Aqua (Kingdom Hearts)
|Kingdom Hearts character|
Official artwork for Aqua for Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.
|First game||Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (2010)|
|Created by||Tetsuya Nomura|
|Designed by||Tetsuya Nomura|
|Voiced by (English)||Willa Holland|
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Megumi Toyoguchi|
Aqua (Japanese: アクア Hepburn: Akua?), also known as Master Aqua (マスター・アクア Masutā Akua?), is a fictional character from Square Enix's video game franchise Kingdom Hearts. Having first made cameo appearances in the game Kingdom Hearts II, Aqua was introduced in the 2010 prequel Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep as one of the three protagonists. In the title, Aqua is introduced as a Keyblade-wielding warrior living in Land of Departure training under Master Eraqus alongside her best friends Terra and Ventus. Following the disappearance from Master Xehanort, a comrade from Eraqus, she and Terra are tasked with searching for him as while protecting the worlds from creatures known as Unversed. However, she is also told by Eraqus to watch over Terra's development and bring back Ventus who left the Land of Departure.
Unlike Terra and Ventus, Aqua was the only protagonist from Birth by Sleep who did not have a base for director Tetsuya Nomura to design, and thus Nomura had pressure on how to make her appealing to gamers. While her outfit was based on Terra's, her movements were meant to contrast his and Ventus's to make her specialized in magic attacks. Aqua has been voiced by Megumi Toyoguchi in Japanese and Willa Holland in English. The character of Aqua has received mixed critics by video game publications based on her personality and role in Birth by Sleep as well as her gameplay mechanics which differed from the other characters.
Before her introduction in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Aqua made small appearances in the secret endings from Kingdom Hearts II and its re-release, Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. Both events depicted Terra, Ventus and her fighting Xehanort and his apprentice Vanitas. Moreover, her Keyblade and armor appear in a room from Radiant Garden in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, which Xemnas, the "Nobody" of Xehanort, often visits calling the armor "friend".
In Birth by Sleep, Aqua appears as a Keyblade apprentice in Land of Departure training alongside Terra and Ventus to gain the title of Keyblade Master. Aqua takes the Mark of Mastery exam along with Terra and becomes a Keyblade Master. When Xehanort goes missing, Eraqus instructs Terra and her to find him while also protecting the worlds they visit from creatures known as the Unversed. Following Terra's departure, Eraqus asks Aqua to watch over Terra to see if he succumbs to his inner darkness and also bring back Ventus who suddenly left the world. As she travels across the worlds, Aqua starts doubting about Terra's actions in the worlds, while Ventus decides not to return home until Terra is safe. When she meets Yen Sid, an acquaintance of Eraqus, Aqua is told that the latter was killed by Xehanort with Terra's assistance and goes to the Keyblade Graveyard to face him. Later, Terra explains to her how Xehanort tricked him into fighting Eraqus, while Ventus reveals that Xehanort plans to use him and his apprentice Vanitas to create a Keyblade known as the χ-blade. The three are then confronted by Xehanort and Vanitas, and proceed to battle. While Terra goes to battle Xehanort, Vanitas takes possession of Ventus's body to create the χ-blade. With help from King Mickey, Yen Sid's student, Aqua fights the possessed Ventus until the χ-blade explodes. After learning that Ventus has lost his heart, Aqua locks his catatonic body in Castle Oblivion created from the ruins of the Land of the Departure with Eraqus's Keyblade. Aqua then tracks down Terra to Radiant Garden, only to find that he has been possessed by Xehanort. In the ensuing battle, Terra's presence manifests, causing Xehanort to unlock his own heart in the internal struggle and fall into the Realm of Darkness. However, Aqua saves Terra's by sending her armor and Keyblade with him back to Radiant Garden and ends up trapped in the Realm of Darkness as a result. Sometime after the events of Kingdom Hearts II, she meets Ansem the Wise, the former ruler of Radiant Garden, at the shores of a dark ocean and learns about the events that occurred in her absence regarding Sora, the new Keyblade bearer. Upon hearing Sora's name, and recognizing it as the name of the little boy she met on Destiny Islands, Aqua sheds a tear and utters Sora's name with renewed hope.
In Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, Aqua is revealed to be one of the many people connected with Sora's heart, causing Mickey to ask Sora to rescue them. She also makes small appearances in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance as part of Sora's memories and in the ending where she is still at the shores of the dark ocean.
Creation and development
For Aqua's first appearance in the secret ending Kingdom Hearts II, director Tetsuya Nomura stated he still did not design her appearance, having focused on what her story would be. While unwilling to explain her identity, Nomura pointed that Aqua's, Terra's and Ventus's scene occurred prior to the events from the first game. Following the release of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Nomura revealed more details about Aqua such as a connection with the character Xemnas, wishing gamers to hint more about them. He also revealed her name as said by the Lingering Sentiment in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and explained that her name follows the "water" theme brought by Kairi's name. However, a connection with Kairi was not intended, but rather with the series' main characters whose names bear various themes.
In contrast to Terra and Ventus, Aqua did not have a base to design her, leading Nomura to call a completely new character. Her outfit was based on Terra's Japanese-inspired clothes which are meant to expand the student-and-teacher bond shown in the game. Aqua's outfit was altered three times during the game's development. Since Nomura felt that the outfit she was wearing during the Tokyo Game Show 2009 was too revealing since her entire back is exposed when she jumps in the air, he modified her outfit to create a design that was neither too conservative nor too revealing. As with Terra and Ventus, the making of Aqua's outfit brought issues to Nomura due to how she would be able to summon her armor. Therefore, an "X" was added to their clothes as a means to activate the armors. When designing her, Nomura was worried about her possible lack of popularity due to her lack of connections with other Kingdom Hearts characters unlike Terra and Ventus. Therefore, he decided to make her a strong girl as he mentions he did the same with Xion for Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days but in a different way; while Xion was made a brave girl, Nomura wanted to keep her feminine despite her strength. While still unsure how she would be received, Nomura later stated she became popular within fans, remarking Megumi Toyoguchi's work as her voice actress. Toyoguchi had already worked with Nomura in Final Fantasy X-2 voicing Paine, one of the game's protagonists; while Toyoguchi used a low tone with Paine, she used tone closer to her original voice when voicing Aqua, something which Nomura praised due to her representation of the character.
Ever since the game started development, the staff decided it would be divided in three scenarios, with Aqua's being the last one written. The original ending of her scenario showed her trapped in the Realm of Darkness, but said part was moved to the game's "Last Episode" playthrough in order to reduce the dark tones from the three regular endings. In gameplay perspective, Aqua was designed to be a character gamers would take some getting used to, and recommended them use her as the last one in order to understand the game's story better, as he points that scenario with the intention that Aqua would be the last character to leave the Land of Departure. The staff had in mind which when developing her movements, while her personality was described as a serious and dignified young woman.
Aqua's character has received mixed response from video game publications with initial comments focused on her, Terra's and Ventus's brief appearances in Kingdom Hearts II. Writing for GamesRadar, Chris Antista commented that he did not understand the importance of Aqua and the other characters being briefly featured in Kingdom Hearts II, although it could be explained once the player finishes Birth by Sleep. Videogamer.com writer Emily Gera stated that players may know little about them due to their role in Kingdom Hearts II, but with Birth by Sleep, players will able to know about them. Prior to her initial revelation in trailers from Birth by Sleep, 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish stated that fans speculated that Aqua would be a male character. Having played a demo from Birth by Sleep as Aqua in the E3 2010, Ryan Clements from IGN enjoyed her character due to her gameplay mechanics.
While reviewing Birth by Sleep, Adam Ghigiino from PALGN criticizing her "idealistic" dialogues, finding them repetitive. PlayStation LifeStyle's Thomas Williams found the trio as welcome additions to the franchise, finding their stories enjoyable even though the three travel to the same worlds. Kevin VanOrd from GameSpot gave praise to Aqua's character, based on her personality, how it counterparts Ventus's as well as Holland's voice acting. 1UP.com's Steve Watts found Aqua's gameplay as the weakest from all the three characters as in contrast to Ventus and Terra, she specializes in magic techniques which are weak during the game's start. On the other hand, Bob Miur from Destructoid found it appealing due to how it contrast previous fighting styles seen in the Kingdom Hearts series. Aqua's story was also found less entertaining than Ventus's, but also less predictable than Terra's. Following Square's advice of using Aqua as the last playable GameInformer writer Bryan Vore liked how her actions were played with Ventus's and Terra's. However, Bore still cited Aqua's playthrough as repetitive if played as the last one, and also said its plot was weakest from all of them. Alongside Ventus and Terra, X-Play found Aqua similar to the protagonists from Kingdom Hearts with her being compared with Kairi. In contrast to Van Ord, RPGFan's Ashton Liu found Aqua's voice "bored for almost the whole game", citing how it is notable when comparing her with other voice actors such as Mark Hamill and Leonard Nimoy. In an ASCII Media Works poll, Aqua was voted as the twelfth most popular video game character from 2010. In a Famitsu poll from 2011, Aqua was voted as the fourth most popular Kingdom Hearts character.
- キングダム ハーツ バース バイ スリープ アルティマニア [Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Ultimania] (in Japanese). Square Enix. 2010. pp. 640–649. ISBN 978-4-7575-2788-1.
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Eraqus: Eliminate the Unversed and find Master Xehanort. I have unlocked the Lanes Between. You may use these forbidden pathways to travel between this world and countless others."
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Eraqus: I told Terra this could be a second chance to show the Mark of Mastery...and I meant it. However, that flicker of darkness he displayed during the examination--I can sense it runs very deep. If he were to-- If those powers were to prove too much for him to handle, I want you to bring him back to me at once. It's for his own good. I could not bear to lose any of you to the darkness. / Aqua: Of course. I would never let that happen. I promise you I will bring Terra back. Only this time, you'll see he has what it takes to be a Master. He's not as weak as you think."
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Aqua: Wait, Ven! / Eraqus: No! He mustn't! You have to bring him back!"
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Terra: It might be a different route, but I'm fighting the darkness. / Aqua: I'm not so sure. I've been to the same worlds as you and I've seen what you've done. You shouldn't put yourself so close to the darkness. / Ventus: Listen to yourself, Aqua. Terra would never-- / Terra: You mean you've been spying on me? Is that what he said to do? The Master's orders? / Aqua: He was only-- / ... / Terra: Just stay put! I'm on my own now, all right? / Aqua: Terra, please! Listen! The Master has no reason to distrust you, really! He was just worried."
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Yen Sid: Aqua, the stars bring me grave news. Master Eraqus's star has blinked out. I am afraid that means he has been struck down. / Aqua: The Master? But-- Who is responsible? / Yen Sid: Master Xehanort...and Terra. / Aqua: No! That's absurd! Terra would never! / Yen Sid: I hope with all my heart that you are right about your friend. There are some things even the stars cannot tell me. Terra's heart is leading him to the ancient Keyblade Graveyard, where wielders of those weapons once waged war."
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Vanitas: Correct. I am not Ventus. His heart has become a part of mine now."
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Aqua: Ven! Ventus! / Yen Sid: The boy's heart is sleeping. / Aqua: When will he wake? / Yen Sid: I could not say. It is almost as though his heart has left."
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Eraqus's flashback: Just use the key, and this land will be transformed. From that day forward, all who visit this land will be lost to oblivion, none ever able to solve the mystery. None, Aqua, except you. / Aqua: I know it's a lonely place, but you'll be safe. Terra and I will be back to wake you up before you know it."
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Xehanort: Terra's heart has been extinguished - smothered by the darkness within him. / Aqua: My name is Master Aqua. Now return my friend's heart or pay the price."
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Xehanort: Stop fighting back! / Aqua: Terra, I know you're in there! / Xehanort: This will teach you. Get out of my heart!"
- Square Enix PDD 5 (September 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. PlayStation Portable. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. "Ansem: In fact, I would like to believe... Maybe he can set things right. A boy like him who touches so many hearts--he could open the right door, and save all those people whose lives I managed to ruin. So many are still waiting for their new beginning, their birth by sleep. Even me...and even you. / Aqua: What's this boy's name? / Ansem: His name...is... /.../ Aqua: Sora."
- Square Enix, h.a.n.d. (October 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. Nintendo DS. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. Level/area: Castle Oblivion.
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- キングダムハーツII FINAL MIX+ アルティマニア [Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ Ultimania] (in Japanese). Square Enix. 2007. ISBN 978-4-7575-2013-4.
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