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Kingdom Hearts FAQ #12: Titles

A door to knowledge?Q. Why did they number the Kingdom Hearts games so dumb and weird?

A. Here are the ridiculous title explanations you were waiting for.

Kingdom Hearts, aka Kingdom Heats 1, is the most straightforward of the bunch. As a reminder, yes, Kingdom Hearts is revealed to be an actual object in the game/series, and is not just some random nonsense title. Gilgamesh is not searching the multiverse for the Final Fantasy, and Benjamin does not live in Final Fantasy, USA.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is the Gameboy Advance game that was kind of a retelling of Kingdom Hearts 1, kind of its own original story. So, the “Chain of Memories” is a gentle reminder that you’ve seen everything in this game once already, and a descriptor for how the plot of the game involves Naminé, the slave witch, altering Sora’s memories by inserting herself into key moments. She is breaking Sora’s chain of memories, while you are trying to get a chain combo going through your own memories of a game you already played. Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories was the PS2 remake of the game that has a title based on an email subject misunderstanding.

Quirky?Kingdom Hearts 2 is the sequel to Kingdom Hearts, and the last time we saw a straightforward title in this series (it’s been almost a decade!). The “2” here could also be a clever reference to the fact that Sora and Kairi are both accidentally duplicated for the entirety of the game (Roxas and Naminé, respectively), or how Sora wields a pair of keyblades during special occasions. Also, every world winds up getting visited twice, so Kingdom Hearts 2 is twice as padded as Kingdom Hearts 1.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for the DS is where we start sliding off the rails forever. This impossible to abbreviate title features Roxas (Sora clone) and new character Xion (… also a Sora clone) palling around with Organization XIII for the period of time between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. We’re talking about 358 Days, and since the relationship between Roxas and Xion is central to the plot, it is 358 days divided by two people. Also, a DS screen can be used by better games (thinking of Contra 4 here) as a sort of giant screen divided into two. It all adds up to KH358/2D being titled unusually so as to discourage people from playing that turd.

LIAR!Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is the prequel of the series, thus the whole “Birth” thing. Aggravatingly, this is not the origin story of the main villain of the series, Xehanort, so we’re probably going to see another, earlier prequel somewhere down the line to cover the Birth of Darkness. Interestingly, while this game is mostly in media res because someone lost the ability to tell stories with concrete beginnings, the game does open with the literal birth of Sora, which causes Ven, an identical cousin of Sora, to awaken from a deep sleep. The game is then bookended with Ven knocking back into a coma while his heart flutters off to hang out with child Sora, so “Birth by Sleep” actually makes a sort of sideways sense. If you squint. Note that, thanks to its plot placement before Kingdom Hearts 1, BBS is sometimes referred to as Kingdom Hearts 0, which will be important in a moment.

Kingdom Hearts Coded was a damn episodic cell phone game that got rereleased as a complete DS game named Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded. This is the story of Mickey Mouse trying to get with the times and digitizing Jiminy Cricket’s dusty old journal which, naturally, leads to the world nearly being destroyed, because technology is scary and somehow scanning a book creates sentient life, most of it malevolent. “Coded” is referring to the scanning (coding) process here, and “code” is also a synonym for “puzzle” according to Word’s thesaurus, which alludes to the fact that this is a puzzle game. “Re:coded” is just what those whacky programmers were complaining about when they were informed the game would be reheated for the DS.

When your hero doesn't understand...Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is just… ugh… still mad at this one. First of all, yes, if you abbreviate the title, it just appears as Kingdom Hearts 3, which we… *cough*… I mean fans have been clamoring for since Kingdom Hearts 2 six years prior. Now, to be annoyed by the very next letter, it’s “3D” not just because it’s in 3-D, but because the subtitle is three sequential D’s: Dream Drop Distance, which is a previously unmentioned keyblade ability that allows the user to drop into the dreams of the heart… which are… just regular dreams. Anyway, to the game’s credit, it does continue the “story” of Kingdom Hearts, so it did work out like a pseudo-Kingdom Hearts 3. Of course, now we’re all excited about the real Kingdom Hearts 3, and nobody cares about the 3DS anymore, so let’s resubtitle the game as 2.8, since we already used 2.5 for the Kingdom Hearts 2 HD release, and we can’t exceed three. There are an infinite amount of numbers between two and three, and I’m betting 2.9 is reserved for some kind of prologue cell phone game released three months before KH3. Or a paid demo! The possibilities are endless!

Speaking of lousy promotional games, Kingdom Hearts χ was a browser based game set ages before the events of any given Kingdom Hearts, pre-Keyblade War, which was fought over the χ-blade. For those of you without a doctorate in Kingdom Hearts History, this would be akin to setting a Star Wars game a thousand years before the birth of Chewbacca. Kingdom Hearts χ is a nothing of a game, basically meant for playing around the Kingdom Hearts universe while your boss is off hitting on Debra in accounting (think about it, Kingdom Hearts was released in 2002, the teens that played that game and bought Nobody hoodies and custom zippers are well into their cubicles today). There were a few inklings of the plot in there, though, so those scenes are being repackaged as the movie Kingdom Hearts χ in the new set, like 358/2 Days in KH1.5HD and Re:Coded in KH2.5HD. Wow, Team Kingdom Hearts really has this down to a science.

And χ is pronounced “key”, of course.

Moving right alongFinally, we have Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (KH0) ends with Aqua sucked into the Realm of Darkness, which is also where a whale of a lot of worlds also wound up during the time period between BBS and Kingdom Hearts 1. This means that we can just reuse Aqua’s BBS HD Remake model and animations to explore a whole host of “lost” worlds that are just reused assets from previous KH games modified to a darker palette for inclusion in the Realm of Darkness. It’ll be Birth by Sleep 0.2 alright, as the whole game will likely involve two new worlds, one new Square guest star (let’s say… Laguna?), and the other 80% will be stuff we’ve already seen.

I’ll buy it day one.

Q. Any handy visual aids available for the series?

A. Here’s the boxart for Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD

The Whole Gang

Highlighted below are all the characters that are, or have ever been, Sora.

The Soras

Now here are all the characters that are, or have ever been, Xehanort.

The Xehanorts

And, finally, here are all the characters that are… female.

Kinda Lonely

That help?

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #09: Organization XIII

Just a bunch of nobodiesQ. Who or what is Organization XIII?

The answer is all about nothing.

The overall feeling, whether deliberate or not, of Kingdom Hearts 1 is that Sora and his companions are Square teenagers living in a decidedly Disney universe. Destiny Islands, Sora’s home, is peaceful, isolated, and idyllic until the very moment it is invaded by outside forces and obliterated. From that point on, Sora ventures to Traverse Town, which is the KH1 home of the Final Fantasy crew, but also Gepetto & Pinocchio, 101 Dalmations, and The Sword in the Stone’s Merlin living in sin with Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. Traverse Town is also home to a lot of “landmarks” that either evoke a Disney theme, or are more blunt, like an inexplicable Lady & the Tramp fountain. Sora then ventures onward to planet after planet, every single one themed after a different Disney movie. While the heartless are wonderful minions, the bosses of each area are Disney villains. Finally, Sora reaches Hollow Bastion, which is the real home of Team Final Fantasy, but it is conquered by Disney malcontent Malificent, who has certainly spruced the place up with a number of thorns and other decidedly Disney architectural features. The absolute finale of Kingdom Hearts is a very Square “journey to the center of the Universe” dungeon, but even in Kingdom Heart’s Northern Cave there are repeated references to Disney movies (like a lingering Snow White motif), and even Ansem’s final line of defense appears to be Chernobog of Fantasia.

Then Square took back the universe with a vengeance.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a very weird game. Remember the old days of portable gaming, where a Gameboy game was simply its console counterpart, just scaled back dramatically to fit the confines of portability? At first blush, this is Kingdom Hearts COM: it’s Kingdom Hearts I with its entire battle system scaled down and rejiggered to transition from the Playstation 2 to the more modest Gameboy Advance. Sora and friends follow the same “path” as Kingdom Hearts 1, jumping world to world, basically in the same order, and fighting, basically, the same enemies. “Traverse Town” is level one, Sora meets Leon, Aerith, and Yuffie, fights some minor heartless, and then defeats the boss, Guard Armor. On a basic level, COM could have been a straight “portable” remake of Kingdom Hearts 1.

But it’s not. Someone, somewhere in production could not leave well enough alone, and decided that, while the basic gameplay progression of COM would be exactly like its predecessor, the plot should be something that advances the overall franchise narrative. But it can’t progress too much, because this is just a portable “side” game, and Kingdom Hearts 2 will be the sweetest plum, so this entire game, and everything in it, should be simply… tantalizing? Everything has to be a mystery. All setup, no punchline.

Organization XIII was born of this desire, and we are all poorer for it.

Pictured: who caresWithout exaggeration, everything about Organization XIII is built to facilitate some vague feeling of mystery. They all dress alike, wearing full body cloaks with hoods, so they can all line up next to each other and be indistinguishable. Their motivations are ambiguous, even to themselves. They don’t trust each other, so they can betray and shift allegiances at the drop of a hat. They’re built to be outlines that can be filled in with whatever details the plot demands.

They’re a group of empty nobodies.


What are Organization XIII? They’re a bunch of nobodies, aka a body without a heart, but retain memories of their previous lives. The initial six members of Organization XIII were all created at about the same time, when Xehanort went batty and ripped out his own heart, shouted, “You guys gotta try this!” and then proceeded to perform the procedure another five times. All six of these guys were considered the apprentices of Ansem of the Wise, even though three of these “apprentices” were just for-rent security guards. Also: good job guarding there, hotshots. The other members of Organization XIII were all nobodies who were inducted at some nebulous “later” period.

What's in a name?What’s with the names? All Organization members receive a new name upon joining. The new name is the letters of their old name rearranged with an “X” added. As of Birth by Sleep, the explanation for this X fascination is Xehanort’s obsession with the χ-blade. Prior to BBS, the explanation for the X is that Xehanort is secretly an Adam X fan.

What’s with the numbers? “I’ve never felt so accepted in all my life. These people looked deep within my soul and assigned me a number based on the order in which I joined.” – Hexmor

What do they want? In one of the most confused messages in all of storytelling, Organization XIII’s goal is to reclaim their hearts, or any hearts, because without their hearts, they cannot experience emotions. Putting aside the conundrum of whether or not “desire” or “ambition” are emotions, Organization XIII members frequently, from the first moment they’re introduced, display emotions. And not even in a half-As you doassed Spock way, either, they’re frequently emotional powder kegs. The (lazy) explanation in KH2 is that all nobodies are faking emotions that they “remember” from when they were complete humans. As of Dream Drop Distance, the explanation has become that they were growing new nobody hearts, but Xemnas did not want his minions to get all emotional about it. I’d make a joke about how ridiculous this is, but just rereading what I just wrote makes me angry… or maybe I’m just remembering what it’s like to be angry.

Who are Organization XIII? Let’s take a look at these nutbars on a case-by-case basis, in descending order just for funsies.

Not Members of Organization XIII: Mickey, Riku, and DiZ (Dreaming Icky Zek) all have Organization XIII paraphernalia, but are not members, and have never been members. All three are basically the anti-org, and actually seem to accomplish more to foil Org 13 than Sora, who, as Square heroes are want to do, is just playing into Organization XIII’s hands, bwa ha ha, and whatnot.

Not pictured: funAlso Not a Member, but a Nobody: Naminé, Kairi’s Nobody, is also not a member of Organization XIII, but is frequently their pawn. Naminé has the maddeningly specific ability to play with Sora’s memories, and, at Org’s behest, turns Sora’s poor noggin into swiss cheese during Chain of Memories. She loses interest by the end, probably because of friendship or something, and then spends a year putting Humpty Dumpty back together again while Diz calls her worthless. She follows that with spending a lot of time coloring before finally deciding to get off her ass and do something, and uses random world traversing abilities to rescue Kairi from Organization XIII, which… is it altruistic when you save a person, but that person is actually a former and future version of yourself? While an exaltation of philosophy majors were scratching their heads over that one, Naminé gets reabsorbed into Kairi at the finale of Kingdom Hearts 2. Despite no longer existing from that point on, Naminé seems to pop up randomly through future installments of the franchise, usually to say something wildly cryptic. I’m assuming her voice actress is cheaper than Kairi’s…

Another sad storyActual Member #14 Xion

  • Looks like: Kairi (or Naminé) with black hair
  • Weapon: (Sora’s) Keyblade
  • Official Title: None (Ouch)
  • Element: Light (I guess)
  • Original Name: No. i (as in the imaginary number)

Okay, remember when I said everyone in Organization XIII was designed to be mysterious? Well, the problem with that particular plot train is that it’s hard to know when to throw the brakes, and, whoops, everyone spent Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 2 being so mysterious, they forgot to have super tragic pasts and interesting backstories and motivations, and, drat, by the end of Kingdom Hearts 2, everybody is dead. So Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days was created as a prequel set during the time that Sora is in a Naminé-coma so Organization XIII can be more fleshed out. But, writing problem again, we already know all these guys are gonna shuffle off this mortal coil in the game everyone already played, so how does one make the prequel interesting and sufficiently mysterious?

Xion is the answer to the question no one should have ever asked.

Xion is the central character of 358/2 Days. To save everyone the trouble of having to actually play said game, Xion is an unstable clone of Sora created from those memories Naminé heisted in the previous entry. When I say she’s unstable, I mean it, as she doesn’t even have a face until Roxas wills her to be an off-brand Kairi, ostensibly because he’s lonely. She spends the majority of her life in the thrall of Organization XIII, breaks out, does her own thing, and then ceases to do her own thing when she is completely obliterated from existence. Due to her general instability, when she breaks down, she not only ceases to be, but all memories and evidence of her, everywhere, are erased forever. Sucks for her, though does conveniently explain why she is never mentioned in Kingdom Hearts 2. As noted in a previous post, Roxas absorbs whatever is left of Xion, so she sorta lives on.

Also, for those of you paying attention: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 heavily features the story of a woman. Yay. She is literally born of a man’s machinations, her personality and body are determined by another man, she lives most of her life as a slave to a group of almost all men, and then dies, but in a manner that grants a power-up to a man. #notyourclone

Happy, sunny dayMember #13 Roxas

  • Looks like: Sora with blonde hair
  • Weapon: Keyblade
  • Official Title: The Key of Destiny
  • Element: Light
  • Original Name: Sora (duh)

Roxas is Sora’s nobody, but has absolutely no memories of his time as Sora. He is better for it. Roxas really is a bizarro Sora: while Sora charges headlong into danger and doesn’t seem to ever think about the fact that he’s gone from a happy kid playing with his friends to a child soldier in the war against a primal Jungian archetype, Roxas questions everything. Why am I here? Why was I created? Life… dreams… hope… Where’d they come from? And where are they headed? Frankly, he’s exhausting. Roxas spends 358/2 Days (wow, that’s the game’s title and the time involved) with his head up his ass. He finally pulls it out of there when he gets an answer (Roxas, you are here to hit the B button until everything on the screen is dead), and then gets his memory reformatted back to square one. Roxas ver. 2.0 is much less insufferable, but, because the world is a cruel place, this version only lasts about a week before he is reabsorbed into Sora. You might expect an entire fully formed personality being absorbed into Sora to affect his own personality, but, nope, that would require some introspective thinking, and Sora is too busy hitting things to get into that.

SharpMember #12 Larxene

  • Looks like: The Girl. She has that weird antenna hair thing you see in anime sometimes and makes cosplay an absolute pain in the ass
  • Weapon: She’ll show you what a knife is
  • Official Title: The Savage Nymph
  • Official Title (Translation): Angry Girl
  • Element: Lightning
  • Original Name: Unknown… let’s go with… NeEarl

Larxene is the only female member of Organization XIII… or at least the only female member that isn’t a failed science experiment. For plot purposes, she’s basically Marluxia’s sidekick, so I guess skip ahead to his entry if you want more info on that. As far as traits that are exclusive to Larxene, she’s a sadist, and… that’s about it. Okay, her characterization may be dagger-thin, but I think she’s the only original female character in the Kingdom Hearts franchise that doesn’t spend a significant amount of her life worrying about what the boys are doing. For this sin, she does not survive beyond her debut game, and is Sora’s first Organization kill.

SakuraMember #11 Marluxia

  • Looks like: He’s the dude with the feathered, pink hair
  • Weapon: Badass Scythe, likely to overcompensate for the previously mentioned feathered, pink hair
  • Official Title: The Graceful Assassin
  • Ever actually assassinates anyone? Nope
  • Element: Flowers
  • Were all the good elements taken? Yep
  • Original Name: Unknown, again. Laura-Mi?

Organization XIII is very poorly named: As you may have noticed, there are rarely thirteen members, and they’re about as “organized” as a tub of live bait. Six members of Organization XIII, three of the “original six” and three newbies are sent to Castle Oblivion at the tail end of Kingdom Hearts 1 to accomplish… something. They’re there to investigate the place, and, given the castle has a sort of “curse” that dooms everyone in the universe except one woman to fail miserably at doing anything in the place, their expedition goes about as well as you’d expect. Actually, now I’m trying to think of a situation where Organization XIII accomplishes something, anything, successfully. Drawing a blank.

Anyway, Marluxia is tired of being #11, and wants to be #1, so he strategizes the events of Chain of Memories to advance his own plan to murder everyone else in the organization. Here’s the plan:

  1. Make Naminé his exclusive pawn
  2. Use Naminé to wipe out Sora’s memories until Sora is Naminé’s pawn
  3. Control Sora and his keyblade
  4. ???
  5. Profit

He never makes it past step three, though, as Naminé flakes out. Also, while Larxene is completely loyal to the cause, Marluxia makes the critical error of trusting Axel. Axel is bad at staying on any one team for longer than about ten minutes, so he betrays Marluxia, and wanders off with Naminé. In the end, Marluxia’s plan eliminates one “original six” (by Axel’s hands), and one newbie (Larxene, at Sora’s keyblade), which balances to a big fat zero on the scoreboard. Marluxia is then walloped into the next life by Sora. Fun fact: Thanks to the whole memory-wipe thing going on during CoM, Sora doesn’t even remember meeting or killing Pinky. A life well lived.

Scumbag GambitMember #10 Luxord

  • Looks like: Whitish hair, goatee, square mustache
  • Weapon: Playing Cards
  • Official Title: The Gambler of Fate
  • Element: Time
  • Wow, that sounds really powerful, does he use it for anything interesting? No
  • Original Name: Unknown, but obviously Dolur

Luxord likes gambling. That’s about all we know. For some reason, Luxord winds up being one of the nobodies with the longest lifespan, falling to Sora in the final 5% of Kingdom Hearts 2, which you would think would indicate he’s important, or high ranking, or has some special quality, but nope, just a dude that likes gambling. He does find a way to weaponize the cursed gold of Pirates of the Caribbean, so good on him for at least being one of the more creative Kingdom Hearts villains.

GilbertMember #9 Demyx

  • Looks like: Mullet!
  • Weapon: Sitar
  • Class: Bard
  • Official Title: The Melodious Nocturne
  • Element: Water
  • Original Name: Unknown, but there’s only so many combinations here… Myde.

Demyx, like Luxord before him, doesn’t get much development. Demyx is defined by his own slothfulness, as his every appearance is punctuated by his statements about how he doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t want to do anything, and would just would rather sit back and let his stupid water monsters do the fighting for him. This gets old real fast, so he’s the first to die in Kingdom Hearts 2. Sora just does not have time for his spoony nonsense.

Member #8 Axel

  • Looks like: You know what he looks like
  • Weapon: Chakrams
  • Official Title: The Flurry of Dancing Flames
  • Element: Fire
  • Original Name: Lea (not pronounced like you think)
  • Got it memorized: Yes.

Ugh. Crap. It’s Axel. I’m gonna need a minute here.

To break narrative for some trivia, Axel is supposed to be some weird alternate version of Reno of Final Fantasy 7 fame. You know how Disney characters utilized this sort of “toon as an actor” thing, wherein, say Mickey Mouse could star as “himself” or as Bob Cratchit or a keyblade wielding maniac? Well, for one special character, Nomura decided that the Kingdom Hearts universe would take break-out celebrity Reno of the Turks and make him the template for a “new” character. Could have gone with Don Corneo, but, okay, guess Reno is alright, too.

I can’t tell you exactly where Axel went wrong. It would be too reductive to simply say “mary sue” or “obvious creator bias” or “worst thing to ever happen”. Axel is… beloved by a significant, or at least very vocal, contingent of the Kingdom Hearts fan community. Right now, as you read this post, he is being cosplayed by someone, somewhere. Whether due to creator-love or fan-love or just lame plotting, Axel, in the fullness of the franchise, always seems to come out on top, smelling like a rose and beloved by his comrades and the universe at large, all despite the fact that, karmaticly, he’s about as deserving of praise as Walter White.

Axel debuted in Chain of Memories, involved in that earlier mentioned Marluxia coup. He fought Sora a few times, killed #IV Vexen on #XI Marluxia’s orders, and then betrayed Marluxia. Right off the bat, he’s directly responsible for one Organization member’s death, and tangentially responsible for another. Then he swings by the Castle Oblivion basement, and bumps off #VI Zexion. So he’s got a kill count of three: two loyal organization members, and one traitor.

Then it’s time to play Kingdom Hearts 2. The central conflict at the start of the game is that Axel has been ordered to either retrieve or eliminate former member Roxas, but big ol’ softy Axel just can’t bring himself to do it. That’s our Axel, always so emotionally conflicted about carrying out deadly orders.

Wait, what?

So, rewind. 358/2 Days, which, again, takes place after Chain of Memories but before KH2, reveals that Axel was super best buddies with Roxas and Xion during their time in the organization. They hung out and ate ice cream together. Aw. Roxas really gets his back up about the whole Xion situation, and nearly betrays the Organization for her sake, but loses his train of thought when Xion stops ever being a thing. Roxas continues to exist, though, thus creating the deep bro-love that drives him through Kingdom Hearts 2.

Would have been nice to know that when actually playing Kingdom Hearts 2.

Back to KH2, Axel finally pulls the trigger on betraying the Organization by throwing his fight against Roxas and allowing his former buddy to escape to be absorbed by Sora moments later. If you want to show someone clearly how Kingdom Hearts treats storytelling, show them the first few hours of Kingdom Hearts 2, which plainly states two things:

  1. Nobodies are irredeemable creatures without emotion.
  2. Axel, the nobody, really deeply cares about Roxas, another nobody.

Anyway, Organization XIII is kind of hard up for members after Axel killed so many of ‘em, so he stays on the payroll after his failure. He kidnaps Kairi (rather ineffectively, too. He is initially thwarted by Pluto the dog, whose only skill is “is a dog”) for the Org, but seems to spend his spare time hanging out with the secret good guys like Riku. Finally, Axel sacrifices himself aiding Sora in his rescue of Kairi (reminder, Axel kidnapped her in the first place), by which I mean he betrayed his employer so hard, he exploded.

But were that only his end!

Portrait of an idiot as a young manKingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep showcases Axel as a child, then named Lea, when he was just a dork hanging out fighting random kids with a pair of flying discs. He duel-plays briefly with Ventus, keyblade warrior, and speaks exclusively in foreshadowing. The whole thing just looks like a silly cameo until Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, where Axel is revived as adult-Lea, and, whatthecrap, Axel is now a keyblade wielder. Everyone is really happy to see Axel and have him on team good guy, despite the fact that he has betrayed basically everybody he has ever known, knowingly and repeatedly.

Here’s a tip, Sora, if Kingdom Hearts 3 involves a dungeon called “The Sealed Cave,” leave Axel the hell at home.

Pointy... earsMember #7 Saix

  • Looks like: Blue hair, big scar on his face, elf ears
  • Weapon: Supposed to be a claymore, but you go ahead and find me a claymore with a pointy circle at its tip
  • Official Title: The Luna Diviner
  • Element: Moon
  • Favorite Zelda Game: Majora’s Mask
  • Original Name: Isa

Saix, despite his designated number, is the second in command of Organization XIII, and is the guy barking orders at everybody while Xemnas is off concocting grand failures. Saix is also a lifelong friend of Axel, which should tell you everything you need to know about Saix’s judgment. Saix has been casually alluding to his own hidden agenda for like three games now, but barely a hint of what he’s actually planning has come to the surface, so let’s just assume he’s one of those guys that is always telling you about how he could kill you with his mind, but he’s not going to, because he’s too disciplined to do something like that. But he totally could if he wanted to!

Saix is also a confirmed member of the New, post-Kingdom Hearts 2 Organization XIII, so, again, really has a knack for picking the losing side.

NerdMember #6 Zexion

  • Looks like: Emo white/silver hair, kinda short
  • Weapon: A Dictionary. He’s a weaponized English Major.
  • Official Title: The Cloaked Schemer
  • Isn’t the entire Organization schemers who wear cloaks? Yes
  • Element: Tricks Illusions, Michael.
  • Original Name: Ienzo

Golly, I’ve barely mentioned the other half of Chain of Memories. See, while Sora is upstairs playing with Marluxia, Riku is downstairs being taunted by Zexion and his heterosexual life partner, Lexaeus. Zexion is the brains of the operation, and expends a great deal of effort trying to tempt Riku to give in to the darkness because that’s what bad guys do. Zexion, naturally, fails. After Riku kicks his ass, Axel appears before Zexion, and sicks Riku’s clone on Zexion, killing him. Kind of a surreal death.

Zexion and a number of other organization members reawaken after Kingdom Hearts 2, re-alive and refreshed. Zexion, technically Ienzo now, happily explains the whys of their collective resurrection to Axel/Lea. I bring this up because I’d like to think that if I were ever assassinated by someone, and then came back to life, my first impulse would be to turn into a sociable exposition machine for my murderer.

SMASH!Member #5 Lexaeus

  • Looks like: Big guy, stern expression
  • Weapon: Tomahawk-Axe-Sword thing
  • Official Title: Silent Hero
  • Favorite Anime: Dragonball Z
  • Element: Earth
  • Original Name: Aeleus

Lexaeus is the Larxene to Zexion’s Marluxia. If that sentence made any sense to you, congratulations and welcome to crazytown. They were running out of personalities by the end of Chain of Memories, so Lexaeus is just the strong, silent type, and that’s about all we get out of him. He is very dedicated to Zexion, though, so there’s yet another example of an emotionless nobody having extreme emotions related to another nobody. Lexaeus is Riku’s one direct org-kill.

This is most vexingMember #4 Vexen

  • Looks like: Seems to have a lesser version of Sephiroth’s hairdo. Surprisingly doesn’t wear glasses
  • Weapon: Shield. Hey, it works for Goofy…
  • Official Title: The Chilly Academic
  • Element: Ice
  • Original Name: (I Don’t) Even.

Vexen is supposed to be the smartest member of Organization XIII. Proving that he’s actually smart:

  1. He’s some kind of clone-genius. He creates some lesser clones of Sora, a really great clone of Riku, and mostly singlehandedly created Xion.
  2. One of the only combatants in all of Kingdom Hearts that considers defense in any way.
  3. … Did I already mention the clone thing?

In the “might be an idiot” column, however…

  1. He doesn’t seem to realize that nearly every Organization member can’t stand him. The old guard treats him like garbage, and the new recruits openly dismiss him frequently.
  2. Created Xion, who lasted only a year before dropping off the planet, and ultimately served only to empower Organization XIII’s enemies.
  3. Has a shield… made of ice. Not the most reliable material in our universe, doubly ineffective in a universe where children can master fire spells.
  4. Is the absolute first Organization member to die, and at the hands of Axel, no less.

Vexen, you might be the smartest guy in Organization XIII, but that is just such a low bar…

Dr. Octopus for KHMember #3 Xaldin

  • Looks like: Black hair, sideburns, and weird braids everywhere
  • Weapon: Lances. All the lances
  • Official Title: The Whirlwind Lancer
  • Dragoon much? Affirmative
  • Element: Wind
  • Original Name: Dilan

Xaldin is another enforcer-type in the Organization. He’s combat focused, and spends two games unsuccessfully trying to taunt Beast (as in Beauty and the) into darkness. Let’s consider the fact that if Xaldin was left on the cutting room floor, we’d probably have a boss fight against Gaston in his place. Xaldin died as he lived, being deeply ineffective at Beast’s castle.

Love the nameMember #2 Xigbar

  • Looks like: Ponytail, eyepatch, can’t miss ‘em
  • Weapon: Guns… wait… Arrowguns? Is that a thing?
  • Official Title: The Freeshooter
  • Element: SPAAAAACE
  • Original Name: Braig

Xigbar is kind of neat. While Kingdom Hearts 2 portrays him as yet another nobody that seems to know a bit too much but nothing ever comes of it, Birth by Sleep reveals that Xigbar/Braig, unlike the rest of Organization XIII, has been bad to the bone since before Sora was out of kindergarten. Braig joined up with Xehanort early, and apparently was gifted with a bit of Xehanort’s heart before BBS even hit its finale. This means that everybody’s favorite cyclops has known an awful lot over the last decade of Kingdom Hearts history, and has simply decided not to do a thing with this information, despite the fact that it’s very likely it will all lead to the end of the universe. Gotta respect that level of not giving a damn.

Love the coatMember #1 Xemnas

  • Looks like: Ansem. Not that Ansem, the other one.
  • Weapon: Lightsabers
  • Official Title: Superior of the Inbetween
  • Element: Nothing. No, I mean, he has an element, and that element is nothing. I don’t give a darn.
  • Original Name: Xehanort (Ansem if you’re nasty)

Oh, look, it’s Xehanort again. I’ve already covered this dork ad nauseam, but, yeah, he’s the big bad behind everything, and he’s had at least, what, five years of evil plotting to get this Organization doing something important, and the best he could come up with is, “Let’s make a new moon.” Given he is powered by the raw failure-drive of not only Xehanort, but the whole Organization, he accomplishes nothing. Not the kind of nothing that he likes, to be clear.

This whole Organization XIII thing ends in a bust, but that was the plan all along! Turns out Organization XIII was secretly founded by Xehanort/Xemnas so he could insert his heart into all the “empty” nobodies, and make himself 13 Xehanorts. But it turned out that all these nobodies were a bunch of stupid wieners, so he gave up and decided to clean house via Soracide. As of Dream Drop Distance, Xehanort has started up his all-new, all-better organization, featuring amazing new members like…

  1. Xehanort
  2. Xehanort, but younger
  3. Xehanort, but a heartless
  4. Xehanort, but a nobody
  5. Xigbar
  6. Saix

… And six other guys who have yet to be revealed. They wanted Sora, noted org murderer, to be the new #13, but he politely declined.

It worked so well the first time, let’s do it all again! It’s the Kingdom Hearts way.

Such a nice view

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #07: Donald and Goofy

These knuckleheadsQ. So how about Donald and Goofy?

A. Before any of the Kingdom Hearts games, Donald and Goofy teamed-up with Mickey Mouse as “The Three Mouseketeers”. Mickey was primarily the star here, with Donald and Goofy playing dedicated sidekicks.

In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Donald and Goofy hang out at Yen Sid’s tower and wait for Mickey to return. He does, and the whole gang heads home.

Donald and Goofy kick into high gear for Kingdom Hearts 1, where they are sent on a quest to assist Sora with that whole “save the universe” thing. Technically, they’re following the keyblade, and whoever wields the keyblade, so when Riku steals Sora’s keyblade for a hot minute, Donald and Goofy begrudgingly follow Riku. Then they get over it, go running back to Sora, and all is well.

Donald and Goofy continue to follow Sora through Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, where the duo does not actually participate in battles (mostly), but are basically Sora’s cheerleading team. Donald, unfortunately, does not wear a skirt. At the finale, Sora, Donald, and Goofy all hop into cryogenic sleep for a year.

Everybody wakes up in Kingdom Hearts 2, and Donald and Goofy continue to follow Sora, generally still under Mickey’s orders. At one point, Goofy dies. Then he gets better. Then the game eventually ends.

Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded sees Mickey steering a virtual Sora through a cyberspace reenactment of Kingdom Hearts 1. Like before, (real) Donald and Goofy prove they are Sora’s friends at Hollow Bastion. Of course, in this case, “Sora” is a computer program, so… I don’t know. It’s a weird game.

Dog and DuckSora and Riku are the only playable characters in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, so Donald and Goofy have to busy themselves with King Mickey when Maleficent invades Disney Castle. In an event that you’d think would be interesting enough to warrant some gameplay, Maleficent nearly gains the upper hand over the three toons that have proven to be practically invincible in the past, and (ugh) Axel saves the day. Shortly thereafter, Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Axel, and Riku have to rush in and save Sora from almost certain Xehanort bumbling.

And that’s about it, thanks for reading!

Wait a tick

I got like 4,000 words out of Mickey Mouse, while Donald and Goofy, who at least have really exceptional Kingdom Hearts attendance records, get a whole seven paragraphs? They’ve been to nearly every world Sora has visited, they’ve got crazy Halloween Town, Tron, and Lion King models, and they even have their own ultimate weapons, so how the hell do they barely warrant a page worth of story information?

And this brings us to The Great Sins of Kingdom Hearts. In no particular order:

  1. For a crossover series, it is terrible at crossovers (which we’ll be looking at today)
  2. Cowardly level design post Kingdom Hearts 1
  3. Original Character: Do Not Care
  4. Let’s Talk Women! What are they? Is there more than one? We just don’t know.
  5. Your hat is bad and you should feel badDonald’s Hat

Donald and Goofy are victims of, basically, JRPG writing. In most JRPGS, and, heck, most fiction, the supporting characters are just that, supporting characters. This means they get a few defining characteristics (Goofy has a surprisingly keen eye, but is otherwise a complete dope; Donald is prone to anger and greed, but is otherwise dedicated), a few accomplishments (going “against orders” and following Sora in Kingdom Hearts 1), but, otherwise, it’s the protagonist’s story, sidekicks gonna side. Heck, you could make a pretty good case for Donald and Goofy following the same general arc in Kingdom Hearts 1 as Wakka and Lulu in Final Fantasy 10, complete with Wakka/Donald being the guy who has to explain the world(s) at large to Tidus/Sora, but then defaults to Tidus/Sora being the leader, because that guy who didn’t know what planet he was on five minutes ago sure seems pretty on the ball.

And that’s the problem.

Wakka and Lulu are supporting characters created as supporting characters; meanwhile, Donald and Goofy are immense entities that have existed for decades, and have had entire movies and franchises built in their name. Even Donald Duck’s rich uncle had an entire series and a handful of video games, and his nephews have had at least one television series all their own. Hell, Donald Duck’s Uncle’s pilot has appeared in three different television series and multiple comics and video games.

Right from the beginning, Donald and Goofy are walking a tightrope (note: would like to see this), as their mere presence in the plot threatens to swallow “generic spikey haired protagonist” whole. And to Kingdom Heart’s credit, the franchise does an excellent job of establishing Sora and his myriad of issues, so he isn’t just another Max in Goofy’s life. But, as perhaps a necessary measure, nearly everything that is important about Donald and Goofy gets lost in the shuffle. As an easy example, while Donald is generally a little temperamental, unless I’ve forgotten (and please remind me if I have), Donald never has one of his trademark “rage attacks”. Donald has plenty of reasons to be pissed off throughout the franchise, but even when Goofy dies, it seems like the focus is more on Mickey’s rage than Donald’s. As I covered in the previous post, it works really well for Mickey, but it still means Kingdom Hearts Donald is generic as all get out. Which brings me to an unfortunate point: Donald and Goofy could be replaced with nearly anyone, and the Kingdom Hearts story would be almost exactly the same. Seriously. They’re sidekicks, and, don’t get me wrong, they’re very good sidekicks, but nearly everything they do could be done by anyone in the KH universe, assuming they’re the generally loyal type. Final Fantasy’s Fighter and Black Mage could as easily be tromping around the universe with Sora, and, aside from the King Mickey connection, everything in KH would be unchanged, save for some excellent voice acting being lost.

And speaking of The Universe, this problem applies to almost every franchise involved in Kingdom Hearts. Nearly every world in Kingdom Hearts is based on a different Disney theatrical release. There is one direct-to-video movie referenced, but not a single planet based on a “lesser” work, like a television series, because the world isn’t ready for Sora meets Darkwing Duck. This means that every “hero” Sora meets is someone with enough gravity to hold an entire film, if not franchise, if not hundreds of years of storytelling. So, once again, Aladdin, the Little Mermaid, and Mulan all have to be razor thin in their characterization, lest they threaten to reassert their main character cred, and why am I playing as this nobody with a keyblade, anyway?

Just walked into that oneI also feel like I should mention that in KH: 358/2 Days, a game that features a nobody that is such a nobody that it has become his title, Roxas, seems to feature the least Disney presence, with characters like Aladdin and Beast pushed well into the boundaries. KH: Birth by Sleep similarly features a cast of three newcomers, and the Disney protagonists encountered throughout that game are either pre-assembled super light on characterization (Cinderella, Snow White, and bonus points if you can actually remember Sleeping Beauty’s name), in a pupa state (Young Hercules, Peter Pan pre-Wendy), or, in one case, pre-verbal (Stitch, pre-Lilo).

Now all this serves to strengthen Square protagonists’ characterizations (and, by the time of Kingdom Hearts 2, the [Square produced] villains), but the Disney franchises suffer. There’s two kinds of Disney worlds in Kingdom Hearts:

  1. Wherein Sora is an assistant to the main protagonist in his/her plot. For instance, Sora “helps” Aladdin navigate the Cave of Wonders, or Sora joins Mulan during her time in the Chinese army.
  2. Wherein Sora is the hero of the world. In Tron world in KH2, Sora replaces Flynn as the User. In Pooh’s 100 Acre Wood, Sora effectively is Christopher Robin.

And that’s it. In either case, Sora is the protagonist or is promoted to the same level as the (original) protagonist. As the obvious counterweight, the original protagonist is either eliminated (you’ve been derezzed, Jeff Bridges), or demoted to being Sora’s sidekick. Which leads to other problems…

Don't look at the scary ladyNobody gets to leave their planet. The central rule of Kingdom Hearts, as explained by Donald right from the start, is that Sora and his fellow world-travelers are not supposed to “meddle”. Nevermind the fact that Sora usually shows up to a world and murders at least one inhabitant (Clayton, Oogie Boogie, Ursula). And even beyond that, certain characters (Simba, Genie, Mushu) are aware of the whole universe by the time they’re encountered in their respective worlds. But even with all these factors, you are expressly forbidden from, say, leaving Donald on the Gummi Ship and taking Mulan along to slice ‘n dice some heartless.

And the franchise is worse for it.

This game is a crossover game. That is the entire point. But there is more to a crossover than simply “Jack Skellington and Hercules are in the same game”. It’s all for naught if Jack and Hercules don’t get to interact. We’ve already seen Hercules fight Hades, we’ve already seen Jack Skellington bogart Christmas, let’s see them do something new! No, fighting a series of dark abominations is not new, we already had a pretty good guess at everyone’s battle prowess since everyone already defeated at least one villain. Let the Disney universe breathe. Hell, let Cloud get battle tips from Mulan, let Cid compare technical notes with Dr. Finkelstein, and oh my God would someone please let Yuffie and Captain Jack Sparrow annoy each other into oblivion? But no, it never happens, seemingly because Sora and the Originals have to have the spotlight, through any means necessary.

A lot of fans claim that Disney has tied Square’s hands here, and somehow have blocked anything interesting from happening. And while it’s clear Square has no authority to turn Aladdin into a materia summon or introduce Mulan to Aya Brea’s tailor, they have done the actual crossover thing on a couple of occasions. Cloud, Auron, and Zack Faire have all worked for Hades against Hercules. Scar turned into a heartless (twice). Maleficent certainly gets around the universe, and founded her own Council of Evil in Kingdom Hearts 1. And speaking of evil, any number of Nobody jerks in KH2 seem perfectly able to toy with the rules and inhabitants of the various worlds. I’m not one for Ultimania or interviews informing what can or cannot be done, so I can’t speak to that notion, but there are plenty of examples of “deviation from Disney canon” in all of the games.

Insert ''Woman shoe joke'' here.And the sad thing is, it doesn’t even have to be straight character crossovers, either. One of my favorite scenes in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is when Aqua, hardened warrior and the only member of her generation to achieve the rank of “Keyblade Master”, has to stall Prince Charming’s entourage while Cinderella sneaks out of her room. Aqua, who should be drenched in the entrails of her opponents at this point, has to temporarily assume the mannerisms of a debutant and basically “play Cinderella” for a few moments to save a friend. It’s not that complicated, and at worst, the scene is merely amusing; at best, it uses a contemporarily created character to draw a contrast between the roles women could play in 1950 and today. A crossover built to entertain and elucidate? Who would think such a thing possible?

Which leads to the excitement about the possibility of Star Wars, Marvel, or even Frozen worlds in the forthcoming Kingdom Hearts 3. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see all of these things, but it’s likely they’re going to be as limited as ever. Luke Skywalker temporarily joins your team while Sora and company rescue Princess Leia, Darth Vader is a boss fight. Iron Man temporarily joins Sora to stop Loki. Sora and company join Anna on her trip up the mountain to “rescue” her sister, boss fight with Marshmallow. The end. It’s fun to “play movies”, and thanks for the great screenshots for the back of the box.

So there’s the problem. Crossovers are fun, but since nigh everything is sacrificed at the altar of “Axel needs more character development”, beloved characters get the shaft, and the audience is forced to fill in the blanks with (ugh) imagination. Donald and Goofy, like Mickey, probably had exciting pasts involving amazing adventures, and, to be generous, maybe they’ve evolved past their original “one note” characterizations of rage-machine and… Goofy to become the well-adjusted sidekicks they are as of Kingdom Hearts 1. But, after meeting Sora, poor Donald, Goofy, and practically the entire rest of the Disney universe is just there to make original Kingdom Hearts characters look better. And the Disney Universe is worse for it.

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #05: Riku & 3D

This is so easy to explainQ. 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.

What a jerkRiku 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.

I'm eeeeeevilIt’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…

He is blind to her feelingsAt 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.

He gonna getchaRiku 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.

DINOS!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.