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Aqua (Kingdom Hearts)

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Aqua
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
Fictional profile
Weapon Keyblade

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 Kingdom Hearts II and its updated version Final Mix, Aqua is one of the three protagonists who is introduced in the 2010 prequel Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. She is one of the Keyblade apprentices training under Master Eraqus alongside her friends Terra and Ventus. As Eraqus' friend Master Xehanort leaves, Aqua and Terra are assigned to find him and defeat creatures known as the Unversed. She also appeared in other Kingdom Hearts titles, most notably Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue.

Unlike Terra and Ventus, Aqua is the only protagonist who did not have a point of reference for Tetsuya Nomura to design from, and thus was designed from scratch. Later in the design process, Nomura became concerned that Aqua would not be popular, and this drove his decision to make her very distinct in her personal bravery and combat abilities. While her outfit design was based on Terra's, her movements were chosen to distinguish her from other characters by having her specialize in magical combat. Aqua is voiced by Megumi Toyoguchi in Japanese and Willa Holland in English.

Aqua received mixed reviews from game critics, citing boring plot lines and unenthusiastic voice acting combined with weak combat skills. With fans, Aqua was well received, and is one of Kingdom Hearts most popular characters. Nevertheless, her return in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue has received positive response by critics.

Appearances[edit]

Before her introduction as a main character in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Aqua had earlier 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 Aqua fighting Xehanort and Vanitas. In Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Xehanort's "Nobody", Xemnas goes to the Radiant Garden's secret room to visit Aqua's Keyblade and armor.[1]

In Birth by Sleep, Aqua is one of the apprentices in the Land of Departure where potential Keyblade Masters study to receive their "Mark of Mastery". She trains with Terra and Ventus, and takes the Mark of Mastery exam with Terra to becomes a Keyblade Master. When Xehanort leaves, Eraqus orders Terra and Aqua to find him and defeat the Unversed.[2] As Terra leaves, Eraqus asks Aqua to watch over Terra that he would succumb to the inner darkness and also bring back Ventus who pursues Terra.[3][4] Aqua travels across the worlds and questions about Terra, while Ventus follows him.[5] After meeting with Yen Sid, as Eraqus' acquaintance, he tells Aqua that Xehanort assisted Terra to defeat Eraqus. At the Keyblade Graveyard, Aqua confronts Terra,[6] who explains to her that how Xehanort tricked him, while his plan is to fuse Ventus with Vanitas and create the χ-blade. The three confront and battle with Xehanort and Vanitas. While Terra fights with Xehanort, Vanitas possess Ventus to create the χ-blade.[7] Aqua defeats Vanitas, destroying the χ-blade. After learning that Ventus lost his heart,[8] Aqua wields Eraqus' Keyblade, transforms from the Land of the Departure into Castle Oblivion and leaves Ventus' catatonic body there.[9] At Radiant Garden, Aqua confronts Xehanort who possess Terra's body.[10] In the ensuing battle, Terra resists Xehanort into unlocking his heart and they fall into the Realm of Darkness.[11] However, as Aqua's armor saves Terra's body and sent back to Radiant Garden, Aqua is trapped in the realm. Sometime after the events of Kingdom Hearts II, she meets Ansem the Wise, the former ruler of Radiant Garden, at the shores of the Dark Margin, a black moon-lit ocean in the Realm of Darkness, 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 who now possesses Ventus' heart, Aqua sheds a tear and utters Sora's name with renewed hope.[12]

Birth by Sleep Final Mix, an update of Birth by Sleep, features a secret episode that slightly expands on Aqua's time in the Realm of Darkness, battling Heartless with Eraqus' Keyblade.

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.[13] She also makes a cameo 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 Margin.

Aqua is the protagonist of Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-, which is part of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. This new chapter is a prologue to the events of Kingdom Hearts III, which heavily expands on her time in the Realm of Darkness. In the chapter, she encounters Mickey Mouse, who attempts to help her escape, but she ultimately sacrifices herself once again to protect Riku from the Heartless just after Sora's climactic battle with Ansem, and so remains in the Realm of Darkness.[14]

Aqua will return in Kingdom Hearts III.

Creation and development[edit]

Aqua in her new appearance in E3 2016 Trailer

For Aqua's unnamed first appearance in the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts II, director Tetsuya Nomura stated he did not design her appearance, but had instead focused on what her story would be. While unwilling say who the character was, Nomura pointed that this new character scenes, along with Terra's and Ventus' scenes occurred prior to the events from the first game.[15] Following the release of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Nomura revealed more details about Aqua such as a connection with the character Xemnas. Nomura 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.[16][17] However, a connection with Kairi was not intended, but rather with the series' main characters whose names bear various themes.[1]

Willa Holland has voiced Aqua in all her English appearances.

In contrast to Terra and Ventus, Aqua did not have a reference point for the characters design, leading Nomura to create a completely new character from scratch. Her outfit was based on Terra's Japanese-inspired clothes which are meant to expand the student-and-teacher bond shown in the game.[1][18] Aqua's outfit was altered three times during the game's development. Nomura felt the open back of Aqua’s outfit presented at the Tokyo Game Show 2009 was too revealing and modified the design to be more conservative.[19] As with Terra and Ventus, the making of Aqua's outfit created issues for Nomura like how she would be able to summon her armor. To remedy this, an "X" was added to her clothes as a means to activate her armor. When designing Aqua, Nomura was worried the character would be unpopular due to her weak connection with other Kingdom Hearts characters. This led to a push to make the character distinctly "strong", which Nomura also did with Xion for Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days but in a different way. While Xion was also a "brave girl", Nomura wanted to retain Aquas feminine qualities along with her strength. After design was completed, Nomura was still unsure how Aqua would be received. After release however, Nomura noted her popularity with fans, and referenced Megumi Toyoguchi's work as her voice actress as one of the reasons. 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, which Nomura praised.[1]

From the beginning of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleeps development, the staff decided its story would have three plot lines centered around three different characters with Aqua's being the last one written. The original ending of Aqua's storyline showed her trapped in the Realm of Darkness, but that part was moved to the game's "Last Episode" playthrough in order to keep the game from being too negative in tone.[1] In terms of gameplay, 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,[20] as he points that scenario with the intention that Aqua would be the last character to leave the Land of Departure.[1] The staff developed her movements to reflect her personality as a serious and dignified young woman.[21]

Reception[edit]

Aqua's character has received mixed response from video game publications with initial comments focused on her brief appearance 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, and only later was their importance explored at the end of Birth by Sleep.[22] Prior to Aqua's appearance in Birth by Sleep's trailers, 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish stated that fans speculated that the character would be male.[23] 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.[24]

While reviewing Birth by Sleep, Adam Ghigiino from PALGN criticizing her "idealistic" dialogues, finding them repetitive.[25] 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.[26] Kevin VanOrd from GameSpot gave praise to Aqua's character, based on her personality, how it counterparts Ventus' as well as Holland's voice acting.[27] 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.[28] 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', but also less predictable than Terra's.[29] Following Square's advice of using Aqua as the last playable Game Informer writer Bryan Vore liked how her actions were played with Ventus' 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.[30] Alongside Ventus and Terra, X-Play found Aqua similar to the protagonists from Kingdom Hearts with her being compared with Kairi.[31] 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.[32] In an ASCII Media Works poll, Aqua was voted as the twelfth most popular video game character from 2010.[33] In a Famitsu poll from 2011, Aqua was voted as the fourth most popular Kingdom Hearts character.[34]

Aqua's role in Kingdom Hearts 0.2 was highly praised by Siliconera. This is because most of the game is spent in Aqua facing the darkness after the events of Birth by Sleep. The writer enjoyed how the game explores Aqua's vulnerability as well as strength and sacrifice to protect her friends. Additionally, he that while "We see that she's not some perfect heroine capable of accomplishing everything, but rather a strong woman who’s willing to do what she has to for the greater good".[35] Chris Carter from Destructoid expressed disappointment with the fact that none of the three protagonists of Birth by Sleep were saved by this game, but still wanted to play as any of them.[36] Kimberly Wallace from Game Informer said Aqua was one of her favorite characters due to "her selflessness and determination to save the world, and getting some resolution to her story was satisfying". She also commented she expected to play a bigger role in the upcoming game, Kingdom Hearts III.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f 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. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ 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! 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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! 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Square Enix, h.a.n.d. (October 7, 2010). Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. Nintendo DS. Square Enix, Disney Interactive Studios. Level/area: Castle Oblivion. 
  14. ^ Sata (September 19, 2015). "Details On What's New In Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 And Aqua's Story". Siloconera. Retrieved September 20, 2015. 
  15. ^ キングダムハーツII アルティマニア [Kingdom Hearts II Ultimania] (in Japanese). Square Enix. 2005. ISBN 978-4-7575-1621-2. 
  16. ^ Kingdom Hearts Another Report (Included with the video game Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix) (in Japanese). Square Enix. March 2007. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Q&A". GameSpot. July 19, 2010. Archived from the original on November 7, 2012. Retrieved September 30, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Kingdom Hearts". Weekly Famitsu (in Japanese). Enterbrain: 266–267. 2009-11-05. 
  20. ^ Gantayat, Anoop (December 23, 2009). "Tetsuya Nomura Talks Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep". Andriasang. Archived from the original on December 26, 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2016. 
  21. ^ Famitsu Staff (August 27, 2009). キングダム ハーツ バース バイ スリープ [Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep]. Famitsu (in Japanese). Enterbrain and Tokuma Shoten. 
  22. ^ Antista, Chris. "Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep review". GamesRadar. Retrieved September 7, 2010. 
  23. ^ Parish, Jeremy (September 10, 2008). "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Preview". 1UP.com. Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  24. ^ Clements, Ryan (June 15, 2010). "E3 2010: Kingdom Hearts Introduces Keyblade Surfing". IGN. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  25. ^ Ghiggino, Adam (September 22, 2010). "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Review for PSP". PALGN. Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  26. ^ Williams, Thomas (September 14, 2010). "PSP Review – Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep". PlayStation LifeStyle. Archived from the original on 18 September 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2010. 
  27. ^ VanOrd, Kevin (September 3, 2010). "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Review for PSP". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 8 September 2010. Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  28. ^ Watts, Steve (September 7, 2010). "Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep review". 1UP.com. Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  29. ^ Miur, Bob (September 23, 2010). "Review: Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep". Destructoid. Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved October 1, 2010. 
  30. ^ Bryan Vore (September 7, 2010). "Kingdom Hearts BBS Review: Great Mechanics Undercut By Story Reboots". Game Informer. Archived from the original on 10 September 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2010. 
  31. ^ Marissa Meli (September 3, 2010). "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Review". G4. Archived from the original on 11 March 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  32. ^ Liu, Ashton (October 1, 2010). "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Review". RPGFan. Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. Retrieved October 1, 2010. 
  33. ^ 電撃オンラインアワード2010結果発表 2010年一番おもしろかったゲームはコレ [Dengeki Online Awards - 2010 Results - The most interesting games in 2010] (in Japanese). ASCII Media Works. Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  34. ^ Gantayat, Anoop (July 13, 2011). "Famitsu's Readers Want Kingdom Hearts on PS3". Andriasang. Archived from the original on September 13, 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage- Connects Many Characters". Siliconera. January 31, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  36. ^ Carter, Chris (January 23, 2017). "Review: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue". Destructoid. Retrieved January 23, 2017. 
  37. ^ Wallace, Kimberly (January 23, 2017). "A Great Collection Leading Into What Comes Next - Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue - PlayStation 4". Game Informer. Retrieved January 24, 2017.