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Kingdom Hearts (series)

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Logo for the Kingdom Hearts series.

The Kingdom Hearts series is a collection of video games developed and published by Square Enix, featuring various properties licensed by Disney. The series follows Sora, the main protagonist, and tells the story of the Keyblade and the struggle between light and darkness.

The series launched with the release of Kingdom Hearts on March 28, 2002 in Japan, and has since expanded across various video game platforms, mobile games, manga and novel adaptations, music albums, and licensed merchandise. Currently, the Kingdom Hearts series consists of twelve major titles, spanning across eleven consoles, mobile phone platforms, and the Internet.

Story[edit | edit source]

Kingdom Hearts χ: The Age of Fairy Tales[edit | edit source]

Ava tells the Dandelions they must avoid the impending Keyblade War.

Long ago, the World was filled with light. During that time, a mysterious Keyblade master known as the Master of Masters gave Ira, Aced, Invi, Gula, and Ava, five of his disciples, a Book of Prophecies, said to contain the future of the World, and charged them with creating Unions of Keyblade wielders to collect the light. They became known as the Foretellers. To the sixth disciple, Luxu, the Master of Masters bestowed a black box and his Keyblade, No Name. Then, he disappeared. Shortly thereafter, Luxu disappears as well.

Soon, distrust among the Foretellers turned into distrust among the members of their unions, and darkness grew in their hearts. The distrust led to a war for light and the source of all light, Kingdom Hearts, a battle which would become known as the Keyblade War. In the end, the war destroyed the mysterious weapon known as the χ-blade, which guarded Kingdom Hearts, and Kingdom Hearts became engulfed in darkness. The World was plunged into darkness.

However, the light continued to exist in the hearts of children, Keyblade wielders chosen before the war by Ava to escape the World and avoid the war. Known as the Dandelions, these went on to rebuild the World, now made up of many, separate, smaller worlds.


Birth by Sleep: Xehanort’s Plan[edit | edit source]

Xehanort and Eraqus play a game in Scala ad Caelum.

Hundreds of years later, a young man named Xehanort sought to know the world beyond his own, and departs from his youthful home on the Destiny Islands. He is taken in by a Keyblade master and his apprentice, Eraqus. Xehanort and Eraqus become close friends, and they train to become Keyblade masters.

Though they both are named masters, Xehanort departs from his new home, curious about the balance of light and darkness. He learns about both Kingdom Hearts and the χ-blade and decides to start a Keyblade War in order to forge the ancient weapon and summon Kingdom Hearts. Believing that the clash of a heart of light and a heart of darkness would forge the blade, Xehanort takes in a young man named Ventus, and extracts his darkness, creating a being named Vanitas. He leaves Ventus in the charge of his old friend, Eraqus, to train with his apprentices, Aqua and Terra, while Xehanort goes on to foster Vanitas’s dark power, creating the beings known as the Unversed.

Aqua watches as Master Xehanort summons Kingdom Hearts

Four years later, Master Xehanort returns to The Land of Departure to witness the Mark of Mastery examination of Aqua and Terra. Sensing the darkness in Terra, and with his body now old, Xehanort sabotages the exam, and begins to manipulate Terra into releasing his darkness, hoping to make him his new vessel whereby he may continue to live and see his plan come to fruition. Aqua sets out to watch over Terra on orders from Master Eraqus, while Ventus seeks to go with him. Meanwhile, Xehanort meets an evil fairy named Maleficent and manipulates her into gathering seven maidens with hearts of pure light, known as the Princesses of Heart. He then meets Braig, an apprentice to a sage and researcher named Ansem the Wise, the ruler of Radiant Garden, and they work together to continue manipulating Terra. Meanwhile, Terra meets a young boy named Riku, and sensing his desire to protect others, passes on his Keyblade to him. Aqua accidentally passes on her Keyblade to a young girl named Kairi while protecting her in Radiant Garden.

In the end, Ventus and Vanitas clash in a land known as the Keyblade Graveyard, while Xehanort tries to subdue Terra into becoming his vessel, and Aqua fights Briag, followed by the fused being of Ventus and Vanitas, whose clash creates the χ-blade. Xehanort’s plan is ultimately thwarted, however, by the young heroes and King Mickey Mouse, who prevent the χ-blade from being forged and Kingdom Hearts from appearing. However, their victory came at a cost, with Ventus falling to a deep sleep, Aqua falling to the realm of darkness, and Terra falling to the control of Master Xehanort's heart.

The Keyblade’s Chosen One[edit | edit source]

Now in Terra’s body, Xehanort is found in Radiant Garden and taken in by Ansem the Wise. He becomes an apprentice to Ansem along with Braig, having no memory of his past. There, he engages in studies of the heart, and begins to conduct experiments on people’s hearts, creating the manufactured beings of darkness known as the Heartless. Although Ansem demands the experiments be stopped when he learns of them at the suggestion of King Mickey, Xehanort and the other apprentices betray and exile him to the realm of darkness. Having recovered his memories, Xehanort releases the hearts of his fellow apprentices, creating their Heartless and allowing their bodies to become Nobodies. Xehanort’s Heartless, now going by the name of Ansem, would continue the experiments, while his Nobody, named Xemnas, would go on with the other Nobodies to create a powerful group known as Organization XIII

Knowing that his plan could be thwarted by a wielder of the Keyblade, Ansem casts out a young girl he believes is one of the Princesses of heart, hoping she’d be led to the Keyblade wielder. That girl, Kairi, arrives on Destiny Islands, where she befriends Sora and Riku.

Sora, Kairi, Riku watch the sunset as they prepare to sail on a raft.

Nine years later, Sora, Riku, and Kairi build a raft and prepare to journey beyond the sea surrounding their home, curious about the world Kairi is from. The night before they’re set to sail, their world is consumed by the darkness. Although Sora gains the power of the mysterious Keyblade, his home is destroyed, and he and his friends are separated and scattered across the worlds.

Sora awakens in a world named Traverse Town, and meets a swordsman named Leon and his friends, Yuffie, Aerith, and Cid. They explain the Keyblade and the creatures of darkness that attacked his home, the Heartless. He then meets Donald Duck and Goofy, the court magician and captain of the royal knights of Disney Castle, who are searching for their missing king, King Mickey Mouse. They team up and journey through various worlds as they seek their missing friends. As the venture through the worlds, they learn of Maleficent, who has been gathering the Princesses of Heart in order to open the door to Kingdom Hearts. They also come face to face with Riku, who is working with Maleficent, believing it to be the way to rescue Kairi.

Sora sacrifices himself to save Kairi.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy finally arrive at Maleficent’s fortress, Hollow Bastion. There, Sora finds Riku, now going by the name of Ansem, and defeats Maleficent. Sora then rescues Kairi, who’s heart has been missing, by sacrificing himself to release her heart, which has been inside him, while Ansem moves on to Kingdom Hearts. Although Sora becomes a Heartless, Kairi’s light brings him back, and Sora, Donald, and Goofy chase after Ansem. Before leaving, Kairi gives Sora her good luck charm.

Meanwhile, King Mickey journeys through the realm of darkness in search of a Keyblade of darkness and finds Aqua. They team up, hoping to help Sora and Riku, whom King Mickey has already run into, seal the door to darkness that Ansem seeks to open. Sora, Donald, and Goofy find Ansem at the End of the World and fight him. Though Ansem claims that all worlds belong to darkness, Sora triumphantly declares Kingdom Hearts to be light, and the light from the now-open door to darkness defeats Ansem. Sora, Donald, and Goofy work to close the door, and are soon joined by King Mickey and Riku on the other side. Aqua, however, is trapped in the dark realm again while fending off a Demon Tide. Once the door is closed, Sora and King Mickey use their Keyblades to seal the door, with Riku and King Mickey in the dark realm. Leaving Kairi behind on Destiny Islands, Sora, Donald, and Goofy set out to find King Mickey and Riku.

358 Days: The Rise of Organization XIII[edit | edit source]

Sora’s journey takes him to a mysterious fortress called Castle Oblivion, where he first encounters Organization XIII. Marluxia seeks to use Sora in order to take control of the Organization, and uses a girl named Naminé to manipulate his memories. She can do this because she’s Kairi’s Nobody, created when Sora released Kairi’s heart from his body, and she replaces Sora’s memories of Kairi with false memories of herself. Though the fake memories drive Sora to rescue Naminé, even after learning the truth, he continues to fight to rescue her. In the end, he’s able to defeat Marluxia and rescue Naminé. In order to have his memories restored, Sora, Donald, and Goofy go to sleep so that Naminé can undo the damage she’s done.

Axel, Roxas, and Xion watch the sunset from the top of the clock tower in Twilight Town.

Meanwhile, Riku also awakens in Castle Oblivion’s basement, and makes his way to the top quickly, facing members of the organization and a replica of himself created by the Organization’s No. IV, Vexen. In the end, he faces his own darkness, embodied as Ansem, and with the help of King Mickey, defeats him. They both go on to investigate the Organization’s plan and, with the help of Naminé and a mysterious hooded figure named DiZ, help restore Sora’s memories.

Organization XIII seeks to create Kingdom Hearts from the hears of people, captured by the Heartless at their defeat by the Keyblade. To do this, the Organization recruits Roxas, Sora’s Nobody created when Sora released his own heart and a Keyblade wielder. They also create a replica named Xion created from Sora’s memories of Kairi, which have leaked due to Naminé’s scrambling. They become friends with the Organization’s No. VIII, Axel. However, the Organization’s plan strains their relationship, pitting one against the other. In the end, in order to help Sora awaken, Xion decides to return to him, ceasing to exist. Since Roxas holds the other half of Sora’s memories, Riku goes to capture him, submitting to the darkness in his heart in order to subdue Roxas. Roxas is then placed in a simulated version of Twilight Town until Naminé is able to restore all of Sora’s memories. Though Axel attempts to recover Roxas, the latter no longer remembers Axel, and ultimately returns to Sora, allowing him to awaken.

The Second Journey[edit | edit source]

Main Article: Kingdom Hearts II

Sora, Donald, and Goofy awaken in Twilight Town almost a year after defeating Ansem and sealing the door to darkness, not remembering their time in Castle Oblivion. They soon learn of the Organization and  the Nobodies, and later run into Maleficent and her new accomplice, a bully named Pete. Sora, Donald, and Goofy journey through various worlds, searching for King Mickey and Riku, defeating the Heartless and Nobodies, and regularly running into the Organization and Maleficent. When they return to Twilight Town, they learn that the Organization has kidnapped Kairi. They then return to Hollow Bastion and help defend the town from a surge of Heartless. In the process, they learn that the Organization is using Sora to create Kingdom Hearts by gathering the hearts released as he defeats the Heartless. They also learn of Ansem’s true identity as the Heartless of a man named Xehanort, and of his Nobody, Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII.

Sora, Donald, Goofy, and King Mickey eventually make their way into the Organization’s stronghold with the help of Axel, who betrayed the Organization and sacrifices himself to help Sora. There, they reunite with Riku, who still has the appearance of Ansem, and Kairi, who escaped capture with the help of Naminé. King Mickey, meanwhile, catches up with the DiZ, the mysterious hooded figure, who reveals himself to be Ansem the Wise. Ansem attempts to encode Kingdom Hearts into data to stop the Organization, but the encoder explodes, and he disappears. In the end, Sora, Donald, Goofy, and the others defeat the remaining members of the Organization and face Xemnas.

After fighting Xemnas, Sora and Kairi are reunited with their Nobodies, Roxas and Naminé, whose hearts finally return to their original selves. However, after King Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Kairi escape from the Organization’s Kingdom Hearts, Xemnas traps Sora and Riku and they fight once more. Sora and Riku finally defeat Xemnas, but now find themselves trapped in the realm of darkness. There, they find a letter from Kairi for Sora, which opens the door to light, allowing the two to return to Destiny Islands, where Kairi, King Mickey, Donald, and Goofy await.

Re:coded: Signs of What’s Next[edit | edit source]

Main Article: Kingdom Hearts coded

Sora, Kairi, and Riku read King Mickey's letter about the lost people tied to Sora.

After returning to Disney Castle, Jiminy Cricket reviews his journals from Sora’s journeys to find a message left in one that he didn’t write. Along with King Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, and the help of Chip and Dale, they digitize the journal to investigate the origins of the message. To do so, they recruit a digital version of Sora within the digitized journal to journey through the various digital worlds and repair the journal’s data. However, they soon find themselves trapped within the journal, brought in by a digital version of Riku to help solve the mystery of the message. Their efforts are soon stalled by Maleficent and Pete, who have stowed away into the journal with them. Though they attempt to take over the digital worlds, King Mickey, Data-Sora, and Data-Riku are able to stop them.

In the end, they find within a digital version of Castle Oblivion a digital version of Naminé, who takes responsibility for the message. She then reveals that the real Naminé had left the message in order to reveal to Sora information about lost people connected to Sora who are suffering, namely Aqua, Terra, Ventus, Axel, Roxas, Xion, and Naminé herself. King Mickey then details the information to Sora, Kairi, and Riku.

Dream Drop Distance: The Organization’s Plan[edit | edit source]

With the destruction of Ansem and Xemnas, Xehanort’s Heartless and Nobody, Master Yen Sid expects Master Xehanort to return. He thus sends for Sora and Riku to take the Mark of Mastery exam and unlock seven sleeping keyholes, which would unlock a new power that should help them rescue the lost people connected to Sora and help fight off Xehanort’s plans. However, Sora and Riku are quickly separated at the beginning of the exam, and each face Ansem, Xemnas, and another boy donning the Organization’s black coat.

Meanwhile, Lea awakens as a recompleted person, along with several other apprentices to Ansem the Wise. He notes Braig and Isa, the original selves of Xigbar and Saïx are missing and goes to look for them. His search takes him to Disney Castle, where his sudden appearance helps King Mickey, Donald, and Goofy rescue Queen Minnie from Maleficent and Pete, who had taken her hostage in exchange for the data worlds in Jiminy’s Journal. King Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Lea return to The Mysterious Tower, where Lea requests to be taught to wield the Keyblade.

At the end of their journeys, Sora and Riku arrive at The World That Never Was, where they learn of a new Organization, the Real Organization XIII. Anticipating his losses, Xehanort planned to use the Real Organization XIII, each member harboring a piece of Xehanort’s heart, to fight seven guardians of light in order to forge the χ-blade. They intend to make Sora their thirteenth member, and thus had hijacked the Mark of Mastery exam from the beginning, plunging Sora into darkness. Though Riku and King Mickey attempt to rescue Sora, it’s the sudden arrival of Lea, Donald, and Goofy that allow them to save him. However, they witness the return of Xehanort, who promises to return at the proper place.

Riku is then able to dive into Sora’s heart and free it from the dark abyss where the Organization had trapped him. As a result, he finds within Sora’s heart Ansem’s code, research that Ansem the Wise had hidden within Sora during his sleep. Riku is then named Keyblade master.

To prepare for the impending battle, Master Yen Sid summons Kairi to The Mysterious Tower, where he and King Mickey then reveal the fate of Aqua in the realm of darkness. King Mickey and Riku set out to rescue Aqua from the dark realm, while Aqua joins Lea in training under the wizard Merlin.

The Second Keyblade War[edit | edit source]

Main Article: Kingdom Hearts III

Sora is tasked with recovering the power of waking, which he failed to master during his Mark of Mastery exam, in order to prepare to face Xehanort. Joined by Donald and Goofy, they set out to various worlds to do so. Sora soon learns that both the Organization and Maleficent and Pete are searching for a black box. He also learns that the Organization is after a New Seven Hearts, new maidens who received the power of the Princesses of Heart after Sora’s first journey to defeat Ansem, in order to forge the χ-blade should Sora fail to gather the seven Guardians of Light.

Sora eventually makes the journey to the realm of darkness to rescue Riku, King Mickey, and Aqua, who had been taken by the darkness after years in the dark realm. After being defeated, Aqua then goes with Sora, Donald, and Goofy to Castle Oblivion, where they awaken Ventus and restore his heart from within Sora. The group of guardians, now comprised of Sora, Riku, Aqua, Ventus, King Mickey, Lea, and Kairi, then meets at The Mysterious Tower, and prepare for the battle the next day.

Sora uses the χ-blade to close Kingdom Hearts.

The next day, they journey to the Keyblade Graveyard, where they fight a multitude of enemies, but are ultimately defeated by Terra-Xehanort. Sora awakens alone in The Final World, a place for the souls of those whose body and heart have perished together but who are not yet dead. Realizing he’s still there thanks to Kairi, he manages to return to the realm of light to rescue his friends. They meet once more at the Keyblade Graveyard and face the Organization once more. This time, however, Sora and the other guardians are able to push forward to face the rest of the Organization with the help of Terra’s Lingering Will and Master Yen Sid.

Sora joins the other Guardians of Light in defeating the members of the Real Organization XIII, and along the way rescue Xion, Roxas, and Terra. However, they lose Kairi, who Xehanort seemingly kills to produce the χ-blade and summon Kingdom Hearts. To stop him, Sora and the other Guardians of Light trap Xehanort in a portal, transporting him to a world in the past called Scala ad Caelum. There, Sora, Donald, and Goofy defeat finally defeat Xehanort, who concedes once the other Guardians of Light appear and the heart of Master Eraqus, which had been within Terra, convinces him to give up. Xehanort gives Sora the χ-blade, which Sora uses to seal Kingdom Hearts. Sora then sets out to find Kairi.

The Next Chapter[edit | edit source]

Main Article: Lost Masters

Sometime after Xehanort’s defeat, Xigbar summons the Foretellers of the past, except for Ava, and reveals himself to be Luxu in disguise. Maleficent and Pete, meanwhile, watch from a distance.

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

The Kingdom Hearts series features elements of action role-playing and hack-and-slash video games. The story is told sequentially, usually in cutscenes, though the games provide various side quests and minigames. Most of the games feature additional party members that help the main character. Though most of the games feature Sora as the main playable protagonist, Riku, Terra, Aqua, Ventus, Roxas, and King Mickey have been playable in some of the games. The games' gameplay is primarily influenced by the Square Enix's Final Fantasy series.

Though the games are very similar, each game introduces additional or different gameplay and combat systems. Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories feature a card-based combat system and a separate field for combat. Kingdom Hearts II introduced Drive forms, allowing Sora to temporarily use additional abilities in exchange for his allies. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep introduced deck commands in place of the command menu, dimension links that allow temporary access to additional deck commands, and shot lock attacks that allow the player to attack multiple enemies at once. Both Kingdom Hearts Re:coded and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance expanded on deck commands. Kingdom Hearts III saw the return of the command menu, but also evolved shot locks and dimension links, now known as links, and introduced attractions, Keyblade transformations, and team attacks.

The Gummi ship is another recurring minigame in the series, serving as the means of transportation for Sora, Donald, and Goofy in Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II, and Kingdom Hearts III. Its gameplay is similar to a rail shooter and allows for the player to modify and customize the ship with various blueprints and acquired parts.

The games each feature an experience-point system for improving the playable character. As enemies are defeated, the character gains experience points, allowing the character to level-up. This results in the characters growing stronger and sometimes unlocking new abilities.

Development and Release[edit | edit source]

The development of Kingdom Hearts began after the release of Nintendo's Super Mario 64. Tetsuya Nomura, who was at the time lead character designer for Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII, was impressed by Mario 64's  three-dimensional areas and the freedom it gave the player to run around in them, and wanted to create a game like it. When he overheard Shinji Hashimoto and Hironobu Sakaguchi discussing potentially working with Disney on a game, Nomura volunteered to lead the project.[1] Shortly thereafter, Hashimoto was able to pitch the idea directly to Disney, who had their Japanese offices in the same building as Square Enix at the time.

Kingdom Hearts marked Nomura's first game as director, with Hashimoto as producer. Although Disney wanted Donald Duck to be featured as the main character and Square Enix wanted Mickey Mouse to be the main character, Nomura chose to design all new characters to serve as the protagonists of the game. The name for the game comes from the combination of “Kingdom”, from Nomura thinking about Disney’s theme parks, particularly Animal Kingdom, and “Heart”, a reference to the heart, which the development team saw as core to the story. Initial documents refer to the original title as Kingdom of Hearts before becoming Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts was first announced on May 18, 2001, at the 2001 Electronic Entertainment Exposition. Kingdom Hearts was released for the PlayStation 2 on March 28, 2002, with releases internationally throughout the following year. It was re-released as Kingdom Hearts Final Mix on December 26, 2002. Since then, the game has seen twelve different titles release, with many of them being re-released in recent years. Nine of them were re-released in high-definition for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 systems as Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 ReMIX, and Kingdom Hearts -The Story So Far-. The series has also seen three spin-off titles on social media, one major title release on an online platform (Kingdom Hearts χ), and two major titles release on mobile phone platforms (Kingdom Hearts coded and Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ, later rebranded as Kingdom Hearts Union χ).

Much of the story of Kingdom Hearts has been retold in novel adaptations, with nine of the titles receiving novel adaptations written by Tomoco Kanemaki and illustrated by Shiro Amano. Amano has also produced manga adaptations for various titles in the series. A new novel, the first new story as a book, is set to be published by Scholastic for the Kingdom Hearts series at a future date.

References[edit | edit source]