NOTE: This article has plenty of spoilers from the Kingdom Hearts series and possibly Final Fantasy VII. If you have not played every game in the series – especially Dream Drop Distance – you should not read this!
NOTE 2: As I haven’t played Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep for years, I forgot that there was a certain event which involved a death of some sort. However, it did not feel impacting as this person simply faded into the light. Another character in 358/2 Days left the series in a similar way and yet, they are considered to return to the series in the third entry. Perhaps Birth By Sleep’s could be the same.
As a long time fan of the Kingdom Hearts series, I have been concerned over its trajectory. Birth By Sleep, the darkest game in the series, had a world called Disney Town which focused on childish mini games. Later on in the narrative, Ventus goes into a deep sleep while Terra’s body is taken away from him, and Aqua is lost in the darkness for a decade. The two scenarios do not mix at all. As the initial fanbase grows up, the mini games presented in worlds like Disney Town and Atlantica are often complained about and truly feel out of place for a series that can grow from a darker tone. Now, as Master Xehenort takes the spot as the main villain of Kingdom Hearts III and Sora has become “more mature” according to a press release by Square Enix, here is how I would like to see the Kingdom Hearts series evolve into a more complex, darker story. The first argument that can be made in contention to an idea of a darker Kingdom Hearts is the fact that Disney is a main ingredient in the series’ formula. Some think the company’s history is too childish and cannot be complemented with a narrative that is darker in tone. However, I would mention the contrary. Many of the company’s catalog has a harsh tone. Gaston, in Beauty and the Beast, tries to kill the Beast; Elsa, in Frozen loses control of her powers and an attempt at her life was taken; and Simba, in the Lion King, watches his father being killed as he falls into a stampede and gets crushed. There has always been a dark prevalent within the Disney universe.
However, in past Kingdom Hearts games, no one in the series has truly died, and while Xion’s passing was discussed by the community, recent entries in the series have pointed towards her return alongside Ventus, Terra, Aqua, Roxas, Namine and Ansem. The initial press release for Kingdom Hearts III also states that Sora will be searching for the key to return hearts. Now, for the future of Kingdom Hearts, could there be the undertones of both Final Fantasy and Disney that we have not seen represented before? Sora — the character that has often been criticized for being one-dimensional and lacking in character depth — will be at a mature age, and with that, perhaps the naivety would fade away. Master Xehenort has been able to manipulate his enemies into his bidding in Birth By Sleep as he succumbed Terra into darkness and Ventus into a fated battle for the X-Blade. He also has shown incredible power in the Secret Ending of Kingdom Hearts II that we have never seen in the games previously, and now after Dream Drop Distance, we have thirteen seekers of darkness who are lead by Xehenort. Perhaps, much like previous Disney movies, we could see the death of a major character as the scale has been set so high by Master Xehenort and Vanitas’ fast paced and experienced combat skills. Perhaps, from a tragic event, Sora’s personality would be able to mature and progress the character for the aging fanbase of Kingdom Hearts. A potential loss that could devastate Sora and bring him to a breaking point would be Kairi, a new keyblade wielder who is inexperienced in combat, and as she first wielded it in Kingdom Hearts II, she seemed to struggle swinging it unlike when Sora and Riku first received theirs. If Kairi died, Sora would start to lose himself and question his strong sense of justice as her loss could be his fault. Perhaps it could leave him open for manipulation or a deep feeling of revenge. Something so devastating would change Kingdom Hearts forever, and while dark (and I feel sad about the possibility of a main character being killed off), this could be a way for the series to grow from its ‘Happily Ever After’ narrative structure. As a side note, we could also see the infamous Final Fantasy VII death scene recreated in a future Kingdom Hearts game.
Other than the change in plot, the worlds of Kingdom Hearts could change their appearance when you revisit them. YouTubers by the name of HMK and Skyward Wing brought up the idea of all these worlds being claimed by the realm of darkness if Sora and company fail in Kingdom Hearts III. If Square Enix adapt something like this, the worlds could be altered like in Epic Mickey‘s Wasteland and concept art. The concept of Epic Mickey is that the game takes place in a land where Disney characters go to after they’ve been forgotten by the company and the public. When first announced, various concept art pieces for the game were shared to the internet and the end result brought a disturbing, and yet, interesting set of altered characters and worlds from the Disney films we know and love. The worlds being redone in this manner, alongside the art team behind games such as Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and Parasite Eve, would be a fantastic way to create an unsettling atmosphere for Kingdom Hearts III or future games after the Xehenort saga. So, what would you like to see in future Kingdom Hearts games? Should the series become darker or remain the same? Comment below!