Kingdom Hearts is confusing.
Let's face it: A video game franchise with a handful of spin-offs can get convoluted pretty quickly. When Kingdom Hearts debuted back in 2002, fans fell in love with the game's enticing story and fun-loving Disney references, and Kingdom Hearts II was quick to follow up. Now, after more than a decade, gamers are still waiting for the franchise's third console title to come to life... and that wait is almost over.
Yes, that's right. Kingdom Hearts III is coming out this week, and fans are glad their patience is about to be rewarded. Luckily, the wait hasn't been boring by any means. Square Enix has rolled out a lot of Kingdom Hearts titles since the early 2000s. In fact, when you count up the remixes and cinematic add-ons, the spin-offs number well over 13 different titles.
Since Kingdom Hearts relies on gamers understanding its storyline, fans new and old are wondering if they'll even know what's going on in Kingdom Hearts III when it gets released. After a long time away, details of Sora's adventures have become hazy, and the game's hype has drawn in plenty of gamers who've never touched te franchise before. So, here at ComicBook.com, we're ready to break it all down for you.
Sure, it won't be an easy task, but it's about time us fans pulled together a coherent timeline for what the heck is happening in the Kingdom Hearts Universe. Hopefully, if we're all lucky, no one will need a potion by the end of this...
Kingdom Hearts χ & Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover
Ever heard of this game, Kingdom Hearts fans? If you so, count yourself a diehard Keyblade lover because Kingdom Hearts χ caught attention awhile back when Square Enix announced the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. Obscure it may be, but the game holds some rather important information about the origins of Sora's on-going fight with the darkness.
In the Kingdom Hearts storyline, Kingdom Hearts χ comes first chronologically speaking. The game acts as a prequel to the entire franchise as it is set 100 years before the first Kingdom Hearts game even takes place. It's also set before the franchise's fabled Keyblade War went down... which is something we'll talk about soon. For now, fans need to know that Kingdom Hearts χ is the game that fans why characters are trying to either make or break Kingdom Hearts.
Kingdom Hearts χ introduces a group of six apprentices who are studying to become Keyblade Masters. When the group is bestowed a prophetic book telling them of a future event which will threatened their Universe's light, the group attempts to prevent darkness from taking over their worlds. The prophecy in question refers to the Keyblade War which ultimately comes to pass. The so-called Foretellers are unable to prevent the foretold war from happening despite their best efforts to cull all of the Heartless which act as the event's harbingers.
The revised Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover film gives more insight into the Foretellers' story and breaks down one Forteller's relationship with Organization XIII, a group that is introduced later in Kingdom Hearts II.prevnext
Despite this event not being the main focus of any one game, the Keyblade War still stands as one of the major plot point pushing the franchise forward.
The legendary conflict, which was foretold in Kingdom Hearts χ, is the event which plunges the Universe into gloom, doom, and real depressing darkness. The war was started when keyblade wielders became obsessed with controlling an artifact known as Kingdom Hearts, the source of all light in the universe. The only thing that could control its power was the χ-blade, a weapon made of equal parts light and dark. The wielders finally began clashing over who would control the long-protected weapon, and the Keyblade War only ended when the χ-blade was shattered into twenty unique pieces. Of all the pieces, 7 were made up of pure light while 13 more were made of pure darkness.
With the χ-blade destroyed, Kingdom Hearts quietly disappears into darkness, and things after that got pretty terrible. The only thing - seriously, the only thing - keeping darkness from ripping apart the universe was the light found in children's hearts. For those keyblade warriors who survived the war, they continued to fight for the light and hoped to return Kingdom Hearts one day.
You'd think most people would have learned from a such a horrific incident but nope. Instead, a talented apprentice named Xehanort learned of the battle and decided it would be a great idea to start a second Keyblade War.
Why? Well, at it turned out, the misguided boy just wanted to create the χ-blade for himself. And, man, does he go all out trying to make that happen.prevnext
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep & Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep acts as a prequel to the original game featuring Sora, Kairi, and Riku. Because of this, Birth By Sleep introduces gamers to three new characters who intentionally mirror the dynamics of the franchise's original trio.
Terra, Aqua, and Ventus act as this game's protagonists and follows the friends during their Keyblade Masters studios. However, there is a particular Master watching over the trio who has some sinister plans. Remember that Xehanort guy who wanted to start a second Keyblade War? In Birth by Sleep, he's already become a Keyblade Master himself and plans to use these kids to make his goal come true.
Master Xehanort and his masked apprentice Vanitas are the definition of dark. The pair manipulate Mark of Mastery exam for Terra and Aqua so that only Aqua can pass. By making Terra fail, the duo open up his heart to darkness and make it easier for Xehanort to bring him to the dark side. Then, when a crisis inevitably strikes the universe, the trio find themselves on a world-hopping adventure to save the universe from creatures called the Unversed. The adventure, however, was all put into motion by Xehanort who really just wanted to separate the group's youngest Ventus from his friends.
It turns out Xehanort needs Ventus because the teen's light heart completes Vanitas' heart of darkness. His much-wanted χ-blade can only be forged when a heart of pure light and pure dark are fused together, so Ventus has to die. Obviously, Terra and Aqua are not okay with their friend's heart being hunted, so they delve into a fight against Xehanort which ultimately ends in (1) Terra losing his own heart to the darkness and (2) Ventus being combined with Vanitas...prevnext
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep & Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage
Having lost his heart, Terra becomes vulnerable to Xehanort's will, and the bad guy slips into Terra's body to use as a vessel. Determined to save her friends, Aqua manages to destroy the reforged χ-blade with the help of a newcomer named Mickey Mouse, but its destruction causes Ventus lose his heart.
Aqua stows Ventus away in a place called Castle Oblivion to keep his comatose body safe after the battle ends. She goes onto confront Terra/Xehanort, and their battle wages on until Terra's heart starts to reawaken. Annoyed, Xehanort stabs himself with his Keyblade so he can separate himself from the stubborn teen, leaving Terra's body falls into a pool of darkness. Aqua jumps after him while Xehanort reawakens in a body identical to Terra with a serious case of amnesia before being found by a robed man named Ansem the Wise.
You might be wondering how Birth by Sleep connects back to the, and it is a fair question. The answer lies within the game's friend groups. While fighting against the Unversed, the Birth by Sleep trio reaches a world called Destiny Islands, the home of Sora and Riku of the first game.
Terra, seeing potential in Riku, gifts the child with the ability to wield the Keyblade. As for Sora, he's left alone until Ventus loses his heart to the χ-blade. His heart finds Sora, and the kid chooses to hold Ventus' heart within his own for safe-keeping. As such, Sora gains the power to to wield a Keyblade. Aqua is the one in-charge of bestowing Keyblade powers to Kairi in Radiant Gardens before that world is destroyed by darkness. Before it can be obliterated, the world magically spits Kairi out and sends her to Destiny Islands where she meets her friends.prevnext
Kingdom Hearts I
Not even 10 years after Birth By Sleep, gamers return to Destiny Islands in Kingdom Hearts to find Sora, Riku, and Kairi itching to leave their small home-world. However, before the group can act on their plans to leave, the Islands are attacked by hoards of Heartless as darkness reaches their holed-up locale. Kairi is kidnapped from the Islands by a mysterious man in black, and Riku goes full dark-side as he abandons Sora to rescue Kairi.
Still, Sora isn't left completely defenseless as his connection with Ventus kicks him and allows him to materialize a Keyblade. The weapon can't save the Islands though, leaving the world to plunge into darkness and Sora stranded in a place called Traverse Town.
It is here Sora meets up with his future companions, Donald and Goofy. They were sent by their king to find the 'key' that will protect the universe from all the encroaching darkness.
Who is this king, you ask? Do you remember the apprentice Mickey who helped Aqua shatter the χ-blade? Well, he's now the king of his own slice of Disney paradise alongside Minnie. The king, however, is missing after he left to investigate the swelling darkness and its Heartless minions.
Meeting these new allies, Sora travels out to find his friends while Donald and Goofy try to locate King Mickey. The trio go from world to world, sealing the locations off from Heartless, and it is during their journey they learn of a group of seven women whose hearts can control Kingdom Hearts.
Called the Princesses of Heart, these women can combine to unlock the final keyhole leading to the missing Kingdom Hearts. To do this, their hearts have to be harvested for the artifact to be recovered... which would kill them. That fact doesn't phase the villain Maleficent as she underhandedly recruits Riku to help her collect these princesses by promising him she'll help find Kairi.
However, when he does find her, Kairi's heart is missing. It turns out she gave her heart to Sora back at Destiny Islands for safe-keeping, and Malificent wants it real bad.prevnext
Kingdom Hearts I and I.5
Of course, it turns out Malificent isn't who gamers thought. She and all the Heartless are under the control of man named Ansem. However, this Ansem guy is not the one who rescued Xehanort back in Birth By Sleep.
Instead, this Ansem is Xehanort's Heartless as he was created when Master Xehanort split his heart from Terra. The Heartless assumed Ansem's name and decided it would be a great idea to possess Riku like Master Xehanort did Terra.
Possessing Riku, Ansem encounters Sora who is unhappy both of his friends have been taken. The Heartless explains Kairi is actually a Princess of Heart, and following a drawn-out battle, Sora uses Ansem's Keyblade to release Kairi's heart residing within him. Unfortunately, the Keyblade wasn't choosy with what hearts it took, so it released Sora's own heart too. With Kairi's heart back in her body, she learns of Sora's sacrifice and sees he's been turned into a Heartless. However, her heart of pure light is able to restore Sora back into a human.
With everyone's heart back where it belongs (except for Ventus, poor guy), Sora and his companions go to battle Ansem is about to open up Kingdom Hearts. Having removed himself from Riku's body, Ansem opens the door and expects to find a stockpile of darkness; Instead, he finds light and its overwhelming power manages to destroy Ansem. However, the universe's darkness begins infecting Kingdom Hearts, so Sora tries to close it with the help of Donald and Goofy. The trio struggle until King Micky and Riku appear on the other side of Kingdom Hearts to lock it from both sides, leaving the latter two trapped.
With Kingdom Hearts safe, all the worlds which had been taken over by darkness are restored. Kairi is forced to return to Destiny Islands, Sora parts ways with her, and he sticks around to help Donald and Goofy rescue their friends from their the darkness.prevnext
Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days
Of all the spin-offs, Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 is the one game that will throw fans for a loop, but it marks an important step for a villainous organization.
In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2, gamers meet lots of new characters - 13, to be exact. The game centers around a group called Organization XIII who is led by a guy named Xemnas. The group is comprised of a bunch Nobodies, a group of people who aren't quite... human.
It turns out Nobodies are what's leftover of a person after they have been turned into a Heartless. These guys aren't all too happy with being considered less than human, so the group decides to complete themselves by harnessing the power of Kingdom Hearts. They plan to recreate the energy source by slaying tons of Heartless, sacrificing those creatures' to energize the entity. So, it gets pretty dark.
The main story lies with Roxas. As the group's 13th member, Roxas is found by Xemnas and sent on missions to collect hearts. He's partnered with a guy named Axel, and the two become close despite Roxas' inability to remember anything about his original self. Things change within the organization when a 14th member joins named Xion, and she becomes friends with Roxas.
But, since this is Kingdom Hearts, the trio doesn't stay happy for long. Xion falls into a coma after a battle with Riku, who somehow escaped Kingdom Hearts. He tells her she must sacrifice herself to help Sora wake up.. and fans are left wondering when the hero even fall asleep.
Riku's words make little sense, but she starts having visions about Sora wanting to wake. It's not long before fans learn Xion is just an embodied replica of Sora's memories of Kairi created by Xemnas. She was made in case Roxas, who is Sora's actual Nobody, went rogue. Scared, Xion leaves Organization XIII to merge with Sora while Roxas defects to chase after her. However, he is too late to stop her, and Xion fades away.
Shortly after Xion's death, he's confronted by Riku and told Sora needs him as well if he's to wake up. In a tense battle, Roxas fights to prove his own personhood but is eventually defeated by Riku after the other boy overpowers him by using the suppressed darkness in his heart.This move allows Riku to capture Roxas for Sora, but it also gives the teen the appearance of Ansem. Ugh!
Riku takes Roxas back to Sora's resting place and speaks with a man named DiZ who inserts the Nobody into a virtual world. Roxas will stay there until Sora is ready to have his memories restored. When the boy wakes up in this fake world, Roxas remembers nothing of his time with Organization XIII and cannot recall his old friends Axel or Xion either...
Dude, why is Kingdom Hearts so sad?prevnext
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
Want to know why Sora was asleep? Well, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories has your answer. The game takes place immediately after the first and it happens before/concurrently with Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. In this game, fans follow Sora's take on what happened after Kingdom Hearts rather than Roxas' story.
Chain of Memories follows Sora on his search for Riku and King Mickey. After they follow a mysterious man dressed in black to a placed called Castle Oblivion, the trio starts to forget... well, everything. They forget their fighting skills, and as they continue exploring, they start to lose other important memories as well. Sora is told investigating the castle will make him forget things but it also told he'll uncover new memories should he stick around. So, naturally, Sora chooses to believe the hooded figure and sticks around.
The group explores the castle, fighting various members of an unknown organization called - you guessed it - Organization XIII. It is during these battles Sora believes he remembers a friend named Naminé . However, he learns that she's been kidnapped, so he goes out to rescue her. Once Sora meets the girl, he discovers she's the one who's been manipulating his memories in Castle Oblivion under orders by Marluxia, the Organization member who first met Sora. Apparently, Marluxia wants Sora to help him overthrow the rest of the Organization, but the boy doesn't really feel like helping the baddie out.
Sora and his companions defeat Marluxia, and Naminé agrees to help them all recover their rightful memories. Sealing them in these strange pods, she warns the group they'll forget everything that happened in Castle Oblivion including meeting her. Ever the optimist, Sora promises he'll meet her again once he wakes up as he knows his heart couldn't forget a close friend.
Spoiler Alert: He totally forgets her.
As a side-note, the game's setting of Castle Oblivion should be familiar to fans. Remember when Aqua created a safe haven for Ventus to chill in while his heart was on the loose? Yeah, that was place was Castle Oblivion... and Organization XIII was never the wiser.prevnext
Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts II begins with players controlling Roxas who is living his best life and totally unaware he's in a virtual world. Stuck in Twilight Town, the boy begins to notice things aren't fight, and the whole plan almost goes up in smoke when the Organization somehow infiltrates the world to kidnap the Nobody. However, Roxas does wind up meeting his Sora and rejoins with the boy.
Sora, Goofy, and Donald then awaken from their long sleep to find a new threat. Organization XIII is here and planning to destroying the universe. So, the usual.
The trio goes on a journey to defeat the Organization as King Mickey informs them they want to use Kingdom Hearts to complete themselves. Mickey also tells Sora that the Ansem from Kingdom Hearts was actually Master Xehanort's Heartless and that the actual Ansem is DiZ. The wise man has been helping Sora this whole time to atone for his pupil's actions, so Sora takes the reveal well.
The trio return to the real-world version of Twilight Town eventually to stop Organization XIII for good, but then they are held up by Axel. The hot-headed Nobody ends up sacrificing himself in a rather sad scene to ensure Sora reaches the Organization's headquarters. It turns out Axel just wanted to help his friend Roxas, and Sora is the closest thing he has now.
Before long, Sora reunites with Riku and Kairi who were brought to the battle by Organization members. They have a touchy moment before Xemnas comes in and messes everything up. However, DiZ holds off the leader with one of his contraptions which weakens Kingdom Hearts and banishes him to the Land of Darkness. The device also returns Riku to his teenage form because why not?
With Kingdom Hearts dissipating, Sora and Riku finally defeat Xemnas before they are reunited with their companions on Destiny Islands after being separated. The game's secret ending leaves off with a cliffhanger as it finds Sora, Riku, and Kairi chilling at home when a bottled message from King Mickey reaches the trio with a letter inside.prevnext
Kingdom Hearts: Coded & Re:coded
Kingdom Hearts: Coded tells a real convoluted story... and that is saying something since we're talking Kingdom Hearts.
The game features King Mickey with Donald and Goofy as they reminisce about their travels. However they discover a mysterious line in a journal reading, "We must return to free them from their torment," which puzzles them. No one remember jotting that down, so Mickey digitizes the content of the journal to find everything within it has been corrupted by Heartless bugs.
So, what does he do? He creates a virtual Sora avatar ("Data-Sora") to help him debug the journal's content and figure out the mystery.
After another journey and a case of temporary amnesia, Mickey and Data-Sora find themselves in a digital recreation of Castle Oblivion. It is there they find Data-Namine who explains her real self was the one who left the message in the journal when she had discovered a set of memories buried deep within Sora' heart. The memories were of people closely tied to the teen's heart - Ventus, Aqua, Terra, Roxas, Axel - so Data-Namine tells Mickey it is Sora's destiny to save them all. With the mystery solved, Mickey pulls himself out of the journal promptly sends Sora a bottled message explaining everything.
In an exclusive ending to Re:coded, Mickey is seen speaking with his teacher Yen Sid about his old Keyblade comrades. With Master Xehanort's Heartless and Nobody defeated, the wizard warns Mickey the original Xehanort will return and likely start a Keyblade War. To prepare for the battle, Yen Sid tells Mickey to bring him Sora and Riku to him so they can take the Mark of Mastery exam. Should they pass, there would be two new Keyblade Masters to help end Master Xehanort for good.prevnext
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
With Yen Sid trying to prevent Xehanort's war, the wizard needs Sora and Riku to take the Mark of Mastery exam. For the test, they're each sent to various worlds which they must awaken and reconnect to the larger multiverse. They also have to defeat some deceptively cute enemies called Dream Eaters, and the boys don't hesitate to accept the challenge.
Separated, Sora and Riku go about their business until the former mysteriously arrives at the World That Never Was once finishing his exam. It's there Sora encounters a teen who reveals himself to be a version of Xehanort from the past who's been sent to gather different versions of himself throughout time. These selves will serve as vessels for the original Xehanort's heart and power a new Organization XIII. Sora defeats the kid but is somehow swallowed by darkness. Still, his heart is protected from corruption with Ventus' assistance.
At the same time, Riku learns about Sora's predicament when he finishes his test. Having felt his friend in danger, Riku unconsciously connected himself to Sora through the boy's dreams and has been following Sora as a sort-of ghost. The boy is able to locate Sora at the Castle That Never Was, finding him surrounded by 12 different versions of Xehanort including the original. Xehanort attempts to turn Sora into his final vessel with the intent of pitting his 13 'seekers of darkness' against 7 'guardians of light' to forge a new χ-blade. However, he is stopped by by fighters like Riku. Oh, and a new guy named as Lea, the complete person who Axel was born from originally.
The Xehanorts retreat, promising to clash with the gang again during the Keyblade War, and the team is left with the task of waking Sora. Riku volunteers to re-enter Sora's dreams to release his friend's heart and does just that. Upon his return, Riku is gifted the title of Keyblade Master for having saved his friend, but Sora fails. Still optimistic, Sora chooses to retake the exam, but he's not the only Keyblade user to focus on. Lea has gained the ability to wield a Keyblade sa ewll, so that's a nice way to wrap up the party.
At the very end, Yen Sid reveals he's gathering 7 Keyblade Wielders who he believes can take down Xehanort's true Organization XIII. The wizard asks Riku to bring Kairi to him as he hopes to train her into a Keyblade Master as well.prevnext
Kingdom Hearts III
And so here we are! We've officially covered a story so far spanning across years and years.
When it comes to Kingdom Hearts III, fans will get to pick up with Sora shortly after the events of Dream Drop Distance. The hero has failed his Mark of Mastery exam, but all hope is not lost yet. Riku and Mickey have the power within them, and Yen Sid think it will be enough to pull Aqua from the Land of Darkness. After all, the wizard needs to collect seven guardians of light who can fight off Organization XIII, and Aqua will be needed for that long with Ventus and Terra.
Oh! And Sora still has a certain someone stuck in his heart aside from Ventus. Roxas might have been a Nobody, but the boy had his own life. Sora has been trying to free his other half for sometime now, and Kingdom Hearts III may be his last chance to do so.