With Kingdom Hearts III finally receiving a release window of 2018, it's never been a better time to brush up on the needlessly complex lore of Kingdom Hearts.
Between Keyblades, Heartless, spikey anime hair, and Mickey Mouse, the plot has always been a head scratcher — that's why one video game journalist penned a full length novel attempting to explain and analyze the Disney and Square Enix brainchild.
Alexa Ray Corriea's Kingdom Hearts II book is part of the Kickstarter funded Boss Fight Books series. Each entry sees a seasoned games writer take on a video game of their choice, with Corriea's book taking a deep dive into the world of Kingdom Hearts.
While the book revolves around 2005's Kingdom Hearts II and its themes, a good chunk is dedicated to mapping out the events of the other games that precede and follow it. With knowledge that only a bonafide fan could possess, Corriea outlines the timeline and answers questions game director Tetsuya Nomura himself mostly dances around.
Why can Nobodies like Roxas cry if they're supposed to have no emotions or hearts? Why does Kairi feel so useless in Kingdom Hearts II? Does King Mickey have governance over just his Disney World, or the whole universe of Kingdom Hearts? These are questions Nomura either never wanted you to know — or bizarrely assumed you understood. It's hard to know what's inside that man's head.
Riku Is The Key
After tackling the series' plot in section one, Corriea connects some dots to present her central argument: that Riku, occasional antagonist and childhood friend of the game's playable hero Sora, is the true main character of the Kingdom Hearts narrative.
For anyone who might be rusty, Sora and Riku are childhood friends who grew up on Destiny Islands alongside a young girl named Kairi. Obsessed with leaving the Islands and finding greater purpose, Riku willingly submits to the darkness when an opportunity to go beyond his world is presented. The three friends are separated when Destiny Islands are destroyed, and Sora and Riku individually search for Kairi, each believing they're better suited than the other to protect her.
Throughout the series, players see Riku yearn for greatness, fall to darkness, be manipulated by Ansem, pay for his mistakes, then accept his own darkness and with that, accept himself. Sora, meanwhile, remains a pixie dream boy of sorts, always heroic and selfless but fairly static in terms of development. Kingdom Hearts is Riku's story, she argues, we're just viewing it through the eyes of Sora.
As Alexa Ray Corriea puts it,
"Riku returns to the world not necessarily a better person, but a wiser one. Riku, more than any other character in Kingdom Hearts II, inspires hope...while Sora simply shows good deeds are good, Riku teaches us a more important lesson — that even if you commit bad deeds, there is always room to accept your faults and try to make it better."
Kingdom Hearts Is Silly
Ultimately the book offers an insightful and passionate look into the series, which is pretty cool considering how rarely video games become the subject of books.
What really gives Boss Fight Book's Kingdom Hearts II its strength, though, is that while analytical, the book never takes itself or its subject too seriously. Alexa Ray is well aware that the premises and narrative of Kingdom Hearts are absurd, and she sails straight into that ridiculous storm.
In a world where Mickey Mouse and Sephiroth exist alongside Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean, a road map is certainly helpful for sorting it all out. Kingdom Hearts II is the perfect guide.
What new worlds are on your Kingdom Hearts III wishlist?