A Filthy Casual’s Thoughts On Kingdom Hearts Re:coded

A Filthy Casual’s Thoughts On Kingdom Hearts Re:coded
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We are hot off the heels of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. If you’ve been following this new “Filthy Casual” series, I’ve been playing through the Kingdom Hearts games for the first time in the sequence they originally released in. To clarify, the series is being experienced through the Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far collection released for PS4. The next game in this sequence is Kingdom Hearts coded, or Kingdom Hearts Re:coded as it appears in the PS4 collection. Similar to 358/2 Days and Re:Chain of Memories before it, Re:coded was originally a handheld title whose many cinematics have been compiled into one movie. That said, I’m really writing this series more for the appreciation and interpretation of the overall plot of the beloved franchise, whereas subject matter like gameplay will have some minor mention if it’s applicable. Because this doesn’t apply to Re:coded, we might as well jump into this game’s plot. Please beware, spoilers for Kingdom Hearts Re:coded are ahead.

I believe Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, as I will so bluntly put it, is the Inception of the Kingdom Hearts series. It didn’t take long for me to see the parallels between that film and this game what with the concept of worlds within worlds. From what I can gather, I hold my stance in placing this game’s events as taking place before the finale of Kingdom Hearts II, where Sora, Kairi, and Riku are hanging out on the Destiny Islands before they receive a message in a bottle from King Mickey.

A loose thread from Re:Chain of Memories is picked up for another look. At the Disney Castle, Jiminy Cricket brings a concern to King Mickey, Donald, and Goofy about a strange entry in his journal that he doesn’t recall writing. A single page in the journal reads, “Thank Naminé.” I clearly remember Sora making that promise to Naminé at the cost of forgetting her when she restored his true memories. Jiminy made that note in the journal but, he too, would have no recollection of the circumstances that led up to that promise.

Another cryptic message in the journal appears, “We must return to free them from their torment.Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it.” That sounded so disturbing to me when I saw it. Perhaps more so when I noticed the game would once again take on the aesthetic of the original Kingdom Hearts. The Sora and Riku of this game revert back to their younger selves and all.

Anyway, King Mickey has the journal turned to digital code and proceeds to enter a datascape version of their universe. You know, as you do in these instances. There, Mickey makes contact with Data-Sora, a virtual simulation of the real Sora, and asks for his help to learn the identity of the one who left the cryptic message in the journal.

At this point is when I get into the mindset of a world within a world. For Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, that essentially meant that I was looking at a sentient journal’s memories of places, people, and things. That makes total sense, right? Anyway, in lieu of Heartless or Nobodies, the latest band of malcontents to the series are “bugs,” made manifest by black and red blocks that infest the many worlds that the real Sora has already traversed through.

Soon Data-Sora is confronted by another black cloaked figure in the datascape, and Donald immediately utters what I’m hypothesizing: is he with Organization XIII? At the request of King Mickey, Data-Sora begins to follow the cloaked individual from world to world.

In a cool twist that I didn’t see coming, but was able to catch onto soon after, the Disney Castle is assaulted by a legion of Heartless. King Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Jiminy have been monitoring Data-Sora from a supercomputer of sorts when they suddenly lose track of Data-Sora. Just as they’re about to be overrun by the Heartless, Data-Sora instantly appears and rescues everyone no sooner than he disappeared from the computer. I was like, “Damn, that was smooth.” Right after this sequence I had to have a good laugh because everyone is so confused how Data-Sora even showed up. The absurdity of the moment is bolstered further when everyone gets caught in a reenactment of the scene from Spaceballs when their own video footage comes in sync with their reality; with the slow hand waving and staring at the screen at the same time comedic bit.

Oh, it just turns out that Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Jiminy have been transported to the datascape and the one responsible for it was Jiminy’s journal, that somehow gained sentience and was able to alter its form to appear as the now unmasked black cloaked figure of Riku. Surprise!

If that isn’t the best thing you’ve been confused by in Kingdom Hearts then here it is: Maleficent and Pete have wandered into the datascape from the real world, and then Maleficent proceeds to destroy Data-Sora’s Keyblade, but then Mickey and Riku (who I’m just going to refer to as the Journal from now on) show up to come to Data-Sora’s aid. However, Maleficent succeeds in abducting the Journal as Mickey runs off to recover it.

Meanwhile, Data-Sora, Donald, and Goofy catch up with Pete at Hollow Bastion and Data-Sora, without the use of the Keyblade, is left helpless when Pete ensnares Donald and Goofy in a few bug blocks. I shouldn’t feel sorry for computer code but, geez, Kingdom Hearts manages to do it. Although Donald and Goofy are trapped, and appear in pain, they still can’t help but give Data-Sora the confidence he needs, praising him and cherishing him for the adventures they’ve had together in the real world. Data-Sora utters a few tear-inducing words, “My friends are my power,” right before summoning a new Keyblade from nothingness and momentarily stops Pete. What?

I can get behind the idea that the Keyblade that Maleficent destroyed was nothing more than bits of code, but Mickey ascertains the Keyblade that Data-Sora now wields is near to being the real deal as a result of forging a strong connection with everyone. Okay, whatever you say Mickey. I’ll just chock this one up to, “the Keyblade is as real as you want it to be.”

So Data-Sora is eventually able to catch up with Pete again, who summons forth the now corrupted Journal to fight him. I kinda forget that this isn’t Riku, but man it sucked to see the poor Journal get screwed over like that. To my relief, Data-Sora is able to fend off Pete and recover the Journal and brings it back to Hollow Bastion. The catch is that a lot of the Journal still has remnants of bugs attached to it. Data-Sora goes deeper into the machine and into the Journal… again? The Journal’s inner… memories? Okay, maybe I don’t have the exact visualization of a digital world within a journal down for this game. The point is, Data-Sora goes a layer deeper into the datascape by digitizing inside of Journal-Riku to free it from the residual bugs still attached to it.

Data-Sora begins traveling to many worlds that a Data-Riku has been to before. Sure, why not? Because the Riku that appears inside the Journal the next layer down is Data-Riku and not the Journal that appeared to Data-Sora as Riku. I’m sorry guys. You’re just going to have to get used to the fact that Kingdom Hearts is going to make my brain fart so bad. But fine. I will accept this and keep going. I mean it’s all just code in the end, right?

Right. Because Data-Sora apparently defeats Maleficent in the second layer of the Journal’s reality and, thereby, freeing it from the harmful effects of the bugs. Time for Mickey and company to go back to the real world, right? Well, Mickey let it slip that when the Journal is fully restored it will have to be completely wiped. That means the memories of Data-Sora will disappear with it. Before that happens, Data-Sora expresses his interests in finding and helping Maleficent and Pete leave the data world to return to reality.

Before he can do that, however, Maleficent and Pete are seen standing before a behemoth of a Heartless. Data-Sora shows up and attempts to help them but the Heartless causes them to suddenly disappear. Ummmm okay. This Heartless, it turns out, is that of Sora’s. I assume it was the real Sora’s Heartless when he gave Kairi her heart back in Kingdom Hearts. But now this is just burning my brain out some more. I hypothesized one of two things in a previous editorial. One, in that instance when Sora becomes a Heartless in Kingdom Hearts, I thought: does he have his own heart along with Kairi’s? Or, hypothesis two, was he just carrying hers?

Let’s flashback to Kingdom Hearts for a moment. When Sora “unlocks his heart” he releases several orbs of light or, what I assume, were hearts. One of Sora’s goals was to gather the hearts of the Princesses of Heart, of which there are seven. That’s Kairi, Belle, Aurora, Cinderella, Jasmine, Snow White, and Alice (for some reason). I counted seven orbs of light that went back to each princess. Seven. There wasn’t an eighth heart. I went back to check. Sora became the definition of a Heartless and his physical form took on that of those black, beady-eyed imps. Kairi then simply bear hugs the Heartless imp that was Sora and he returns to his true form.

Yet here’s his Heartless taking shape within a digital world in Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. Okay, so this is the Journal’s interpretation of those events, right? Because when Kairi restored Sora, that should have put an end to his Heartless, correct? But, if that were true, does that mean that Xehanort, who has both a Heartless (Ansem) and a Nobody (Xemnas), can coexist at the same time? Sora’s Heartless didn’t somehow manifest itself in the Journal because it ceased to exist because of Kairi? But if an eighth heart (Sora’s heart) never appeared, but he was able to turn into a Heartless anyway, then where is Sora’s real heart? If the only thing that was keeping Sora held together during the events of Kingdom Hearts was Kairi’s heart, and Kairi gave him a magic hug, what on earth is keeping Sora from turning into a Heartless now? What the heck is Sora? I’m not going to lie, I just started Birth By Sleep right before writing this. I can tell you that Master Xehanort appears at the beginning of this game. There’s talk about concern over the Princesses of Heart, lending a lot of thought that this might be a prequel to Kingdom Hearts. If so, then that means that Master Xehanort, Ansem, and Xemnas must exist at the same time, yet independent to one another… right? My brain is doing somersaults. Remember, there’s a reason this series of editorials is called, “A Filthy Casual’s Thoughts.” Whatever, I think if I’m deducing the plot this hard, surely I will find and make sense of the answers I’m looking for?

Where were we? Oh, right. Sora’s “Heartless” is in the datascape of the Journal. Well, Data-Sora manages to defeat Sora’s “Heartless” and that should be the end of the Journal’s calamity. Somehow Maleficent and Pete were rescued by a “rift in the data.” I don’t know. Good for them. Data-Sora and the Journal say their goodbyes to Mickey who returns to the real world. The Journal is restored to its original state and Data-Sora loses his memory of all the events that have transpired.

You’d figure the credits would roll by this point but there’s a little more to go. The Journal, once again in the guise of Riku, makes contact with Mickey and the gang in the real world explaining that a door to a new world has been opened in the datascape. Yet, now that Data-Sora has no memory of recent events, Mickey takes it upon himself to enter the Journal once again.

Mickey meets Data-Sora in a digital version of Traverse Town and takes him to Castle Oblivion, as seen in Re:Chain of Memories. There, Sora comes across another person dressed in a black cloak. The cloaked figure tells Sora that he’ll once again bear witness to worlds and people he has encountered before. While he may not remember these people, the sorrow over having forgotten is still prevalent and the figure warns Sora not to succumb to these feelings. Sora prepares to duel the figure and it turns out to be Data-Roxas. Who else?

Soon afterwards, Data-Sora comes across Data-Naminé, who explains that everything that has transpired was a byproduct of her attempts to restore the real Sora’s memories. And maybe, just maybe, my qualms over Sora’s true purpose is hinted at when Data-Naminé claims that other people’s memories are contained within Sora. So you can imagine that I’m trying to grapple with the thought that a single individual can possess hearts and memories of other people simultaneously. Naminé adds that it should be practically impossible for that to happen. What does that imply for Sora though?

Another disturbing revelation is that these particular memories are those of pain, with the likelihood of breaking Sora’s heart if these memories are not handled correctly. Again, does Sora even have his own heart? However, because he was able to reach Naminé at all, Data-Sora demonstrated that he has the tenacity to overcome such pain. Ultimately, it’s revealed that this Naminé is the author of the mysterious line, “Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it.” Not to mention it was her intent to add the bugs to gauge Data-Sora’s strength. Data-Sora accepts the restoration of Sora’s memories and he and Mickey take each other’s hands (Mickey adorably telling him to “be strong”) as they’re engulfed in light.

Images of Axel, Roxas, Naminé, and Xion begin to materialize. “They’re waiting for Sora,” calls Naminé’s voice, “He’s the only one who can put an end to their hurt.” What’s more is that DiZ added something to Sora while he slept. Something that would help in “clearing his conscience.” I’m at a loss, but I’ll have to bookmark that reveal for now.

That group of people disappears, and three more individuals who are also hurting appear, one of whom looks identical to Roxas. Not only do they have ties to Sora, but they also have ties to the Keyblade’s truth, according to Naminé. As I mentioned, I just started Birth By Sleep right before writing this editorial. I believe I may gain insight into this mystifying unveiling. A single line from the secret teaser at the end of Kingdom Hearts II reinforces my assertion: “It all began with birth by sleep.” I don’t know what that means but I’m dying to find out.

But back to the matter at hand. Sora has already met two of the individuals he sees before him, but the third, a “he”, Sora shares a very special connection with. Is it the Roxas look alike? Well, whatever the case, it appears they’re all asleep and only Sora can save them due to their shared bond. Data-Naminé was created for the sole purpose of passing along this information. With her task complete, she’ll disappear from the Journal altogether. Data-Sora can think of nothing better to say at her departure other than, “thank you,” fulfilling the promise made in the Journal from the beginning. Data-Naminé then fades away.

Back in the real world again, King Mickey writes his letter to send via message in a bottle to Sora, Kairi, and Riku on Destiny Islands. The contents of the letter is finally revealed. Mickey implores Sora to come rescue those he has ties to and, thus, end their sadness and pain. “And now the door to your next journey is ready to be opened.”

Shivers. Oh wait, hold on. Mickey then meets with Yen Sid, who always looks so pissed off for some reason. The obvious is stated: Xemnas and Ansem have been vanquished. What I was not prepared to hear was that both halves are now returning to the whole. Master Xehanort will return. This seems to imply that he was sealed away somehow or someway. Does Birth By Sleep show how that happened?

And in a post-post-credits scene, Xigbar, who I guess is really one of the last surviving members of Organization XIII, plots with yet another man in a black cloak over the matter of Xehanort and the creepy fact that he can evidently see into other’s minds. What’s more is that, of all the Keyblades in existence, Master Xehanort’s is the “most ancient.” There are also whispers of an ancient Keyblade War, and I begin to wonder if all those withering Keyblades seen in the Birth By Sleep teaser is a nod to that moment in Kingdom Hearts history. Xigbar appears about to start an experiment with live specimens, and I can’t help but spy an unconscious Axel in one corner of the room. What’s going to happen to him? Once again I am given more questions than answers. Will wonders never cease?

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded

At this point I’m going to resign myself to my questions and hypotheses for awhile. Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is my next challenge to overcome. I’m certain this acts as the earliest tale in the Kingdom Hearts series by the looks of it. I surmise it also has the great task of building up foundations to all the hints and revelations that have occurred so far. How it throws a wrench in my reasoning is still beyond me, but I’m certain my Kingdom Hearts logic is going to be turned on its head yet again. I would expect no less from this series. There will most likely be a bit of a break now while I work on Birth By Sleep, so until next time. Thank you for reading. Please do check out our other editorials on Kingdom Hearts. For more gaming news, reviews, and other editorials, please check us out on Mammoth Gamers.

Jason Arriola

One of the biggest Star Wars fans there is. When I don't have one of many gaming peripherals in my hands I probably have my nose in a good book, out amiibo hunting, or contemplating (and never deciding) what game to pull off my shelf next!