When I beat Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix a while ago, I made a big deal
about Aqua’s final line: “There is always hope.” Now, one can get nitpicky and say that isn’t really
the final line of the game, there’s still that thing with Sora and Riku after the credits and then you could count the Secret Movie and the Secret Episode, but for all intents and purposes let’s just treat “There is always hope” as the final line of Birth by Sleep since it’s not in a secret thing and serves more as closure to that game than revealing a thing that ties into the other games. Also it’s the last line before the credits, so it definitely counts (Marvel fans, back me up!).
Anyway, that line really hit me, but after seeing some things online and looking back, I realized that that line is new. If you go watch the ending of the original Birth by Sleep, Aqua instead says “There is always a way.”
A summary of the release history: Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep was released on PSP in 2010. The Final Mix version was released about a year later in Japan only, and this version was then included in the second HD collection (II.5) released on PS3 late last year, which did make it to Western shores. I can’t be sure if the change occurred in Final Mix or in II.5, and I guess really I can’t even be sure that this doesn’t only occur in the English script, but either way, at some point someone decided to change that line, and that makes it stick out to me even more.
The final line of anything is a big deal, so deciding to change it, even if it’s a tiny change, can have a huge effect on its impact. Sure, the context remains the same, but even a slight difference in word choice can give a different impression of the character or sound different to the player. “There is always a way” is perfectly fine as a final line. It shows that Aqua has regained her determination and has resolved to fight on no matter how bleak things look (and they look super, super
bleak), and we see her as a remarkably strong individual. So why change it?
Naturally this is all my opinion and I could be biased, but I do think the line in II.5 is better. Saying there is “a way” sounds more…not exactly cold
, but logic-based, I guess? “Hope” cuts right to the emotion of the situation/decision. I guess it feels like they dropped the pretenses and let it blatantly include the emotional layer that was a little more implicit previously. You could also argue it makes us feel even closer to Aqua, knowing that she feels not only determined, but hopeful as well, which is all the more impressive and does more to assure us she’ll be okay.
At the risk of oversimplifying, “There is always a way” sounds more like a stock shounen protagonist thing; “There is always hope” sounds a little deeper.
Not that there’s anything wrong with stock shounen protagonists, of course, but…well, you know.
Or, put differently, determination seems easier to me, partly because I’ve seen it so much and partly because it can be derived from many different emotions. Hope seems a lot
more difficult, and is a very specific emotion with little to no margin for error. This is almost certainly bias on my part, though—I’m probably just jumping on the keyword. But the added clarity might still be valid for giving us a more targeted look at Aqua’s character? If so, then it really was an excellent decision, given it’s been 4/5 years since our introduction to Aqua and she’s certainly going to return to a prominent role in Kingdom Hearts III. (…Right?)
I always worry about the final line of anything I write, so in that way I can definitely relate to whoever took the opportunity to improve upon Aqua’s final line. And I have to say, they made a fantastic choice, and now I’m looking forward to Aqua’s future story involvement even more.