OriginalsVideo Games

A (Not So Brief) Recap of the ‘Kingdom Hearts’ Story So Far

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

Ah, Kingdom Hearts – you magnificent, wholly incomprehensible, improbably bloated, wonderful series of games. Your story, spread out through nine(ish) games originally released on no less than six consoles (7 if you include the mobile games), is both fascinating and almost unfollowable. Don’t get me wrong, I love the story. I love the cheesy dialogue, the million characters, the dream eaters, the nobodies and the heartless. I adore the insane mash up of Final Fantasy, Disney and traditional RPG. Where else could I team up with Hercules in a coliseum to fight Cloud from Final Fantasy VII to prevent him from working with Hades all while Maleficent and Pete watch from afar?

In preparation for the fast-approaching release of Kingdom Hearts 3 (Can you believe it’s almost here?), I’ve recently set off on a quest to complete all the Kingdom Hearts games. This has been made easy by the recent HD remasters of all the games for the PS4. Between Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix and the oddly titled Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue I’m able to replay all the games while also getting to experience those I didn’t have the chance to catch in past years (mainly due to so many of the games being released on systems I did not own.)

For those who want to catch up on the story now you have it even easier than I do thanks to the recent release of Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far which bundles both collections into one complete set. Be prepared for hundreds of hours of joy, confusion, frustration and pride as you fall in love all over again (or maybe, for the first time) with Kingdom Hearts.

Below is my attempt to summarize each game leading up to Kingdom Hearts 3, and a short review of each game and how It stands today. I in no way will take credit for completely summarizing the events of each game solely by myself – I’ve spent countless hours reading about the story online from various sources just to make sure I understood what I was witnessing as I replayed these games – but I will attempt to at least provide my take on the story as well as what I’ve gathered as I’ve read the lore and others opinions online, including the always helpful Kingdom Hearts Wikia.

 

Kingdom Hearts (2002, Playstation 2)

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

The one that started it all. Who would have thought a random game about a young boy in huge shoes running around with a key that could also be used as a sword while interacting with various Disney characters and randomly encountering Final Fantasy protagonists would be such a hit?

We first meet Sora, Riku and Kairi as they work together to build a raft to get them away from Destiny Island. Of course, things go wrong. The heartless attack and Sora is mysteriously granted the keyblade, a weapon which also serves as a key to open and close other worlds. Sora prevails in his fight but cannot prevent Riku and Kairi from being swept away to parts unknown. Destiny Island eventually falls to mysterious forces.

Elsewhere, King Mickey (a keyblade master), sends his two best soldiers Donald and Goofy (yes, I’m serious) to find the key. The two wind up at Traverse Town where they meet a confused Sora who has no idea how he ended up there. Undeterred by his circumstances, Sora pledges to find Riku and Kairi and teams up with Donald and Goofy to take down the heartless inhabiting Traverse Town. Seeing the keyblade, Donald and Goofy pledge to protect Sora on his adventure. Sora learns that he can seal the keyholes in various worlds, and together with his new friends, they jump from world to world meeting various characters and taking down the heartless. Sealing up each world as they leave.

Behind the scenes, the evil Maleficent has teamed up with various Disney villains in hopes of stealing the hearts of the seven Princesses of Heart (Disney Princesses). Upon collecting all seven she would be able to open the keyhole that leads to Kingdom Hearts, which is a source of knowledge for all hearts. Riku, easily manipulated, falls in line with Maleficent and begins helping her, unaware of the consequences of his actions until he realizes that Kairi has inadvertently become a victim and becomes enraged.

Sora and his team eventually arrive at Hollow Bastion, where Ansem (a professor who has studied Heartless and has a dangerous secret) is hiding out with Maleficent. Riku confronts them but turns out to be possessed by Ansem. Sora and Riku fight, with Sora prevailing. Sora uses Ansem’s keyblade to save Kairi but turns into a heartless in the process. Kairi’s love returns Sora to human form.

Meanwhile, Ansem had run off to hide in the End of the World. Sora heads there to finish the fight. The door to Kingdom Hearts is open, revealing a piercing bright light which destroys Ansem. Mickey and Riku are behind the door, helping to seal it. Sora locks the door with his keyblade which puts the destroyed worlds back together, launches Kairi back to Destiny Island and leaves Sora unsure of where to go next.

Thoughts: The game, while rough around the edges and extremely dated by today’s platforming and RPG standards, is still great fun. Although anybody not blinded by nostalgia may scoff at the entirely too long beginning preparing the makeshift boat and fail to see what the appeal is. The game takes a while to open, but once it does and the combat system becomes more varied – you can’t help but be dragged into the game’s charming world.

 

Kingdom Hearts: Re:Chain of Memories (2004, Originally released as Chain of Memories on the Gameboy Advance, re-released as Re:Chain of Memories on the PlayStation 2 in 2007)

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

This is the game that explains why Sora, Donald and Goofy are sleeping at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 2. Also, if you’re wondering the difference between Chain of Memories and Re:Chain of Memories, it’s basically just an upgraded version. Full 3d worlds, voice acting, etc. The core game remains the same.

Pluto leads Sora and crew to a crossroads where a man cloaked in black appears to them, but Sora can’t understand the man. The path converges and leads Sora to Castle Oblivion. Again, the cloaked man appears, this time handing Sora a card. Sora is still unable to understand him.

The card allows Sora’s group to proceed through the castle, sending them to Traverse Town, where they spent much of their first adventure. Although nobody seems to remember them. After fighting off the heartless and again sealing the keyhole, Sora is returned to Castle Oblivion where the cloaked man awaits him with another card. Eventually it is revealed that the cloaked man is Axel (who appears in 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts 2).

Sora and Axel fight, with Sora prevailing. Axel hands Sora more cards, allowing him to visit many different worlds. Every world Sora and crew visit is a world that they had previously helped, but – like Traverse Town – nobody in the world remembers them. As their adventure continues Sora, Donald and Goofy being to realize that they too are losing their memories. Nevertheless, they persist.

Namine, a Nobody of Kairi (see Kingdom Hearts 2 for an explanation of nobodies), can tamper with memories and begins to replace Sora’s memories of Kairi with memories of herself instead. Namine does not enjoy tampering with memories, but she is forced to by Marluxia, the head of Castle Oblivion and a member of Organization XIII.

Eventually the cards lead Sora to Marluxia, whom he battles to save Namine and regain her freedom. Riku awakens in another part of the castle and is forced to tackle the darkness inside him as he too fights off members of Organization XIII and revisits worlds he had previously helped. He eventually overcomes the darkness, and Ansem, that lies inside of him but cannot help Sora. He continues his path, knowing that eventually he and Sora will meet up again.

Sora defeats Marluxia. Namine offers to help restore Sora’s memories, but warns that it will take a while and that he will forget everything, including her, that he has witnessed during his time in Castle Oblivion. He agrees and is placed into a pod to sleep for the next year or so while his mind is put back together correctly.

Thoughts: The story is the best part of this game. Many did not play – or quit playing – this game due to its card-based battle system which is incredibly difficult to master and involves a lot of frustration if you’re not willing to look up the best deck to use on bosses, etc. I enjoyed the game, but thought it was overly long and that some parts relied too heavily on spamming the same card over and over, hoping to win. Still, this game does give valuable insight into who Namine is as well as more information about Organization XIII members, so it is worth playing. Or, if you really hate the card-based system, at least take the time to watch the cut scenes on YouTube.

 

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (2009, Nintendo DS)

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

This is the game which tells the story of Roxas and why he is important. It is basically necessary if you want to have any idea what the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 2 means.

Roxas is born as Sora’s Nobody and is immediately found by Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, who then makes him the thirteenth member of the Organization. Though he does not speak at first and is slow to catch on – he eventually gains a personality and learns how to fight as the Organization sends him on mission after mission to destroy Heartless and open Kingdom Hearts. Normally he is teamed with Axel, who has been charged with taking care of Roxas and training him.

A fourteenth member appears unexpected and her appearance seems to change based on whoever is looking at her and their relationship to her. Her name is Xion and eventually she is paired with Roxas on missions and becomes friends with Axel. The three regularly meet high atop a tower to eat sea-salt ice cream and talk.

Roxas and Xion become close friends and Xion tells Roxas of her ability to use the keyblade and her resemblance to a woman named Kairi. Roxas then falls into a deep sleep for many weeks – which coincides with Sora being put to sleep at the end of Chain of Memories. Sora is moved by Namine and Diz to Twilight Town to finish his recovery. Roxas awakens with only Axel remaining, all the other Organization members were defeated by Sora and Riku during their time in Castle Oblivion (the events of Chain of Memories)

Riku meets Xion and tries to talk her into merging with Kairi, though she fears leaving Roxas and Axel. It is later revealed that Xion is technically a replica of Roxas created by Vexen, from Sora. She was created in case Sora ends up being no use to the Organization and Xemnas (Confused? I was too). Her resemblance to Kairi was due to Sora’s strong memories of her. Namine’s attempts to heal Sora’s memories being to affect Xion, making her look more like Sora and all around confusing her and everybody around her. She leaves the Organization in hopes of figuring out the truth.

Axel and Xigbar are sent to find Xion and return her to the Organization. Xigbar sees Xion as Ventus (from Birth by Sleep) but Axel does not. Xion defeats Xigbar. Axel gets confused. Roxas then leaves the Organization as well, making things even more confusing.

Xemnas gets his hands on Xion and reprograms her to fight Roxas, hoping to merge her with Roxas and keep Sora asleep. Roxas fights back and wins, but Xion still merges with him, effectively killing her. Roxas is upset and Sora’s restoration is put on hold. Xion’s keyblade transfers ownership to Roxas, who can now dual-wield.

Roxas then encounters Riku, sent by Diz to capture him in hopes of merging Roxas and Sora. Riku is almost defeated but uses the darkness inside him to fight back. Roxas loses and Riku brings him to Diz, who places Roxas into Twilight Town – which leads to the events that take place at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 2.

Thoughts: Like Re:Coded, this game is also just a 3 hour long movie on the PS4. I found this story far more interesting than Re:Coded though, as it all directly effects the overall storyline and finally explained the significance of Roxas and Namine to me. The story also explained who Axel was after his random appearances in Kingdom Hearts 2 and Re: Chain of Memories, which was helpful. This one is worth watching and paying attention to, as all the characters are important to the story.

 

Kingdom Hearts 2 (2006, PlayStation 2)

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

This game takes place after Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, although when I originally played it, I didn’t know that and literally had no idea what was going on because those games were released on handheld consoles only, and this game came out on the PlayStation 2. Thankfully, all games are now available on the PS4 and I’m no longer confused – well, not as much.

The game opens with the player in the shoes of Roxas, a character introduced in 358/2 Days. There are seven days left of summer and he and his friends intend on making the most of them. Roxas is plagued by dreams of Sora’s exploits, but doesn’t understand why or who Sora is.

Roxas is confronted by nobodies while on his way to explore an abandoned mansion and a keyblade appears in his hand. He does not know what the nobodies are or why he has the keyblade, but he fights them off. Afterwards, a man in a black cloak named Axel appears to him and despite his insistence on them being friends, Roxas does not remember him. After their encounter Roxas continues into the mansion where he meets Namine. Namine let’s Roxas know that he is a nobody – more particularly, Sora’s nobody. But what this means is lost on Roxas.

Roxas continues his search of the mansion, where he encounters Diz, a red-cloaked man, and then finds Sora, Donald and Goofy sleeping in pods in the basement (this is due to events in Chain of Memories). Roxas merges with Sora and disappears, just as Sora, Donald and Goofy wake up.

They had been asleep for a year and had a lot to catch up on. Jimmy Cricket, who follows them on their adventures and keeps track of everything they encounter, finds that his journal is empty save for one phrase, “Thank Namine.” Sora and the rest of the crew wonder who Namine is (this becomes the basis of Re:Coded).

Sora and the gang once again embark on an adventure, visiting multiple planets and sealing their keyholes. This time fighting off both the heartless and the nobodies and their leaders, Organization XIII (of which Axel is a part). Maleficent is back again, this time in control of the heartless and working in tandem with Organization XIII to ruin Sora’s life.

Ok, folks – here’s where the story starts to get confusing. Sora learns that Ansem, who they fought at the end of Kingdom Hearts 1, is the heartless of Xehanort. They also learn that Xehanort has a nobody named Xemnas – who is the leader of Organization XIII. Oh, and Xehanort was an apprentice of the real Ansem. (Yeah, the Ansem they met and fought was not really Ansem).

Got it? No? That’s ok. Just remember that every major character essentially has three parts: Their normal self, their heartless and their nobody – all three go by different names and have their own look/personality/life, such as Ansem/Xehanort/Xemnas. That will make everything a bit easier to comprehend.

Anyway, so Xemnas reveals that the Nobodies plan on creating their own Kingdom Hearts so that they can get their hearts back. (Nobodies are basically people with no hearts). Sora beats up a bunch of Organization members before heading to The World That Never Was to end the fight. There he finds Riku and Kairi and teams up with them to take down the rest of the Organization.

It is here that Sora learns that Roxas is his nobody and Kairi learns that Namine is her nobody. (So, we’re at 2 out of 3 now: Sora/Roxas and Kairi/Namine). These Nobodies were created when Sora and Kairi lost their hearts during the events of the first Kingdom Hearts games.

Sora continues beating everybody up, eventually leaving only Xemnas, who Sora and Riku beat together. They close the new Kingdom Hearts and are returned to Destiny Islands. At the end they receive a letter from King Mickey which would later become the events of Kingdom Hearts: Coded.

Thoughts: A lot of people think that this is the best game of the series, and I somewhat agree. The beginning with Roxas is a bit of a slog which lasts entirely too long – upwards of three or four hours if you aren’t sure where to go/what to do and many people had not played the handheld games before this entry, so they were at a loss as to why we should care about Roxas. I felt the same way the first few times I played the game, but my last playthrough I enjoyed playing as Roxas because I understood what was going on.

That said, the Roxas part is a very small part of the overall game which is faster and boasts a more complex, although a bit floaty, fighting system. I enjoy the fighting and the story, but still have a nostalgia for the first game’s worlds over the second. Still, this is a good game and continues the fun mash up of Disney and Final Fantasy.

 

Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded (2008. Originally released as Coded for mobile phones, re-released as Re:Coded on the Nintendo DS in 2010 and then as a collection of HD cutscenes in 2017 on PS4)

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

Coded was a simple game with 3D backgrounds and puzzles, Re:Coded took that game and added a few new modes. The Re:Coded version on PS4 is just HD cutscenes, equaling about 3 hours in length.

Re:Coded takes place after Kingdom Hearts 2. Remember how Jiminy Cricket looked in his journal only to find “Thank Namine”? Well now Jiminy, Mickey, Sora, Donald and Goofy attempt to recover the lost journal pages to understand what that message means.

The journal contains another message, “Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it,” which further confuses the crew. Mickey digitizes the journal and uses a data version of Sora to recover the lost pages. This involves visiting various worlds and defeating the bugs which are blocking the pages. Every time Sora is successful a bit more of the journal is revealed

While Mickey and the others watch data-Sora from the castle, they are suddenly surprised when he shows up in their world along with heartless. A cloaked figure follows Data-Sora into their world as well, who turns out to be Riku – but not Riku. Technically, it is the journal in data form which took on the shape of Riku since he was familiar to all involved. (Got that?)

Turns out everybody is in the datascape now. Data-Riku/Journal explains, and everybody accepts it like this is just a normal day. Which, in Kingdom Hearts terms, I guess it is.

Anyway, Maleficent and Pete, both real, weasel their way into the datascape in another vain attempt at being evil. Maleficent does destroy Sora’s data-keyblade though, so points to her for accomplishing something for once. The heartless attack and Sora is saved by Mickey and Riku/Journal. The journal is stolen by Maleficent. Sora and the others follow Maleficent to Hollow Bastion where they are forced to fight the Journal/Riku. Ultimately, they win the fight but Data-Riku cannot awaken without the bugs inside him being destroyed.

Data-Sora does not hesitate to enter Data-Riku, despite knowing he will lose all his abilities by doing so. Data-Riku and Data-Sora visit various worlds defeating bugs along the way, eventually leading them back to Hollow Bastion where they defeat Maleficent (for around the 500th time in the series).

Mickey explains to Data-Sora and Data-Riku that once the journal is complete, it will need to be erased, which would make both forget the entire journey. They are ok with this, but Data-Sora does ask for a bit more time so he can save the real Maleficent and Pete from becoming trapped. Data-Sora must then fight off a Sora Heartless and Maleficent and Pete end up back in the real world thanks to the help of the Journal. Data-Sora’s memory is then erased.

Soon after another message appears, this time opening a new world. Mickey dives in to help Data-Sora conquer this new world as, once again, Data-Sora has no abilities or recollection of what’s been going on.  A mysterious figure confronts Data-Sora, revealing to him that he has lost his memories and that to regain them he must re-visit all the previous worlds. Data-Sora does so and returns to the dark figure, fighting and defeating him. The dark figure reveals itself to be Data-Roxas.

Data-Roxas hands Data-Sora a card which opens a door (the same way Sora used cards to open doors in Chain of Memories) and this card leads Data-Sora to Namine. Namine explains a bunch of things to Data-Sora, including that Sora is the “key that connects everything” which includes herself, Roxas, Axel, Xion (seen in 358/2 Days) and Terra, Ventus and Aqua (the protagonists of Birth by Sleep). Mickey listens and promises Data-Namine and Data-Sora that he will let the real Sora know all this information.

Mickey then sends out a bottled letter to Sora, which is the same bottle that Sora finds in Destiny Islands at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2.

Thoughts: On the PS4 this game is only available as a 3-hour movie, so I can’t speak about the gameplay. The story is ok, but really has no bearing on the main story aside from the end when Mickey, Data-Namine and Data-Sora speak. Everything else was basically just an excuse for another game. That said, I still watched it and enjoyed it for what it was – but I lost interest a few times and played around on my phone while letting the videos play – if that tells you anything.

 

Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance (2012 on Nintendo 3DS, 2017 on PS4)

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

Xehanort is revived, due to the destruction of Ansem and Xemnas by Sora and Riku at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2. Yen Sid decides that it is finally time to put Riku and Sora to the test and sends them both off to complete the Mark of Mastery exam to become Keyblade Masters. The two are separated and sent to worlds destroyed by the heartless in the past which they had restored but are still dormant and disconnected from other worlds.

A new enemy, the dream eaters, appear which Sora and Riku must battle through – and sometimes tame – as they progress. Both heroes must reawaken the seven sleeping worlds and then return to the Realm of Light, learning new skills along the way to help them in their upcoming fight with Master Xehanort.

Sora and Riku encounter various Disney heroes and Organization XIII members throughout the game, including Ansem and Xemnas, who both seem to be resurrected and a younger Xehanort. The three take Sora to The World That Never Was, where they show him Organization XIII’s purpose – which is to be vessels for Master Xehanort to place pieces of his heart inside, essentially make them all Xehanort clones. Sora is put into a coma by Xehanort and has his heart taken by darkness but is saved by Ventus’s suit of armor which is inside of him after the merging which occurred at the end of Birth By Sleep.

Riku heads to The World That Never Was to save Sora and confronts the young Xehanort, who shows him the members of Organization XIII which includes the revived Xehanort and eleven vessels for his heart, which Xehanort plans to use against the wielders of the keyblade to recreate the X-Blade. Xehanort wants Sora to be his last vessel, but Mickey, Riku and the gang – including a newly revived and good Axel – save Sora and take him back to yen Sid’s tower.

Riku enters Sora’s body to release his heart from Ventus’s armor, which is now possessed by a nightmare. He succeeds and Sora awakens, only to find that he has been deemed unworthy to be a keyblade master. Riku though is awarded the title of keyblade master. Sora does not seem phased by these events and vows to continue improving and leaves on his own to train.

Thoughts: This game is the closest to the original Kingdom Hearts games, although phased down a bit due to being on the Nintendo 3DS. There is an interesting drop system in which you always have a countdown timer running and when it reaches its end your character falls asleep and you become the other character. You play through as both Riku and Sora, exploring the same worlds but solving different problems and many times working together despite not being able to see each other. It is a fun, fast-paced game that introducing dream eaters (which I don’t particularly care for but really don’t interfere too much) and various other wall climbing moves which help you traverse the land quicker. It is a fun addition to the Kingdom Hearts canon and sets up the events for the third game quite well.

 

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (2010, PSP)

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

Birth By Sleep is technically the start of the Kingdom Hearts series, despite coming out eight years after the original.

The story works as essentially an origin story for Xehanort and, to a lesser extent, Sora. It is in this game that we meet Aqua, Ventus and Terra, two of which are determined to become keyblade masters at the start of the story. Ventus longs to become a keyblade master as well but is too young/inexperienced to take the required test. The three train under Master Eraqus.

We begin with the Mark of Mastery – the exam needed to become a keyblade master- which is being overseen by Master Eraqus and Xehanort. Aqua and Terra both compete, while Xehanort – unknown to everybody else – works to sabotage the test. Eventually, Terra and Aqua must fight each other and Terra cannot hold back his anger/darkness in his heart – leaving only aqua to be given the rank of keyblade master.

Directly after the competition Master Eraqus receives word that the worlds are being attacked by the Unversed. During the ensuing confusion, Master Xehanort disappears. Terra is sent by Master Eraqus to defeat the Unversed and to find Xehanort. Ventus meets Vanitas, Xehanort’s apprentice, who convinces him to depart home against his master’s wishes and follow Terra. Aqua is sent to watch Terra and to bring back Ventus.

The game plays out as three separate stories and allows the player to choose whose story they would like to play through first. Upon completion of one story, you can then start another character’s story. While all three characters go to the same places, they all encounter different obstacles and characters and, despite running into each other at various times, their stories are different enough for each be entertaining.

It is in this game that we meet a younger and less experienced Mickey Mouse, who is in the process of becoming a keyblade master himself when he is sent out by Yen Sid to destroy the Unversed. Terra meets several Disney villains, and due to the darkness in his heart, proves susceptible to their tricks and inadvertently helps capture some of the Princesses of Heart.

Both Aqua and Terra grow concerned throughout their stories as they hear story after story of the evil deeds their friend Terra has been committing. Ventus does not believe the stories, while Aqua is hurt but confused as to what is truly happening.

All three heroes reunite during an encounter at Radiant Garden, but the reunion is short lived. Both Terra and Aqua plead with Ventus to return home, but he refuses. Terra finds out Aqua has been watching him and both himself and Ventus become angry with Aqua and leave her alone. Aqua encounters a young Kairi (from Kingdom hearts 1, etc) and helps her find the light within her.

Terra and Aqua both eventually wind up on Destiny Islands, where the Kingdom Hearts story all began, though not at the same time. Terra meets Riku and Sora and realizes that Riku can wield the keyblade, while Aqua meets both and realizes the connection Sora and Riku has is akin to what Terra and Ven have.

Ventus confronts Master Xehanort who explains his goal of using Ventus to create the X-Blade. Xehanort convinces Ventus that this was the plan all along and that Master Eraqus knew and played along. In order of the X-Blade to be forged, Ventus must be destroyed. Ventus, angry and confused, heads to the Land of Departure to confront Eraqus. Eraqus fights off Ventus, determined to destroy him so that Xehanort cannot complete his mission, although he is not happy that he must do this. Terra, upon hearing about what has happened, arrives at the Land of Departure just in time to save Ventus and expel him to another realm. Terra then fights Master Eraqus, ultimately winning. Xehanort arrives and finishes off Eraqus, leaving Terra to realize that this was Xehanort’s plan all along, and he has just helped further Xehanort’s cause. The Land of Departure begins to fall apart, and Xehanort tells Terra to head to the keyblade graveyard.

Ventus ends up at Destiny Islands, where he again is confronted by Vanitas, who tells him about his past. Ventus had once been Xehanort’s apprentice but was deemed too frail to be used as intended, so Xehanort used the darkness in Ventus’s heart to create Vanitas. Vanitas then tells Ventus to head to the keyblade graveyard to confront Xehanort.

During this time Aqua learns about Master Eraqus’s death by Terra through Yen Sid and is also instructed to head to the keyblade graveyard.

All three meet at the graveyard and prepare to encounter both Xehanort and Vanitas. Xehanort appears and tells the three his plan to use Ventus to create the X-Blade and then open Kingdom Hearts and how he plans to use Terra’s body as a new vessel for his heart so that he can survive long enough to ensure his goals are accomplished.

The five battle, with Ventus ended up frozen and Vanitas knocking Aqua out. Terra lets his darkness consume him, which Xehanort uses to his benefit and transfers his heart into Terra’s body – resulting in a younger and more powerful Xehanort. Terra’s mind stays in his discarded suit of armor which then defeats Xehanort in battle. Ventus manages to thaw himself and then faces Vanitas, who merges with Ventus creating the X-blade. Aqua is saved by Mickey, who both then fight off Ventus, who has been possessed by Vanitas. They win and Ventus is saved, although his heart is ultimately lost in the darkness. The X-blade releases a blinding light, which consumes everything, except for Terra’s Lingering Will.

Mickey and Aqua bring Ventus back to the Mysterious Tower and are told by Yen Sid that Ventus will not awaken until his heart returns. Aqua then takes Ventus to the ruins of the Land of Departure, where she uses Master Eraqus’s keyblade to unlock the Chamber of Waking and creates the world as Castle Oblivion from the ruins. She leaves Ventus there and heads out to find Terra. She finds Master Xehanort in Terra’s body in Radiant Garden and fights him. She wins but Terra loses his memories.

Terra’s body is taken into the darkness, and Aqua dives in to save him, becoming locked in the darkness. She saves Terra but becomes stuck herself and accepts her fate. She gives her armor to Terra to help him escape, leaving herself to succumb to the Realm of Darkness. Xehanort is discovered by Ansem the Wise and goes on to become his apprentice. Ventus’s heart eventually finds its way to a young Sora, and the two merge.

Thoughts: This was a fun game and seeing the start of the story was interesting. Playing as three characters was unique, though at times a bit repetitive. Aqua was my favorite and had the most important storyline, though all three were at least somewhat important. Many believe that this is one of the best Kingdom Hearts games, but I’d rank it at three or four, after the first two games of the series and possible even after Dream Drop Distance. I think my lower ranking comes from experiencing the game recently rather than back in 2010 when it was first released. Still, it is a full game and tells an important story, so it is worth playing.

 

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep 2.0 – A Fragmentary Passage (2017, PlayStation 4)

Cover Art
Cover Art

This is a short story – essentially an add on to both Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance, effectively tying all the games together to show what happened at the end of Kingdom Hearts 1 as well as what happened after the events of Dream Drop Distance – all leading to Kingdom Hearts 3.

Focused solely on Aqua and her time in the Realm of Darkness, the story picks up right after the events of Dream Drop Distance. Riku, Mickey and Kairi are speaking with Yen Sid, who tells the three that to confront Xehanort, they must gather the seven lights, among which are the three fallen keyblade wielders Ventus, Terra and Aqua. Mickey then tells Riku and Kairi about the time he encountered Aqua in the Realm of Darkness, during the time period of the first Kingdom Hearts game.

Aqua fights her way through the Realm of Darkness, having now spent years in solitude. She senses a danger at the Castle and fights her way toward it. A bridge collapses and Aqua must find gears to turn back time and fix the bridge, throughout her collecting she has flashbacks to her time in the Realm of Light. She completes the bridge and carries on toward the castle, encountering an apparition of Terra.

Her fight then takes her to the Dwarf Woodlands, where she finds Ventus in a casket, though he vanishes the same as Terra did after a few moments. She is then pulled into The World Within, which is located inside a mirror. She investigates many broken mirrors, slowly piecing the world back together before ultimate fighting an evil version of herself which proves to be a manifestation of her self-loathing, doubt and her belief that she had failed in her duties as both a friend and a keyblade master. Ultimately, she wins the fight – although she realizes she has begun to allow darkness to invade her heart and begins to struggle with herself.

Next is the Enchanted Dominion, where she finds apparitions of both Ventus and Terra, who both disappear as before but reappear further down the path. Aqua follows them for a long while before finally catching up. This time, Terra speaks and states that he is no longer in control of his body. Xehanort, using Terra, tries to convince Aqua to reveal where Ventus is hidden. Terra fights with Xehanort, ultimately subduing him again.

Aqua drifts away into the darkness, where her way finder is found by Mickey. He reveals that it has been over ten years since the events of Birth By Sleep and that he had entered the Realm of Darkness to find the keyblade of the dark realms so that he, Riku and Sora could close the door to Kingdom Hearts.

They find their selves in Destiny Islands, where Aqua reveals to Mickey that she had previously met Sora and Riku and deemed them worthy of wielding the keyblade. Mickey takes this as a sign that the dark keyblade must be near. After a battle the two enter a cave, where they find a door hidden in the walls (you may remember this door from Kingdom Hearts 1). Inside lies the dark keyblade.

Mickey and Aqua then see the door to Kingdom Hearts, as well as Riku heading towards it, and rush to help. They are confronted by heartless which Aqua fights off to allow Mickey to join Riku. She watches as Mickey and Riku seal the door (you may remember this as the ending to Kingdom Hearts 1), she then lures the heartless out of the cave and defeats them. She witnesses Destiny Island being restored before drifting off into the Darkness once more.

Back in Yen Sid’s room, Riku is mad at Mickey for not telling him about these events sooner, but Mickey explains that he knew either Riku or Sora would rush headfirst into the Dark realm while neither would have had the power to save Aqua, at least not early on. But now that Riku was a keyblade master, he may possess the power needed.

Sora, Donald and Goofy return to Yen Sid only to find that Riku, Mickey and Kairi have already departed. Sora, having failed his Mark of Mastery exam (the events of Dream Drop Distance), has lost most of his powers. Yen Sid explains that he is still the best possibility of defeating Xehanort and tells Sora to master the power of waking and leads him to a certain person who might be able to help him. Donald and Goofy, like always, are told to protect Sora on his journey.

The three find that all their previous routes between worlds have been lost, so they must find a new way to reach the Olympus Coliseum. Goofy says, “let your heart be your guiding key”, a phrase which he seemed to remember but he wasn’t sure from where. Sora listens and uses his heart to open a path, the game ends with the three heading towards the Olympus Coliseum.

Thoughts: This is just an excuse to show off how Kingdom Hearts will look on the PS4, and does a great job doing that. It is brief, maybe 3 hours tops, and moves at a very fast pace. Aside from the ending there is not much of consequence that happens, but it is still fun. I enjoyed it immensely and wish it was a bit longer, but I guess that’s what Kingdom Hearts 3 is for.

 

Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover (2017, PS4)

Official Cover Art
Official Cover Art

So, this one is confusing. Because it is technically Kingdom Hearts Unchained X, which was later renamed Kingdom Hearts Union X[Cross], which then became Kingdom Hearts Union X which is essentially a continuation of the events in Unchained X. THEN they released a remix of all the cut scenes from those previous games on the Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. That’s what this is. I think. Even I’m lost when it comes to this game. It doesn’t help that it was mobile only originally, so I never touched it before PS4.

The game deals with the original keyblade masters, which is the Master of Masters and his six apprentices. The world’s end becomes imminent and the Master of Masters and his apprentices must set out on an adventure to save it. Shortly after the apprentices set off in their different directions, the Master vanishes.

There are five different unions: Anguis, Leopardos, Unicornis, Ursus and Vulpes.

Basically, the apprentices start to suspect there is a traitor amongst them, and start pointing fingers. The book of prophecies, which the Master of Masters had previously been in charge of, does not deal with this situation though and leaves the apprentices confused. The unions between the apprentices begin to break down. Gula, one of the apprentices, decides to summon Kingdom Hearts in hopes of luring the Master of Masters back to town. Ava, another apprentice, tries but fails to prevent him from doing this.

Ava rounds up other keyblade wielders to fight Gula. These keyblade masters call their selves the Dandelions. Elsewhere, Luxu holds a mysterious box with the words “X Super” on it and repeats his masters’ mantra, “May my heart be my guiding key” (Ah! Now you see where Goofy got that phrase in Birth By Sleep 2.0?)

Eventually everybody disagrees and the keyblade war begins. All unions participate and in the wake of their great battle they leave a large keyblade graveyard (which we were first introduced to in Birth By Sleep, although it had been implied throughout the series).

The game implies that Maleficent may have found the book of prophecies, although we do not know for certain.

Thoughts: No idea what to think of this one. It is only an hour or so long video on the collection and, aside from showing how the keyblade graveyard came to be, really didn’t interest me too much. There is just a lot going on here with a ton of characters we had never met before, all leading up to a battle that happened long before the events of the Kingdom Hearts games we know. I supposed it is an interesting bit of lore in the world, but I suspect it was just a way to create a mobile game.

So, there you have it. The long, long, long story of Kingdom Hearts summed in a not so brief article. I hope this helps someone out there get up to speed on the Kingdom hearts universe before playing Kingdom Hearts 3.

Which Kingdom Hearts game is your favorite? Are you excited for Kingdom Hearts 3? Let us know in the comments!