August 1, 2012

The Birth of an RPG

[Celebrating the release of Kingdom Hearts 3DS this week, Enix Hearts is currently running an article series looking back at the previous Kingdom Hearts games. Since I wrote a piece for them revisiting Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, I feel compelled to do posts for the rest of the games as well. Below is the beginning chapter to the Kingdom Hearts franchise.]

I’ve failed everyone—my friends, my Master, and myself. I don’t know why Ven still believes in me. It’s more than that—he wants to emulate my skills, my abilities, my actions. I’m not a role model; I’m not even a Master. I’ve never been able to keep the darkness away, and I’m not sure if I even want to at this point. Why would anyone want to be me?

Terra’s too hard on himself. Just because he missed the Mark of Mastery doesn’t mean he can’t wield a Keyblade. Though his frustration is sending him down a dark path…one I’m not sure I can save him from. Now that I’m a Master, it’s my duty more so than ever to ensure darkness and light are balanced. I need to find Terra, to make sure he stays on the right side of that balance…

I don’t know why Terra and Aqua see me as such a powerless little kid. I know that I lack the skills to become a Master right now, but someday, I’ll be as powerful as Terra, and we’ll both be Masters! It doesn’t matter that he failed now, because I know one day he’ll succeed, just like I will! I know he’s sad now, but I’ll find him, wherever he’s gone, and bring him back home…so we can be a family once again.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is the prequel to Kingdom Hearts. While Kingdom Hearts fans are familiar with the exploits of Sora, Riku, Kairi, and the rest of the cast, Birth By Sleep features three brand new protagonists: Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. Each Keyblade wielders, the trio are a group of friends studying to one day become Keyblade Masters. At the start of our story, Terra and Aqua attempt to complete the Mark of Mastery exam, a test to prove to Keyblade Masters that they are proficient enough Keyblade wielders to be called Masters. While Aqua passes the exam, Terra falls short, relying on the darkness that resides within him to pass instead of relying solely on the light.

Shortly after the exam, the various worlds in existence are attacked by a new enemy—the Unversed. Terra and Aqua are asked by their Master, Eraqus, to defeat the Unversed and find another Keyblade Master called Xehanort.  Ventus is asked to remain home, since Eraqus fears sending him out to the other worlds. Dejected, but obedient, Ventus remains while Aqua and Terra head off to complete the tasks they’ve been assigned.

Right before Terra and Aqua depart, an unknown enemy called Venitas attack Ventus and convinces him to follow Terra out of Ventus’ fear for Terra’s safety. Terra leaves, Ventus follows, and Aqua is tasked with watching out for both of them while also battling the Unversed (such is the life of a Master, I suppose).

After battling the Unversed on several worlds, Terra finds Master Xehanort, who reveals that the Unversed are Venitas’ minions. While searching for Venitas, Terra bumps into Aqua and Ventus, but ignores them in order to find Venitas. Terra leaves them to continue his search, while Aqua tells Ventus to return home. Ventus ignores her and continues his search for Terra, while Aqua continues to battle the Unversed.

While searching for Terra again, Ventus finds Xenahort, who reveals his intentions of combining Ventus with Venitas in order to create an all powerful Keyblade—one that has the power to open Kingdom Hearts. Eraqus learns of Xenahort’s intentions and tries to kill Ventus. Terra, however, steps in to protect Ventus and fights Eraqus. During their struggle, Terra overpowers Eraqus and accidentally kills him. Distraught, Terra runs after Xenahort in order to confront him. Aqua learns of Terra’s actions, and she renews her search for Terra. Ventus does the same, and all three eventually meet at a place called the Keyblade Graveyard.

In the Keyblade Graveyard, Terra, Aqua and Ventus all discuss their grievances with one another (basically just with Terra, really) and reconcile their differences. Just as they do so, Xehanort and Venitas appear to confront the trio. Xehanort fights Terra, while Aqua and Ventus fight Venitas (with some assistance from Mickey, who at the time was an apprentice of another Master called Yen Sid). Terra succumbs to the darkness and loses his heart to Xehanort, while Aqua, Mickey and Ventus defeat Venitas. However, in the process, Ven loses his heart and is left in a comatose state. Xehanort disappears during the battle, and Aqua leaves to find him and bring back Terra. She eventually finds him on a distant world and attempts to defeat him. While she manages to save Terra’s body during the battle, she fails to stop Xehanort and falls into the darkness herself. During their battle, Xehanort loses his memories, and is discovered by Ansem the Wise, who becomes his mentor.

While the events of Birth By Sleep take place long before the events of Kingdom Hearts, they set the stage for the newly released Dream Drop Distance…which I will hopefully be able to review for you soon. Until then, I hope I’ve been able to make some sense out of the Kingdom Hearts lore—it can be a bit…confusing.

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