In Part 1 and Part 2 of our Kingdom Hearts feature, we recapped the events of the first six titles in the Kingdom Hearts franchise according to chronological order. Now we’re going to recap the final three games leading to Kingdom Hearts 3, which includes Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts: Coded, and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance.
7) Kingdom Hearts 2
Picking up a few days after the ending of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 2 follows the life of Roxas in an artificial version of Twilight Town. He has been implanted with fake memories by DiZ, thinking that this is his last week of summer vacation with his friends Hayner, Pence, and Olette.
As Sora’s memory restoration nears completion, Roxas’ grasp on the artificial reality begins to crumble, as he becomes more and more aware of who he is. At one point, his heart even connects with Kairi’s for a brief moment (even though she’s all the way on Destiny Islands, another world), triggering her to remember Sora again after one year of losing her memories.
Namine contacts Roxas to convince him to merge with Sora by saying that he will disappear or vanish, but instead become whole again by doing so. Despite Axel’s efforts to try to convince him to return to Organization XIII, Roxas decides to follow Namine’s advice and merge with Sora although this would mean essentially losing himself.
Next, Sora, Donald, and Goofy awaken with no memories beyond that of what happened at the end of the original Kingdom Hearts. They set off again to continue their journey to find King Mickey and Riku. It turns out that King Mickey was already in Twilight Town, who tells them to seek out his teacher, Master Yen Sid.
Yen Sid informs Sora about the threat of Nobodies and Organization XIII, as well as remnants of darkness and the Heartless still looming. After getting new clothes and leaving Yen Sid’s castle, Maleficent surprisingly appears to have been resurrected and is out to continue her evil schemes.
Meanwhile, Kairi has been looking for Sora and Riku since she regained her memories. Axel kidnaps her and brings her to the Organization XIII’s headquarters, where she meets Saix, another member of the organization.
After travelling through various Disney worlds, Sora, Donald, and Goofy find themselves back in Hollow Bastion (Radiant Garden), where they meet King Mickey again. Mickey explains that the ‘Ansem’ they defeated in the original Kingdom Hearts was only the real Ansem’s heartless. Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, is Ansem’s Nobody.
Remember when I mentioned Ansem the Wise who took in the seemingly-amnesiac Xehanort at the end of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep? That’s the real Ansem, and he was actually in disguise as DiZ all along. To put it more simply, Ansem and Xemnas are actually the Heartless and Nobody of none other than Xehanort (who is in Terra’s body and was Ansem the Wise’s apprentice for a while after Birth By Sleep).
As they leave Ansem’s study (after learning of who Ansem the Wise really is), Hollow Bastion is under siege by a war between Maleficent’s Heartless and the Organization XIII’s Nobodies. Sora himself helps and defeats more than a thousand Heartless by himself.
Sora later learns that Ansem’s (Xehanort) computer program has been creating an endless stream of Heartless. When the program is stopped, everyone living in Hollow Bastion regains a lost memory, that the town was originally known as Radiant Garden.
After more shenanigans and fights against members of Organization XIII, Sora and the gang heads into the Realm of Darkness to find the organization’s headquarters, The World That Never Was. Sora then gets ambushed by what seems to be Roxas, which leads to a battle between them. Roxas loses but then engages in a final meeting with Axel, discussing whether Nobodies actually have hearts. Roxas then goes back to Sora and tells him that he “makes a good other”, before disappearing back into Sora’s heart.
Meanwhile, Riku is trying to save Kairi while fending off hordes of Heartless. Riku throws his Keyblade to Kairi, who then uses it to defeat the Heartless. It’s just further proof that Kairi is worthy enough to be a Keyblade wielder (thanks to Aqua’s blessing).
Backstory time. Ansem the Wise was a scientist who researches the light and darkness. He had human assistants named Braig, Dilan, Even, Aeleus, Ienzo, and Xehanort, all of which would later become Nobodies and members of organization XIII (except Xehanort, of course). His apprentices conducted evil experiments, which is why Ansem the Wise stopped them.
However, they continued to do so behind his back and died, leaving behind their Nobodies instead. These Nobodies threw him into the Realm of Darkness. That is why Ansem the Wise decided to disguise himself under the identity of DiZ.
Then, it’s time for an emotional reunion between Sora. Kairi and Riku. Ansem the Wise whips out a special device to turn Kingdom Hearts into data, thereby preventing it from being opened or unlocked. The device works but then explodes and seemingly kills him (but not really, he’s just thrown into the Realm of Darkness yet again).
The explosion also helps Riku turn back into his normal form, after looking like Ansem since the end of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days when he had to unleash the full power of the darkness inside his heart to defeat Roxas. Unfortunately, the explosion attracted thousands of Heartless to the World That Never Was, but Maleficent shows up to stop them (but only because she wants to reclaim the world herself).
Sora and Riku go to fight Xemnas for their final battle while Namine is busy helping everyone else return to the Realm of Light. Xemnas destroys the Namine’s portal before Sora and Riku get the chance to enter it, hoping to keep them trapped forever. After defeating Xemnas for good, Sora and Riku discover a small light source which was actually a door to the Realm of Light.
They enter and find themselves falling straight to Destiny Islands, reuniting with Kairi once again. In the epilogue, Sora, Riku, and Kairi are relaxing on the beach when they receive a letter by King Mickey, which leads into the events in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance.
8) Kingdom Hearts: Coded
After defeating Organization XIII in Kingdom Hearts 2, King Mickey, Donald and Goofy return to Disney Castle, where Jiminy Cricket has started to archive the data in his journals of all the journeys undertaken so far. However, the data starts becoming corrupted and they even find details that Jiminy himself did not record.
To investigate this, Jiminy created a digitized version of Sora (Data-Sora) to hunt down bugs and anomalies in the digitized journal, as well as tracking down a mysterious hooded figure that seems to appear from time to time.
In the real world, King Mickey, Donald and Goofy find themselves being sieged by Heartless outside the door. They are then unexpectedly saved by Data-Sora, and the mysterious hooded figure introduces itself as the personification of Jiminy’s journal while appearing/looking like Riku.
It turns out that King Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are actually trapped in the Datascape (what the Riku-Journal calls the digitized worlds). They later meet Maleficent and Pete, who has entered the Datascape in search of the Book of Prophecies (remember Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover, the very first story?).
King Mickey and the gang defeat Maleficent and send her back to the real world. Then, he decides to erase the journal, only to find out that the information from the data versions of the worlds Data-Sora visited in his previous adventures has been added to the journal.
Data-Sora is sent yet again into the Datascape, where he meets Data-Roxas and Data-Namine. They tell him that the bugs and anomalies in Jiminy’s journal were created when the real Namine was repairing Sora’s memories. Data-Namine also reveals that the real Sora is ‘Key That Connects Everything’, mentioning all the people that are connected to Sora, including Ventus, Aqua, Terra, Axel, Roxas, Xion, and the real Namine. As long as they are connected to Sora, they can be brought back.
In fact, the reason why Data-Namine contacted them is to try and get King Mickey and the others to somehow help Ventus, Terra, and Aqua. King Mickey then promises to tell all of this to the real Sora. That’s when he sends the bottle containing a letter to Sora Riku and Kairi in the epilogue of Kingdom Hearts 2.
In the epilogue of Kingdom Hearts: Coded, Master Yen Sid reveals that with Xehanort’s heartless and nobody both destroyed, it is only a matter of time before the real Master Xehanort comes back to life. Worse yet, he warns that there may be more than one Xehanort that will be coming. He then asks King Mickey to prepare the Mark of Mastery exam for both Sora and Riku.
9) Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
This is the most convoluted Kingdom Hearts game of all, as it involves time travel. So please bear with me while I attempt to recap the events in this one, the ending of which leads directly into Kingdom Hearts 3.
Sora and Riku assemble at Master Yen Sid’s tower to begin their Mark of Mastery exams, to become true Keyblade Masters. Their task: to journey to the Seven Sleeping Worlds, worlds that were engulfed by darkness and restored, but never ‘awakened’ or unlocked. To do this, Master Yen Sid needs to send them back in time to Destiny Islands just before it fell into darkness. He explains that travelling back in time is possible only if you already have an existing version of yourself at that point in time.
In the Seven Sleeping Worlds, Sora and Riku are often in the same places at the same time but cannot see each due to time travel shenanigans (that will be explained later). Their actions can affect each other and their respective worlds, and so they fight new enemies called the Nightmare Dream Eaters to awaken these worlds.
On their journey, Sora and Riku both encounter the heartless Ansem, the Nobody Xemnas, and a mysterious younger version of Xehanort. After awakening all Seven Sleeping Worlds and reaching The World That Never Was, Sora learns the true purpose of Organization XIII as intended by the original Xehanort: to prepare 13 vessels of darkness for Xehanort to possess in the upcoming Keyblade War against the 7 vessels of light or Keyblade wielders, which will in turn form the X-blade and open the door to Kingdom Hearts.
After that revelation, Sora is submerged into sleep to prepare him for the darkness to engulf but his heart remains protected by a Keyblade armour courtesy of Ventus. Meanwhile, Riku learns that their Mark of Mastery exam has been manipulated by Xehanort from the very beginning.
Xehanort could travel in time thanks to the existence of his younger version. The reason why Riku can’t see Sora is because he has been in Sora’s dreams all along (just go with it). Riku has been protecting Sora from the beginning of the exam subconsciously.
While all this is going on in the Sleeping Worlds or Sora’s dreams, all of the former members of Organization XIII reawaken in their human forms, excluding Braig, Isa, and Xehanort. Axel (or Lea, which is his human name) uses his powers to travel to Master Yen Sid’s tower and reveal that what just happened to King Mickey and everyone else. Lea is also revealed to be capable of wielding a Keyblade.
Riku fights the young Xehanort and defeats him, with King Mickey swooping in to save Sora as well. When they return to the real world, it is revealed that Sora remains in deep sleep. Riku uses his newly-gained powers of immunity to darkness and the power of awakening hearts to head into Sora’s heart and defeat the darkness within.
When Sora wakes up due to Riku’s efforts, Master Yen Sid announces the results of the Mark of Mastery exam. Sora failed since he almost succumbed to darkness, losing much of his powers in the process. Riku passed and is now officially a Keyblade Master. With his new powers, he and King Mickey are tasked to bring back the seven vessels (guardians) of light, which includes Aqua who remains trapped in the Realm of Darkness.
Since Sora failed, he must seek out a great hero (Hercules) to learn how to gain his own powers back, and learn the power of awakening hearts, which is essential in the upcoming Keyblade War. Kairi and Lea (Axel) will be trained by Merlin as Keyblade wielders. That’s where everyone will be at the beginning of Kingdom Heart 3.
That marks the final part of our Kingdom Hearts three-parter story recap. You are now officially ready to play and understand Kingdom Hearts 3 when it releases on 29 January 2019. I hope our efforts have helped you in at least understanding the basic course of events throughout the franchise’s almost 20 years of history.
In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this awesome violin cover of the iconic Kingdom Hearts Hikari (Simple and Clean) theme.