Heel-Turn: Kingdom Hearts

Kaz, I’m already a Xehanort

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[Every time I see someone talk about Kingdom Hearts as an outsider looking in, I’m always blown away by this massive pile of bullshit. The subject of this promoted blog’s choice for heel-turn will surprise you, unless of course you’ve been playing the game for as long as LaTerry. In that case, maybe you saw this heel-turning a mile away like the script changes for The Rock after he became a movie star. ~Marcel]

The Kingdom Hearts series has so many heel-turns that it was hard to pick one to focus on for this blog. The series is long and a little confusing with a lot of twists and turns that provide ample opportunity for characters to abruptly switch sides. Instead of focusing on just one character, I’ll give a small overview of the many characters that have changed sides before going into greater detail on the heel-turn that I really want to talk about. This should go without saying, but there are going to be SPOILERS for most of the series in this blog. 

The first and most obvious heel-turn in the series is Riku:

Riku starts out the game as Sora’s best friend and rival. When Sora and Riku get separated after their world is swallowed by the darkness, Sora was found by Donald and Goofy, while Riku was found by Maleficent. Somehow the pale and deathly skin, dragon horns, and all around evil appearance of Maleficent didn’t raise any warning flags in Riku and he just listened to everything she told him, eventually becoming corrupted by the darkness.

Riku’s heel-turn culminates in a memorable boss fight in Hollow Bastian. Unfortunately, the only reason that it’s memorable was that the really long cut scene before the battle was unskippable, and the boss fight itself is one of the hardest in the game. I had to watch that cutscene several times. “There’s no way you’re taking Kairi’s heart!”

Riku’s heel-turn lasts until the final boss fight, where you are technically fighting him again, as the big bad Ansem has possessed him. Once Ansem is trashed, Riku is given control of his body and does what he can to make things right, but unfortunately that means that he gets trapped in the world of darkness for a good while. There are a lot of smaller heel-turns that happen after this in the series. From the perspective of Organization XIII, Marluxia pulled a heel-turn with his actions in Chain of Memories. Roxas does a heel-turn away from Axel, and then Axel seems to pull one against him. Axel, once again, has a final heel-turn in his fight against Sora in Kingdom Hearts 2.

There are probably other examples, but I think that’s sufficient to show that the series has a lot of these. The heel-turn might be so common in Kingdom Hearts because the series itself did a heel-turn after Kingdom Hearts 2.

Kingdom Hearts did something a little unexpected in between 1 and 2: it released a game on the Game Boy Advance. Chain of Memories was an okay game, but many people thought it was just a spin-off game and didn’t give it much thought, only to find out when Kingdom Hearts 2 came out that the plot that happens in Chain of Memories was crucial to understanding what was happening in Kingdom Hearts 2. Thankfully, there was only one game between 1 and 2, and it was simple enough to look up a summary of what happened in Chain of Memories that it wasn’t too big of a problem. At the end of Kingdom Hearts 2, the plot, while complicated, wasn’t too hard to follow along the three games. That didn’t last long, and things started to get confusing.

The next title to release after 2 was Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. This game continued the trend of smaller, but still plot-essential, games being released on various handhelds. It also started the trend of stupid names in the Kingdom Hearts series. This wasn’t too bad, a lot of people had a DS, it was really popular after all, so it wasn’t completely unrealistic to expect that some fans would have both a PS2 and a DS. Then the next game, Birth by Sleep, came out. This one was on the PSP. Patience was wearing thin for many people at this point. In order to fully experience all of Kingdom Hearts you needed a PS2, a Game Boy Advance, a DS, and now a PSP. Days and Birth by Sleep, judging solely by the covers, looked like they were both games about Roxas. Why did he need two games to himself? Of course, Roxas isn’t really in Birth by Sleep, but a character who looks identical to him with the same voice actor is, because things aren’t confusing enough in this story.

Completely different, see?

To add to the frustration, there were some mobile exclusive Kingdom Hearts titles in Japan, because I guess Squeenix likes to watch western fans suffer. The important to the plot (I guess) mobile game did eventually get a release in the west on the DS as Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, but the other mobile Kingdom Hearts game, which is itself a huge confusing mess, stayed a mobile game and only released recently in the west. It has gone through several name changes, and has important plot in it apparently. Lovely.

The final spin off game was released on the 3DS, called Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. There were now more Kingdom Hearts games on Nintendo platforms than on PlayStation. While many of the spin-off games were good games, a lot of Kingdom Hearts fans had lost their patience with the series and didn’t bother keeping up with all these bizarre releases that weren’t Kingdom Hearts 3. Who can keep up with all of this?

It happened to him and he still doesn’t know what’s going on most of the time.

Fortunately, Squeenix has recently been trying to reverse their heel-turn and win back their fans. The entire Kingdom Hearts series is now available on PS4 and most of it on PS3 before that. While they didn’t stop with the dumb names (Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue anyone?) they did realize that having the series split among so many different platforms might hurt Kingdom Hearts 3 which is finally actually happening twelve years after Kingdom Hearts 2

Kingdom Hearts fans have had every reason to become cynical and jaded over the years, but there is a reason there are still so many people excited for Kingdom Hearts 3, despite the series pulling a heel-turn on us. There is a strange magic in this series that allowed for many fans to stick with it through the entire ordeal, buying every game and relishing in the confusing and nonsensical plot. We love it and hope that it won’t do this to us again. Oh please don’t do this to us again.

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