The lights are on
There isn’t a world more iconic in all of the Kingdom Hearts series than Hollow Bastion. We were first introduced to it in Kingdom Hearts, which I came into as a kid who loved Final Fantasy. I was also a fan of Disney movies, but the real hook was seeing some of my favorite RPG characters placed into this new world. While it is interesting to see how the heartless taint the various Disney worlds, Hollow Bastion stands apart from the rest.
This story contains minor spoilers for the Kingdom Hearts series.
Hollow Bastion is, in the Kingdom Hearts universe, the home to many of the Final Fantasy characters. It is much darker, and closer to a Final Fantasy game in tone. Kingdom Hearts’ Final Fantasy characters were kicked out of their home by Maleficent and the heartless before the events of the first game. From that point on, many additions were made to create the dark, twisted location out of the former bright and happy town. I knew this level was far more serious as soon as I arrived at the outer section of Hollow Bastion and the menacing and catchy theme started.
The inside of the castle is varied. Unlike other single-motif levels, parts of it appear bright and colorful, similar to the Disney-themed levels…but then other parts are more like a dungeon. Hollow Bastion is also a welcome challenge in that it features puzzles, unlike many worlds that are just going from place to place. It keeps you in a state of anticipation. The level takes time to get through, but knowing you’re close to the end and pushing on for more plot points is thrilling. It feels like this is where artists and designers were granted the most creative freedom, and it shines.
Hollow Bastion is also home to the grimmest storylines and lowest points of a few characters. This includes Sora’s rock bottom in the series, where his biggest challenge occurs. The keyblade is taken from him when it chooses Riku over him, and he must use a wooden sword instead. This leads to his two friends, Donald and Goofy, ditching him because their mission is to follow the keyblade, not Sora. Riku also experiences a lot of development throughout this level. He takes a step away from being a misled, jealous kid to being controlled by the darkness. Both characters are allowed their shot at redemption here as well. Sora faces Riku – wooden sword in hand – and wins the Keyblade back. Riku finally realizes the extent of his mistakes, fights back, and attempts to make things right.
The location has played host to many other events after the first game was released, having a rich history in the Kingdom Hearts universe. In Kingdom Hearts 2, the Battle of 1000 Heartless (where you must kill 1000 heartless to proceed) took place in Hollow Bastion, and was incredibly impressive accomplishment from a technical standpoint. The dark backdrop is also where the difficult battle with Sephiroth occurs, as well as the cinematic fight between him and Cloud.
Besides Hollow Bastion featuring iconic events, it also has a place in many characters’ histories. The locale is revealed to be the original world of Kairi in Birth by Sleep, and it is where we learn her backstory and how she came to arrive at Destiny Island. Hollow Bastion is also the homeland of other characters of importance like Ansem the Wise and the somebodies that form Organization XIII.
Regardless of the Kingdom Hearts game I’m playing, I always enjoy visiting Hollow Bastion (or Radiant Garden, as it’s known after the world is repaired). It has always housed interesting or key plot points and information throughout the series. Kingdom Hearts 3 is probably still a ways off, but I’m highly anticipating what tidbits and events we’ll witness here next.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix will likely be the next time we see Hollow Bastion. You can see what we're looking forward to in it here.
Email the author Isaac Federspiel, or follow on Game Informer.