After years of waiting, Kingdom Hearts III finally has a release date, and, at this year’s E3, fans were treated to tons of new footage from the game. Each new trailer left us with new questions about the world Square Enix spent over 15 years building. But when you have that much content spread across several different consoles (and released out of order), there’s bound to be some confusion.
If you’re one those unlucky few who simply can’t remember the events of the earlier games or decided skipped a few releases, then we’re here to guide you through the game’s complex timeline. So here’s a brief guide to the main events of the Kingdom Hearts universe, in chronological order.
Long ago, there where many people capable of wielding Keyblades, the main weapons of the game. An unnamed person taught six apprentices, gave them new names and bestowed a Book of Prophecies to five of them. These five became known as the Foretellers. They gathered to read the Book and were shocked at the final entry, which read, “The fated land will be the battleground for a great war. Light will see defeat and expire, while darkness prevails evermore.” What happens next is not fully documented but a Keyblade War erupts and most of the wielders fall.
Birth By Sleep
Birth By Sleep focuses on Master Eraqus (an anagram of Square [Enix], the creators of Kingdom Hearts) and his three apprentices, Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. The three are somewhat like siblings as they approach the Mark of Mastery Exam to be named Keyblade Masters. Although Aqua passes, Terra fails and is slowly tempted by Master Xehanort, the main villain of the Kingdom Hearts games, to use dark powers. During this game, it is revealed that he wants the χ-blade (pronounced Keyblade), a weapon capable of summoning Kingdom Hearts.
Ventus was previously his apprentice but Xehanort carved the darkness from him to make one heart of pure darkness and another of pure light. When the pair clash, they create the χ-blade. Xehanort transfers his consciousness into Terra but loses his memory following a fight with Aqua where she becomes stranded in the Realm of Darkness. Ventus falls into a coma and his heart takes residence inside a newborn baby – Sora. A postgame cutscene reveals Aqua transforming Eraqus’s residence into a strange castle and placing the sleeping Ventus in a hidden room.
In the tfirst game in the series, Sora and his friends, Riku and Kairi spend their days playing on Destiny Islands. But one night, the island is overrun by creatures known as Heartless. Kairi is hit by a wave of darkness and disappears. Riku becomes ensnared by the powers and Sora is given a Keyblade as he falls through the darkness to Traverse Town.
Once there, he encounters Donald and Goofy who were ordered by King Mickey to find “the Key.” The three journey together to find Sora’s friends and King Mickey. It turns out that Riku has sided with Maleficent to open a door to the Realm of Darkness. Tapping into vast amounts of dark power, Riku is taken over by somebody called Ansem before Sora defeats him. Although he is briefly turned into a Heartless, Sora is able to close the door, but Riku and Mickey are trapped on the other side as Kairi is returned to Destiny Islands.
Chain of Memories
The next two games take place at the same time. In Chain of Memories, Sora discovers Castle Oblivion, the structure Aqua created back in Birth By Sleep. It is now under the control of Organization XIII, a group of Nobodies. When a person becomes a Heartless, their body becomes a Nobody.
The Organization wants to gain control of Sora and his Keyblade by rewriting his memories using a Nobody called Naminé. Sora frees her and is placed into a coma so that she can repair the damage to his memories. Donald and Goofy also volunteer to sleep so that Sora will not be alone when he wakes up. Although Sora isn’t aware of it at the time, Riku finds his way to the basement of Castle Oblivion and begins working his way through.
358/2 Days (read “Kingdom Hearts Three-Five-Eight Days over Two”), centers around Roxas, a member of Organization XII. Over the course of the year, it is slowly revealed that he is Sora’s Nobody, created when Sora was turned into a Heartless in the first game.
The Organization plans to use his Keyblade to destroy the Heartless and create an artificial Kingdom Hearts, but he later escapes near its completion. Riku is forced to capture him before he can attack the Organization as part of Sora resides within him. Using the darkness that he had been trying to seal away, Riku becomes Riku-Ansem once gain to capture Roxas.
Kingdom Hearts II
The second officially numbered game begins with Roxas believing himself to be a normal boy but strange events keep happening in his life. Memories of Sora keep erupting in his mind and he eventually rejoins with the hero. Throughout this game, the newly awakened Sora, Donald, and Goofy fight to stop Organization XIII from completing Kingdom Hearts.
Unfortunately, the Organization has some limited control over the Heartless and uses them to attack Sora. Each time he kills a Heartless, Kingdom Hearts grows closer to completion. During the final battle, Sora is able to defeat the Organization with the help of Riku and they and Kairi are able to return to Destiny Islands. Some time later, they receive a message from King Mickey. A secret cutscene shows Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, talking to a set of armor Aqua wore in Birth By Sleep, and referring to it as “friend.”
Kingdom Hearts Coded and Re:Coded
After the events of Kingdom Hearts II, Jiminy Cricket is browsing the journal he kept following Sora, Donald and Goofy around during the first game. Following Naminé’s rewriting of Sora’s memories, all the pages are blank but a new message has appeared stating “We must return to free them from their torment.” Mickey has the book digitized so that a Digi-Sora can explore the memories inside the book and find the meaning behind the message.
Digi-Sora eventually discovers that Naminé left a message for the real Sora. He is the “Key that connects everything.” Through his time as a Nobody, he was connected to Roxas and Xion. As Ventus is sheltering in his heart, he is connected to Terra, Aqua and Ventus as well. They are the people referred to in the message. The secret cutscene at the end of the Nintendo DS remake reveals that Ansem was the Heartless and Xemnas was the Nobody of Xehanort. Now that Sora and Riku have beat the two, Xehanort will be coming back. Sora and Riku are summoned to take the Mark of Mastery exam.
Dream Drop Distance
Following the events of Coded, Sora and Riku are put into a deep sleep to connect with worlds that have been saved from the Darkness but are still disconnected and in a dream state. Sora and Riku are tasked with waking them up. Along the way, they encounter various forms of Xehanort, including the previously defeated Ansem and Xemnas. Xehanort reveals that he planned to use Organization XIII to house parts of his Heart to create various forms of himself.
Using the thirteen people, he planned to fight seven Keyblade wielders to recreate the χ-blade. Xehanort attempts to put part of his heart into Sora but Ventus’ Keyblade Armor forces him into a deep sleep and protects his heart. Riku is able to rescue him and wake him up later. Although Riku is called a Master, Sora is denied. The game’s secret ending reveals that Kairi can also use a Keyblade and Lea (who, as the Nobody Axel, was friends with Roxas) can also summon one. The pair begin training to use their weapons.
Kingdom Hearts III
The latest trailers from E3 revealed several interesting tidbits, including a scene with Aqua. The Frozen trailer above Aqua, who appears to be consumed by darkness, picks up a keyblade, turns to Mickey, and tells him that it’s too late. It appears that Mickey may be there to inadvertently rescue Aqua from the Realm of Darkness. Perhaps, we’ll finally wrap up her storyline or discover more about her time trapped in darkness.
The trailer also hints at the return of Roxas, who Sora says resides in his heart. We learn that Ansem the Wise probably has Roxas’ data on file — thanks to the virtual world he created to contain. Roxas may be able to live apart from Sora after all. In addition to these storylines, expect to explore new worlds from Frozen, Tangled, and Big Hero 6. This game will also mark the final chapter of the “Dark Heart Saga” with Xehanort as the main villain.
Kingdom Hearts III will release January 29, 2019 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.