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The 100 Greatest Kingdom Hearts Scenes (20-11)

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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.


20. “Too Late” (Kingdom Hearts III)

It is a shame that Anti-Aqua was shown in a trailer. What could have been a groundbreaking revelation turned into a meme that everyone knew was coming. Let’s give this scene the benefit of the doubt and say that no one saw the trailer where it was shown. In that case, this is a very disturbing sequence that creates a dreadful hopelessness that we’ve never quite seen in the series.  It’s good to see that the corrupted version of our beloved Aqua is holding Mickey accountable for abandoning her in Kingdom Hearts Hell. This forgetful little rat is directly responsible for the most steadfast defender of light falling into the darkness, and he receives his comeuppance for his idiocy when he has to look her dead in the eyes and face his fears (Hello!). Riku taking her on, with “Wave of Darkness” playing as he slowly strolls across the water, is dramatic and intense and another signifier of everyone else’s mistakes falling to him and Sora for course correction. Don’t make a habit of hanging out in the Dark World. If even Aqua can’t withstand it, no one is safe.

19. “Place to Belong” (358/2 Days)

Once again, Quinton Flynn proves that he is a national treasure. But unlike the other scenes, in which Axel is being funny or bitterly eccentric, here he’s just depressed and letting it out. Xion decides she will return to Sora, a brave choice that implies she’ll be gone and forgotten. Axel explains, on his mission to bring her back, that he initially thought the decision would be easy for her. But, as we know, he thought that before clock tower chats and ice cream. Xion returning to Sora confirms that the good times are over, even though Axel is well aware that things haven’t been right for a long time. “The Other Promise” playing in the background is no accident. A fracture between Axel and Xion is a fracture between each of them and Roxas. The cycle of tragedy won’t stop no matter what everyone does. It’s bad enough just being a Nobody, but having your freedom taken away and having no say in a matter near and dear to you is irreconcilable. The pain in Axel’s words, as he erupts with contempt for Xion playing along with a part that puts her everything on the line, is as emotional as it gets.

18. “Where the Heart Goes” (Birth by Sleep)

In this wrap-up to Birth by Sleep’s main story, we get the closure to all three stories in a collection of small but powerful vignettes. In the first, a young Sora begins to feel the effects of Ventus sleeping in his heart. It’s a cute little scene that doesn’t push the envelope in any way, but the future strength Sora will be in large part due to this first moment of deep connection. In the second portion of the scene, Terranort is woken up in Radiant Garden’s square by Ansem the Wise. He gives his name as “Xehanort,” and Xigbar reacts accordingly with a satisfied grin. He knows the old coot has won, and the future for that combination looks as bright as a future can for two darkness dwellers. Although these sections are both interesting to watch play out, Aqua’s closure is probably the best of the three. It’s one thing to draw from your closest friends’ power to give you hope, but when Aqua starts to remember everyone she met in the Disney worlds as well, there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. The root of her famous resilience starts here. As she begins to lose hope and considers prematurely ending her trek through the darkness, the Realm of Light’s warmth guides her way.

17. “Checkmate” (Kingdom Hearts III)

When Master Xehanort finally moved on, he didn’t do it with a scream or a vow of vengeance. He didn’t fade away or ascend in a black cloud. The villain whose reign of terror was responsible for so much destruction was reminded of the good-heartedness he selfishly left behind to pursue the ways of darkness. It wasn’t out of character or a betrayal of the story up to that point, nor was he completely redeemed for the immense trouble he caused. Nobody says thank you to him or regrets striking him down. No one doubts that Master Xehanort needed to be stopped. However, this thoughtful approach to his demise is a proper development of his character, not a regression. In his younger days, he found Eraqus to be the one best suited to lead the world forward. In Sora’s simple, altruistic mindset, he is reminded of his friend’s worthiness. The Dark Seeker Saga ends with two aged Keyblade Masters coming to an agreement. Their day has long passed, and the world is in much better hands with the young people that are left behind. Xehanort and Eraqus’ poignant compromise is a literal and figurative return to form, and a supremely strong thematic ending that is far more mature than the usual consumption by darkness.

16. “Seven Lights, Thirteen Darknesses” (Dream Drop Distance)

Finally, Master Xehanort is in the same room as Riku, one of the three original main characters, and the scene is set for the final battle. The entire point of Dream Drop Distance’s existence was to make this scene a reality, and it really did deliver. Never mind the confusing means of how the thirteen darknesses all came together. The time travel nonsense can easily be forgotten and forgiven when this scene hits its stride. It does so almost immediately with Master Xehanort’s arrival. As he casually explains his plan to restart the universe, he manages to spit out the “dull, ordinary boy” line in regards to Sora. We will have to wait and see what Sora’s true origin story is, but Xehanort’s cutting analysis is actually the best part about our protagonist. As a matter of fact, Xehanort is still interested enough in Sora that he makes a move towards turning him into the thirteenth vessel. We know this won’t happen, but a suspenseful scene to rescue Sora still ensues. The framework for what would become the Guardians of Light is formed, and Xehanort’s true intentions are fully understood at this point. Filling out the roster is now all that separates us from the decisive confrontation.

15. “The Keyblade” (Kingdom Hearts)

Just like that, the ordinary world has been brought to ruin. When the infamous cameo of Sora’s mom is the third best part of a scene, you know you are dealing with some iconic stuff. Sora’s final meet-up with Riku before the two are separated is an on the nose masterclass on how to portray a stiff disconnect between two characters. Sora’s frightened confusion interrupting Riku’s calm acceptance of whatever is coming next shows just how eager these two characters really were to get off the island. While Sora saw it as a fun expedition, Riku saw it as an opportunity to do something righteous. The image of Riku’s completely still hand while Sora frantically reaches out to his friend speaks volumes about their friendship at this point, and further emphasizes their aforementioned relaxation level. Then, as the title suggests, we are introduced to one of gaming’s most absurd weapon designs. Never mind the series; the Keyblade is a pop culture phenomenon that reaches out to people who don’t even play these games. Of course, as lore would have it, Sora gaining the Keyblade right when he does is emblematic of a much larger story at play. There’s something for everyone to enjoy in this scene from the crumbling Destiny Islands.

14. “The Paopu Fruit” (Kingdom Hearts III)

Sora and Kairi’s chemistry over the years has not really been given the proper chance to evolve in any significant way. Had you told someone who only played Kingdom Hearts that the Sora and Kairi dynamic still hadn’t progressed to anything even remotely romantic by Kingdom Hearts III, they’d likely be shocked.  I would presume that many fans gave up on anything significant happening in this regard, and that was okay. Certainly Sora and Kairi could go on as friends and that would be alright. However, when everyone saw them getting their first quiet moment together in ages, the potential for some romance went through the roof and every which way. Their moment could have been used for them to talk about their feelings or perhaps even go the possibly cute, possibly shark jumping kiss (!!!) route. However, the writers did something even more magical with the time they gave these two. The return of the iconic Paopu Fruit gets whipped out, and the long-awaited sharing got underway. That moment was long waiting in the wings, and it happened at just the right time. More than any auditory cue, the symbolic nature of the Paopu lets us know everything we need to about where these two stand.

13. “My Summer Vacation is Over” (Kingdom Hearts II)

Remember that time when some clown referred to Roxas as a garbage character that no one cares about? Hey buddy, check this out. The prologue of Kingdom Hearts II gets an opinion out of just about everyone, but the one thing that is almost universally agreed upon is that Roxas’ goodbye bumps up the feels to eleven. In the Data Twilight Town, Roxas really just wanted to enjoy the last days of summer vacation with his friends. It was doomed from the start, but he genuinely believed that his life was all built on Struggle tournaments and getting totally owned by Seifer. Instead, he was an unwilling pawn in a cruel ploy to revive Sora, who we also love. There is no easy answer, as the two could not exist at one time at that point in the plot. He resigns himself to returning to Sora, a distinct downer moment as we head into the main story of the game. As it has been implied in other entries on this list, Roxas will be carried by Sora as he marches forward on his quest. But is that good enough? Roxas is constantly robbed of a full life, and this has to be the most brutal way to go. It’s likely that no scene in the series has inspired more empathy than this one.

12. “A Light Within the Darkness” (Kingdom Hearts)

Here we see the embodiments of good and evil making their cases for light and darkness, respectively. On one side there is Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, who delivers the series’ finest uninterrupted monologue on the cracked beaches of the fallen Destiny Islands. Though he is talking about Riku when he refers to the boy who felt trapped by endless ocean, our sequel goggles give a little more meaning to his dark sentiment. Ansem is talking like a true Xehanort in this scene, and the future games didn’t just retcon connections so that this scene would play better in retrospect. In short, the inklings of a larger universe are dotting the narrative. On the other side of the spectrum is Sora. At this point, he knows and understands a lot more than he is given credit for. While Ansem’s speech is pretty in its prose and is theoretically compelling, Sora has actually been making connections with the inhabitants of the worlds and learning more about the heart in the process. He’s been given a reason to have hope and believe that the light is more powerful than Ansem believes. And, based on what he’s done and seen throughout his adventure, there’s no reason for Sora’s powerful message of inner light to go unheard.

11. “Ansem’s True Identity” (Kingdom Hearts II)

Kingdom Hearts II released at a time when there was enough intrigue from the previous two games stocked up to keep the narrative moving, but it also had the tricky duty of expanding the universe so that it wouldn’t be a premature conclusion to the series. Nomura revealed to us, in the biggest bombshell the series has ever had, that this universe has only begun to open up. The root of all evil is not Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, and it isn’t Organization XIII. In the past, a single man was responsible for the creation of both. When you create a scene that outs the first game’s villain as an imposter, you run the risk of making said game feel pointless. Rather, in this scene, the first game’s stakes are revealed to have been even higher than initially thought. Ansem’s dark ambitions needed to be stopped, as Mickey explains, because he is a key piece of a larger puzzle. The beauty of this scene is that Mickey doesn’t know everything, but he provides just enough insight to keep us intrigued and Sora fired up. Even though we are forced to drop our preconceived notions of what is happening, we are also given the tools we need to slowly start making brand new connections. When looking back at the Hollow Bastion middle portion of Kingdom Hearts II, many seem to remember the 1000 Heartless battle alone. In the midst of all that, though, is the most influential scene in the entire series.


To 30-21: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121657-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-30-21/

To 10-1: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121667-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-10-1/

Edited by InnerLight13

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