We are in Pittsburgh, in January of 2018. I am employed in a job I desperately hate, and neck deep in a zine project I desperately love. We are gathered at Valhalla, my friend Xander’s aptly named house, and shouting our way through a five-person collaborative playthrough of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep while steadily crunching through packages of the worst Oreo flavors ever invented (Pop Rocks: badgood; Apple Pie: just bad; Nutella: strictly fine). As the night comes to an end, we make a pact: when Kingdom Hearts III comes out, we will gather—from wherever we are when that goddamn game comes out, in three more years, probably—and we will not stop until we have finished it.

And so we do. One unspeakably long year later, three months after I’ve moved to New York for a job I actually like and right smack in the middle of Xander’s last semester of grad school, Kingdom Hearts III drops. And so, we reconvene.

The Scene.

Five-to-seven adults. Maryland. A 50-foot ethernet cable. Bagels from a shop that’s closed on Saturdays. No fewer than five types of Oreos. 64 hours, between when my bus to DC arrives and when my bus to New York leaves.

None of us live in Maryland. One of us has actually stayed home in Pittsburgh (hence the ethernet cable, for remote play). We’ve all congregated in Xander’s mom’s basement, because Xander is staying with their mom for their only in-person semester of grad school and they’re the one who owns the PS4. One of the types of Oreos is “Thin Pistachio,” or the devil’s cookie.

The Cast.
  • Adam L (he/him): From Pittsburgh, in Maryland
  • Lynne G (she/her): From Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh
  • M Glisson (he/him): From Pittsburgh, in Maryland
  • Xander O (they/them): From Pittsburgh, temporarily living in Maryland
  • Zora G (they/them; me!): From New York, in Maryland
The Rules.
  1. Drink every time we hear an instance of any variant of the following words:
    • Heart
    • Light
    • Darkness
  2. No more than one alcoholic beverage per hour
    • after you finish it, drink water or juice
  3. Don’t do it if you don’t want to. We’re not your mom.

And so it begins.

The following contains spoilers for Kingdom Hearts III, but very little context for most of them. Do with that what you will.


 

Thursday.

11:40 pm

Drink counter: 0

Xander picks me up from Union Station, just as Adam and Glisson arrive at Xander’s mom’s house. Our timing is terrible, much like Nomura’s.

64 hours begin now.

Friday.

12:20 am

Drink counter: 0

Xander and I arrive at their mom’s house and park in the garage. The house is in a cute little cul-de-sac in the Maryland suburbs, which give me hives, but words fail to describe how incredibly awesome and welcoming Xander’s mom is. She welcomes us in and offers us tea, and we sketch out meal plans for the weekend so we neither starve nor eat her out of house and home. Eventually, we trundle down to the basement that will be our lair for the next 63 hours.

12:49 am

Drink counter: 0

We survey our Oreo stores. They are horrifying.

A photo of our Oreo stores. Top row: Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's; Middle row: Most Stuff Oreos, Carrot Cake Oreos, normal Oreos; bottom row: Pistachio Oreo Thins, Trader Joe's Fig Bites. Photo by author.

The basement is warmly lit and plushly carpeted. There’s a bed tucked into a corner, sort of to the right of the TV, and a pulled-out pull-out couch in front of the 40-something-inch TV. A third bed is tucked into a side room.

I claim the bed in the corner; Adam claims the pull-out couch. We banish Glisson to the room with a door, since Adam and I both naturally go to sleep and wake up at ungodly early hours.

We chat, like fools, for a while longer. (Or, alternately, like friends who genuinely like each other and haven’t seen each other in a couple weeks.)

1:25 am

Drink counter: 0

We finally fucking go to bed. We have not started playing yet.

9:30 am

Drink counter: 0

I have devoured, animal-like, three pancakes, a scone, a jalapeño bagel with chive cream cheese, and a cup of Bigelow’s Constant Comment tea.

Adam plays “Simple and Clean.” We abruptly remember that Skrillex was involved. We sing, poorly.

9:45 am

Drink counter: 0

Due to complicated planning, stress, and health reasons, Lynne has opted to stay in Pittsburgh for this adventure. But that’s okay! We can connect to her via her own PS4 through SharePlay, which will allow us to transfer control to her remotely. Which is, you know, crazy, but we are very grateful.

Unfortunately, our PS4 is a couple of corners, a flight of stairs, and a bunch of concrete walls away from the router, which means the wifi sucks in this basement.

Our solution: bad.

A photo of our day 1 ethernet setup. The cord snakes into a doorway, down a flight of stares, across another doorway, and into our basement den. It lifts off the stairs at the landing, and is neck-height by the time it blocks the doorway. It also crosses ACROSS the stairway, meaning we have to lift it up or duck under it to get to a) the bathroom, and b) upstairs. Photo by author.

That’s a 50-foot ethernet cable and it is not long enough.

10:10 am: WE BEGIN

Drink counter: 0

10:20 am: TITLE SCREEN

Drink counter: 11

Two selfies of the gang, set next to each other. Four people, all white and all with short hair, crowd in front of a screen. One of the people is holding a computer, on which we can see a woman with long curly hair (the fifth member of our squad). In one selfie, the gang is lit okay but the TV screen is blindingly white; in the other, the gang is basically silhouetted, but you can see the Kingdom Hearts III title screen on the TV. Kingdom Hearts III, Square Enix, 2019; photos by author.

The lighting in this basement is: also bad

10:26 am

Drink counter: 11

The opening cutscene plays, and we have to pull shenanigans to get around SharePlay. I yell, a lot.

10:36 am

Drink counter: 11

We walk rudely all over Sora’s stained glass face, and choose wisdom and warrior. This won’t come up again.

We sing “Simple and Clean” poorly for the second time.

10:44 am

Drink counter: 11

The screen: KINGDOM HEARTS II.9
Us: unrestrained screaming

It’s been an unacceptable hour since I shoveled a pound of carbohydrates down my gullet, so I break open the first packages of Oreos. Results:

Pistachio Oreo Thins: Bad, horrible, sinful, overpowering taste of almond extract
Normal Oreos: fine

11:00 am: OLYMPUS

Drink counter: 11

11:15 am

Drink counter: 15

I take up the controller. Did you know that attack is X and not square? Evidence indicates that I do not.

11:45 am

Drink counter: 15

Phil smiles blandly at the camera from behind Megara and we abruptly realize that they just… didn’t get a voice actor for him. It is either a grave misstep, or exactly what the game developers intended. Regardless, it is. Very uncomfortable.

I hand off the controller.

[Note: Adam later found out that Phil was unvoiced because the Japanese voice actor passed away between KH2 and KH3, and they chose not to replace him out of respect, which is a spot of sweetness I never expected to find in a massive Disney-affiliated property.]

11:52 am

Drink counter: 15

Adam: This is uncalled for
Xander: I love it
Adam: Let me be clear: it’s perfect

11:58 am

Drink counter: 26

Adam (very quietly): I need to fuck this horse

12:14 pm

Drink counter: 31

We unlock rage form, where Sora goes dark a la Kingdom Hearts II. It’s cool as shit, and very interesting that Sora is  b e c o m i n g   o n e   w i t h   t h e   d a r k n e s s.

The Most Stuff Oreos: Sin, but like, in the good way

12:44 pm

Drink counter: 34

Herc grandly declares that he’s staying on earth to be with the person he loves most.

Fics in the Sora/Hercules tag on AO3: 1. It is explicit. It is in Spanish. The tags haunt me.

12:48 pm: DARK WORLD

Drink counter: 34

We embark on a cutscene journey. I am reminded, violently, that Riku will be wearing plaid capris for the duration of this game. I steadfastly refuse to see how many Riku/Mickey fics are on AO3. [Editor’s note: it is a non-zero number, but I will preserve the mystery.]

Adam (even more quietly): I wanna fuck Terra…

1:00 pm: THE MYSTERIOUS TOWER

Drink counter: 42

Trader Joe’s Fig Bites: good

Xander goes to check on the pie their mom left them in charge of. Nola sends me this:

1:08 pm

Drink counter: 43

It has been realized that I am Jiminy Cricket, and I would like to die. (Adam is Donald, Glisson is Sora, and Xander is Goofy, by process of elimination. Xander is displeased. Lynne is maybe Kairi? Apt, given her geographical distance, but bad, because we’d like to believe we recognize her personhood far more than these games do Kairi’s.)

Xander checks on the pie again.

1:12 pm

Drink counter: 44

I refuse to look up how many Aeleus-slash-Lexaeus/Roxas fics are on AO3. [Maddi informs me that she could find none; I am incredulous.]

1:13 pm

Drink counter: 46

Xander’s timer goes off. The pie is done! We have been in a single cutscene for 13 minutes. At this moment, I do not realize how little time that really is.

1:17 pm:

Drink counter: 48

The screen: KINGDOM HEARTS III
Us: slightly more restrained screaming

We experience the open world Gummi Ship for the first time. The open world aspect is very cool, even if the ship is super weird to control and kind of slow. We spend five minutes flying around a glowing gold ball, and are rewarded with materials that we do not yet understand.

1:28 pm: TWILIGHT TOWN

Drink counter: 48

1:46 pm

Drink counter: 49

Glisson: No, this is Kingdom Hearts Three. We were playing Kingdom Hearts Eleven-Point-Nine.
Adam: Two-point-nine
Glisson: …Two-point-nine.

2:01 pm

Drink counter: 50

Ienzo and Pence banter across a video call, as Aeleus wanders around in the background of Ienzo’s lab, and Sora, Hayner, and Olette shoot the shit in the weird mansion basement. I marvel.

The Kingdom Hearts franchise has gotten to a point—across seven thousand (eleven unique) games and fifteen years and a tremendous amount of iteration—where there are enough franchise-specific characters that KH3 can have an honest-to-god ensemble cast. This scene, with Ienzo and Pence (and Hayner! and Olette!) is built not just out of random plot pushes and abstract rambling about heart but also genuine relationships between the characters and I am living.

2:06 pm: LUNCH BREAK

Drink counter: 50

We sing “Simple and Clean” poorly for the third and fourth times. Glisson fixes the ethernet cable situation.

3:19 pm

Drink counter: 50

We return to the game. I do not refuse, but rather cannot figure out how to search AO3 for Xemnas/Ansem fic. Soon it will appear, I am sure.

Carrot Cake Oreos: Weird, and weirdly addicting

4:02 pm

Drink counter: 68

I am handed the controller. Young Xehanort delivers the first of many straight-up exposition blasts, gods all bless.

4:16 pm

Drink counter: 72

What appears to be a pre-rendered cutscene flashes its way across the screen. We realize slowly that it’s an ad and become both confused and incensed. I can’t tell if the white-haired figure in plaid-cuffed capris is Riku or Noctis (it’s Noctis).

The ad is revealed to be an in-universe thingy for the Toy Story universe characters. We feel like fools.

4:21 pm: TOY BOX

Drink counter: 73

4:36 pm

Drink counter: 81

There’s a straight up goddamn mech fighting bit, for which I hand the controller off to a friend who cares way more about mechs than I do (Lynne). She and Glisson are incredibly jazzed.

4:48 pm

Drink counter: 81

I watch the gang explore the tremendous art assets of Toy Box and spend time musing about media.

The Final Fantasy XV ad made me think about how Kingdom Hearts having its own native ensemble cast has made them so much more able to create intimate, interesting dialogue and relationships between the characters. When Sora, Donald, and Goofy go to Mulan’s China, or the Beast’s Mansion, or even Olympus or here, in Toy Box, the relationships are by necessity restrained—even though he’s one of the series’ most enduring Disney characters, Herc can’t ever leave the Olympus/Colosseum worldspace, and he’s restricted by whatever strict rules Disney chooses to impose around licensing and characterization. Even when Sora spent time in Traverse Town in Kingdom Hearts I and Radiant Garden in II, his relationships with the Final Fantasy characters felt stiff and stilted—these characters aren’t Sora’s, and they can’t ever really be involved in his grand plotlines or experience unique character arcs. The relationships in Kingdom Hearts have always made me feel Many Very Strong Emotions, but only now (and, perhaps, in Dream Drop Distance) has the way they feel in-game begun to echo the feelings I’ve built up for them in headcanon and conversation with my friends.

5:09 pm

Drink counter: 81

We take a selfie with Woody. He stares, lifelessly, into the camera. He has been alive for so long, and he is so tired.

A selfie of Sora, grinning and gesturing to Woody, in front of a Toy Box banner. Woody stares vacantly into the camera. Kingdom Hearts III, Square Enix, 2019; Screenshot by... someone in the gang.

5:34 pm

Drink counter: 81

I get distracted while buds are playing and scroll through hourly comics for a while. Faves: Carey Pietsch, Rian Sygh, Kori Michele, Shing Yin Khor.

6:20 pm

Drink counter: 86

We find more cheese in the Chinese food containers that some heathens have left in just, the most godawful places around this toy store. Why. How. Think of the smell.

I take up the controller again.

6:57 pm

Drink counter: 89

Zora: Look at this PIG
Adam: Ah, well, that’s a cow.
Adam: Look at this weird pig with udders!

And then the cow got violently possessed.

A selfie of Sora mid-blink. Behind him, the photo has caught a possessed cow mid-bounce so it's sort of hovering menacingly behind him. The cow is practically a sphere, with pointy little limbs and giant glowing yellow eyes. Giant toy blocks in reds and yellows make up the background. Kingdom Hearts III, Square Enix, 2019; screenshot by author.

7:05 pm

Drink counter: 98

Just like in every Toy Story movie, Buzz is possessed, and, just like in every Toy Story movie, Woody does something dramatic to save him. And, again, just like in every Toy Story movie, it is incredibly gay.

Adam (hissing): Now kiss

7:06 pm

Drink counter: 100

7:18 pm

Drink counter: 103

Adam: I’m like, mad every time you can’t run up things now
Adam: I feel entitled

I refuse to look up Woody/Buzz/Sora/Donald/Goofy on AO3.

7:30 pm

Drink counter: 110

Riku keeps sidelining conversation with Mickey to talk about Sora. Y’all… he loves Sora so much…

7:32 pm

Drink counter: 110

Xander’s mom calls us for Shabbat dinner. Five people between the ages of 24 and 31 tromp up the stairs to set the table, because we’re all in high school this weekend.

We take five minutes during this wonderful and classy dinner to discuss whether or not Sora’s smartphone is the same dimensions as the iPhone 3. It is not, but I maintain that some of its squarish shape is due to the weird case. To test the dimensions, Xander grabs the iPhone 3 box that just hangs out in their room, for some reason (the reason is that it’s full of old Final Fantasy and Castlevania games).

10:37 pm

Drink counter: 110

We return. It turns out Shabbat dinner took three hours, though it was incredibly lovely and Xander’s mom is a wonderful wonderful host.

However: we are… behind schedule.

The photo from the featured image, of four adults, crowded extremely platonically into a pull-out couch in bed form. A gray comforter is pulled over all of them. The man on the far left holds the controller; the three people to the right have the blanket pulled up to their necks (it was COLD in that basement). The lighting is dim. Photo by author.

Adam: “Lots of mutual respect in this bed” (I, dear reader, am not in that bed)

10:39 pm: THE KINGDOM OF CORONA

Drink counter: 110

I lose my absolute mind over Ienzo’s Instagram post (the first we’ve seen that hasn’t been by Sora). #testpost, my sweet child.

From this point on, we read every single Instagram post aloud, and insist on saying “hearttag” instead of “hashtag.”

Ienzo's loading screen Instagram post. Ienzo stands in a lab, in front of some sort of Stargate-lookin circle portal contraption. He's wearing a white lab coat and a lilac cravat. His username is just "Ienzo;" the text reads: "A true scholar finds clues to the future in the mistakes of his past. #testpost #exprganization #zexionVI #radiantgarden #crackingthecode. Kingdom Hearts III, Square Enix, 2019; screenshot by one of the gang.

Around 11:59 pm, probably

Drink counter: 117

The Tangled world is identical to the movie (which I’ve only seen once but apparently remember in crystal clear detail thanks to 2011 Tumblr), except that Donald is there. I take a nap.

Saturday.

12:21 am

Drink counter: 117

I wake up. We are still watching Tangled.

12:51 am

Drink counter: 126

Lynne: Don’t forget you have shotlock.
Adam: Don’t forget the sneeze command!
Adam: No, it said sneeze.
Adam: Did anyone else see that?
Adam: I swear to god, the top two, one of them said sneeze.
Adam (quietly): I’m gaslighting myself.

Glisson alleges he also heard sneeze noises. We are so tired.

1:12 am

Drink counter: 126

We have beaten Tangled, the movie, the video game. We go the fuck to sleep.

Day 1, total hours played: 11:23

7:10 am

Drink counter: 126

I make it to 6:51 am before my hell brain wakes me up. Adam makes it until 7:00. Everyone else slumbers on.

8:16 am

Drink counter: 126

Adam boots up the game to fuck around and look for Mickeys while other folks sleep. I catch up on the emails that I hubristically thought I would be able to send while other people were playing on Friday (to all my collaborators: I am so, so sorry).

Adam: We gotta remember, just because we can’t take a selfie with it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

8:51 am

Drink counter: 126

We take a selfie with a Hidden Mickey (or Lucky Emblem, to those not in on our horrible choices of lingo). Herc photobombs. His eyes, too, are lifeless.

9:13 am

Drink counter: 126

The gang is reassembled. Bagels are stuffed hastily into mouths; cups are refilled. We embark towards the Monsters, Inc. world, and I take up the controller.

9:23 am: MONSTROPOLIS

Drink counter: 126

I begin to think that the Gummi Ship parts of the game might be bad, actually.

10:39 am

Drink counter: 131

There’s an ongoing discussion in our group about which Disney worlds lend themselves to more interesting stories. My thought is that bigger franchises—i.e. stuff with multiple movies—are more able to create generate unique stories for the games because there’s more content to draw from and less chance to invalidate the canon of the movies themselves, but also it might be weird licensing garbage. Who knows.

I hand off the controller.

11:20 am

Drink counter: 140

Sulley roars at Vanitas and chucks him into a series of doors, Inception-style. This is not how we expected this story to go, and we are all genuinely thrilled.

11:30 am

Drink counter: 154

Aqua, our collective wife, appears. We lose our minds for a solid five minutes.

A NEW PLAYER APPEARS: Adam R (he/him), Xander’s childhood friend. In from Rhode Island.

12:06 pm: ARENDELLE

Drink counter: 156

12:48 pm

Drink counter: 159

Glisson suggests that we leave selfie mode to take a picture of a Hidden Mickey, and Adam accidentally punches him in the crotch. Do not suggest we leave selfie mode, lest you find yourself at bodily risk.

1:06 pm

Drink counter: 159

Adam mutes Lynne so that she doesn’t get overwhelmed by sound when we belt along with “Let It Go.” Shockingly, however, muting the sound from someone doesn’t mean they can’t hear you. Sorry, Lynne.

1:12 pm

Drink counter: 170

I refuse to look up Donald/Olaf on AO3.

2:29 pm

Drink counter: 171

We take our first drink in over an hour, which feels unreal. Frozen is sapping my will to live; Larxene is buoying me through as best she can.

2:42 pm: LUNCH BREAK

Drink counter: 171

3:24 pm

Drink counter: 171

We return from lunch, fed and perhaps less grumpy about Frozen than before.

3:33 pm

Drink counter: 172

In this hallowed moment, Adam L used a block for the very first time. We are very proud of our boy; he is all grown up.

I have not yet learned to block on purpose.

3:44 pm

Drink counter: 178

Larxene stops time during Frozen’s climax to laugh spitefully at Sora and all the pitiful people and their puny human friendships. Her delivery is phenomenal, and none of us can believe how much more character her writing has in this game while still allowing her to be just a complete, incorrigible asshole.

Adam R has a crisis about pronouncing “chi” as “key.”

I am finally free of Arendelle.

3:50 pm

Drink counter: 188

DANCE, WATER, DANCE!

3:52 pm

Drink counter: 189

The remaining jerks of Organization XIII stand in a circle atop pillars in a desolate wasteland. I love so very deeply that they’re magnetically repelled from each other with such force that they apparently can’t ever stand near each other to have an important conversation. No thrones? That’s fine, obnoxious topographical features will do.

3:55 pm

Drink counter: 189

We go back to Arendelle to take a picture of the goddamn castle for the goddamn Moogles, because I will never be free.

Adam R asks questions about Zexion and Organization XIII, and the depth of knowledge that springs into my mind makes me slump all the way down in my seat.

4:05 pm: THE CARIBBEAN

Drink counter: 192

We have a swift and decisive argument about whether or not “Hearties” counts for drinking. It does.

I refuse to look up Jack/Barbossa on AO3. [Lynne: There’s fewer than I would have expected.]

4:40 pm

Drink counter: 195

Adam R joins the bed and informs the gang that it “doesn’t smell as bad as I thought it would.”

6:40 pm

Drink counter: 200

There are a lot of aspects of KH3 that make it extremely clear that it was in development for 13 years, and the entire inclusion of the Caribbean is probably the most damning one.

6:54 pm

Drink counter: 204

Kairi ribs Axel about his coat after changing into her Kingdom Hearts III outfit. It is ridiculously cute, and I crow loudly about her to hide the fact that Axel’s obvious emotional turmoil is making my stomach twist.

7:01 pm: DINNER BREAK

Drink counter: 207

Adam R has constructed a Hidden Mickey in the snow.

We listen to “Face my Fears” on the way to the vegan Chinese joint. The food is incredible.

A real-life selfie of the author, mimicking Sora's grin-and-gesture selfie pose and indicating a giant Micky Mouse head shape shoveled into the snow of a driveway. In a the background, silhouetted by the light from the garage, Adam, Maija, and Xander pose like goons. I'm white and in my 20s, wearing a dark green hat and a gray winter jacket. Short, bright orange hair pokes out of my hat. Photo by author.

The lighting was So Bad on the other side of the Mickey that I had to mirror Sora’s pose 🙁

9:09 pm

Drink Counter: 207

We begin again. I hold the controller, for I am king.

Trader Joe’s Joe-Joe’s: Aggressively, unsettlingly delicious for an Oreo knockoff

9:16 pm: SAN FRANSOKYO

Drink Counter: 208

9:28 pm

Drink Counter: 215

We grind on rails through San Fransokyo, leaping through colored rings and belting “Escape from the City” poorly. This world is a dream that was made for me, specifically.

10:05 pm

Drink Counter: 221

I hand off the controller to Lynne, certified mech liker and fellow giant nerd.

Adam R heads home.

10:39 pm

Drink Counter: 238

The Riku replica leaves. I allow sleep to claim me, despite desperately wanting to see the rest of the Keyblade Hero 3.

11:18 pm

Drink Counter: 255

The gang wakes me up. Aqua got norted, and then… un-norted? I don’t know, I was asleep. I decide that my missing cutscene is sufficient justification for me to play through the entire game again later.

Xander, very kindly, has kept count of drinks during my slumber.

11:23 pm

Drink Counter: 256

Adam: You just hit the Sora command???
Adam: Or maybe it said sneeze I dunno

11:45 pm

Drink Counter: 259

Adam: It’s Castle Oblivion?
Xander: It’s better than Castle Oblivion
Xander: It’s the Land of Departure
Adam: HO SHIT

11:49 pm

Drink Counter: 260

In the Land of Departure, we get to play as Aqua. We are very, very tired, but this scene gives us more than enough energy to keep going.

11:57 pm

Drink Counter: 261

CALL! HIM! VEN!

Sunday.

12:06 am

Drink Counter: 264

We get so emotionally involved in this 15-minute cutscene that we forget to drink at “light.” We’re pretty sure there were just three instances.

12:36 am

Drink Counter: 273

I am bequeathed the controller for the massive Heartless battle. Kingdom Hearts III continues to be a wonderful gift.

I round out the battle by shooting groups of Heartless, Unversed, and Nobodies from a roller coaster. Days later, this will feel like a fever dream.

12:42 am

Drink Counter: 273

We finally find a save point. I am extremely pumped up but prevailing wisdom declares bed.

Day 2, total hours played: 26:17

7:00 am

Drink Counter: 273

I wake, but refuse to acknowledge that I’m conscious for a full half hour and instead dig through the Friends at the Table fandom’s incredibly lovely Secret Samol exchange.

8:15 am

Drink Counter: 273

Adam and I embark on a journey to the Hundred Acre Wood. Neither of us remember Lumpy, a British purple elephant. We decide that he’s there for that hot trendy teenage angst, and that he is Pooh’s nobody. [Editor’s note: we later discovered that Lumpy is, in fact, a Heffalump.]

Our bagel stores are running low.

8:40 am: HUNDRED ACRE WOOD

Drink Counter: 277

We get the Hundred Acre Wood Keyblade. The Key Forms are Hunny Blasters and Hunny Launcher.

Zora: I don’t. I don’t want this.
Adam: Oh I crave this.

8:51 am

Drink Counter: 279

We have acquired critical party mass, but Adam refuses to leave the Hundred Acre Wood until we find the last Hidden Mickey. I threaten to google it, but we find it on the side of a pumpkin as I’m typing this up.

8:59 am

Drink Counter: 280

We sit in stunned silence as Donald immolates Terranort, and, in doing so, himself?

9:08 am: THE FINAL WORLD

Drink Counter: 287

Xander: Did Sora fucking DIE

I take a moment to appreciate the incredible visuals of running around a world where the sky touches the earth and the ground is a brightly reflective plane of hard water. The parallel between this and the end of Kingdom Hearts I is stark, and incredibly appreciated.

9:59 am

Drink Counter: 300

10:03: KEYBLADE GRAVEYARD

Drink Counter: 309

10:23 am

Drink Counter: 310

Sora calls upon the hearts of the thousands of people who played Kingdom Hearts χ/Unchained χ/Union X and rides on a wild column of Keyblades—the light equivalent to the dark’s Demon Horde.

Adam: This feels DIFFERENTLY climactic. Not anticlimactic…
Lynne: Somebody else’s climax.

10:40 am

Drink Counter: 313

We go save Riku, to beat up on Ansem and Xigbar, thus fulfilling every single one of our collective childhood dreams. The game blueballs us spectacularly before giving us everything we could have wanted.

If the characters say light, dark, or heart, we miss it.

11:09 am

Drink Counter: 313

Larxene fades into a puff of shadow and spite, snarly and angry to the last. I breathe a sigh of relief that her recompletion scene didn’t even make an attempt at redemption.

11:11 am

Drink counter: 315

Sora: So these panels on the floor… are switches for the doors!
Zora: Thank you for the rhyme.
Adam: It’s about time!

I begin desperately googling walkthroughs to see if we’ll be able to finish before I have to leave for the bus at 2:45. It looks… optimistic.

11:20 am

Drink counter: 320

Roxas comes back. I realize, suddenly, that we can probably make it to 358 drinks. I get very excited, and use that to cover up the fact that I’m trying not to cry at the reunion playing out on the TV.

11:33 am

Drink counter: 325

Xander: It is, however, as the kids say, Big Dick Energy.
Xander: Did I use that right?
Simultaneously:
Zora: Nnnnnnope
Adam: You did.

We become convinced that Vanitas is voiced by a lizard doing its very best Haley Joel Osment impression. [Maddi, later: Vanitas sounds like Haley Joel Osment doing his best Mark Hamill as the Joker impression.]

11:39 am

Drink counter: 333

We find Terra, and we did not see that coming.

11:53 am

Drink counter: 337

Thanks to that incredible Twitter comic, this final Ansem/Xemnas/Xehanort fight is accompanied by Adam blandly reading words from a “list of gays.”

12:00 pm

Drink counter: 339

Everyone in this game is SO DEPRESSED. [Note, added later: Something specific happened to make me write this, but I had the thought so many times that I no longer remember what. Kingdom Hearts is about sweet children with PTSD and MDD, you’re welcome.]

12:05 pm

Drink counter: 344

Axel: We had a couple of plot points that needed ironing out.
Us: EYYYYYYYYY

12:22 pm: SCALA AD CAELUM

Drink counter: 347

12:46 pm

Drink counter: 348

We press triangle to activate the Trinity, roasting Xehanort’s whole ass and also every single one of my emotions.

Xehanort: Why… how…
Lynne: ‘Cause you don’t have any friends, you dip.

12:49 pm

Drink counter: 358

Time.

1:00 pm

Drink counter: 366

The final cutscene plays, and SharePlay tells Lynne to screw off. We rig a complicated structure out of pillows and hope to make it so that she can watch, and we all pretend not to tear up.

A photo of the same bed as before, but in daylight. Glisson and Maija are leaning forward to watch the screen, and Adam (wearing a blue onesie), is sitting on the edge of the bed, propping his laptop on a back pillow so that Lynne can watch the ending cutscene. The room is a mess. Photo by author.

1:32 pm

Drink counter: 366

We finish. The cutscene is over; Sora disappears in a puff of smoke and bittersweet what-ifs.

We say goodbye to Lynne, pack up, and get ready to go home.

The ending screen of Kingdom Hearts III. To the right of the screen is an illustration of Sora in an ornate (but classily small) heart-themed throne; to the left is the game's battle report. Our stats: Game Mode: Standard Mode; Enemies Defeated: 2896; Most Used Keyblade: Wheel of Fate 5:18:44; Distance Traveled: 107.4 km 66.8 mi; Most Used Situation Command: Flare Force 55x; Gummi Ship Completion: 14%; Lucky Emblems: 31/90; Most Consumed Cuisine: Pumpkin Velouté 1x; Clear Time: 30:18:31. Kingdom Hearts III, Square Enix, 2019; screenshot by one of the gang.


 

At 3:45 pm, I get on my bus and curl up in a window seat, and a week later I will sit down to clean up this log and spend another few hours with my friends and one of the most surreal, improbable franchises I’ve ever had the fortune to run into. Kingdom Hearts is glorious chaos, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but this game was unquestionably and completely for us.

I’m very, very grateful.