World Showcase: Olympus Coliseum

Theme Song By Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records

 

It is time my readers for another World Showcase! Now when Hercules was released in 1997 I saw it and I enjoyed it and I begged my parents to get me toys and such, but one thing that intrigued me even as a kid was the unique and very different art direction the film had in comparison to other Disney films. It was certainly new, but when I watched the film again a few years ago as well as watching the Doug Walker review I realized that the movie wasn’t that great especially considering that this is the film that followed Hunchback! There are a few aspects that I think are good, but over all it was just okay. I also completely agree with Doug Walker’s observations of the art style as unique as it is, is very Las Vegas like and modern for seemingly no reason or not as well handled as Aladdin. Now I didn’t really truly become invested in the world of Hercules in the film, although I had interest in the art style it was just that, interest, even as a child. But that didn’t mean the world itself didn’t have potential. I fell in love with the Hercules world while of course playing Kingdom Hearts! The choices and ideas Squaresoft had in mind for the gameplay role, story, design, character interactions and appearances in that world have made it one of the most popular and fun worlds in the series and has created two traditions of the series that only now with Dream Drop Distance have been broken. Let’s land the Gummi Ship and see why this world is awesome!

BACKGROUND INFO (inferences/ conjecture/ and established KH lore)

The background of this world, constructed mainly through inference is quite different from the film. The Gods on Mount Olympus decided to create a facility to train and test heroes and also to improve their skills and possibly learn new ones. On the summit of Mount Olympus a Coliseum was built supported by the clouds that cover it (It’s similar to the Gods’ Palace that was suspended on the clouds). There heroes and those that want to be heroes from all over not just the Olympus Coliseum world, but from other worlds around the KH universe could come to the Coliseum and participate in the fighting tournaments held there. Hercules in this universe was trained at the Coliseum instead of Phil’s island and Phil was put in charge of running the Coliseum.

The Coliseum is simple in design with the main area being the courtyard entrance where there are postings of the tournament rankings as well as two giant hero statues guarding the gates to the lobby. No one knows if the statues are supposed to be someone or just a design choice, but I like to think that they’re statues of Achilles and Hector. Achilles representing strength and skill while Hector represents honor and loyalty guarding over the gates to the lobby towering over the arriving heroes. Once past the doors there is the lobby where the trophies that the player receives after winning a tournament are displayed as well as tournament rules being displayed on a slab of stone carved in the wall. You can’t travel beyond this room. In order to enter the arena the player must talk to Phil who stands by the entrance and the player must choose which tournament or training activity they wish to participate in. The Coliseum is also famous among fans for the tradition of the token Final Fantasy character and this remains to be the only Disney world where FF characters appear. When exactly did the Keyblade Masters show up in this world to dominate the tournaments? Well I’ll get right on that!

 

Role in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep

While the role of the Coliseum in the prequel Birth by Sleep is nowhere near as important as it was in the console games, with the rewarding and challenging arena tournaments being delegated to the Mirage Arena, it still is a fine world in the game honoring tradition as well as showing how being a prequel the Keyblade Wielders(Terra, Aqua and Ventus) influenced Hercules and his rise to being a true hero. This element was done very well and tied in perfectly to Hercules as a true hero in Sora’s journey. I loved the inclusion of Zack Fair from the world of Final Fantasy VII as the token Final Fantasy character. Square knew that since this was a story of Kingdom Hearts’ past they needed a character from Final Fantasy’s past and since Cloud was the FF character in Kingdom Hearts 1 a nice nod would be Cloud’s best friend and role model Zack Fair for the prequel. Zack is my favorite Final Fantasy character and even though that Zack doesn’t have all the character development and qualities that I love about the character it is still a fine portrayal and does go with his personality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TigUw5D7Aj0

Young Hercules

Zack Fair

 

Arrival of the Junior Heroes: Role in Kingdom Hearts 1

10 years after the events of Birth by Sleep Sora the new Keyblade Wielder along with Donald and Goofy embark on a quest to save the world and find Mickey, Riku and Kairi. Their search takes them to the Coliseum and Phil explains that they’re rookies that don’t qualify as heroes or participation in the Games despite the explanation of their credentials. When the trio decides to leave Hades, in his scheme to kill the Keyblade Wielder, (he’s part of Maleficent’s League of Villains) offers them a pass and the trio surprise Phil with the pass and they enter the preliminaries. During the prelims Phil is impressed and sees that he was wrong. During the various scenes in between matches the trio spots the first token Final Fantasy character of the series Cloud Strife the main character from Final Fantasy VII. Hades promised Cloud that he would help him locate an unknown person (stated by the writers to be Sephiroth) if he killed Hercules and now Hades wants Sora, Donald and Goofy dead. Cloud is hesitant, but fights the match anyway. Depending on if the player wins or loses the fight the result is the same. If the party loses Cloud doesn’t finish them off and if the party wins Sora tries to help Cloud up. Thinking that Cloud would disobey Hades sent Cerberus to finish the job and Cerberus crushes Cloud. Just as Cerberus is about to land the final blow Herc shows up and gives Sora and company a chance to escape. With everyone concerned about Hercules Sora and company want to go in and Phil reluctantly agrees. Sora, Donald and Goofy fight Cerberus and Hercules gets an unconscious Cloud to safety. After Sora and company defeat Cerberus Phil dubs the 3 Junior Heroes and gives them the rights and privileges to fight in the Games. Sora and company agree to come back and prove themselves as true heroes by winning the games. As the trio leaves Sora talks to Cloud who explains his motivations and why he worked for Hades and tells Sora to never lose sight of what’s important and gives him the Sonic Blade ability. After Sora and company leave Hades plots to use the Heartless in the Games and vows to kill Hercules and Sora.

Since this is the first appearance of the Coliseum and lays the foundations of the traditions of the other appearances I needed to do a plot synopsis to create context. I’ll get to the gameplay and optional content role in the next section, but I’ll talk about the story role and the FF character. I like how this world ties in with the theme of heart and that in order to be a hero you have to give a damn about others, in other words, have a strong heart and find strength in the things and people you hold dear. Having it in a competition sports like atmosphere creates sportsmanship, excellent training grounds as well as putting a person’s skills to the test. The Final Fantasy character is a little bit harder to talk about than Zack seeing as this was my introduction to Cloud Strife not FFVII and I guess that was a good thing since I had no preferences or prejudices or fanboy grudges(FF fanboys tend to be merciless against FF games that aren’t their favorite as well as a fair amount of haters) and was able to see the character on his own merits. I liked the character and I thought his moody, troubled past and stoicism to be a nice contrast to the very Disney like and optimistic Sora and also showed how Sora’s optimism and kindness amused Cloud and made him recognize that Sora was a special and amazing person. With his mysterious past I wanted to know more about him and boy did I get it when I played FF VII, but that epicness will have to wait! Also I love how the game incorporated Cerberus as a boss!!! He was so woefully underused in the film and now was able to show off his true badassery and made for a really cool boss fight and an unexpected one!

Hercules

Phil

Hades

Cerberus

Cloud Strife

Rise of the Junior Heroes

After the trio returns to the game’s base of operations, which is the world of Traverse Town, they save that world for good. When they embark to leave they get a transmission from Chip and Dale that a tournament is being held at the Coliseum and a great reward is given to the winner. The player can ignore this of course and carry on with the story, but it’s highly recommended that you go and participate in the tournament. It is at this point in the game where the role of the Coliseum in the game takes shape. The role is that Coliseum tournaments offer the player the best, most challenging and the most rewarding optional content of the game that can only be rivaled by the 100 Acre Wood. These tournaments are an excellent way of gaining experience and leveling up Sora, Donald and Goofy. The tournaments also work wonderfully as a gauge of whether or not the player is ready for the combat levels of the next set of worlds. Another reason to undertake this is because each tournament offers excellent rewards such as powerful and useful abilities, gaining spells, spell upgrades, and powerful weapons. It’s much better to get these abilities and items as they come instead of waiting till the end of the game because the earlier prizes will be out of date. Each tournament plays out in a similar fashion you enter the tournament and you face a fairly large and varied collection of enemies from throughout the game and after defeating them all you win the round and no Summoning is allowed in the tournaments so that additional firepower can’t be used. At the 5th round there is usually a boss or a fairly more difficult enemy set to compensate for the lack of one. Of course the final round is always a boss. The interesting thing is that the bosses are very unique because the bosses can be Final Fantasy characters that have come to the Coliseum to compete and you fight against them. After winning each tournament Sora and company ask Phil for a progress report and he’ll always say there needs improvement and Hercules lends his support. Here are the tournaments in order.

Rock Titan

Ice Titan

PHIL CUP- available after saving Traverse Town, prize: Gravity spell

PEGASUS CUP- available after completing Monstro, prize Strike Raid ability, Boss: Squall and Yuffie

HERCULES CUP- available after saving Neverland

I feel like I need to talk about this one a little more in depth. The basic tournament is the same, but the 5th round boss is Cloud and after defeating him you get a very powerful Keyblade for Sora called the Metal Chocobo! The final round of the tournament is Hercules and Hercules wasn’t holding back in this fight and since Sora wants to push himself too he has Donald and Goofy take a break and faces Herc alone. After defeating Hercules you win the tournament and Goofy gets one of his best weapons Herc’s Shield. Then there is a scene where Hercules is very impressed and congratulates the trio and Sora realizes his strength of heart comes from his friends and that Sora’s love and compassion for others and his friends is what gives him the power to keep fighting and searching and makes him worthy of the Keyblade. Sora gains the powerful Keyblade Olympia and the whole party then gains an ability to activate the Yellow versions of certain marks that can be found on the ground. With this ability the trio reveals the Keyhole and Sora seals it saving the Coliseum and officially ends the Coliseum’s story in the first game, but the Coliseum’s not done yet! There’s still one tournament left!

HADES CUP-available after saving Hollow Bastion

This tournament is freakin’ NUTS!!!!!!! It is huge and very difficult! It has a whopping 50 ROUNDS!! Thankfully after every 10 rounds the game saves your spot so if you lose in round 14 it starts you at the beginning of the section you failed to complete so you start at round 11. There are a lot more bosses this time! Yuffie is the middle round boss in the first set of 10 and by defeating her Goofy gets another powerful shield the Genji Shield! The boss of the first set of 10 is a powerful Heartless boss the Behemoth and defeating him gets you an upgrade of the Blizzard spell to maximum. The boss of the next set of 10 rounds in round 30 is Cerberus ready for a rematch and at full power! Defeating him again gets the Thunder spell upgraded to maximum power. The next boss of the next set of 10 round 20 is fighting Squall and Cloud at the same time! This is quite hard seeing as they are extremely skilled and powerful swordsman and by defeating the best swordsman of Final Fantasy Sora gets the extremely powerful and well balanced Lionheart Keyblade! The boss of the next set of 10 round 10 is none other than Hades himself! He is quite difficult because he hits hard and covers a wide area which isn’t good for arena fighting, but when the battle is won the player receives the Gravity spell upgraded to maximum and Volume 8 of the Ansem Reports which all of Maleficent’s group of villains possess a volume of. If Hades was round 10 then who’s the Final boss of the tournament? The answer is the Rock Titan! The Rock Titan is one of the largest enemies in the game and has the highest HP in the game, but he is a pushover and doesn’t attack very often and when he does it deals a large amount of damage, but is easily survivable. With the Titan’s fall the Tournament is won and the Trinity Limit the most powerful ability in the game is obtained (ability is ineffective against bosses, but is excellent for clearing out an entire area in one shot!)! There are also Bonus rounds!

PLATINUM MATCH- available after saving Hollow Bastion, NO REWARD(original PS2 release)

Prize:Ansem Report 12 and One Winged Angel Keyblade (Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and 1.5 HD collection)

This match is against Cloud’s arch nemesis and the main villain of Final Fantasy VII Sephiroth the One Winged Angel! This fight is extremely hard even when you’re maxed out! He lives up to the badassery Sephiroth is supposed to have and all I can say is good luck!

GOLD MATCH- available after winning Hades Cup, NO REWARD(original PS2 release)

Prize: Diamond Dust Keyblade (Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and 1.5 HD Collection)

The next match is against the Ice Titan! The battle can be difficult if you don’t know how to fight it. Have the Guard ability equipped and the player can deflect all the icicles the Titan shoots at you back at him. This is how damage is dealt and it’s very effective. After awhile the boss is stunned and the player can get a few rounds in. As the battle drags on the titan unleashes powerful attacks that require Sora to move into a specific location to be safe from the stronger attacks. By being patient and always ready to use Guard the fight is relatively easy!

 

Chain of Memories brief coverage

I’m going to talk about the Coliseum in Chain of Memories briefly. While the story is not bad and does a fine job of connecting to the central theme and serves the same type of story role there’s not much else to talk about. Since the world is based off Sora’s memories the Final Fantasy character is Cloud again and since Chain of Memories as a game is a linear experience there are no side missions or optional content so the technical role of the Coliseum isn’t there, but is still solid.

 

Roxas’s missions: Role in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

There’s a little more to talk about, but not much. Like Chain of Memories 358 is much more linear and since the game has a mission based progression structure the closest thing to spreading your wings is replaying missions. Roxas goes to the Coliseum and not only does his missions, but also participates in tournaments (scripted and part of the mission not like in KH1) and defeats heartless and learns the same lessons Sora learned, but in a very clever twist applies them to Roxas’s situation of being a Nobody and trying to develop the qualities of a hero when he doesn’t and can’t have them. It’s interesting and the inclusion was great, but one thing brings it down and that is that there’s no Final Fantasy character in this appearance of the Coliseum!

 

Return of the Junior Heroes: Role in Kingdom Hearts 2

The role of the Coliseum this time around is very similar to the first Kingdom Hearts except the world has extremely expanded and its size is one of the largest in that particular game. The biggest and most significant addition to the expanded Coliseum was getting to explore the Underworld!!!!!! The gates that lead to the path that leads to the base of Mt. Olympus was blocked off by an ominous looking portal that would take the player to the Underworld entrance and is actually the first place Sora, Donald and Goofy arrive at in KH2. Taking cues from the animated series of Hercules as well as the few shots in the film the Underworld definitely looks the part with a dreary and morbid atmosphere and contains the original design that has the Kingdom Hearts translation and improvements allowing the player to experience Hades’ realm. The Underworld is where enemies appear and Sora and company can engage them in normal combat as opposed to having the fighting being confined solely to the tournaments as in the first one.

Pegasus

Megara

Hydra

Square pulled out all the stops by making the story role of the Coliseum much larger with having Organization XIII member Demyx show up as well as Pete on Maleficent’s orders to get Hades to rejoin the group (which Hades rejects) and to get Hercules turned into a Heartless and plunge him into despair (which is why Hades allows Pete to hang around) and Hades actually comes up with a good plan (after his plan with the Final Fantasy character fails) and with Pete’s help he succeeded by rushing Hercules to defeat a monster so he could help Sora and company save Megara and while he was distracted the Hydra destroyed the Coliseum and it’s implied the Hydra massacred everyone there plunging Herc into despair! The second visit is about Herc regaining that confidence and defeating Hades on his own turf and Sora, Donald and Goofy to save the token Final Fantasy character of the game.

Auron

Auron the mentor to the main character of Final Fantasy X is one of the most badass characters of FFX.  Auron had a much bigger role than Cloud even though the basis was the same. Hades wanted a warrior that was incredibly strong to defeat Hercules and so he decided to resurrect a fallen warrior, since Auron in Final Fantasy X is a dead character that had unfinished business and stayed in the realm of the living to serve his role in that game, this was an extremely clever way of introducing the character into the KH universe by having him already dead he could easily be in the Underworld! Unlike Cloud before him Auron immediately said no to Hades’ offer and fought back and that is when Sora and company enter and he allies with them against an angry and pursuing Hades. For the first time in the series the token FF character could actually be a party member that could be switched in for Donald or Goofy. His skill is quite impressive and his Limit Break is awesome and his experience in battle was great morale boosting for Sora, Donald and Goofy. While Cloud was great and was a solid character with solid interaction and summoning great nostalgia Auron was way more developed and wasn’t just an obligatory guest star, but had a role to play with actual stakes in the world, gameplay, and story. And he would set the stage for the involvement of Zack in Birth by Sleep released 4 years later.

The Return of the Underdrome

With the Coliseum destroyed by the Hydra there needed to be a new arena that could satisfy the rewarding and challenging optional content of the fighting tournament. This was known as the Underdrome. Hades and Auron in two separate scenes tell the player that it was the Underworld’s Coliseum where torturous matches and tournaments were held there merely for the sadistic pleasure of the lowlifes of the Underworld and Zeus despised this and sealed it forever. During the first visit in KH2 while Sora and company went to rescue Megara Sora unknowingly unlocked the Underdrome. So the tournaments are back and the tournaments have two sets normal and Paradox. Normal tournaments are added after completing events in the story while the Paradox versions of the tournaments are opened when maxing out certain attributes such as the Drive Forms and Summons. Unlike the first game the enemies in the tournaments don’t give experience so the replay value of the tournaments aren’t the best except to complete the objective in the Journal to get the Secret Ending. The newest element of the tournaments is that there are limitations and perks to the tournaments. One tournament will seal the Drive gauge which prevents using Forms, but Limit Breaks can be used for much less Magic Points so you can use Limit Breaks multiple times before running out of MP. The List of tournaments are:

PAIN AND PANIC CUP-open after clearing Disney Castle and Timeless River, REWARD: Lucky Ring (Original PS2 release)

Protect Belt and Serenity Gem Synthesis item (Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix and 2.5 HD Collection)

Standard tournament that is quite easy (Donald and Goofy participate)and the boss is Squall and Yuffie. Limitation: Can’t use Drives Perk: Limit Breaks cost less MP

CERBERUS CUP- open after clearing Pride Lands 1st Visit, REWARD: Dragon Staff for Donald and Protect Belt armor (original PS2 release) Rising Dragon staff for Donald and Serenity Crystal synthesis item (Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix and 2.5 HD Collection)

This is a medium difficulty cup with as the title implies Cerberus is the boss and the new element is that the tournament is timed. Limitation: no party members, no summoning, no limit breaks. Perk: Drives can be used even alone and the gauge fills extremely fast.

TITAN CUP-open after clearing the Olympus Coliseum 2nd Visit, REWARD Skillful Ring accessory and Genji Shield for Goofy(all releases)

This is another moderately difficult cup with Hercules as the boss and another interesting thing to note is that this is the first tournament where Nobodies can be fought in the tournaments. The new rule in this cup is that Damage Points appear where if Sora gets hit a certain number of times you automatically lose and the number of hits you can take is displayed. Limitations: no party members, no Drives, no limit Breaks (except Trinity Limit). Perk: Summoning can be used alone and the Drive Gauge increases extremely fast to repeat summons.

GODDESS OF FATE CUP- open after defeating Xemnas battle 1 in World That Never Was (fight before the final bosses) REWARD, Fatal Crest Keyblade, Orichalum+. (all releases)

This is again a fairly difficult cup that utilizes all the rules and limitations and perks of the previous tournaments. Hades (doesn’t go into flame mode) is the boss. Beating this tournament is required to get the Ultima Weapon.

THE PARADOX CUPS

This is where things get difficult. To enter these tournaments talk to Hades in his chamber after unlocking them and 3 out of the 4 tournaments will be more difficult versions of the ones you cleared before. Same rules and everything and there is no reward for these tournaments so this content is for its own sake.

HADES PARADOX CUP-open after clearing all the other Paradox cups, REWARD Hades Cup Trophy (all releases)

This is the big one! Like its predecessor in KH1 this has 50 rounds and every 10 rounds the game saves the progress. It has several bosses and virtually all of the Heartless and nobodies are in the tournament. The bosses are also really extensive with many Final Fantasy pairings for bosses Tifa and Yuffie, Cloud and Tifa, Squall and Cloud and one round where you have to fight Tifa, Yuffie, Cloud and Squall at the same time alone! Pete is also a boss for one set of 10 and Hades is fought twice once in normal and one where he does go into Flame mode and Hercules is with you to help make Hades vulnerable again.

MUSIC

The theme music for the Coliseum is quite good. It’s not the best world theme in the series, but it captures the world beautifully. It has the sense of triumph that by even stepping on the Coliseum grounds will inspire someone and make them stronger. The Underworld theme is very good with the mood and atmosphere greatly summed up by this piece.

Olympus Coliseum

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w40MkHTV17o

The Underworld

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIo51U4-vU0

CONCLUSION

The role and stories of the Olympus Coliseum are very long and since it is a tradition to keep the world in the series what Square has been able to do with the world in terms of character interaction and having a big stamp in the universe of Kingdom Hearts is staggering! One of the best developed worlds in the entire franchise and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the Coliseum especially since Rock Titan’s appearance in a Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer!

 

all images and footage owned by Square Enix and Disney Music by Yoko Shimomura

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