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018: Untangling the Kingdom Hearts Saga Part 3

Posted By SoraRabbit77 1571 days ago on Entertainment - Welcome back to my massive overview of the Kingdom Hearts series. In Part 1 I went over the characters and concepts. In Part 2 I went over the first three games, two of which were numbered installments. This will be the rest of the games to this point. Just bear in mind that I will be very sparse in my details on Dream Drop Distance and Part III because those will be later posts.

This is wildly unsafe. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

After Kingdom Hearts II we had several side games while we waited for the next numbered installment. Although these were side games, they were incredibly important and vital to the plot. (They were also fun games in their own right.)

The fearsome villains. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

The first of these games was Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. I'm starting with this one because it was released in 2008 in Japan for mobile devices, and takes place chronologically after Kingdom Hearts II. We didn't get it in America until an enhanced version was ported to the Nintendo DS in 2010. In this game, Mickey and the Disney gang try to decode a strange message in Jiminy's journal that he didn’t remember writing. (“Their hurting will be ended when you return to end it.“) Jiminy ran across this odd line when reviewing his entries and wondering about the “Thank Namine” note that I mentioned last post. To do this they recreate everything in the computer in a Datascape similar to the alternate Twilight Town Roxas lived in in Part II. They use a digital avatar of Sora to fight the Bugs in the system. Mickey and company end up trapped in the digital world as well. Their only way out is for Data-Sora to repair the link to the real world, but this task is made more difficult by the appearance of Maleficent and Pete. At the end of the journey, Data-Sora and a digitized Mickey encounter Data versions of Roxas and Namine. Data-Namine explains that the message was referring to three Keyblade Masters who are tied to Sora and need his help. (More on these three when we get to Birth By Sleep.) In the epilogue, Mickey discusses his search for those three Masters with Master Yensid. Yensid drops a bombshell— Xehanort has been reborn due to Sora defeating both his Heartless and his Nobody. But it’s not just one Xehanort. Mickey decides to summon Sora and Riku to prepare for the next stage of Xehanort’s plan.There are a few important things that happen in this game that impact Part III. For one, the gang learns about Namine and Roxas. Secondly, Maleficent and Pete set out on a quest to find the Book of Prophecies. (More on that later.) And finally, future games are set up with the revelation that Xehanort has been reborn and that the trio of Masters need help. Out of all the side games, this one is the most skippable, but I did enjoy the puzzle format and the leveling system. I do find it interesting that although it seems to be the most inconsequential of the games, it factors very heavily into Kingdom Hearts III.

What is with Kingdom Hearts and hanging out on clock towers? (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Following Re:coded was another Nintendo DS game, 2009's Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. (Pronounced “3-5-8 Days over 2”.) Strange title, yes, but this game filled in several missing pieces. The main character was Roxas, and the game reveals what happened during his time in Organization XIII. This game chronologically takes place during the end of the first Kingdom Hearts (while Sora was a Heartless), through Chain of Memories, and leading into the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. Immediately after being created, Roxas is recruited into Organization XIII as its 13th member. His job? To wield a Keyblade (which none of the others can do, incidentally) and gather hearts to recreate Kingdom Hearts for bossman Xemnes. Along the way he makes two dear friends: Axel, who we saw die in Part II, and a quiet dark-haired girl named Xion (pronounced she-on) who also can wield a Keyblade. (Strangely enough, she's the 14th member of Organization XIII. They never address this discrepancy. Also they were already called Organization XIII when they only had 12 members. So whatever.) The three of them bond over not having hearts and what a dick their boss is. They also eat sea-salt ice cream. (So much ice cream.) Roxas and Xion become closer when half the Organization’s members— including Axel— are assigned to Castle Oblivion. (This is where the events of Chain of Memories takes place.) At first Xion has no personality, but she becomes more human as time goes on. But the bad thing? As she becomes more powerful, Roxas becomes weaker. When Sora is put to sleep to regain his memories, Roxas falls into a coma for a few weeks.After recovering, Roxas becomes confused by his flashes of Sora’s memories, his ability to use the Keyblade, and exactly what the Organization is up to. Long story short, Xion is not real. She's a Replica created by the Organization to mimic Sora's powers. She was injected with Roxas's memories, which used to belong to Sora. Xion is a backup plan in case Roxas fails them and Sora doesn’t recover. Sadly, in order for Sora to be revived, Xion must give all her memories to him and Roxas must defeat her in a boss battle. (Because there always has to be a boss battle.)

Roxas really likes ice cream. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Roxas leaves the Organization and fights Riku, who gives in to the power of darkness and begins to resemble Ansem. Riku takes Roxas to Twilight Town where they put him in the Datascape for the events of the Kingdom Hearts II prelude. This game was interesting to me because it showed more of Roxas's life and made Axel more sympathetic. Axel's odd dialog and motivations in Kingdom Hearts II made a lot more sense after this... he just wants his buddy back. His friendship with Roxas made him remember what it was like to have a heart. This game also filled in some of what happened in Chain of Memories and more of the personalities of the Organization members. I also really like the character of Xion and her friendship with Roxas and Axel.

Another trio: Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

The next game was hugely important to the series, and is basically considered Kingdom Hearts Part 0. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep was released in 2010 for the PlayStation Portable. This was a prequel to the first Kingdom Hearts game, taking place ten years prior and focusing on three previously unmentioned Keyblade Weilders: Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. (The three I mentioned earlier in the Re:coded section.) They live in the Land of Departure and are trained by Master Eraqus, an old friend of Xehanort. (Back before Xehanort became an evil super villain.) The game begins with the Mark of Mastery exam, basically the final test to become a Keyblade Master. Aqua becomes a Keyblade Master, but Terra fails his test because he's tempted by Darkness. Xehanort uses this fact to manipulate the young man into furthering his own nefarious plans. Old man X is also running around with a black-masked villain named Vanitus, who seems to control the Unversed. (You'll remember from the first post that the Unversed are the enemies in this game and are created from negative emotions.) Side note, Xehanort in this game is voiced spectacularly by Leonard Nimoy. Sadly he was unable to continue voicing the character after Dream Drop Distance. Rutger Hauer took over the role in Part III and Christopher Lloyd in re:Mind. (RIP Nimoy and Hauer.) A couple of other notes: Ventus looks and sounds shockingly like Roxas. (This is explained later.) And Vanitus looks like a dark-haired version of Sora. (Which I'm pretty sure is never fully explained.)

For some reason they’re all taken by surprise when Xehanort turns out to be evil. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

The game is split into three parts, following each of the main characters. They can be played in any order, but the recommended order for story integrity is Terra, Ventus, then Aqua. The Disney Worlds are Olympus, Neverland, Enchanted Dominion (Sleeping Beauty), Castle of Dreams (Cinderella), Dwarf Woodlands (Snow White), Deep Space (Lilo and Stitch), and Disney Town. The original worlds are the Land of Departure, Mysterious Tower, Radiant Gardens, Mirage Arena, and the Keyblade Graveyard. Xehanort has many nefarious plans. He wants to foster the darkness inside Terra and to capture the Seven Princesses of Heart. He wants to get Master Eraquas out of the way to prevent him from foiling his schemes. But the main thing he wants is for Ventus to fight Vanitus, who is the darkness that was extracted from Ventus. (I feel like I need to diagram this or something.) This battle between light and dark should create the legendary X-Blade (X is pronounced Key... yeah, I know... that could have been better). The X-Blade is meant to summon the door to Kingdom Hearts. This was done once before, in a mysterious time referred to as The Keyblade War, where many young Keyblade Wielders met their sad end.

Haha, I went ahead and diagrammed it.

This one was pretty sad. I watched the opening credits and my first thought was "Whoa, this is going to end up being a tragedy." I mean, I knew it wouldn't have a happy ending since this was the first we were hearing about these characters. So yeah, as expected, it doesn't end well for the trio of friends. In the epic final battle, Terra loses his body to Xehanort. Ventus's heart is lost, which puts him in an empty, comatose state. (His heart actually goes into Sora, who's a little boy at this time. This is why Roxas looks like Ventus.) Aqua puts Ventus's body into the Land of Departure, which transforms into Castle Oblivion. Then Aqua dives into the Realm of Darkness to find both Terra and Ventus's heart.

No, Ven is not okay. Poor Ven. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

A few comments about this one: The Disney worlds in this one are interesting because we get to see a few that were destroyed long before Part I. Three of the Princesses of Heart were captured in the events of this game. Stitch got a full appearance after just being a Summon in Part II. We get to see why Pete was exiled from Disney Town. (Mainly for being a big jerk and cheating at games.) Also we get to see young Riku and Sora and learn how they got set on their path to becoming heroes. The same with young Kairi while she still lived in Radiant Gardens with her grandmother. Basically all three of them were locked into their heroic destinies by chance encounters with Terra, Aqua, and Ventus.Side note, in the collection Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Birth By Sleep gets a miniature sequel called Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage. (I know, I know... these titles, right?) In this brief game, players are given a preview of game play that would go on to be used in Kingdom Hearts III. Storywise, the game focuses on Aqua's time in the Realm of Darkness searching for her friends. It's a short game, and honestly has little impact. It's worth a play, but skippable. (And critical mode, by the way, is ruthless. I'm still working on it.)

Reality shift! (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Next up was Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2012. This is another vital installment, basically putting all of the pieces on the board for Kingdom Hearts III. I won't go into this one much here, since I'm working on a full post for it. The bare bones summary of the plot for the purposes of this post, however, is that Sora and Riku are taking their Mark of Mastery exam to be considered Keyblade Masters. Master Yensid tasked them with going into the Sleeping Worlds to find something called the Power of Waking. And he gave them no other instructions or explanation of what this power actually is. What a dick move. The Disney worlds in this game are Prankster's Paradise (Pinocchio's world), The Grid (Tron's world), Country of the Musketeers, Symphony of Sorcery (Fantasia), and La Cité des Cloches (Notre Dame). The original worlds are Destiny Islands, Mysterious Tower, Traverse Town, the Keyblade Graveyard, and the World that Never Was. This is the only game without Olympus, because Olympus isn't a Sleeping World.

The gang's all here. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

A lot of plot advancement happens in this game, and all the pieces are put into place for Part III. Anyway, as I said, I'll come back to this game in great detail in a future post.

The Foretellers. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

And then we come to Kingdom Hearts Union Cross... This is the mobile title and it is incredibly complex. Seriously, I'm going to skimp on this section (as much as I can) because some day I may do an entire post just on this. There's a lot going on in this title. And to make it even more confusing, it's simultaneously the remake and sequel to a Japan-only browser game called Kingdom Hearts Unchained. Unchained was discontinued and it was adapted and enhanced for mobile devices. This new game was called Kingdom Hearts Unchained X. It is considered a sequel for reasons I will get into briefly. Although this is a mobile game, it cannot be discounted, as it’s a full installment in the series and impacts Part III in many ways. The idea behind Union Cross is that long before Sora, before the worlds became separated, there were six Keyblade Wielders brought together by an odd guy in familiar black robes who called himself The Master of Masters. Each apprentice save one headed up their own Union of young Keyblade Wielders and became known as Foretellers. They were each given a copy of the Book of Prophecies that told the future and had their own job. (A lot of this is revealed in the Back Page movie packaged with the 2.8 collection.) The final apprentice, Luxo, got no book. Instead he was sent off with a locked chest and a creepy sword with an eye in it. (No Name, which later becomes Xehanort’s Keyblade.) He was told to just sit back and watch. The Gazing Eye embedded in the Keyblade would record everything for the Book of Prophecies. The Master of Masters vanished, leaving behind his disciples and their Unions. It’s strongly implied that he’s a time traveler, and possibly someone we’ve seen before. At the time of this writing, however, the mystery of his identity has yet to be revealed.

The Master of Masters and Luxo. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

The burden of the Foretellers was a heavy one, because the Book of Prophecies they were given told of a coming Keyblade War which would devastate the world, and it was unavoidable. (This is the same Book of Prophecies mentioned in re:Coded.) One of the Foretellers, Ava, was given the task of secretly training young Keyblade Wielders from all Unions to join a group called the Dandelions. These Wielders would not die in the Keyblade War, instead they would run off to a safe place and rebuild the Unions to keep the light alive. The Disney worlds in this one (so far) are Castle of Dreams, Enchanted Dominion, Dwarf Woodlands, Wonderland, Olympus, Agrabah, Beast’s Castle, and Nice Town (Wreck-It Ralph). The main hub of the game is a new original world called Daybreak Town. (Which does appear later in the series, but I’m not going to spoil that.)As the story unfolds, you learn that the events are happening before and after the Keyblade War, and it's all taking place in a dimension called the Unchained Realm. After the Keyblade War, the worlds in the Book of Prophecies had to be recreated in Data and the surviving Wielders had to relive their previous lives, minus the traumatic experience of the Keyblade War. Yes, Daybreak Town is actually a Datascape and all this has happened before... in Unchained. (See, told you I would explain why it was a sequel. I never said it would make sense.)

Ah… I see what you did there. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

There is a lot of story to wade through in this game. This game is actually still going on, so we don't have the whole story yet. (I'm currently caught up, on Quest 910.) Recently they released the Keyblade War chapters, which are so difficult I haven't managed to win them yet... so I need to try that again some day. Where the story is at the time of writing: the new Unions have been formed, a mystery is unfolding among the new Union leaders, and Maleficent has traveled through time, getting trapped in the Book of Prophecies. (This apparently happened after she was defeated in Part I.) Vanitus has shown up, showing that he existed in some form back in the Age of Fairy Tales. (I’m not sure how that works since he was pretty long way later in Birth By Sleep.) We also have met Marluxia and Larxene while they were human. This was a big plot twist... some of the newer members of Organization XIII were actually Keyblade Wielders far in the past before they were recruited by Xemnes to become Nobodies. This is really intriguing, and along with the mystery surrounding the new Union’s members and the identity of the Master of Masters, there’s still a lot to learn about what’s going on. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next in this sprawling tale.

Showdown! (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

After all this, (and fourteen years of waiting) we finally got Kingdom Hearts III. It was released in 2019 for the PlayStation 4 and XBox One. This one will also get its own post in which I'll go into greater detail. I'm not going to spoil this one since it came out fairly recently, but I will say that I very much enjoyed it and felt it made an excellent end cap to the story so far. Kingdom Hearts III served as the end of the overarching Dark Seeker Saga, which was the story of Xehanort and his plans to possess Kingdom Hearts and remake the worlds in his dark image. This is not the end of the series, however. It's been stated by Nomura that there will be a Kingdom Hearts IV in some form, along with at least one side game released beforehand. That side game *may* be the recently-announced mobile game called Kingdom Hearts: Dark Path, slated for a release in Spring 2020. So the future looks bright for fans of the series.

Cue the waterworks. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Kingdom Hearts is an entertaining, flashy series. The many side and main games provide a lot of game play variety. The story is quite good, albeit complex and (at times) convoluted. This series with an odd concept (melding the vastly different ascetics of Final Fantasy and Disney) created something new and different which has come to mean a lot to its fan base. There are people (myself included) who feel deeply connected with this series and the characters. As you may have gathered by my descriptions in the last three posts, the tones in the series are a little up and down. This is a series where one moment a world is on the verge of being completely destroyed by dark forces, and then a moment later you're performing a musical number with a mermaid. You go from fighting overpowered anime-esque villains that want darkness to reign to playing hide and seek with Winnie the Pooh. It doesn't make sense on paper but somehow these conflicting tones compliment each other. It's the light and dark that permeates the series... lighthearted humorous moments to counterbalance the heavy moments. And there are a lot of heavy moments... death, sorrow, loss, internal struggles, psychological mind games, the threat of complete universal annihilation. But through it all, interwoven into its DNA is a sense of hope... No matter the odds, Sora and his friends never give up. No one is lost to the darkness forever. There is always a chance for redemption... a chance to reclaim what was lost and bring a little light into the shadows. When you’re drowning in the dark, you just have to look for a ray of light and let it guide you. And more often than not, that light is somewhere deep inside your heart, waiting to be drawn out. It's optimistic, it's refreshing, it's comforting. It's just what we need in a world seemingly filled with negativity and darkness.

There's always time for a tea party. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Thank you for reading my three part overview of Kingdom Hearts. I really enjoyed sharing my thoughts and feelings about this series. But we’re not done yet! Our journey will continue soon in my close look at Dream Drop Distance and then my Critical Mode play through of Kingdom Hearts III re:Mind. I'm sure there will be updates on Twitter as I go along. If you aren't following me on there, you're missing out. I'm @SoraRabbitBlog. If you would like more details on any of the games... including breaking my brain trying to fully explain Unchained/Union Cross... let me know. I would be happy to oblige! Thanks again for following me on this journey. I appreciate every one of you. See you soon, Treasure Hunters!

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