For six years, Kingdom Hearts fans have been waiting for the third game in the series. And now with six games in total, the plot is a near labyrinthine mess of connections and revelations. 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. Today we explore Part 9 of our ongoing feature.
Sora has left the recreated Twilight Town and returned to the white halls of Castle Oblivion. There, he’s surprised to find Riku who is still desperate to protect Namine from the pain that he believes Sora will bring her. Sora is confused as to why Riku still seems different despite Vexen’s death. He had hoped that would revert back to his old self. Riku tells him that Vexen never affected his heart and provides his reason for protecting Namine. It turns out to be the exact same story that Sora told to the others before. Every detail is the same even the promise to protect and the lucky charm that she gives him. The two are unsure of what this could mean, but Riku declares Sora’s charm a fake and the two duel once again. Sora wins this one as well and Riku runs off, dropping his charm in the process. Picking it up, Sora is shocked to see it transform into a simple card.
Axel approaches Namine and says that she’s the only person the Riku replica has left and that only she can stop this. She’s surprised at his words but believes it’s too late to do anything. He tells her it may not be time to give up yet and mentions that Marluxia isn’t around at the moment. Taking the hint, Namine runs off while Axel delights in the prospects of what may happen. One by one, he’s put all of the actors in place and can’t wait to see what the results may be. Donald and Goofy are attempting to figure out what’s going on and why Riku and Sora have the same exact memory. But Sora doesn’t care. His only thoughts are of Namine and saving her. He lashes out at Donald and Goofy when they resist causing Goofy to remark that Sora’s changed. Frustrated that they aren’t going along with him, Sora runs off alone.
Down in the lower levels, Zexion learns from Lexaeus that Vexen is dead. He finds it deplorable that Axel was the one to do it. Having members of the Organization strike each other down leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Lexaeus realizes that the bigger problem is Marluxia’s plan for Sora. If the boy is already stronger than Vexen, it’s likely he will prove difficult. Rather than trying to kill the boy, they decide that they’ll combat him by capturing Riku.
Above, Jiminy is trying to talk some sense into Sora but is snapped at for his trouble as well. He rushes through the next door and finds himself on Destiny Islands. While exploring, he discovers the version of Riku from his memories. This Riku asks if Sora is going to go see “her” when the island begins to quake. The island is breaking apart once again. Sora navigates the wreckage and finally discovers Namine. They’re relieved to see each other once again until Namine admits that she messed up. She was so desperate to see Sora after being alone for so long that she called out to his heart. Sora says that he doesn’t mind, but suddenly a second Namine appears.
Sora is confused at first, but the new Namine immediately says that the other is a fake. The fake agrees while the real one states that she isn't in anyone’s heart, especially not Sora’s. Sora doesn’t believe her because of his twisted memories, but Namine questions if it was really because of her that he came to Castle Oblivion in the first place. He shows her the good luck charm as proof. Namine waves it away and begs him to think of the person who is truly most special to him. He still believes it’s Namine at first but an image of Kairi finally breaks through. Sora can’t remember Kairi’s name, only that the image was familiar. He’s snapped out of it when he realizes that Namine’s disappeared.
He begins to search for her as the real Riku is confronted by Lexaeus. Like all the others he’s met, Lexaeus tells Riku to embrace the darkness in his heart, not fear it. Riku is adamant that he does not fear it and refuses to give in. At these words, Lexaeus attacks him seeking to either pull out his darkness or end Riku completely. The fight is an intense one that leaves both on their knees. Lexaeus is astounded by Riku’s power while Riku taunts the darkness. Lexaeus admits that he is dying from the wounds though the Organization is even greater than himself. He then falls and the darkness within him bursts forward and surrounds Riku. In this darkness, the voice of Ansem calls out to him again saying that the more Riku thinks of him, the closer his return draws. Ansem tries to take over Riku’s body, but he is saved by the words of King Mickey once again. He pulls Riku from the darkness but is nowhere to be found in Castle Oblivion. Riku realizes that the king is in his heart.
Sora’s search brings him to the next floor of Castle Oblivion where Namine is waiting for him. He reveals to her that she is not the most important person to him, but he can’t remember the name of the girl who is. Namine begins to explain that it’s her fault, but she is cut off by the Riku replica. He attacks Sora without warning, catching the Keyblade wielder off guard. As he is about to finish him off, Riku’s heart is attacked by Namine in an attempt to save Sora. He collapses to the ground as Larxene appears. She explains that in order to save Sora, Namine smashed Riku’s heart. She then reveals that this Riku is nothing more than a puppet created by Vexen.
Taking pleasure in Sora’s pain, Larxene goes on to reveal that Namine has the power to mess with memories. She can rearrange them as well as create brand new ones. Sora finally realizes all his memories of Namine are fake as Larxene tells him everything that occurred behind the scenes. That they had lured him to the castle to make him their puppet, and that Axel had ruined everything by letting Namine escape. Namine tries to protect Sora as Larxene approaches, but she is smacked away. Larxene taunts Sora’s concern for Namine, but he retorts that even if his memories are fake, he’s going to stay true to them and protect Namine. Larxene calls Sora an idiot and goes to attack but is blocked by Donald and Goofy.
Sora is amazed to see them there after what he had said before. They reassure him that they’ll always be friends no matter what. Together, they take on Larxene and defeat her. She throws curses at them as she fades into nothingness. Afterwards, they all greet Namine and she explains exactly what has been happening in Castle Oblivion. Little by little, she has been taking the memories in Sora’s heart and replacing them with false ones. It isn’t the castle that has this ability, it’s her. She was never Sora’s friend, she never lived on Destiny Islands, everything was a lie. She did all this because Marluxia had threatened to lock her in the castle forever if she didn’t, and she complied because of her loneliness. Jiminy asks if it’s possible to return their memories to normal, and she says she can if they reach the topmost floor. Unfortunately, they have to fight through Marluxia to reach it.
She begins to cry (something that other Nobodies are unable to do) and asks Sora’s forgiveness. He says he’s not happy with how she messed with his memories, but he can’t bring himself to blame her. Despite the fact that he knows the memories are fake, Sora wants to protect Namine and keep her happy. Namine is shocked at this kindness and the ease with which he, Donald, and Goofy can joke around. Determined to get their memories back, they head off to face Marluxia. However, as they battle their way through the final floor, Marluxia appears before Namine.
Zexion is disturbed at the loss of both Lexaeus and Vexen. He ponders what he should do when Axel appears before him. He reveals that Larxene is dead too because of Namine. Zexion believes Axel may be next, but Axel is content to let Sora think he beat him for good. Instead, he guesses that Marluxia will be the next to die. It’s poetic justice that Sora will likely be the one to take him down. Zexion realizes that they won’t be needing Riku anymore if Marluxia’s plans are finished. He asks for the data on Riku’s memories of Destiny Islands, choosing to take down the boy indirectly.
Axel then decides to return to Marluxia. He calls Axel a traitor and complains about how close they were to making Sora their slave until Namine was freed. Axel says that because of Marluxia’s and Larxene’s plans to overthrow the Organization with Namine and Sora, that he is actually the traitor. Marluxia questions how Axel could have killed Vexen if he wasn't with them, but the assassin reveals that he did it so they would trust him. The traitor realizes that Axel was sent there to spy on them from the start. Axel goes to attack Marluxia, but he brings out Namine as a shield. This doesn’t affect Axel though as he plans to just kill them both.
But Marluxia isn’t worried. He knows that Sora has appeared and heard Axel’s threat. Marluxia disappears with Namine as Axel tells Sora that he doesn’t want to fight. He isn’t given a choice though as the two square off. Sora wins the fight, and Axel is satisfied to see that the boy was worth saving from Marluxia. He runs off, not telling Sora any more. Sora then runs ahead to face off against Marluxia. Before Sora can do anything, Marluxia commands Namine to destroy Sora’s memories. From that empty shell, he’ll finally have his puppet, but Namine refuses after all that Sora has done for her.
Sora then surprises everyone by telling her to do what Marluxia says. He doesn’t want her hurt and knows that even without his memory, he can defeat the Nobody. Suddenly, the Riku replica appears and attacks Marluxia. He’s shocked at this development since Namine had destroyed his heart before. Riku explains that his heart and body may be fake, but the memories Namine had given him feel real and that’s all that matters. Marluxia scoffs at the idea though he has lost Namine as his hostage. With nothing to stop them, they attack Marluxia together and seemingly defeat him.
However, it turns out it was nothing more than an image Marluxia had created. Namine leads them to a door where his true being is held. Sora asks the Riku replica to keep her safe while he takes on Marluxia. His plans now completely ruined, Marluxia decides to end Sora once and for all and uses a massive contraption to do so. Sora is able to wear down the machine and destroys it along with Marluxia. The crash is so massive that the real Riku feels it in the floors below. Zexion appears before him and informs him that Sora just destroyed the keeper of Castle Oblivion. Riku is shocked to hear that Sora is there as well, but Zexion wonders if he can even face Sora with Ansem’s Shadow still entrenched in his heart. Before leaving, Zexion gives Riku the card for Destiny Islands where he says Riku will discover the truth.
Riku is surprised to discover how homesick he feels as he wanders through the recreation. For the first time since arriving in the castle, he finally finds the friends he once had. But each time he tries to talk to them, they vanish. When the same thing happens to Kairi, Riku can only sulk. Zexion appears again stating that his friends’ disappearances prove that Riku only has dark memories left in his heart. Riku contests the claim but as if to underscore how he threw everything away, Zexion brings him to a recreation of the islands’ destruction. It was because of Riku’s selfishness and desire to leave the islands that everything was destroyed.
While Riku deals with the guilt of his past actions, Sora reunites with Namine and the Riku replica. The replica is still trying to deal with the fact that he is nothing more than a fake. They ask if Namine can return him to normal, but her powers don’t work like that. The replica thanks Sora for his kind words and walks away from the group without another word.
It’s then that the real Riku is attacked by a recreation of Sora. Riku holds him off, asking why he wants to fight. This Sora claims it’s because Riku’s heart is filled with darkness. As Sora attacks him again, Riku feels himself fading in the brilliance of Sora’s light. But he’s saved by memories of Kairi. She reassures him that no power can defeat him, not light nor dark. Riku should stop running from the light and fearing the darkness since both together will make him stronger. Then, finally, he can reunite with the friends he misses so much. Riku uses his powers of darkness to pierce the light and strike at this Sora. Sora flies back and reveals himself to actually be Zexion, who is shocked that Riku was able to find him in the light.
Riku tells him that by using the darkness, he was able to find Zexion. Zexion is amused that Riku ended up using these powers after all his protestations. But his words don’t affect Riku anymore. He knows who he is. Zexion runs off before Riku can make the killing blow. He's still shocked by the boy’s power since, up to this point, no one has used the darkness in conjunction with the light. He turns to find Axel and the Riku replicant watching him. Axel tells the replicant that he could become his own person in time and defeating Zexion was as good a place as any. Zexion can’t believe Axel’s words, but the assassin says that saving him doesn’t seem half as entertaining as watching Sora and Riku. The replicant kills Zexion and absorbs his power without question.
With Marluxia gone, Sora, Donald and Goofy ask Namine if she can now fix their memories. She explains that memories are like a chain and that she never destroyed them, merely took apart the links and rearranged them. But the process is going to be complicated since she has to undo the links that she added and then reconnect the ones that they lost. Jiminy then realizes that if she does that, they’ll forget everything that happened in Castle Oblivion. Namine agrees and says its the only way to restore them. Sora asks her to go ahead with the process so that he can remember all he’d lost. Namine agrees but is saddened at the decision.
Riku is almost out of the Castle’s basement floors when the voice of Ansem calls out to him once again. He’s delighted that Riku finally let the darkness in. Despite his words, Riku argues that the darkness no longer controls him. To demonstrate how wrong he is, Ansem lifts Riku’s body into the air. The deeper darkness takes hold, the stronger Ansem becomes. It’s then that Mickey finally arrives and breaks Ansem’s hold on Riku. He checks to see if Mickey is really real before collapsing on the ground. After being alone for so long, it’s a relief to finally be with a friend. He asks Mickey how he found him and the king shows him a card that had come to him in the Realm of Darkness. When he took hold of it, it led him to Castle Oblivion and Riku.
Namine leads Sora and his friends to a set of massive pods where they’ll have to sleep while she restores their memories. She warns that it may take a while, but she’ll be sure to return them to normal as quickly as she can. They still feel bad that they’ll forget Naimine in the process, but Jiminy makes a note in his journal to “Thank Namine.” Sora gets ready to enter the pod and tells her that he’s happy to have met her. He then promises to find her again someday. That way they can be friends for real. As he enters the pod Namine tells him that if he can remember Kairi, the light in his heart, then all the loose chains in his heart will come to that light. He looks at his good luck charm one last time and finally remembers her name. With a smile on his face, the pod closes upon him.
Using the card that Mickey found, Riku finds himself in Twilight Town’s recreation but with no sign of the king. Instead, Ansem appears and tells him that the king is gone until they settle things one on one. But Riku doesn’t raise his blade. He’s finally realized that this Ansem is different from the one in his heart. The one in his heart is completely foul, but the one before him has a quality that he doesn’t quite recognize. He finally puts things together and realizes that he’s the one who really guided him to Castle Oblivion. The voice that had started everything. All so Riku could face the darkness. Ansem admits that he is correct and changes his form to that of DiZ (the original Ansem the Wise).
He tells Riku that he’s been watching him all this time and Riku asks to what purpose. DiZ responds that it is because Riku is special. He is one that walks between the light and the dark, upon the path of twilight. He wants Riku to meet Namine before making a decision. He disappears, leaving Riku to explore the rest of Twilight Town. When Riku discovers the large gate in front of a mansion, his replicant reappears again. He has been consumed by anger that absorbing Zexion’s power has done nothing to change him. He figures that by destroying the real Riku, he won’t be a fake anymore. He is outclassed though and the real Riku mortally wounds him. As the fake begins to fade from his existence, he wonders what will happen to him since his emotions and heart are probably fake too. Riku doesn’t know how to comfort the replicant as he disappears completely.
With this victory, he has finally escaped the basement of Castle Oblivion and easily makes his way to the topmost floor where he finds Namine. Riku immediately realizes that the vision of Kairi he saw when trapped by Zexion was actually Namine in disguise. She then takes him to a nearby pod where he sees Sora sleeping. At the sight of his confusion, Namine tells Riku everything that had happened to Sora and his friends. It’s then that she tells him about the decision he must make.
In his heart is darkness and in that darkness is the remnants of Ansem. Riku has been able to keep him at bay for now, but when he does eventually awaken, he’ll fully conquer Riku’s heart and body. She offers to seal the darkness off from his heart to protect him forever, but it would cost him all the memories of his past. After thinking about the times he had with Sora, Riku decides to forego the lock. When Ansem does awaken, he’ll just finish him off once and for all. Namine is surprised by the decision, but Riku isn’t worried. He asks her to look after Sora before taking his leave.
He finds Mickey waiting for him in the hallway. The king and DiZ have been talking about Riku’s decision. Mickey says that he feels like he’s met DiZ before but doesn’t know when. Ansem the Wise has still not revealed his true identity as their mysterious new ally. He remains aloof when Riku asks for his identity but commends the boy for choosing to face Ansem. DiZ then gives him a card that will draw the darkness from his heart, allowing him to fight Ansem. Mickey offers to help in the fight, but Riku knows he has to face him alone.
It isn’t long before Riku finds Ansem. The remnant of Xehanort’s Heartless is confused as to why the boy has accepted darkness but still refuses his influence. Riku says its just because Ansem stinks. Ansem calls him a fool for throwing his offer away since he was conquered once already. Riku remembers that he used all of Ansem’s darkness to fight Sora and still lost; he’s not impressed. The two finally face off and Riku is able to emerge the victor. As the final blow strikes him, Ansem notes that while the bulk of his darkness may be destroyed, a part of him still lingers in Riku’s heart. Riku ignores the comment and returns to Mickey.
With everything in Castle Oblivion wrapped up, Mickey asks Riku what he’ll do next. Riku knows he can’t go home until Ansem is completely gone. His presence may be faint, but it’s there. Mickey tells him not to worry. Up until now, he thought that all darkness was bad. But seeing Riku conquer the darkness as well as the light has changed his mind. The way the two sides intermingle in him is wholly unique. Mickey wants to join Riku on his journey to see where this new idea leads. Riku accepts and, now donning the black robes of the Organization, leaves Castle Oblivion. They come to a crossroads where DiZ is waiting. He asks Riku if he will take the road to light or the one to darkness. Riku doesn’t hesitate before saying, “Neither.” He will take the middle road. DiZ asks if he means the twilit road to nightfall. Riku corrects him once again. He is taking the road to dawn.
The story continues tomorrow as the Organization learns of the events that occurred in Castle Oblivion and Roxas takes his first steps to learning about life and friendship. Be sure to keep up by reading Parts 1-8 of the Timeline:
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