Hiya all,

Last week was a bit of a downer. Let’s look at something more positive; Kingdom Hearts 3. I warn you, if you’ve not seen/heard of Kingdom Hearts this may not be a review for you. This series is deep, endless, convoluted, spread over dozens of games and dozens of platforms. I don’t understand half of it, so I’m sure as hell not going to be able to explain it all to you. Go read the Wiki or watch a video or something. There are some funny ones out there!

A young boy looks just off camera, he has spiky brown hair, blue eyes, and a necklace with a crown image on it. He is wearing black clothes with red trim.
Sora

My History with Kingdom Hearts

I came to the series in a really weird way. I started playing Kingdom Hearts 2 when I was much younger, on the PS2. I don’t remember why I got it and didn’t get 1. It was a confusing experience.

My main takeaway I remember was I played for hours, did a whole bunch of stuff as this character I didn’t really know or recognise, got really invested, and then the whole game flipped on its head.

You see in Kingdom Hearts 2 you start off playing as someone called Roxas in his home town of Twilight Town. He’s hanging with his buddies when stuff starts getting strange with the appearance of weird creatures called Nobodies. He eventually begins to summon a mystical weapon called the Keyblade (although he doesn’t know that), fights some off, has some conversations with someone called Axel who seems to know him, explores a haunted mansion…. All good stuff.

Then you discover a hidden chamber full of technology and discover a pod with someone very familiar to Roxas in it, though he can’t place them. The pod opens, and Roxas is disappears, merging into this person. This person is Sora, the protagonist and main character in all 3 of the mainline games.

At that point Sora is whisked away, leaving Twilight Town and the friends who can’t quite seem to remember Roxas now, heading off to another world to meet Yen Sid (from Disney’s Fantasia) along with his recently awoken buddies Donald Duck and Goofy.

At that point the title screen appeared and what I remember is thinking “Dang, this game is gonna be huge. I’ve been playing for hours and I’m just at the title screen? What the heck!”.

I was right too.

I went back to Kingdom Hearts 1 eventually, but only when it came out as “1.5” as part of a re-release. You’ll see if you look into it that Kingdom Hearts has a big problem with re-releases, i.e. KH1, 2, 1.5, 2.8 etc.


Summary in Brief

This series is weird and complicated so I’ll do my best.

You play as Sora, a young boy from a strange island in the middle of nowhere, who falls out of his world when it’s consumed by Darkness. Sora is chosen by a Keyblade, a magical weapon that is the only thing that can fight back the Dark. He goes on an adventure to find and rescue his friends and in the meantime discovers some of them have fallen to the Dark, and some of them contain pieces of light that are needed by the bad guys to assemble the namesake Kingdom Hearts, which everyone wants to assemble for various reasons.

A picture of a glowing heart floating in a starry sky.
The series namesake; Kingdom Hearts

The big selling point of the game is that it’s a combination of Square Enix and their characters from a very Final Fantasy setting, and Disney’s characters and stories. There are multiple worlds in Kingdom Hearts, each one is set in a different Disney movie. For example in the original games there was a Beauty and the Beast world, Lion King, the Little Mermaid, all the classics.

In this game we get some new worlds; Toy Story, Big Hero 6, Tangled, to name a few. The graphics on these are a real step up, what’s particularly cool to note is that the Monster’s Inc graphics to me are indistinguishable from the movie. Particularly cool when you consider the movie was rendered frame-by-frame by Pixar’s god-tier rendering cloud, and now it’s being rendered live by my PS4. Neat.


Why is this game a Big DealTM

KH3 is a big deal for the KH community because it was a long time coming. The Kingdom Hearts series has always had a tenuous relationship with timelines. There are 13 games, below is their in-universe chronological order as well as the year they were released and the console they were released on (order stolen from u/Elfdemon)

  • Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover (2017, Film)
  • Kingdom Hearts χ[chi] (2013, Web Browser Game)
  • Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ (2015, Web Browser Game relaunch of χ[chi] )
  • Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross] (2017, Web Browser Game relaunch of χ[chi] )
  • Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (2010, PSP)
  • Kingdom Hearts (2002, PS2)
  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (2009, Nintendo DS)
  • Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories (2004, Game Boy Advance)
  • Kingdom Hearts II (2005, PS2)
  • Kingdom Hearts coded (2008, Mobile Phones)
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (2012, Nintendo 3DS)
  • Kingdom Hearts III (2019, PS4)

Wow. That’s a mess. The main takeaway is that the series has been on so many consoles over the years, and that the time between the main line games (in bold above) was 3 years from 1 to 2, and then 14 years from 2 to 3.

So this was a big deal. Especially as it was announced in 2013 and took 6 more years to be ready.

So what happens in this game?

Usual story, fight of light against dark, recurring villains we thought dead were alive, everyone we killed last game was back, time travel shenanigans, the power of love triumphing all…..

A picture of a group of people standing around a boy, all the people are glowing in golden light while the boy holds up a large weapon made of two crossed keys which is the source of the light.
The power of love!

Sora has to uncover the “Power of Waking” in order to be considered a key blade master. One of his friends has done this and is working with King Micky (yes Micky Mouse) in order to fight back the dark and Sora wants to help, but isn’t considered ready.

There’s travel through all the worlds where you help everyone solve their problems and beat the baddies hovering around. As you go you piece together more and more of the story and uncover the Big Bad is working to bring Kingdom Hearts about so he can wipe all life from everywhere and start over. Typical bad guy stuff.

Spoiler for End Game Sequence!!
What was particularly interesting is that after beating the big bad there was a bit of a switcheroo where we find out he was basically a pawn of an even bigger older bad, and one of the minor bosses we’d beaten twice was actually some sort of emissary for this guy? And that there’s a plan going back thousands of years? I got a bit lost here to be honest.

The overarching massive meta plot isn’t super necessary to enjoy the game. Sure you’ll miss some bits, but the basic bits of the game are go here, enjoy a little riff on the story of the original film, kill some dudes, and rescue some people. Then there’s a fancy boss fight and you win. It’s enjoyable, but if you’re not clued in on certain things you do feel left out thinking you should find a particular moment more impactful. Worse if, like me, you know a good chunk of story but not all of it, you start getting worried about if this mysterious person is someone you should recognise from other games or someone new and genuinely mysterious!!

So what about game play?

It’s a game, it’s about the game play.

The basic core game play is built around a core set of abilities and then a thousand thins you’ll never use.

The core ability is hammer X to attack with your keyblade. This then does different things depending on what skills you have equipped. You learn new skills (or abilities) as you level and you have a point cap, so each ability costs a certain number of points and you swap them out as needed. This point cap was completely redundant to me, as I was easily able to buy enough items to increase it such that I could always have all abilities slotted at once.

Depending on what you’ve got you then have combos on the ground, in the air, slams, throws, finishers, etc.

The new gimmick of this game is that the keyblades are all much more different to prior games. Instead of giving you a boost to a certain thing each keyblade has a set of forms that are unlocked as you do combos and you can swap out to their more powerful versions as combat carries on. Keyblades have 2 main focuses; physical and magic. You generally unlock a new keyblade as you finish a world, and you can level them up with a crafting mechanic using enemy drops.

Next up are spells, you have a few basic types: fire, blizzard, thunder, air, cure. Each of these then has higher tiers which cost more but do more damage, so you start with Fire, then Fira, then Firaga. You can map these to hotkeys and they’re pretty useful.

Then you have Attractions, another new draw for the game. Certain enemies will have a trigger icon on them and if you hit them before it runs out you get to use an Attraction, all modelled off of traditional Disneyland rides. There’s the Pirate Ship, Splash Mountain, Carousel, Tea Cups, Blaster Blaze, and a Roller-coaster that’s locked to a story mission. These are mostly huge flashy high damage events that turn the tide of battle, but honestly they were a real bother after a while playing. They take so long to wind up and play out, and they’re so repetitive, I did everything possible to limit use of them.

Speaking of situational commands they’re all over the place, hitting △ will activate a contextual thing depending on the situation. Especially used in boss battles or with certain abilities slotted this can cause a big stack of contextual commends, some of which are useful and a lot of which are the bloody Carousel. They can be cycled through with L2 but it’s panicky and tricky.

Lastly there are Link Summons where you summon a Disney character to fight with you. Available (after unlocking) are “Wonder Balloon” (from a KH game I hadn’t played), Ralph from Wreck it Ralph, Simba from Lion King, Ariel from the Little Mermaid, and Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. These are the mechanic I used the least as they deplete your magic bar (which was a pain if you needed a valuable cure) and caused a long animation and bunch of effects.

What I will say about the gameplay is there’s too much of it. So many mechanics that although they were introduced in bits and pieces I never needed to use anything other than hitting things and the occasional cure when I got beat up too much. It did feel like the game was chucking mechanics at me to see what would stick, but on the positive side I was never penalised for not using one of them if I didn’t like it.

There were a few other bits thrown in for good measure. Gummi Ships were back, this has been a strange staple from the series. See most of the time you’re running around as Sora with a team of up to 2 extras, usually Donald and Goofy, but you can swap out for one of the characters form the world you’re in. Gummi ships take out out of that on the travel between worlds as you fly a space-ship made of brightly coloured blocks that you can build. Think space invaders.

There’s nothing wrong with the Gummi sections but they’ve always been a bit of an odd addition. They were definitely more annoying in earlier games where you had to fly specific routes, but once you’d flown the route you could just fast-travel to your destination. This time you’ve got an open area you can fly around freely in and there are more objectives and stuff to do, with some fun bosses and some big set pieces that are pretty cool.


Verdict

Good game! I was really eagerly awaiting this one, I’ll be honest, but I did enjoy it. It looked beautiful, it played really well, there was just enough challenge at key points (disclaimer I was on Normal mode), the stories were nicely done, mini-games were engaging. A few minor problems with the amount of stuff thrown in, but still a great game and would recommend.

That’s all for now! Stay safe, and remember to love each other!

Sammy

That’s a weird title, right? Lets dive into what I mean a bit more, and why it’s both exhausting and an impossible standard.


What do I mean by Compulsory Trans Activism?

Social media is a mixed bag, right? Understatement of the century. It’s something so big, fast, and different that nobody can really keep up. Even those on the cutting edge of memes aren’t really on the cutting edge of the technology. Facebook are creating a new cryptocurrency, executives of tech giants are frequently being called up to explain one scandal or another, all of our elections are being run by a Russian megalomaniac, it’s too big for anyone to really keep hold of.

One of the things it’s done is bring people together and make everything public that once would have been private. Every turd has come out of the woodwork spouting beliefs and attitudes they would never dare say in public because they know the reaction it would get. Some of them are now seeing the lack of consequences from their behaviour online and are taking this as implicit endorsement, pushing for their “right to free speech” to let them say this vile shit in public and get away with it. Some of those people are now president.

There’s also a lot of talk going on, always.

So what does this have to do with activism? Well trans people are held to a high standard, and you can see it in the media. If a trans person rapes someone the story that runs is “TRANS PEOPLE ARE DANGEROUS, THEY ALL NEED TO BE LOCKED AWAY”. If a cis person rapes someone the conversation is very different, “oh they deserved it, look how they dress!”, or “that person is mentally ill, they don’t represent us”.

It’s a clever way to justify the rape by someone of your “in group”. Either the rape was justified (the way the victim dressed) or you exclude the person from your group (they’re mentally ill). That way your own in-group are still okay. There’s a lot of research in Psychology in In Group and Out Group bias, how people divide the world up into groups they’re a part of and are good, and “The Other”.

This places a huge burden on trans people, we have to be perfect at all times because our behaviour doesn’t just impact on us but on every trans person ever. In the case of the above rape obviously the trans person did something horrifying and should face jail time, end of story. But the story doesn’t end with their punishment, the media whips up a storm to call for all trans people to be punished. You see this all the time in a minority, any one in it doing something bad reflects on the whole minority.

If I get attacked and fight back the story tomorrow will be along the lines of “Trans ‘Woman’ beats up critic”. If instead I don’t beat them up but I report them to the police it’ll be “Man Jailed for Misgendering Transexual”. That’s just what happens, and what has happened recently.

The other element to this is that any time a trans person talks about wanting to be accepted, validated, and just live life, they become a political statement. I can’t have an opinion about not wanting to be murdered without someone saying “I disagree and my opinion is just as valid as yours, this is all political”. My very existence is political through no fault of my own, which mean I don’t have a choice to not be an activist. If I want any kind of rights for myself I have to fight for them, and I have to be an activist.

Or do I?

What if I don’t? What if I just got on and don’t fight, don’t get involved, and don’t stand up for my fellow trans siblings? Am I a Bad TransTM? If I don’t stand up for my In Group and I don’t fight for our rights, am I abandoning them? Not doing my civic duty for the betterment of society? Leaching off of the hard work of other people without giving anything back?

And if I do fight I have to fight constantly. I have to hold down a job, I have to keep paying bills and taxes, but I also have to spend all my free time fighting the system. And if I don’t I’m part of the problem.

That’s what I mean by Compulsory Trans Activism.

There is an expectation set on me (and other trans people) by both sides. My In Group want me to support at all costs and if I don’t I’m a bad person. My Out Group expect me to support and fight at all times, and regardless of whether I do will attack and treat me like I am. There is no middle ground, there is no release, and there is no relenting.

How does this manifest?

The most common place I notice this is in social media, hence the above monologue. Especially on twitter; if I follow famous people who also happen to be trans I get a feed packed with the bad news. Every negative story about trans people has a reaction to it, an argument against it, a counter point. And every one has a comment thread full of bullshit from right-wing basement-hiding fucks (actual basement not required, it’s the basement in your heart that matters). It’s a constant deluge of stuff I have to care about.

Or I don’t. I unfollow them all, I block all the activism, I take a break. Then I feel guilty because I’m not doing my bit, there are people out there who have it worse and I’m not helping them. I’m also not helping me, after all if I’m not willing to take a stand now what will it be like when I present fully in public? Am I justified in the abuse I’ll get because I didn’t fight off the abuse people get now?

And even if I don’t engage that doesn’t stop people engaging with me. I post me agreeing with a cute trans story I get piled on by people highlighting how sick it is, how all LGBTQ+ people are perverts, how Pride should stop ramming a lifestyle choice down everyone’s throats, how if we were just less politically correct the world would be much better.

It’s exhausting.

And what’s the right answer? I don’t know if there is one.


Stay safe, and remember to love each other.

Sammy

Hi all,

It’s been a bit of a busy period for me, so I’ve not been writing much. I’ve got a few posts I want to get out, though, so I thought I’d start with why I’ve not been posting much and go from there. Off we go!!


Work

Hoo girl, this has been a biggie. I’ve been stepping up into the position my manager formerly held before leaving. I’ve been doing it with no support from her old/my new manager. I’ve also had to do it while maintaining my old role, picking up some of the extra stuff that’s developed because of service changes, and picking up extra bits my old manager did that should really have been a job on their own. I’m wearing 4 hats and while any one or even 2 at a push would be doable I’m not coping with all 4. I’ve also yet to be paid for any of this step up work (3 months in) and it’s looking like that won’t happen for some time yet either due to rubbish HR and payroll.

I’d like to think of myself as a positive person at work (usually), I’m currently studying management and I know the importance of presenting the attitude and culture you expect to see, but god damn this past week is the closest I’ve gotten to calling in sick for stress or just handing in my notice. If I didn’t have a mortgage to worry about I’d be gone.

And that’s a shame really, I used to like my job. I felt I was making a small but important difference to patient care, making sure nobody was forgotten or “lost”, and helping drive care in a positive direction. Now? I can barely get the contractual minimum requirements met, my whole life is just looking up patients who breach and writing that they breached because we didn’t have enough staff or our processes are shit, and then saying that to our commissioners whilst nobody who can actually improve the situation is present and getting told it’s not good enough.

I know it’s not good enough! I keep saying it’s not good enough! So why do neither of our respective executives do anything about it, other than posturing and writing long letters about how tragic it all is?

There’s a potential light at the end of the tunnel, eventually a new management team are due to start (end of August/beginning of September) and it’ll be up to them if my job even exists any more. From there it’ll be different one way of another, but it’s not exactly filling me with confidence as one of the outcomes is that they recognise the poor job I’ve done holding it together and decide to get someone new in.

Regardless I’ve got (most) of a week off. I’m planning on taking advantage of it by letting work go fuck itself! There’s a lot happening this week, a lot of requirements to get stuff done, and I am not in the least bit concerned that I won’t be able to.


That Tavistock Thing

I’ve not really talked about this yet as I wanted to get a bit more meat to go with before I did, but I’ve submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Travistock and Portman trust asking for a bunch of data items around their gender identity care.

If you’re not familiar a Freedom of Information Request (or FOI) is a legal framework in the UK whereby public offices are required to respond to any request that is reasonable. A good example of this might be if I wanted to know how many children under 18 were seen by the cancer services of a trust this year, or how many every year for the past 5 years, to have a look at if there is an increase in the area. Anyone can submit a request, there is no requirement to explain what you want to use the information for, and the organisation must respond with the truth. Obviously you can’t ask for anything confidential (so I can’t ask for which people under 18 it was) but high level figures are fine.

This is frequently used by journalists to uncover evidence of improper activity, for example you might find that an organisation employs no women, or only pays women half what they pay men, or that there are no coloured people in any management positions etc. You could also use it to ask about NHS treatment pathways, how many patients are waiting, how long they wait and so on.

What I submitted to the Tavi was a list of several points asking for breakdowns in waiting lists, time waiting, number of Serious Incidents (NHS framework for cases where harm has been done to a patient either deliberately or due to negligence), number of suicides, and copies of their policies for dealing with risk in their waiting list. These are all elements from my own trust I have had to provide before, elements that are basic for NHS care.

Unsurprisingly they refused to comply and didn’t send me anything, citing one of the conditions of an FOI; time/cost. See FOI isn’t a magic spell, it could be used to interfere with an organisations work by asking for something ridiculous, so there are limits. You can request whatever you want but if it would cost more than £450 (£600 for central government) or 18 hours (24 for central government) of staff time to produce your request may be refused.

Tavi argued that what I had asked for would cost too much to produce so refused. I argued that what I had asked for was either basic business intelligence (waiting lists), information they legally must already supply (SIs) or information that must exist and just needs forwarding (policy around risk). After that I got about 3 robot responses, requested their own internal review process review it, and got no response for a month.

I then sent it to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the people who make sure public agencies obey the freedom of information act, who have the power to compel and theoretically take offices to court for not complying. They reviewed the case and have agreed it is worth further investigation, they now have 3 months to review and contact Tavi before responding. We’re about 2 months in now and I’ve not heard anything so I’ll update more when I have.

Once I do have the data I’m going to do a big blog post breaking down what it means. I’ll give Tavi a chance to respond, but I won’t be holding back. From what I do for a living I know where the weak points in a trust are, and a trust this concerned about letting out any information is made up of nothing but weak points.


My Transition

Little movement here, but there’ll be more soon. I’ve got some more comfy underwear that I’m wearing everywhere now, it’s a really nice reminder that I am making progress no matter how small. They’re also waaaaay more comfortable than guy-pants, seriously! Ironically they are boy-shorts, but so soft!

I’ve also upgraded my breast forms. The foam ones from M&S were chafing my chest so I took a risk on Wish again and got some silicon forms. Holy crap ya’ll, that’s a difference. They’ve got weight, movement, presence, and stick so they feel real. Nothing pads out a bra more than an actual boob. I got more than a little emotional looking down and seeing them, I’ll be honest.

The biggest movement is I have an appointment. I’ve been in contact with GenderGP and I’ve got an early intervention consultation booked for Tuesday the 16th by phone where one of their therapists will go through what I need to know to get started. I’m nervous as fuck, but really really excited too.

It’s probably a really common and lazy thought but I don’t want to transition, it’s a huge pain and it’s going to be difficult, dreadful at times, and painful. I want to already be transitioned, all that behind me, and living as the woman I am. I know that realistically that can’t happen though (unless that gender-changing gun from Area-51 I’ve been seeing a lot about happens??), and that the only way to be the other side of transitioning is to get started.

Knowing that I’m getting itchy to get going, I don’t want to hang around anymore, I want to start making a change. This is going to be a good starting point.


What else….

Erm….. I don’t know! I’ve been playing a bit of Cities Skyline on PS4, making the glorious bastion of civilisation that is Gaytopia. It has given me a greater appreciation for how hard designing a city or new estate actually is. America had it easy building everything new on big bloody grids, England is hard mode with all the weird little offshoots, strangely angled bits of land, nothing being in a regular pattern…. but it’s also a bit of a challenge in Cities to not build on a grid and have traffic actually flow. I’ve learnt a lot about dividing roads up and down lane sizes, junctions, and public transport. Who the hell would have thought you could have a traffic jam on your underground train line??

Since that I’ve also got the new Asscreed; Odyssey. That’s pretty fun, I skipped out on the Egyptian one because I really wasn’t on board with an RPG version of Screed, but this version works quite well. It’a real shift in thought process though, but I’ve ploughed all of my upgrades into improving my assassination so I can play it exactly like the old games. I’ll probably do a proper review once I’ve done the story.

What next?

I’ve got some ideas for blog posts. These include (in no particular order):

  • Review of Kingdom Hearts 3
  • Post on Compulsory Trans Activism
  • Critical Role State of Play
  • Review of a bunch of manga I’ve read
  • Review of Good Omens
  • Transition progress (what next after GenderGP appointment)

And whatever else I can be bothered with! A couple of these I’m going to be writing now as I already have the layout in my head. I’m going to schedule whatever I get to post weekly so hopefully there’ll be a bit more #content going forward.

Remember I do have a twitter where I generally post stupid things and make fun of Nazis and the far right.

Remember to stay safe and love each other.

Sammy