Kingdom Hearts DEcoded: Episode III

Kingdom Hearts DE:coded Episode III: The Wielder of Nothing

Continuing where we left off in Episode II—where we covered Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, Nobodies, and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days—here’s the third and final installment 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 II

Roxas

Picking up right where Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days left off, Kingdom Hearts II begins by showcasing Roxas’s life inside the virtual simulation, which seems to be that of any other regular boy in Twilight Town. That is, until Nobodies start appearing all over the world, attacking at will. Brave as he is (and, of course, because he’s part Sora), Roxas attempts to face this threat head-on, and by doing so realizes he can wield a Keyblade. Naminé appears to guide Roxas through this confusion, and although she intends to tell him the truth about who he is, Riku (hooded, so as not to reveal his altered physical state) stops her from doing so.

Naminé

Naminé and Riku only appear before Roxas for a brief while, but the encounters cause Roxas to go on fighting the Nobodies and questioning his existence. He quickly learns that the Nobodies are being led by Axel (Roxas’s friend from his time with Organization XIII) but Roxas does not remember anything about him (on account of DiZ removing his memories). Axel knew about what happened to Roxas, though he did not want to believe it, and the revelation hurts him deeply. Axel attacks Roxas with the intention of destroying him, if he can’t save him. Roxas beats him, of course, but Axel escapes before he’s fully destroyed. DiZ himself tries to intervene as well, in order to prevent Axel’s actions from doing any more damage, but Roxas ultimately fights his way through the Nobodies, regains his memories, and discovers the truth—that he is a nobody, and that Sora cannot fully be restored without him. In the end, Roxas relents to the reality of his existence, and chooses to merge with Sora.

DiZ

Sora, Donald, and Goofy awaken from their deep sleep with their memories in tact (the only exception being that they can’t remember anything that happened after the first game, like Castle Oblivion, Organization XIII, or even Naminé). They begin searching Twilight Town (the real one) for clues about where they are and why, and eventually find themselves on a train to the Mysterious Tower. There, they meet with King Mickey and Master Yen Sid, who inform them about the Nobodies, Organization XIII, and send them on a journey to (A) find out what the group is planning, (B) stop them, and (C) find Riku. (It should be noted that Maleficent is alive and well, still awful, and working with Pete, though none of their shenanigans has any real effect on the story at large.)

Nobodies

Sora, Donald, and Goofy travel to worlds both old and new, just as they did before, only this time they have to use the Keyblade to unlock new paths between them (the old paths of which were closed when the worlds were restored in the first game). They actively work to thwart the plans set in motion all across the worlds by Organization XIII, and eventually land back at Hallow Bastion, which they learn was once called Radiant Garden before it was consumed by darkness. King Mickey is there, too, and he reveals that the Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, that they destroyed in the first game was actually the Heartless of an imposter named Xehanort, whose Nobody just so happens to be Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII.

Sora

We covered the Xehanort/Xemnas/Ansem connection in Episode I, but here’s a review in case you’ve forgotten: Master Xehanort possessed Terra in Birth By Sleep to essentially become the Xehanort that Mickey is referring to in Kingdom Hearts II; what happens next is only told to us in snippets, and largely takes place off-screen. Xehanort went on from Birth By Sleep to apprentice under a mentor named Ansem the Wise, and the two studied hearts together. Eventually, the two had a huge disagreement that resulted in Xehanort banishing Ansem the Wise to the realm of darkness, effectively stealing his name, his identity, and all the credit for his work. Xehanort (as “Ansem”) learned how to create and control the Heartless, and then opened his heart to complete and total darkness, which split him into two: a Heartless called Ansem, Seeker of Darkness (who was defeated in Kingdom Hearts), and a Nobody called Xemnas (who is the villain in Kingdom Hearts II).

Xemnas

King Mickey also reveals to Sora, Donald, and Goofy that he’s figured out Organization XIII’s master plan: to summon Kingdom Hearts with the hearts that are released whenever Sora defeats a Heartless with the Keyblade. Every member of Organization XIII is a Nobody, so if their plans were to succeed, every one of them would gain hearts of their, effectively transforming each of them from shells to complete human beings. Upon learning this, Sora, Donald, and Goofy set off once again to search for a pathway into Organization XIII’s headquarters in the World That Never Was.

Axel

Eventually, their journey leads them back to Twilight Town, where they find and fight Axel. Axel is still angry and distraught about the loss of his friend, Roxas, but he recognizes the presence of him in Sora and sacrifices himself in order to open up a passage for them to the World That Never Was. Sora, who knows nothing about Roxas, is moved by Axel’s sacrifice, and enters the passage with a confused but sincere gratitude.

Answem Riku

Sora, Donald, and Goofy arrive at the World That Never Was and immediately notice the partially formed heart-shaped moon hanging in the sky—the soon-to-be-completed Kingdom Hearts. It is here, after all these years, that Sora is finally reunited with both Kairi and Riku. Riku, who still outwardly looks like Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, travelled there with DiZ (we covered this in Episode II, but the gist is that he had to succumb to the darkness to capture Roxas), but the Kairi’s journey is a bit more complex.

Kairi

Following the events of Kingdom Hearts, Kairi returned to Destiny Islands and resumed her life as usual, but gradually started losing all recollection of Sora (because of Naminé’s manipulation of his memories in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories). One day, much earlier on in Kingdom Hearts II’s story (specifically around Roxas and Naminé’s first meeting), Kairi and Roxas’s hearts came into contact, and although Sora was asleep at the time, he speaks through Roxas to tease Kairi about forgetting him. Moved by this experience, Kairi decides to stop waiting and seek out her friends, but is almost immediately greeted by Axel, who insists that she come with him instead. She refuses, and Axel summons Nobodies to force her into submission. But in the nick of time, Pluto appears and leads Kairi through a separate portal that leads her to Twilight Town. It seems for a moment like she’s escaped, but Axel appears suddenly once again, and he and a fellow Organization XIII member named Saïx take her as a prisoner to the World That Never Was. Here, they hope to hold her hostage as a stoke for Sora’s anger (in order to force him into collecting more hearts). But the unexpected happens when Naminé appears and reveals that she is Kairi’s Nobody—in the same way that Sora is Roxas’s, as she was created in that same moments when Kairi’s heart was freed from Sora’s. They escape together, and even though Saïx tries to stop them, they are saved by a cloaked figure whom Naminé hints is someone Kairi knows. It is, of course, Riku (in the physical form of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness), and he gives Kairi a Keyblade to use to fight their way back to Sora.

Ansem the Wise

On the other side of the World That Never Was, King Mickey encounters DiZ as he is about to launch a machine that will limit the moon-shaped Kingdom Hearts in the sky. Before they begin, however, DiZ reveals that he is Ansem the Wise, Xehanort/Xemnas/Ansem’s mentor from so many years ago, before Xehanort stole his identity and his research. The machine is switched on, and although it does significant damage to Kingdom Hearts, the thing overheats and explodes before it can completely take it out. The blast consumes DiZ/Ansem the Wise and somehow flings him back into the Realm of Darkness, but it also miraculously transforms Riku back to his original self.

Riku

At the very top of the Castle That Never Was, Sora and Riku (both wielders of Keyblades now) confront Xemnas in battle, and ultimately defeat him. At the conclusion of their battle, Sora, Riku, and Kairi finally return home to the Destiny Islands, where they presumably resume their regular lives…

…that is, until a mysterious message in a bottle floats onto shore some time later, containing a message from King Mickey. The letter is a summons: Sora and Riku are to come the Mysterious Tower, where they will discuss the challenges to come, and they will both take their Mark of Mastery exam.


Kingdom Hearts Coded

(AKA “RE:Coded”)

We’re going to skip this one because it’s largely inconsequential. It revolves around the rebuilding of Jimmy Cricket’s empty diary after the events in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, and all you really need to know about it is that it establishes four things: (1) Sora will soon depart on a journey to save the people tied to his heart (Roxas, Axel, Xion, Terra, Aqua, and Ventus), (2) Maleficent and Pete are trying to find the Book of Prophecies (which we covered in Episode I), (3) Master Xehanort will soon return now that his Nobody and his Heartless have been defeated, and (4) in order to match this threat, Sora and Riku will undergo the Mark of Mastery exam (the latter of which we also talked about in Episode I).


Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance

Master Yen Sid

Sora and Riku meet with Master Yen Sid at the Mysterious Tower, and prepare to take their Mark of Mastery exam. Their task is simple: they are to delve into the “sleeping” worlds, which lay dormant and disconnected from all the others, awaken them by finding and unlocking the seven Keyholes of Sleep, and then return to the Realm of Light. They travel separately, though in different versions of the same worlds, but each find their journey increasingly interrupted by a young man with gray hair and the phantom presence of past enemies; Sora by Xemnas, and Riku by Ansem, Seeker of Darkness.

Young Xehanort

Sora completes the exam first but finds himself returned to the World That Never Was instead of the Realm of Light, where Xemnas and the young gray-haired man are waiting. The young man reveals himself as a Young

Xehanort that’s been traveling through time gathering different version of himself to serve as vessels for the fragmented pieces of Master Xehanort’s heart. Sora, of course, vows to stop him, and even though he defeats Xemnas, his heart is unexpectedly swallowed by darkness. Sora collapses into a sort of coma (which is reminiscent of Ventus’s).

Ansem, Seeker of Darkness

Riku hears about what happened to Sora at the end of his own examination, where he confronts Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, for the last time. Ansem reveals that Riku and Sora were only separated because Riku has actually been traveling through Sora’s dreams the whole time, effectively exposing Sora to the darkness that eventually overwhelmed him. Enraged, Riku defeats Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, and races to the World That Never Was to confront Young Xehanort. Riku defeats Young Xehanort, but before he can completely destroy him another version of Xehanort intervenes. It is Master Xehanort, and he reveals himself along with eleven other versions of Xehanort, whom call themselves the new Organization XIII.

Master Xehanort

Master Xehanort boasts that each member of this new Organization is vessel for darkness, and that Sora and Riku were only helping him complete his plan to make Sora their thirteenth vessel all along. He boasts that his master plan is to trigger the Keyblade War, which he specifically defines as a clash between thirteen “seekers of darkness” against seven “guardians of light,” an event he says will recreate the X-Blade (which we covered in Episode I). It looks as though Xehanort’s plan might finally come to fruition, but he’s ultimately thwarted by an unexpected hero: Axel (who’s calling himself Lea now, since that’s apparently what he was called before he became a Nobody). Before Riku or Axel/Lea can thwart any more of Xehanort’s “vessels,” however, they all vanish. Luckily, Riku was able to save and defend Sora’s body.

Axel

Back at the Mysterious Tower, Sora remains comatose, and Riku vows that he will enter Sora’s dreams and free his heart. He succeeds, of course, and Sora wakes up, but just before Riku exits Sora’s dreams he finds himself in some kind of virtual version of Destiny Islands. Here, a virtual Ansem the Wise gives Riku some of the research from Sora’s heart, which will in turn help them save the people connected to Sora’s heart.

Ansem the Wise

Riku returns to the Realm of Light and is declared a Keyblade Master (Sora is not) and Axel/Lea shocks us all by revealing that he has also become a Keyblade wielder. With everything restored to normal, Sora departs for the sleeping worlds one more time (apparently to get back some of his dignity), and Master Yen Sid tells Mickey about his intention to gather seven Keyblade wielders to combat the new Organization XIII. Master Yen Sid is convinced that there is nothing they can do to prevent the Keyblade War that Master Xehanort desires, but he theorizes that seven “quardians of light” to protect the seven Princesses of Heart might be enough to ensure that the X-Blade will not be so easily attained. Mickey notes that they only have six so far—Riku, Sora, Mickey, Terra, Ventus, and Aqua—but the latter three have yet to be saved. At this moment, Riku appears and announces that he has brought the “guest” that the Master asked for, though he’s confused about why. The “guest,” it turns out, is Kairi, and Master Yen Sid reveals his intention to train her as Keyblade wielder; their seventh guardian of light.


Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep

– A Fragmentary Passage –
Aqua

In the Mysterious Tower, Master Yen Sid tells Riku, Kairi, and King Mickey that they must rescue three of their seven guardians of light: Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. Mickey reveals that he’s seen Aqua before, and that none of them would be there without her. In this way, he begins to tell them Aqua’s story, as he learned it from her himself.

Terra

Aqua awakened in the realm of darkness (after she dove in to try and save Terra) only to find herself lost in the ruins of the worlds that were claimed by darkness. They are all of them frozen in time in varying states of destruction, and she wanders through them aimlessly, looking for Terra and slowly facing herself for the first time. Eventually, after overcoming many of her fears and refusing to let the darkness win, Mickey finds her and offers a much-needed light. They travel together for some time, but quickly arrive at the Door to Darkness, which they discover has already been opened by Ansem, Seeker of Darkness. Riku and Mickey rush to close the door, with Sora trying to do the same thing on the other side, and Aqua sees that a hoarde of Heartless is about to launch an attack that none of them are prepared for. Thinking fast, Aqua attacks the horde first, diverting their attention and fending them off so that Riku, Mickey, and Sora can close and seal the Door to Darkness before any of the darkness can escape. Aqua’s actions, however, have dire consequences. She’s separated from Mickey and Riku and is pulled even deeper into the Realm of Darkness. But Aqua is no longer swayed. She has a renewed determination, and vows to keep going as long as possible to find and save her friends.

Ventus

Upon the conclusion of King Mickey’s story, Riku feels an enormous sense of guilt about his unwitting role in Aqua’s fate, and he and King Mickey agree to delve back into the realm of darkness to retrieve her. Kairi begins training under the wizard Merlin, so that she can become a true Keyblade wielder, and Sora, Donald, and Goofy are sent on a quest to learn how to retrieve lost hearts (presumably Ventus’s). The trio decides to start their search with a visit to Hercules, who once lost and regained his god-like strength, but they are unsure of how to get there since the paths between worlds have bee closed once again. Goofy, however, remembers a saying of Master Yen Sid’s, “may your heart by your guiding key” (interestingly a saying uttered by the Master of Masters and his apprentices in Kingdom Hearts X), and Sora uses this advice to open a portal (which is very similar to those used by Aqua, Terra, and Ventus in Birth By Sleep). They depart, and thus set the stage for their triumphant and long-awaited return in the upcoming release of Kingdom Hearts III.


And that, my good folks, concludes our concise-as-possible decoding of the Kingdom Hearts saga! I hope I was able to break down all of these confounding narratives in a way that brought you some clarity, and I hope that it makes you as excited and apprehensive about the alleged conclusion coming soon in Kingdom Hearts III.

To those that read this all the way to the end, I want to extend my sincerest thanks, and to also invite you to send any feedback you may have our way. Leave us a comment, or shoot us an email here.

Thanks again, and may your heart be your guiding key!

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