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InnerLight13

The 100 Greatest Kingdom Hearts Scenes (50-41)

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After taking a break from the Kingdom Hearts series for a few months, I decided I wanted to piece together a summer project that I can share with the world. This is that project. I will be counting down the 100 greatest scenes in the series’ history. Ten scenes will be revealed at a time, so this will run for a few days. No text box cutscenes or opening cinematics are included in this list. Each of the scenes is listed under their “Theater Mode” title. I hope you enjoy the countdown, and I hope it can spark some hearty discussion.

 

50. “His Last Words” (Kingdom Hearts II)

Back in Chain of Memories, and even in the prologue of Kingdom Hearts II, Axel seems like he’s a goner at the hands of Sora and Roxas, respectively. Yet here he is in Betwixt and Between fighting alongside his spiky-haired counterpart against the adversaries he once commanded. The ultimate survivor, Axel’s sacrificial power play is a brilliantly intense conclusion to the character’s opening arc. Sure, he’ll return as Lea in the future, but his emotional final moment here is not in cinematic vain. In the main character, the Flurry of Dancing Flames senses the qualities of Roxas that motivated him to fight the power. While he goes out thinking he has no place in the world, Axel’s final stroke of goodwill by opening up a portal to the Organization’s home base offers up a reason for hope. If anyone can make sense of the mess that remains, he knows it will be the Somebody of his best friend.

49. “Return to the Light” (Kingdom Hearts III)

For a moment that we all knew was coming, this one sure does hit hard. After wandering in the darkness for upwards of a decade’s worth of years, Aqua finally makes her triumphant return to the Realm of Light. Although she had returned back to her original state, the damage had been done to Aqua’s mentality after temporarily going dark. She recognizes the Destiny Islands, but assumes that they have fallen into the Dark World. At that point, her positive disposition from Birth by Sleep is just about completely stripped away. Her immediate doubt in the situation is quickly played off, however, as the group gives her the statement she desperately has wanted to hear: “You’re home.” The fact that there was an entire tech demo based on Aqua’s time in the Realm of Darkness should give off the impression that her time away from the main action had an enormous impact on everyone she was associated with. Now that this master of the blade has been rescued, the scope of the conflict ahead looks a whole lot sunnier.

48. “Organization XIII” (Kingdom Hearts II)

The earliest concept for this scene had it taking place on the decks of Hollow Bastion, but the bailey of Radiant Garden works just fine. From Demyx’s goofy giggle to Xigbar’s enigmatic taunts, we get little hints about who Sora is dealing with going forward. In the midst of learning some new things, we’re also reminded of the past failures of this fractured group. Sora already has Roxas within him, Axel is notably absent and there is a suspicious lack of five other members. Still, the group is undeniably menacing from both their high perch and on ground level. Uncle Xiggy’s reference to someone having a similar look in their eyes to Sora is a tell-tale sign that he is engrained in a larger plot. Whether it is connected to the Organization or not is the real question. After all, his singularity in this moment is rather fishy. Things close out as Sora bids adieu to the familiar face of Leon. A new pathway has opened, and its name is Kingdom Hearts II.

47. “Namine’s Room” (Kingdom Hearts II)

As Roxas glances at the drawings that Namine has accumulated over time, a calm silence with just a hint of breeziness outside come over the White Room. The prologue’s lead says that he knows himself better than anyone, but, even without the context of 358/2 Days, we know this is far from the truth. Strange things are happening in Twilight Town, and Namine must have the answer. When Roxas finally concedes and asks to know what she knows, the answer does nothing but hurt. Being told you were never meant to exist is a running dialogue throughout many of the scenes on this list, but it may never be delivered as bluntly as the way it is expressed here. Perhaps it is because we are actually controlling Roxas within the game, or maybe it is something completely different. Regardless, the constant struggle of nearly every humanoid Nobody essentially boils down to wanting to be meaningful. In the White Room, the seeds of this struggle are planted.

46. “Maleficent’s Darkness” (Kingdom Hearts)

All the way up until this point in Hollow Bastion, we are led to believe that Maleficent is the true villain of Kingdom Hearts. We are under the impression that once Maleficent has fallen, things should begin to go back to normal. However, the Ansem-possessed Riku reveals that Maleficent was a pawn in the game, completely at the mercy of the mindless Heartless she seemingly had the ultimate power over. This is a completely game-changing scene for the entire series, as it is basically where the Dark Seeker Saga truly begins. The familiarity many players had with the Disney villains likely provided some comfort in the short-term, but a far greater threat was waiting close by to take advantage of their downfall. The whimsy and occasionally comedic tone of the series’ first installment was dashed when Maleficent’s Dragon went up in flames. Now, Sora and the crew are about to dive headfirst into a world of unknown characters with sinister intentions. Never again were Disney characters portrayed with as much menacing fire as they were before this moment. Kingdom Hearts detached itself as much as it could from the Disney name and was ready to shape a brand of its own in the scenes that followed Maleficent’s demise.

45. “Where Am I?” (Kingdom Hearts)

Traverse Town, huh? It didn’t happen in the way that he wanted, but Sora has made it to another world, the first world we got to visit as the players as well. Just before he wakes up, Donald and Goofy arrive in town just in time to catch a glimpse of Destiny Islands’ star blinking out. Soon enough, Goofy establishes himself as the series’ most consistently logical character when he recommends that he and Donald follow Pluto down a back alley. Seeing Pluto wake up Sora is our first exposure to the crossover clash in practice. No longer will we only see hints of the Disney Castle combo hearing about the state of the worlds or Sora daydreaming about the outside world. The story hits its stride right here because the meet-up is inevitable. Turning the question from if to when so early in the game gives you something immediate to look forward to. Help is just around the corner.

44. “The Letter” (Kingdom Hearts II)

Of the three main titles in the series, the ending that has the best grasp on the characters is the ending of Kingdom Hearts II. If you were to take out the post-credits sequences, this would have made a fine conclusion to the entire series. As the only purely happy ending the series has delivered to date, we are given a number of strong character moments worth mentioning. First, Sora and Riku’s heart to heart, while a bit on the cheesy side, is rare form for this pair. Kairi’s letter opening up the door that leads them back home is a delightful connection to the “one sky, one destiny” sentiment of the letter itself. Once they are back home, we are treated to one of the few times that the gang is all together in a time of peace. That’s the ending we expected would happen two games earlier, but the impact may be even stronger when it happens here instead. And finally, Sora making good on his promise to Kairi from the original game is a heart-warming moment years in development. Part of the reason why the happy moments in Kingdom Hearts work so well is because there are so few of them pertaining to the main characters. “The Letter” is the highest of highs.

43. “Light Expires” (Kingdom Hearts III)

From the highest of highs to possibly the most deflating scene in the entire series. The moment in which the prophecy comes true is a complete failure by the Guardians of Light to withstand the looming darkness. It also happens to be amongst the most cinematically constructed scenes in Kingdom Hearts. Donald’s Zettaflare is an awesome moment, but he pays the price for unloading his strength hastily. The rest of the group fares poorly as well, as everyone takes a turn getting punished by Terranort and a swarm of Heartless. When the group does get swallowed up by the latter, the camera moves quickly and without warning, ending any easy solution to the defeat. The losses culminate in Sora’s scream of unbridled anguish, a new low for the usually hopeful-to-a-fault character. The scene is a gigantic middle finger to “my friends are my power,” and so Sora is faced with a challenge as he and Riku join the others in the abyss. If his friends can’t be his power, he needs to be powerful on behalf of his friends.

42. “Gambit” (Kingdom Hearts III)

Sweeping shots of a new world filled to the brim with life and cables are our introduction to the Unreal Engine 4. The good stuff, though, is inside the highest tower, where two symbolically dressed young men play a game of chess. These two young men, Xehanort and Eraqus by name, discuss the past. This transitions into them offering up two opposing arguments for what the world will look like in the future and what roles they will play in shaping that world. Eraqus takes the approach of light, an unpredictable but well-meaning path. Xehanort is unsure if picking a side is even an option, as the future seems to be set in stone. Perhaps the only way to make a difference is to fit into the plan somehow. If that is the case, who knows where he’ll end up. Seeing these two characters as young men does more than just set up the game that will follow; it shows us that they are moralistically aligned. However, one of them sees making an impact as a more urgent matter and a goal that is there for the taking if you’re willing to carry out the prophecy. Guess who.

41. “Gathering” (Birth by Sleep)

It was mentioned during the entry on “Walls of the Heart” that that was the Wayfinder trio’s crossroads scene. Well, as also seen in the Secret Ending of Kingdom Hearts II, this gathering of Keyblade wielders is literally taking place at a crossroads. As Terra and Aqua discuss their Master’s death, Ventus shows up briefly and unites them. Once the plan to create the χ-blade becomes the focus of conversation, Terra and Aqua vow to keep Ventus safe above all else. But then he hits them with a heartbreaking request: “Put an end to me.” Keep in mind that, just hours ago (in gameplay time), he was in Disney Town making sundaes. That isn’t an abrupt tonal shift at work, though. Things have gone completely awry, and Xehanort has these three right where he wants them. It’s a scary position to be in, and Ventus surviving is helping Xehanort. Terra and Aqua knowing that they may not make it out of this fight alive, for Ventus’ sake, is crushing.

 

To 60-51: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121623-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-60-51/

To 40-31: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121653-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-40-31/

 

Edited by InnerLight13

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