Us Kingdom Hearts fans are a peculiar bunch. We’re the kind of people who are able to wait 14 years for a proper sequel and still retain the same amount of hype. Yes, depressingly enough — Kingdom Hearts 2 came out in 2005. Are you picking up what I’m putting down here? Kingdom Hearts 3 has been a long time coming, and most of these fans (including myself) were children when they first entered the mythical world of Tetsuya Nomura’s creation.
The reason why many haven’t jumped off the bandwagon due to frustration is a testament to the way that Kingdom Hearts masterfully blends the iconic worlds of Disney with the heart-rending storytelling and inspired character design of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series. It’s a frisson-inducing work of art that lets the imagination run wild, but it also happens to be incredibly difficult to parse.
I’ve played almost every game in the series, and I still don’t really know what the hell is going on here. I’d like to say that I’m just here to see familiar faces from my VHS collection, but Sora & Co’s story has moved me to tears multiple times, and I really do care about the flavour text. So, for my sins, I’ve decided to attempt to pin the lore down piece by piece, and then I’m going to pass it over to two wonderful admins from the Disney wiki (Hey1234 and SilverFlight )who I imagine are going to tear my armchair understanding of this series into a shreds and initiate a crisis of the self. Hooray!
Kingdom Hearts X (Chi), Back Cover, Unchained & Union X (Cross)
All of the garbled madness above is a mixture of browser games, hour-long cinematics and mobile titles that I thought would just be silly irreverent spin-offs but, bafflingly, are actually starting to become important to the plot. Everyone kind of pretends they don’t exist, but they do.
The main plot points are that there was/is a hooded figure called the Master of Masters, the ultimate keyblade don. He has dodgy motivations but has predicted the future in his Book of Prophecies, which he passed down to his apprentices, the Foretellers. The Foretellers wear animal masks and all vaguely resemble the main characters of the series, down to the voice acting and colour scheme of their outfits. A ripped page in each book makes them turn on each other and split off to set up Unions of Keyblade wielders to fight in a fast-approaching war. Except one Foreteller, Ava, is instructed to set up the Dandelions, a group of special Keyblade users who are pure of heart. They will escape during the events of the Keyblade War to keep the light alive. One of them is a guy called Ventus. This will be important soon.
There is another foreteller named Luxu who is the apprentice of MoM and shrouded in mystery. Luxu is not given the book, but a mysterious black box and a keyblade, No Name, which is embedded with his master’s Gazing Eye, an icon found in most Kingdom Hearts games that transfers information back to MoMmy, particularly the ending of the Keyblade War. Its safe to assume that he has basically saw everything thanks to the eye being in every game. Luxu is instructed to pass this down through the ages, and now it is in the hands of the big bad, Mr. Xehanort. Oh yea, MoM also invented Chirithys, adorable little cat friends. I didn’t think this was important but one appears in a trailer for Kingdom Hearts 3, so… *shrug*
Hey1234 ‘s Loremaster rating: 7/10
- A disclaimer should be added that the story of Union X is ongoing and therefor incomplete at the time of this writing. We don’t have all the details, so certain things are yet to be fully explained.
- The idea that the Foretellers resemble the main characters seems unnecessary. It’d be helpful to simplify their falling out, to make the synopsis more cohesive. Rather than starting with, “A ripped page in each book makes them turn on each other”, note how the Foretellers come to believe there’s a traitor amongst them, and that their gradually heightened distrust for each other leads to a rift between the Unions.
SilverFlight‘s Loremaster Rating 7/10
- It is a decent explanation of what the mobile games are about; however, there is a crucial detail that helps connect/explain the continuity differences, and that is that this entire spinoff takes place in a separate continuity altogether. As the game’s stated, Chi’s plotline is actually a “fictionalized retelling” of the Keyblade War, or a “fairy tale” in the KH Universe; that would explain why some things are inexplicable, and this connects to the first line on how these games sound irrelevant at first but expose certain truths.
- To be fair, the “prequel” is already confusing and difficult to comprehend, but in context adding this mitigates the confusion I had when reading this, such as Ventus. In addition, I would mention that one of these games is still ongoing, so we have yet to hear the whole story anyway.
- I would nix the part about the Foretellers resembling the main characters (aside from them being main characters and cosplayers) because that sounds a little subjective and may not have been intentional on the makers’ part.
Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep
So, the Keyblade War happens, which is where the aforementioned Unions fight over what to do with Kingdom Hearts, the source of all light in the world. The door to Kingdom Hearts is protected by the X-Blade, which is basically a special double keyblade with a stupid name. This shattered in the brawl, resulting in seven pieces of light and 13 pieces of darkness. Kingdom Hearts disappears because of the war, and what’s left of the battle is now known as the Keyblade Graveyard.
Fast forward, and there are three young friends taking the Mark of Mastery exam with the goal of becoming Keyblade Masters. This is conducted under the fine tutelage of a certain Mr. Xehanort and his good friend Master Eraqus (voice acted by Spock and Luke Skywalker respectively, because why not).
Realistically, Xehanort doesn’t care about these kids. He wants to use them as vessels so he can live longer and forge the broken X-Blade, so he can open up Kingdom Hearts and use it to flip the scales in favour of darkness. Xehanort sabotages the exam to toy with the minds of the spritely students, Ventus, Aqua and Terra. Yes, that Ventus from before the Keyblade War. It seems that Ventus does not age or is some kind of immortal time traveller, which is like surface-level madness in the grand scheme of Kingdom Hearts, so strap in.
Ventus was a previous possible vessel for Xehanort, but Ventus is way too much of a nice guy to conduct evil deeds, so Xehanort just straight up extracted the darkness from his heart and created Vanitas, an evil being that looks like Sora. Speaking of Sora, the remaining pure side of Ventus that was left after this horrible keyblade surgery came in contact with the young protagonist on Destiny Islands, which positioned Ventus in Sora’s heart. But he’s still alive? His memories of this are just damaged. Bare with me now.
Xehanort disappears and the trio go their separate ways to figure out what’s going on. Along the way, Terra is tempted by Xehanort to unlock the darkness within him, as he sees him as a better vessel for his mad schemes. Terra is the Anakin Skywalker to Xehanort’s Palpatine, so he eventually succeeds, Terra gets ‘norted’ and his body is now under Xehanort’s control, but not his mind, which ends up floating around like a fart in a suit of armour. This armour is called Lingering Will, because something so ridiculous demands a cool name.
Aqua and Terra also meet their respective main series dopplegangers, Riku and Kairi and bestow them with the ability to use Keyblades and strengthen their hearts.
Birth By Sleep wraps up with a series of brawls, and Xehanort attempts to jerry-rig an X-blade the easy way by making Ventus and Vanitas fight. They are both beings of pure light and darkness, so they fight and this plan succeeds. They merge, but Aqua rocks up with uh… Mickey Mouse and they whoop Vani-Ventus until the Ventus inside has a metaphysical battle of the self and he destroys his own heart to stop Vanitas. This shatters the X-blade for a second time, creating a huge explosion that sends Aqua and Mickey and Ventus into the aether. Ventus is still not dead somehow, so Mickey and Aqua rescue his comatose corpse and place him in a safety egg inside Castle Oblivion, a place Aqua created out of the ruins of their initial training hub. His heart is still resting inside Sora.
Aqua finds Terra-Xehanort again in the Realm of Darkness, and is confident she can get Terra back from under his influence. She beats him up and Terra’s body is nearly lost, but Aqua sacrifices herself to save his body, booting it back into the world and trapping herself in the Realm of Darkness in the process.
Xehanort (who is now in the body of Terra) loses all of his memories and goes back to the drawing board. He is taken in by a nice bloke called Ansem the Wise who also has Five apprentices like the Master of Masters. Speaking of which, his all-seeing keyblade observed all of the events of this wall of text, as it was passed from Xehanort to Terra-Xehanort, so he stays winning. Under Ansem the Wise, he starts to regain his memories and realizes that he really does need those seven pieces of heart and 13 pieces of darkness, instead of just inflicting trauma on vulnerable children for sport, so he banishes Ansem the Wise and starts creating hordes of evil beings called the Heartless, created by filling the heart of a human with darkness.
When this happens, the heartless remainder of the body has to go somewhere. This becomes its own being, and is what we call a Nobody. Terra-Xehanort does this to himself, creating a Heartless called Ansem and a Nobody called Xemnas. He then does this to all of his apprentices too. He starts calling himself Ansem as some kind of evil homage to his nice master, who is now exiled.
Hey1234 Verdict 8/10:
- Solid effort, but I have a few small corrections. Each member of the trio leave the Land of Departure for very different reasons, some not directly connected to Xehanort’s disappearance. Terra leaves to find Xehanort, Ventus just wants to be of help to Terra’s exploits, and Aqua is tasked with watching over the two idiots.
- Nobodies are not automatically created when someone loses their heart. Nobodies only appear specifically when a “strong-willed” person loses their heart. An annoying detail, but that’s the kind of lore we’re working with here.
SilverFlight Verdict 9/10:
- A very concise and straightforward explanation of Birth By Sleep without getting too into expository detail of why and how. Using the references and comparisons also helped out.
- If phrases, terms, and meme words common to KH fans (i.e. “‘Norted”) are going to be used throughout, be careful with using them. Make sure to explain what those are first.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage
Aqua is dilly-dallying in the Realm of Darkness after she sacrificed herself to put Terra-Xehanort back in the real world (bad move, it seems.)
She is consistently haunted by the terrible fates of her old pals Terra and Ventus, until she meets back up with Mickey Mouse, who tells her that she’s been here for 10 years . Despite the fact that time is of the essence, and instead of helping Aqua get out of this tormenting hellscape, Mickey tells her that he fancies a shiny new keyblade, so they run an errand to get it on Destiny Islands.
They later reach the door to Kingdom Hearts and subsequently Riku, who is trying to shut the door to prevent darkness leaking into the Realm of Light. Aqua sacrifices herself again to help Mickey and Riku shut the door, locking herself in the Realm of Darkness once more.
She later meets up with the nice researcher from Birth By Sleep, Ansem the Wise, who was banished here by Terra-Xehanort, whose name is now Ansem. It’s getting crazy, I know, but anyway, Aqua asks good guy Ansem what’s been occuring in the outside world. He tells her a keyblade wielder has been saving the world’s consumed by darkness, so she asks if his name is that of her lost friends, Terra or Ventus. Good Ansem tells her that it isn’t Terra or Ventus but another boy who has the power to connect his heart with others and could possibly save everybody lost or consumed by darkness. He is, of course, talking about…
Sora! Who lives on Destiny Islands with his two best friends Riku and Kairi, as well as some characters from Final Fantasy X because *checks notes* I have no f*&%$”@ idea.
Everything gets a bit sketchy and bad Ansem’s heartless start invading the island. Kairi drifts inside Sora in the ensuing chaos and she joins Ventus for high tea inside Sora’s heart. Sora is then chosen to wield the keyblade because he’s the protagonist and he’s special, okay?
Riku disappears alongside Kairi, so Sora sets out to get his friends back, with help from Donald Duck and Goofy. Bad Ansem has since teamed up with Maleficent (yes, the villain from Sleeping Beauty) to procure the seven Princesses of Heart. Remember the seven Pieces of Light that shattered from the second destruction of the X-Blade? Same thing. This is his new plan to open the door to Kingdom Hearts. Six of these are Disney Princesses, and are held in the worlds you travel through during the events of Kingdom Hearts. The last one is Kairi, but she is inside Sora’s heart now, so how will Ansem get her?
Riku is the answer. He turns Sora’s friend against him, corrupting him with darkness and possessing him (just like he did to Terra.) Riku fights Sora to steal Kairi’s heart, but Sora bests him and removes the corruption. Sora then sacrifices himself to save Kairi. Her heart is relinquished from his and her human form is restored, but her whereabouts are unknown.
Sora is therefore turned into a little Heartless monster, but because Kairi loves him so much that he could do anything , he doesn’t actually stay a Heartless for long. This is a marked exception to the rule unreplicated elsewhere. I know it’s absolutely ridiculous and complicates everything, but just take it in your stride on Nomura’s wild ride.
Sora eventually reaches Bad Ansem at the End of the World and whoops him. Ansem opens the door to Kingdom Hearts attempting to complete the plan and restore the darkness, but the door swings open and it’s full of light, and this overpowers Ansem, who is killed in the process.
Behind the door is King Mickey and Riku, who are benefitting from Aqua’s self-sacrifice and trying to shut the door to Kingdom Hearts that Ansem opened. Sora reluctantly helps them shut it, trapping Riku and Mickey in the Realm of Darkness, and the credits roll, as Sora realizes he still can’t find his friends, and comes to terms with the fact that his only comrades are a near-unintelligible duck with a magic staff and an idiot dog for the near future.
Hey1234 Verdict 10 /10
- N/A Perfect explanation.
SilverFlight Verdict 10 /10
- N/A No notes from me either!
Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories
In his search for answers, Sora ends up at a place called Castle Oblivion and ascends the castle slowly losing his memories in this card-based Game Boy Advance game.
This is because it is inhabited by Organization XIII, the Nobodies created by Terra-Xehanort back in Birth By Sleep when he rebelled against his master and consumed everybody with darkness. Yes, when Terra-Xehanort became bad Ansem, he left behind a Nobody called Xemnas (AnsemX), who leads the pack and is the last remaining vessel of Xehanort now that Sora got rid of Ansem. Remember the 13 pieces of darkness that remained after the X-Blade shattered? Yep, you guessed it. So we have the 7 Princesses of Heart and Organization XIII.
Xemnas’s many cronies inhabit this castle, but can’t wield keyblades and aim to have their forms restored. Therefore, they need a plan.
There is internal rebellion within the Organization, and two members called Marluxia and Larxene take control of the Nobody created when Sora released Kairi from his heart, who is called Namine. Namine got lost and wound up in Castle Oblivion and can manipulate memories. She basically messes with Sora’s head to the point where he has no idea who he is, but she reminds him of Kairi so he is driven to find her. They want to manipulate Sora through Namine to make him into a puppet so that they can overthrow their organization leader, Xemnas.
Of course, Sora bests them and he meets Namine finally, and things get emotional. She puts Sora to sleep in a chamber so he can regain his lost memories, but reminds him that this process will mean that he forgets her and this entire ordeal, which Sora is upset about it, but logistically, is probably better for his (and my) pained psyche.
Meanwhile, Riku takes an identical route through the castle in order to wipe the remaining Ansem darkness from his heart after he was corrupted in the first Kingdom Hearts. He and King Mickey were brought out of the Realm of Darkness by good lad Ansem the Wise, who, and let me make this clear, has now changed his god-damn name because of the ordeal he’s had in the Realm of Darkness after Terra-Xehanort banished him there. From now on, Ansem the Wise is Darkness in Zero, or DiZ because why not, at this point.
Anyway, Riku makes his way through the castle battling Ansem’s influence, and is helped by Mickey and Namine, who, like Sora, reminds him of Kairi. DiZ also frequently appears to guide Riku. DiZ is mostly concerned with getting revenge after his ordeal. Riku also encounters the Riku Replica, another character who is a replica model of Riku created by a member of the Organization with all of Riku’s memories intact, who suffers from a crisis of the self and tries to kill Riku to justify his own being. Oh boy, it’s getting real messy now. Riku bests his replica self and quells the rest of the Ansem inside of him, creating a balance between light and dark within, so he meets back up with Mickey for another darkness road trip.
Hey1234 Verdict 10 /10
- Another brilliant explanation.
SilverFlight Verdict 10 /10
- Nailed it again!
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Ok. Prepare yourself — because I’m going to introduce some new characters here. Remember when Sora sacrificed himself to release Kairi’s heart? When he did this, he created a Nobody called Roxas, who ends up joining the evil Organization XIII out of pure happenstance as he’s innocent and malleable and doesn’t know he is, much like Ventus.
Roxas is unique as he has a keyblade, particularly, Sora’s keyblade due to his connection to him. Keyblades can release hearts, so the Organization want to put Roxas to work releasing hearts so they can harvest them and grow their own hearts so they can be human once more. He obliges because he wants to feel part of something.
Roxas makes really good friends with Axel and Xion, two other members of the Organization who share in his feelings and similarly have no idea who they are. They form strong bonds and eat sea-salt ice cream atop a clock tower. You’ve probably seen the promo art.
Roxas and Xion start to absorb Sora’s memories that are drained during his visit to Castle Oblivion, which is part of the Organization’s plan. Roxas and Xion feel a strong connection to each other, and are brought closer together.
Ultimately, Xion finds out that she is a replica of Roxas created by the organization leader Xemnas. She was manufactured by the organization as a vessel for Sora’s leaking memories in the event of Roxas not being a worthy vessel (So pretty much the Vanitas to Birth By Sleep’s Ventus, if your memory is still functioning.)
Xion naturally has an existential crisis and realises that she and Roxas have to fight, and one of them has to die to restore Sora’s memories. They brawl atop the clock tower, and Roxas has to tearfully dispatch of Xion, one of his only friends. In the process, Roxas gains the ability to wield dual Keyblades by absorbing Xion’s half of the memories. Roxas, consumed by anger, later heads to the Organization HQ in The World That Never Was to stop Xemnas’ plan to use him as a puppet, but before he can get his Just Desserts, Riku appears and stops him.
Roxas battles Riku, and Roxas starts to win so Riku has to unleash his cooped up darkness hidden deep inside his heart. This makes him appear as bad Ansem, the force that possessed him in the first Kingdom Hearts. He kidnaps Roxas and takes him to DiZ, who puts Roxas in a simulation so they can start the memory transfer process and revive Sora for good.
Hey1234 Verdict 10/10:
- Well explanined! Maybe remove the comparison of Xion and Roxas to Vanitas and Ven though, as there’s enough confusing connections and parallels in this series already.
SilverFlight Verdict 10/10:
- Brilliant job on one of the more convoluted games in the series. This simplifies a midquel game’s mechanics without going too much into the lore that confuses newcomers.
Kingdom Hearts 2
Got it memorized? Things have kind of went off the deep end now. So it’s time for another mainline game! Luckily, this actually doesn’t have too much important plot in it thanks to the context of previous games, despite being one of the best titles in the series.
Roxas wakes up in a simulation of Twilight Town created by DiZ, where he eats sea-salt ice cream with new friends and makes friends with Kairi’s Nobody Namine. Alas, he eventually stumbles upon the sleeping egg chamber that Sora was put in by Namine at the end of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Roxas realises that this reality is fake and resigns himself to his fate, restoring Sora in the process (poor guy.)
Roxas merges with Sora and proceeds to live dormant within him. Sora can, therefore, tap into Roxas to use dual Keyblades whenever he fancies going ham. Sora and the gang make it through the Disney worlds to The World That Never Was, where he meets up with Riku and Kairi and starts systematically dispatching every Organization member. DiZ appears and attempts to harness some of Kingdom Hearts power to encode it scientifically, but in turn causes a massive explosion that appears to kill him. Alas, it does rid Riku of his corruption, returning him to his normal self.
Riku and Sora advance to defeat Xemnas who is attempting to use all of the fallen human hearts to harness the power of Kingdom Hearts so that the evil Nobodies can become whole humans again. They succeed, and we reach the only semblance of a happy ending in the Kingdom Hearts lore. Roxas/Sora and Namine have a moment together, and Sora, Riku and Kairi return to Destiny Islands and have a little fun amidst the chaos.
But. Here’s the kicker, comrades. So they defeated both Xehanort’s Heartless and his Nobody (Evil Ansem in Kingdom Hearts, and his Nobody Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts 2.) When a persons Nobody and Heartless are defeated, their original form returns. So old man Xehanort from Birth By Sleep is back baby! And now he needs to summon his 13 vessels to initiate the second Keyblade War. Also, remember Aqua? She’s still stuck in the Realm of Darkness. You totally forgot about her didn’t you!
Hey1234 Verdict 10 /10
- Another brilliant explanation.
SilverFlight Verdict 10 /10
- Nailed it again!
Kingdom Hearts Re:coded
This is a mobile phone game where you play as a digitized version of Sora called Data-Sora. You attempt to figure out the meaning of a message that Jiminy Cricket finds in his journal that reads “We must return to free them from their torment.” The people in question turn out to be Terra, Aqua and Ventus, who most have forgotten about at this point, driving home the point that they need to be saved.
Namine also reveals to Sora that his heart is a connecting key that binds him to Roxas, Xion and Namine, as well as the rest of the main protagonists through various means. It’s not quite official, but it’s suggested that Sora can heal the hearts of others and restore them to normal, which is important, as we now need seven Keyblade wielders to battle the 13 vessels of Xehanort who are quietly getting ready to enact the final plan.
Hey1234 Verdict 10 /10
- He’s getting good at this..
SilverFlight Verdict 10 /10
- Lore-eal, because he’s worth it.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
We made it, people. Forget all that coded jargon and position yourself at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2. King Mickey sends a bottle over to Destiny Islands to summon Sora, who needs to go on one final journey to mend the people connected to his heart.
Psyche! Yen Sid needs Sora and Riku to take the Mark of Mastery exam first, the same one undertaken by the original Birth By Sleep trio. This is so that they can fight the newly reformed Xehanort when he finally makes his way back into the fray. Sora and Riku are placed inside alternate versions of sleeping worlds that need to be awakened after falling to the darkness.
Throughout the journey, they are taunted by a hooded bloke, who turns out to be Young Xehanort. He is a younger version of Xehanort, but he coexists alongside old man Xehanort, as well as Xehanort’s Heartless and Nobody, Ansem and Xemnas.
Turns out evil Ansem took a time travel vacation to the Birth By Sleep era and spoke to a teenage Xehanort as he was growing up on Destiny Islands. He bestowed him with the power to time-travel. The reason behind this is so that Young Xehanort could collect all of Xehanort’s dodgy incarnations across time and space and create a new Organization XIII if the original under Xemnas failed (which it very much did.) If you want a job done right, do it with your multiple selves, they say.
Sora and Riku wrap up their examinations and end up in a trap set by Young Xehanort, transporting them to The World That Never Was and forcing them to fight. Sora is put to sleep and defeats Xemnas inside of his own mind before being mostly consumed by darkness. Ventus’ armor then encapsulates Sora, saving him from his fate. Riku brawls with Ansem, and at last, Master Xehanort is revived.
He calls his 13 incarnations Seekers of Darkness who must face off against Sora and the seven Guardians of Light. These 20 hearts will clash and reforge the X-Blade and open up Kingdom Hearts for Master Xehanort. Sora is later rescued by the turncoat organisation member Axel, who turns out to be a keyblade wielder.
Riku’s bravery earns him the title of Keyblade Master from Yen Sid, though Sora fails due to being consumed by the darkness. Mickey and Yen Sid decide that they need to train Kairi to become a keyblade wielder to stop Xehanort from using her as a Princess of Heart to unlock Kingdom Hearts.
Riku enters a simulation where he meets a data version of Ansem the Wise (yes, pre-DiZ Ansem the Wise,) who gives him access to some research that he had hidden within Sora when he was restoring his memories, and informs Riku that Sora can reform the hearts of those connected to him with his pure love.
Hey1234 Verdict 8/10
- Close, but a few notes. The Mark of Mastery exam and mission to rescue the fallen wielders are actuaandy one in the same. The Mark of Mastery requires that Sora learns how to awaken sleeping hearts, an ability he will need in order to rescue Terra, Aqua and Ven. That being said, it’d be inaccurate to imply that King Mickey wanted to wake the fallen heroes, but Yen Sid wanted to focus on the test, exclusively.
**This is different from the Birth by Sleep exam, which just had the heroes hitting volleyballs around the throne room. So rather than calling it, “the same one”, I’d suggest saying something along the lines of, “…the Mark of Mastery exam, something those of you still with us might recognize from Birth By Sleep.“
SilverFlight Verdict 7.5/10
- This one is a little clunky. The others I felt were consistently telling a linear story among commentary, but the explaining seems off. The first half feels loose, while the latter half is trying to spout all the remaining details like a recap, particularly with the last two paragraphs, making it tricky to understand. Try rewriting it to sound like the others.
- Also, it should be “pre-Birth By Sleep era” since Xehanort was an old man in BBS, not a teen.