Kingdom Hearts III is nearly here! We at Mammoth Gamers are big fans of the series, which is why we’ve used the time waiting for the game to recap each game in the series. We’ve already covered most of the games and we’re nearing completion. Up next is Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.
Birth by Sleep is my favorite Kingdom Hearts game for many reasons. The story gives a bigger scope to the series as a whole. Showing the player that nothing happens by chance, and everything has an explanation. From why Roxas looks like Ventus to why Kairi’s heart went to Sora rather than going to Maleficent like the other Princesses of Heart. All of these answers will be covered in the recap, however, I’m going to take a slightly different approach than how I recommend playing Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. When playing the game, you are given a choice between three stories. To get the entirety of the story you will have to play through these, however, all three stories weave together. For instance, if you play as Terra, you may get to Aurora’s world of Enchanted Dominion first, and when you play as Ventus, you will arrive not knowing what Terra did and having your own story here in the aftermath. I recommend playing the game in this order:
Although to maintain clarity and deliver a complete story recap I’ll be merging all three characters stories as one full story. Now let’s begin.
When we start we see a bald man with a white goatee and amber colored eyes. He’s on Destiny Island, the homeworld of Sora and Riku. A familiar boy with blond hair is wrapped in a white sheet being carried by the man. He lays the boy on the tree we usually see Sora and his friends, and the game begins.
We see the blond-hair boy standing on a stain glass window. This is how most games in the series start as it’s a visual representation of a heart. However, this heart is broken. A large piece of the stained glass is missing. The boy, looking exhausted, is having a conversation with a voiceless person. We only see the words written on the screen, as if the voice is in the boy’s head. This being offers help to the blond-haired boy, and his hearts fills with light before becoming whole once more. We are shown what is happening outside the his heart and we see the man who brought him. He tells this boy, whose name we now know is Ventus, that this will be a peaceful place to pass on. It’s this moment that his hand raises and in it a Keyblade appears. The strange man, recognizing that this wouldn’t be the end of Ventus, takes him to Master Eraqus. A fellow Keyblade Master and a trainer of Keyblade wielders. Eraqus agrees to look after Ventus, and soon, with the help of fellow Keyblade wielders Aqua and Terra, Ventus seemingly had been restored back to the way he was.
No longer was he in a coma-like state, and the three became inseparable, until the day of the Mark of Mastery exam. You see Terra and Aqua are a few years older then Ventus, who they affectionately call Ven. Because of this, they were more skilled then Ven, who also wants to be a Keyblade Master. During Terra and Aqua’s Mark of Mastery, we see the return of Master Xehanort, the same man who brought Ventus to Master Eraqus. Fans of the series, and readers of our recaps, will recognize this name as the main antagonist to the Kingdom Hearts series. And you would be right, however at this moment in time, the characters have no reason to suspect him of anything nefarious. Master Eraqus has invited him to the Mark of Mastery exam as a second opinion and Xehanort has accepted to see if either of these hopeful Keyblade wielders would make acceptable new vessels to replace his aging body. Xehanort was unhopeful. However, during the fight Terra lost control of his darkness, only for a moment, but long enough for Xehanort to take notice. Xehanort took this opportunity to influence the exam and spawned creatures of the darkness known as Unversed. These creatures resemble Heartless, although Heartless wouldn’t be discovered for a few years later.
After the three fend off these new threats, Xehanort and Eraqus deliberated on the results of the exam. This is where the rift starts to take shape between the three friends. Aqua is the only one of the two to be given the status of Master since Terra was unable to control the Darkness within him. This was part of Xehanort’s plan to isolate Terra. Before leaving, Xehanort tells Terra that he will be there for him if ever he should need anything, and if he ever wanted to leave Eraqus and his teachings that Xehanort would be willing to help him control his Darkness.
Terra is torn at this moment. He doesn’t want to leave his friends, however, Xehanort seems to be able to understand him on a much deeper level than Eraqus could. During this talk between Xehanort and Terra, Eraqus is having his own talk with Aqua on what it means to be a Master. However, the most important interaction during this is one that Ven is having with a mysterious masked boy. This boy is holding the toy Keyblade that used to be Terra’s until he gave it to Ven. This masked boy tells Ven that Terra is about to leave without looking back and that Terra doesn’t care about Ven enough to even say bye. Ventus doesn’t believe this masked stranger and takes off to see for himself. At this time, Eraqus is aware that Terra is about to leave and runs off with Aqua to see why. Ven gets to the courtyard in just enough time for Terra to say he has to go and not to follow him, that it’s too dangerous. Then without hesitation, Terra activates his armor and Keyblade then flies off into a rift in the sky. At this moment, Aqua and Eraqus are nowhere and without being able to understand what is happening, Ven copies Terra, and activates his armor and Keyblade and follows Terra. Eraqus tells Aqua that she must find Ventus and bring him back and also keep and eye on Terra. Eraqus doesn’t trust the Darkness inside of him. Aqua complies and activates her armor and follows her two closest friends on the beginning of a very dark adventure.
Terra, Ventus, and Aqua travel to a variety of Disney-themed worlds. In most cases, Ventus only just misses Terra in these worlds and see first hand the Darkness that Terra is spreading. However, Terra is being manipulated by Xehanort, who is pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Nevertheless, the three don’t all meet up again until they land in Radiant Gardens. Yes, the same Radiant Gardens that becomes Hollow Bastion in Kingdom Hearts then back to Radiant Gardens in Kingdom Hearts II. The three of them all arrive at different moments eventually meeting up later on in the level.
When Terra first arrives he’s greeted by Braig. A mercenary with an attitude and two crossbows as a weapon and who will go on to be Xigbar. He’s captured Xehanort and lures Terra across this area in search for him. Meanwhile, Ventus arrives just in time to meet young versions of Vexen (Even), and Zexion (Ienzo). During this, Aqua runs into some familiar faces. While in search for Ventus and Terra, a young girl is running from the Unversed. A small short-haired girl with a necklace with one pearl on it. After defending her, two guards run up to her. These two are Dilan and Aeleus, who will go on to be Xaldin and Lexaeus. After showing you can hold your own, they go back to there guard posts. It’s here that an iconic mouse shows up. Apprentice Mickey shows up and tells Aqua that he’s on a mission to discover the secrets behind these Unversed, but before he has a chance to explain more his Star Shard turns on and takes him to another world. This is about the time Aqua senses something deep in this girl that is pure and puts a protection spell on her. If she ever finds herself lost in Darkness, her heart will seek protection. The girl’s grandmother calls for her and the young Kairi runs off. This is the first answer we get as to why Kairi’s heart didn’t fall to Maleficent like the other Princesses of Heart during Kingdom Hearts. Instead, it sought out the protection of Sora. Another answer we get during this is how Kairi can wield a Keyblade. During the encounter, Kairi touches Aqua’s Keyblade. This isn’t a normal way of the Act of Succession, however, it’s the closest answer we have to why Kairi can wield a Keyblade in Kingdom Hearts II.
After these events take place, the three friends meet up to defeat the largest Unversed they’ve faced yet. However, their victory is short-lived. Terra figures out that Aqua is meant to spy on him and because of this Terra believes that Master Eraqus doesn’t trust him. Terra leaves as Ven turns on Aqua after learning the news. Ventus believes Terra is an unbreakable force and doesn’t realize that Terra has already done unspeakable things. Ven again runs off to Terra, but Terra doesn’t want to be followed. He tells Ven that he’s done things, but he was going to make it right. He tells Ven to leave, and Ventus walks back to the courtyard where he finds Aqua. He explains what Terra plans on doing, and she tells him to go home before going after Terra.
Ventus is unsure on what to do. His hearts tells him to go after Terra, but maybe he should go home. This is where a young boy with red hair walks up to Ven. The boy’s name is Lea, and he challenges Ven to a battle. After Ven wins, Lea’s friend makes fun of him. This blue-haired boy is named Isa. These two will become Axel and Saïx of Organization XIII. After the two bicker for a bit, Lea says it doesn’t matter that he lost because he’s made a new friend in Ventus. Confused by this, Lea says that it’s his goal to become friends with as many people as possible so that they will remember him and in this way, he will never die because he will live in their hearts. This is where Lea and Axel get their most famous catchphrase, “Got it Memorized?” It helps Ven realize what he must do and goes after Terra.
Terra has already left this world, but not after coming to the rescue of Xehanort who has staged the capture of himself with Braig. This was Xehanort’s plan to force Terra to use the Darkness. It almost works. And Braig is badly wounded over his left eye, and he runs off. Terra releases Xehanort from the chains and tells Terra that Eraqus is a fool to fear the Darkness as he does and Xehanort urges Terra to use the Darkness. Terra rejects this idea, and Xehanort accepts these answers. He tells Terra to continue his quest, and he will eventually use the Darkness as a weapon rather than succumb to it. After this exchange, Terra goes back on his journey.
After the three part ways, we get our second batch of Disney worlds, but after one world Terra gets led to a new world, an island world that is always warm. Destiny Island is his next stop. Here he meets two young boys playing on a beach. He calls to the one with white hair and asks him his name. The young boy says Riku. and Terra asks what he wants most in this world. Riku responds with “the strength to protect my friends.” This is all Terra needed to hear. He tells Riku to put a hand on his Keyblade. Terra performs the Right of Succession on Riku. This is another answer from Kingdom Hearts. You see, the Keyblade that presents itself to Sora in the first game is actually Riku’s. However, Riku had already given into the Darkness at this point, so Sora was able to obtain it. There is a reason for this as well, butit’s not until later in this recap. Terra leaves entrusting that he’s leaving the future in good hands, and for the first time in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Terra was right.
Not long after, Aqua arrives at these same islands. Here she meets the same young boys only this time she speaks to both Sora and Riku. She is taken aback on how much they remind her of Ventus and Terra. Because of this, she’s willing to pass down the blade to one of them, although she senses that this has already been done and realizes that Terra must have passed down the privilege. She decided that this was good enough and tells Riku to stop at nothing to protect his friend and leaves the two to play on the island. During this time Ventus is lured to the Keyblade Graveyard by Xehanort and the masked boy. Xehanort reveals his master plan to Ventus.Ven suddenly starts to remembers his life as Xehanort’s apprentice. Ven remembers his ex-master wanting to acquire Kingdom Hearts and was using him to do this. He remembers that he was going to be made into some sort of ultimate weapon. Xehanort tells him that Eraqus never wanted him to know the truth to his destiny and Ven races off to find answers from Master Eraqus.
Ven is surprised to find his master waiting for him. After telling him Xehanort’s plan, Eraqus becomes angry at himself for not seeing this plan of Xehanort’s sooner. He realizes that the only way to stop Xehanort is to destroy Ventus so Xehanort can no longer use him as a pawn. Before he could strike down Ven, Terra arrives. Xehanort told Terra to come here knowing Terra would catch Eraqus in the act. Unable to allow any harm to come to Ven,Terra takes up arms against his former Master and sends Ventus through a portal to keep him safe and finds himself on Destiny Islands. Here the masked boy reveals his name and where he came from. His name is Vanitas, and he is the dark part of Ven’s heart. When Ven proved too weak to become the new body Xehanort could take over to extend his life, Xehanort decided to do the next best thing. He extracted the dark part of Ventus heart to make a new being in Vanitas and Ven was left to die, but he didn’t. Something happened to heal him. Now, Xehanort is going to use Ventus and Vanitas to battle as a beings a pure light (Ventus) and darkness (Vanitas) to create the Key to open Kingdom Hearts, the χ-Blade. Vanitas tells Ventus to go to the Keyblade Graveyard if he wants to stop Xehanort.
Back at the Land of Departure, Master Eraqus and Terra are battling for Ven’s life. With everything Eraqus has told Terra seeming like a lie now, Terra allows himself to be consumed by the Darkness and uses it to defeat Eraqus. Eraqus seeming to come to senses knows he could never have killed Ven, even if it was to stop Xehanort. However, his redemption is cut short as he is killed by Xehanort. Terra no longer knows what to believe. Xehanort reveals that Eraqus was too weak for his own good and with Terra’s acceptance of the Darkness he is now ready to become the vessel Xehanort has been seeking. Xehanort tells Terra to meet him in the Keyblade Graveyard for their final showdown.
During all of this Aqua sees Mickey’s Star Shard and follows it to Master Yen Sid’s castle. Here she meets Donald and Goofy, who are worried about there King’s disappearance, and Aqua also meets Yen Sid. He informs her that he’s seen a star go out in the night sky and is afraid that Master Eraqus has been struck down, and that her friends are on a collision course with Xehanort at the Keyblade Graveyard. Aqua thanks Yen Sid and takes off for her friends.
It’s here all three stories converge again and Aqua, Terra, and Ven meet again for the first time since Radiant Gardens. Each of them explains what has happened to them since and discover Xehanort is behind the entire thing. It’s here that my words can’t do it justice. The three confront Xehanort. Below is the cutscene from this conflict. It was a hidden endgame movie in Kingdom Hearts II but was remade in the game almost one for one and is one of if not, the most, exciting cinematic so far in the Kingdom Hearts saga.
After this cutcene, we are shown two fights. One between Vanitas and Terra, and one between Aqua and Braig. Braig, who now looks a lot more like his Nobody counterpart with a patch over his eye, loses against Aqua. However, this seems to be the plan as he tells her he was just to hold her off. Terra’s fight with Vanitas was only to tire Terra and pull more of his Darkness out, and it worked. Once Terra is at his breaking point, Vanitas jumps from the side of the cliff at just the right moment. He strikes down Aqua at the same moment Braig flees. Ven was helpless, frozen on the ground this entire time. However, right when Vanitas is about to deliver the final blow, Ven breaks from his frozen shell and attacks Vanitas. During this fight, Terra is fighting Xehanort above them, and Mickey shows up to pull Aqua to safety. However, he is too late to save the others. Ven realizes the only way to save his friends is to allow Vanitas back into his heart. He does this, and we are shown the internal battle between Vanitas and Ventus with a battle for his heart. Ven, knowing he is too weak, sacrifices his heart. We are shown it shattering and back on the battlefield Ventus body falls in a heap as if he is just a shell.
Meanwhile, up top, Terra falls to Xehanort. By using the Darkness, he gave Xehanort a path straight to his heart and Xehanort took it. Xehanort takes over Terra’s body and completely engulfs Terra’s heart. Terra is still inside of his body, however, Xehanort has completely locked him away. Terra’s hair turns to white, and a young man with amber eyes is standing in the place Terra once did. A young man we recognized as a young Xemnas. This is now Terra-Xehanort, and he is, as far as we have seen, no longer Terra. Terra’s heart is lost. However, his will still lives. Before Terra-Xehanort claims victory, he is confronted by Terra’s old armor. Becoming sentient, it does what is was designed to and tries to protect the small amount of Terra left. The Armor is successful in driving off Terra-Xehanort and collapses in a kneeling position holding Terra’s Keyblade as a knight would in the presence of a King or Queen.
The battle is over, and the casualties are many. Aqua collects the lifeless body of Ven, and her and Mickey return to Yen Sid. Master Yen Sid tells Aqua that the boy lives, but his heart is lost, seeking refuge in a place they know not. Yen Sid tells Aqua to take Ven to a safe place until they can recover his heart and she remembers something her Master once told her. She travels back to her home and takes her Master’s Keyblade as her own. Aqua places Ven in the throne room and locks this world. It starts to transform into a white castle that only she will be able to navigate. Any trespasser would lose memory of why they were even there. The Land of Departure is no more, instead stands a new land; Castle Oblivion will keep Ven safe until Master Aqua can return to save him.
However, Aqua has one matter of business to do before saving Ven. She must save Terra, and she remembers what Mickey once said to her, “May your heart be your guiding key.” She does this and is lead to Radiant Gardens. Sure enough, Terra-Xehanort is standing at the entrance of Radiant Gardens, however Aqua arrives to stop him. The two battle and Xehanort has to call about all of his Darkness to not be defeated. However, this had a negative effect and a portal to the Realm of Darkness is torn open. The two fall in and is about to be lost. Aqua recognizing this sees Terra pass out from exhaustion. She has a choice; save herself or her friend, Terra. Without hesitation, she gives Terra-Xehanort her armor and sends him back through the portal. As we are left with a shot of Aqua sinking into the Darkness we hear one last line from her, and it’s one that rips at me every time I hear it. “Ven, I’m sorry. I might not make it back as soon as I thought. But I promise I’ll be there one day to wake you up.” And with that, she falls into the Darkness.
Terra-Xehanort is saved, however, Terra is still lost. He will go on to become an apprentice to Ansem the Wise and will continue his dark research until he is able to discover beings known as the Heartless. However, more on that in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance.
Terra is lost, trapped deep within the now young Xehanort. Aqua is lost in the Realm of Darkness. Ven’s heart has left his body, and he is now safe in Castle Oblivion, but he is just a shell of himself. Until he is able to be born again, a Birth by Sleep. However, we are left with hope.
We are left with two young kids on a beach looking at the night sky. The two are Sora and Riku, and Riku notices that Sora is crying. When he asks Sora what’s wrong, Sora doesn’t even know he’s crying. After explaining that he just feels sad and doesn’t know Riku tells him that maybe someone from another world is in pain and is asking Sora for help. Sora needs to open his heart and listen. Sora being Sora doesn’t have to be told twice, and we are shown a conversation with the young Sora and Ven’s Heart. Ven tells Sora that his heart is fractured, but this feels familiar. Ven realizes that Sora is the one who helped him at the beginning of the game that gave Ven a second chance when his heart isn’t whole. Ven asks if he can stay with Sora and the young boy agrees if it will help Ven feel better. Here is the final and biggest answer so far given by Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. The reason Roxas looks like Ventus is because from this moment on, Sora is caring Ven’s heart. So when Sora becomes a Heartless, Kairi’s heart is released and goes back to her, Sora’s heart becomes a Heartless, and Ven’s heart resides in Roxas. This is why Roxas has the ability to wield a Keyblade, and why he is able to feel as a Nobody. This is also why Sora is able to pick up the Keyblade meant for Riku. Sora was never able to summon a Keyblade, Ventus was. It wasn’t until Sora proved he was worthy of a Keyblade that the Keyblade choose him.
This revelation brings everything into focus for our heroes. We know why these events unfolded upon them and where they need to go. However, we have just a few more loose ends to tie up before the final conclusion in Kingdom Hearts III. In our next, and final, recap we will go over what happens to Aqua in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep 0.2: A Fragment Passage, and in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance we discover what Xehanort’s master plan is. We are in the home stretch, and we can’t be more excited. Next; The Road to Kingdom Hearts III: The Story So Far – I Walk the Road to Dawn.