For six years, Kingdom Hearts fans have been waiting for the release of the third game in the series. And while the wait has been agonizing, Tetsuya Nomura has kept a steady stream of spin-offs and side stories coming in order to flesh out the history of this series. But in expanding upon the relatively simple stories of Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, things began to grow more and more complicated. Now, with six games in total making up the series, the plot is a near-labyrinthine mess of connections and revelations. It's confusing for long-time fans and near impenetrable for newcomers. In mere weeks, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance will be releasing on the 3DS and promises, according to Nomura, to lead directly into Kingdom Hearts 3.
It's with that in mind that I have decided to unravel the plot of the entire series for those who may have missed the opportunity to play some of the spin-offs and those who just want a refresher before diving into the new game. I have also attempted to make this as inviting as I can for newcomers to the series who decide that they want to start with Dream Drop Distance. Be warned though that this timeline will spoil everything in the series so if you want to go in fresh, then it's probably a good idea to refer to this timeline later. With that introduction out of the way, let's begin:
The story begins with a young boy named Ventus and an old man named Xehanort arriving on the Destiny Islands one night. Ventus is seemingly unconscious, draped in a white cloth, and Xehanort plans to leave him near a tree on the beach. His plan to turn the boy to darkness has failed and left his heart fractured, which is the cause of his deep slumber. But, deep within the remains of his heart, Ventus hears the voice of another who was called to him by his light. The voice offers to join their hearts together until Ventus is strong enough to win back what he lost.
This merging of hearts does not immediately awaken Ventus, but he shows enough signs of life that Xehanort instead decides to leave the barely conscious boy with his old friend and fellow Keyblade Master, Eraqus. It’s there that Ventus meets Eraqus’s students, Terra and Aqua, and the three form a strong bond that eventually returns Ventus to normal. However, he has no memory of his past with Xehanort. They all live together in the Land of Departure where they train to become Keyblade Masters.
Several years later, Terra and Aqua are preparing for their Mark of Mastery exam which is the final test to become Keyblade Masters. As a sign of good luck and a symbol of their friendship, Aqua gives each of them a star-shaped charm known as a Wayfinder. She tells them it was inspired by a fruit on a certain island that, if shared, will bond friends together forever. In the years that had passed, Ventus had come to see Terra and Aqua as older siblings while he was like a little brother to them. That night, it seemed like their dreams would absolutely come true.
The next day, the exam is watched over by Masters Eraqus and Xehanort. As a final test Terra and Aqua duel each other though when Aqua gains the upper hand, signs of darkness come forth from Terra’s heart. Because of this perceived weakness, Aqua becomes a Keyblade Master while Terra does not. As he agonizes over his failure, Master Xehanort approaches him and explains that darkness cannot be truly destroyed. Instead it must be channeled by finding an even greater power. At the same time, Ventus is approached by Xehanort's protege, a boy in full armor and a mask. He claims that Terra will be leaving soon and the next time Ventus sees him, he would be a completely different person. Before Ventus could question him further, the boy vanishes.
Later, Master Eraqus is informed by the great sorcerer, Yen Sid, that the Princesses of Heart were in danger from a menace known only as the Unversed. The name describes how these monsters are not well-versed in their own existances and only know destruction. Aqua and Terra are sent out to eliminate this new threat while also keeping an eye out for Xehanort, who has gone missing. However, Aqua is given a third mission from Eraqus: keep an eye on Terra and prevent him from further succumbing to the darkness in his heart. As Terra is preparing to leave, Ventus approaches him and begs him not to go but is unsuccessful. Determined to save his friend from the fate that Xehanort's protege described, Ventus also leaves the Land of Departure. Aqua sees this and attempts to catch her young friend before he could fall into danger but quickly loses track of him.
At this point in time, it is extremely difficult to travel between worlds. Only Keyblade wielders are able to traverse the space between by donning a special armor that protects them from the darkness. However, beings of darkness can easily travel between the worlds. It’s still possible to travel thanks to other special methods, but it is not a simple task for the average person. Because of this, most people aren't even aware that there are other worlds out there.
Terra first arrives in the Enchanted Dominion (the land of Sleeping Beauty) and comes across a powerful sorceress named Maleficent. She tells him of a man that left a castle after imprisoning the light. Intrigued by her words, Terra explores this castle and discovers the sleeping body of Aurora. Maleficent appears before him again and explains what the Princesses of Heart actually are. Each princess has a heart of pure light and if all seven hearts were brought together, one could rule all worlds. However, only a Keyblade can release the hearts and allow this to happen. Terra realizes that Maleficent must have spoken to Xehanort and asks that she tell him what they spoke about. She agrees to tell him on the condition that he release Aurora’s heart. He refuses immediately, but she uses her magic to control the darkness in his heart and forces him to extract the princess’s heart. Before Terra can retrieve it, Maleficent disappears. Horrified at his own weakness, Terra leaves the Enchanted Dominion in search of the other princesses in the hope that they would lead him to Xehanort.
He arrives next at the Dwarf Woodlands (the land of Snow White) and comes across the vain Queen who has just discovered that Snow White was the fairest of all the land. She asks Terra to take Snow White’s heart in exchange for use of her magic mirror which could lead him directly to Xehanort. Terra has other ideas though and instead seeks Snow White to see if she knows anything about the Master. Instead Unversed frighten the poor young woman into the forest while Terra fights them off, losing track of her in the process. When he arrives before the Queen without Snow White’s heart, she uses the magic mirror in an attempt to kill him. Terra is able to defeat the mirror and demands to know where Xehanort is. Rather than a direct answer, he is given a riddle. Confused as to what it might mean, he sets off for the next world.
At the same time, Ventus arrives in the Dwarf Woodlands and is ecstatic to finally see another world. In all the years that he had stayed with Master Eraqus, he had never been allowed to visit other worlds. He soon comes across the seven dwarves and asks if they’ve seen Terra. The dwarves refuse to answer, believing that he is a thief, and send the young Keyblade wielder on his way. As he wanders through the forest, he comes across a frightened Snow White. Hoping to calm the young woman's nerves, Ventus takes her to empty cottage where she can rest. The dwarves arrive at the cottage and are surprised to find visitors in their home. Snow White calms them by explaining that monsters had attacked her after being approached by a man with a giant key. Ventus realizes that this is Terra and rushes off to find him, but it’s too late. Terra was already gone.
Ventus arrives next in the land surrounding the Castle of Dreams (the land of Cinderella) but for some reason he has shrunk to a fraction of his true size. He soon meets a talking mouse named Jaq who tells him of Cinderella’s mistreatment by her evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine. Cinderella dreams of going to the kingdom’s ball but with all the work Lady Tremaine had given her, it would be impossible to finish her dress. Working together, Ventus and Jaq gather the necessary materials for the dress and present it to the young woman. She iss delighted at the sight of it and thanks the both of them profusely as she goes to get ready for the ball. Happy to help Cinderella’s dream come true, Ventus sets out again on his journey.
However, soon after Ventus left, Terra arrived at the Castle of Dreams though he is full-size. While wandering through a garden, he comes across Cinderella in the tattered remains of a dress. He learns that her new dress had been ripped to shreds by Lady Tremaine and her daughters. The young woman was absolutely downtrodden, leaving Terra shaken at the fact that he could do nothing for her. It was at that moment that the Fairy Godmother appeared. She grants Cinderella a beautiful new dress and a stagecoach with which she could go to the ball. Terra is surprised by the Fairy Godmother’s generosity, but she explains that it was Cinderella’s pure belief in the power of dreams that strengthened her heart and called out to her. Terra decides to escort Cinderella to the ball and protects her when she is attacked by the Unversed. He watches on with a smile as the prince asks her to dance. He also speaks with the Grand Duke who explains that these monsters began to appear at the same time as a boy wearing a mask.
As the night wore on, the clock began to strike twelve forcing Cinderella to run off before the spell was broken. In her fluster, she accidentally leaves behind a single glass slipper. Terra runs after her with the prince and the Grand Duke but discovers Aqua in the foyer of the castle. He tells her about Xehanort’s search for pure hearts while she tells him of Ventus’s disappearance. Terra leaves hoping to find both Ventus and Xehanort while Aqua stays behind. She's heartened by the fact that Terra seemed to have learned something about the power of belief in dreams. With that belief, Terra could keep kis darkness at bay. Before Aqua could leave, she suddenly feels a dark presence emanating from Lady Tremaine and decides to follow her.
As she goes to confront the woman, the Fairy Godmother appears and warns her that it is dangerous to fight the darkness with light. Instead, Aqua helps Jaq the mouse free Cinderella from the locked attic. The Grand Duke arrives claiming that he is searching for the woman that the prince had danced with at the ball. When it doesn’t fit Cinderella’s stepsisters, he goes to leave until Cinderella calls out to him. It quickly comes to light that she was indeed the same woman who had danced with the prince. Though Lady Tremaine’s anger calls forth a vile Unversed, Aqua is able to defeat it while Cinderella reunites with the prince. Satisfied, Aqua continues on her journey.
She arrives next in the Dwarf Woodlands where she discovers the seven dwarves grieving over the body of Snow White. They explain to her of the Queen’s jealousy and how she tricked Snow White into biting a poisonous apple. Determined to rescue the girl from her fate, Aqua travels to the Queen’s castle. Along the way she meets the prince of a neighboring land who had fallen in love in with Snow White after a chance meeting. Aqua tells him of the young woman's fate and he rushes off to see her. Aqua decides to continue her quest to confront the Queen and is eventually attacked by an Unversed version of the magic mirror. The Keyblade Master is able to vanquish it completely causing the Queen to disappear as well. Returning to Snow White’s side, she sees the prince give Snow White a farewell kiss which surprisingly awakens the girl. Everyone is filled with relief and joy as the new couple ride off together. The experience reminds Aqua of when Ventus had been asleep for a long time until one day, he had miraculously opened his eyes.
Ventus, meanwhile, had finally came upon the Enchanted Dominion where he found Aurora and the three good fairies. They explain how the princess had fallen into an eternal slumber and also had her heart stolen by Maleficent. Wanting to help the poor girl, Ventus travels to Maleficent’s domain and successfully frees her heart. As the princess's heart passes by him, he sees a memory play out in his mind. It's of Aurora and how she met a prince in the forest one day. It isn't long before the two fall in love. The memory proves to Ventus that it was worth saving Aurora's heart but before he can escape Maleficent’s castle, he is confronted by the evil woman. She reveals to him that it was Terra who had stolen Aurora’s heart. Ventus doesn’t want to believe her, but the words of the masked boy echo in his head. Had Terra already become a different person? It was then that Aqua appeared and eased his fears. She begs him to return home with her, but he runs off instead, desperate to find Terra.
Alone again, Aqua turns to face Maleficent but is sent plummeting into the dungeons before they can fight. There she meets the prince from Aurora’s memories. He had attempted to save his love but had been captured by Maleficent instead. Together, they are able to escape the castle but Maleficent gives chase in her dragon form. With help from the three good fairies, the prince is able to pierce the dragon’s heart with his sword and vanquish the vile woman. Returning to Aurora’s bedside, the prince gives her a kiss which finally awakens her from her long slumber. Happy that the lovers have been reunited, Aqua leaves the castle and discovers a still-alive Maleficent. Aqua declares that the witch could not defeat the power of love, but Maleficent still doubts her words. So long as people like Terra could be driven toward the darkness in their hearts, she would have minions to serve her. With that, she vanishes and Aqua dons her armor to continue her journey.
Terra’s search had brought him to the Mysterious Tower, home to Yen Sid the sorcerer. But as he approaches the tower, a young Mickey Mouse crashes through the front doors holding a Star Shard and a Keyblade. The shard begins to glow and he is whisked off in a gleam of light. When Terra finally meets Yen Sid, he learns that Mickey is his apprentice though he has abandoned his training since learning that all the worlds were in danger. Terra tells the sorcerer about the masked boy who was apparently controlling the Unversed. Upon hearing this, Yen Sid tells of his belief that Xehanort’s disappearance and the arrival of the Unversed may be connected. He asks Terra to continue his search for the Master.
It did not take long for Terra to find the Master as he hears his voice in space between worlds. Following it, he arrives in a desolate world known only as the Badlands. Finally confronting Xehanort, Terra asks him what his true intentions are. Xehanort confessed that he was the one who had created the masked boy, who was named Vanitas. Before Ventus had met Aqua and Terra, he had trained with Xehanort but during the training an accident occurred where darkness threatened to take over the boy’s heart. In order to save him, Xehanort had to remove the darkness which was so powerful that it became a being unto itself, Vanitas. Ashamed at his failure, he brought the near-empty Ventus to Master Eraqus to be in his care. The story reminds Terra of the first day that he had seen the lifeless eyes of his future friend; how he had walked unsteadily and how questions from Terra and Aqua had caused the boy to scream until passing out. The incident had left Ventus with no memory of his life before living in the Land of Departure. Though Xehanort had tried to contain Vanitas, the masked boy was traveling from world to world spreading his darkness in the form of the Unversed. Xehanort ends his story by imploring Terra to travel to the city of light, Radiant Garden, which would undoubtedly be Vanitas’s next target.
As Terra left the Badlands, Ventus unknowingly discovers them and finds himself face to face with Vanitas. Ventus demands to know how Terra will become a different person, but Vanitas merely states that, “The Terra you know will be gone forever,” before summoning a Keyblade of his own. Vanitas proves to be too powerful for Ventus and is about to finish him off until Mickey arrives. Together, Ventus and Mickey manage to drive the masked boy off. Mickey then tells Ventus the same story that Yen Sid had told Terra as to why he was traveling the worlds. Mickey then tries to show off his Star Shard which he uses to travel between worlds. However, it goes out of control and engulfs them in its light before sending them off to a different world.
They arrive in Radiant Garden where Ventus is only able to follow Mickey as far as the castle doors as the guards, Aeleus and Dilan, prevent him from going any further. Instead, he spots an enormous Unversed and gives chase. During his pursuit, he rescues Scrooge McDuck who rewards his act of bravery with three lifetime passes to Disney Town. At the same time, Terra also arrives in Radiant Garden with Master Xehanort. Xehanort goes ahead as Terra is sidetracked by the discovery of a strange book which the great wizard Merlin claims could awaken a person’s inner strength. Catching sight of a huge Unversed, Terra gives chase. Soon after, Ventus also runs into Merlin who tells him about the special book. It was at this time that Aqua also arrives in Radiant Garden and immediately discovers a little girl named Kairi surrounded by Unversed. Aqua recognizes immediately that the strong light within her is the thing that's making her such an appealing target. With so many Unversed attacking, Aqua is almost overwhelmed, but Mickey appears before her to help out. Together they fight off the attack and become fast friends though their meeting is cut short when Mickey’s Star Shard activates and sends him off toward another world.
Before leaving the girl, Aqua casts a spell of protection on her so that if her light was ever in trouble, it would be drawn to the light of another close to her. As Kairi’s grandmother takes her away, she tells the story of a war over the light that eventually cast everything into darkness. The only light that remained was within children. Using this light, life continued on though the worlds were separated because of this. But deep within the darkness, the true source of light remains. Aqua then spots a large Unversed and gives chase. She meets up with Terra and Ventus who had also resumed their chases of their own Unversed. The three Unversed combine into one huge monster that the three friends work together to defeat.
To celebrate their victory, Ventus gives his friends the tickets he received to Disney Town though the happy reunion is spoiled when Aqua accuses Terra of putting himself too close to the darkness. Terra realizes that Master Eraqus had asked her to spy on him and storms off, hurt by their mistrust. Ventus goes after him leaving Aqua on her own. He loses track of Terra and instead comes across a young orphan named Ienzo who is being attacked by the Unversed. He rescues the boy and is thanked by his guardian, Even, who points him in the direction of Terra. Terra, meanwhile, is approached by a man named Braig. He demands Terra’s Keyblade and reveals that he has captured Xehanort. Terra fights off Braig, but the battle is so intense that he is forced to call upon darkness. He’s unable to control it and ends up damaging Braig’s eye and giving him a scar. Though he is the victor, he is ashamed that he was forced to use the power of darkness. But instead of chiding him, Xehanort praises Terra and offers him the chance to become his pupil. His confidence restored, Terra vows to hunt down Vanitas. Before he is able to depart, he is approached by Ventus. Their encounter is awkward as they struggle to find the right things to say, but Terra promises to stay safe.
Ventus decides to go find Aqua, but she is still exploring Radiant Garden where she also encounters Merlin, who also tells her of the special book. Continuing her search, she is confronted by Vanitas and is barely able to drive the masked boy off. Afterward, she is found by Ventus and insists that he return home. Her encounter with Vanitas has shown just how dangerous this quest is. She departs, leaving him on his own. Despondent, Ventus thinks back to happier times when they all dreamed of becoming Keyblade Masters. He is taken from his thoughts when he meets a boy name Lea who challenges him to a fight. Ventus eventually agrees, but Lea quickly loses. Lea’s friend Isa appears and they start throwing friendly jibes at one another. Ventus watches them for a while and eventually becomes friends with the two. Envying their clear friendship, Ventus finally departs Radiant Garden.
The story will continue tomorrow as the three Keyblade wielders continue their fight against the Unversed and learn the true intentions of Master Xehanort.
Click here for Part 2!
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