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017: Untangling the Kingdom Hearts Saga Part 2

Posted By SoraRabbit77 661 days ago on Entertainment - Welcome back to my three part overview of the Kingdom Hearts series. In the first installment I explained some of the characters, terms, and concepts. In this one, I'll get into the individual games a bit. Each of these games deserve their own posts (I'm working on posts for Part III and Dream Drop Distance now) but we'll see where I go with this down the road. As I said last time there's so much going on in the Kingdom Hearts series that it would take more than three posts, but I'm going to get into as much as I can.

Stupid wizards. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

In these posts, I'll do a quick summary, not going too in depth on the gameplay mechanics and differences between the games. I also won't go over the various platforms they were released for because they range from the Gameboy Advance to the Playstation 4. Many of the older games were remastered in HD and released on PS4 in recent years. Whenever possible I would recommend playing the later releases of the games, as they include additional content and are overall a better experience. Two of the games, re:Coded and 358/2 Days can only be played on the DS and were never ported to later systems, aside from HD cinematics on the collections. Unchained/Union Cross is a mobile-only game. Counting this one, there are 9 games in the main series. One more note before I continue... I'm going to put these in release order, not plot chronology. For instance, Birth By Sleep takes place plot-wise prior to Kingdom Hearts Part I. Some people suggest you play BBS first, but I recommend starting with Part I, since it sets up the story and universe and introduces you to a number of the main characters. How you do it is up to you, but I played in release order and so that's how I'm going to discuss the games.

King Mickey is on the case! (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

The first game in the series was 2002's Kingdom Hearts, originally released on the PlayStation 2. On the world of Destiny Islands, Darkness attacks the island where Sora, Kairi, and Riku play. In the process of this, Sora encounters a brown-robed figure and Kairi is lost, flying through Sora as she's pulled into a mysterious doorway. Riku acts all ominous and seems evil, and Sora's play sword becomes a Keyblade, which he uses to fight off the Shadows that swarm around him. The world is lost and Sora awakens in a strange place called Traverse Town where he meets his new friends, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, and Jiminy Cricket. They also meet some Final Fantasy characters led by Leon. (Squall Leonheart from FF Part 8. I'm not sure why they changed his name.) They learn that Sora must use his Keyblade to lock the world's Heart and protect it from the Heartless. Before long Sora and friends sail off on their Gummi Ship to lock the other worlds. He goes to various Disney-themed worlds to seek out the Keyhole of the world. In true video game fashion each Keyhole is guarded by a boss battle. Along the way he's also searching for his missing friends and Donald and Goofy want to find King Mickey. Along the way they visit Olympus Coliseum, Atlantica, Halloween Town, Neverland, Wonderland, Deep Jungle (Tarzan's home), Agrabah, the 100 Acre Wood, and the stomach of Monstro the Whale. (Disney Castle also appears but cannot be visited.) The non-Disney locations are Destiny Islands, Traverse Town, Hollow Bastion, and The End of the World. (The latter is a dark place made up of what remains of all the fallen worlds.)

Riku, in a less dickish moment. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

They eventually learn that Riku is working with the evil Maleficent (who you may remember as the evil witch from Sleeping Beauty.) On the shadowy world of Hollow Bastion, where Maleficent has a big castle, Riku confronts the heros. Amazingly Riku is able to summon Sora's Keyblade away from him! Riku was actually the one chosen by the Keyblade, but since he succumbed to darkness, it passed to Sora instead. (Sora, the mighty runner-up of the series!) Donald and Goofy, whose orders from the King were to follow the Keyblade Wielder, leave Sora to join Riku. (Sad times.) Maleficent's plan is to capture the seven Princesses of Heart to unlock the door to Kingdom Hearts. She's enlisted other Disney villains to help her in this mad quest. The Princesses of Heart are Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora (from Sleeping Beauty), Belle (from Beauty and the Beast), Jasmine (from Aladdin), and Alice. (I know, Alice isn't technically a princess, but in Kingdom Hearts she apparently is one.) But wait, that's only six. Don't worry, I didn't math wrong. Kairi, it turns out, is also one of those Princesses, and her heart is missing. It turns out when Kairi passed through Sora in the beginning of the game, her heart remained in his body, where it was safe from evil. In order to give Kairi her heart back, Sora basically kills himself, turning himself into a Heartless. He retains his personality, though, and is turned back to normal by Kairi, who unconsciously held onto his heart. (I mention all this because it's a pivotal moment in the story and comes back later in a big way.)

Donald— NO!!! (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

At the end of their road it's revealed that the brains behind the operation is an evil man named Ansem, who is now possessing Riku. Ansem was once friends with King Mickey and did experiments on the darkness within people's hearts. He stumbled upon the Heartless and is the one who unleashed this threat on the worlds. His goal? A mysterious place called Kingdom Hearts, which he believes is the source of all darkness. Sora believes Kingdom Hearts is light, though, and manages to defeat Ansem via an epic multi-part boss battle. Afterwards, King Mickey and a newly reformed Riku close the Door to Darkness so that Sora can lock it with his Keyblade. (Trapping Mickey and Riku on the wrong side of the door.) The fallen worlds-- including Destiny Islands-- are recreated, separating Sora and Kairi again. (Those poor kids.)

Now THAT is a door. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

At the end, Sora, Donald, and Goofy head off to look for their friends. They chase after Pluto who is carrying a letter with the King's mouse ears seal on it. It's definitely not a trap.

This certainly doesn't scream "TRAP!" (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Spoiler: It was a trap. This brings us to the next game, 2004's Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Originally for the Gameboy Advance, this game has had enhanced versions on later systems. The gameplay of this one changes drastically, depending on a customizable deck of cards for combat, magic, items, and summons.

Cards, cards everywhere. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

This game introduces several important concepts and characters to the story. For one thing, this is the grand introduction of Organization XIII. (And roughly half of them die. Oops.) Organization XIII is a group of nefarious Nobodies who are engaged in a mysterious plan. The story for this game is that the letter Pluto had was a trick to lure Sora into Castle Oblivion, where some members of Organization XIII waited for him. Alongside them are a witch named Namine and a Replica of Riku. As the friends traveled further into Castle Oblivion, they began to lose the memories of their adventures. Sora's memories of Kairi were gradually replaced by false memories of Namine. The same thing was happening to the fake Riku, bringing him and Sora into conflict several times. The whole thing turned out to be a schism in the ranks of Organization XIII. Some of the members were posted in Castle Oblivion and Axel, the red-haired Nobody who wields fire chakrams, was sent to root out the traitors and eliminate them. The leader of these traitors was a pink-haired flower-loving guy named Marluxia. Marluxia wanted to take over the Organization, and felt Sora was the key to doing this. After defeating everyone, Sora faced Namine and forgave her for her part in stealing his memories. Sora's a nice guy. Namine turned out to be Kairi's Nobody, created when she lost her heart in the first game. She and a weird guy with red bandages on his face named DiZ put Sora into a cocoon to rebuild his memories. A side effect of this is that he lost his memories of being in Castle Oblivion. Jiminy writes "Thank Namine" in the journal, a fact which comes back in a later game. While all this was going on, the real Riku was in the way-underground sub-basement of the Castle, working his way up to the ground floor. He faced other Organization XIII members and the darkness in his own heart. This was the beginning of Riku's path to redemption, which is cool. He also met King Mickey and made friends with him. At the end of all this, DiZ gave the two of them stylish black Organization XIII cloaks to shield them from darkness and detection and sent them on their merry way. And roughly half of Organization XIII had fallen, just like that. Hello goodbye.

This looks comfy. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Chain of Memories leads directly into Kingdom Hearts II. Released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, this game advanced the plot and really shook everything up. The game begins not with Sora, but with a new character named Roxas. Roxas lived in a place called Twilight Town with his friends, Hayner, Pence, and Olette. They were nearing the end of summer vacation and odd things were happening to Roxas. The world seemed to be glitching and strange white creatures (Nobodies) were attacking. Roxas was eventually drawn to an abandoned house where he met Namine. In the basement he found the pod containing Sora. In order for Sora to awaken and regain his powers, Roxas had to merge with him and cease existing. Poor Roxas. Summer vacation was over. Sora awakens, meets up with Donald and Goofy, and finds that all his powers have disappeared along with some of his memories. Also a year has passed and his clothes don’t fit well anymore. After meeting Roxas's friends and having a brief encounter with King Mickey, the trio ends up at the Mysterious Tower. Once there they meet up with Pete, Mickey's rival. (Pete, who I grew up thinking was a dog, is actually a cat. This has no bearing on anything, but it kinda blew my mind finding this out recently, so I figured I'd share.) Pete hints that Maleficent, who was seemingly killed in Part I, may actually still be kicking around. The Tower belongs to Master Yensid, the wizard from the Fantasia short Sorcerer's Apprentice. Yensid is the one who trained King Mickey. (It's said that Master Yensid is a Keyblade Wielder, but we never get to see his Keyblade. Pity.) Yensid has the three Fairies from Sleeping Beauty give Sora new magical clothes that allow him to transform into something called Drive Forms. This allows Sora to combine with Donald and/or Goofy, or just generally transform to bring out his powers.

What do you get when you cross Sora with Goofy? Valor Form! (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Again the team goes from world to world, but this time the goal was to investigate Organization XIII and recreate the paths between Worlds. And also to put on a cheesy musical with Arial?

Yes, this was a thing that happened. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Cheesy musicals aside, the stakes were really raised for our heroes. They not only had to deal with the Heartless and Disney villains (including Pete!) but also Nobodies and Organization XIII. The Disney-themed worlds in this one were Beast's Castle, the Land of Dragons (from Mulan), Olympus (both the Coliseum and Underworld), Atlantica, Agrabah, Halloween Town (and Christmas Town), the 100 Acre Wood, Port Royal (Pirates of the Caribbean), Pride Rock, Disney Castle, Timeless River (from Steamboat Mickey), and Space Paranoids/The Grid (from Tron). The original worlds were Twilight Town, the Mysterious Tower, Hollow Bastion (later renamed to Radiant Gardens), and the World That Never Was (home to the Nobodies). Eventually they located Mickey, thought Goofy died (he's okay-- he gets hit on the head ALL the time), and had a Heartless war that was truly amazing. (The Battle of 1000 Heartless. Seriously, look it up. It was impressive.) The leader of the Nobodies, Xemnes, had a crazy scheme to gather all the hearts from the Heartless to create his own artificial Kingdom Hearts. DiZ turned out to be the real Ansem. Ansem the Wise had an apprentice named Xehanort (which is the first mention by name of the series' big bad so far) who stole his identity, his research, and his apprentices, not necessarily in that order. We learn eventually that this fake Ansem made himself into a Heartless, which was who you fought in Part I. The Nobody that was created by this act was Xemnes. Roxas, it turns out, was Sora's Nobody, created when he became a Heartless in Part I. Poor, doomed Roxas was never meant to survive. We learn that during his short life he was friends with Axel, who is not all bad after all. In a surprisingly touching moment, Axel dies saving Sora. Namine was also a heartless... Kairi's, from the time that her heart was in Sora. Their travels take them to the World That Never Was, where Sora encounters a black-cloaked duel-Keyblade-wielding Roxas. (This was a painfully difficult battle and they give you zero warning it's coming up.) This battle takes place inside Sora’s heart so don't get your hopes up... Roxas is still gone.

Something tells me Xemnes is up to no good here. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Sora, after fighting his way through the remaining members of Organization XIII and a bunch of Heartless and Nobodies, (with the help of Maleficent and Pete, if you can believe it) at long last is reunited with Riku and Kairi. (Both of whom have their own Keyblades!) Riku looks like Xehanort/Ansem, a side effect of his use of the power of Darkness. Before long DiZ/Ansem the Wise reveals his crazy plan-- to destroy the Nobody-created Kingdom Hearts by overloading the machine that’s creating it, the Kingdom Hearts Encoder. (Yeah, that seems rational.) The explosion kills him and returns Riku to his normal form. Riku joins Sora in the battle and Xemnes is defeated. Sora and Riku find their way back to Destiny Islands for a much-needed reprieve from adventuring.

Classic. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Kingdom Hearts II was a massive game that really showed what the series could be. It had emotional moments, lots of mystery, and some great character and level designs. It was Part I super charged. I also really like the inclusion of Pete. He added a lot to the series. Maleficent may be sinister and creepy, but the best villains have personality, and that’s something Pete added to the roster. The Timeless River level was done in a retro style and was my favorite of the entire series. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the Nobodies and Organization XIII.

Sora is a dork. (Credit: Square Enix, Disney)

Okay, break time again. This went on pretty long so I'll continue with the next games in Part 3! See you then!

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