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Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far (Part 1) – Where It All Began

The next chapter in the Kingdom Hearts saga will be coming soon, probably. We can expect to see it some time this year so now is the perfect time to get caught up on everything that’s happened in the story so far.

If you’ve never played any games in the series so far this guide will get you caught up on all the adventures, and even if you have played them it’s always good to get a refresher before the next one comes out in case you forgot anything, and boy is there a lot to remember when it comes to Kingdom Hearts. You might think with Kingdom Hearts 3 being the next in the series I’d only have 2 games to cover but you’d be wrong, very wrong. There are 7 games in the series so far, so strap yourself in for a wild ride spanning multiple worlds, plot twists aplenty and some time travel.

I’ll be going over the plot of the story in chronological order rather than the order the games were released. This first part will cover Birth By Sleep, the original Kingdom Hearts and Chain of Memories.

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is the earliest point in the series’ story. So early in fact that Sora, the series’ main character was only a baby when it was taking place. Just a note; the word “heart” comes up a lot but in Kingdom Hearts it does not refer to a physical, blood pumping heart. Rather it’s more like a character’s soul. Now on to Birth By Sleep!

The three protagonists of Birth By Sleep are Aqua, Ventus and Terra. They all live together in the Land of Departure with Masters Eraqus and Xehanort and want to undertake the Mark of Mastery exam to become Keyblade Masters themselves. What’s a Keyblade? It’s a big ass key that can damage magical evil beings and also unlock doors to other worlds. We’ll get more on that later. So they’re training but Terra is told because of the darkness in his heart he isn’t fit to be a Keyblade Master. However, Xehanort says he should embrace that darkness to become more powerful. Shortly after that, evil creatures called the Unversed start appearing in various Disney worlds and Xehanort mysteriously disappears. Terra, being the strongest, is sent out to stop the Unversed and find Xehanort. The youngest and least experienced, Ventus is told to stay behind and not do anything but a definitely not evil apprentice of Xehanort’s called Vanitas tells him to go after Terra and I guess that’s enough of an excuse to go. Eraqus then tells Aqua to go and make sure the other two don’t screw up.

During their travels to Disney worlds they meet Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, or King Mickey, who is training under Yen Sid to become a Keyblade Master and also wants to stop the Unversed. Terra meanwhile meets various Disney villains and in exchange for helping them do evil deeds they offer him clues about Xehanort’s whereabouts. He finds out that Xehanort is looking for the seven Princesses of Heart. They are girls born without a trace of darkness in their heart. They are: Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Jasmine from Aladdin, Snow White, Belle from Beauty and the Best, Cinderella, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and Kairi, the only who isn’t from a Disney film.

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Terra, Ventus and Aqua from left to right.

Anyhow, Terra tells the others about this and decides to bring the Princesses together in order to draw out Xehanort. However, since Terra has been helping evil villains along the way Aqua and Ventus don’t really trust him but go along with it anyway. They end up in the Radiant Garden and Aqua meets Mickey and Kairi. They fight to protect her from a group of Unversed. Aqua then tells her she has a powerful light inside her. Shortly after, Aqua and Ventus confront Terra about his evil deeds but he distances himself from them in order to protect them from his ever growing dark powers. Terra and Aqua then try and get Ventus to go back to the Land of Departure but he won’t stay there until he’s sure Terra is safe from falling to the dark side.

Terra and Aqua leave Ventus behind and end up at Destiny Island where Sora, the future protagonist and his best friend Riku live. Terra senses power within Riku and deems him worthy of wielding a Keyblade some time in the future. Ventus runs into Xehanort who reveals his evil plan to use Ventus’ heart to create the ultimate Keyblade known as the χ-blade (This is pronounced the same as Keyblade, by the way which makes a lot of the cutscenes sound really dumb if you don’t have subtitles.) and apparently Eraqus knew about it the whole time but didn’t say anything. Ventus goes to the Land of Departure to ask Eraqus about it and Eraqus decides that killing Ventus is the best way to make sure Xehanort can’t make use of the power in his heart. Terra arrives just in time and they have a fight. The Xehanort shows up to kill Eraqus and convinces Terra to go to the Keyblade graveyard where Aqua and Terra are going to die and Terra will succumb to the darkness.

Ventus is still at Destiny Islands and meets Vanitas and then the plot twists begin. Ventus used to be Xehanort’s apprentice but Xehanort thought his heart wasn’t strong enough for his Master plan. He took the darkness out of Ventus’ heart and with it created Vanitas. So basically Vanitas is Ventus’ dark side. Vanitas tells him to go to the Keyblade Graveyard as well. Meanwhile Aqua is talking to Yen Sid who tells her about Eraqus’ death and says she should also take a visit to the Graveyard.

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This is Xehanort. Hard to believe he turned out to be evil, eh?

They all arrive at the Keyblade Graveyard, which is a big wasteland covered in Keyblades left over from the Keyblade War. Xehanort and Vanitas are there too and Xehanort reveals he’ll use the χ-blade to unlock the doors of Kingdom Hearts and do evil stuff with it I guess. They all have a big fight, Xehanort uses Ventus’ heart to open Kingdom Hearts but gets defeated by Terra. But not really because Terra unleashed the darkness in his heart during the battle and Xehanort uses that power to transport his mind into Terra’s body, creating Terra-Xehanort. Terra dies but not really. He gets so angry his anger makes his armour come to live and it knocks Terra-Xehanort unconscious.

While all that’s going on, Ventus and Aqua are fighting Vanitas and find out that he created the Unversed. Vanitas then merges with Ventus and creates the χ-blade. Aqua then wakes up to find Mickey by her side they fight Vanitas/Ventus. At the same time Ventus is fighting Vanitas from within his heart and Aqua smashes the χ-blade and Ventus gets out and they kill Vanitas. Thus the Unversed are destroyed and the world is saves. The destruction of the χ-blade causes a massive explosion which flings everyone into space apart from Terra’s possessed armor, known as Lingering Will.

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Terra-Xehanort after Xehanort takes over Terra’s body.

Mickey brings Aqua and Ventus to the Mysterious Tower where Yen Sid lives. They find out Ventus is in a coma and won’t wake up until his heart returns to him. Aqua takes the boy back to the ruined Land of Departure and find Eraqus’ Keyblade. With it she unlocks a door to the Chamber of Waking and rebuilds the world but calls it Castle Oblivion. She leaves Ventus in there and goes to Radiant Garden to fight Terra-Xehanort. Xehanort has suffered a bout of amnesia in the meantime, probably from the big explosion earlier. Either way he loses all his memories for good after trying to unlock his heart. This opens a portal to the Real of Darkness and his body starts to sink in. Aqua tries her best but she can’t save him. So she flings him out and lets herself fall into the portal. Xehanort, still in Terra’s body is found by a man called Ansem the Wise (who we’ll be hearing a lot more about later) and takes him on as his apprentice.

Somewhere in space, Ventus’ heart is floating about and bumps into Sora, merging with his heart somehow. Somehwere else we are told that Terra’s heart still lies dormant in the body with Xehanort and that Eraqus’ heart lies deeper still, inside Terra’s (It’s hearts all the way down!) but which one will come out on top in the end?

TL;DR: Terra, Aqua and Ventus are training to be Keyblade Masters under Eraqus. Xehanort is also there. The Unversed appear and Terra goes to stop them. Ventus chases him and Aqua chases them both. Terra gets in touch with his dark side while Ventus finds out Vanitas is his dark side. Aqua exists. Eraqus tries to kill Ventus so Xehanort can’t use his heart to do evil. Terra comes and Eraqus tries to kill him to. Xehanort kills Eraqus. They all go to the Keyblade graveyard to fight. Xehanort opens Kingdom Hearts but is defeated by Terra.

Xehanort transports his mind into Terra’s body and Terra’s armour comes to live to smack him. Vanitas takes over Ventus’ body to create best Keyblade ever but Aqua smashes it. It explodes and everyone gets flung into other worlds. Aqua goes hom, makes Castle Oblivion, locks Ventus up. His heart finds Sora and merges with it. Sacrifices herself to save Terra from the dark world. Xehanort has no memories, becomes apprentice to Ansem the Wise but Terra and Eraqus’ hearts still live inside him.

Now that we’ve got some of the backstory out of the way we can get onto the start of the series. The original Kingdom Hearts is up next!

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Riku, Sora and Kairi as they appear in Kingdom Hearts the first.

Thankfully this is the simplest one of the series in terms of its plot. Kingdom Hearts is written pretty straightforward and it begins with Sora having some crazy dreams about where he has to choose wether to specialise in melee weapons, defence or magic ability. Shortly after, he awakes on the sandy shores Destiny Island where he lives with his best friends Riku, Kairi and various Final Fantasy characters such as Tidus, Wakka and Selphie. Sora, Kairi and Riku want to leave the island in search of other worlds and so they build a raft. After having done so, Destiny Island is attacked during the night by strange creatures called the Heartless.

A portal to the darkness opens and Riku delves in to find out what’s on the other side. Meanwhile a Keyblade appears in Sora’s hands and he uses it to fend off the Heartless. He finds Kairi in a cave he had been earlier where a mysterious hooded figure told him this world had been connected to others and the doors would open. Kairi whispers his name and the door behind her opens with a blast of darkness, which flings them both out of the cave. Sora is knocked unconcious, the islands are destroyed and we don’t know where the other two are. I guess Tidus, Wakka and Selphie died too because we don’t see them again.

Cut to Mickey’s magical castle where Donald and Goofy are slacking off. They find King Mickey has disappeared and left a letter saying he’s gone to fight the darkness and that Donald and Goofy must find the “key.” The pair use a Gummi Ship and wind up in a world called Traverse Town, coincidentally where Sora wakes up. Traverse Town has the ability to draw in lost souls like that. Anyhow, Sora meets Squall from Final Fantasy VIII. He explains to Sora that the Heartless consume people’s hearts and only Keyblades can kill them. (He’s wrong of course. Donald and Goofy are well capable of destroying Heartless but nevermind…) Leon knows a guy called Ansem who studied Heartless so they figure they should hunt him down. Meanwhile Aeris bumps into Donald and Goofy and tells them the same. Sora encounters them and they fight off a big Heartless. Don and the Goof see Sora’s blade and figure it might be the key Mickey mentioned earlier so they team up. Now they’re off to find their friends together!

Using their Gummi Ship the trio takes to the skies and find themselves in various Disney Worlds like Alice in Wonderland, Atlantis, inside Moby Dick and much more. Each time they encounter the characters from their respective films but more importantly they use Sora’s Keyblade to lock the keyholes of each world. This stops the Heartless from getting into the heart of the world and destroying it. But who’s sending the Heartless out? It’s Maleficent. She wants to unlock the power of Kingdom Hearts, which contains vast amounts of knowledge and power as well as being the source of all hearts! (Don’t think about what that means too deeply.) But to unlock the door to Kingdom Hearts she needs the seven Princess of Heart I mentioned previously. Maleficent meets Riku and says she’ll help him find Kairi while also claiming that Sora has abandoned him and must be destroyed. This causes Riku to join the dark side. Riku eventually finds Kairi but her heart has gone missing.

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The Dream Team in action!

Later, Sora and the gang wind up in Hollow Bastion, Ansem’s, (not the same one from Birth By Sleep but more on that later) home world and Maleficent’s base of operation. Riku takes the Keyblade from Sora and claims that he was its true Master.This is important later. Most people can’t hold a Keyblade. D&G figure that since they’re meant to go with the key it doesn’t matter who’s holding it and they go with Riku. Not long after, Sora challenges Riku and takes the Keyblade back. Dolce and Gabanna go back to Sora’s side because he’s got the key now and they really liked him the most anyway. Riku runs away and meets a man in a cloak who tells him to give in to the darkness.

Meanwhile, the trio defeat Maleficent and not long after that encounter Riku, who’s now sporting a suit of dark armour and a Keyblade that can unlock hearts. He brings them to Kairi who remains without a heart and reveals that he’s been possessed by Ansem. Ansem, in Riku’s body explains that Kairi is the last Princess of Heart he needs and her heart has been trapped inside Sora’s body since Destiny Islands was destroyed. For some reason, despite defeating Ansem, Sora can’t seal Hollow Bastion’s keyhole while Kairi’s heart resides within him. Sora uses Ansem’s Keyblade to unlock his own heart but this temporarily turns him into a Heartless. Kairi’s heart goes back to her body and the keyhole can be sealed. Using her heart power she turns Sora back into a human. (Remember this, it comes up later.)

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Ansem throwing shapes at The End of The World.

After his defeat Ansem flees to the End of the World, a place comprised of fragments Heartless have ripped from other worlds. After being defeated, Ansem explains that he wants Kingdom Hearts because he believes darkness to be the true essence of the heart, therefore Kingdom Hearts should have a lot of darkness to harness. He’s wrong though and it’s actually full of light, which kills him. We see that Riku and Mickey are behind the door and must stay in there to seal it up. Sora and Mickey use their Keyblades to seal the doors shut, which allows destroyed worlds to rebuild themselves. Kairi is teleported back to Destiny Islands and Sora promises they’ll be together again some day. The dream team set out on a new adventure to find Riku and Mickey but they don’t know how. Whilst walking through a field Mickey’s faithful dog Pluto appears with a letter from the King himself, with a clue to his whereabouts.

TL;DR: Sora, Kairi and Riku want to leave home and it gets attacked by the Heartless who are led by Maleficent and Ansem to take over worlds to open Kingdom Hearts. Mickey Mouse sends Donald and Goofy to find the key, which is Sora’s Keyblade. They team up and take down evil. Sora becomes a Heartless at one point, Riku is taken over by Ansem and Kairi loses her heart for a bit. Maleficent and Ansem are destroyed, Riku and King Mickey go inside Kingdom Hearts to close it up.

And that brings us onto the next game in the series, Chain of Memories.

They chase Pluto but he gets lost and the crew tuns into a hooded man who directs them towards a fortress known as Castle Oblivion. Once they get inside they realise they’ve lost all their memories and the hooded man says the further in they go the more memories they’ll lose. However, they’ll gain new memories along the way. He then uses Sora’s memories to create a deck of cards and everything the see from then on will be constructed from their memories. The cards aren’t really important for the story but the gameplay mixes deck building in with real time combat.

Anyway, he convinces Sora and the gang they might find Riku and Mickey along the way. Throughout their adventures they meet various members of “The Organization”, also known as Organization XIII. Sora also begins to lose his memories and meets a girl called Naminé, who he belives to be an old friend of his. An Organization member called Larxene tells Sora that Naminé is being held captive in the castle and so he sets out to free her. They then meet a replica of Riku being controlled by another Organization member called Vexen, though Sora believes he’s the real thing, as does the replica. Later, another member of the mysterious Organization called Axel frees Naminé and brings her to Sora.

She reveals that Naminé has actually been using the castle to manipulate Sora’s mind and put herself into his memories. She was forced to do so by Marluxia, the king of the castle, who lured Sora there in a plot to overthrow the rest of the Organization alongside Larxene. Sora continues through the castle and defeats Marluxia. Then Naminé puts Sora, Donald and Goofy into big pods that will put them to sleep and help them recover their memories, though they’ll forget everything that happened in the castle. Sora promises to meet with Naminé as friends in the future even though she just told him he won’t remember anything.

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They say Naminé’s freakishly long fingers allow her to reach into people’s minds.

But anyway, Riku also has a playable chapter in Chain of Memories called Reverse/Rebirth. In it he is transported from the realm of darkness to fight his inner dark side as he ascends Castle Oblivion. He encounters Vexen and fights him, which allows Vexen to create the replica later on. Ansem, who still resides within Riku tries to overtake his body but Riku resists with the help of power granted to him by King Mickey previously. As he continues on he comes across Lexaeus, a friend of Vexen’s and defeats him. He is then dragged back into the shadow realm but King Mickey saves him just before Ansem can take over. By the time Riku continues his quest Marluxia has been defeated by Sora and another of Vexen’s allies called Zexion tries to despatch Riku.

Riku is saved by Naminé who has disguised herself as Kairi. She helps him control the darkness within him and defeat Zexion. Shortly after he meets DiZ, a man who decorates his face with bandages. He sends Riku to find Naminé and get her out. Meanwhile the replica Riku finds out he’s not real. He decides there can be only one and Riku must be destroyed. He fails though. Then the real Riku takes on Ansem after Naminé reveals that Ansem lives in his heart. DiZ summons him out of his heart so they can fight. Riku wins and decides to continue on in life using both his dark and light powers with King Mickey by his side.

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DiZ couldn’t afford an eye patch and so improvised with a belt.

TL;DR: Donald, Goofy and Sora are led to Castle Oblivion where they lose all their memories, are manipulated by Naminé and organisation members and stop a coup from ocurring. They’re then put into pods to recover their memories. Riku fights the darkness within himself and gets Ansem out of there with the help of DiZ and Naminé who disguises herself as Kairi. Riku decides the best thing to do is make us of the dark and light powers like some sort of chaotic neutral jedi.

That’s the end of part 1. In the next part I’ll cover 385/2 Days, Kingdom Hearts 2 and Coded.