Best Bits: Halloween Town - KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 ReMIX

Warning: contains spoilers for KINGDOM HEARTS FINAL MIX HD
By Duncan Heaney

In Best Bits, the Square Enix Blog team looks at some of our favorite moments from Square Enix games, and why we think they stand out. To be clear, we’re not declaring them to be the pinnacle of the game, merely one of many moments that we love. So don’t get upset with us if you disagree, okay?

It’s Halloween, so naturally our thoughts turn to the spookiest, kookiest part of the KINGDOM HEARTS games - Halloween Town.

This hauntingly beautiful world - based on the seminal movie, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas - is a recurring location in the series and, to be honest, any of its appearances could qualify for a ‘Best Bits’ article.

But for this particular piece, we’ve chosen Sora’s visit in the original KINGDOM HEARTS (and by extension the HD remaster of KINGDOM HEARTS FINAL MIX) - a segment that’s particularly rich in Halloween-y goodness.

What happens in Halloween Town?

For the uninitiated, the KINGDOM HEARTS series sees big-hearted heroes Sora, Donald and Goofy travelling to various Disney worlds, meeting iconic characters and helping them seal their homes from the Heartless - shadowy creatures created from the darkness in people’s hearts.

But when the intrepid trio arrives in Halloween Town, something’s a bit different. There are Heartless in the streets, but they don’t attack - something is clearly amiss.

Enter the ‘master of terror’ and ‘king of nightmares’ himself - Jack Skellington. It turns out that Jack’s trying to use the Heartless in an upcoming Halloween festival… but he’s not satisfied with their dancing.

The group consults Doctor Finkelstein who tells them that he needs ingredients to create a heart so that the Heartless will obey instructions. Sora, Donald, Goofy and Jack set off on a jaunt around Halloween town to collect all the required elements - a task complicated by the fact that the Heartless are suddenly far less benign.

It’s times like this that it’s useful to have Keyblade wielder around - with Sora’s help, Jack is able to fight past the hordes and collect all the required parts. Unfortunately, a more twisted trio - Lock, Shock and Barrel - learn of the plan to control the Heartless and steal the heart for the malicious Oogie Boogie.

It’s up to Sora, Donald, Goofy and Jack to confront the villain, retrieve the heart and save Halloween Town.

So why’s it so good?

By my reckoning, Halloween Town succeeds on multiple levels - how it plays, how it looks, how it sounds and how well it captures the spirit of the movie it takes inspiration from.

The combat in KINGDOM HEARTS starts relatively simply, but the game quickly adds new abilities, which offer a ton of flexibility in how you approach each encounter.

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By the time you reach Halloween Town, Sora, Donald and Goofy have a host of magic, items and combat abilities at their disposal, and experimenting with different character setups can be a lot of fun.

Fortunately, Halloween Town gives you plenty of opportunities to do just that. The initial search for the heart ingredients keeps things straightforward - wide areas to explore, full of secrets to find and Heartless to battle. What’s more, it’s a chance to spend some time with Jack and his abilities, before things get too crazy.

It mixes things up

And get crazy they do. Once Lock, Shock and Barrel steal the heart, the chase is on!

What follows is a series of exciting battles as our heroes race towards Oogie Boogie’s mansion, but it’s when they get there that things really take off, with some of the most memorable boss battles in the whole game.

Firstly there’s Lock, Shock and Barrel themselves. What initially seems like a fairly simple fight quickly becomes something a little more involved. The kids are fast and evasive - you’ll need to pay attention to land your hits, especially if you’re playing on the higher difficulty levels.

Then comes the first battle with Oogie Boogie - one of the most unique bosses in the entire game. The whole fight takes place on a giant roulette wheel - Oogie Boogie dances around the edges, throwing explosive dice at you. He’s difficult to get to, and working out how to get within Keyblade distance is a fun combat puzzle in itself.

Eventually, of course, you will beat him, at which point the embittered baddie takes things to the next level by merging with the entire mansion. Suddenly, the scenario shifts yet again. Now it’s a race across up and around mansion itself to take down his weak points - a thrilling set piece that elegantly combines combat, navigation and light platforming.

It’s an impressive amount of variety, paced perfectly to keep the player interested.

A very spooky Sora

It’s also worth discussing just how perfect this all looks. One of my favorite things about KINGDOM HEARTS is how Sora, Donald and Goofy will change appearance to blend in with the world they’re visiting. They’ve got to preserve the World Order after all.

Their Halloween Town transformation may be my personal favorite (although their Monstropolis forms from KINGDOM HEARTS III are a close contender). Sora becomes a vampire, Donald gets mummified and Goofy becomes an appropriately jolly take on Frankenstein’s monster.

What’s cool is that these designs seamlessly blend each character’s signature look with the distinctive designs of The Nightmare Before Christmas, allowing them to stand next to the likes of Jack Skellington and Sally without seeming out of place.

The soundtrack is a dream

Oh, and the music! Yoko Shimomura’s soundtrack to KINGDOM HEARTS are legendary - combining her own compositions with classic Disney tunes for dramatic effect.

For Halloween Town, she takes notes and themes from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and reinterprets them in a way that evokes memories of the movie, while still feeling uniquely KINGDOM HEARTS. It’s utterly wonderful.

It celebrates the source material

But more than anything though, it’s the tone that most impresses.

Halloween Town perfectly captures the wonderfully off-kilter spirit of the movie that inspired it - the story, the characters, the visuals and the music combine to create a love letter to The Nightmare Before Christmas.

If you’re a fan of the flick (and I really am), it’s one of those parts of a game that you’ll want to revisit time and time again.

And what better time than Halloween itself, right?

So it’s pretty obvious that we love Halloween Town - but what do you think? What are your favorite worlds in the series? Share your thoughts in the comments, or social media: