I saw 'Inside Out 2' in theaters, and my favorite part was this classic RPG easter egg

Joy and the other emotions in Inside Out 2
(Image credit: Pixar)

While I’m a huge fan of Disney and Pixar movies, the original “Inside Out” was very middle-of-the-road for me. I can appreciate what they were going for, and it’s a great reference tool for children to better communicate their emotions, but it didn’t resonate with me beyond “Well, that was a fun kids’ movie.” 

It’s a completely different story for my husband, a former Navy brat who was not at all prepared for the absolute emotional gut-punch Riley’s story of struggling to fit in would be. Suffice it to say, when he suggested seeing “Inside Out 2” in theaters, there was not a thing in this world that could stop me from getting him there. 

I strapped in for more of the same (and to be at the ready with some tissues) with the sequel and came away pleasantly surprised. This time around, Riley’s grown up and is fitting into her new home wonderfully, leading her hockey team to victory with her two close friends by her side. But just as she starts to hit her stride, puberty strikes, bringing with it all the usual pitfalls of awkward teenagehood. 

Inside Out 2 | Official Trailer - YouTube Inside Out 2 | Official Trailer - YouTube
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Naturally, we see this play out in her mind when Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), and the rest of the gang are joined by a gaggle of new, more nuanced emotions that threaten to throw everything into disarray. Maya Hawke as Anxiety and Ayo Edebiri as Envy really shine among them, and “Inside Out 2” surprised me with one of the most realistic depictions of an anxiety attack I’ve ever seen — let alone in a children’s movie. 

And while all of that is worth extolling (as reviews have already done a-plenty, if “Inside Out 2’s” 91% Rotten Tomatoes score is any indication), that’s not what I’m here to talk about. What I’m here to talk about is the one character that left me in tears from laughter. It's agonizingly clear this character was made by someone who played entirely too much Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy growing up (like myself). I’m talking about Lance Slashblade, the Cloud Strife we have at home. 

We meet him in the dungeon in Riley’s mind where she locks away her deepest, darkest secrets. Alongside Bloofy, a 2-D animated cross between Bluey and Dora the Explorer that Riley still hasn’t fully outgrown, is Riley’s secret video game crush, Lance Slashblade. Just as Bloofy looks ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon, he looks like he just stepped out of a PlayStation 2-era RPG you'd find at the bottom of a GameStop bargain bin. 

True to form, he's introduced with exactly the same kind of theatrics you'd expect from a cheesy video game cutscene. A ray of glimmering light from an indeterminable source appears just to provide dramatic lighting for his monologue, his bright purple, polygonal hair flowing in the wind. 

The new character is voiced by Yong Yea, who’s best known for his voice work on shows and video games like Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Persona 3 Reloaded, and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. Lance tries to help the other emotions escape this corner of Riley's mind, but his weak final attack (a variant on Sonic's spin-dash that looks just as ridiculous as it sounds) fails miserably. 

Let's hit restart on 'Wreck-It Ralph'

As a lifelong anime and video game nerd, everything about this character hit way too close to home for me. His line "I long to be a hero, but darkness haunts my past" instantly transported me back to playing Kingdom Hearts 2 in middle school and crushing over blocky, ridiculously emo characters. And it got me thinking: This is what the sequel to "Wreck-It Ralph" should have been.

With the original "Wreck-It Ralph" diving into the world of arcade games, it would have made so much more sense for the sequel to move onto home game consoles and PCs. Imagine Ralph, Fix-It Felix and crew fighting through hordes of aliens in a Halo-lookalike, expanding on the brief glimpse of a similar FPS in the original with Hero's Duty. Or running around trying to bulldoze through senseless side quests in an isometric playground akin to Fallout. Or, as we saw in "Inside Out 2," looking laughably out of place in a polygonal world of anime protagonists inspired by '90s and 2000s RPGs. 

Instead, we got "Ralph Breaks the Internet," which was fine if cringey for leaning so heavily on memes and Internet references that can't help but age poorly. Lance Slashblade showed me the "Wreck-It Ralph" sequel I didn't even know I needed, so just imagine me in the corner with my own inexplicable spotlight and hair blowing in the wind, a single, dramatic tear down my face as I mourn what could have been.

There's no word yet on when "Inside Out 2" is coming to streaming, but Disney and Pixar films tend to make their streaming debut approximately three months after their theatrical premiere. So we expect "Inside Out 2" to land on Disney Plus sometime in September.

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Alyse Stanley
News Editor

Alyse Stanley is a news editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing weekend coverage and writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment. Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, Alyse worked as an editor for the Washington Post’s sunsetted video game section, Launcher. She previously led Gizmodo’s weekend news desk, where she covered breaking tech news — everything from the latest spec rumors and gadget launches to social media policy and cybersecurity threats.  She has also written game reviews and features as a freelance reporter for outlets like Polygon, Unwinnable, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. She’s a big fan of horror movies, cartoons, and miniature painting.