. In the international releases? She throws a potion (off-screen) at the mirror. The thing is, though, this was less of a censorship and more of a removal of a Narm moment (see below).
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • It's hard to tell when exactly Master Xehanort first crosses it, but one contender might be, chronologically speaking, forcing Ventus to fight Neoshadows in an attempt to awaken his inner darkness, and then after the Neoshadows win, ripping apart his heart to create Vanitas, nearly killing him in the process. He only gets worse from there.
    • Regarding the Disney Villains, the evil stepmother crosses the line when she attempts to murder Cinderella with an Unversed summoned from her hatred towards her.
  • Narm:
    • The scene in the Japanese version where the mirror sucks Terra in. The Queen gets mad, grunts, and her anger possesses the mirror. This was changed in the international version where she instead throws a potion on it.
    • After Braig is defeated in Radiant Garden, he flees via silly-looking In a Single Bound-style hops.
    • With the χ-blade being phonetically identical to the series staple Keyblade, cutscenes describing how powerful and dangerous the χ-blade is can feel a bit flat.
    • In a series staple, the absence of NPCs make some scenes look ridiculous in comparison to the original movies. In Castle of Dreams, a Royal Ball where only six people bothered to show up. In Enchanted Domain, King Stefan's castle, under the Three Good Fairies sleeping spell, is conspicuously empty of any sleeping people apart from Princess Aurora.
  • Narm Charm: The scene added to Terra's Story in the HD Remix version, where the Lingering Will sprouts a cape for no in-universe reason after defeating Terra-Xehanort. (Out-of-universe, it's there to explain why the Lingering Will has a cape in KH2). It's as ridiculous as it is awesome.
  • Never Live It Down: Terra helped Maleficent by accident one time note , and now he's considered to have helped every single Disney villain in the game as a gullible loon, but really the only other occasion was Captain Hook, which is still an understandable mistake since Peter Pan really was trying to steal from him. He was suspicious of the Evil Queen, was considering not even going with Hades's advice, and didn't know enough about Stitch to know that Jumba was (technically) a villain. He's not that trusting of villains on sight.
  • Porting Disaster:
    • PS3: Unlike the PSP version, there's no Data Install feature, so you have to deal with about ten seconds of loading each time you enter a Command Style or D-Link as the data is slowly streamed from the Blu-Ray disc. Unlike Kingdom Hearts II's Drive Forms, Command Styles aren't controlled at will, so there's not much you can do to avoid having your timing thrown off by accident.
    • PS4: While the load times have been fixed by the PS4's automatic full installation of every game, a handful of new crashes have been introduced. In addition, some new physics issues are caused by the poorly-implemented switch to 60fps. These were later fixed via patches.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Terra is often viewed as an Idiot Hero for his rash, short-sighted actions, distancing himself from his friends, and his trusting of Xehanort and other villains, to the point some consider Terra a villain in his own right. However, all of these behaviors are justified. Terra's more emotional moments tend to be when his darkness swells up (and it is known that darkness can do this, and Terra is having trouble controlling his darkness), and he's otherwise a moral and introspective individual. He only turns away from Aqua and Ven when Aqua lets slip Eraqus told her to keep an eye on Terra, and Ventus likewise has chased him worried about his darkness, making it seem like Terra's friends and mentor don't trust him. And for trusting villains, Terra never really trusts any villain but Xehanort, he is just willing to listen to villains when they talk to him rather than ignoring them or assuming they're untrustworthy, and since he tends to only hear their side of things, he's acting based on his best judgment without knowing any better. And his trust of Xehanort is defensible, since Xehanort tells him not to be ashamed of his darkness and he should learn to control and use it to be stronger, which Terra is more receptive towards as opposed to Eraqus and Aqua espousing that Darkness is always evil and Terra has to suppress it and not fall victim to it.
  • The Scrappy: Huey, Dewey and Louie hold very little appeal in Kingdom Hearts compared to their uncle, Donald Duck, who is well-liked for being one of Sora's consistent and (usually) useful sidekicks. But what pushes them into this trope in Birth by Sleep is their incessant screeching during Rumble Racing; hearing their constant squawks of "LATER ALLIGATOR!", "NAH-NAH-NAH-NAH-NAH-NAH!", "YOU'RE BEHIND ME!", etc. is sure to make the player's blood boil and possibly ragequit the entire minigame.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • Entering the menu out of combat cancels any Command Style you have active, even if you don't actually do anything in the menu. You're effectively being penalized for pausing when not in the middle of a fight.
    • Likewise, changing just one command in your Command Deck causes all commands to reload once you unpause, even if you only change an entirely unrelated Reprisal Command.
    • Some D-Links' Finishes keep on going even after the last enemy has fallen. It's annoying when you win with the first hit of the Finish, but have to keep doing the rest. Even worse, some Finishes might not re-target remaining enemies when their initial target is defeated, so you might defeat an enemy with Stitch's Random Beam and then keep shooting at air instead of aiming at the remaining enemies.
    • The fact that multiple bosses (most infamously Vanitas) can break out of combos randomly and damage you for seemingly no reason (which in itself is due to the absence of a revenge value system, such as in KHII). This means you can't properly "learn" the fights since they don't react to your actions in a consistent way.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: At the time it came out, part of the reason why Birth By Sleep got a more positive reception among fans and critics compared to the other handheld Kingdom Hearts games was that, due to being on the more powerful PSP hardware, it was the only portable KH game with comparable production values to the mainline numbered games on the PS 2. Nowadays, with the PSP an obsolete platform, most people will be playing the game on a console through the HD collections, so that particular novelty is lost. It also doesn't help that certain aspects of the game are hurt by this transition, such as its very zoomed in camera, which was fine on the PSP, but feels awkward to many people on a console.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: Whether it's played straight or averted depends on the player's knowledge and willingness to look up information on the internet. Played blind, Birth By Sleep is much harder than its predecessors, as just leveling up and progressing the story no longer hands the player most of their abilities. Instead, the player's combat power entirely based on their knowledge of the Command Melding system, which commands are powerful and how to get them, and which commands unlock which abilities with what synthesis materials. A player who already knows what to do can have a deck full of high-tier commands before even entering the first world, and will very quickly fill out their ability list, while a player who doesn't understand the system will likely never acquire critical abilities like Leaf Bracer, Second Chance, and Once More, or acquire them much later in the game. Other parts of the game's difficulty are more universal: bosses now break out of combos randomly rather than at predetermined revenge values, and most lategame bosses move quickly enough to avoid finishers and Shotlocks.
  • Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer: The Command Board is quite fun, as it's basically Fortune Street with the serial numbers filed off. Besides being a fun diversion, your commands level up and you can win new abilities, even if you don't win, so it's never a total waste of time. In fact, it's usually better for grinding abilities, and some powerful commands like Ragnarok can only be attained there, while with luck ones like Firaga can be got there before you enter the first world.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Terra's story: The debut of Lingering Will.
    • Ventus' story: The final clash between Ventus and Vanitas.
    • Aqua's story (and by extension the entire game): "My name is Master Aqua..."
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Given the countless examples of Dark Is Evil in the series, Eraqus didn't exactly pull his dislike of darkness from out of nowhere. That being said, it still doesn't excuse his lack of communication.
    • During the scene where the Fairy Godmother stops Aqua from Leeroy Jenkins-ing the Tremaines, some fans find themselves siding with Aqua. It doesn't help that 1.) the Tremaines eventually cross the Moral Event Horizon and get a Karmic Death anyway (thus making Aqua look Properly Paranoid in hindsight), and 2.) the Fairy Godmother's Balance Between Good and Evil advice has repeatedly suffered from Clueless Aesop status throughout the series (e.g., 'If darkness keeps causing mass suffering, and light keeps being the best solution, why should I suddenly pull a 180?'). Indeed, near the end of the game, Aqua's initial Black-and-White Morality has only been reinforced by the many Dark Is Evil threats and villains she's encountered (e.g., "What else is darkness but hate and rage?").
  • That One Achievement: The "Maestro" trophy requires that the player obtain a Fantastic score on all Master modes for Ice Cream Beat. Said mini-game is also one of the hardest of the franchise, especially for players with vision and/or hearing impairment. Thankfully, you only need to unlock it with one character, and isn't required for the three Adventurer trophies.
  • That One Attack:
    • When he's possessed by Hades, Zack flips out and gets what is essentially Omnislash. It deals massive damage and stuns Terra for the entire duration once he's hit, requiring constant dodging. The biggest problem with this attack is that it can't be guarded against and Terra's dodge provides very few invincibility frames, meaning you have to get extremely lucky with your timing to avoid it. That said, fully leveling Zack's D-Link means you get to use this attack yourself, and it's just as devastating in your hands.
    • While the Unknown's entire moveset is basically this, one in particular stands out: Collision Magnet. Simple idea: he jumps high into the air, lashes his sword toward you to pull you up towards him, and then he smacks you back down. The catch is that the lag time from the hit is so long, he's guaranteed to land and attack before you recover, granting you no chance to dodge his next blow. He can even use the move twice in a row, which is sure to put even a Level 99 character down to 1 HP. Since his next move will be a separate one, it won't trigger Second Chance or Once More. The move's ability to instantly kill you and the difficulty in dodging it is a big factor in what makes the boss so difficult, and Final Mix noticeably nerfed its stun duration to make it easier to escape from.
    • The Doom spell. Doom is when the Unknown throws out a few lines that if they ensnare your hero, you have to mash the X button (Circle in Japan) to break free. Thing is, Doom's countdown isn't consistent. Sometimes, it'll be 5 seconds to death, but on other occasions, it's 2 with a swift timedown cause. Unless you can smash buttons with the best of them, getting snared by that move is a death sentence with no way out of it. Compounding the real issue with Doom is that the move can come out VERY quickly, like after you just hit him with a surge art or when he's recovering and performing another move. Sometimes you just straight up lose if Doom hits you and you physically cannot mash the X button fast enough to break free.
  • That One Boss:
    • Quite a few. Among them is the first boss of Ventus's story. He not only has a knee-jerk spin attack that makes getting close to it a dangerous proposition most of the time, but it even has an attack where it throws off a bunch of fruit that look like fire crackers. There are many more than you would expect. This is not helped by the fact that it's very unlikely that you'll have a Cure spell at this point. You do, however, have D-links, which act as a free heal on activation, and—if you're Terra or Ven—Aqua's D-link specifically, which has Cura right outta the box.
    • Trinity Armor is quite tricky if you're unprepared, being made up of three parts, each of which has enough HP to be a boss on its own, and it has several attacks that can be a pain to dodge.
    • Terranort, any battle. He's extremely fast, almost never stops attacking, and hits very hard. Long-range attacks are recommended (as he has some really hard-hitting short-range attacks), but good luck finding an opening to execute them! While Aqua can handle him pretty well in the Final Episode because of her Cartwheel's invincibility frames and her Barrier being an effective guard against many of his attacks, Terra's Lingering Will isn't so lucky because his Slide and Block are far less effective and he's slow as molasses.
  • That One Level:
    • The Mirage Arena's "Treasure Trove" mission takes place on a two-tiered battle field where the upper level is quite a ways directly above the lower area. The only way up there is to bounce off one of three bumpers and then steer your character on top (probably wrestling with the camera), and since it has no walls, it's easy to find yourself going off the edge as you bash enemies, necessitating another frustrating trip back up if they aren't nice enough to chase off after you. Did we mention that the enemy waves switch their spawning back and forth between the two levels several times throughout the mission?
    • Ventus' visit to Disney Town, thanks to the fact that you need to get a high score on the rhythm game there the first time through in order to continue his story. Unlike Terra's Rumble Racing (which has a shortcut the Heartless never take) and Aqua's Fruitball (which has a couple of moves you can spam to ensure a victory), there's no trick - you have to be good. If you're normally terrible at rhythm games, good luck! And if you aren't, good luck getting the rather precise timing down, even by rhythm game standards!
    • For the Command Board, 100 Acre Wood and Never Land are insane to beat because of Tigger and Peter Pan using their commands to roll extra dice. 100 Acre Wood, especially, because not only is it quite small, Pooh is Too Dumb to Live and will take wrong turns and purchase panels belonging to Tigger, boosting his coins. He and the player also tend to get rolls of one or two, while Tigger can get an easy six. And that's without mentioning the bees and Pete (Both Captain Justice and Captain Dark; the former for the computer and the later for you). Never Land's saving grace is that you can use the Pixie Dust event panel to force Pan or Hook onto one of your command panels where they're forced to pay up, while they won't do the same and will usually send you to a Bonus Panel instead where you can nab an extra command.
  • That One Sidequest: Some people found it easier to unlock the secret movie from Kingdom Hearts II by playing the game on Proud mode. Birth by Sleep is much, much worse. On Critical, you just have to beat the game and you'll unlock the secret movie. On Proud, you have to beat the game and complete the Sticker Album for all characters. The stickers are all easy to find even without using a walkthrough, so completing the album is easier than dealing with Critical mode's harder battles.
  • Tier-Induced Scrappy:
    • Terra is considered the weakest of the trio since his dodge can't be chained for infinite invincibility frames like Aqua and Ven's can. He has the hardest time against the Bonus Bosses as a result. He is a textbook Crutch Character since his immense strength and HP make him a real force of nature in the early parts of the story, but later on he Can't Catch Up due to his lack of speed and the aforementioned lack of invincibility frames.
    • Aqua's Ghost Drive is considered to be the worst among the Command Styles due to the fact that her Cartwheel no longer provides infinite invincibility frames. Additionally, to makes things worse, this form is incredibly easy to trigger as any non-elemental magics will activate this style. Hell even Aqua's reprisals activate it and there is no way to turn the command styles off which often have the unintended use of making players stall and wait before the first command style disappear rather than building up the gauge. Thankfully, it becomes harder to access if Rhythm Mixer is unlocked.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Many fans were not happy with the change in combat engine from Kingdom Hearts II (Command Deck aside) due to the "floatier" feel and even moreso due to the removal of the "revenge number" mechanic, making Bonus Bosses (and bosses in general) much more random and "cheap" and less strategic to fight.Explanation 
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Despite her being a skilled sorceress, there is no boss fight with the Evil Queen, who simply dies her canonical death from her film offscreen.
  • True Art Is Angsty: This is without a doubt the darkest Kingdom Hearts game before A Fragmentary Passage, with Days coming in closely behind. The response upon finding out the endings in the Japanese version? That Square Enix and Disney have finally grown up. Never mind that Square-Enix had made darker games in the past; even before they merged into Square Enix, and that Disney has been plenty dark on many occasions.
  • Uncanny Valley: Unmasked Vanitas. Now, the "evil Sora" face can mesh with a bodysuit, but not with a Riku-esque battle stance. It just feels so... unnatural.
  • Underused Game Mechanic:
    • It's actually possible to parry some attacks in this game, like in other Kingdom Hearts games. However, every character already starts with their dodge and block abilities, and the timing for parries is precise and not conveyed well, so it usually ends up as something a player would do by accident a few times.
    • Keyblade Glider sections give each character their own unique attacks and movement that could make for interesting boss battles. They're also restricted to brief gameplay sections in Deep Space and the only Keyblade Glider boss battle is cut short quickly.
    • Lastly, there's also an alternate combo finisher each character has depending on where their target is - like parrying, a player might trigger them by accident a few times and never use them again.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Eraqus to some, especially in comparison to Master Xehanort (see Unintentionally Unsympathetic). While Xehanort is ultimately correct about Eraqus's Black-and-White Morality (not to mention the latter's Poor Communication Kills on top of it), at least Eraqus still cares about the well-being of both his students and The Multiverse at the end of the day — in contrast to Xehanort being a Lack of Empathy-having Evil Mentor who wants to force proven-dangerous changes upon everyone just For Science!. Additionally, the narrative itself retroactively (albeit unintentionally) demonstrates that Eraqus's Shoot the Dog-attempt would've actually done Ven a favor compared to his actual fate — and even then, Eraqus still grows remorseful enough to invoke Heroic Sacrifice by using his own Heart to protect Terra's for the future.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Master Xehanort may have been a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist at present, but the narrative still tries to paint him as something of a tragic Fallen Hero losing sight of his originally good intentions. However, while his Reports seem to succeed at that, his actual screentime makes some fans feel like they might as well have been written by a different character altogether. Not to mention said fans don't buy his intended Pet the Dog moment toward Ven on Destiny Islands — because (1) Xehanort still tortured him to that point in the first place, and (2) Xehanort simply continues abusing and exploiting him after his survival. Said fans just see it as Character Shilling and wonder what Eraqus and Yen Sid ever saw in this lunatic to begin with.
    • Aqua when she sacrifices herself to get Terra back to the Realm of Light and causing herself to be stuck in the Realm of Darkness was meant to be viewed as a selfless Heroic Sacrifice to save her friend from falling to darkness. However, there were two problems wrong with Aqua's choice. The first is that there was nothing preventing Aqua from being able to get both herself and Terra out, making her sacrifice look forced and unnecessary. And the second is that Aqua not only let Terra back to the Realm of Light, but also Xehanort. And Aqua knew that Xehanort was possessing Terra, meaning she knew that Xehanort could still be able to cause further harm to Terra and even to the other worlds and the people, and she also didn't know that Xehanort became amnestic which made him no longer a threat for that moment. Aqua's sacrifice comes off as more of an act of stupidity since she sacrificed herself over nothing preventing her from getting out with Terra and she also caused the chain of events involving Xehanort by letting him go back to the Realm of Light in Terra's body without going back with him to ensure he would not cause any more trouble to the worlds and help Terra be rid of his control, all for the sake of continuity.
  • The Woobie:
    • There has been much fan-gushery about Ansem's youngest apprentice, Ienzo, who evidently lost his parents and is now being raised as another scientist in a house of thirty-somethings. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he will grow up into one of the series' biggest fangirl magnets, either... But considering that he is the one who convinced Ansem to pursue their studies on darkness in people's hearts, helped banish his own adoptive father to the Realm of Darkness, and then became a member of Organization XIII, Ienzo/Zexion is even more of a Jerkass Woobie than Terra, in that you want to slap him for willful malice rather than from stupid naivete.
      • The button to open the secret room is just low enough for a child to reach, and the room we see in Chain of Memories has a child-sized bed. Riku and Ienzo/Zexion do have things in common. Once we see more of what exactly went down from the apprentices' perspective, then we can judge.
    • The novels tint Vanitas to be a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds instead of the unrepentant monster he appears to be in the game. In the novels, any anger he feels results in an Unversed being born from him, and no matter how many times he tries to destroy them, he feels an unbearable pain each time as a result. The cycle continues, and it is hinted that his reason why he wanted to reunite with Ventus was more or less salvation for him. Again, this is only in the novel adaptations; in the game, there is never even a remote hint that Vanitas feels any sort of pain when spawning or re-absorbing Unversed (if anything, he seems to enjoy it when he's seen doing it! Then again, maybe he LIKES being hurt. Either that or he's done it so many times he no longer reacts to it.)
  • Woolseyism: Aqua's famous My Name Is Inigo Montoya moment. In the Japanese version she only says "Return my friend's heart!", but leaving it at that would have created a Lip Lock moment. Instead, the English localization team extended it to match Aqua's lip movement, creating in the process arguably the biggest Badass Boast in the entire franchise.

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