The following is the first of seven episodic articles, each one detailing a different game from the Kingdom Hearts saga. It is our hope that by the end of the series of articles, the confusing story of Kingdom Hearts will be untangled, and you will be ready for the penultimate game of the series, Kingdom Hearts III. We will begin with the series’s prequel, Birth By Sleep, so read on…
The story of Kingdom Hearts is a very confusing one. The story in the two main games alone is confusing enough, let alone the other five games that give backstory and complicate it further. So with the release of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, I thought I would list the games in their chronological order, and explain what the heck is going on.
There will be plot spoilers in this series, so if you plan on playing all the Kingdom Hearts games and don’t want anything given away, do not read further. This article is meant to refresh the minds of those who have played the games, and to catch up those that skipped the games outside of the main two (like me). Moving on.
The chronological order of the games according to the story’s timeline is a little confusing. There’s even a game that occurs during the other ones. So I’ll put it this way:
One of the more intricate plots out there in the gaming world, wouldn’t you say? Never fear, by the end of this series you should have a firm grasp on what’s going on, and be ready for Kingdom Hearts III.
Birth By Sleep follows the stories of three Keyblade wielders– Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. They’re all training to become Keyblade Masters under their instructor, Master Eraqus. The story starts the night before Terra and Aqua’s Mark of Mastery exam, with the three of them lying under the stars. They make a vow to never forget each other, no matter how far away their adventures lead them.
The next morning, the three assemble before the Keyblade Masters Eraqus and Xehanort. Terra and Aqua both take their test at the same time, and Master Eraqus bestows the Mark of Mastery upon Aqua, but not Terra, much to his dismay. There’s an abundance of darkness in his heart that keeps him from becoming a true Master. Master Xehanort takes Terra aside after the exam and tells him he needs to embrace the darkness in his heart if he wishes for the strength to become a true Keyblade Master.
Shortly after the exam, mysterious creatures known as ‘the Unversed’ begin to appear in several worlds, while Master Xehanort has disappeared without a trace. Master Eraqus sends Terra out to destroy the Unversed and to locate Xehanort. Shortly after Terra leaves, Ventus is met by a strange man in armor who convinces him to follow after Terra against his master’s wishes. Master Eraqus then sends Aqua to watch over Terra and make sure his heart doesn’t succumb to the darkness, as well as bring back Ventus.
Terra then travels from world to world defeating Unversed and getting clues as to Xehanort’s whereabouts with Ventus and Aqua not far behind. After several encounters with villains across the scattered worlds, Terra deducts that Xehanort bears a sinister plot. He is seeking the Princesses of Heart–maidens completely devoid of darkness–and convinces Aqua to strengthen the light in their hearts to bring the renegade master out.
Meanwhile, Aqua and Ventus become concerned for Terra after hearing of his villainous deeds throughout the worlds. The three eventually unite at a world called Radiant Garden, where Aqua meets a young girl named Kairi. After a brief dialogue, Aqua sees potential in her, and strengthens her heart. While doing this, unknowingly, she is giving Kairi the ability to wield a Keyblade much later in her life, though a ritual called the Keyblade Ceremony. When Aqua and Ven confront Terra, he distances himself to keep them out of the way of his new dark powers. He and Aqua try to convince Ven to go home– which of course he refuses to do until he’s sure Terra won’t fall into the darkness.
During their adventures, the trio crosses paths with Mickey Mouse—future King of Disney Castle, and Keyblade apprentice to Master Yen Sid. Terra and Aqua eventually find themselves at a world called Destiny Islands. They encounter two boys, Sora and Riku. Terra sees potential in the latter and deems him worthy of the Keyblade through another Keyblade Ceremony, while Aqua notices uncannily strong ties between Sora and Riku to Ven and Terra, respectively. Meanwhile, Ventus happens across Xehanort, who reveals his macabre intentions–using Ventus’ heart to create the ultimate Keyblade, called the X-blade (pronounced key-blade). Xehanort claims Master Eraqus knew this all along.
Ventus travels back to the Land of Departure to confront Master Eraqus, who tries to kill Ven so Xehanort’s plans won’t come to fruition. Terra had run into Xehanort himself, who informs him of the goings-on at the Keyblade wielder’s home world. Upon arrival, he misinterprets the situation and attacks Master Eraqus. When Terra realizes he’s in the wrong, Xehanort arrives and kills the weakened Eraqus. He commands Terra to go to the Keyblade Graveyard and then engulfs the Land of Departure in darkness.
Terra, Aqua, and Ventus all arrive at the Keyblade Graveyard, a mysterious world where the remains of the fabled Keyblade War lie. Xehanort and his apprentice–who has become known as Vanitas–arrive. He reveals his plan to use the X-blade to unlock Kingdom Hearts (a repository of knowledge, power, and the source of all hearts) and unleash the secrets of the Keyblade War upon the worlds. He also reveals that he plans to use Terra’s body as a vessel for his own heart so he can survive long enough to see his plans play out. The trio attempt to take on Xehanort and Vanitas, but the altercation ends with Ven being frozen and Aqua knocked unconscious.
Terra gets consumed by rage at the sight of his defeated friends, and unleashes the darkness in his heart–unknowingly giving Xehanort his opportunity to unlock his own heart and transfer it to Terra’s body. This gives birth to a new, younger Xehanort. However, Terra’s mind still remains in his discarded suit of armor (known as the Lingering Sentiment) which defeats Xehanort.
Meanwhile, Ventus manages to thaw out in time to save Aqua from being killed by Vanitas. He then learns that Vanitas is actually the darkness of his own heart that was extracted by Xehanort when Ven was his apprentice years ago. The process had caused Ventus to lose his memory and his heart remains incomplete ever since. Vanitas then removes his helmet to reveal he resembles an older version of Sora, and that he himself is the source of the Unversed. Then he announces he will become one with Ventus’ heart to forge the X-blade. The X-blade can only be remade when forces of light and darkness, equal in strength, collide.
Vanitas then forces his way into Ventus’ heart where they fight in their shared mind. Externally, Vanitas has taken control of Ventus’ body, which now wields the newly-reforged X-blade. Mickey miraculously appears with his own Keyblade under the orders of Yen Sid and wakes up Aqua. The two then battle the possessed Ventus, destroying the X-blade as Ventus delivers the final blow to Vanitas, though Ventus’ heart is lost in the process. Upon its destruction, the X-blade causes a huge explosion of light, sending everyone to the corridors of space.
Mickey saves Aqua and Ventus and brings them to the Mysterious Tower, where Master Yen Sid resides. Aqua learns that Ven is in a deep sleep and won’t come back until his heart is returned. Aqua then takes her comatose comrade back to the Land of Departure as she was told to. In the ruins she happens upon Master Eraqus’ Keyblade and remembers something her former Master told her when she became a master. He was the protector of the Land of Departure, and if he were to ever fall, then she was to use his Keyblade to lock the Keyhole to prevent the darkness from taking it over. She was also advised to recreate the world so that only she knew the structure and layout of it and that any unwelcome visitors would be “lost to oblivion”. She then uses the Keyblade as she was instructed, and turns the world into an endless maze that will later be referred to as Castle Oblivion. In the process she creates a hidden space called the Chamber of Waking. She then leaves Ventus in this hidden chamber, and sets out to find Terra.
She ends up back in Radiant Garden, where she encounters Xehanort in Terra’s body. She then puts the beat down on Xehanort, who after the battle attempts to unlock his heart, which results in him losing all his memories and causes Terra’s body to fall into a portal of darkness. Aqua jumps in to save Terra, but has to sacrifice herself in order to, and gets trapped in the Realm of Darkness.
Xehanort is then discovered by the ruler of Radiant Garden, Ansem the Wise, who takes him on as his apprentice. Meanwhile Ventus’ wandering heart finds its way to a young Sora, merging with the child’s heart.
Stay tuned for next week when we delve into the first game to be made in the series, Kingdom Hearts. This game introduced Sora, Riku and Kairi to us for the first time, but left a ton of questions in its wake.
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