Characters of Kingdom Hearts

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A piece of promotional artwork for Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ that showcases the main characters of the series up to II; Sora appears twice in the center in two different outfits with his Kingdom Hearts II design next to Roxas (left) and his original design next to Riku (right), with the members of Organization XIII at the bottom.

Kingdom Hearts is a series of action role-playing games developed and published by Square Enix (formerly Square). It is the result of a collaboration between Square Enix and Disney Interactive Studios. Kingdom Hearts is a crossover of various Disney settings based in a universe made specifically for the series. The series features a mixture of familiar Disney, Final Fantasy, The World Ends with You and Pixar characters, as well as several new characters designed by Tetsuya Nomura.[1] In addition, it has an all-star voice cast which includes many of the Disney characters' official voice actors.

The series centers on Sora's search for his friends and his encounters with various Disney and Final Fantasy characters along the way. Players primarily control Sora, though there are numerous characters that join Sora's party as computer controlled members. The majority of the characters were introduced in the original game Kingdom Hearts. Subsequent installments have featured several new original, Disney, and Final Fantasy characters, while Dream Drop Distance introduces characters from Square Enix's The World Ends with You, and the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III will introduce characters from Pixar's Toy Story series and Monsters, Inc..[2][3][4]

Various types of merchandise modeled after the characters' likeness have been produced, including figurines and jewelry. The characters have garnered praise from several video game websites and magazines for the quality of their voice acting and visual style. Comments have focused on the accurate presentation of Disney characters, the unique visual style of Square Enix characters, how well all the characters blend together, and the consistent quality performances from voice actors.

Creation and influences[edit]

Early concept art of Riku, Kairi, and Sora, original characters created for the series

The Kingdom Hearts series is directed by Tetsuya Nomura, the character designer of the games. Nomura has stated that unlike working with Final Fantasy characters, keeping the main character Sora alive and interesting over multiple games is a challenge.[5] He also stated that though many of the Disney characters are not normally dark and serious, there were not many challenges making them so for the story, and despite this, their personalities shine because they maintain their own characteristics.[6] Though Disney gave Nomura freedom in the characters and worlds used for the games, he and his staff tried to stay within the established roles of characters and boundaries of the worlds.[5] When deciding which worlds to include in the game, the development staff tried to take into account worlds with Disney characters that would be interesting.[7]

The inclusion of specific Final Fantasy characters was based on the opinions of fans and the development staff.[8] Another criterion for inclusion was whether the staff felt the characters would fit into the storyline and in the Kingdom Hearts universe.[9] Nomura was hesitant to use characters he did not design because he was unfamiliar with the background work of such characters.[10] For Kingdom Hearts II, he changed his mind after receiving pressure from his staff.[8] Throughout the development of the games, Nomura has often left certain events and connections between characters unexplained until the release of future games. Nomura did this because he feels that games should have room for fans to speculate and use their imagination. He stated that with speculation, even though a game may get old, people can still be happy with it.[11]

Original characters[edit]

Main playable characters[edit]

Sora[edit]

Voiced by: Miyu Irino (Japanese); Haley Joel Osment (English)[12]
Young Sora
Voiced by: Takuto Yoshigana (Japanese); Luke Manriquez (English)

Sora (ソラ) is the main protagonist of the Kingdom Hearts series, and the sole playable character of the original game.[1] He is portrayed as a cheerful teenager who lives on the Destiny Islands with his two childhood friends, Riku and Kairi. When his world is beset by creatures of darkness known as the Heartless, Sora comes into possession of a weapon of light called the Keyblade,[13] and he embarks on a journey alongside Donald Duck and Goofy to protect other worlds from the Heartless and nobodies and other forces of evil.

Riku[edit]

Voiced by: Mamoru Miyano (Japanese); David Gallagher (English)
Young Riku
Voiced by: Eiji Shima (Japanese); Ty Panitz (English)

Riku (リク) is a childhood friend and rival of Sora who resides with him and Kairi on the world of Destiny Islands.[1] Originally appearing as a non-playable character in the original game, where he is introduced as 15 years old, he has a playable role in the "Reverse/Rebirth" story mode of Chain of Memories, the multiplayer mode of 358/2 Days, and the core story of Dream Drop Distance. He is also a computer-controlled party member exclusive to the final level of Kingdom Hearts II, and is temporarily playable during a sequence where Sora is incapacitated in the game's final boss battle. His signature weapon is the "Soul Eater" sword, a manifestation of the darkness in his heart. During the first game, Riku is revealed to be the rightful owner of Sora's Keyblade, which is bequeathed onto the five-year-old Riku by Terra during the events of Birth by Sleep; however, his reliance on the power of darkness causes the Keyblade to reject Riku in favor of Sora. In Kingdom Hearts II, the 16-year-old Riku acquires another Keyblade of his own, the "Way to the Dawn", which is later seen broken in Kingdom Hearts III.

During the invasion of Heartless in Kingdom Hearts, Riku immerses himself in darkness to discover new worlds beyond his home. Arriving at Hollow Bastion, Riku is manipulated by Maleficent into aiding her plans for world conquest in exchange for knowledge to restoring Kairi's missing heart. He is later tricked into allowing Xehanort's Heartless, Ansem, to possess his body. Following Ansem's defeat, Riku helps Sora and King Mickey close the door to Kingdom Hearts, remaining on the other side with the king. In Chain of Memories, DiZ helps Riku escape from the dark realm. Initially rejecting his darkness out of guilt for his betrayal, Riku resolves to wield both powers of light and darkness to battle Ansem, whose essence lingers in his heart. In Kingdom Hearts II, Riku is forced to harness Ansem's power to capture Roxas in order to restore Sora's missing memories, assuming the Heartless's physical appearance as a result; after the Heartless is destroyed by DiZ's exploding heart encoder, Riku returns to his regular appearance, and he and Sora return to the Destiny Islands together following Xemnas's defeat. In Dream Drop Distance, he and Sora undertake a Mark of Mastery exam in preparation for Xehanort's return. Riku is promoted to Keyblade Master after venturing into Sora's dreams twice in the form of a Dream Eater to protect him from Xehanort. He subsequently embarks with Mickey in A Fragmentary Passage to rescue Aqua from the realm of darkness.

Nomura has stated that Riku's name can be interpreted as "land", since the on'yomi pronunciation of Japanese word for "land" is riku (),[14][15] similar to how Sora's name is identical to the Japanese word for "sky", sora ().[16] Riku's character represents one of the series' main themes, "the light and the dark sides of hearts," alongside Sora.[17] On the character's role in Dream Drop Distance, Nomura emphasized Riku as the game's main focus as it shows the character's growth across the series.[18]

Roxas[edit]

Voiced by: Kōki Uchiyama (Japanese); Jesse McCartney (English)

Roxas (ロクサス, Rokusasu) is the initial player-controlled character of Kingdom Hearts II, featured during the game's prologue segment. Introduced as a youth living in a virtual simulation of Twilight Town, he discovers himself to be Sora's Nobody, born when Sora transformed into a Heartless to restore Kairi's heart during the events of the first game. He is also revealed to be a defector from Organization XIII, which sought to utilize his ability to wield the Keyblade.[19] Roxas serves as the main protagonist of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, which revolves around his circumstances in the Organization leading to his defection.

Terra[edit]

Voiced by: Ryōtarō Okiayu (Japanese); Jason Dohring (English)[20]

Terra (テラ, Tera) is one of the three playable characters of Birth by Sleep. He is a Keyblade wielder who is trained by Master Eraqus alongside Aqua and Ventus, developing a strong sibling-like bond and sharing his dream of becoming a Keyblade Master with them;[21] gameplay-wise, he performs slower, heavier-hitting attacks than Aqua and Ventus. During an exam to obtain the Mark of Mastery, Master Xehanort manipulates the trials to stimulate the darkness that resides inside of Terra, for which he is denied the rank.[22] He is thus easily manipulated by Xehanort's encouragements to channel his darkness into power,[23] ultimately being possessed by Xehanort.

Ventus[edit]

Voiced by: Kōki Uchiyama (Japanese); Jesse McCartney (English)[20]

Ventus (ヴェントゥス, Ventusu), commonly nicknamed "Ven" (ヴェン), is one of the three playable characters of Birth by Sleep. He wields his Keyblade in a reverse grip to perform light, swift attacks. He is identical in appearance to Roxas, which is explored as one of the game's mysteries.[24] At the start of the game, Ventus runs away from home to follow Terra, spurred by Vanitas's claims that Terra will become "a different person". As his story unfolds, Ventus discovers his heart has been conditioned by Xehanort to serve as material for the χ-blade, a weapon Xehanort intends to use to usher the universe's destruction. After Ventus sacrifices his heart to prevent the χ-blade's completion, his comatose body is sealed within Castle Oblivion while his heart takes refuge within Sora's.

Aqua[edit]

Voiced by: Megumi Toyoguchi (Japanese); Willa Holland (English)[20]

Aqua (アクア, Akua) is one of the three playable characters of Birth by Sleep, and the sole playable character of A Fragmentary Passage, a direct sequel bundled in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. She is a nimble character who specializes in magic attacks while dealing weak physical damage. As the only one among her friends to achieve the rank of Keyblade Master by the start of the game, she is tasked by Master Eraqus to watch over Terra and retrieve Ventus when he runs away from home.[25][26] While attempting to protect Ventus and save Terra from Xehanort's control, she becomes trapped in the realm of darkness, where she remains suspended in time throughout the series.

Other characters[edit]

Kairi[edit]

Voiced by: Risa Uchida (Japanese); Hayden Panettiere (KH, KHII, BBS), Alyson Stoner (Re:COM, Days, KH2.8, III) (English)[12]
Young Kairi
Voiced by: Sumire Morohoshi (Japanese); Ariel Winter (English)

Kairi (カイリ) is the main female protagonist of Kingdom Hearts, and the best friend of Sora and Riku. As one of the seven Princesses of Heart, she is cast adrift from her homeworld of Radiant Garden at a young age as part of Xehanort's experiment to locate the key bearer, which eventually brings her to the Destiny Islands, piquing Sora and Riku's interest in other worlds. In Birth by Sleep, it is revealed that her arrival on the islands is the result of an encounter with Aqua, who gives the four-year-old Kairi a protective charm to shield her from the darkness; Kairi additionally gains the ability to wield a Keyblade after touching the one belonging to Aqua.

During Kingdom Hearts, the 14-year-old Kairi's heart is stolen by the Heartless, sending her body into a coma while her heart takes refuge within Sora's. Upon learning her identity as a Princess of Heart and the location of her heart, Sora sacrifices his own heart in order to release hers and return it to her body. Soon after, Kairi finds Sora's Heartless and restores him to human form. Kairi later remains behind on the restored Destiny Islands to await Sora's return from his journey.[27] In Kingdom Hearts II, Kairi is kidnapped by Organization XIII to motivate Sora towards acting in their wishes. She escapes with the help of Naminé and Riku, receiving her Keyblade from the latter to fight alongside Sora.[28] After Sora and Riku defeat the Organization's leader Xemnas, Kairi reunites with them at the Destiny Islands. In Dream Drop Distance, she is summoned by Yen Sid to train as a Keyblade wielder in order to combat Xehanort's reconfigured Organization XIII.

Nomura has stated that Kairi's name can be interpreted as "sea",[15] as the on'yomi pronunciation of the Japanese word for "sea" is kai ().[14]

Xehanort[edit]

Master Xehanort
Voiced by: Chikao Ōtsuka (BBS, 3D) (Japanese); Leonard Nimoy (BBS, 3D) (English)
Terra-Xehanort/Ansem
Voiced by: Akio Ōtsuka (Japanese); Billy Zane (KH), Richard Epcar (KHII onward) (English)
Xemnas
Voiced by: Norio Wakamoto (Japanese); Paul St. Peter (English)
Young Xehanort
Voiced by: Mamoru Miyano (BBS), Takanori Okuda (KH3D onward) (Japanese); David Gallagher (BBS), Benjamin Diskin (KH3D onward) (English)

Xehanort (ゼアノート, Zeanōto, English: /ˈz.ənɔːrt/) is the foremost antagonist of the Kingdom Hearts series. He is introduced in the original game as a Heartless researcher named Ansem, Seeker of Darkness (闇の探求者アンセム, Yami no Tankyūsha Ansemu), revealed in Kingdom Hearts II to have assumed the identity of his mentor Ansem the Wise.[29]

Nine years before the events of the game, Xehanort discards his body and becomes the Heartless "Ansem" while his body became Organization XIII's leader Xemnas. Retaining his human mind as a Heartless,[30] and later regaining his human appearance after possessing Riku, Ansem uses Maleficent to gather the Princesses of Heart and produce the Keyhole to Kingdom Hearts, which he determines to be the ultimate reservoir of darkness.[31] Upon opening the door to Kingdom Hearts, he is confounded and destroyed by the light within.[32] In Chain of Memories, it is revealed that Ansem's presence still lingers within Riku's heart, which causes Riku to assume Ansem's physical appearance when he taps into his dark powers, as shown in Kingdom Hearts II. The presence is destroyed when Ansem the Wise's heart-encoding machine malfunctions and explodes, returning Riku to normal.

The prequel Birth by Sleep explores Xehanort's past as an elderly Keyblade Master with an obsessive interest in the Keyblade War, a historic cataclysm that resulted in the universe's present, fragmented state.[33] Advocating a world where light and darkness exist in perfect equilibrium,[34][35] Master Xehanort attempts to use his pupil Ventus's heart to forge the χ-blade, the key to unlock Kingdom Hearts, in order to incite another war. He also manipulates Terra into embracing his own inner darkness, conditioning Terra into a vessel with which to replace his own aging body, thus ensuring his own survival to witness his plan's fruition.[36] He succeeds in possessing Terra at the Keyblade Graveyard, but Terra continues to resist from within while battling Aqua at Radiant Garden, which prompts Xehanort to unlock his own heart to subdue him;[37] he is later found by Ansem the Wise, seemingly with amnesia.[38][39][40]

Due to the destruction of his Heartless and Nobody, Xehanort reconstitutes his original form in Dream Drop Distance. It is additionally revealed in that the actions of Ansem and Xemnas were part of Xehanort's design of a series of back-up plans he devised should his scheme of forging the χ-blade through Ventus and Vanitas failed. Furthermore, Xehanort took advantage of his Heartless's incorporeal form to travel through time to appoint his adolescent self, "Young Xehanort", to assembling a new Organization XIII consisting of himself, Ansem, Xemnas, and those whom he made vessels of his heart like Braig and certain members of the original Organization XIII like Isa.[41] Xehanort takes his leave as his past incarnations eventually return to their respective time periods before they can convert Sora into the final required vessel, losing their memories of the future; however, Young Xehanort is motivated by the destined path "etched in [his] heart" to become Master Xehanort, setting the events of the series in motion.[42]

The character's name is an anagram of "no heart" and "another" with the additional letter "X".[11][43]

Naminé[edit]

Voiced by: Iku Nakahara (Japanese); Brittany Snow (KHII), Meaghan Martin (Re:COM onward) (English)

Naminé (ナミネ, Namine) is a girl with the ability to change, rearrange, or erase the memories of Sora and those close to him, for which she is called a witch.[44][45] Introduced in Chain of Memories, she is revealed in Kingdom Hearts II to be Kairi's Nobody, created when Sora releases Kairi's heart from within himself during the events of the first game. Originating at Castle Oblivion, she is forced by Marluxia to alter Sora's memories so he remembers her as a close friend from the Destiny Islands, allowing Marluxia to manipulate him. She later defies Marluxia to reveal the truth to Sora, and oversees the year-long process to restore Sora and his friends' memories to their original state.[46] Naminé also saves Riku in "Reverse/Rebirth" from Zexion, disguising herself as Kairi.[11] In Kingdom Hearts II, Naminé visits Roxas in the virtual Twilight Town to help him discover his true identity as Sora's Nobody. Naminé returns in the game's final world to help Kairi escape from the Organization's dungeon, after which she merges with Kairi to complete her.

Organization XIII[edit]

Organization XIII (XIII機関, Jūsan Kikan) is a group of thirteen Nobodies who seek to use the power of Kingdom Hearts to become complete humans. The six founding members of the Organization came into being when Xehanort removed his heart along with Braig and Ansem the Wise's apprentices, with Xemnas ranked first as their leader.[11] They gradually build up their membership with Roxas ranked thirteenth as the most recent. With the exception of Xemnas using Ansem's name, each Organization member's name is an anagram of their original self's name with the letter "X" inserted.[47] As Nobodies, acting based on the memories of their original selves, they lack true emotion and morality, and are unable to feel remorse for their actions.[48] In actuality, Xehanort orchestrated the creation of Organization XIII as a means to subject them to the same process he used to possess Terra's body and create his thirteen seekers of darkness, the True Organization XIII, who serve as the antagonists of Dream Drop Distance and Kingdom Hearts III.

In addition to being the primary antagonistic force of Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II, the original Organization XIII members serve as computer-controlled party members of 358/2 Days, and are also playable in the game's "Mission Mode". Excluding Xemnas and Roxas, the members and their original names are, in order of rank:

  • Xigbar (Braig), a marksman armed with two "arrowguns" (rayguns) and the power of spatial manipulation, introduced in Kingdom Hearts II. His role as the group's second-in-command is further expanded in subsequent games, which reveal him to be a collaborator in Master Xehanort's larger conspiracy involving the Organization. In Dream Drop Distance, his restored human self remain an Organization member while revealing the truth of the group's role in Xehanort's plan. He is voiced by Hōchū Ōtsuka in Japanese and James Patrick Stuart in English.
  • Xaldin (Dilan), an eloquent warrior who uses the power of wind to wield six lances at once, introduced in Kingdom Hearts II. He is voiced by Yōsuke Akimoto in Japanese and David Dayan Fisher in English.
  • Vexen (Even), a researcher and scientist who conducts various experiments for the Organization, introduced in Chain of Memories. He carries a shield and controls ice. In most appearances, he is voiced by Nachi Nozawa in Japanese and Derek Stephen Prince in English.
  • Lexaeus (Aeleus), a stalwart warrior who is the most physically powerful member of the Organization, introduced in Chain of Memories. His weapon is an "axe sword", a long-bladed axe capable of shattering solid rock through his manipulation of earth. In most appearances, he is voiced by Fumihiko Tachiki in Japanese and Dave Boat in English.
  • Zexion (Ienzo), the youngest of the Organization's founders, who has the ability to create illusions. Initially appearing as a non-combatant in Chain of Memories, later games reveal his weapon to be a lexicon. He is voiced by Akira Ishida in Japanese and Vince Corazza in English.
  • Saïx (Isa), Xemnas' Second-in-command and Axel's friend from Radiant Garden, introduced in Kingdom Hearts II. He draws power from the heart-shaped moon of Kingdom Hearts to assume a berserk state and transform his weapon, a Claymore. In Dream Drop Distance, his restored human self is converted into one of Xehanort's thirteen "seekers of darkness". He is voiced by Ginpei Sato in Japanese and Kirk Thornton in English.
  • Axel (Lea), the Organization's resident assassin, who controls fire to emblaze his chakram-like weapons. Introduced in Chain of Memories as a double agent under orders to dispatch the traitorous members at Castle Oblivion, Axel's friendship with Roxas causes him to develop a more compassionate side. In Dream Drop Distance, his restored human self becomes an ally to Sora and his companions. He is voiced by Keiji Fujiwara in Japanese and Quinton Flynn in English.
  • Demyx, a laidback member who controls water with his sitar music, introduced in Kingdom Hearts II. He is noted for his lack of combat skill and tendency to shirk his duties off onto other members. He is voiced by Kenichi Suzumura in Japanese and Ryan O'Donohue in English.
  • Luxord, a courteous gambler who manipulates time and carries a deck of cards as his weapons, introduced in Kingdom Hearts II. He is voiced by Jouji Nakata in Japanese and Robin Atkin Downes in English.
  • Marluxia, who carries a scythe and deals out flower-based attacks. As the main antagonist of Chain of Memories, he presides over the Organization's secondary headquarters at Castle Oblivion, harboring intentions of overthrowing the group using Sora and Naminé's powers. In most appearances, he is voiced by Shūichi Ikeda in Japanese and Keith Ferguson in English.
  • Larxene, a ruthless female member and co-conspirator of Marluxia, introduced in Chain of Memories. She has electricity-based powers and carries a set of knives as her weapons. In Kingdom Hearts III, her restored human self is converted into one of Xehanort's thirteen "seekers of darkness". In most appearances, she is voiced by Yūko Miyamura in Japanese and Shanelle Workman in English.
  • Xion, the de facto fourteenth member of the Organization, introduced in 358/2 Days. Similar to Roxas, she wields a Keyblade and appears to lack memories of her past. She eventually discovers her true identity as an artificial human "replica" created from Sora's memories to duplicate Roxas' powers, which forces her to sacrifice her existence and all memories related to her in order to protect her friends. She is voiced by Risa Uchida in Japanese; in English, she is voiced by Alyson Stoner in 358/2 Days and its cinematic remake in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, and by Hayden Panettiere in her other appearances.

Ansem the Wise[edit]

Voiced by: Genzō Wakayama (Japanese); Christopher Lee (KHII, Days), Corey Burton (Re:COM, BBS onward) (English)

Ansem the Wise (賢者アンセム, Kenja Ansemu) is the former sage king of Radiant Garden, first appearing in the "Reverse/Rebirth" storyline of Chain of Memories as a bandaged figure known as DiZ (ディズ, Dizu). His true identity is uncovered in Kingdom Hearts II, simultaneously revealing the similarly named antagonist to be an impostor.[29] Nine years prior to the first game's events, Ansem studies the darkness in people's hearts for the benefit of his world. After meeting with King Mickey and learning his research may be connected to a crisis happening in other worlds, Ansem ceases his experiments. However, his apprentice Xehanort secretly continues the experiments alongside his five other pupils—Braig, Dilan, Even, and Aeleus, Ienzo—using Ansem's name as his own. Exiled to a world of nothingness by his apprentices, Ansem disguises himself as DiZ, an acronym for "Darkness in Zero", and escapes in search of revenge.[49]

In Chain of Memories, DiZ guides Riku through Castle Oblivion under the guise of Xehanort's Heartless. Together with Riku and Naminé, DiZ oversees the restoration of Sora, Donald, and Goofy's memories throughout 358/2 Days, moving them from Castle Oblivion to Twilight Town for safekeeping. When Roxas unwittingly begins absorbing Sora's memories, DiZ orders Riku to retrieve Roxas, whom he places inside a simulation of Twilight Town to eventually merge with Sora. In Kingdom Hearts II, DiZ's plans fall apart when Sora does not function as he wants upon awakening.[50] Realizing the harm he has brought upon Sora and his friends, DiZ becomes remorseful and loses his lust for revenge. Ansem reveals himself to Mickey at the World That Never Was while attempting to digitally encode Xemnas' Kingdom Hearts within a machine. However, the hearts overload the machine and cause it to self-destruct; Ansem allows himself to be engulfed by the blast to atone for his mistakes.[51] In the epilogue of Birth by Sleep, Ansem is shown in the realm of darkness with only his memories of Sora intact, relaying them to Aqua. In Dream Drop Distance, a digital copy of Ansem appears within Sora's mind, informing Riku of data he had hidden inside Sora.

Hayner, Pence, and Olette[edit]

Hayner
Voiced by: Kazunori Sasaki (Japanese); Justin Cowden (English)
Pence
Voiced by: Hayato Taya (Japanese); Sean Marquette (English)
Olette
Voiced by: Yuka Hirasawa (Japanese); Jessica DiCicco (English)

Hayner (ハイネ, Haine), Pence (ピンツ, Pintsu), and Olette (オレット, Oretto) are three teenagers who live in Twilight Town. Virtual replicas of the three serve as Roxas' friends in DiZ's simulation of Twilight Town at the start of Kingdom Hearts II, where their real counterparts react emotionally towards Sora after he has merged with Roxas, and later help Sora infiltrate Organization XIII's stronghold through the digital town. They also briefly encounter Roxas during 358/2 Days.

Vanitas[edit]

Voiced by: Miyu Irino (Japanese); Haley Joel Osment (English)

Vanitas (ヴァニタス, Vanitasu) is a Keyblade wielder and antagonist who first appears in Birth by Sleep. Created by Master Xehanort, he embodies the darkness extracted from Ventus's heart so that they might recombine to forge the χ-blade.[52][53] He wears a helmet-like mask that conceals his face, which resembles Sora's with black hair and yellow eyes; the resemblance is explained in the Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Ultimania as being a result of Ventus's heart connecting with the newborn Sora's heart in the game's opening cutscene.[20] Vanitas lures Ventus away from home in order to strengthen him enough to fulfill Xehanort's designs,[54] pitting him against the Unversed, which are physical manifestations of Vanitas's negative emotions.[55] He also battles Aqua several times to keep her from interfering with Xehanort's plans. Vanitas fuses with Ventus during their final confrontation at the Keyblade Graveyard, but their union produces an unstable χ-blade,[56] which is destroyed along with Vanitas in a metaphysical battle against Ventus within their combined heart. However, Vanitas briefly appears alongside Young Xehanort in Dream Drop Distance, reacting to the presence of Ventus's heart within Sora's. He will also appear in Kingdom Hearts III.

While developing Birth by Sleep, Nomura created Vanitas's relationship with Ventus under suggestion from the game's Osaka development team, as he enjoyed the idea of adding more connections between characters. He chose the name "Vanitas"—Latin for "emptiness"—for its similarity to Ventus's name, and because its Japanese translation, kara (), could be reinterpreted as Sora's name, which means "sky".[20] A secret boss based on Vanitas called the Vanitas Remnant (ヴァニタスの思念, Vanitasu no Shin'en) appears in Birth by Sleep.

Eraqus[edit]

Voiced by: Makio Inoue (Japanese); Mark Hamill (English)

Eraqus (エラクゥス, Erakūsu) is introduced in Birth by Sleep as one of the few remaining Keyblade Masters alongside Xehanort. He is both a mentor and father figure to Terra, Aqua and Ventus, and is noted for being biased against the existence of darkness in favor of light,[57] a key factor behind his eventual falling out with Xehanort. Nomura described his relationship with Xehanort as that of old friends and classmates.[58] At the start of the game, Eraqus denies Terra the Mark of Mastery, basing his decision on the darkness in Terra's heart.[59] He sends Terra and Aqua to deal with the appearance of the Unversed and the disappearance of Master Xehanort, and also sends Aqua to retrieve Ventus when he escapes from the Land of Departure, fearing that Xehanort will use Ventus to create the χ-blade. When Ventus confronts him over this and confirms his fears, Eraqus attempts to destroy Ventus to foil Xehanort's plan, but is stopped by Terra.[60] After battling with his student, he is struck down by Xehanort and fades away, leaving his Keyblade behind. However, the game's secret ending reveals that Eraqus had hidden his own heart within Terra, allowing Terra to resist Xehanort's influence after being possessed by him.[61]

Eraqus' name is an anagram of "Square", referencing series developer company Square Enix.[22][62] He also bears a resemblance to Final Fantasy series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi.[63] An additional boss modeled after Eraqus' armor, called the Armor of Eraqus (アーマー・オブ・ザ・マスター, Āmā obu za Masutā, lit. "Armor of the Master"), appears in Birth by Sleep Final Mix as an opponent in the Mirage Arena.

Kingdom Hearts χ characters[edit]

Foretellers[edit]

The Foretellers are a group of Keyblade Masters trained under the Master of Masters, who act as the leaders of the five Unions seeking to gather light to combat the growing darkness. Each has a copy of the Book of Prophecies, a book which can be used to tell the future and manifest entire worlds. However, after the Master disappears, circumstances lead them to believe there is a traitor among them, and their infighting eventually leads to the Keyblade War and the destruction of the world.

  • Ira (イラ, English: /ˈrə/) is the "reliable" leader of the Unicornis Union, symbolized by a unicorn. Prior to disappearing, the Master of Masters assigns Ira to lead the other Foretellers in his place.[64] Ira is voiced by Yūichirō Umehara in Japanese and Matthew Mercer in English.[65]
  • Invi (インヴィ) is the "virtuous" leader of the Anguis Union, symbolized by a snake. She acts as the Foretellers' moderator while also observing them and reporting her findings to Ira.[64] Invi is voiced by Kana Hanazawa in Japanese and Karissa Lee Staples in English.[65]
  • Aced (アセッド, Aseddo) is the "fearless" Leader of the Ursus Union, symbolized by a bear. As Ira's second-in-command, Aced comes to doubt Ira's leadership and acts of his own accord to prevent the Keyblade War.[64] Aced is voiced by Subaru Kimura in Japanese and Travis Willingham in English.[65]
  • Ava (アヴァ, English: /ˈɑːvə/) is the "prudent" Leader of the Vulpes Union, symbolized by a fox. Under her master's orders, she recruits Keyblade wielders from various Unions into the Dandelions, an organization devised to ensure their survival after the prophesied Keyblade War.[64] Ava is voiced by Yume Miyamoto in Japanese and Isabela Moner in English.[65]
  • Gula (グウラ, Gūra) is the "coolheaded" Leader of the Leopardos Union, symbolized by a leopard. A lone wolf with little attachment to the other Foretellers, he is assigned the role of identifying the traitor among the group.[64] Gula is voiced by Kaito Ishikawa in Japanese and Kevin Quinn in English.[65]
Dandelions[edit]

The Dandelions are a group of Keyblade wielders recruited by Ava, each deemed strong enough to resist the darkness. They are sent to another world before the Keyblade War to prevent being caught in the battle and to help rebuild the world in its aftermath. In the new world, five of the Dandelions, including Ventus, are chosen to become the new Union leaders.

  • Ephemer (エフェメラ, Efemera) is a Keyblade wielder from a different Union than the player, his allegiance depending on the player's chosen Union. He disappears after befriending the player, and does not return until after the Keyblade War as one of the Dandelions' new Union leaders. Ephemer is voiced by Yūto Uemura in Japanese and Michael Johnston in English.[65]
  • Skuld (スクルド, Sukurudo) is a girl from the same Union as Ephemer, her first friend from the Union. She joins the player in investigating Ephemer's whereabouts following his disappearance, eventually becoming a new Union leader.
  • Brain (ブレイン, Burein) is one of the Keyblade wielders selected to serve as one of the new Union leaders.
  • Lauriam (ラーリアム, Rāriamu) is a young man who appears with the Dandelions as one of the new Union leaders. He seeks to find the truth behind the disappearance of his younger sister, Strelitzia.
  • Strelitzia (ストレリチア, Sutorerichia) is Lauriam's sister and another one of the Dandelions selected to lead the group. Before she is able to convince the player to join, she is attacked by an unknown individual who takes her place and she fades from existence.
Others[edit]
  • Chirithy (チリシィ, Chirishii) is a cat-like Dream Eater created by the Master of Masters that is assigned to players as a guide. A second Chirithy, known as Nightmare Chirithy, antagonizes the players during the events leading to the Keyblade War. Chirithy is set to make a return appearance in Kingdom Hearts III. Chirithy is voiced by Tomoko Kaneda in Japanese and Lara Jill Miller in English.[65]
  • The Master of Masters (マスター・オブ・マスター, Masutā obu Masutā) is the Foretellers' mentor, who mysteriously vanishes before the events of the game. He possesses an eye called the "Gazing Eye" that allows him to foresee any future event it witnesses, through which he transcribes the Book of Prophecies. He implants the eye in his Keyblade, "No Name", and has it passed down throughout the years to maintain his future sight until the present day, where it is in the possession of series antagonist Xehanort. In Back Cover, he is shown to have a playful and mischievous personality that conceals his true nature. The Master is voiced by Tomokazu Sugita in Japanese and Ray Chase in English.[65]
  • Luxu (ルシュ, Rushu, English: /ˈlʃ/) is the Master of Masters' sixth apprentice, and the only one not in charge of a Union. He inherits a box he is told never to open, along with the Master's Keyblade to maintain the Master's future sight. Luxu is voiced by Kenjiro Tsuda in Japanese and Max Mittelman in English.[65]

Disney and Square Enix characters[edit]

Mickey Mouse[edit]

Voiced by: Takashi Aoyagi (Japanese); Wayne Allwine (KHDays), Bret Iwan (BBS onward) (English)

Mickey Mouse is depicted in the Kingdom Hearts series as the king of Disney Castle, frequently referred to in-game as "King Mickey" or simply "the King" (王様, Ōsama). He is also an experienced Keyblade Master, alternatively wielding a golden version of Sora's "Kingdom Key" retrieved from the realm of darkness, and the "Star Seeker" he is seen using during his apprenticeship to Yen Sid in Birth by Sleep. Mickey is absent for most of the original game,[7] which sees him departing his world to discover a solution to the Heartless' invasion, leaving instructions for Donald and Goofy telling to find and protect the Keyblade wielder.[66] He has a more active role fighting alongside Sora and his allies in later installments, which first required the approval of Disney.[11] He is a playable character in Kingdom Hearts II, stepping in to replace Sora whenever the player is defeated during certain boss battles until he is able to revive Sora. He is also available for play in the "Mission Mode" of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days as an unlockable character.

Donald Duck and Goofy[edit]

Donald Duck
Voiced by: Kōichi Yamadera (Japanese); Tony Anselmo (English)
Goofy
Voiced by: Yuu Shimaka (Japanese); Bill Farmer (English)

In various games, Donald Duck and Goofy serve as the player's main computer-controlled partners.[13] They are both depicted as members of Disney Castle's royal court; Donald is a magician who is proficient with a variety of spells, and Goofy is a peaceful knights' captain who performs supportive and defensive techniques with a shield.[13] In Kingdom Hearts, Donald and Goofy embark on a journey to find their missing king, with orders from a letter left by Mickey to find the Keyblade wielder. They accompany Sora for this reason, initially viewing him as little more than a means to track down the king,[67] and abandoning him upon the discovery that Riku is the rightful owner of Sora's Keyblade. However, both eventually grow to care for Sora as a friend and remain with him. The two are also unlockable characters for play in 358/2 Days's "Mission Mode".

Maleficent[edit]

Voiced by: Toshiko Sawada (Japanese); Susanne Blakeslee (English)

Maleficent, an evil fairy and the antagonist of the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty, appears as a secondary antagonist in the Kingdom Hearts series. During the first game, she leads a group of other Disney villainsHades from Hercules, Jafar from Aladdin, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Captain Hook from Peter Pan—to capture the Princesses of Heart and harness the power of Kingdom Hearts, which she intends to use to conquer all worlds.[68] In reality, she is an unwitting pawn of Xehanort, who first informs her of the princesses during the prequel Birth by Sleep as part of his own plan to gather components for the χ-blade.[69] Her defeat results in her becoming trapped in the realm of darkness,[70] but she returns after her raven forces Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather to recall their memories of her, allowing her to resume her conquest of worlds.[71]

Pete[edit]

Voiced by: Tōru Ōhira (Japanese); Jim Cummings (English)[72]

Pete is included in Kingdom Hearts II as Maleficent's bumbling henchman who first encounters Sora's group while amassing a Heartless army for her, unaware of her earlier defeat. Originally a steamboat captain based on his depiction in Steamboat Willie, Pete is banished to another dimension by Queen Minnie for incessantly causing mischief around Disney Town under the masked superhero guises "Captain Justice" and "Captain Dark", as seen in Birth by Sleep. He becomes indebted to Maleficent when she frees him, and he vows to help conquer the worlds in return.[73] He makes recurring appearances throughout Kingdom Hearts II and later installments, menacing Sora's group alongside Maleficent and various other Disney villains. A version of Pete based on his depiction in Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers also appears in the "Country of the Musketeers" world based on the film.

Yen Sid[edit]

Voiced by: Takashi Inagaki (Japanese); Corey Burton (English)

Yen Sid is the sorcerer from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia, appearing as King Mickey's old mentor and a retired Keyblade Master who resides in the Mysterious Tower. He first appears in Kingdom Hearts II, where he informs Sora's group of their task at hand on Mickey's behalf.[74] In addition to providing counsel to the main characters of Birth by Sleep, he proctors Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery exam in Dream Drop Distance to prepare them for an inevitable showdown with Master Xehanort, training Kairi and Lea to serve as two of the potential seven "guardians of light" as well.

Princesses of Heart[edit]

The Princesses of Heart, known as the Seven Princesses (セブンプリンセス, Sebun Purinsesu) in the Japanese language version, are seven maidens whose hearts are made of pure light, devoid of darkness. Five of them are based on the official Disney PrincessesSnow White from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella from the Disney film of the same name, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Jasmine from Aladdin—with the other two being Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and the original character Kairi.

Throughout the original game, Maleficent kidnaps the princesses for their ability to summon the Keyhole to Kingdom Hearts when brought together. Xehanort's Heartless "Ansem" later uses six of the princesses' hearts to forge a Keyblade with the power to unlock people's hearts, intending to free Kairi's heart from Sora's. Sora restores their hearts after using Ansem's Keyblade on himself to revive Kairi, destroying it. The other princesses remain at Hollow Bastion to contain the darkness spilling from the Keyhole until the door to Kingdom Hearts is sealed, subsequently returning to their homeworlds.[13] In the prequel Birth by Sleep, it is revealed that Master Xehanort seeks out the Princesses of Heart, spurring Maleficent into gathering them as well; it is later explained in Dream Drop Distance that the princesses' hearts represent the seven fragments of light broken off from the χ-blade, which Xehanort intends to use in his plan to forge the weapon. To prevent this, Yen Sid prepares to substitute the princesses with seven Keyblade wielders to clash with Xehanort's reformed Organization XIII.

Party members and summons[edit]

Several games in the Kingdom Hearts series feature computer-controlled characters that are added to the player's party in a specific world. The first game features six different party members in addition to Donald and Goofy: Tarzan in the Deep Jungle; Aladdin in Agrabah; Ariel in Atlantica from The Little Mermaid; Jack Skellington in Halloween Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas; Peter Pan in Never Land; and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast in Hollow Bastion, a world exclusive to the series. In addition, there are six characters that can be acquired as summoned allies in the game: Simba from The Lion King, Genie from Aladdin, Dumbo, Bambi, Tinker Bell from Peter Pan, and Mushu from Mulan. Chain of Memories features the same party and summoned characters from the first game, with the inclusion of Cloud Strife as an additional summon.

Aladdin, Jack, and the Beast return as party members in Kingdom Hearts II, with Ariel appearing in a non-playable capacity, and Peter Pan appearing as a summon in tandem with Tinker Bell. Simba is featured as a full party member in The Lion King's Pride Lands, while Mushu becomes a supporting ally in tandem with new party member Mulan in the film's Land of Dragons. Other new party members include Final Fantasy X character Auron in the Hercules-inspired Olympus Coliseum world, Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean's Port Royal, and Tron in Space Paranoids. Chicken Little and Stitch are included as new summons.

Birth by Sleep removes the standard party system utilized by previous games, instead using characters as temporary partners during certain portions of the game. These characters are Prince Phillip in Enchanted Dominion, based on Sleeping Beauty; Hercules and Zack Fair in Olympus Coliseum, with the latter being based on his Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core appearance; and Stitch, named "Experiment 626", in the Lilo & Stitch-inspired Deep Space.

Dream Drop Distance has the Spirit Dream Eaters act as Sora and Riku's party members. In the opening battle against Ursula on the Destiny Islands, Riku acts as a cooperation member to Sora.

Hercules and Jack Sparrow return as party members in Kingdom Hearts III, with new party members including Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Tangled, Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc., Marshmallow from Frozen, and Baymax from Big Hero 6, all in worlds based on their respective films.[2][75][76] Ariel, Simba, and Wreck-It Ralph also appear as summonable "Link" characters.[2][75][77]

Other Disney characters[edit]

One of the common elements in the Kingdom Hearts series is the inclusion of levels based on various Disney and Pixar films, as well as related media. Several key characters from the films appear in their respective worlds, closely following their roles from the film and play a small role in the main story.

Several characters from the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck universes appear in the Kingdom Hearts series, most of them appearing at the original world Disney Castle and its adjacent urban area, Disney Town. Minnie Mouse is portrayed as the queen of Disney Castle who rules in the absence of her husband, King Mickey. Daisy Duck, Donald Duck's girlfriend, is Queen Minnie's lady-in-waiting. Pluto reprises his role as Mickey's pet and makes recurring appearances throughout the series, accompanying Donald and Goofy's search for the king in the first game. Chip and Dale act as Disney Castle's technicians, managing the Gummi Ship that Sora's party uses to travel between worlds; they play a major role in Coded, where they construct the machine used to digitize the contents of Jiminy Cricket's journal. Donald's nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie appear as shop owners in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, where they attempt to save up money to go on their own adventure. Scrooge McDuck appears in Kingdom Hearts II and Birth by Sleep, where he attempts to open business venues such as a transit system between worlds. The Beagle Boys, as depicted in Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, reprise their roles from the film as Pete's minions in the Dream Drop Distance level "Country of the Musketeers". Other characters such as Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, and Clara Cluck make minor appearances in Kingdom Hearts II and Birth by Sleep.

Characters from other Disney films also play prominent roles in the games' story. Jiminy Cricket appears as a chronicler of Sora's travels, recording information about the people, places and events they encounter in his journals;[78][79] he also retains his role from Pinocchio as the title character's conscience. Merlin from The Sword in the Stone acts as Sora's mentor in performing magic, and he keeps an enchanted book that allows players access to the Hundred Acre Wood world based on Disney's Winnie the Pooh franchise. The Fairy Godmother from Cinderella appears in Merlin's house in Kingdom Hearts, where she transforms "summon gems" collected throughout the game into summoned allies; she also appears in Birth by Sleep as a resident of her original world, the Castle of Dreams. The One Hundred and One Dalmatians are featured in a side-quest in the first game, where players retrieve Pongo and Perdita's 99 puppies scattered throughout the game's worlds in exchange for prizes. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty appear in Kingdom Hearts II, where they provide Sora with new clothes that grant him access to Drive Forms. Kingdom Hearts III includes Remy from Pixar's Ratatouille as the host of a cooking minigame in Twilight Town.[80]

Other Square Enix characters[edit]

In addition to Disney elements, Kingdom Hearts features characters from other Square Enix-developed titles, most prominently Final Fantasy. A majority of the games include Moogles, small creatures that are a recurring element throughout the Final Fantasy series; they serve to run shops where players can create and purchase items used in the game.

Kingdom Hearts prominently depicts several Final Fantasy characters as residents of the ruined world Radiant Garden, known as Hollow Bastion prior to Kingdom Hearts II. Led by Squall Leonheart from Final Fantasy VIII, who goes by the name "Leon" (レオン, Reon) out of shame for his inability to save his home, the group also includes Final Fantasy VII characters Aerith Gainsborough, a flower girl and healer; Yuffie Kisaragi, a friendly ninja; and Cid Highwind, an expert in the games' "Gummi Ship" feature. These characters form the "Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee" in Kingdom Hearts II, with the goal of rebuilding their destroyed world following Maleficent's defeat, using the home of Merlin as a base. In both games, Leon and Yuffie are featured as opponents in the Olympus Coliseum.

Youthful versions of Final Fantasy X characters Tidus and Wakka, as well as Final Fantasy VIII character Selphie Tilmitt, make recurring appearances as residents of the Destiny Islands. The three serve as optional sparring partners early in the first game.

Cloud Strife appears in Kingdom Hearts at Olympus Coliseum, based on Disney's Hercules. In the game, he is a mercenary hired by Hades to kill Hercules in exchange for the whereabouts of Sephiroth, who is an optional boss included in the North American, PAL, and Final Mix releases of the game. Cloud and Tifa Lockhart later appear in Kingdom Hearts II as allies of the Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee; Sephiroth also returns here as an optional boss, and is depicted as the embodiment of Cloud's darkness.[81]

Younger incarnations of Final Fantasy VIII characters Seifer Almasy, Fujin, and Raijin—the latter two named "Fuu" and "Rai", respectively—appear in Kingdom Hearts II as members of Twilight Town's self-proclaimed disciplinary committee. Twilight Town also depicts Final Fantasy IX's Vivi Ornitier as an admirer of Seifer, and Final Fantasy VI's Setzer Gabbiani as a champion of the local Struggle sport; neither character was designed by Nomura, who included them under pressure from his staff.[8]

The Gullwings from Final Fantasy X-2Yuna, Rikku and Paine—are depicted as fairy-like creatures in Kingdom Hearts II, where they are initially sent by Maleficent to spy on the Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee, but later switch sides to help Sora's group in exchange for treasure.

The main characters of The World Ends with You—Neku Sakuraba, Yoshiya "Joshua" Kiryu, Shiki Misaki, Daisukenono "Beat" Bito, and Raimu "Rhyme" Bito—appear in Dream Drop Distance as players of a Reapers' Game in Traverse Town.[82] They are depicted as figments of their original selves, saved from fading out of existence by Joshua following Shibuya's destruction.

Merchandise[edit]

Kingdom Hearts character figurines; a Play Arts figure of Roxas appears in the center and Formation Arts Volume 1 & 2 figures are arrayed around him.

The characters of the Kingdom Hearts series have had various types of merchandise modeled after their likeness. Square Enix has released a collection of Formation Arts figurines that feature several of the main characters from the first game.[83][84] A series of Play Arts action figures has also been released.[85] Other merchandise includes jewelry and key chains modeled after character apparel and accessories.[86] The characters are also featured on posters,[86] desktop wallpapers,[87] and trading cards that are part of the Kingdom Hearts Trading Card Game.[88]

Reception[edit]

Overall, the characters within the Kingdom Hearts series have been well received and have garnered praise for the quality of their voice acting as well as their visual style. IGN, GameSpy, and Game Informer all praised the animation quality of the characters.[89][90][91] IGN's David Smith's impressions of the characters were very positive, referring to them as an "engaging cast", and stating the "characters' acting is helped immensely by the facial expressions and body". The design of the characters created specifically for Kingdom Hearts was seen as the highlight of the first game, stating "the majority of its best visual moments are based on original designs". One complaint he expressed was "the odd bit of cheating with the lip-synching, where textured facial features are substituted for full 3D animation".[89] GameSpy stated the Disney characters "slide perfectly into Square's visual style", and complemented the realistic characters from Pirates of the Caribbean, describing them as "remarkably accurate".[90]

GameSpot commented the first game created a "fascinating world" using the Disney and Final Fantasy characters.[92] GameSpy stated the inclusion of the Disney and Square Enix characters was handled well.[90] The main character Sora has also received press comments. In January 2007, Sora was listed the 4th biggest dork of 2006 by Game Informer, citing the Atlantica singing portions of the game.[93] IGN listed him as a possible character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl;[94] though he was not chosen as the "reader's choice".[95]

GameSpy praised the voice cast and voice acting in the first and third games.[90][96] G4TV awarded Kingdom Hearts II "Best Voice Over" in their 2006 G-phoria Awards.[97] Game Informer praised the voice acting of the third game, particularly the performances by Haley Joel Osment, Christopher Lee, and James Woods. They also stated the voice talent "shines across the board."[98] Reception towards the voice acting in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, however, was decidedly mixed, with praise aimed at the performances of Jesse McCartney, Mark Hamill and Leonard Nimoy, while Willa Holland and Jason Dohring's performances received a more mixed reaction, with GameSpot referring to Dohring's performance as "abysmal".[99]

References[edit]

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