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The Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour Champion Is Who We Thought He Was

Photo: Carlo Cruz, Red Bull Content Pool

Last weekend’s Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour finale in Los Angeles, California, was punctuated with surprises and excitement in just about every match. But while the talent on display was some of the densest the young game has seen over its year of competition, the circuit’s most dominant player was able to walk away with a championship that seemed like it belonged to him before the tournament even started.

Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue is unquestionably one of the greatest fighting game players of all time. He’s excelled in just about every game he’s picked up over the last decade, finding success in everything from Guilty Gear and BlazBlue to Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom, and his time with Dragon Ball FighterZ has been no different. While most attention has naturally been focused on the enduring rivalry between Dominique “SonicFox” McLean and Goichi “GO1” Kishida, Kazunoko has been tallying up a series of wins leading up to the World Tour finals that put every other competitor’s record to shame.

Starting with his early qualification at Community Effort Orlando and ending with a three-tournament streak that opened up a multitude of additional last-chance qualifiers at the main event, Kazunoko has been the most impressive Dragon Ball FighterZ player of the last year based on results alone. Coming into last weekend’s World Tour finals, his victory felt all but assured, even with fellow qualifiers like SonicFox, GO1, and Eduardo “HookGangGod” Deno in attendance. But before these titans could be set loose, the championship bracket would need to be filled by on-site qualifiers, and it’s there that Kazunoko’s most fierce competition would earn his chance at the crown.

Shoji “Fenritti” Sho’s history in the fighting game community is not as long as Kazunoko’s. He first gained global recognition as a brilliant BlazBlue competitor, qualifying with teammates for two Japanese championships in 2012. Since then, he has become one of the best BlazBlue players in the world. Since Dragon Ball FighterZ’s release in January 2018, Fenritti tried his hand and found success at both local and major competitions. Last November, he narrowly missed out on securing a spot in the World Tour finals with a loss to Kazunoko at Japan Round, but Fenritti did earn a trip to Los Angeles with that performance, which meant he had one last shot at making the championships through the last-chance qualifiers.

Over the course of one day, Fenritti participated in four excruciating, single-elimination brackets. He fell short in the first three with losses to Ryo “Dogura” Nozaki and BNBBN, both of whom went on to qualify for the finals themselves. Finally, in the last of the last-chance qualifiers, Fenritti secured the win he needed to make the main event. His opponent in this grand finals match, Naoki “Moke” Nakayama, was another favorite in the Dragon Ball FighterZ scene, but when push came to shove, Fenritti won and qualified, leaving Moke on the outside looking in with almost 200 other competitors. Fenritti’s opening opponent? Kazunoko, the player who had kept him out of the World Tour finals in the first place.

Unfortunately for the challenger, Kazunoko quickly squashed any redemption arc Fenritti may have thought to establish for himself. The first match of the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour finals saw Kazunoko absolutely demolish Fenritti with a quick 3-0 victory. From there, Kazunoko notched a second win against Dogura before facing stiff competition from GO1 in the winners finals.

Piccolo, the latest addition to GO1’s repertoire, played a big part against Kazunoko. In undermining Kazunoko’s strongest fighters by way of snapping them out—a technique that forcefully removes the opponent’s current character and slots in one of their backups—GO1 was routinely able to set up of Piccolo’s Hellzone Grenade, a massive super attack that locks down the opponent and allows mixup opportunities. But Kazunoko’s team, which is made up of some of the strongest characters in the game, is nothing to scoff at. Gotenks, who is equipped with a super that provides similar benefits to Hellzone Grenade, serves as Kazunoko’s point character, backed up by Adult Gohan, a strong character who gets even more powerful over the course of the match, and Yamcha, one of the game’s best assists. GO1 managed to go up 2-1 at one point, but Kazunoko’s understanding of the game was just too much, even with GO1’s incredible defense. Kazunoko forced a decisive final game in their best-of-five matchup, in which he wiped the floor with GO1, who ended up being unable to eliminate even one of Kazunoko’s characters.

Elsewhere in the tournament, Fenritti was proving his own strength in the losers bracket. While he avoided having to play Evo 2018 champion SonicFox, who suffered a surprising and uncharacteristic elimination at fifth-place, Fenritti did come up against the one other American in the finals, HookGangGod. He would defeat his only non-Japanese opponent with a clean sweep, going on to eliminate Cyclops Osaka teammates Dogura and GO1 before earning a rematch against Kazunoko in grand finals.

Fenritti had played an immense of Dragon Ball FighterZ up to this point. The young challenger had fought his way through 30 matches over two days compared to Kazunoko’s three in the World Tour finals, a monumental feat even for the most battle-hardened competitors. After defeating GO1 in the losers finals, Fenritti was given a lengthy break, during which the commentary team marveled at his endurance. More than just about any other game, Dragon Ball FighterZ takes a lot out of its players. Apart from how long the matches can take even in the most constricted tournament format, the amount of pressure competitors are able to apply to opponents makes every match a stressful experience, filled with the need to recognize attack barrages and figure out how to best defend against them. When Fenritti finally sat down to face off against Kazunoko (and then between every game thereafter), he closed his eyes, took a small breath, then focused on the task at hand.

What followed was an absolute rollercoaster. Fenritti took the fight to Kazunoko immediately, throwing him off balance with his team of Perfect Cell, Bardock, and Super Saiyan Vegeta. Pretty much every team composition in Dragon Ball FighterZ includes some sort of shenanigans to open up the opponent’s defenses, but Fenritti’s feels the most straightforward in its singular strategy to mess opponents the heck up. Perfect Cell and Bardock are both so powerful that they can force the other player to second-guess their every move lest they get smacked in the mouth, while Super Saiyan Vegeta functions as a strong, lockdown assist who has been popular since the game’s release, despite receiving various nerfs. This combination of power and function helped Fenritti ride to a 3-1 victory against Kazunoko in the first grand finals match, forcing the bracket to be reset.

This trend didn’t last, however. Whether it was fatigue from 48 hours of competition or simply because Kazunoko is just too damn good, Fenritti couldn’t maintain his momentum. He often found himself falling behind Adult Gohan, whose Potential Unleashed super makes him stronger every time it hits the opponent. Fenritti’s fighters also couldn’t quite keep up with Gotenks’ ability to confuse opponents with complex mixups, even without Yamcha’s potent assist. In the final game, Kazunoko steamrolled over Fenritti en route to his championship, ending the match with an impactful 3-1 win and proving once and for all that he is the strongest Dragon Ball FighterZ player in the world.

The Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour finals showed that even a tournament where one player is heavily favored can be impactful and exciting. Although everyone in the bracket had the potential to walk away as the tour’s inaugural champion, the event was definitely Kazunoko’s to lose. Despite being barely a year old, Dragon Ball FighterZ has already carved out a spot for itself in the hearts and minds of the fighting game community, and competition is better for having someone at the top—whether that’s Kazunoko, SonicFox, GO1, or any of the other fantastic players who compete at a high level—to aspire towards and challenge. The next step for Kazunoko is holding onto his throne, but as Dragon Ball FighterZ’s short history has already shown, that’s easier said than done.

Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.


After Putting $100 Million Into Bungie, NetEase Buys A Stake Of Quantic Dream

NetEase Games, the gaming division of Chinese internet giant NetEase, has made another investment in a prominent game developer. After pouring $100 million into Bungie to make non-Destiny games, the company has now acquired a minority stake in David Cage’s Quantic Dream. The value of the investment was not disclosed in dollar or percentage terms.

In a statement, NetEase said Quantic Dream–the French developer behind games like Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human–will continue to operate independently. Cage, along with Quantic Dream’s other boss, Guillaume de Foundaumiere, will remain in control of the studio. The money will go to “further the development and distribution of global online games.”

“This strategic investment aims to support the studio’s vision of becoming a global, multi-franchise entertainment company, and to develop advanced technologies and games for the future,” NetEase said.

“The landscape of the gaming industry will go through major evolutions in the coming years, with new hardware to come, new business models to explore and new ways of playing to invent,” Cage said in a statement. “We want Quantic Dream to take a key role in this exciting future and having NetEase by our side as a strategic partner will allow us to expand our creative vision and develop the company to its fullest potential. NetEase understands what Quantic is about as they share our passion for high quality games and our ambitions for the studio.”

NetEase is also one of Blizzard’s most notable partners. Blizzard works with NetEase on localised versions of World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo III for China. In July, NetEase invested $50 million into Improbable, and one part of the deal was that NetEase would develop games using Improbable’s SpatialOS tech.

Quantic Dream’s most recent game, Detroit: Become Human, was released in May 2018. The PlayStation 4-exclusive title was generally well-received and it set sales records.

While Quantic Dream, which is privately owned, has worked exclusively with Sony for its past three games, it remains to be see if that will be true going forward.

The studio found itself at the center of controversy in 2018 when multiple French media outlets worked together to bring forward claims that Quantic Dream was a toxic place to work. Quantic Dream denied all of the allegations, which also included harassment.


Pokémon Go’s next Raid Battle introduces Palkia

Palkia will be Pokémon Go’s next legendary to catch, Niantic announced. An in-game notification reveals that the fourth-generation monster will appear in Raid Battles starting tomorrow, Jan. 29, and throughout the month of February.

Palkia will be around as of 1 p.m. PST tomorrow. The water/dragon-type Pokémon will continue to be available in Raid Battles until 1 p.m. PST on Feb. 28.

The exclusive legendary Pokémon from Pokémon Pearl, which makes up half of the fourth-generation pair of games, is the latest legendary to make its Pokémon Go debut. Dialga, the legendary star of counterpart Pokémon Diamond, has yet to appear.

Both Diamond and Pearl are set in the Sinnoh region, where Palkia drops in from the alternate dimension it lives in. Where Palkia can manipulate spatial dimensions, Dialga can control time. (Pokémon Diamond and Pearl get real weird, y’all.)

I’m not sure how those abilities will play out in Pokémon Go, but we have the whole next month to find out. Most recently, a Hoenn region-themed in-game event wrapped, putting the spotlight on the generation of games just prior to Pearl and Diamond.


See Marvel’s Black Panther For Free When It Returns To Theatres For Black History Month

As we steadily approach February, there’s no shortage of entertainment to consume in the month of Black History. In an effort to support black entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has announced that Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther will return to the big screen for one week.

The news comes via Twitter, where the official Walt Disney Company Twitter account confirmed that the Academy Award-nominated and Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) winner will begin playing in theatres starting February 1. Tickets will be free and two showtimes will be available each day at 250 participating AMC theatres.

In addition to supporting Black History Month, the Walt Disney Company has announced that it’ll donate a $1.5 million grant to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to help minority students access and move through college. According to the press release, UNCF is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization who, for 75 years, has helped support “students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness.”

Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up, Gods of Egypt) in the titular role of T’Challa/Black Panther, who becomes the king of the African nation of Wakanda after his father T’Chaka (played by John Kani) is killed in the Russo brothers’ Captain America: Civil War. As T’Challa rises to the throne, N’Jadaka/Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (played by Michael B. Jordan) takes this as an opportunity to compete for control of the nation. What follows is a rivalry over who’s more deserving of the title of king.

In our Black Panther review, we called the film “a top tier Marvel movie with all the humor, style, action, passion, and fun that the MCU has come to embody,” calling it “a cultural event that’s going to be hard for Marvel to top, no matter how many worlds Thanos conquers later this year in Infinity War.”

You can view where Black Panther will be playing here.


Powerful Shaggy: an investigation

If you’ve been on the internet anytime in the past few days — be it Twitter, Tumblr, or Reddit — then you will likely have seen a Shaggy meme. Specifically a meme about Shaggy being some sort of omnipotent being able to possess his co-stars, defeat any powerful opponent, and alter the fabric of space-time. This meme was most likely words added onto a behind-the-scenes interview with the cast of the live-action Scooby Doo movie talking about Shaggy’s ultimate power.

Powerful Shaggy even caught the eye of Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in the live-action movies and took over the voice acting role when the original Shaggy actor retired in 2009.

But what seems like a sudden influx of Shaggy memes, starting from absolutely nowhere and blowing up to the point where the man behind Shaggy himself started to take notice, actually represents a slow build up of Shaggy memes that culminated in something beautiful. It’s the story of an insular, pocketed meme catching fire for a mainstream audience.

Let us go back to the beginning.

A 2011 movie called Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur featured a scene where, under the influence of hypnosis, Shaggy beats up an entire biker gang at a diner. In 2017, YouTube user Midya juxtaposed this clip with the Ultra Instinct music from Dragon Ball Super. This is the theme that plays when Goku first reached Ultra Instinct form in the episode “Son Goku Wakes! New Level of the Awakened!!,” which aired on Oct. 8, 2017. Four days later, the Shaggy version was posted.

The concept of Shaggy being a super powerful character in the Dragon Ball universe continued to tickle the internet’s fancy and for the rest of 2017 and into 2018, certain online pockets continued to make edits, art, and videos of Ultra Instinct Shaggy. While there’s no shortage of Ultra Instinct Shaggy posts out there, none of them reached the virality of the current Shaggy memes. Still, the idea of Shaggy as an all-powerful being started to lodge itself into the minds of deep internet denizens.

In April 2018, another competitor arose. An all-powerful, snapping supervillain, the most powerful in the universe ended up decimating half of the universe into nonexistence. Finally — a foe worthy of Shaggy.

The idea of Shaggy beating Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War bounced around on certain pockets of Reddit, Tumblr, and Twitter. While the original drawing of Thanos battling Shaggy racked up lots of likes, subsequent posts just did alright. Though it never got large enough to count as viral, the idea of Shaggy defeating Thanos lasted for a pretty long time.

Super powerful Shaggy started to catch more virality two months ago, with a Reddit post on r/bossfights featuring Shaggy reached about 3,100 upvotes. A few more Reddit and 4chan posts about all-powerful Shaggy started to circulate, but I theorize what really contributed to mass proliferation of the Shaggy meme was a tweet, which made use of the already trending Sasuke meme.

There are plenty of internal memes that circulate Reddit and Tumblr without ever crossing over onto other social platforms, so there is a possibility that Powerful Shaggy could’ve stayed within the deep trenches of Reddit were it not for GnarlyBuster on Twitter, who brought this niche meme to the mainstream. Those not familiar with it were intrigued, those familiar with it clamored for their own internet cred.

Powerful Shaggy made it to the main.

The subreddit r/BadAssShaggy was created on Jan. 17 and began to spark memes of all sorts. There’s also a petition to include Powerful Shaggy in Mortal Kombat 11. While r/BadAssShaggy makes more use of Shaggy fighting other powerful beings, the Tumblr tag mostly contains edited screenshots of the live-action cast, edits of other memes, and the occasional absolutely bewildered post (also this one nod to Polygon’s Unraveled series). Twitter, meanwhile, mostly saw the screenshot memes and is currently fixated on the fact that Matthew Lillard, voice and body of Shaggy himself, has come around and full-heartedly endorsed Powerful Shaggy.

So thus, the tale of Powerful Shaggy reflects its subjects own rise: first growing in power within one area (Shaggy is the most powerful being in Dragon Ball; Shaggy as the subject of smaller meme communities), slowly growing more and more popular (Shaggy can defeat Thanos; Shaggy growing more mainstream), until finally, Shaggy’s power transcended into something all-powerful and all-consuming (Shaggy as a godlike being that influenced the live-action movies; the Shaggy memes exploding across Reddit, Tumblr, and Twitter alike).

We bow down to you, Shaggy.


Microsoft Really Wants To Know How You Feel About Halo

Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries has made a new hire, and it’s for what sounds like a completely new role. Justin Robey, a 17-year Microsoft veteran who worked as a Software Test Engineer and then a Senior Producer for nearly two decades is now the “Director of Player Voice” at 343. In his new role, Robey will communicate and work with members of the Halo community so that their “voice” is heard by developers throughout the production process.

“This new role is about working with you, the player, to have an active voice throughout the development, launch, and lifetime of Halo Infinite. Let’s rock this together,” he said in a tweet.

Not that it’s much of a surprise, but the hiring of Robey in the new Director of Player Voice role seemingly confirms that Halo Infinite will use the games-as-a-service model similar to previous Halo games and titles from the wider industry in general.

It surely sounds like good news that Microsoft believes in engaging with the community so much that it created a new position dedicated to it. Halo boss Bonnie Ross recently admitted that 343 had made “mistakes” after taking over for Bungie on Halo’s ongoing development. One of those was surely elements of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which had a rocky launch, but has since not only stabilised, but improved in a serious, significant, and highly enjoyable way.

Halo’s overall community director, Brian Jarrard, also congratulated Robey on joining the 343 team for Halo Infinite. He added, “When the voice of the players is heard and acted on, we all win!” Halo franchise manager Frank O’Connor commented on Robey’s hiring as well, saying–in his own way–that just because Microsoft wants to hear your voice doesn’t mean the company will deliver on every request that comes in.




There is no word on when Halo Infinite will be released, but we do know it’ll launch first in a “flighting” phase for testers. While you wait for that, 343 is planning to make some kind of announcement about The Master Chief Collection soon.


All the Kingdom Hearts backstory you need to fully understand Kingdom Hearts 3

Delving into Kingdom Hearts for a newcomer is, in a word, overwhelming. The backstory spans nearly 17 years, more than seven games, and as many as six different video game systems. Adding complexity, the series’ release order doesn’t mirror its in-universe chronology.

So: What the heck even happens in Kingdom Hearts? We’ve done our best to clarify that on the eve of Kingdom Hearts 3, the game we’ve long waited for to complete this sprawling saga. If you’re a newcomer, a dabbler, or a fan, we’re here to explain Kingdom Hearts in as much detail as you care to have.

Kingdom Hearts in 100 words

Need the shorthand version? Here’s our best attempt:

An ancient battle between light and dark fractured the world. Now, an evil wizard, Xehanort, aims to re-create that historic battle — the Keyblade War — to forge the X-blade and gain access to the power of the Kingdom Hearts. Sora, Donald, Goofy, King Mickey, and their allies band together as the Guardians of Light and take out Xehanort and his 12 allies before they can gain access to the knowledge and power that lies within Kingdom Hearts. But first they need to find new allies and rescue some old Keyblade students: Terra, Aqua, and Ventus.

Struggling to understand even half of those made-up words? Keep reading. You’ve got a lot to learn.

First, the timeline

You may think that this ancient battle begins in the original Kingdom Hearts. But the story of Kingdom Hearts does not begin with the game Kingdom Hearts. And Kingdom Hearts 3 is not, in fact, the third Kingdom Hearts game — it’s the 10th in the series.

It’s not like Square Enix and Disney rolled out the story in a chronological fashion, either. Behold, the Kingdom Hearts game timeline, compressed into one handy image by YouTuber Everglow:

There are tons of games that don’t have numbers attached but are very much important to the overarching story. We call them spinoffs, because they deviate from the central plot of Sora’s journey, as depicted in the core games. But many of these games have bearing on the events of Kingdom Hearts 3.

The beginning

We’ll start with Kingdom Hearts χ. Everything begins generations before Sora, the young protagonist of the Kingdom Hearts series, existed. A sage known as the Master of Masters foretells that a battle between light and dark will happen, and trusts their apprentices, known as the Foretellers, to protect the light above all else. The Master of Masters then disappears, seemingly forever.

The Foretellers continue on peacefully, but several members begin to suspect that one among them intends to betray the order. The group splinters and a war between them boils to the surface — instigating the cataclysmic event they were supposed to protect the world against. The war between the Foretellers will become known as the Keyblade War, named after the weapons they each wield.

The X-blade as seen in Kingdom Hearts Unchained x.
The ultra-powerful X-blade is to blame for the Keyblade War.
Square Enix

Keyblades are weapons extracted from the heart of a warrior. The stronger the heart, the stronger the Keyblade. The strongest of them all is the X-blade, the only tool capable of accessing Kingdom Hearts — a repository of all the hearts (we’d call them souls) of beings and worlds. Whoever controls Kingdom Hearts has unlimited power, knowledge, and all the other stuff that good guys typically protect from bad guys in stories like this.

During the Keyblade War, the X-blade is fractured into 20 pieces: 13 dark pieces, and seven light pieces. The Keyblade War ends the known universe, but the hopes of children (seriously), as well as a hidden Foreteller and their followers — they call themselves Dandelions — live on to rebuild the world.

Introducing Master Xehanort

Next is Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. Now it’s time to skip into the future — not quite to Sora, but we’re getting there. Xehanort is a creepy dude living on the Destiny Islands. Being a general creep and all-around villain, Xehanort decides that he wants to re-create the Keyblade War in order to bring back the X-blade and claim the legendary Kingdom Hearts for himself.

Master Xehanort with his head in his hand
This is Master Xehanort — clearly a very evil guy.
Square Enix

Xehanort befriends a fellow Keyblade wielder named Eraqus, and tells him of his plot to re-create the X-blade. Eraqus thinks that Xehanort’s ideas are dangerous, so the two part ways. Eraqus opens up a school to teach students how to become Keyblade masters, while Xehanort attempts to find a pupil of his own whom he intends to swap bodies with. Being creepy, old, and villainous in both mind and body can only take you so far.

Xehanort recruits a nice young man named Ventus, who turns out to be too weak to serve as Xehanort’s new host. So Xehanort changes his plans and unlocks the darkness in Ventus’ heart, splitting him into the light-filled Ventus and the dark-filled Vanitas. But this exhausts Ventus, and he falls into a coma.

Aqua from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
Aqua is one of the strongest Keyblade wielders around.
Square Enix

Xehanort takes Ventus to Destiny Islands, assuming he’s on his last legs. This is when something very important happens: the first appearance of Sora. Xehanort and Ventus cross paths with newborn Sora, and his pure, good heart finds an instant connection with Ventus’. As a result of their newly forged heart-bond, Ventus regains consciousness. This impresses Xehanort, who had been convinced he was leaving Ventus for dead. He decides that Ventus may able to learn the ways of the Keyblade after all — just not under his tutelage.

Xehanort eventually drops off a half-hearted Ventus with his old buddy Eraqus to train him, allowing Xehanort to focus on Vanitas. Xehanort acts remorseful when he runs into Eraqus, leading Eraqus to think that Xehanort is no longer after Kingdom Hearts. Here, Ventus makes some new friends: Aqua and Terra, Eraqus’ other students. Aqua is an incredible Keyblade wielder, but Terra is filled with too much darkness in his current state to ever become a true master. Before Xehanort leaves Ventus behind, he senses within Terra an opportunity for a new host.

Xehanort recruits Terra, preparing him to become another new vessel. Vanitas convinces Ventus to follow after his friend — luring him into a trap. Aqua leaves Eraqus to save her friends. Terra eventually figures out that Xehanort is a total weirdo, and leaves the wizard’s service.

During this time, Terra and Aqua separately run into a young boy from Destiny Islands, Riku, and a young girl from Radiant Garden, Kairi. Terra bequeaths his Keyblade to Riku, sensing that the boy will grow up to be a worthy Keyblade wielder. As a result, Riku will be able to access a Keyblade of his own when he’s older. Aqua, however, accidentally bequeaths her Keyblade to Kairi when Kairi touches it, meaning she’ll also receive a blade when she grows. (One year after this, Kairi is sent to live on Destiny Island after her world is all but destroyed by darkness, and she meets her fellow future Keyblade master Riku, along with his best friend, a boy named Sora.)

Terra and young Riku in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
Terra (left) encourages baby Riku to check out the Keyblade that the young boy will one day wield himself.
Square Enix

All of that will matter much later, but for now, we have to get back to Eraqus and Xehanort.

Eraqus figures out pretty quickly after this that Xehanort hasn’t changed his ways at all. In an attempt to save everyone, Eraqus tries to kill Ventus to stop Xehanort’s plan, since Ventus has now grown strong enough to pose a threat. But Terra rescues his friend Ventus. While he’s distracted, Xehanort kills Eraqus.

Ventus from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
It seems like every time Ventus gets up, he’s knocked back down.
Square Enix

Terra, Aqua, and Ventus attempt to avenge their master, but Xehanort takes over Terra, who becomes Terra-Xehanort. Ventus and Vanitas finally square off and are evenly matched. They forge the X-blade briefly and combine to become one being. But the two have another fight inside their newly combined heart, and Ventus wins the battle, splitting them again. He destroys the X-blade and loses his heart in the process, which puts him into a coma. But even in his sleep, Ventus’ heart remembers the connection it made with Sora’s, and his spirit travels to live within Sora’s heart. (This will allow Sora to use the Keyblade later on, by the way!)

All the while, Aqua is fighting Terra-Xehanort. Before she loses, King Mickey — a Keyblade master who trained under the highly respected sorcerer Yen Sid — jumps in to help her. (King Mickey, by the way, is Mickey Mouse. He’s the first Disney character to appear in this Disney character-heavy franchise, and no, it’s never explained why he or any of the other Disney folks are involved. They just … are.)

Meanwhile, Aqua takes up Eraqus’ keyblade and fights Terra-Xehanort some more. The X-blade is shattered again, and its destruction sends Terra-Xehanort and Aqua hurtling across worlds. Aqua ends up trapped in the world of darkness, while Xehanort gets transported to a world called Radiant Garden, where Kairi is from.

Birth of the Nobodies

In Radiant Garden, Terra-Xehanort meets Ansem the Wise, a scientist who studies Hearts. Terra-Xehanort becomes Ansem’s apprentice, joining a large existing crew. Ansem is blissfully unaware of how evil his new trainee is. This ends badly for Ansem. Terra-Xehanort and the other apprentices lead a coup against Ansem the Wise — who barely escapes, hiding his face and renaming himself Diz.

Terra-Xehanort and his new cronies decide to use Ansem’s research to create what are the most prevalent monsters in the world of the Kingdom Hearts franchise: Heartless and Nobodies. A Heartless is created by cultivating the darkness inside the hearts of living things, which leaves behind a husk. For most beings, this husk disappears, leaving the Heartless to shamble on. But when a heart is removed entirely from a body, that husk becomes a sentient being of its own, called a Nobody.

a soldier-type Heartless from Kingdom Hearts
A classic example of a Heartless.
Square Enix

Nobodies are even more powerful than Heartless, so Terra-Xehanort wants to become one. When Terra-Xehanort splits his body to become a Nobody, he creates an exceptionally powerful Heartless at the same time. This being steals the name of Xehanort’s previous master, referring to himself as Ansem. This Heartless will eventually be the final boss of Kingdom Hearts, while Xehanort’s Nobody, Xemnas, will be the final boss for Kingdom Hearts 2.

And now, the first Kingdom Hearts

Around this time, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty discovers the ability to control the Heartless. She uses this newfound power to destroy Radiant Garden. Its inhabitants, which include characters from Final Fantasy — for also unexplained reasons, there are Final Fantasy characters in these games — are transported to Traverse Town, a home for wayward souls. Maleficent takes over Radiant Garden as her own realm, which she calls Hollow Bastion.

The infestation of Heartless in the universe leads King Mickey to leave his palace in an effort to solve the problem. He fails to tell anyone that he’s leaving, however, and his mage, Donald, and captain of the guard, Goofy, are shocked to discover that he has disappeared. Thankfully, Mickey wrote them a note before he took off, asking them to track down someone who wields an unspecified “key to their survival.” All they know is that they have to head to a place called Traverse Town.

Sora, Kairi, and Riku grouped together in Kingdom Hearts
Sora, Kairi, and Riku are lifelong best friends, until their lives are torn asunder because of the Heartless.
Square Enix

Back on Destiny Island, Riku, Sora, and Kairi agree to explore the world together. Riku finds a way to make their dream a reality: He accesses a door to another world, which will allow them to leave their home for places unknown. But it turns out the door leads them directly into a realm of darkness — so,not exactly the world-hopping journey Sora and Kairi were looking for.

Riku, however, is undeterred, and beckons his friends to go through the door with him. Sora and Kairi refuse, leaving Riku to pass through the door alone. He’s immediately absorbed by the darkness lurking behind it; it’s the same energy that produced the Heartless that are breeding across the entire universe. A brewing storm grows fiercer, and Kairi soon vanishes. Riku’s bequeathed Keyblade remains hidden, however, and, realizing that Sora’s heart is stronger, it choses Sora to wield it instead of Riku. Sora is now alone on Destiny Island, but not for long: The darkness blows Sora clean out of his world and into Traverse Town.

Sora stands with Hercules in Kingdom Hearts.
The crux of Kingdom Hearts’ gameplay involves traveling to Disney-themed worlds, which is as endearing as it is perplexing. This is Sora with Hercules, who becomes one of his closest allies.
Square Enix

Here, Sora runs into Donald and Goofy — who claim that Sora is the one they’re looking for. They form a trio, promising to help each other on their missions. Sora is looking for Riku and Kairi, while Donald and Goofy are hunting down Mickey. They decide to travel through Disney worlds together — like Neverland, Halloween Town, and Wonderland — in search of their friends. This leads them to Maleficent’s Hollow Bastion, where Riku and Kairi reunite with Sora.

But the darkness that absorbed Riku also changed him, allowing Ansem the Heartless to possess his heart. Ansem reveals that he’s been creating an artificial Kingdom Hearts using a group of women known as the seven Princesses of Heart (Kairi, Snow White, Belle, Jasmine, Aurora, Alice, and Cinderella). Each one carries one of the the seven light pieces of the X-blade that broke off years before, when the legendary weapon shattered.

artwork of Ansem the Heartless
This is Ansem the Heartless. Looks way different than ol’ Ansem the Wise, whose name he stole!
Square Enix

At Hollow Bastion, Sora finds out that a piece of Kairi’s heart is buried within him. Realizing that he’s been the key to finding Kairi all along, Sora stabs himself, releasing his heart, Ventus’ heart, and Kairi’s heart into the world. Sora becomes a Heartless, but Kairi uses her Princess of Heart powers to revert him to normal.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy chase Ansem the Heartless to a level called End of the World. Here, they all face off against the big-bad in a series of boss fights, with help from Riku and Mickey. In a last-ditch effort, Ansem the Heartless opens up his own creation of Kingdom Hearts, expecting the nature of all things to be evil and grant him unlimited darkness powers. But it’s actually filled with light, and Ansem the Heartless disintegrates.

Defeating Ansem relieves the world of darkness — with one big exception. In order to help Sora defeat the powerful Heartless, Riku and Mickey shove him through the door of light. But they get stuck on the wrong side of the door, trapping them within the darkness that remains. They must find their way out, while Sora, Donald, and Goofy go off on other adventures and continue to look for Kairi.

Sora loses his memory, and Roxas is reborn

This takes us to Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. When Sora opened his heart to free Kairi, something unexpected happened: Two Nobodies were created. Roxas is the combined Nobody of Sora and Ventus, while Naminé is the Nobody of Kairi. But as a Princess of Heart, Kairi isn’t supposed to be capable of producing a Nobody or a Heartless. Since Naminé was created out of a workaround with Sora, she has some memory powers.

Naminé from Kingdom Hearts 2
Unlike the other Nobodies, Naminé’s name isn’t an anagram!
Square Enix

Meanwhile, the Nobody apprentices of Ansem the Wise form a group of powerful Nobodies called Organization XIII, named for the 13 dark fragments of the X-blade. The goal of the Organization is to return all these Nobodies to their human bodies, which involves collecting as many hearts as possible.

The Organization has two members who lead a separate team to stop Sora, Donald, and Goofy: Marluxia and Larxene. They lure the team to a location called Castle Oblivion. Here, they’ve captured Naminé in an effort to use her powers to alter Sora’s memories. Naminé is able to warn Sora, Donald, and Goofy, helping them avoid Marluxia and Larxene’s plot. But their memories are still all messed up, so Naminé puts all three of them in stasis in order to fix their brains.

In the meantime, Diz (formerly Ansem the Wise) helps Mickey and Riku escape. Aqua sacrifices herself in the process to save Riku, which locks her in the realm of darkness. But a still-recovering Riku wears a blindfold and barely speaks, because he’s still trying rid himself of the remaining darkness within him.

Before Kingdom Hearts 2 …

We’re now at Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. While all this is going on with Mickey, Sora, and the gang, Roxas gets recruited into Organization XIII. Roxas and a member of the Organization named Xion become good buddies with another member, Axel.

Axel, Roxas, and Xion eat ice cream in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days
Best buds (and Organization XIII members) Axel, Roxas, and Xion do what they usually do: Eat sea salt ice cream.
Square Enix

Xion is eventually revealed to be a program, created from the memories and data of Sora. With Roxas’ help, Xion can help bring Sora back to life and help him remember his task. But she must sacrifice herself to do so. While apprehensive at first, she eventually agrees and makes Roxas kill her, returning her memories to Sora. Bummed about the whole situation, Roxas leaves the Organization to seek revenge against it for Xion’s death, which happened because of the group’s plot.

When Roxas goes to attack Xemnas, who concocted the plan, Riku suddenly appears and stops him, saying Roxas isn’t powerful enough yet. Roxas and Riku fight, with Roxas wielding the Keyblades of both Ventus and Sora. In order to win, Riku unleashes the darkness inside of himself — transforming himself to look like Ansem the Heartless, although he still maintains control.

The Digital Twilight Town

Riku takes Roxas to Diz. In order to stop Roxas from messing with the Organization’s plans to have Naminé fix Sora, Diz traps him inside a digital world called Twilight Town. Roxas hangs out with friends here, and is eventually attacked by Axel, whom the Organization has sent to find Sora. But Roxas gets out alive, and eventually finds his way to Sora. On the way, Naminé tells him that he’s actually a Nobody, and the only way that Sora can become whole is if they fuse together. Roxas allows this to happen — essentially also sacrificing himself — and Sora wakes up.

Roxas sits apart from his friends in Kingdom Hearts 2
Roxas has a strange feeling that there’s something not quite right about his life in Twilight Town.
Square Enix

And thus, Kingdom Hearts 2 really begins. Our heroes continue doing what they did in the first game: clearing worlds of Heartless. Axel realizes he misses his good friend Roxas, so he hatches a plan to retrieve him from his new form as the other half of Sora, whom he has now declared war on. He eventually kidnaps Kairi in order to lure Sora to him, but ends up sacrificing himself for Sora and crew, realizing that Sora and Roxas aren’t that different after all.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy make it to a place consumed by darkness called the World that Never Was, where the Organization maintains its headquarters. There, they finally meet up with Diz, Kairi, Naminé, and Riku, who still looks like Ansem the Heartless. Diz reveals himself to be Ansem the Wise and uses a machine to extract hearts from the second artificial Kingdom Hearts run by the Organization. The machine is overwhelmed by the power of the Kingdom Hearts, causing it to explode. But this explosion cleanses Riku — returning him to normal — while seemingly killing Diz.

Riku and Sora work together to defeat the Organization and Xehanort’s Nobody, Xemnas. But there’s a problem. Turns out, when someone’s Nobody and Heartless are destroyed, there is a chance that the original being is created anew. Many of the Organization XIII members re-form as the apprentices of Ansem the Wise, including Xehanort and Axel.

A complete lineup of Organization XIII from Kingdom Hearts.
Here they are: every member of Organization XIII. You get used to seeing their faces a lot, even if you never remember their names.
Square Enix

Time for time travel

And guess what, y’all? To make matters worse, Xehanort can time-travel. That’s right: As long as a version of Xehanort exists in the timeline he travels to, he can go all over the place. Xehanort then starts rebuilding Organization XIII with different versions of himself, all with the intention of fighting Sora & co. to re-create the Keyblade War.

With Xehanort back in the picture, Yen Sid and Mickey work together to find Keyblade-wielding champions to be the Guardians of Light. They decide to find Aqua, Ventus, and Terra. They know Aqua is in the darkness world, and Ventus is assumed comatose somewhere, so locating Terra is their big focus. After Naminé instructs Sora to participate in finding the legendary trio (in Kingdom Hearts: Coded), he brings Riku and Kairi along for the next step on their quest.

The mark of mastery

This takes us to Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Before they can truly stand a chance against the ultra-powerful Xehanort, Sora and Riku have some serious training to do. They both wish to become true Keyblade masters before the fight, so Yen Sid sends them on a mission to dive into what are known as dream versions of worlds they’ve traveled to before.

After Sora emerges in the real world from what is essentially training while he’s asleep, he runs into an old member of the Organization: Xigbar, also known as Braig, who has been partially possessed by Xehanort. Xigbar is one of the members Xehanort has already managed to recruit as he rebuilds the crew, along with Ansem the Heartless and Xemnas. A young, time-traveled version of Xehanort puts Sora back to sleep, and then he and what remains of the Organization thus far attempt to make Sora another host for Xehanort.

Sora and Riku stand together in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance shows a starkly different side of Sora, who is driven to become a Keyblade master right alongside his BFF, Riku.
Square Enix

Thankfully, Axel, Donald, and Goofy arrive to save Sora, who falls into a coma from his struggle against Xehanort. Ventus’ heart, which you hopefully recall had found a home within Sora’s body, finally emerges to also help protect Sora. Riku is engaged in his own fight at the same time, and is able to conquer his inner darkness once and for all by fighting Ansem. Riku is then granted the honor of being a Keyblade master, after he manages to be the only person who can wake Sora up. Because Sora didn’t complete his mission — he fell asleep! — he doesn’t get the same title.

Xehanort’s rebirth

And now we are here, at Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep -A fragmentary passage-. (Yes, that’s its name. Yes, it’s dumb.) Sora has lost a great deal of power because of his battle to prevent Xehanort from taking over his body, but he remains committed to helping in the search for Aqua, Ventus, and Terra. Riku and Mickey are sent into the darkness to find Aqua on their own, and Sora is given a new task: to essentially find himself and activate his latent abilities to reawaken lost hearts. Kairi, who is also around and looking for something to do, is given a Keyblade alongside Axel, and the two enter training separately.

Sora also has some training to do. So he does what he’s always done: He travels to a Disney world to get some fighting practice in. He makes the most appropriate choice, heading to Olympus, where his old friend Hercules will certainly help him find his strength again.


And that’s it. That’s the whole thing. Kingdom Hearts 3 picks up with Sora, Donald, and Goofy headed to see Herc and Hades for the third time.

Goofy, Sora, and Donald lying on the ground in Kingdom Hearts.
Sora, Donald, and Goofy: the real heroes of Kingdom Hearts. Clearly.
Square Enix

For lovers of the deepest kinds of lore, Kingdom Hearts may be one of the most satisfying stories in games. But after going through this entire synopsis of everything leading up to the saga’s conclusion, we feel comfortable saying that Kingdom Hearts. Is. A. Lot. And maybe too much sometimes.

Loving Kingdom Hearts goes hand in hand with loving its complexities and the confusion inherent within them. If you’re still confused, we’ll leave you with this final summary for what is, in essence, the story of Kingdom Hearts:

Disney heroes team up against evil wizard Xehanort as he attempts to re-create an ancient battle and gain access to Kingdom Hearts’ power and knowledge combined.

For an even deeper, more visual dive, we recommend a shorter, funnier video from Frustrated Jacob and a longer, more serious video from Suggestive Gaming. Along with the Kingdom Hearts Wiki, they were instrumental in helping us remember the events of the Kingdom Hearts story so far.

Also, most importantly, Polygon video producer Brian David Gilbert went ahead and unraveled the series with a lore analysis of his own. Please check that out below.


Three Major February PC Releases Are Not Coming To Steam

Of all the major PC games coming out in February, three will not be sold on Steam. Instead, they’re launching on other PC game stores.

These aren’t small titles either. 4A Games’ Metro Exodus, BioWare’s Anthem, and Sumo Digital’s Crackdown 3 all won’t be available on Steam. For PC, Metro is releasing on the Epic Games Store, while Anthem is launching on EA’s Origin, and Crackdown 3 is releasing on Microsoft’s Windows Store. It’s a trend that will continue throughout 2019. Although February’s Far Cry New Dawn is releasing on Steam, another big Ubisoft game–March’s The Division 2–left Valve’s store and is now scheduled to launch on Epic.

Steam hasn’t been totally left out in February. The store is still getting the aforementioned Far Cry New Dawn, as well as Jump Force, but it’s clear the overall landscape of PC gaming is changing. Steam has held a fairly large monopoly on the PC gaming market for the past decade, but developers’ decision to create their own stores has created unprecedented competition.

Although alternate PC game stores have existed for a while, it really wasn’t until late 2018, and the announcement of the Epic Store, that Steam found itself losing high-profile launches. Epic offers developers a more lucrative split of the profits they might make off of their games–especially if the title is made with Unreal Engine. Other than Metro Exodus and The Division 2, Epic also has the exclusive rights to the PC versions of Journey, Ashen, Hades, the final two episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, and several other games as well. Epic has also changed its refund policy to match Steam’s.

As you might assume, Valve isn’t happy to see plenty of high profile games leave its store. The company described the decision for 4A Games to take Metro Exodus off of Steam and put it onto Epic as “unfair” for Steam’s customers, and one made by the game’s publisher without Valve’s knowledge beforehand.

Anyone who’s previously pre-ordered Metro Exodus on Steam will still be able to play on the platform, but future orders must be done through Epic. That said, the PC version of Metro Exodus is only $50 USD on Epic, as opposed to the previous $60 on Steam.


Nintendo’s Nindies Showcase Host Joins Xbox

Maybe you recognize him from the Nintendo Nindies Showcases. Maybe you could’ve sworn you saw his face at E3 one year. Maybe you saw him on that one episode of the Kinda Funny Gamescast. Either way, Nintendo’s senior manager of publisher and developer relations, Damon Baker, has announced he’s jumping ship. Moving from Nintendo to Microsoft, Baker announced via Twitter that he’s “pursuing a new opportunity.”

According to a later Twitter post, Baker confirmed he’s now the Head of Portfolio for Xbox. As stated by Gamasutra, Baker’s new role at Xbox is similar to the one he held at Nintendo, which will now see him “working to further Xbox’s efforts with external developers.”

Before taking the new role over at Xbox, Baker, a self-described indie advocate, spent the last 12-plus years supporting “the 3rd party business as an advocate for their amazing work,” he wrote in a statement. “Your support for great content has helped define this generation of platforms and realize the dreams of many.”

Baker played a pivotal role at Nintendo through his tenure, most notably as one of the many curators for the indie push during the Nintendo Switch’s 2017 launch. Since then, he’s gone on to host a number of Nindies Showcases.

Becoming Xbox’s head of portfolio means Baker will play a bigger role in evaluating all second- and third-party content on the platform with the help of [email protected] director Chris Charla, Xbox Games Marketing general manager Aaron Greenberg, and Xbox head Phil Spencer. “I am both humbled and proud to be in proximity of that magic,” Baker wrote in his farewell statement. “…Thanks again for your support of awesome games and the people who make them!”


Resident Evil 2 Walkthrough: Safe Codes, Locker Codes, Film Roll Locations, And Pocket Safe Locations

There are a bunch of items and resources in Resident Evil 2 that are completely optional, such as hip pouches that expand your inventory space or ammo for some of your most powerful guns. These are typically hidden inside safes or lockers with letter dial locks. You can find the combinations for these either in memos or even scribbled somewhere on a wall.

Whether you’re playing as Leon or Claire, the solutions remain the same and can be accessed without grabbing the memo that hints at their solution. The only exception to this are the items you grab by developing film rolls–though, there is a minor exception even to that. Regardless, below you can find details on all the optional items locked behind safes, lockers, or hidden in the environment.

For more guides, be sure to check out our beginner’s tips, as well as our gun upgrades location guide. Otherwise, be sure to read our Resident Evil 2 review.


There are two safes in the RPD–one in the West Office and the other in the Waiting Room. Both yield valuable resources well worth grabbing. We won’t spoil what’s inside each here (spoiler: they’re all useful items), but we will reveal how to open them. The safe solutions are found in memos scattered around the building, which we’ve detailed the locations of for all of you completionists out there.

West Office (RPD 1F)

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The West Office safe’s combination is as follows: 9 Left, 15 Right, 7 Left. If you’re curious where to find the memo containing this solution, you can find it in Captain Wesker’s office in the S.T.A.R.S. Office on the second floor.

Waiting Room (RPD 2F)

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The Waiting Room safe’s combination is as follows: 6 Left, 2 Right, 11 Left. If you’re inclined to grab the memo associated with this safe, you can find it in the Observation Room on the first floor.

Dial Locks

There are three lockers in the game that are sealed by letter dial locks. Each hold valuable ammunition for your more powerful guns that you don’t wanna miss.

Shower Room (RPD 2F)

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The Shower Room’s dial lock combination is CAP. Interestingly enough, you can find this solution written on a whiteboard in the connecting room between the Operations Room and the Records Room on the first floor.

West Hallway (RPD 3F)

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This locker is located in a hallway you can reach by getting to the third floor from the western side. It’s right beside the broken wall and the mannequin shadow. The dial lock combination is DCM. This is the only film roll item that doesn’t require you to first develop the film to get (more on this later).

Control Room (Upper Sewers)

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The Control Room locker is located in the Upper Sewers by a desk. The dial lock combination is SZF. If you’re curious where this solution was found, it was on a Jazz festival flyer found in the Workers’ Break Room.

Film Roll Items

Other optional items don’t show up until you’ve developed a film roll with photographs that point you to their locations. Whenever you find a roll, develop it in the Dark Room on the western side of the police station. The resources you gain by completing these are typically more lucrative, so try to set aside time to complete these item hunts.

Commemorative Photo

This film roll is interesting in that it doesn’t point you to the location of resources; rather, it points you to an item you can use to gain some valuable stuff. Located in the Safety Deposit Room, grab the film roll by keying in the proper code to unlock the locker its sealed in. Though, you’re by no means required to develop the film roll to get the items its photograph hints towards, but it does help direct you towards what you need to do

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When you develop the film roll in the Dark Room, it reveals a photo of a statue found in the Art Room. Before you go there, you’ll need to grab the Red Book in the Library by the door with the Spade insignia on the second floor. Once you’ve got this, head back to the Art Room, grab the stone arm beside the statue and combine it with the Red Book. Then take the arm and insert it back into the statue to unlock the scepter from its right hand.

Examine the scepter to obtain the Red Jewel. This goes into the Bejeweled Box, which you can get in the Interrogation Room. Accessing this area requires the Club Key, so if you don’t have that yet, keep progressing the story until you get it. Once you’ve got the Bejeweled Box, combine it with the Red Jewel to get the S.T.A.R.S. badge. You can use this item in two locations: the Underground Stairs in the Middle section of the Underground Facility, and the S.T.A.R.S. Office.

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The badge serves as a key to unlock the white holding case holding the gun parts for either Leon’s Magnum or Claire’s Sub-machine Gun in the Underground Stairs. These are good to grab, as you’ll be following up to use the badge in the S.T.A.R.S. Office to get the weapons themselves. But before you combine the badge with the computer tower, examine the badge’s backing to reveal a hidden USB. This can then be used to open the armory.

Hiding Place Photo

This film roll is found in the Work Room in the Upper section of the Sewers; you’ll see it in-between a cardboard box and tool kit on a small table. Develop the roll in the Dark Room back at the RPD to reveal a photograph showing you two locations–that you might recognize if you’ve got a keen eye.

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The first photograph points to Captain Wesker’s desk in the S.T.A.R.S. Office on the second floor. Open the drawer to get a wooden box containing a gun part.

The second photograph points to a boombox found in the Press Room on the RPD’s first floor. Open the drawer to nab the treasure.

Pocket Safes

The RPD’s Safety Deposit Room is packed with useful resources, but not all of them are accessible at first. To get everything in those pesky electronically sealed lockers, you’ll need to get two replacement keypad keys. These can be found inside Pocket Safes scattered throughout the police station. To open a Pocket Safe, simply examine it and then input the correct button pattern. This require a little bit of trial and error to find out, but keep at it and you’ll unlock it in no time. Below you can find details on where each Pocket Safe is located.

Shower Room

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You’re likely to find this Pocket Safe first. It’s located in the Shower Room on the second floor of the RPD. When you enter the room, turn right and you’ll see it on top of a shelf beside some lockers.

Linen Room

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The second Pocket Safe is found in the Linen Room on the second floor. You won’t be able to open this room without the Diamond Key, so if you don’t have the means to access it, simply progress the story until you do.