Kingdom Hearts DEcoded: Episode II

Kingdom Hearts DE:coded Episode II: The Seeker of Darkness

Continuing where we left off in Episode I—where we covered Kingdom Hearts X, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, and the birth of Xehanort/Xemnas/Ansem, Seeker of Darkness—here’s Episode II of our three-part concise-as-possible decoding of the Kingdom Hearts saga.

If you’re joining us for the first time, click here to jump to Episode I: The Keyblade War.

As before, we’ll be covering the story in the order of its timeline, not physical release, so we’ll jump from game to game to try and give as chronological a summary as possible. In case it doesn’t go without saying, there are massive spoilers ahead.

Kingdom Hearts

On the tropical shores of a world called Destiny Islands, a group of friends named Sora, Riku, and Kairi are planning to leave their world on a raft they’ve created out of wood and cloth. Their hope is to explore the many worlds outside of their own, but on the eve of the trio’s intended departure, dark creatures invade and begin to consume their world. Sora’s first thoughts when he realizes what’s happening are of Riku and Kairi, but each of them mysteriously vanish before his eyes when he attempts to seek out and protect them. In all the confusion and chaos a yellow and silver Keyblade reveals itself to Sora, and he uses it to fight his way through the creatures as best he can. Despite his efforts, the world is utterly destroyed, and Sora is left alone and drifting off into the void beyond.


Meanwhile, in a world called Disney Castle, King Mickey has vanished. He explains in a letter that he’s gone to deal with the growing threat of darkness and asks the captain of his guard, Goofy, and his court magician, Donald, to depart as soon as they can to search for the “key” with the power to protect the worlds from darkness. Though shocked and confused, Donald and Goofy set out immediately for a world called Traverse Town, which just so happens to be the world where Sora has landed.


Awakened by an eager but enigmatic dog named Pluto, Sora immediately begins searching Traverse Town for his friends, completely unaware that Donald and Goofy are there as well, searching for the very thing that allowed him to escape his crumbling world with his life. During his search Sora learns that the dark creatures that destroyed his world are appearing in many others, consuming them all in darkness, but that they are particularly drawn to him because of the Keyblade that he now wields. They are called Heartless, and they are beings born from pure darkness which seek to steal other people’s hearts in order to create more beings like it.


Eventually, Sora stumbles into Donald and Goofy, who immediately realize that Sora’s Keyblade is the “key” they’ve been tasked to find. The three characters decide to travel together after they defeat the heartless threat in Traverse Town, vowing to help one another look for King Mickey, Riku, and Kairi.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy travel from world to world making new friends and defeating powerful enemies, but even though there are little signs of their friends, the trio quickly discover that the Keyblade does much more than just fend off Heartless: it has the power to lock away the heart of a world, preventing it from being touched by the Heartless. Because of this discovery, and because they all believe it’s the very reason King Mickey asked Donald and Goofy to find this “key,” they make it their goal to find and “lock” the keyhole in every world they visit.


Riku, meanwhile, drifted to a world called Hallow Bastion and unwittingly joined forces with Maleficent, the leader of a group of villains, who manipulates him into thinking that the Keyblade—which originally presented itself to Riku (which we know is because Terra chose him as his successor in Birth By Sleep)—is only in Sora’s possession because Sora took it from him, and that he has since replaced he and Kairi with Goofy and Donald. In exchange for Riku’s help collecting the seven princesses of heart and unlocking Kingdom Hearts, Maleficent promises to help Riku find Kairi. He agrees, of course, and slowly begins to embraces the darkness in his heart, as well as resent Sora.


Sora, Goofy, and Donald’s travels eventually lead them to Maleficent’s castle in Hallow Bastion, where Riku finally confronts Sora about the fact that he, Riku, is the Keyblade’s true wielder. During the confrontation the Keyblade leaves Sora and transfers to Riku, and so does Goofy and Donald, since they were given specific orders to look for and follow the “key.” Sora, pained but not dissuaded, chases after them. Riku and Sora clash, and in the midst of their heated exchange Riku attacks Sora with the sole intent of destroying him. Upon witnessing this, however, Goofy and Donald decide that they simply cannot betray Sora. They quickly come to his aid, and Sora comes to the realization that his heart, and not the Keyblade, is the greatest weapon of all. Riku scoffs at this, and in a dramatic twist the Keyblade transfers back to Sora.

Dark Riku

After their battle, Riku flees, and Sora, Donald, and Goofy go on to confront and defeat the last of the villains, Maleficent. They find Kairi (who is in a catatonic state that’s really similar to Ventus’s) in Maleficent’s castle, along with the rest of the princesses, but they also learn that there is a much bigger, much more sinister villain at work, and he’s possessed the weakened body of Riku. He’s called Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, and he wields a Keyblade that has the ability to free hearts (which they’ve used so far on all of the princesses). Andsem/Riku tells them that Kairi is one of the seven princesses of heart, and that her heart has been taking refuge inside of Sora ever since the destruction of Destiny Islands. Sora and Ansem/Riku fight, and once Ansem/Riku is defeated Sora takes his Keyblade and impales himself with it in the hopes that it will free Kairi’s heart.


The sacrifice works, Kairi’s heart is returned to her, but Sora is transformed into a Heartless and left to aimlessly roam the halls of Hallow Bastion. Kairi, Goofy, and Donald make their way through the castle, desperately trying to make their escape, but just as they are about to leave Kairi spots Sora’s heartless. She immediately knows that it’s him and throws her arms around him, partly because she wants to shield him from Goofy and Donald’s attacks, and partly because she’s devastated about what he has become. Sora feels Kairi’s presence immediately, which shines a bright light in the darkness, and he follows it to become restored to his regular form.

Ansem, Seeker of Darkness

Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Kairi set out to find Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, at the End of the World, and challenge him in front of the Door to Darkness (which Ansem believes is Kingdom Hearts). Ansem believes that this door holds an endless reservoir of darkness, but when he’s defeated and the door is opened, light bursts forth. Ansem, a being of pure darkness, is destroyed the very moment the light touches his skin.

King Mickey

When the blinding light subsides, and Ansem has been vanquished, Sora, Donald, and Goofy see that beyond the door to Kingdom Hearts lies the realm of darkness, and King Mickey and Riku are waiting inside. They urge Sora and the others to help them close the door before the hordes of Heartless inside have a chance to escape, and King Mickey and Sora use their Keyblades—which are largely the same, with inverted colors—to lock the door. Riku and King Mickey are trapped inside, but Sora, Donald, and Goofy vow to find them as the door closes for good and the worlds that were lost to darkness begin to reform.

Kairi, just like King Mickey and Riku, is separated from Sora and the others as the small bit of land on which she stands begins to expand and form into the world of Destiny Islands. Before they are separated, however, Sora and Kairi embrace, and he promises that as soon as he finds King Mickey and Riku he’ll come back to her.

Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories

Sora, Donald, and Goofy are traveling down an endless dirt path, until they are eventually lured to the mysterious Castle Oblivion by a hooded figure. The trio enters the castle without hesitancy, but quickly realize that doing so has caused them to lose portions of their memory.

A mysterious hooded figure appears and explains that they will lose more of their memories with every level of the castle that they climb, but he also promises that if they do they will gain new powers and memories in the process. Sora, undaunted by the implications of such a trade-off, ascends boldly through the castle, vanquishing hooded individuals that belong to a mysterious group called Organization XIII as he goes.


Sora slowly gains new memories of a girl named Naminé, whom he regards as a close friend, though he knew nothing about her before he entered the castle. When he learns that she’s being held as a prisoner inside the castle, he vows to save her. Soon, however, she appears before him and explains that a friendly member of Organization XIII, named Axel, has released her. She tells Sora that he was lured there by a man named Marluxia, the lord of Castle Oblivion, in an attempt to get Sora to lose his memories and help them overthrow the rest of Organization XIII.

Sora defeats Marluxia, and Naminé puts Sora, Donald, and Goofy in pod-like vessels so that they might sleep and allow her to restore their memories to the way they were before. Before he goes under, however, Sora vows to meet Namimé and become real friends once he emerges.

Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories


In Riku’s version of the story called Reverse/Rebirth, he finds himself transported into the basement of Castle Oblivion after the door was closed. He descends downward through the lower levels of the castle as he battles his inner darkness, which takes the form of Ansem.

Eventually Riku meets an enigmatic masked figure called DiZ, who instructs Riku to seek help from Naminé. He does, and she tells him that Ansem is only able to still haunt him because he lives on inside of Riku’s heart. With the help of DiZ, they summon Ansem out of Riku’s heart and the two clash in battle. Riku wins, of course, and is reunited with King Mickey. Together, they set out on a journey to help Riku learn how to control both his darkness and his light.


(as revealed in Kingdom Hearts II)

We don’t find out until Kingdom Hearts II, but something really important happens when a strong-willed person (like Sora) is turned into a Heartless, whether they’re consumed by darkness or their heart is stolen. A second creature, a sort of shell called a Nobody, is also created. They are similar to Heartless in that they roam the worlds and attack our protagonists, but they differ because stronger Nobodies have human forms, their own personalities, and can even retain the memories of their former selves.

This is important because all of the members of Organization XIII are Nobodies that are searching for hearts of their own, and one of those members just so happens to be the Nobody that was created when Sora became a heartless in Kingdom Hearts. His name is Roxas, he looks almost exactly like Ventus, and he’s been through a lot.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

Xemnas (the leader of Organization XIII) finds the newly formed Roxas in a world called Twilight Town. He recruits him as the Organization’s thirteenth member, and brings him to their headquarters in the World That Never Was. Roxas has no memory of who he was before, but he wields a Keyblade, just like Sora, so Xemnas sends him on various missions with other members of Organization XIII so that he might fight the Heartless and release their stolen hearts. (Xemnas, as we later discover, hopes that this will further the Organization’s goal of gathering enough hearts to summon Kingdom Hearts and allow each member to finally acquire hearts of their own.)


Roxas becomes close friends with the only survivor of Castle Oblivion, Axel, and a girl named Xion, who also wields a Keyblade and has no memory of her past. The trio’s relationship is strained, however, when Xion is attacked by Riku while on a mission by herself. Riku claims she is nothing but a fraud, and alhough she escapes before he can fully eliminate her, the incident motivates her to question the nature of her existence.

Eventually, Xion discovers that she is, indeed, a fake being that Xemnas created from Sora’s memories of Kairi. She was intended to be a fail-safe with the ability to completely absorb Roxas and become Sora, should Roxas prove less useful than Xemnas hoped. She also learns that as long as she exists Sora’s memories will never be truly and completely restored, which is precisely why Riku sought to destroy her.


Torn between staying with her friends or merging with Sora (like Riku suggests), Xion defects from the Organization and escapes when she realizes that she’s unwittingly sapping strength from Roxas. When Roxas learns the truth about Xion, he begins to question the nature of his own existence. Eventually, Roxas decides to defect as well to search for answers of his own, and even though Axel tries to stop him, Roxas rejects his concerns and storms away, leaving Axel alone and distraught.


Roxas finds Xion in Twilight Town, and the two fight. Xion is defeated, but before she fades to become part of Sora once again she begs Roxas to do everything he can to prevent Xemnas’ plans from becoming realized. Roxas agrees, but when Xion disappears so does everyone’s memories of her. Angry and confused, Roxas heads back to the World That Never Was to confront Riku, who is trying to capture Roxas for a mysterious man named DiZ. Sora’s memory restoration, it seems, was completely halted when Roxas began his journey for answers, and Riku and DiZ intend to subdue Roxas in order to force it to resume. Roxas proves more powerful than Riku originally thought, however, and Riku is forced to unleash the darkness in his heart.

Ansem Riku

The dark power that Riku unleashes is unstoppable and successfully subdues Roxas, but in exchange it transforms Riku’s body into the physical form of Ansem, the Darkness Seeker that Sora destroyed in front of the door to Kingdom Hearts.

Together, Riku and DiZ remove Roxas’s memories of his time with Organization XIII and place him inside a virtual simulation of Twilight Town. There, Roxas exists in blissful ignorance, completely unaware that his reality is false, and utterly blind to the fact that his observers are only keeping him there until the time is right for him to be absorbed back into Sora.

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