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Sora

Kingdom Hearts is a truly special series. The uncanny marriage of Disney and Square Enix’s role-playing games left many scratching their heads back in the day but who would’ve thought that it would actually work out this well. Most JRPGs are very outlandish, and for the most part, never really grounded in any sort of realism. It’s that very imaginative nature that gels so well with the fun and light-heartedness of Disney, resulting in a game that somehow takes you back to simpler times even if the story is anything but straightforward these days. This is a franchise I wish more people would play and with the third (well not technically as there were numerous spin-offs released in-between) game on the way, this would be the opportune time to hop in. Unfortunately, every single game released between the mainline titles are canon so Kingdom Hearts 3 carries with it over a decade’s worth of narrative baggage. That shouldn’t deter you from jumping in though, and hopefully this abridged story guide will make it easier to digest what exactly is going on.

A Kingdom Hearts game is basically divided into two distinct parts; the Disney worlds and the original Kingdom Hearts stuff. For the most part, the Disney sections are self-contained stories and can easily be enjoyed on their own. This is part of the reason why this series isn’t as impenetrable as most people think. The franchise really nails the aesthetic and feeling of the Disney properties they incorporate so it’s really easy for anyone to enjoy. That said, the rest of narrative can get a bit confusing at times, so let’s start at the beginning.

Kingdom Hearts follows the adventures of a young boy named Sora, alongside his two best friends Riku and Kairi. The trio dreamed of having a grand adventure, traveling beyond the confines of their little island. Together they came up with a plan to build a raft and sail off into the sunset. While a bit of a bad idea, seeing as how a dinky raft probably won’t get you far, they were determined to leave their home behind. Things did not go as planned however as their island was invaded by a mysterious dark force. It was this point that Sora was chosen by a Keyblade, and though he was able to fight off the hostile invaders for a while, the island was ultimately destroyed and the gang was whisked off to far away worlds.

Sora then wakes up in a place called Traverse Town, where he finds himself facing off against the monsters that destroyed his homeworld; the Heartless. These are beings born from the darkness within people’s hearts. After defeating them, Sora begins his search for his friends but not before making an unexpected alliance turned friendship that will last the entirety of the Kingdom Hearts franchise with the Royal Knight Goofy and the Royal Magician Donald Duck. These two are searching for their king, Mickey Mouse, and together they decide to team up with Sora and journey together to achieve their goals.

riku

Initially, the premise for Kingdom Hearts was really simple. Sora, Goofy and Donald travelled to various Disney worlds in the hopes of getting more information on the whereabouts of Sora’s friends and Mickey. Along the way they helped rid each place they visited from the Heartless invasion. This eventually led them to uncovering the mysterious disappearance of the Disney Princesses. While seemingly unrelated to the group’s goal, it was revealed that Maleficent (of Sleeping Beauty) was behind this and that Kairi was actually one of the Princesses, more specifically, the seventh Princess of Heart. Maleficent’s goal is to gather seven princesses with pure hearts as this is said to hold the power to open the door to Kingdom Hearts.

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, so Kingdom Hearts is an actual thing and not just the name of the game?” Yup, it’s an actual thing, specifically; it’s a world within the game. It is said to be the heart of all worlds and holds great power and knowledge within. Needless to say, the bad guys want access to it, and they want it badly.

Sora eventually faces off against Maleficent but not before getting confronted by his best friend Riku, who has somehow succumbed to the darkness. This will be a common theme for Riku going forward in the franchise as he struggles to understand and control the darkness within his heart. Sora eventually emerges victorious and defeats both Riku and Maleficent, but that was not the end for our spikey-haired protagonist as Maleficent was just a mere puppet and the real mastermind pulling the strings from the shadows was revealed to be a man by the name of Ansem.

Trio

This character, while resembling that of a human, is actually a Heartless and was in control of Riku’s body. His plan to use the seven princesses was ultimately thwarted by Sora and with Ansem defeated, Riku was able to regain his body. Though it may seem as though a happy ending is on the horizon, the door to Kingdom Hearts was opened by Ansem before his demise, but it turned out that it was a door that led to the Realm of Darkness. There’s another subplot involving Ansem traveling to and destroying countless worlds, thus releasing the world’s heart and allowing it to be consumed by Darkness which in turn created an artificial Kingdom Hearts, one of darkness. While it may seem important in the context of this game, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Because the door was opened and darkness was pouring out, Riku and Mickey (who made a surprise appearance at the last minute) closed the door from the inside. Thus Sora and the gang were again separated from the people they had been searching for.

The original Kingdom Hearts was a simple enough game to follow but things kind of get a bit hairy from here on out.

Having defeated Ansem, Sora, Goofy and Donald continue their journey to save Riku and Mickey, as well as find Kairi again. During their travels however, they’re confronted by a mysterious group wearing black cloaks. If you’ve seen the trailers from the latest game then I’m sure you’ve seen them pop up on screen. These are members of what is known as Organisation XIII. The thirteen members of this organisation are beings called Nobodies. Nobodies are born from the bodies of those who became a Heartless. While they’re devoid of any emotion because they lack a heart, they still maintain a level of self-awareness and intelligence.

The organisation’s true goal is to open Kingdom Hearts so that they can once again have a heart of their own. Within their collective however, is a small group of members wanting to overthrow the current hierarchy and it’s this very faction, led by Marluxia, that intends to manipulate Sora into destroying the rest of the organisation. This plan ultimately fails but it involved corrupting and twisting Sora’s memories by using the powers of another Nobody called Naminé (This is actually Kairi’s Nobody but that’s a hole I won’t go down now). Though the renegade faction was eliminated in the end, Sora was left with broken memories. While Naminé was the cause of Sora’s affliction she too was manipulated by Marluxia, and in the end decided to help mend Sora’s mind which involved him entering something called a Memory Pod and falling into a deep coma-like sleep.

troop

Fast-forward one year and Sora finally wakes up. Reunited with Goofy and Donald again, they find out about the threat of the Nobodies and Organisation XIII and set out to stop them. Much like Ansem, the leader of the organisation, Xemnas, set out to create another Kingdom Hearts only this time by using the hearts of people. The rest of Organisation XIII believes that his goal for the creation of Kingdom Hearts was to grant them all hearts again, but Xemnas wanted nothing more than the power it holds. Sora, along with Riku (I know I kind of skipped quite a bit here, but it’s just important to note that Riku managed to escape the Darkness) puts an end to Xemnas’ plan. Everyone was happily reunited but obviously this wasn’t the end. So it’s finally time to talk about the true antagonist of the entire franchise so far: Master Xehanort.

Up until now, Sora and friends had faced off against the Heartless, Ansem and the Nobodies, but it was Xemnas who was actually born from Xehanort when he decided to willingly give his heart up to the darkness. He always had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and once he learned about Kingdom Hearts he became obsessed with gaining access to the power it holds within. Over time Xehanort developed a disdain for the light as well, specifically the balance between light and darkness and how light was more prevalent. He believes that there should be an equal balance between the two and that instead of shunning darkness people should learn to control it. So as his obsession with Kingdom Hearts grew so did his desire to destroy the current status quo so that he could rebuild the world to enforce this balance and act as its overseer. He devised a master plan to achieve his goals which was set in motion years before the events of the original game.

Kingdom Hearts 3 (19)

Xehanort learned the truth about the real Kingdom Hearts and how to access it. Up until now we’ve only really seen artificial versions of it, but it was actually lost to darkness a long time ago as a result of a massive conflict called the Keyblade War where armies of Keyblade wielders fought over the light of Kingdom Hearts. This almost led to the complete destruction of the world, but the light within children’s hearts prevented such a catastrophe and instead, the one world was splintered off into many other worlds giving birth to ones such as the Disney worlds you visit throughout the franchise. After this happened, Kingdom Hearts vanished and it’s key, the χ-blade, was shattered into thirteen pieces of darkness and seven pieces of light.

The revelations that were uncovered by Xehanort would ultimately grant him the power he hungered for, but unfortunately time has not been on his side as his body is old and probably doesn’t have all that much life left, at least not enough for him to assemble the χ-blade.  But what is a villain without unwavering determination? Xenahort set out to find a body to possess and found a suitable vessel in a character called Terra, one of the three protagonists of the PSP game Birth by Sleep. Terra, alongside Ventus and Aqua, actually suffered the cruellest fates in the entire franchise. Terra was ultimately possessed by Xehanort, while Ventus was used as an experiment to create the χ-blade which left him in a comatose state with a shattered heart. Aqua on the other hand, sacrificed herself to save Terra from falling into the realm of Darkness by taking his place, and she’s been there ever since, fighting dark creatures for over a decade. As a side note, it’s the reason why the fandom was so sad and shocked to see Aqua taken over by the darkness. With a new body, Xehanort continued to execute his plan.

Kingdom Hearts 3 (46)

After the events of Birth by Sleep but before the original Kingdom Hearts, Ansem and Xemnas were given two important missions, which were to gather the seven Princesses of Heart and form an organisation of thirteen Nobodies, respectively. We were lead to believe that Princesses were used to open the door to Kingdom Hearts and Organisation XIII was just seeking hearts of their own, but they were all necessities for Xehanort to achieve one important goal, and that was to forge the χ-blade. Organisation XIII’s true purpose was actually to act as vessels for Xehanort so that he could place a piece of his essence inside of them, making them the thirteen pieces of darkness to clash with the seven princesses whose hearts were made of pure light. When Ansem and Xemnas were defeated, Xehanort returned to his original form and even though most of the organization had either defected or been defeated, he had a contingency plan in place to replace those members in the event that something went wrong. This plan involved time travel, which is why you’ll see a younger Xehanort in some of the trailers for Kingdom Hearts 3. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll not get into that right now. All that’s important to know is that Xehanort finally has a new Organisation XIII in place to clash with the Seven Lights and more specifically, the seven Guardians protecting the Princesses of Heart.

Phew, that’s about where we are right now with the story! The destined battle between light and darkness will reach its climax in Kingdom Hearts 3 and I for one cannot wait to see the outcome. All I know for sure is that I’m ready to be consumed by this game.

Last Updated: January 30, 2019

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