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Explaining the Kingdom Hearts Story, One Game at a Time

So you’re trying to understand the Kingdom Hearts storyline. Though choice but let’s see if we can’t help you, one game at a time.

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Explaining Kingdom Hearts Story

Get ready for Kingdom Hearts 4!

If there’s something everyone knows about Kingdom Hearts‘ story, is that Final Fantasy characters talk about the end of the world with Mickey Mouse. And that there’s a cutscene where a big rock hits Goofy in the head and he dies (he doesn’t). But most of all, what everyone knows is that the Kingdom Hearts story is a hot, hot mess.

Well good news, Kingdom Hearts’ story is fine, really! But it’s divided across so many games, spanning many consoles and generations, that few players can learn everything by themselves. For those who want to prepare themselves for Kingdom Hearts 4, or just refresh their memories of this Disney/Square-Enix crossover, one game at a time, this guide is for you.

Explaining Kingdom Hearts, One Game at A Time

Kingdom Hearts 1

Kingdom Hearts plot
Source: Square-Enix

Kingdom Hearts 1 begins on Destiny Island, where we find our protagonist Sora playing with his friends Riku and Kairi. One night, the island is attacked by dark forces known as Heartless, beings made entirely of the Darkness of one’s heart.

A mysterious key-shaped weapon, the Keyblade, appears in Sora’s hands, but he still can’t win the fight. Riku steps willingly into the Darkness surrounding the island, while Kairi is trusted towards Sora by an explosion and disappears inside of him. Finally, Sora is pulled towards the massive dark sun in the sky and disappears with the rest of the island.

In a cutscene, we are introduced to the second half of the Kingdom Hearts universe, the Disney worlds. Mickey Mouse’s March begins playing as Goofy and Donald move through the halls of a castle. Through a letter they discover that Mickey left in a hurry and left them orders to travel the worlds and find a certain “key”.

Sora wakes up in Traverse Town. Here he meets some Final Fantasy characters who explain tho him the meaning of his weapon: a blow of the Keyblade is the only way to dispel the heartless. Sora also learns that his key can close “the hearts of the worlds” so that Darkness won’t be able to consume them.

Goofy and Donald meet Sora in Twilight Town. They realize that his keyblade is the “key” that Mickey ordered them to follow and the three become a team and begin wandering together.

The Disney Worlds

The largest section of every Kingdom Hearts game is taken by the Disney worlds. Here the player travels to many worlds based on Disney movies and helps the protagonists of that story re-enact some of the most famous plot points.

An old truism about the Disney worlds in Kingdom Hearts is that they do not matter to the story. While that is not always true, that’s exactly the case for this game. In this section, we learn that Maleficent wants to find the seven Princesses of Hearts. This will let her unlock Kingdom Hearts, the world from which all hearts come from.

Riku has since joined Maleficent under the promise that she will help him find Kairi, but when he finds her, she lays dormant, unable to wake up. Sora, Goofy and Donald finally confront Riku at Hollow Bastion, the world once ruled by Ansem the Wise, now the HQ of Maleficent’s team.

Hollow Bastion

Kingdom Hearts plot
Source: Square-Enix

Here the group finally confronts Riku, which uses his powers to take control of Sora’s Keyblade. Goofy and Donald, having been ordered by Mickey to “follow the key”, reluctantly switch sides to Riku’s. But Sora doesn’t give up and challenges him to a fight even without his Keyblade. As he says: his strength is in his friends and not in his weapons.

Moved by Sora’s speech, Goofy and Donald return to his side, and so does the keyblade. Riku is defeated and runs away, only to be stopped by a man name Ansem. He teaches the kid how to unlock the Darkness in his heart and become stronger. A note for later: while Sora does confuse the two for a moment, Ansem and Ansem the Wise are two completely different characters.

In a fight, Sora and his friends defeat Maleficent before being greeted again by Riku, now possessed by Ansem. He reveals that Kairi is the last Princess of Power needed to unlock Kingdom Hearts, and that she can’t wake up because her heart is still stuck inside Sora.

Once Riku is defeated, Sora destroys his body, freeing both his and Kairi’s hearts. Kairi comes back to life but Sora, having lost his body, turns into Heartless. Finally, after fleeing Ansem-Riku, Kairi gives Sora his human form back.

The Final Confrontation

Ansem has retreated to the core of the End of the World, a world created by the constant destruction of world. Ansem opens the door to Kingdom Hearts, expecting it to be full of Darkness, but doing so releases a sea of Light, in which he disappears.

Behind the door to Kingdom Hearts we find Riku and Mickey, which help Sora close the passage. The world of hearts is sealed once again, but our heroes find themselves divided: Kairi and Sora as thrown away in opposite directions as the End of the World disappears, while Riku and Mickey remain stuck behind the door to Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

Kingdom Hearts plot
Source: Square-Enix

For a game this short, Chain of Memories holds a surprising amount of influence over the Kingdom Hearts story, especially since this is where the concept of Replica first appears.

Sometime after the events of KH1, Sora finds himself in Castle Oblivion. The castle was once the Land of Departure but is now the HQ of Organization XIII, a group of nobodies dressed in dark robes. As Sora, Goofy and Donald fight their way through the castle they find worlds made of the memories of their previous adventures.

They also meet the members of Organization XIII, and beat each of them in-between each new floor of the castle, until they rise too high and begin losing their memories. A girl named Naminé starts to inject herself into Sora’s memories, taking the place of Kairi.

Once Sora reaches the end of the castle and frees Naminé, the girl offers to undo her work and fix their memories. They fall asleep in the depths of the castle until her work is done, leading to the events of Kingdom Hearts 2.

Riku’s Side

Riku, too, finds himself in the castle. With the help of Mickey Mouse, he makes his way through the building, again fighting members of the Organization XIII as well as a dark clone of himself, Replica Riku. Though he’s troubled by the presence of Ansem in his heart, he manages to leave the castle.

Here he meets DiZ, which gives him a card to summon Ansem in his heart. Soon the two confront each other and Ansem is defeated, while Riku finally leaves the castle for good.

Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days

Kingdom Hearts plot
Source: Square-Enix

Same as with Chain of Memories, the story of this Nintendo DS spin-off is surprisingly important, as it sets up the events of Kingdom Hearts 2. Its influence on the overall Kingdom Hearts story doesn’t end there but goes all the way to Kingdom Hearts 3.

The first few hours of Kingdom Hearts II star Roxas, a boy that looks very similar to Sora. To understand who Roxas is and why he’s here we need to start with Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.

When someone dies, they cease to be a Somebody and create a Heartless and a Nobody. While Heartless are hearts without a body, a Nobody is the body detached from the heart. When Sora turned himself into a heartless in the original Kingdom Hearts, he also created a nobody in the form of Roxas. This means that the Sora in Chain of Memories is actually a heartless that only looks like the real Sora.

On the day of his creation, Xemnas finds Roxas in Twilight Town without any memories of his former life, like all other nobodies. He joins Organization XIII as their 13th member, participating in their exploration of the Disney worlds. This part of the game happens simultaneously to the events of Chain of Memories.

The objective of the organization is to destroy as many heartless as possible, then summoning Kingdom Hearts. This, they believe, will let them turn from Nobodies to complete beings.

After Chain of Memories

With time, Roxas becomes friends with Axel, his mentor, and Xion, a girl of unknown origins. But as Sora falls asleep to recover his memories, as shown in Chain of Memories, Roxas also enters a deep slumber. When he wakes up, he finds that most members of the Organization XIII have disappeared, defeated by Sora in Castle Oblivion.

Xion then learns of her true nature: she’s a copy of Roxas created by Xemnas, using the memories stolen from Sora during Chain of Memories. She abandons the Organization, leading Roxas to do the same and look for her. Xion is then reprogrammed by Xemnas and attacks Roxas.

Xion’s whole self was made of Sora’s memories, so when she gives those memories back to Roxas she disappears not just in body, but in the memories of anyone who ever knew her, too. No one can remember her anymore: she broke the Chains of Memories.

Roxas then meets Riku, who was ordered by DiZ to capture him and have him merge back with Sora. During the fight, Riku is forced to use the Darkness in his heart to defeat Roxas, gaining the physical appearance of Ansem. DiZ then transfers Roxas into a digital version of Twilight Town, where he will stay until Sora will be ready to merge back with him.

Kingdom Hearts 2

Kingdom Hearts plot
Source: Square-Enix

Kingdom Hearts 2 follows the story of Roxas after he was scrubbed of his memories and placed into a simulation of Twilight Town. Here he spends his days playing with his school friends, making the most of the last few days of summer.

In 7 days, Roxas goes from being unaware of the strange happenings in the city to witnessing and investigating paranormal events tied to Nobodies and Heartless, to dreaming of Sora and his previous adventures.

He ends up meeting Naminé during a dream, who explains to him that he’s a Nobody. As things get even weirder in the city, Roxas goes to confront the girl but finds Sora’s sleeping pod instead. DiZ (AKA Ansem the Wise) confronts him and tells him that his destiny is to unite with his Heartless side, the sleeping Sora, into their Somebody, the full person. As he declares his summer vacation over, Roxas accepts his place within Sora.

Yen Sid and The Disney Worlds

Following the instructions of Mickey Mouse, Sora goes to see the great wizard Yen Sid, who fills them up on the Organization XIII and sends them to look for Riku.

While in Hollow Bastion they learn from Mickey that Ansem (the villain of Kingdom Hearts 1) was the Heartless of Xehanort, a former student of Ansem the Wise. They also learn that Xemnas, Xehanort’s Nobody, is the leader of Organization XIII.

The real objective of the Organization is then revealed. They keep taunting Sora and releasing Heartless for him to kill so that the released hearts will create Kingdom Hearts. In turn, this will give them a heart and make them whole again.

The Final Confrontation

The group finds a passage to The World That Never Was, the Organization’s HQ. Once inside they find Axel, Roxas’ friend from 365/2 Days. He fights alongside them before sacrificing himself to open the real passage to Xehanort, where Kairi is kept hostage.

Sora finds Kairi and Riku inside the Organization’s castle, while Mickey finds Ansem. He’s using a machine to destroy some of the energy growing in Kingdome Hearts, but due to miscalculation the device explodes, and Ansem disappears in a burst of Light.

Sora and Riku destroy Xemnas, the last remaining member of Organization XIII, but find themselves on the other end of the Door to Darkness. Soon, though, they notice a bottle floating in the water, carrying a heartful message from Kairi. Opening the bottle summons a door to Destiny Island.

While everyone is busy celebrating their reunion Mickey leaves without saying anything, while Kairi finds a letter from him tucked inside a bottle. The contents of the letter are only revealed in Kingdom Hearts Coded, once again leading Sora away from his friends.

Kingdom Hearts: Coded

This 2008 mobile phone game has very little to do with the Kingdom Hearts story, but since this is a comprehensive guide we decided to include it either way.

Jiminy Cricket finds that the journal where he catalogued the events of Kingdom Hearts 1 and Chain of Memories have lost all their words, except for two messages he doesn’t recognize. He decides to investigate further by creating a digital copy of the journal, which ends up corrupted with bugs. A digital copy of Sora is then sent to fight the bugs.

Once the journal is debugged, Data Sora finds Data Naminé in the virtual replica of Castle Oblivion. It’s revealed that it was the real Naminé that left the messages in the journal, to hint at three new characters whose memory was stuck in Sora’s heart.

Those 3 people are Aqua, Terra and Ventus, from Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, and Data Naminé believes that only Sora can save them from their predicaments.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Kingdom Hearts plot

In the introduction to this article, I said that we would start in the beginning, with Kingdom Hearts 1. I lied. Birth by Sleep is the real starting point of Kingdom Hearts’ story, taking place 10 years before the first game and serving as a prequel to the entire saga.

Three Keyblade Wielders, Aqua, Terra and Ventus, are training with Master Eraqus in the Land of Departure. Terra and Aqua, the older trainees, are about to give take their Mark of Mastery exam to become Keyblade Masters, while Ventus, who looks just like Sora, will have to wait until he’s older.

The test takes place in front of Xehanort, who’s not openly evil yet, and Eraqus. Xehanort uses his powers to momentarily awake the Darkness inside Terra, making him fail the exam, while Aqua passes and becomes a Keyblade Master.

Right after the exam, mysterious creatures similar to Heartless start appearing in different worlds, leading to the start of the adventure for the three trainees. Terra is sent to fetch Xehanort while Ventus follows him, convinced by the words of the mysterious Vanitas. Aqua is charged with protecting Terra from the Darkness within him, as well as bringing Ventus back to the Land of Departure.

The Adventure

During their adventures, Aqua and Ventus come in contact with two young Kairi and Riku. They both grant them to one day wield a Keyblade, before parting ways.

Eventually, Terra finds Xehanort. His plan is to create the χ-blade (pronounced Keyblade) by fusing the hearts of Ventus and Vanitas during combat. Terra also learns that Ventus used to be Xehanort’s student before he lost his memories.

Ventus goes back to Eraqus, his current master, and asks if what Xehanort said is real. Eraqus confirms his fears and decides that killing Ventus is the only way of stopping Xehanort. Terra suddenly appears to defend Ventus: the young boy is teleported away while Terra defeats their master. Xehanort then kills the weakened Eraqus and engulfs the Land of Departure in Darkness.

The Final Confrontation

Aqua, Terra and Ventus meet Xehanort and Vanitas at the Land of Departure. Xehanort uses the Darkness inside Terra to steal his body, while Ventus and Aqua are almost defeated by Vanitas. Terra possesses Xehanort’s discarded armor and manages to defeat him, while Vanitas and Ventus unite during their fight and create the χ-blade.

Aqua destroys the χ-blade while Ventus defeats Vanitas. The destruction of the χ-blade causes an explosion that engulfs everyone, but Ventus and Aqua are saved by Mickey. Ventus won’t wake up because his heart got lost during the fight and entered Sora’s body, so Aqua hides him Castle Oblivion.

Then, Aqua dives into the Darkness to save Terra-Xehanort but gets lost in the Realm of Darkness. Terra-Xehanort (still carrying the hearts of Terra, Xehanort, and Eraqus) is found by Ansem the Wise, who turns him into his pupil.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

Kingdom Hearts plot
Source: Square-Enix

At the end of Kingdom Hearts Coded, a bonus scene reveals that by killing both his heartless and his nobody, Master Xehanort has been revived. To prepare for his return, Sora and Riku will have to undertake the Mark of Mastery and become Keyblade Masters.

Meanwhile, the Somebodies of 5 members of Organization XIII (including Lea, Axel’s Somebody) are revived in Radiant Garden, the home of the world of Ansem the Wise and his students. We realize, then, that those former members of the Organization were Ansem’s apprentices.

As part of the trial, Riku and Sora two are sent back in time to Destiny Island and forced into a state of slumber, which allows them to access the sleeping world, with the objective of awaking them. Sora and Riku are soon separated, though both meet the same three members of Organization XIII: Ansem, Xemnas, and a time-traveling Young Xehanort.

After the Dream Worlds

When Sora leaves the dream worlds, he meets them again and learns what the new purpose of the Organization is. The 13 members are going to become vessels for Master Xehanort’s clones, and he wants Sora to become one of them. Xehanort then plans to replicate the 13 pieces of Dark and 7 of Light that the χ-blade shattered into during the Keyblade War, by having Organization XIII fight the 7 Princesses of Heart. This, he believes, will summon Kingdom Hearts.

Young Xehanort then engulfs Sora in Darkness, who manages to resist only thanks to Venuts’ presence in his heart. Soon he’s rescued by Mickey, Riku, and Lea, Axel’s human form, and carried to safety. Riku dives into his heart to wake him up and finds that Ventus, Roxas, and Ansem the Wise all lurk within his friend.

After they’re both awake in Yen Sid’s tower, Riku is declared a Keyblade Master while Sora will have to retake the test. In the mean tine, both Lea and Kairi turn out to be Keyblade Wielders.

The Secret Ending

In the secret ending, we’re shown how Mickey and Yen Sid plan to counter Xehanort’s initiative. They decide to have 7 Keyblade Masters, called Guardians of Light, fight in place of the Princesses of Light.

As a reminder, there is currently just 6 Keyblade wielders that are still around: Sora, Riku, Mickey, Lea, Kairi, and Aqua. The missing Guardian is an unlikely one: Ventus. He’ll have to wake up before the battle against Master Xehanort for the Guardians to have a fighting chance.

Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage

Though it is arguably not a complete game, A Fragmentary Passage is what unites Birth by Sleep to the rest of the Kingdom Hearts story.

Most of Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is a flashback about Mickey’s time in during Kingdom Hearts 1: at Yen Sid’s tower, on his request, Mickey tells Riku and Kairi about how he meets Aqua in the Real of Darkness.

Following the events of Birth by Sleep, Aqua is still wandering the Realm of Darkness. After many misadventures, she appears defeated, sinking into the Darkness, when out of nowhere Mickey grabs her hand and brings her to shore.

They find the door to Kingdom Hearts and on the other side they see Sora and Riku, attempting to seal the opening. This coincides with the events of Kingdom Hearts 1 and explains why Mickey was behind that door. Mickey closes the door but Aqua is brought back in the Darkness by the Heartless. She joins Ansem the Wise in wait, at the Dark Margin.

The flashback ends and we’re back in the present. Yen Sid asks Mickey and Riku, who’s now a Keyblade Master, to rescue Aqua, while Kairi and Lea will stay with Yen Sid and train until they become Keyblade Masters.

Kingdom Hearts: Union Cross

Union Cross
Source: Square-Enix

If Birth by Sleep is a prequel to Kingdom Hearts 1, then Union Cross is the founding myth of the whole universe. Still, this story is mostly relevant to Kingdom Hearts 3, its DLC, and the following Kingdom Hearts story. For this reason, Union Cross is a much denser story than any game in the series, so much so that making a complete recap here would be impossible.

This is the bare minimum you need to know about Union Cross before moving forward with the series.

The World

Back in ancient times, the Kingdom Hearts universe was divided between the Darkness, Light, or The Realm Between. Each of those worlds was separated from the others and travel between was impossible. Eventually, a war, the Keyblade War, erupted between Light and Darkness.

To put an end to this war, the Master of Masters made 5 of his 6 apprentices into his Foretellers and put each in charge of a union. The Master’s 6th disciple, Luxu, received instead a secret mission. He was to stay out of sight but observe the events unfold into the future, endlessly. He carries a special keyblade that allows his master to observe the world around it, as well as a giant box that must never be opened.

As the Master left without a trace as he had promised to his students, many of the inhabitants of Daybreak Town unlocked their powers as Keyblade Wielders. Each joined a union under one of the Foretellers, traveling to the nearby worlds to protect their people and collect Light from Dark forces.

The Master of Masters and The Foretellers

Maters of the Foretellers
Source: Square-Enix

The Foretellers are as follows:

  • Ira, leader of the Unicorn union – he will become the Foreteller’s leader
  • Aced, leader of the Ursus union – destined to be Ira’s right hand
  • Gula, leader of the Leopardus union – he must find the traitor hiding among the Foretellers
  • Ava, leader of the Vulpes union – tasked with finding the best Keyblade wielders in all unions
  • Invi, leader of the Anguis union – she watches over the other Foretellers

On top of receiving their unique role goal and role as a union leader, each of the Foretellers acquired a copy of the Book of Prophecy. Here they learned that the world is destined already to fall into Darkness and that a traitor is among them. The hint to recognize the traitor is that “he bears the recusant’s sigil”.

Most Foretellers have secret roles to serve: most importantly, Ava must avoid the incoming battles and gather gifted Keyblade Wielders into a separate faction, the Dandelions.

Before the new Keyblade War

The player takes the role of one of those Keyblade wielders, choosing a union and traveling the world to fight Heartless and collect their Light. Eventually the protagonist will meet fellow Keyblade wielders Ephemer and Skuld.

As Ava completes her role of collecting Dandelions, appointing the future union leaders and giving each a book of laws to follow once they get in the new world, mistrust boils among the Foretellers.

While searching for her Master, Ava finds Luxu, who reveals his secret mission to her. He also breaks his vow of secrecy and reveals that it was the Master’s plan to cause the conflict between the Foreteller. Ava refuses to believe his story and attacks him, signaling the beginning of the new Keyblade War.

After battling all union leader (except theirs), the protagonist is saved by Ephemer and Skuld and joining the Dandelion in the data world. The World of Light is shattered into many smaller worlds, engulfed by Darkness, creating the cosmology of all subsequent Kingdom Hearts games. These worlds would, in time, rebuild themselves in complete isolation.

One thing of note here is that there are two candidates for the role of traitor. One is Ava, since she went against her order multiple times (which sadly we don’t have time to go through). The second is Luxu, who didn’t keep his Master’s secret and so lead Ava to start the war. He also bears the sigil, which in Kingdom Hearts means the Recusant’s Sigil, or the χ: he wears it on his clothes, his Keyblade and his name (Luχu).

In the Data World

data world
Source: Square-Enix

The new five union leader meet in the Keyblade Graveyard. They are Ephemer, Skuld, Brain, Lauriam and Ventus (yes, that Ventus). They now travel to the Data World, a digital copy of the original (and now destroyed) world. In addition, all Dandelions are scrubbed of all their memories after awakening their Keyblade powers.

Even though everything is exactly like it was before, the war does not happen. Still, when glitches begin appearing the Data World, Brain opens the Book of Prophecies for help and realizes it was not destined for him. From this, he realizes that one of the union leaders is an impostor.

Eventually, the leaders realize that it was Darkness itself, a physical representation of this force, to kill Strelitzia (the destined leader) and plant Ventus in her stead. Just like with the previous leaders, the impostor wasn’t aware of his role.

The Finale

We finally learn of the Master of Master’s real plan. As he tells Luxu, he plans to use himself and his 6 pupils as vessels to trap the 7 of the 13 pieces of Darkness. As for the remaining 6, 5 will leach onto the new union leaders and one will stay trapped in that old world.

Before parting ways with Luxu, the Master reveals that this sacrifice won’t be definitive, and that he has a plan to save everyone in the end. In a flashback the Master of Masters explains that he wants to create a place where neither dark nor Light exist, calling it “a place of fiction”.

This plan doesn’t come to fruition, as all of the union leaders manage to escape the dying data world. Each of them flees to different times and places: Ephemer builds Scala at Caelum, Ventus materializes before the events of Birth by Sleep, and so on.

At the very end, the Dandelions are seen transforming into Dream Eaters, the creatures from Dream Drop Distance. Given the choice by their familiar, the protagonist chooses instead to give himself up and forge a new heart. In the final sequence, it’s heavily implied that this new heart will become Xehanort.

Kingdom Heart 3

Kingdom Hearts story
Source: Square-Enix

At the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 3, we see the Master of Masters explain his plan to a young Xehanort, almost tricking him to do his bidding. In another scene we see Aqua failing to protect Ansem the Wise from evil Ansem. She loses and falls into a deeper abyss so that even when Mickey and Riku come to the rescue they can’t reach her.

Riku and Mickey decide to retrace Aqua’s steps, trying to find someone who knows her well and that could save her, while Sora does the same to Roxas.

Sora’s Story

Sora starts his search from Twilight Town, where Roxas woke up at the start of Kingdom Hearts 2. They find the machines that Ansem used to create the digital Twilight Town and begin extracting Roxas’ data from there. For Ventus, they decide that they’ll instead use a replica, like Riku’s one in Chain of Memories, to give physical form to his heart.

Thankfully we see that Vexen, the member of Organization XIII responsible for the replica technology, is actually on Sora’s side, and only joined the Organization in an attempt to save Ansem the Wise. Eventually, Ansem’s research will show that there are three foreign hearts inside of Sora: Ventus, Roxas, and one still unknown.

Riku and Mickey’s Story

In their search for Aqua, Riku and Mickey arrive at the spot where she was seen diving into Darkness to save Terra. After diving into the Darkness themselves, they lose contact with Sora. The boy lets his hearth guide him and opens a portal to Destiny Island, his home world. Here he finds a mysterious Keyblade which opens a door to the Realm of Darkness.

Here he finds Riku and Mickey as they fight a version of Aqua corrupted by Darkness. As the fight ends, Aqua comes back to her senses and finally finds her way back to Destiny Island. She turns Castle Oblivion back into the Land of Departure. Here they find Ventus and, after Vanitas appears and fights them, Sora manages to unlock his heart and wake up Ventus.

The Final Confrontation

Kingdom Hearts story
Source: Square-Enix

At Yen Sid’s castle, the seven Guardians of Light are finally united. Those are: Sora, Riku, Kairi, Lea, Mickey, Aqua, and Ventus. They assemble on the Keyblade Graveyard and face of the Organization XIII. The first to attack is Terra-Xehanort, and even if his moves aren’t lethal the Guardians are then engulfed in a sea on Heartless. We are now reminded of the prophecy that Darkness would prevail, and Light expires.

Sora finds himself in the Final World. A creature named Chirithy explains to him how to come back to life. As he does so, he also manages to travel back in time by a few minutes, to the moment when he and his friends were engulfed by Darkness. Full of hope, he manages to enter the Darkness and follow the Heartless who stole the hearts of the Guardians of Light.

He takes all their hearts back and revives the Guardians. As Terra-Xehanort moves to strike again, he’s stopped by the armor that Terra’s spirit inhabited in Birth by Sleep. As Terra is defeated, Sora only needs to destroy the sea of Heartless that surrounds them.

This time he succeeds in destroying it with the help of Ephemer, the second-generation union leader from Union Cross. He summons the Keyblades from the Keyblade Graveyard to help in the assault, bringing to the battle the “Light of the past”. This is the first of two ways in which Union Cross ties itself to the rest of the Kingdom Hearts storyline.

The Real Final Confrontation

The 13 pieces of Darkness of Organization XIII finally meet the 7 Lights of the Guardians. This is the exact situation Xehanort needs to create the χ-blade.

Most of Organization is struck down with the promised of being recomposed into their real selves. One exception is Xion, from 358/2 Days, who everyone suddenly remembers. She refuses to attack but just as she is about to be killed, Roxas leaps from Sora’s heart and saves her.

Xemnas kidnaps Kairi while the original Terra is recomposed. In what is the final confrontation of this battle, Sora joins Riku and Mickey in their fight against Ansem, Xemnas and Young Xehanort.

Once all the rest of the organization is defeated, Xehanort uses Kairi as bait to make Sora attack him. With this conflict, he obtains the 13th key to forge the χ-blade, with which he turns Kingdom Hearts into Darkness. Sora goes to battle Xehanort inside his own heart until he’s defeated.

Now that he lost, Xehanort is sure the world will fall to Darkness, as his plan was to avoid this natural descent by using Kingdom Hearts’ Light to reset the entire world. The heart of Eraqus escapes from Terra and speaks directly to Xehanort, asking him to surrender the χ-blade. Through a flashback, we see the two as their younger self, and after giving the χ-blade to Sora, Xehanort and Eraqus’ heart disappear together.

Kingdom Hearts 3: Re Mind DLC

Kingdom Hearts story
Source: Square-Enix

Sora embarks on his search for Kairi using the power of waking. Sora goes back in time to the start of the battle and passes through the hearts of various Guardians of Light until he reaches his own. Though he doesn’t find Kairi in his hearth, he finds some fragments of her and manages to bring her back to life.

In a montage we see that the Nobodies of Organization XIII have become Somebodies again, and that Naminé has been given a replica body. Everyone meets back on Destiny Island, but Sora has a confession to make. He tells Kairi that for he accepted to pay a great price for her life, and as he finishes his story, he disappears.

The Finale

Luxu (now possessing Xigbar’s body) stands behind a large metal box, as he takes hold of Xehanort’s Keyblade, which originally belonged to the Master of Masters. Around him appear four of the five Foretellers: Ira, Invi, Aced, and Gula. Only Ava is missing, but we gather from Luxu that she already carried out her mission. This, again serves to tie Union Cross to the Kingdom Hearts story of the future.

Somewhere else, in an empty world, Sora wakes up. Here he finds only one person: Yozora, a character from a fictional video game from the Toy Story world. Suddenly, the two find themselves on top of a skyscraper, in the middle of a futuristic city.

Back to the real world, we’re told that there are just two leads in the search for Sora. The first is Kairi’s memories, who are being analyzed by Ansem and his team, while the second are the strange dreams Riku’s been having.

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory

Melody of Memory
Source: Square-Enix

Most of Melody of Memory takes place inside Kairi’s memories as she lays asleep inside Ansem the Wise’s laboratory. During the game, she relives many core moments in Kingdom Hearts’ story. Eventually, she unlocks an old memory from her time in Radiant Garden, with which we learn that she was sent to Destiny Island by Ansem, when he was a student of Ansem the Wise.

Ansem used an escape pod, not unlike those from Union Cross to launch Kairi away, with the hope that her powers as a Princess of Hearts would send her to the world of Keyblade Wielders. Ansem did this because he believed his world to be doomed unless more Keyblade Wielders were found.

During the rest of the game, Kairi hunts down the 7 pieces that her heart was split into during Kingdom Hearts 3. As she finds the 6th, she’s approached by a memory of Xehanort, who explains that she’s forgotten the memory she needed to find Sora.

Once defeated, Memory Xehanort reveals a cryptic clue, already etched in Kairi’s heart: Neither Light nor Darkness, but somewhere on the other side. This is the sentence uttered by Ansem before sending Kairi to Destiny Island, but it is also what the Master of Masters seeks: a world devoid of Light and Darkness, unthinkable and unreal.

Outside Kairi’s Dreams

Upon reflection, the group realizes that Sora is likely stuck in a world of fiction, which is sadly unreachable to them. Thankfully, the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella has a plan. With Kairi’s memories and Riku’s dreams, both hinting at the (in-universe) fictional world of Verum Rex, the group has two of the three keys needed to find Sora.

The third key is a particular spirit in the Final World. This spirit, unlike the others, comes from the opposite world, and as such can be used to travel to the other reality. The group learns from that spirit that the city from Riku’s dreams is called Quadratum, and they make that their next stop. The star becomes a portal to the other world, and while Riku steps in, Kairi decides to stay behind to train with Aqua.

As Kairi tells Yen Sid about this development, he recalls the stories of ancient Keyblade Masters travelling to different realities. These stories might have been how Xehanort learned about the opposite world, and they might explain where the Foretellers had disappeared before Kingdom Hearts 3.

Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road

Dark Road
Source: Square-Enix

The second mobile game in the Kingdom Hearts series, Dark Road is the only story in the entire series to be left without an ending, at least until August 2022. The good news is that you won’t need to actually play Dark Road to know how it ends since each chapter can be easily consumed as a short YouTube video without losing any context.

Now, back to our synopsis:

Xehanort, Eraqus and the Dark Road

In Dark Road we learn that Xehanort, who used to live on Destiny Island, managed to escape his boring daily life thanks to Ansem, his Heartless from the future. He opens a portal for the young Xehanort leading to Scala ad Caelum, a world where future Keyblade Masters are trained.

Xehanort begins taking lessons with the kids of this world. One of these students, and his best friend at the school, is Eraqus, from Birth by Sleep. Time passes: while the students of Xehanort’s class have become capable fighters, their older classmates have suddenly disappeared.

Xehanort and friends are sent by their Master to search the older students in the Disney worlds. They find nothing but more questions, such as the nature of Darkness and whether it can consume people.

Four years have passed when we see Xehanort laying white flowers on four unmarked graves. Eraqus enters the picture a little late and from their conversation, we gather that they’re supposed to take their Mark of Mastery exam soon. Xehanort still has doubts about all this and goes to better investigate the surrounding worlds.

What To Expect From the Future

Outside of the question contained in the actual plot, like “who are the four graves for” and “what does Xehanort learn in his travels”, there are a couple of hidden details to keep in mind until chapter four comes out.

First, inside Xehanort’s classroom, we can clearly see the Gazing Eye, Luxu’s Keyblade, pinned to a wall. This means that he and the Master of Masters were aware of, and possibly involved in, the events of Dark Road.

Second, in a flashback to Union Cross, we see Braig declare that “Darkness can hide anywhere, even inside someone”. Moments later, both Xehanort and Eraqus repeat that same sentence, word for word, at the same time. This implies that both of them have some unknown connection to Braig or to the Dandelions.

The answer to those questions might bring to light some of the deeper mysteries of Kingdom Hearts’ story, many of which we didn’t have time to cover. Who is Subject X? Where are the rest of the Dandelions union leaders, and where is Master Ava?

We have many questions left about the Kingdom Hearts story, but we can also draw some conclusions: as we’ve seen in our Re Mind article, Kingdom Hearts 4 won’t be the final game in the series, as there is far too much material yet unexplored. We can also hypothesize that the new mobile game, Missing Link, will be just as important as a mainline title, at least as far as the Kingdom Hearts story goes.

Most of the Kingdom Hearts series is available in two bundles: 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix and 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, while Kingdom Hearts 3 and Melody of Memory are still being sold on their own.

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Hopefully, this article covered everything you might want to know about the Kingdom Hearts story!

Well-rounded nerd and self identified loveable weirdo, Diana loves stories in all their forms, even though she’s too lazy for most things that aren’t games. She’d drop anything for a night of TTRPGs, and often does. You can find her rummaging trough the tiniest of indie games releases, or trying to wrap up a 50 hours long Visual Novel she regrets ever starting.

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