An Obsessive’s Guide To Kingdom Hearts – Part 1

Major Spoiler Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the entire Kingdom Hearts series. You have been warned.

There is something about Kingdom Hearts that hooked me from the moment I laid eyes and thumbs on it back with Kingdom Hearts 1 on the PS2. I guess it probably has something to do with the fact that I love Disney, Final Fantasy and action RPG’s. Honestly, if you told me now that a game was going to blend two universes like Kingdom Hearts did with Disney and Final Fantasy, I’d approach it with extreme skepticism. Thank God 11 year old me didn’t have the same prejudices that 22 year old me does and instead, embraced this series wholeheartedly because there is no other series, in my opinion, that can rival this one. Spanning seven games across five platforms, Kingdom Hearts tells the story of three friends from a backwater world who want to go on an adventure and well, I’ll get to that later.

Kairi - Sora - Riku

Kairi – Sora – Riku

I know many people have been put off by the cutesy visuals and Disney characters, assuming this to be a series for children. Honestly, they couldn’t be more wrong. Never has there been a more twisted and convoluted plot to a series of games. And don’t let the Disney inclusion fool you into thinking this is a light-hearted series either. There is some decidedly dark themes to these games  – including murder, kidnap, bodily possession, world destruction, and most importantly, darkness taking over people’s hearts. That’s not to say it isn’t light-hearted in parts either. There is plenty of humour and heartwarming moments to rival the darkness.

The games were released in an unusual order and as such, the story can be hard to follow if you played them out of sync. So what I’m going to do here is try and untangle this twisted knot of a story. I won’t be going in chronological order but I have a good reason not to so please bear with me. Of course, with Kingdom Hearts 3 not yet released, some of what I’m going to say is pure conjecture, though well-informed and highly intelligent conjecture at that. So, without further flowery prose, let my superlative ramblings begin.

Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts starts with three main characters – Riku, Kairi and our protaganist Sora – in their home world known as Destiny Islands. The three friends want to leave the island and go on an adventure. They build a raft to sail away but on the eve of their departure, the island is attacked by mysterious entities known as the Heartless. Heartless are monsters created from the darkness in people’s hearts and as they have no hearts of their own, they want to consume the hearts of all living things. The Heartless destroy Destiny Islands – but not before Sora, Riku and Kairi manage to get away somehow. In the process, Kairi is lost, Riku falls into darkness and disappears and Sora ends up with a mysterious weapon known as the Keyblade.

First impressions matter!

Sora wakes up in a place known as Traverse Town after getting away from Destiny Islands, where he meets Leon (Squall), Yuffie, and Aeris (Aerith). They tell him all about the Heartless and the Keyblade and send him on his merry way to look for Riku and Kairi. You see the Keyblade isn’t just a key because it looks cool, it’s also an actual key that can lock away the heart of a world so the Heartless can’t consume it. Sora then meets Donald and Goofy who are looking for the Keyblade wielder as instructed by King Mickey. They decide to accompany Sora and they all head off to different Disney worlds in search of their friends.

Riku meanwhile has been somewhat brainwashed by Maleficent (the baddie from Sleeping Beauty). He now believes that Sora no longer cares about him and Kairi now that he is friends with Donald and Goofy and has the Keyblade and so begins to succumb to darkness. However, he still wants to save Kairi above all else. He manages to find Kairi but her heart is missing. This all plays into Maleficent’s hands however as she is trying to gather the Seven Princesses of Heart who, when gathered together have the power to unlock the keyhole to Kingdom Hearts which is a repository for vast amounts of knowledge and unimaginable power. Kairi is one of the Princesses.

He isn't asleep and she's no beauty.

Sora and co. eventually arrive in Hollow Bastion, Leon’s old home world which was once ruled by a man named Ansem and is now Maleficent’s HQ. Here they meet Riku who takes the Keyblade from Sora and tells him that he was supposed to be the true master and it only ended up with Sora by mistake. Donald and Goofy leave with Riku as they were instructed to follow the Keyblade wielder. Sora gives chase and catches them. He challenges Riku, telling him that his heart takes strength from his friends. Because of this, Donald and Goofy decide to return to Sora regardless of the Keyblade. The Keyblade returns to Sora too however, because even though Riku was supposed to be the true wielder, he has fallen into darkness and so Sora’s heart is the stronger of the two. Riku flees in shame and meets a cloaked man who convinces him to fully embrace the darkness.

Meanwhile Sora and friends defeat Maleficent. They then encounter Riku again, but this time he is behaving strangely and has a strange new Keyblade that has the power to unlock hearts. He leads them to Kairi where he reveals he has been fully possessed by Ansem, who was the cloaked man Riku met and the previous ruler of this world as mentioned earlier. Ansem tells Sora about the Princesses of Heart, including Kairi and then informs him that Kairi’s heart has been trapped within Sora since the destruction of Destiny Islands and that Ansem needs to destroy Sora to recover Kairi’s heart and unlock Kingdom Hearts. Sora defeats Ansem and then uses his Keyblade on himself to unlock both his and Kairi’s hearts. Kairi’s heart returns to her body but Sora becomes a heartless as he no longer has a heart. He is restored to his body by Kairi using the light within her heart. They follow Ansem to stop him once and for all.

AOGKH4

They defeat Ansem at The End of The World where all the fragments of destroyed worlds gather. Ansem tells the group that he believes darkness is the true essence of the heart and opens The Door to Darkness which contains Kingdom Hearts thinking it to be the true source of darkness. It is, in fact, light and when the doors are opened, the light destroys Ansem completely. On the other side of the door are King Mickey and Riku, back in control of himself. They tell Sora that they must close the door as there are many Heartless on the other side. They stay inside to help close it but they tell Sora not to worry for there is always a door back to the light. Sora seals the door with the Keyblade, the worlds are restored and Kairi is dragged back to the Destiny Islands. Sora however resolves to find Riku and Mickey – and sets off on another journey to find them.

KH: Chain of Memories

While searching for Mickey and Riku, Sora, Donald, and Goofy come across Pluto who has a letter in his mouth bearing the King’s seal. They chase him down a seemingly endless road ’til they come to a crossroads. A man in a black cloak appears to them here and speaks but he can’t be understood. The paths join and eventually lead to Castle Oblivion. Sora and co. enter and are confronted again by the cloaked man who gives them a card that allows them to progress through the castle. Different rooms in the castle seem to lead to worlds the group has been to but everyone there has forgotten the gang.

AOGKH6

As they go up through the floors, the man appears again giving Sora another card. They are then confronted by a new man in black who reveals his name to be Axel and then fights Sora. They defeat Axel who flees and keep moving through the castle. However, as they progress, they find that they are slowly losing all their memories. Their memories are being manipulated by Namine, a Nobody (I’ll explain later) who has power over Sora’s memories. As well as making him lose memories, she is replacing all Sora’s memories of Kairi with memories of herself. She is being forced to do this though by Marluxia who is in charge of the cloaked people at the castle. As well as Axel, Sora fights and defeats Larxene, another of the hooded and cloaked figures.

A clone of Riku has been made by the people in cloaks to confuse Sora and to reinforce memories of Namine – as the clone wants to save her just as the real Riku wanted to save Kairi in Kingdom Hearts. However, in the end the clone helps Sora to defeat Marluxia. They then encounter Namine who apologises for what she has done and offers Sora a choice; he can keep his memories as they are now or she can put them back the way they were but he would lose all memory of this castle and the events that transpired. He chooses to have his memories restored but this means he must go into a sleep until it can be accomplished. He promises Namine that he won’t forget her and that he’ll see her again.

AOGKH7

Meanwhile Riku has found his way out of the Realm of Darkness and has also ended up at Castle Oblivion. He was guided there by a voice which he later learns was Ansem who still resides somewhere within his heart. As he progresses through the castle, he battles both Ansem and the darkness. He happens across Lexaeus, another man in a black cloak. He has to summon the power of darkness to defeat him but in doing so, succumbs to it. From a distance he hears Mickey’s voice which gives him the strength to carry on and keep fighting the darkness.

The power of darkness is proving too great for Riku to handle and he is almost ready to be possessed by the remnant of Ansem still within his heart when King Mickey arrives in person, just in time to save Riku from Ansem. Mickey gives him a card which leads him to a room where Riku finds out the Ansem he had been battling was actually a man named DiZ (Darkness in Zero) who tells him to find Namine. Before he can find Namine however, his clone confronts him and they fight. The real Riku wins and the clone seems to vanish.

OGKH8

Riku finally finds Namine and she offers to lock away his memories of Ansem but Riku knows he has to face his darkness. He fights Ansem and prevails. DiZ gives Riku and Mickey black cloaks like the others that will hide them from darkness. He explains about Sora and how he will be asleep while his memories were repaired. Riku and Mickey leave Castle Oblivion to watch over Sora until he awakens.

The people in black cloaks are part of a group known as Organisation XIII. They are a group of Nobodies like Namine whose intentions are unknown at this stage. I’ll explain more about the Nobodies in Kingdom Hearts 2.

———————————————————————–

Keep an eye out for the next part of this article in the next few days where I’ll cover KH 358/2 Days and KH2. Part three will finish up with Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, Coded, and Dream Drop Distance.

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