Q. Why does anyone tolerate Riku?
A. Riku is kind of an odd character in the Kingdom Hearts mythology, and gaming stories in general. He spent one game tricked into evil, one, and since then has spent every single other Kingdom Hearts game actively choosing to fight against the bad guys. This in stark contrast to the main hero of Kingdom Hearts, Sora, who seems to accidentally wander into nefarious plots, and can only solve problems through murder or hugging, but never both. Despite this, Sora is lauded as the greatest hero of all time, and Riku is repeatedly treated like he’s about to fart in your face and insult your corpulent mother’s rotund physique. Which is silly, because if anyone is going to do that, it’s Axel.
Regardless, a brief (HA!) history of Riku.
Riku is Sora’s best friend, and, as Sora’s best friend, it is his job to constantly try to beat Sora at everything, and compete tirelessly for the attention of the only viable female on Destiny Islands, Kairi. Sorry, Selphie, but nobody likes you. Go write a blog about it. As a result of this nonsense, or just because Riku is kind of a jackass, Riku opens the secret door in his secret place [note to self: make this sound less horrible before posting], and the heartless invade.
As mentioned previously, Riku is supposed to be a keyblade wielder, but he looked too long into the darkness, and the darkness looked rad, so Riku gave up any and all keyblade privileges for at least a couple of days. Riku is deposited in Hollow Bastion after inadvertently destroying his entire planet, and falls into the care of Maleficent, who was such a naughty nanny, heap evil woman, she made a bad boy out of him.
Riku then proceeds to spend the majority of Kingdom Hearts (1) as Maleficent’s nefarious lapdog, a job so essential that it is fulfilled by Pete the Cat, archnemesis of Goofy, in later chapters. Just a head’s up for anyone out there, if you are ever replaced by an overweight cat whose greatest ability may be described as “bumbling”, it means you chose the wrong vocation.
The real meat of Riku’s existence comes when Sora makes it to Hollow Bastion, basically at the finale of the game. Riku gives in to the darkness so hard that Ansem, Seeker of Darkness darkens up the darkness in Riku’s darkity, and dark dark darkly, Riku is possessed by Heartless Ansem. Ansem pretty much only possessed Riku in pursuit of a place to put all his stuff, so he expands his new property almost immediately, and turns Riku’s body into a facsimile of the original “Ansem” body, which if you’ve been paying attention, isn’t Ansem’s body at all, but Xehanort’s, and oh yeah, that body was Terra’s to begin with. Dude is into flipping real estate.
So “Riku” is Ansem for the finale of Kingdom Hearts, causing Sora to forgo the hug option and skip straight to “murder Ansem”. Which he does. Ansem is X-buttoned into nonexistence, and Riku gets his original body back just in time to be trapped behind The Door to Darkness with Mickey Mouse.
So Riku and Mickey Mouse are sealed in the Realm of Darkness, but Riku escapes by cleverly SCENE MISSING.
It’s here that I must talk about Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories. KH:CoM is a sincerely weird game, and I could write an entire post on how here, right here, is where the Kingdom Hearts Plot Machine started to break down just when it seemed to think it was taking off. Though, to lightly touch on it, CoM has Sora going through an entire game’s worth of plot, and then literally completely forget everything that just happened. As of the time of this writing, Sora still has no real inking that Chain of Memories even happened, though practically everyone around him seems to have an idea at this point, including Kairi, who wasn’t even in the game at all. It’s a weird way to treat your hero.
Riku, however, has a grand ol’ time in CoM. CoM starts with the typical punishment for teenagers who fall too far into the darkness: he’s stuck in the basement. However, rather than go online and whine about how nobody understands him, Riku decides to fight his way up from the basement, murder a couple of dudes in cloaks, and even take out his own mayfly clone. It was a fun day. Along the way, about every third piece of dialogue is related to how Riku is the darkness’s slave, he’s gonna be a bad guy forever, yadda yadda yadda. Riku heroically resists every step of the way, pointing out that you can’t define him with your words. I’m my own man, man, and let’s just ignore the fact that there is literally the spirit of the evilest evil guy hiding in my soul. That’s just auxiliary. After his marvelous journey out of the basement, Riku encounters DiZ (Delicate Indigo Zune), who, point blank, asks Riku whether he will follow the light or the dark. Riku replies, “Neither, I will follow the path to the dawn.” Riku thinks that’s really clever, but the dawn is light, dumbass, though I suppose nothing bad ever came of someone bringing the dawn.
Also, Riku starts wearing a blindfold so “his eyes couldn’t lie.” Good plan, there, Riku. Actually, I’m starting to see why people don’t like this guy…
At this point we’re in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 territory, so Sora is asleep, and Roxas and Xion and (ugh) Axel are having whacky adventures. Eventually, Xion finds out she’s a clone or whatever the hell she is, and decides to hang out with Riku, who is now working for/with DiZ (Decidedly Incompetent Zorilla). As a reminder, Xion is a clone of Riku’s best friend but has a tendency to look and sound like the only woman Riku has ever had feelings for… so that can’t be weird at all. At around this point, Riku gets a power-up that allows him to transform back into ANSEM, SEEKER OF DARKNESS anytime he takes his stupid blindfold off. This makes it very difficult for Riku to enjoy art galleries. Riku and sometimes Xion spend the majority of the year generally trolling Organization 13, wearing Organization robes while helping old ladies, ordering one hundred pizzas to the World That Never Was, leaving flaming heartless on the doorstop, that kind of thing.
So the whole Xion/Roxas thing goes to pot, Xion stops being anything, and Roxas takes it… poorly. Riku is then ordered to kidnap Roxas, who has become a loose cannon, and is off the case (the case being Xehanort Failed Plan #4,210). Riku has a tough time beating Roxas unconscious, because, at this point, he’s basically Sora + Xion + Ventus and is wielding two keyblades as a result. Riku decides he has to be at least one other person to win this fight, so he goes full Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, but you never go full Ansem, Seeker of Darkness. This allows Riku to win, and it makes perfect sense, too, because Sora (Roxas) had such a problem with defeating Ansem, Seeker of Darkness in Riku’s body before. Riku is now stuck in the Ansem body forever, and drags Roxas back to the Matrix.
Riku spends almost the entirety of Kingdom Hearts 2 in his Ansem form, though, to be clear, Riku is 100% in control of his own mind, and is only creeping around like he’s really Ansem, Seeker of Darkness because it makes the plot more intriguing/confusing.
Finally, in The World that Never Was, Riku and Sora are reunited, and DiZ (Deluded, Ignorant Zerumbet) explains (poorly) exactly what happened to Riku, and, oh no, Riku is stuck in the body of Sora’s greatest enemy FOREVER. The very next scene, Riku is restored to normal Riku status when a machine explodes that could have “done anything”. It’s a good thing the thing everyone wanted to happen happened, or else the whole cast could have been transformed into ducks or something. Sora gives Riku a hug, and then proceeds to murder Xemnas.
For the further adventures of Riku, please see Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, where Riku saves Sora’s life and gets a merit badge for his troubles.
Q. Well? What happened in Dream Drop Distance?
A. Oh, you’re going to regret asking that question.
Did you ever see Inception? Well someone at Square Enix sure did, as Kingdom Hearts 3D is all about “diving” into dreams. See, a number of worlds that got destroyed during Kingdom Hearts I didn’t get the memo about being revived, and have been napping in some kind of limbo (not to be confused with Twilight Limbo), just waiting for someone to sneak into their dreams and reawaken their drowsy planet selves. It just so happens that Sora and Riku need an exam to prove they’re truly worthy of their keyblades, so the only living, non-mouse keyblade master Yen Sid (“copyright law” backwards) decides their test will be reawakening the slumbering worlds. Pretty simple, fetch-questy stuff.
It all goes wrong immediately, though, as Riku and Sora are separated about three seconds into the “dive”. And the reason? Well, Sora made it into the sleeping worlds’ dreams, but Riku is a layer down, operating in Sora’s dreams of the sleeping worlds. Sora is stuck in a dream, Riku is in the dream of a dream. At no point is a butterfly dreaming it’s a plate of sashimi.
Of course, this all turns out to be a nefarious plot by Xehanort to turn Sora to the darkside, because if something fails like six times, why not go for seven? Miraculously, it almost works, and Sora falls into his own deep sleep, giving Riku a moment to shine, as he was kinda waiting for Sora to take a good solid nap all day.
Riku rescues Sora by battling the heart of Ventus, which, reminder, has been sleeping inside Sora since he was five, but only decided to show up after his prequel game was released. Riku is then clued into Xehanort’s big crazy master plan, and pops out of Sora’s dreams and back into the first level of dreams just in time to battle a young, time traveling version of Xehanort. Xehanort loses yet another battle to a teenager, and flees, likely cackling about how he would have corrupted Sora and gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you damn kids and your meddling dog (Goofy).
So, the battle won, Riku and Sora come back to the real world, and Riku dives into Sora’s dream (but this time it’s Sora’s dream in a waking world and… ugh… would you like me to draw you a diagram?), has a lovely, cryptic conversation with all the hearts that Sora has accidentally accumulated over the last decade, and, yay, Sora wakes up! All is well.
So, for straight up saving the world and his best friend, little Riku, the dream master, receives The Mark of Mastery, which, if he’s like almost every other keyblade master, means he’s going to fall into darkness about 75-100% of the way through Kingdom Hearts 3. Yen Sid could have saved us some time and just drew a giant glowing target on the kid.
Sora, for his part in being asleep for the finale, does not receive a passing grade. Sorry, kid, looks like we’ll have to play an entirely new game where you can finally prove yourself. Hope it involves Tangled.