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InnerLight13

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InnerLight13 last won the day on June 22

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  1. Oh, thanks for following along! I’m glad you enjoyed the list. It was a fun one to think about and piece together! Lazy Afternoons is such a distinct mood. Takes me back to summer days during simpler times. And Dive into the Heart is quite the experience. I think I actually like the first half a bit more as well. So eerie, and it gets me pumped for the mysteries ahead!
  2. With the release of Melody of Memory somewhere on the 2020 horizon, I got to thinking about the sensational music of the Kingdom Hearts series once again. Yoko Shimomura is one of the great video game composers of our time, and I would like to honor her work through a list: The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts. Full disclosure, I am far from a music scholar, as you will probably be able to tell from the writing that will follow. However, I do listen to a lot of different styles and have some perspective on when a composition is working … I hope. No matter, here is my list of the very best Kingdom Hearts music. Note: Until the OST is released, titles that originated in Kingdom Hearts III will be given placeholder titles. I will edit the list to match the actual track titles when that information becomes available. 10. “Hand in Hand” (Kingdom Hearts) I’ve referenced a lot of really interesting drum beats that have happened in Kingdom Hearts songs throughout this list, but they all pale in comparison to what happens on “Hand in Hand.” And the horns! On musical merits alone, this is some of the absolute best work. This might be a good time to give it up to the amazing musicians who really lay this stuff down. “Night of Fate” being the temporary battle music in Traverse Town is incredibly eerie, but I don’t know if it would have worked in that position on a permanent basis. Traverse Town is a weird Victorian community that is more suited for a goofy romp than an apocalyptic one. 9. “Dark Impetus” (Birth by Sleep) I haven’t heard classical themes mix with new age instruments this well since the first Vampire Weekend album. The synth and impossibly quick tempo are where most of the action is, but the real star of the show is that violin. When people talk about “Dark Impetus,” they’re talking about the violin solo about 75 seconds into the song. Go ahead and find it and then come on back… … … … Dude, isn’t that awesome? It’s violent and menacing and perfect. It’s a shame no one can get 75 seconds into the Mysterious Figure fight to hear it all live. The cool factor is extremely high with this one and it serves as a showcase for some impressive technical skills. 8. “Lazy Afternoons” (Kingdom Hearts II) Have you ever had a summer day where you wake up at one in the afternoon, slowly get into the groove of the day and meet up with your friends to do some mindless activity? This is that. Poor Roxas was under the impression that his life was under that format as well, but it was all an illusion. Those 1 p.m. wake up days have the tendency to feel more like distant daydreams upon some recollection, but at least we know they were genuine. Roxas’s story is so steeped in tragedy that even the Twilight Town music is in on it. For what it’s worth, the real acoustic guitar opening in the 2.5 Remix that was absent from the original release of Kingdom Hearts II is a very welcome addition. 7. “The 13th Struggle” (Chain of Memories) It’s wild that in a series that literally has a song called “Organization XIII” that another track would more aptly capture the group’s essence. They’re a chaotic band of brothers (plus one sister and a puppet) that can’t be tamed. “The 13th Struggle” is all of those things and more, featuring an iconic riff that I predict will be sampled in a trap song at some point in 2020s. If we want to get even more particular about things, I think a lot of fans associate the song with Axel, and it really does fit. It is in a fight against him in Chain of Memories that it makes its first appearance. In a later fight against Axel, in the basement of the Old Mansion, the song gets busted out again to thrilling effect as the battlefield catches fire and “Two?!” 6. “The Other Promise” (Kingdom Hearts II) Though it is heavily inspired by Roxas’s theme, “The Other Promise” has a separate, distinguished identity in its instrumentation and in-game use. The piano that is used on “Roxas” is replaced with an army of strings that hit a triple crescendo by the end of the first loop. The piano is instead relegated to intro duty, perfectly setting up the aforementioned build. The song can’t be discussed without pointing out the internal Roxas fight in “The World That Never Was.” As a battle theme, “The Other Promise” taps into a completely different set of emotions. You almost want to lose that battle. “The 13th Struggle” or “The 13th Dilemma” wouldn’t work in a fight against Roxas. He deserves something a little closer to the heart to play him out. 5. “Dive into the Heart” (Kingdom Hearts) This is Kingdom Hearts. When a snot-nosed little five-year-old throws that Disney game into the PS2 for the first time, this is not what they expect to hear. Before the beach and Donald and Goofy, there was an unseen choir chanting and saying “Destati” like a band of 6th century monks. What the hell is going on here? The first half of “Dive into the Heart” is more or less an a cappella performance, but we get small hints of a more driving second half. When that second half does come, it is riveting. At this moment, Kingdom Hearts expresses itself as more than just the Disney branding. This is something completely different than what the packaging would lead you to believe. A great overture can set the tone for everything that comes next. “Dive into the Heart” did that for 18 years worth of material and counting. 4. “Dearly Beloved” (Kingdom Hearts) What else can I say? “Dearly Beloved” does everything right. It’s a simple piece that can probably be used to teach a piano student, yet it delivers a full range of feels. Over the years, it has been the constant. Through floaty combat and clunky dialogue; epic battles and heartwarming character reunions. The series has grown larger and more expansive (and more convoluted), but those simple notes are still there waiting for you every time you hit “New Game” or get ready to jump back in where you left things off. You literally can’t play a Kingdom Hearts game without first settling in with “Dearly Beloved.” 3. “Passion” (Kingdom Hearts II) It’s hard to get any better than “Dearly Beloved,” so you already know these top three are special. “Passion” is pretty perfect, but it also doesn’t feature as prominently as the two songs higher than it. That is how the distinction was made. Regardless, the song also known as “Sanctuary” is a triumphant companion piece to the series’ second main installment. When the beat drops after an extended build, Shimomura really gets a chance to show off her ability to adapt a pop song into an orchestral arrangement. In particular, the march techniques she uses during some exit music compilations throughout the series have never been more defined and satisfying as they are here. It’s an artist at the top of her craft owning a song and really making it her own. “Passion” is classic Shimomura and immediately evokes images of the game it is meant to represent. 2. “Don’t Think Twice” (Kingdom Hearts III) When Kingdom Hearts III finally was a real product, the first thing heard on that disc was “Don’t Think Twice,” another Shimomura arrangement of a Utada Hikaru theme. All due respect to Utada, who always does amazing work on this series, but I believe “Don’t Think Twice” is more powerful as an instrumental. It is the relief of a lifted weight and the death of an annoying meme (lol games nevre coming out fanboi lol) all wrapped up in a perfect package. Musically it stays true to the original song but appropriately adds a ton of new sounds to fill out the experience. Again, it’s a crowning achievement that couldn’t have been more perfect. The bar was set so high by the themes that were presented before, but Shimomura still knocked it out of the park. 1. “Hikari” (Kingdom Hearts) Simple and clean, baby. I’m not sure it could ever be truly knocked from this perch. I think that Yoko Shimomura’s rearrangement of Utada’s “Hikari,” the theme song of the original Kingdom Hearts, is the best song in the series’ history. It never stops adding another layer of depth. It never stops building. It works on its own and whenever it shows up in the games. It is an amalgamation of everything I love about the previous 49 tracks listed here. It has never not been one of my favorite melodies. As a kid I would purposely stay on the title screen so that the cinematic that used this version of “Hikari” would play. I can’t be the only person who has done that. It is iconic and is so grand and I’m not sure how to describe the feeling of listening to it now that the original game is a 2020 high school graduate. You can only write about a piece of music for so long. At some point, you have to feel it for yourself and let the magic of sound take you over. Songs by Game: 14 - Kingdom Hearts 13 - Kingdom Hearts II 8 - Birth by Sleep + 0.2, Kingdom Hearts III 3 - Chain of Memories 2 - Dream Drop Distance 1 - 358/2 Days, Union χ [Cross] For 50-41: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123504-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-50-41/ For 40-31: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123516-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-40-31/ For 30-21: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123521-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-30-21/ For 20-11: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123532-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-20-11/
  3. With the release of Melody of Memory somewhere on the 2020 horizon, I got to thinking about the sensational music of the Kingdom Hearts series once again. Yoko Shimomura is one of the great video game composers of our time, and I would like to honor her work through a list: The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts. Full disclosure, I am far from a music scholar, as you will probably be able to tell from the writing that will follow. However, I do listen to a lot of different styles and have some perspective on when a composition is working … I hope. No matter, here is my list of the very best Kingdom Hearts music. Note: Until the OST is released, titles that originated in Kingdom Hearts III will be given placeholder titles. I will edit the list to match the actual track titles when that information becomes available. 20. Light of the Past (Kingdom Hearts III) When I first heard it, I was beyond floored. We’re getting into the absolute elite territory of Kingdom Hearts songs. Just to recap, this was the song behind the name-in-game contest’s payoff. Every time it comes on I feel the urge to go walk around in the sun. It simply cannot keep me in one place. Some songs move you emotionally, and others can move you physically. Of note is the subtle “Dearly Beloved” progression that guides the whole song forward. Talk about taking what is otherwise a simple theme and giving it a completely different scope and sound. The core of the song is still in there, and the results in the case of this track are brilliant. 19. Scala Ad Caelum (Kingdom Hearts III) If a Kingdom Hearts song were to come on in the club, it’d be the Scala Ad Caelum battle theme. One of the biggest disappointments in history was only getting to hear it for a criminally small amount of time in Kingdom Hearts III. Luckily, Re:Mind came in with a steel chair and an explorable Scala, meaning we got to hear this awesome track each time combat called. I think the fan outrage at its lack of usage is a good sign at telling you how hard it slaps. On a musical level, there’s a slight Caribbean (the real one, not the world) flare that we haven’t really heard in any other song from the series. Style points for being among Shimomura’s most unique works. 18. “Night of Fate” (Kingdom Hearts) A song that sounds like the world is caving in. I find it to be very unsettling, probably because it's mostly just the same seven notes over and over again until you find the cutscene. Is there value in being repetitive? I suppose it depends. I think “Night of Fate” makes it work because it never is just plopped into a random cutscene. There’s always pressure when it is deployed, whether it be the original night of fate on Destiny Islands or the fight between Invi and Aced in Daybreak Town. In that regard, I think there’s a “Jaws” (dun-dun … dun-dun) quality to it. Just seven notes can create all of that tension. 17. “Hollow Bastion” (Kingdom Hearts) I get big Bach vibes from this one. The combination of small winds and hyper piano works very well, creating in tandem something a bit chaotic musically but also extremely tight from a production standpoint. That first landing in the Rising Falls just wouldn’t be the same without it. Coming off of Neverland, the music of “Hollow Bastion” is an indicator that the Disney stuff is nowhere to be found. And unlike the jazz lounge Traverse Town and beach day Destiny Islands themes, this one has some urgency, as if time is running out. Up to that point in the game, there really isn’t anything that sounds like this one. You can tell the end is near. 16. “Eternal Moments” (Birth by Sleep) Played during the scene in which Ventus meets Lea and Isa in Radiant Garden, this is one of the absolute best transcendent tracks in the series. More specifically, this is a twist on the original 382/2 Days song called “At Dusk, I Will Think of You.” That song is always used during tender moments between Roxas and Axel on the clock tower. So, when it was switched up a bit and brought back for Birth by Sleep, it was a great way to connect the two games. In the lore of Kingdom Hearts, BBS and Days are two of the farthest away from each other, so having a song to tie them together in what I think is one of the best scenes in the series is special. 15. “Wave of Darkness” (Birth by Sleep 0.2) Drums! This one very quickly rose up the ranks of Kingdom Hearts music to snag a top 15 spot on my list. Like all of the best boss themes, “Wave of Darkness” is a great mix of doom and epic. It slows down a bit but never loses the tenacity that makes it so impactful on a first listen. The Devil’s Wave fight in 0.2 is extremely cinematic, so the film score sensibilities that carry some of the cutscene songs needed to be used to capture the tone of the battle. I can only imagine this fusion made the track one of the more difficult to conceptualize and write. In any case, this is actually the second highest post-2010 track on the list, so the impression that it’s made has been swift and powerful. 14. “Rage Awakened” (Kingdom Hearts II) I will never be able to separate this song from the E3 2015 re-reveal trailer for Kingdom Hearts III. Someone at Square must have said, “Let’s get these people hype. What’s the most epic song we have in our arsenal?” The answer was “Rage Awakened.” The elongated string lines in this song are similar to those in “Terra,” so it is only right that this is the battle music for the Lingering Will fight in Kingdom Hearts II. With the E3 trailer and Lingering Will, it has close ties to two of the massive water cooler talking points in the series. For iconic purposes alone, “Rage Awakened” simply could not have reasonably been left off of the list. 13. “Sora” (Kingdom Hearts II) The main character of the Kingdom Hearts series can lay claim to what I think is the best character theme out there. While so many of the other songs of this variety have an unsure quality of darkness hanging beneath the light, Sora’s is a jolt of fresh air. How appropriate. Not the most technically intense, “Sora” makes up for a relative lack of complexity by being a whimsical little ditty. In context, it gets me ready for an epic Kingdom Hearts II adventure. It doubles as both a representation of the character’s mood and his thirst for excitement. In other words, it’s the perfect character theme. 12. “Traverse Town” (Kingdom Hearts) Welcome to a brand new world. The trauma of Destiny Islands falling apart may lead a first time player to think what comes next will be more doom and gloom. Instead they’re greeted by a yellow dog and … Starbucks music? It’s a very interesting choice of world and music that hits just right. Whenever I hear “Traverse Town,” I feel cozy, emphasizing the world’s status as the only true hub in the series. With a different backing track to set the mellow mood, perhaps returning to Traverse Town after every subsequent world would feel like a less safe prospect. With this theme, however, you know you can always count on it to feel like home. 11. “Working Together” (Kingdom Hearts II) Again, context matters. “Working Together” is a fine pop tune that makes me smile every time I hear it. But consider it as the partial follow-up music to the super existential prologue to Kingdom Hearts II. After hearing all about how the Dusks have come for their liege, you might really be in the mood to jam out to a xylophone. Climbing up Master Yen Sid’s tower would not have been the same without it. “Working Together” is emblematic of what makes Shimomura’s music so essential. Considering another composer’s stamp on each world or setting feels like heresy. Her work is an irreplaceable fixture of the series that is inseparable from the feeling of each game. For 30-21: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123521-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-30-21/ For 10-1: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123536-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-10-1/
  4. With the release of Melody of Memory somewhere on the 2020 horizon, I got to thinking about the sensational music of the Kingdom Hearts series once again. Yoko Shimomura is one of the great video game composers of our time, and I would like to honor her work through a list: The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts. Full disclosure, I am far from a music scholar, as you will probably be able to tell from the writing that will follow. However, I do listen to a lot of different styles and have some perspective on when a composition is working … I hope. No matter, here is my list of the very best Kingdom Hearts music. Note: Until the OST is released, titles that originated in Kingdom Hearts III will be given placeholder titles. I will edit the list to match the actual track titles when that information becomes available. 30. “The 13th Dilemma” (Kingdom Hearts II) Shimomura loves those strings! Like some of the other boss themes, you can practically hear the battle quotes while you listen. “Dance, water, dance!” “Can you feel it? The moon’s power?” “New backDRAWP!” This type of thing goes a long way in crafting a list like this. You don’t have to think too hard about where “The 13th Dilemma” pops up in the game. It transports you to very distinct moments in time and reminds you of some of the best boss fights in the series. It’s oddly not the best song that uses “13th” in the title, but it is still fantastic. 29. “Daybreak Town” (Union χ [Cross]) Here’s a rather missable song in the Kingdom Hearts and Shimomura catalogue. I can hear groaning from here. Really, dude? The phone game? Yes, the phone game. To be fair, I really got into this dreamy number when I heard it at the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra. It was at that moment I recognized there was something beautifully simple at play. I truly hope that it transcends the phone game and gets a remix on a proper console game so that it may get its due. “Daybreak Town” is the perfect wake up music. An easy-listening, rise and shine piece that contextually is meant to be the sound of a calm before the storm. 28. “Traverse in Trance” (Dream Drop Distance) I feel like Dream Drop Distance really only goes fully into the world of dreams in Traverse Town and Symphony of Sorcery. The biggest reason for this in the musical choices. In the case of Traverse Town, there is enough new stuff going into this revamped version of the KH1 theme to warrant a separate placement on this list and in the hearts of players. The saxophone part of the song is a welcome surprise, as is the “Part of Your World”-ish build up to the standard Traverse Town sound. The slow-moving pace of “Traverse in Trance” is just right given the tone of the game, and also is a nice juxtaposition when placed next to the hyper, lyrical “The World Ends With You” soundtrack. There’s a lot to unpack with this one, and all of it is a dream come true. 27. “Vector to the Heavens” (358/2 Days) I can’t ignore the gravity of a song like “Vector to the Heavens.” I recognize it as a consensus favorite, and it isn’t hard to see why that is the case. The Xion-Roxas dynamic is brought to a head with this tune, culminating in an epic battle and a tour of the worlds they’ve been to together to make things hurt even more. And that’s really the deal here: hurting. I don’t find pleasure in listening to it, but I respect how much emotion it exudes. There are other songs that have that effect. Technically brilliant, but difficult to revisit without conjuring up memories of a very sad affair. 26. “Scherzo Di Notte” (Kingdom Hearts) Get used to hearing a lot of this one. Hollow Bastion is swarming with enemies, so you’ll likely be spending more time hearing “Scherzo Di Notte” than you will the actual world theme. What can be said about it? There’s a bombastic quality to the track, and it’s filled with swelling strings and a wild piano. Underneath it all is a simple but effective drum beat that only briefly disappears to make way for another helping of the most intense noises. The smashing sound of the song will most definitely have you hoping for the Library or Rising Falls. There’s no escape. 25. “Forze Del Male” (Kingdom Hearts) There’s no fight in the series like that one on one between Sora and Riku in the Grand Hall. This is no ordinary Riku fight, however. There’s a great nod to our friend being possessed being made with the song selection. For the rest of the series, this is basically the Ansem battle theme. So in hindsight, it’s great attention to detail having this play over the first “Ansem” fight. Interestingly, it got used in Chain of Memories as well during the Riku Replica fights, another subtle nod to Riku still being influenced greatly by Ansem. I enjoy that there is seemingly a rhyme and reason to these things. 24. The Lost Masters (Kingdom Hearts III) Watching the Epilogue of Kingdom Hearts III is a moment seared into my brain. What is happening!? Oh… oh my God… is that Travis Willingham? Dad? Songs in Kingdom Hearts that don’t loop are a rare blessing and they are the easiest to return to. The first half of “The Lost Masters” charges forward, giving you basically no time to fully concentrate on what’s going, much like the crazy scene that it works in tandem with. It gracefully slips into a more mellow second wave when the action switches back to the chess board. This is another instance of Shimomura having some incredible feel for a scene and using every instrument in her arsenal to add so much to a moment that is perfect in basically every other regard. 23. “Destiny’s Union” (Birth by Sleep) So precious. A lovely solo violin (I think) soars throughout the song, starting with a hopeful phrase which soon devolves into the bittersweet. Such is the bitch of destiny, especially for the Wayfinder trio. I absolutely adore Aqua remembering the Disney friends she has made along her journey while strolling through the Realm of Darkness. That remembrance, mixed with the musical choice, provides a glimmer of hope. Even if the Realm of Darkness is the worst place to be, there’s still some hope to be found. Some songs sound like a specific emotion. “Destiny’s Union” is that glimmer of light that says things might be okay. It is the hope that Aqua so desperately needs. 22. “Treasured Memories” (Kingdom Hearts) A great score should help us to sympathize and understand the characters on a deeper level. If you look up “Treasured Memories” on YouTube, there’s a bunch of people in the comments who are sharing stories of friends and times that are long passed. The trick is that our own treasured memories get brought to the forefront when a song like this pops up. It plays while Sora, Riku and Kairi are in the midst of building their experiences. There’s a tie that binds our own lives to the characters in that instant. It’s a moment we can remember and peer into but can’t have back in reality. It can’t be quantified by notes and beats. Some noises are just special. 21. The Final World (Kingdom Hearts III) Overwhelming the player with a grandiose theme song to pair with Kingdom Hearts heaven may have been too sappy. The simplistic opening, I think, suits the watery afterworld just right. The symphonic portion doesn’t overstay its welcome, scaling back to make way for the more subtle little moments within the song, which take from nursery rhymes and hymnals that are far outside the realm of Kingdom Hearts. If ever there was a time to pull influence from some unexpected places, this would be the spot. Dormez-vous? For 40-31: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123516-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-40-31/ For 20-11: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123532-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-20-11/
  5. With the release of Melody of Memory somewhere on the 2020 horizon, I got to thinking about the sensational music of the Kingdom Hearts series once again. Yoko Shimomura is one of the great video game composers of our time, and I would like to honor her work through a list: The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts. Full disclosure, I am far from a music scholar, as you will probably be able to tell from the writing that will follow. However, I do listen to a lot of different styles and have some perspective on when a composition is working … I hope. No matter, here is my list of the very best Kingdom Hearts music. Note: Until the OST is released, titles that originated in Kingdom Hearts III will be given placeholder titles. I will edit the list to match the actual track titles when that information becomes available. 40. “Riku” (Kingdom Hearts II) Riku is a conflicted fella. That’s why we love him. His theme, like so many others, brings on a nice mix of emotions. There’s a hopeful wave of piano and strings offset by an equally sad backing track that seems to suggest that underneath Riku’s determined attitude is a teenager wrestling with his demons and past. Again, Shimomura’s understanding of the characters is exceptionally nuanced, and truthfully is the perfect complement to Nomura’s unpredictable writing. We know that, no matter what, these themes are the constant that clearly mark a distinct identity. 39. The Caribbean Battle (Kingdom Hearts III) Any time a Kingdom Hearts song employs a chorus, you know these are getting serious. That immediate call and response is incredibly powerful and appropriately sets the tone for an epic track that sounds like it could fit as a final boss theme. There’s a great weight to the song because of this, and it makes a harmless trip on the high seas feel like a battle for the soul of the universe. I also really appreciate that it keeps you guessing on where the song will go next. Just as you expect the loop to restart, Shimomura switches up the sound and breaks things down with a stripped down version of the larger song. Extremely creative stuff on a song that is way more ambitious than it has any right to be. 38. “Fragments of Sorrow” (Kingdom Hearts) This is the evil half of “Dive into the Heart,” a track you’ll hear more about a little later down the list. When set to the imagery of the fleshy End of the World, the terror hits an all-time high. There’s the solo horn bits that add a little extra quirkiness to the song. It’s an incredibly mystical, ominous sound that is sure to strike up some Linked Worlds PTSD in any fan. I dare you to play through End of the World standing up and not to march along to the song. Far from a simple tune, there’s a rush of noise coming from each layer of “Fragments of Sorrow” and each one adds a little something to the piece. By the way, how cool is the title? 37. Anti-Aqua (Kingdom Hearts III) I always thought that, out of the main characters, Aqua got the short end of the stick in the theme music category. The poor girl had to fall to darkness in order to make my list. The fate of the world and Aqua’s life are crashing together in a seminal moment from Kingdom Hearts III, and this is the result of that lofty plot point. This may be the greatest use of the infamous “one woman wail” trope. Generally I get immediately turned off by the hamminess of a lady essentially crying out for my help, but in this case … It’s kind of perfect, isn’t it? 36. “PIrate’s Gigue” (Kingdom Hearts) I don’t care what anyone says; Sora learning to fly is some extremely cool stuff. There’s an awesome adrenaline rush that hits me in every playthrough when I get to soar above Captain Hook’s pirate ship with this little jig playing in the background. You just know the guy who got to slam the cymbals in the studio was just loving his life when they laid this one down. It’s a little menacing, but there’s an element of fun that pervades the song on a grander scale. Hanging out with pirates? Flying? Mr. Smee impressions? Man, Neverland is such a grand ole time. It’s like this little spark of Disney magic right before things get really serious, all wrapped up into this one song. 35. “The Encounter” (Kingdom Hearts II) “That’s right, away ya go!” “Is that the best a user can do?” I love knowing exactly what battle quotes go along with a boss theme. “The Encounter” takes that pure hype sound from “Vim and Vigor” and leans even further into epic territory. I think what really gets me is the funky little riff that stays intact through the whole song, other than during the breakdown. In that case, there’s a double fake-out that gives the song just a moment to breathe before it goes back into fury mode. This is like a Nirvana song that found its way into Kingdom Hearts. A little bit a softness to keep things steady and interesting, but the heavy stuff is what we all remember and anticipate. 34. “Link to All” (Dream Drop Distance) Kind of a second Sora theme song, “Link to All” stands on its own as a charming piece worthy of recognition. Though it appears near the end of Dream Drop Distance, it gets me in the mood to go on a brand new adventure. That’s probably the point. DDD leads into Kingdom Hearts III, so in some way the end of the story does indeed serve as a new beginning. I don’t believe there is anything so incredible musically in this one. The impact of the track lies in what it represents: a larger universe and the folks who bind it together. 33. “Fate of the Unknown” (Kingdom Hearts II) Another great title. It is only right that the fate of the unknown (at that time, Terra, Aqua and Ventus) is partially revealed during the song’s first appearance. This is film score level stuff in that it is inherently tied to the imagery that it complements. Again, Shimomura is to thank for making this happen. Finding just the right spot for every single note is essential in a cinematic sequence such as the Kingdom Hearts II Secret Ending, and Shimomura knocked it out of the park with this one. I would be remiss to not mention the unreal blast of sound that closes this one out. It’s incredibly powerful in or out of context. 32. “Kairi” (Kingdom Hearts) It is rather odd that Kairi gets the first character theme in the series, but it is a great start and it’s filled with emotion. Each reprise of this gem gives us a little bit of insight into Kairi’s playfulness (trying to hop on the raft without Riku) or past (her grandmother’s story). It served as the first time we were introduced to the technique of having the characters being tied closely to their theme. In any case, “Kairi” is a sweet sounding ballad that is unmistakably bright. It’s a song that suits a princess. 31. “Terra” (Birth by Sleep) Sticking with character themes that play into the mental state of the character that they share a name with, this is a manic expression of the tragic hero Terra. So aggressive. It’s there when he turns Ventus away. It’s there when he strikes down his Master, Eraqus. It’s there when he gets his redemption. No character’s arc is more inseparable from their theme. The strings stand out, of course, as both the thrashing riff and the streaking overtone. “Terra” is a feisty track that is much darker than the other themes of its kind. For 50-41: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123504-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-50-41/ For 30-21: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123521-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-30-21/
  6. With the release of Melody of Memory somewhere on the 2020 horizon, I got to thinking about the sensational music of the Kingdom Hearts series once again. Yoko Shimomura is one of the great video game composers of our time, and I would like to honor her work through a list: The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts. Full disclosure, I am far from a music scholar, as you will probably be able to tell from the writing that will follow. However, I do listen to a lot of different styles and have some perspective on when a composition is working … I hope. No matter, here is my list of the very best Kingdom Hearts music. Note: Until the OST is released, titles that originated in Kingdom Hearts III will be given placeholder titles. I will edit the list to match the actual track titles when that information becomes available. 50. “Forgotten Challenge” (Chain of Memories) Chain of Memories is my pick for most underrated game in the series, but I’ll concede that the overuse of musical tracks is a bit draining. Nevertheless, the great songs in the game really stand out. Look no further than this first entry on my list, the battle theme for Castle Oblivion’s top floor. It’s a John Carpenter vaudeville show, with a rum-tee-tum back beat reminiscent of other end game themes like “Scherzo Di Notte” and “Fragments of Sorrow.” Throw some Neoshadows into the mix? I’m spooked! 49. Toy Box Battle (Kingdom Hearts III) I know there’s a contingent of fans out there who aren’t big fans of world themes being on a list like this. After all, they are the biggest ear worms and likely the songs that will annoy you faster. That being said, I love this fun little complement to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” My favorite bit in the song is when things get soft for a few seconds (complete with a wonky Ringo-esque drum hit), and then launch back into the excitement that the track exudes at large. As you’ll see going forward, I’m a sucker for an upbeat combat theme. 48. “The Silent Forest” (Birth by Sleep) A dreary little song, this one comes from Enchanted Dominion. There’s an undoubtedly melancholy feel to the world, seeing as Maleficent is in control, and the song fits right in. The best world themes are the ones that accompany the mood of the setting just right, and this one accomplishes just that. Even as the strings rise up for a pleasant end to the loop, things get brought right back to the distressing crux at the heart of “The Silent Forest” when the next wave begins. In a world destined to fall to darkness, there’s no reason to be chipper. Things aren’t going to get any better. 47. “Roxas” (Kingdom Hearts II) WHAT? Be not alarmed: “The Other Promise” is on the list. Roxas’s theme is on the list for inspiring the melody of that aforementioned song that comes later in Kingdom Hearts II, and representing the character it is supposed to with a perfect mix of gentleness and despair. These are the themes that haunt Roxas’s story. He misunderstands and is misunderstood. Shimomura knows how to toe the line between two complicated themes and is able to convey the intricate details through perfect little tunes. This one is no exception. 46. “Monstrous Monstro” (Kingdom Hearts) The 1.5 and 2.5 Remix collections did right by so many tracks from the main title games. One of the best glow ups with the addition of live instrumentation was this combat theme from the belly of Monstro the whale. Everyone loves and remembers that ultimate horn crescendo, but the build up to the musical explosion is filled with anticipation. It’s a better piece of pure music, perhaps, than it is a thematic gem, but it no doubt is a wonderful complement to “A Very Small Wish,” Monstro’s field theme. It’s clear that there was great care taken in making sure there would be an organic fusion each time the Heartless pop up. 45. “La Pace” (Chain of Memories) Possibly the softest number ever written for a Kingdom Hearts game, “La Pace” hits just right given its peaceful title. Even through the filter of 8-bit magic, there is something very natural about the simple piano taps that give one the illusion of a live performance. Truthfully, this may be the most personal song for me on the entire list. I can distinctly remember holding my GameBoy up to my ear so that I could get a good listen of this song. It’s simple melody has stuck with me ever since. It takes me back to a time gone by, and so I can’t quite separate it from a feeling of nostalgia. Music is subjective, folks. 44. “Neverland’s Scherzo” (Birth by Sleep) Consider the build up present in “Monstrous Monstro” and crank it up to eleven. A delightful strings arrangement and a playful percussion track partake in a musical tug of war until they eventually work in tandem to deliver a smashing climax of sound. It sounds like what Neverland feels like. There’s a certain feistiness to it that I think fits a world where that douche Peter Pan hangs out. There’s also an especially good callback to the song in the credits of Birth by Sleep. I really appreciate it when Shimomura knows she has a good song on her hands and calls back to it like she does in this case. 43. “The Key” (Birth by Sleep) At face value, there’s not much to hear in this one. Atmosphere is key, however, and this one is oozing with it. This is easily the creepiest theme to accompany a boss battle in the whole series, as in when Aqua faces off with Vanitas/Ventus in the Keyblade Graveyard. “Dearly Beloved,” the title screen theme of the series and the most oft-used motif in the series’ music, is used in “The Key” to add some flavor to the otherwise droning tones. In addition, there’s a violin that sounds like it’s on its last legs shivering in the background in the first ten seconds. That thing is struggling, and it sounds fantastic. Suddenly that initial face value listen seems inadequate. 42. “Vim and Vigor” (Kingdom Hearts II) Though the boss themes in the original game were stellar, it was wise not to reuse them for the sequel. Switching up the major tracks from KH1 to KH2 serves the games well, as they each have their own distinct sounds. Enter “Vim and Vigor,” a song that plays along with some of the Disney bosses in Kingdom Hearts II. A simple chime in the background drives the song forward, and that really goes a long way. This is a furious listen that doesn’t need to escalate because it slaps from the very first second. This isn’t the music you listen to while doing homework; this is driving on the highway in a rainstorm stuff. 41. “Deep Drive” (Kingdom Hearts II) How about that synth? I love that The World That Never Was has a battle track as mechanical and sleek as the world itself. This is another example of the world and its music being in perfect tonal harmony. Like “Vim and Vigor,” “Deep Drive” is a relentless experience, and it makes sense considering the onslaught of Nobodies that the Organization throws at you as you climb your way through their stronghold. Dealing with Sorcerers and Berserkers is a manic exercise in Keyblade strategy that keeps you on your toes. It wouldn’t be right to have a chilled out piece of music to accompany those battles. For 40-31: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123516-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-40-31/?tab=comments#comment-2845319
  7. 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. 10. “Ending” (Kingdom Hearts III) When in doubt, trust the ensemble. Even though Sora is the connection between just about everyone in the series, Kingdom Hearts III was unique in that it needed to offer closure for the entire cast of characters. Even though Xehanort is defeated, Sora won’t be satisfied until he finds Kairi. After he leaves, everyone returns to their comfort zone. The Disney crew heads back to the Castle where they are greeted with a firework show. The Wayfinders return to the spot where they had their last happy moment together to mourn their Master in a touching, personal funeral ceremony. The Twilight Town clock tower sees Axel, Roxas and Xion in their news duds enjoying an ice cream together, before being joined by Saix, Hayner, Pence and Olette. Then we see Riku picking up a finally recompleted Namine in Radiant Garden. Each of these roads lead to a seemingly peaceful day on the Destiny Islands (Hey, Roxas got to go to the beach!). Frisbees are being thrown and sandcastles are being built. All is right with everyone for once. But then the camera flips to Kairi and Sora, where we see the effects of Kairi’s rescue. Sora fades away in the wind and the credits begin to roll. Undoubtedly divisive, it is important to remember that bittersweet isn’t a bad thing. By the looks of things, Sora made the most daringly selfless move he could make. Keep in mind, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen him sacrifice his existence for Kairi. Sora being true to his impulsive, caring soul is the reason we celebrate him. At times, it seems, it may also have to be our reason to weep for him. 9. “The Promise” (Kingdom Hearts) Where do we start when discussing one of the most charming scenes from the most charming game in the series? We could talk about Sora and Kairi’s adorable chemistry or the promise itself, but at some point you just can’t bring proper justice to this magical little vow surrounded by some of the game’s darkest moments. In fact, its placement is one of the best things about it. The titular promise is an oath that Sora plans on keeping no matter what darkness is coming next. Having said that, the moments that come before this scene aren’t necessarily the brightest either. Sora’s breakdown of his sacrifice and subsequent return to human form by way of Kairi’s light is a nice microcosm of their entire relationship. There is this sense that as long as Kairi is safe, Sora is ready to take on anything. This includes having an inner feeling, which would become a revisited method of keeping connected to those who are far away as the series continued. So much of his confidence and his strength hinges on her status, and so when they actually get a chance to speak and further their connection, the result is usually sweet all the way. The promise does in fact revolve around a physical manifestation of their faith in one another in the form of Kairi’s good luck charm, but the real tie is the connection that their hearts make. We’re still learning about the characters and what drives them this early into the story at large, and “The Promise” is a massively important building block for more than just Sora and Kairi going forward. While other games would take the story and characters to new heights, leave it to a quiet moment like this one to imprint the warmest feeling in your heart. 8. “The True Master” (Kingdom Hearts) Here’s one of the big “WTF” scene in a series chock full of such moments. However, there’s also a lot to take away from the events we see here both from a character and myth standpoint. First of all, shout out to Beast for ripping through space to get to Hollow Bastion from his castle. I’ve always pictured him jumping from meteor to Gummi ring and then hitching a ride on a Heartless ship while he fights through the elements. Dude’s a freakin’ badass. Once Sora arrives, Riku makes like the idiot he is at this point and starts rattling off a bunch of nonsense about their rivalry from back in the day (Okay buddy, relax.). But then we get the big moment where Riku is able to summon the Keyblade, dashing Sora’s hopes and swiping his thought-to-be BFFs in the process. A few interesting things are happening on the side here. It’s very cool to see how hesitant the blade is to leave Sora’s hands. It shakes for a few seconds as if it is scared to follow the destiny written out for it. The Keyblade having its own will is a concept long since forgotten, but it’s an extremely compelling plot point in times like these. This scene also brings up a host of questions. How was Riku able to take the Keyblade? What is his next course of action now that he has it? What are Riku, Donald and Goofy going to talk about? For that second question, it’s pretty clear in retrospect that Riku has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. If you think that the Keyblade’s two main utilities are unlocking the secret door and vaguely changing the world, you might want to iron out the details a bit on what exactly you’re going to do. He’s on the right track, as we get to know in future games, but he’s woefully ill-prepared to do anything important on his own. Sora doesn’t really know what he’s doing either, but his heart is at least in the right place. What will bring the Keyblade back to him is foreshadowed when Sora runs to Beast’s aid after he falls from his injuries. This kid is probably going to die here without the Gummi Ship, but he still has time to check on someone who needs him. Keyblade or not, Sora is a hero. 7. “Kairi Awakens” (Kingdom Hearts) Perhaps more aptly titled “Sora’s Sacrifice,” this is another standout scene for our hero. I’m sensing a trend. His daring heart release is a stunning move by the standards of any fictional work. I mean, did we just lose our main character? It’s a shocking development that has an immediate impact on the action in Hollow Bastion. The other princesses getting their hearts back gives us a closer look at their extremely creepy cryogenic standing. The thought of them getting their hearts extracted is genuinely upsetting. They were kidnapped and couldn’t fight back. It’s best that I don’t dwell on this, because it honestly makes me sad. By the way, it’s a good thing when we (or maybe just I) can feel so much for characters we hardly hear a peep from in the entire first game. Let’s not forget that this was also the birth of Roxas and Namine. The creation of Sora’s Heartless, stemming from his sacrificial act, was the moment in which his Nobody was created. This is an oft-spoken of but still incredibly interesting connection within the series’ chronology. In addition, this is our first look at Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, voiced perfectly by Billy Zane. It’s a real shame we didn’t hear more from him. We get Riku back on the side of the good guys here, too, as he internally stalls Ansem for just long enough to allow the others to escape the Grand Hall. It took Sora stabbing himself for Riku to snap back into it, but hey, whatever it takes. The bravery on display here is immeasurable, as Sora truly does make the greatest sacrifice in order to help Kairi and the other princesses. This wasn’t just a risk; he was willing to lose it all for her. 6. “Tears” (358/2 Days) Again, where to begin? The implications of Xion’s tragic death are immense. The saddest part never ceases to be her friends forgetting her, but her presence being out of sight and out of mind is just the beginning. Even before the battle, Xion’s speaking voice being paired with Sora’s likeness is the holy grail of Kingdom Hearts weirdness. Being so used to hearing Haley Joel Osment’s voice come from Sora’s mouth, the alternative we hear in this scene is a massive mind-bending moment. The added cinematic representing the fight between the two friends was a welcome portrayal of Xion’s crushing defeat by Roxas’ hand. It’s the saddest fight in the entire series and it deserved the proper context it received with the add-on in the remastered edition. Xion’s crystalized fade is the real essential in this scene, and it really is worthy of all the hype it gets. Even though the ice cream line gets a lot of negative attention, consider the relationship these two have had. It starts and grows over many ice cream talks on the clock tower. Out of context, the line is despised for its momentum shattering awkwardness, but we fans of the series know better because we’ve seen the entirety of Roxas and Xion’s time together. For them, ice cream was one of the only good things in their crummy existence. Without Xion, the good times are officially over. Xion’s dying request for Roxas to free the hearts she’s collected on Xemnas’ watch is a worthy plea that will go unfinished by Roxas himself. Though Sora will accomplish this with Roxas along for the ride, consider the losses that needed to be suffered in order for that freedom to come. Xion put her life on the line so that Sora could have a chance at reawakening. The cost of Sora’s good times went far beyond a broken chain of memories. 5. “Closing the Door” (Kingdom Hearts) M-I-C! K-E-Y! M-O-U-S-E! In a stone cold stunner of an ending from top to bottom, there may be no stronger image than the famous Disney mascot finally making his appearance in Kingdom Hearts. But even without that epic cameo, the emotions run high as the original game comes to a beautiful conclusion. Riku joins in the effort to close the Door to Darkness, signaling that his much-needed redemption tour is well underway. Not only is he courageously helping out, but he’s also consciously locking himself on the dark side of things. It’s a sacrificial play that shows that his lesson is learned, and that he will be a key ally going forward. Luckily, Riku won’t be alone. The aforementioned Mickey will see to his relief. Oft-forgotten is the fact that Mickey is the first character we see, other than Sora and briefly Riku, holding a Keyblade. Besides Sora, he’s the first one to wield it with good intentions. Apparently, Sora is not alone in his power. Until the very end, the original Kingdom Hearts was adding to the universe, and, in this case, it’s bloody brilliant. I think everyone agrees that there are one or two undeserved Keyblades out there in the series right now, but just Mickey and Sora having one for a brief window was a very cool selection dynamic. So, yeah, in conclusion, this is a great scene. Thanks for reading! …BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT KAIRI STUFF??? The worlds being relit and Kairi and Sora’s farewell (featuring one of the greatest musical cues ever) is some of the most pleasing imagery the series has produced. It’s the perfect amount of bittersweet. Though Kairi and Sora are to be separated yet again, Sora, Donald and Goofy’s efforts have paid off, and Kairi is returned to safety in the process. If ever there was a time to go with an incomplete ending, this was it. We’re happy with what we’re seeing, but we also need to know what happens next. That’s the thread that connects every great first chapter. 4. “The Seeker of Darkness” (Kingdom Hearts) How many times did you have to watch this scene as a kid? Lost in a sea of defeats at the hands of Riku-Ansem is the critical nature of Sora coming face-to-face with his possessed best friend. This version of Riku is sporting wide open eyes and a hunger for madness. It’s clear our friend is lost in a deeper oblivion than he was when he was teasing Sora in Monstro. I’ve pointed out some creepy stuff throughout this list, but there is nothing more haunting in this series than Ansem’s hold over Riku in action. He does unveil some important information, though, including his name. That guy Ansem, who was mentioned way back in Traverse Town, finally revealing himself in the way that he does should be enough to get the player fired up and wanting to know more. Further information comes in the form of Kairi being a Princess of Heart. Though it was assumed her role was of some significant importance to Maleficent, it is nice to have some confirmation regarding her status as a pure light. The more interesting revelation made about Kairi in this scene is actually that her heart has been resting inside of Sora for almost the entire game. By the way, this doesn’t just happen without visual evidence. During the collapse of Destiny Islands, the heart transplant (?) happens when Kairi goes through Sora. It’s easy to catch, but it also could’ve just been some trippy weirdness to accompany the chaos. I’ve always held onto the thought that the best part of this scene, even with all of these moving parts, is Sora fighting back. The ferocity in Haley Joel Osment’s voice is that of a warrior who has come across an additional piece of motivation. His goal for the entire game is to find his friends, and he accomplishes that right here. However, to save them, he’ll need to dig a little bit deeper. 3. “Blank Points” (Birth by Sleep) Probably the consensus greatest scene in the series’ history, I can get on with thinking “Blank Points” is just that. Had 0.2 not slightly nerfed its power, it may very well have been number one on this list as well, but I digress. For all of the hype that surrounds this scene, we really only ever talk about the Aqua side of things. There is some very cool stuff before we ever get to the Dark World, so let’s examine that first. I really enjoy Master Xehanort and Terra having the calmest argument ever inside of their shared heart. Xehanort’s dismissal of Terra’s big picture importance is pretty cold all things considered. Oh, so you take over his body and then say that he may or may not be an important piece of what you have planned? Bastard. Terra holding Eraqus’ spirit inside of him is some heartception stuff that comes up clutch in the endgame, so props on giving us some background on that rather than it just happening with absolutely no context at a later date. Our next slice of the scene happens in the corridors of Hollow Bastion, where Braig and Terranort have a pretty fun interaction. Braig checking to make sure he didn’t just cozy up to a grey-haired Terra is… okay, it’s just funny. I could read into it, but really it’s just a neat little detail that matches Braig’s voice and persona perfectly. But the part you’ve all been waiting for is the Aqua and Ansem the Wise conversation, and it is just about as good as its reputation would lead you to believe. The gist is that Sora’s incredible magnetism gives everyone hope, regardless of whether he’s ever met them. Just the fact that he’s out there somewhere as a concept is enough to give the rest of the cast hope. The implications that come along with that belief are immense considering how many people’s lives rely on Sora, but there’s no reason to doubt that the job will get done. At the end of the day, putting your faith in Sora is a foolproof strategy. 2. “Memorized” (Birth by Sleep) How in the world can a bottle scene like this possibly rank higher than some of the other scenes listed in the top 10? If nothing else, this series has always had a big heart and a lovable cast of characters. When we think about why we love Kingdom Hearts, the tragic endings and cinematic cutscenes are hardly the first things that come to mind. The small scenes that feature the colorful cast of characters are the ones that often mean the most to people when they recollect. “Memorized” begins with a smoping Ventus aimlessly swinging around the wooden Keyblade, but ends with a genuinely good moral about having an immortal soul. Ventus just got into a pair of awkward exchanges with Terra and Aqua, and now he’s left questioning the very meaning of friendship. Into the frame come Lea and Isa, the boyish reimaginings of Axel and Saix. After a playful skirmish ensues, Lea steps in to drop some philosophy on his unassuming pair of friends. In the minds of those who know him, he is confident that his life can go on forever. The repeated “Got It Memorized” motif takes on a whole new meaning once you realize what Axel is getting at in his own personal journey towards never being forgotten. His non-existence as a Nobody must hurt even more, knowing that his memorability is constantly at risk. There’s bonus points to be had here as well, with Isa’s line regarding Lea’s affinity for lost souls hitting pretty hard when considering Roxas and Xion’s initial zombified state. Axel, quite possibly the best original character in the series, is fittingly gifted the best character study scene in all of Kingdom Hearts. His creed is taken seriously in the face of incredible odds, but here they are said so effortlessly. Plenty of other moments are more significant to the plot’s motion, but no scene in the series lays out the complicated struggles and triumphs at the center of Kingdom Hearts more beautifully than this one. 1. “My Friends Are My Power” (Kingdom Hearts) Here, at the top of the list, is a statement that has held true throughout the entire series. Whenever there was a doubt of whether Sora would be able to find the light in the darkness, this powerful statement made in the first, and best, game in the series is gripped tightly. At Hollow Bastion, Sora has just lost Beast from his party and has come back into contact with the former friends club band. Convinced that his heart is stronger due to the ties he has made over the course of the game, Sora is confident that his destruction at the hands of Riku will not be the end of him. As long as an internal fire remains, Sora’s energy will persist. As Riku goes to deal the fatal blow, Goofy and Donald come to his side. Not even their mission can get in the way of their loyalty to a friend. It’s a full team effort to restore the collective faith, but still Sora stands without a weapon. After dropping the now famous line, for which this scene is named, the Keyblade fights destiny and returns to Sora in his time of need. The relentless hope of Sora displayed in this scene contrasted with Riku’s selfish ambition is the entire series’ conflict packed into one confrontation. While power and following a destined path are often the motivations for successful but cruel deeds, true strength is consistently found in the little things that connect the characters to each other. At times that consists of holding onto hope that a lost friend will return. Sometimes it means believing that a heart’s most essential memories will be kept in a safe place. Other times it’s as simple as knowing that symbolic bonds are just as resilient as the ones right in front of your nose. Call it cheesy all you want. Sometimes the simplest sentiments are the ones made with the purest sincerity. Most Represented Characters in the Top 100: 57 – Sora 41 – Donald, Goofy 37 – Riku 27 – Mickey Mouse 26 – Kairi 25 – Axel/Lea 23 – Aqua 21 – Ventus 17 – Roxas 16 – Terra Most Represented Worlds in the Top 100: 21 – Radiant Garden/Hollow Bastion 16 – Twilight Town 14 – Destiny Islands, Keyblade Graveyard 13 – The World That Never Was 7 – Castle Oblivion 6 – Dark World, Land of Departure 5 – Traverse Town Scenes by Game 21 – Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts III 20 – Kingdom Hearts II 18 – Birth by Sleep + (0.2) 6 – 358/2 Days, Dream Drop Distance 5 – Chain of Memories 2 – Back Cover 1 – Coded To 100-91: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121575-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-100-91/ To 90-81: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121583-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-90-81/ To 80-71: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121594-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-80-71/ To 70-61: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121605-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-70-61/ To 60-51: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121623-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-60-51/ To 50-41: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121643-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-50-41/ To 40-31: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121653-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-40-31/ To 30-21: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121657-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-30-21/ To 20-11: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121663-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-20-11/
  8. 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/
  9. 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. 30. “More to Seek” (Kingdom Hearts III) In 2002, five-year olds everywhere, who thought they received a simple game with Donald and Goofy, were kept up at night by the terrifying image of Ansem. In 2019, the 22-year old versions of those same children were spoken to tenderly by the same guy. Ansem seemed completely evil back when he sounded like Billy Zane, and the Richard Epcar version did little to soften his malevolent streak. But here, the Heartless of Terranort shows off his soft side. Riku acknowledges that he’ll miss Ansem, and old-school fans can share in that feeling of finally moving past the character’s reign. While everything does eventually come back to Xehanort, this was the original bad guy. He drove Riku’s entire arc in the same way that his actions in Kingdom Hearts added some intrigue and worldliness to an otherwise simple story. As the Dark Seeker Saga reached its conclusion, a sentiment of moving on was a bittersweet reminder that we weren’t the same kids who played the first game nearly twenty years ago. Therefore, we should be mentally prepared to embrace whatever comes next. 29. “Was It a Dream?” (Kingdom Hearts) In the beginning, there was just a boy napping on the beach. For the record, this is a great opening scene where some vital threads become apparent right off the bat. We learn the names of the three most important characters in the series, the outside world is introduced in aspirational terms and the Sora vs Riku dichotomy already shows up in the form of the race. How about the world name fading in? Or the first world theme? These are the little details that we easily take for granted, but they’re also very charming and fill out the world we’ve just been plopped into. Coming off of the gloomy and almost completely silent Dive to the Heart segment to open the game, our first voiced cutscene is a breath of fresh ocean air. It feels like a brand new adventure is starting every time you play it back, giving it an essential timelessness that can’t easily be conveyed in the usual exposition scene. The hook was in the second the line was cast. 28. “The Start of an Adventure” (Kingdom Hearts) Much like the scene you just read about above, this is the introduction to another iconic triple threat. However, this restart to the adventure marks the formation of a trio we spend a lot more time with. While Sora, Riku and Kairi often have their own stories going on, the arcs of Sora, Donald and Goofy play out in a parallel line. There is an unexpectedly sneaky tone to this scene. Even though they say all for one and one for all, Sora and Donald are set up to have a little distrust in each other’s motives. There’s a certain scene in Hollow Bastion later on that makes this first interaction seem all too much like foreshadowing. Regardless, there is some nice comfortability amongst these three, highlighted by Sora’s gleeful smile that loosens everyone’s suspicions up a little bit. The birth of this long-lasting friendship gets off to a memorable start in the Third District. Alright, who’s ready to take on some Disney worlds? 27. “Legacy” (Birth by Sleep) Terra knows he is somewhere special when he recognizes the Paopu Fruit as being the visual basis for the Wayfinder. However, he may not have fully imagined that he was in the presence of two very important people. Before getting to the big hitting moments, Sora being completely ignored in this scene really emphasizes his “ordinary” vibe in a way that simply saying so never could. Riku is the more distinctly special of the two, and he catches Terra’s eye not long after the faux Master arrives on the Destiny Islands. The title of this scene is a reference not only to Terra’s emotional blade power shift in the direction of Riku. The boy who left the island long ago was the first in a line of ambitious young men who veered a little too close to the darkness. From Xehanort to Terra, and now little Riku, the line of succession on this unfortunate side effect of being afforded a little too much power is a cautionary tale. Terra didn’t just pass on the Keyblade; he handed off his idyllic power struggle. 26. “From Chains to Bonds” (Kingdom Hearts III) After so much teasing and Terranort trickery, the real Terra is finally welcomed back into the fold. Chains can be a restrictive force that hold us back, or they can keep us connected to the people we know. In this scene from the Keyblade Graveyard showdowns, the literal chains that nearly take Aqua and Ventus’ lives are traded in for the metaphorical bond that brings the Wayfinder trio back together. The look we get of Aqua and Ventus hanging with their heads down is undoubtedly dark. As they are dropped to their deaths, the previously submissive Guardian, who was introduced all the way back in the first Kingdom Hearts, comes to their rescue. In fact, Terra’s heart was stored within the Guardian all this time. It’s an awesome reveal that ties together a few minor loose ends in regards to the Guardian’s origin. Terra’s return, however, is no small matter. His appreciative acknowledgment of Aqua’s efforts and sacrifices are consistent with, dare I say, a possible love connection for those two. And, of course, his long-awaited reunion with Ventus is a nice callback to the last time they saw each other way back when. After so long, the Wayfinders are brought back together with a pitch perfect series of events. 25. “Vexen’s End” (Chain of Memories) As a wise young man once said, “Not a very organized Organization!” The inner turmoil of this mysterious group is on full display here, as is the erratic nature of Axel’s character. Let’s start with the victim. Vexen starts to give up some pretty important plot points that will definitely screw things up for Marluxia. His tendency to switch sides, depending on who is most aligned with his research’s purpose, was in the blossoming process all the way back in Castle Oblivion. Unfortunately for Vexen, Axel is in his traitor assassinator phase at this point and has an ulterior motive to knock off the senior members of the Organization to boot. He arrives with a “YO,” kills his coworker with a finger snap, and then claims to be under the pressure of dealing with a constant existential crisis. Things really do move as fast as I’ve tried to portray them, and the whole scene seems to play for shock value. Once it is properly processed, you’re left with a better understanding of the ruthlessness and wit that course through the Organization’s collective bloodstream. 24. “The Chamber of Repose” (Kingdom Hearts II) If you’ve never played Chain of Memories and you’re wondering where the other five members of the Organization are, let me introduce you to Vexen and Zexion. They don’t do much in this scene, but, truth be told, it’s just nice to see them included. This is an extremely rare instance in which COM and KH2 Organization members are seen actually conversing. Another member, Marluxia, is mentioned as being the newest members, a nice easter egg that helps us place this in the timeline. The star of the show, as he seems to be in just about every scene he’s in, is Xigbar. Here he’s talking about the Chamber of Repose and the Chamber of Waking, two terms that wouldn’t be explored any further until Birth by Sleep. By release order, this is where we get the first reference to the name “Xehanort.” I don’t know if you’ve heard, but that guy is really important. Xigbar is the biggest soup stirrer in the series, and his tendency to play dumb often reveals secrecy or a lack of knowledge in those around him. In this Final Mix exclusive, he’s in his exposition prime. 23. “Vanitas Returns” (Birth by Sleep) No one knows how to get under Aqua’s skin like the supremely negative Vanitas. His theme song playing with a backdrop of NeverLand’s Indian Camp makes this sinister villain a transcendent bad guy. Even in a world of light, Vanitas will come in and rain on Aqua’s parade. He does this to the tune of snapping the wooden Keyblade, perhaps the second most valuable item in the Wayfinder triangle, clean in half. It’s a pretty stunning moment that cracks Aqua. No piece of dialogue and delivery was ever more deserved than Willa Holland’s take on “You freak!” It’s a real voice of the audience insult that shockingly has not been meme’d to death. It’s funny that all of Vanitas’ threats are child’s play compared to that one brief instant where he breaks the symbolic representation of Ventus and Terra’s relationship. That it hurts Aqua so deeply is a telling character moment. She feels a steaming disgust on behalf of her friends, making the snap even more powerful than it might have been had it been Ventus or Terra there to see it. Like an older sister defending her brothers, Aqua springs into action to give Vanitas the ass-kicking he earned. 22. “Kingdom Hearts” (Birth by Sleep) I would imagine that many would consider the Kingdom Hearts II Secret Ending to be the strongest showing of this scene, but I believe that Birth by Sleep ‘s grainier but more meaningful version takes the cake. Master Xehanort’s impressive power is seen in action here. He tosses Terra, Aqua and Ventus around the battlefield like they’re mannequins. To him, they are. Our heroes are at a great disadvantage, with even Master Aqua doing little to stop the destruction at hand. Even the ways he uses his environment to wreak havoc is unique. The wave of keys and uneven terrain are his doing. And as if Xehanort’s upper hand wasn’t clear enough, he summons Kingdom Hearts. The sight of the villain getting their way so easily is not a common image in the series. Then again, there’s no one in the series who is really worthy of a Master Xehanort comparison. The battle that would end in tragedy started off with overwhelming odds. 21. “Lost Masters” (Kingdom Hearts III) This is one grand way to leap into the next saga. Kingdom Hearts III’s epilogue is a brilliant piece of work that stands out as great is every conceivable way. Luxu’s reveal party is attended by his old friends, the Foretellers, and if your jaw didn’t hit the floor when you first heard his voice or saw his face, you might want to check your pulse. When you change a character’s identity at the last second, it will most definitely fall flat, but this one works because there was always a feeling that Xigbar had a bigger role to play than the average Organization member. Let’s talk about the Foretellers for a moment and thank the casting directors for finding the perfect voice actors to bring them to life. We got to hear them in Back Cover, but they’re simply on another level of natural right here. They bring the same shock and confusion to this scene that we were feeling at home when all of this was unfolding on screen. Bravo for including Maleficent and Pete, too, as it now feels like they are involved and ready to do something important. This is an elite Kingdom Hearts scene that brought all of the firepower needed to get people enthused for the next chapter. To 40-31: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121653-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-40-31/ To 20-11: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121663-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-20-11/
  10. 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. 40. “Together Again” (Kingdom Hearts II) While the actual reunion scene between Sora, Riku and Kairi is also pretty touching, seeing these characters fight alongside each other is a much more interesting take that emphasizes their combined strength. The standout is Kairi, who we learn is also able to wield the Keyblade. It may be her strongest moment in the entire series. It isn’t just that she holds the Keyblade, but that she quickly and willingly proceeds to jumps right into battle with it. This is a girl on a mission, and her actions here make her promotion to Guardian of Light later on more believable. Unfortunately, it also makes some other choices the writers have made with her far more egregious. As that’s happening, Saix informs Sora that the Organization’s Kingdom Hearts is just about complete, essentially making Sora dispensable. This is a good setup for the fights that follow, as Sora’s transition from tool to threat means bad news for the Organization’s survivors unless the hero is stopped in his tracks. Nine down, four to go. 39. “Watch Out!” (Kingdom Hearts II) What a strange title. Goofy totally says “Look out!” in this scene’s big moment. But first, Demyx’s in-character but painful cries as he fades away are relatively disturbing considering the character’s generally peppy nature. Who would have thought that Demyx’s farewell would go on to be the second most memorable death in the scene? Mickey eventually meets up with the group and vows to work with them going forward, but that’s when Goofy’s head meets a round piece of rubble. The violent connection is still absolutely shocking at first glance, and while it was unlikely to hold up (it didn’t), it was still really jarring at the time. Goofy’s lifeless body lying on the ground while his friends question the reality of the situation is some of the strangest imagery the series has ever provided. And speaking of bonkers imagery, Mickey taking his revenge and finally doing away with his black coat is the kind of catharsis that only Kingdom Hearts can provide. This is some high-level E3 2001 fan fiction that’ll get long-time fans ready to run through a brick wall. In other words, this is why Kingdom Hearts exists. 38. “2.9 – The First Volume” (Birth by Sleep, 0.2) When Sora, Donald and Goofy are the focus of the action, the hype is almost always at an all-time high. While it was nice to play through 0.2 as Aqua and get some backstory regarding her still being there, the Sora scene of the game is certainly the highlight of the experience. There’s not just nostalgia when it comes to Sora, Donald and Goofy all being together; there’s a sense that something massive is about to happen. The something in this case is Kingdom Hearts III, which includes the most momentous task the trio has dealt with yet. Yen Sid gives them the update on what’s happening with the other main characters and sends them on their way to Olympus. Our first Gummi Ship interior shot then properly frames the much-anticipated Kingdom Hearts III with some crafty dialogue. The banter and charm of SDG’s interactions are still there, but then Goofy recites the phrase “May your heart be your guiding key.” The series’ expansion is rarely as clear as it is in that moment. The settings and characters haven’t changed much since the last time we were treated to these three, but the plot has never been as thick and the universal stakes have never been as high. 37. “The Outside World” (Kingdom Hearts) Here is where we get our first good look at Riku, the boy who would go on to become more than a rival in the worst way in the original Kingdom Hearts. His unparalleled thirst for travel is relatable, but it’s an ironic wish given the setting. There may be no more beautiful spot in the universe than Destiny Islands. I can see a case for Kingdom Hearts being associated with any of the seasons, but scenes like this give it a distinct summer feel. Anyway, Riku’s curiosity, which was undoubtedly the mold for Xehanort in future games, is brimming with ambition. Unfortunately, our friend would have trouble reigning it in, but it initially comes off as characteristically heroic. To stick with the rivalry arc, this is where we are introduced to the sacred Paopu, the ultimate symbol of togetherness, by Riku. The fruit we see here would kick off allusions and imitations galore throughout the series, marking its first appearance as one of the seminal moments of Kingdom Hearts mythology. 36. “The Light of the Past” (Kingdom Hearts III) Zisa who? Though it starts off as a pretty by-the-numbers “overcome by darkness” scene, “The Light of the Past” turns into a moment of glory that absolutely no one expected to happen. From the second the screen goes white and we see the heavenly glow surrounding the ancient Keyblade wielder Ephemer, we know something massive is about to happen. Then, of course, there’s the glorious Yoko Shimomura score backing things up, tossing the scene into another realm of excitement. Xehanort once referred to the keys left behind in the Keyblade Graveyard as lifeless, but he couldn’t have been more off target in his analysis. The keys of the past come to life and assist Sora and his friends in their time of need. I could see how the mobile game tie-in doesn’t sit well with some, but there is no denying that the name-in-game contest that was channeled through Union Cross was brilliantly handled. We, the fans, are involved in this fight. There’s been some buzz regarding Nomura’s focus on Kingdom Hearts III in the months following the game’s release, and it is possible that some of those concerns are valid. But after all of the systems we had to buy, convoluted plots threads we had to iron out and trailers we never got, scenes like this one prove that there is an overflow of care and passion put into the Kingdom Hearts series. 35. “Where the Road Leads” (Chain of Memories) Following the final boss, the easy writing technique is to have Riku finally cast out Ansem’s darkness once and for all and move on with his life. However, the easy road, both literally and figuratively, don’t quite match Riku’s style. He realizes that Ansem is still in there somewhere and that he won’t be able to shake him, so he doesn’t try. Rather, he puts his faith in Mickey and, most importantly, himself. If he can use the darkness and light in moderation, he can mold himself into a force like no one has ever seen before. Even DiZ gets fooled into thinking that light and darkness are the only two options, but Riku quickly shuts this thinking down. His declaration of walking the road to dawn is a line of liberation and recovery for this former a-hole. No longer is he caught in the petty rivalry between the sides of light and darkness. Riku decides to live and act on his own terms as a renegade warrior to the status quo and conventions of the Kingdom Hearts universe. He’ll probably never have a shot at taking over the mantle as the series’ main protagonist, but he would make a damn good one. 34. “The Last Light” (Kingdom Hearts III) Wow, all of those interval cutscenes with Ienzo, Vexen, Demyx and Ansem the Wise really paid off. The Days trio get a marvelous spotlight, with each of them making an enormous impression in this aptly titled scene. First, Axel’s new set of last words are of the fourth wall breaking variety. How dare Xemnas refer to Axel as bound to be forgotten? Both in and out of universe, Axel is a brand. Xion being unhooded and remembered by Axel is huge revelation for these characters, properly reversing one of the saddest endings to an arc. Her turn to the Guardians’ side was most definitely predicted by the always perceptive Xehanort, and it must have been the reason why the benched members of the New Organization were kept around. Roxas’ return, though, is the scene’s grand finale. His entrance is a complete crowd-pleaser and offers some nice closure for the aforementioned Radiant Garden crew… for now. What’s more, now Roxas can coexist alongside Sora, so the scene may even get better in time. Were it not for Kairi’s weakly scripted capture, this scene would’ve landed in the top 30. 33. “Destiny” (Coded) The only scene from Coded that is worthy of a spot on the list, here we get a nice breakdown of Xigbar’s genius. Throughout this Secret Ending, he baits the younger version of Xehanort into feeding him information he already knows and a little bit more just for fun. With his California surfer dude persona in full gear, it is easy to think that he is either not paying attention or doesn’t care, and he would probably agree should you say such a thing. But that’s the exact façade he is going for. The fact is that Xigbar is the smartest guy in the room because - irony incoming - he has seen the most. When Young Xehanort mentions that the No Name is the oldest Keyblade in existence, the former Luxu doesn’t let on to the fact that he was there when it was still being used by the Master of Masters. Only a slight squint lets us on to the fact that his plan is greater than anything that Xehanort has going on, but he’ll play along for the time being. The subtlety is worth a lot on the rewatch, and the character study in general is strong with this one. 32. “The Guardians of Light Gather” (Kingdom Hearts III) This is what we’ve wanted to see. Finally, each of the games is represented in a single frame on the night before the fated clash. There are too many meaningful connections made during the course of this scene to give them all proper due. The full extent of how intertwined these characters’ stories are may not be properly understood until a scene like this happens. Its sole purpose is to make those bonds come to light, and that’s perfectly fine. Honestly, it would probably be more awkward if they got to the Keyblade Graveyard and Axel didn’t reference Ventus looking exactly like Roxas. On that, it is super cool to see everyone in such high spirits. This series sometimes has trouble slipping into melancholy nonsense, so it feels good that we get a moment in which Axel demands answers about what a Jiminy Cricket is. While I have focused on Axel’s fairly prominent role here, the fact is that the entire ensemble is clicking. You can usually trust in a scene that facilitates the characters being themselves. 31. “Fly, Sora” (Kingdom Hearts) If you were wondering, this is the highest Disney-related scene on the list (though not necessarily the highest rated scene that takes place in a Disney world). It makes sense, as NeverLand is probably the most consistent Disney world in the series. All of the best hallmarks of a great Disney world scene pop up here. Captain Hook name drops Hollow Bastion, which is a pretty unique occasion on multiple levels. Rarely is a world’s name mentioned at all, let alone one that we have yet to visit. Also, Hollow Bastion? What movie is that from? The thematic elements are on point here as well. Peter Pan instilling a sense of belief in Sora and returning to his side as an ally before the Hook boss fight is the blueprint for what needs to happen with Riku, albeit on a much larger scale. When we judge whether a Disney world is working or not, we often come back to everything that this scene represents and portrays. To 50-41: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121643-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-50-41/ To 30-21: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121657-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-30-21/
  11. 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/
  12. 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. 60. “Why Sora Was Chosen” (Kingdom Hearts II) In a world without the Roxas fight in the Final Mix iteration of Kingdom Hearts II, this is how we were shown the climactic fight between somebody and nobody. These moments that serve as visual representations of an interior struggle generally work pretty well in the series, as we’ve seen in a few different cases. The gripping nature of this duel lost a bit of its luster once we were actually given the chance to step into Sora’s shoes for it, but the meaning is the same. Only one of these characters will come out of this, and everyone knows who it will be. The resilience of Roxas, however, to put everything on the line at the foot of the Castle That Never Was is true to the most badass version of the character. Sometimes having the will to fight in the first place is all that’s needed in order to be revered. 59. “Axel’s Wrath” (Kingdom Hearts II) It doesn’t get much cooler, or maybe hotter, than this. Given what we know of the political machinations of the Organization and the happenings of the year prior to this moment, it’s easy to see why Axel is so frustrated. The retroactive approach to the scene is that the hot-headedness really isn’t meant to frighten Roxas. Here we have a character that is on the brink of leaving his life behind if this last ditch effort fails. Even if he succeeds, Roxas will be back to suffering at the hands of the Organization. The delivery of some of the lines in this scene is just the right crossing of hurt and stirred, with Quinton Flynn once again delivering some of his best work. All of that aside, Roxas whipping out two Keyblades just as we’re about to lose control of him is a jaw-dropping moment of gameplay and canonical myth. His best friend reacting in shock is an indicator that this is not something that happens every day. 58. “Atonement” (Kingdom Hearts III) There’s a lot to unpack in the scene that follows Ansem the Wise’s kidnapping. Although it has kind of happened before, seeing both of the Ansems onscreen together having a chat is Kingdom Hearts in all of its convoluted glory. The difference between the two becomes apparent when the Seeker of Darkness refuses to believe that the Wise has changed. This is old news, though, as it is readily established that the former leader of Radiant Garden will not easily be forced into being on the wrong side of history. His rescue by Hayner, Pence and Olette is a nice moment of their shenanigans going towards something bigger than Little Chef’s Bistro. The Seeker of Darkness essentially yelling at them to get off of his lawn is a hilarious reduction, but it is quickly one-upped by Hayner going in for the kick. Amazing, amazing stuff. At the end of the scene, we are given some further information on the benched Vexen and his motives. Even when it seems as though the lines in the sand are strictly drawn, the freedom to choose allows for some unexpected twists. 57. “Eraqus’s Demise” (Birth by Sleep) Once again, we are witnesses to Terra’s complicated arc getting kicked into a higher gear. It’s a difficult situation to be in, and the consequences of Eraqus being struck down complicates things even further. While Terra often gets flack for offing Eraqus, the Master himself agrees with the young man’s decision to fight him in order to protect Ventus. He takes things to another level when he essentially admits to being a tyrant of light. It’s a bit of dialogue that almost makes you consider Master Xehanort’s proposition of balance. But then, only seconds after Eragus fades, Xehanort arrives and bathes in the heat of his own villainy. His true intentions come into focus at this point and the clash he seeks is inevitable. With Eraqus out of the picture, Terra has no choice but to participate in the old man’s twisted game. To add a little more salt to the wound, Xehanort cheekily pronounces Terra a “Master” for the second time in the game, but it is now revealed to be a term of mockery rather than respect. This is a guy who knew how to put a fire in someone’s belly long before he slashed Kairi. 56. “My Friends Are My Power!” (Dream Drop Distance) Don’t be alarmed, I’m talking about the Dream Drop Distance version of this phrase. This iteration of the famous line doesn’t hit as hard as when it is first heard in the original game, but the material surrounding it is some seriously twisted rhetoric that should inspire some level of remorse for the Nobody kind. For as long as they have existed, the Nobodies were told that they are without hearts and cannot feel emotions. In that case, why even try to feel anything? That was likely the mindset of some amongst the Organization’s ranks, specifically the more monotone, loyal members of the gang. So, in this scene, when Xemnas tells Sora that he merely lied to the other members and knew that Nobodies could indeed grow their hearts back over time, the horror that comes over our hero’s face is completely called for. Fittingly, Sora then casts the images of those connected to him. Surely that had to sicken the dastardly combination of Xemnas and Xigbar. They missed out on the glory of friendship, and consciously mistreated their comrades, in service of a plan that they didn’t even devise themselves. 55. “The Past Xehanort” (Dream Drop Distance) Time travel and Kingdom Hearts never really mixed well. However, it allowed for an all-star collection of villains from past games to reconvene and collaborate in some of the more modern titles. It is in this scene that we are given the initial look at the thirteen vessels that will combat the seven Guardians of Light in the Xehanort Saga’s decisive battle. While most of them sit with their hoods up, Riku seems completely overmatched as he looks in horror around the room as the seats fill with darkness. In the context of the whole time travel plan being revealed, this is a big Band-Aid rip that Dream Drop Distance desperately needed to make happen. Basically, the presence of time travel is annoying, but the ultimate goal and execution of it came to a relatively quick conclusion right here. It also is worth noting that Young Xehanort has such an uncomfortable presence about him. All of the shady charisma that he would gain with age is completely absent here, which adds to the macabre mood. 54. “This World Has Been Connected” (Kingdom Hearts) The “Secret Place” has got a great, juxtaposed atmosphere. On one hand, Sora, Riku and Kairi must’ve spent countless afternoons here carving the cave walls and collecting mushrooms. It’s hard to imagine a more interesting spot for childlike wonder to bloom. On the other hand, it is an inherently spooky location given its dim lighting in contrast to the vibrant Destiny Island shores. This scene uses a little bit of both in our first trip to the area. The hunched coat taken over by Ansem’s heart, however, steals the show, as he rambles on about how the world in question is swiftly creeping towards its grim fate. Ansem mostly ignores Sora’s retorts, making it all play out as more of a warning shot monologue than an open forum. The world is going to fall regardless, so any restraint at all is hardly necessary. Ansem’s vague terminology and taunts, while not exceptionally resonant on a first playthrough, sound like just the right amount of menacing. Interestingly, this is the last we see of this character or this cloak for a long while. When he finally reappears, he’s back in the narrative to stay. 53. “Good-bye, Buddy” (Kingdom Hearts II) There is a lot of debate as to when this scene is happening. Is it the past? An alternate present? While it is an undeniably tender moment between Roxas and Axel no matter when it takes place, the most likely answer is that this conversation exists within some purgatory-esque plane. After all, references to Namine and genuine memories of Roxas palling around with the Twilight Town teens don’t quite match any timeline we know of. In any case, this is when Roxas finally accepts that Sora is someone that the lost hearts club can put their faith in. Touchingly, Roxas’ intuition tells him this, which is as good of a case as any when it comes to Nobodies having hearts. We are led to believe that Roxas will do his part from within to lead Sora down the right path. As opposed to what we may have thought before, the former Organization member is not a passenger as Sora holds the wheel; they are equal players working towards a similar and noble goal. It is rare that the series’ unconventional storytelling techniques are met with an emotionally-charged tone, but this is one of those times. 52. “Another Side, Another Story – Deep Dive” (Kingdom Hearts) Ooooh, a Special Secret Movie! “Deep Dive” is flashy, shiny and still a complete mind-bender after all of these years. The quotes and countdown that set the pace of the action are not meant for a single viewing. In fact, none of it is. It demanded and demands multiple viewings to truly wrap your mind around it. The sheer intensity of “Deep Dive” would be enough to warrant a spot on this list, but the Kingdom Hearts team did a phenomenal job of tying most of this in to both Kingdom Hearts II and 358/2 Days. The wheels that made future games spin caught traction with this obscure piece of computer-generated adrenaline. True to its name, it dove deep into the series’ greater narrative. “Deep Dive” was considered a strong enough piece on its own that it was given the legs to contribute to the larger story. Hardly some mindless, popcorn filler, here’s a shining example of Kingdom Hearts embracing its wackiness and giving us flavor rather than just a small taste. 51. “The Keyblade Masters” (Birth by Sleep) The rare instance in which we get to take a peek into the time before Birth by Sleep, this scene between two of the Keyblade’s chosen shows us the climax of a wounded friendship. Xehanort and Eraqus have come a long way since metaphorical chess matches. The duo are seen discussing Xehanort’s ambitions and his yearning for knowledge, while Eraqus dismisses him and his poetic excuses as being destructive. In the midst of the arguing, Eraqus mentions that he will not allow Xehanort to carry out his lofty but dangerous goals while he is still alive. While a throwaway line on first listen, it serves as an unfortunately helpful clue as to what Xehanort must sacrifice on his quest for Kingdom Hearts. In order to achieve his dream, his oldest acquaintance must be out of the picture. In the meantime, this exchange leaves us wondering about Master Xehanort’s origins. As a Keyblade Master, somewhere in there is a good heart that has been led astray by a dark curiosity. Where and when did things go sour? To 70-61: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121605-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-70-61/ To 50-41: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121643-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-50-41/
  13. 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. 70. “The Grey-Haired Youth” (Dream Drop Distance) Not Mr. Mew! Young Xehanort seriously has no limits. Our introduction to this time-travelling conniver is short and mysterious, but we know he’s on the wrong side. Things are made all the more confusing by the fact that this is Riku’s dream. How can this guy be here and how does he know it’s a dream? This is a nice set-up scene that brings up more questions than one regarding Dream Drop Distance’s unconventional premise. Regardless, one thing becomes quite clear: this Mark of Mastery exam will be far more complicated than smashing some balls of light. 69. “Darkness’s Call” (Dream Drop Distance) Riku is revealed to be a Dream Eater in this scene, but it’s not the only role he serves. No one has undergone a more emotional and strenuous transformation throughout the series than Riku. His heart’s fragility in the original game would make you question whether this confrontation with Ansem multiple games later would ever be possible, but here it is. In the darkest depths, there is no sense of fear in the young man who grew up more than anyone since first appearing on that island. When he delivers his solemn oath to use the darkness to protect the light, he simultaneously puts his gained courage right out in the forefront. 68. “Case of Luxu” (Back Cover) Ray Chase’s work as the Master of Masters is probably unparalleled in this series in terms of its completely manic tone. Of course, it also helps to have some intriguing and far-fetched words to say (Oh, ya think that’s gross, do ya?). Apart from the comedic edge given to Back Cover’s penultimate scene that is listed right here, there are also a few massive bombshells dropped. The metaphorical eye of the Master that is lodged into the No Name Keyblade gives a brand new meaning to what we know of who Luxu becomes, and the Black Box is worthy of predictive discussions as the narrative moves forward. The “Case of Luxu” is the sturdiest mythological backbone we have to go off of as the series transitions into its next phase. 67. “The χ-blade’s Forging” (Birth by Sleep) Vanitas’s early game taunts are given a little bit more juice, as we finally learn why the Unversed exist and what their utility was in Master Xehanort’s plan. Vanitas’s stunning face reveal is only the first of this scene’s cursed images. The χ-blade’s light unlocking Kingdom Hearts and Aqua’s seemingly lifeless body flying off of the battlefield contribute to the scene’s drearily negative tone. All of this thematic weight sits on the shoulders of poor Ventus. With pressure mounting, there’s no friends or Master to bail him out this time. Being forced into taking on this threat in a distinctly lonely moment is Ventus’ most trying character moment to date. 66. “The Hidden Room” (Kingdom Hearts II) Any insight into the murky period of time between Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts is always appreciated. Obviously, the kicker here is Aqua’s armor lying in the Chamber of Repose. Xemnas’ greeting can probably be taken as ironic, but the chilling realization that there is a little bit of Terra left within the Organization’s leader is the sharper read and a fantastic slice of character building. This is also one of the most rewarding scenes to pause in the entire series. The camera that Xemnas destroys identifies him as “Unknown,” his de facto Final Mix persona, and the six-pronged password that is used to open the path downstairs coincides with the names of Ansem’s apprentices. 65. “Phantom Promise or Not” (Chain of Memories) Maybe he didn’t have to be so rude about it, but Marluxia definitely has a point before Chain of Memories’ final clash. From the perspective of someone who has been told that they lack a heart and therefore do not exist, it must be pretty harsh on the ears to hear Sora say that he’ll willingly allow his heart to be destroyed. On top of that, the heroes hatch possibly the least forward-thinking plan in the history of plans when they offer to rebuild the broken heart and mind of Sora. Marluxia’s frustration is acceptable, but he is the one who made the ultimate threat in the first place. Had he not been swept up in the sadistic culture of Organization XIII, perhaps his intelligence could have been deployed in a much more helpful way. 64. “’Return my friend’s heart!’” (Birth by Sleep) Terranort’s complete lack of vigor in this scenario is the series at its creepiest. If that’s not enough for you, consider the nasty sound effect that accompanies the eerily subtle choking-out of Aqua. As she gasps for life and pleads for Terra to fight back, we are given a glimmer of hope. He struggles, plants his face in hands and…our hope is extinguished. The darkness has won, and the fate of this universe now hangs in the balance. However, that is not a fight that can possibly be won by Aqua. The opportunity to restore Terra’s light, due to this moment, falls into the laps of the next generation. 63. “An End to Slumber” (Kingdom Hearts III) Kingdom Hearts III delivered the goods when it counted. This is one of those times, both in the long-running series and in this singular title. Collecting the Guardians of Light, Ventus waking up and Sora finally getting a crack at the power of waking all collide just in time for Aqua to be saved. In addition to wish fulfillment almost a decade in the making, the commentary on the power of waking’s use is of particular interest. Had Sora not felt the impulse to save Aqua from the Realm of Darkness, it’s likely that he never would have found himself in the position to use the power. Say what you will about his thought process, but Sora certainly has a heart to be reckoned with. 62. “Xemnas’s Agenda” (Kingdom Hearts II) How do you follow up the extremely epic Battle of 1000 Heartless? Let’s try introducing the most interesting moral dilemma in the series. Xemnas is only there for a moment, but Axel and Saix more than make up for his disappearance with a pair of game-changing appearances. Axel is at his most rogue and apathetic. While carrying a sense of failure, it’s hard to keep allegiance to anything. Then there’s Saix, the ultimate errand boy, here to let Sora in on what the Organization is up to. It makes sense to confirm Axel’s blabbering at this point, as the win-win result of Sora’s altruism will reward the Nobodies. Saix also makes a mockery of Sora’s begging bended knee before he sees himself out. Yes, we are all angry and we hate you. Maleficent’s role here only goes to show her foolishness in the face of a much more sinister conflict. Now knowing the details, the brave defense of Hollow Bastion that preceded these revelations is forever marred. 61. “Walls of the Heart” (Birth by Sleep) It’s hard to say exactly who we’re rooting for in this scene. The crossroads moment for Terra, Aqua and Ventus in the city of light will see no one walk away with a clear conscience. Ven was so happy to see the grown-ups, but things deteriorate into talk of questionable motives rather quickly. Aqua pulls the classic “I was just following orders” line to defend her spilling the beans regarding Eraqus’ role in the tension, yet Terra refuses to buy it. This is especially the case due to his failure and guilt, not to mention his accidental run-ins with the dark forces of each world he had travelled to. Terra and Aqua both have a point, but neither really communicates their feelings well. Rather than letting it out, the two elder members of the trio set the Wayfinders on a collision course with evil. Such an unfortunate turn of events for a scene that starts with “We make a great team!” To 80-71: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121594-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-80-71/ To 70-61: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121623-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-60-51/
  14. 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. 80. “The Same Place as Mine” (Chain of Memories) Well, this Disney game just went there. As the camera pans up to the phony Twilight Town sky within Castle Oblivion, the Riku Replica questions where he goes after he passes away. The poise in which the scene is directed is deserved for this character that easily could have been tossed aside into the forgettable swamp of strawman territory. The real Riku really doesn’t need to offer much in the way of bedside manner. Being so close to death, anything the Replica heard at that point would have been worthy of an “okay” at best. 79. “The Icing on the Cake” (358/2 Days) Leave it to two characters without hearts to bring so much to the Kingdom Hearts equivalent of the post-work happy hour experience. Of the countless clock tower scenes in 358/2 Days , this one is far from the most existential or plot relevant. That’s exactly why it works. Sometimes the simple, most mundane moments are the ones that build the most character and reveal the true heart of a story. Set to the lovely tune of “At Dusk, I Will Think of You,” this scene is the quintessential telling point as to why the trouble that ensues after it hits so incredibly hard. The stakes weren’t always so high. 78. “Kingdom Hearts” (Kingdom Hearts III) The theme here, as it is in many other scenes throughout the series, is belief. The cold-blooded murder of Kairi by Xehanort’s hand in the name of motivation is questionable, but the response is anything but. Despite Mickey’s doubts regarding Sora’s chances at thwarting Xehanort, the rest of the cast know there is a clear candidate among them to put an end to the Dark Seeker Saga. With the always supportive combo of Donald and Goofy by his side, the beginning of the end gets underway in spectacular fashion. 77. “Those Who Remain” (Kingdom Hearts II) On the heels on Axel’s emotional kamikaze attack and subsequent demise, we find the camera pointed back in the direction of the living members of Organization XIII. What we see is to be expected for the most part, but lend an ear and eye to Saix’s tone as he wickedly rips the memory of his fallen former best friend to shreds. The lack of eye contact and savage words he uses to mark Axel’s fade as being in vain is mindlessly cold to the bone. For those who would argue that the Organization at large were the mere victims of circumstance in Kingdom Hearts II, give this one another watch. 76. “Assembly of Darkness” (Kingdom Hearts) As the original journey begins, a who’s who of Disney villains watch Sora, Donald and Goofy from afar. It gives us a little taste of what’s to come, especially for those well-versed in Disney voice talent. Still, this may be the greatest example of the game’s goofy crossover concept being implemented perfectly. Not only is the scene suspenseful, but the sheer magnitude of these characters being in the same room together is a massive development in terms of what the series can accomplish. If the villains from different films can coexist in this way, what else is possible? Order be damned; the world is wide open. 75. “A Present from Vexen” (Kingdom Hearts III) Kingdom Hearts III quietly does a solid job of offering development for the supporting characters. It happens slowly, for sure, but it often hits all the right notes. Hold any excitement for the name in the scene’s title, for this one belongs firmly to Ienzo. Initially confused by Demyx’s gleefully goofy appearance, the unsuspecting tactician is met with the face of someone whom he desperately needs to see: Ansem the Wise, his former Master. On the side lies a lifeless vessel (the titular present), which, in due time, would prove to be the lasting impact of the entire interaction. 74. “Across the Ocean” (Kingdom Hearts) The honest naivety of Sora and Kairi’s pseudo-romantic boardwalk conversation makes the game, and situation, that comes next so horrific. These are simple characters with a simple worldview on the cusp of a journey that they are woefully unprepared for, even if they had been able to leave on the raft the next day. If only it were so easy, as Kairi assumes, to come back home to comfort at any point you feel is right. Kairi jokes about leaving Riku behind, but there’s a hint of truth in her excited proposition. All that ever really matters to her is that she can be in the company of her best friend. 73. “Vanitas’s Making” (Birth by Sleep) While Master Xehanort often harkens back to seeking balance and nothing more, one would be wise to acknowledge his complete lack of regard for the heart and life in general. His dismissal of the full-hearted Ventus’ potential creates Vanitas. In that creation arises the hypocrisy that is the crooked Master’s consistent downfall. He seeks not a balance between light and dark, but a conflict between the two. In the process, he makes a fractured person of Ventus and a slave of Vanitas. He’ll get his redemption eventually, but his monstrous processes were inexcusably despicable. 72. “Because We’re Best Friends” (358/2 Days) You know something big is happening when a reprise of “Dearly Beloved” gets spun. The philosophical differences on how to consider friendship are brought to light as a fainted Xion is returned to the World That Never Was. For someone who is constantly scoffed at for chasing friendship, Axel seems to have a pretty natural grasp of the concept. During the sugary moment where the former Lea lets his two best friends know how he feels, the room rings with an atmosphere of unity amongst the trio. In a series that is heavily built on tragedy and the separation of characters from one another, this is a breath of fresh air. 71. “Talking on Paper” (Kingdom Hearts III) And now, back to the tears. In addition to being a vehicle for how far the facial animations have come in the series, this scene is jam-packed with the feels. First, we get hit with Kairi’s impressive skills with the quill in a letter that’ll never be sent. It’s a unique way to show how she’s decided to connect with Sora as they are kept apart yet again. The real money shot, though, is the close-up on Axel’s bright green eyes after he has a vision of Xion. The instantaneous stream that falls down his face is brilliantly reactionary given the epiphany’s randomness, and it lets us know that some connections go beyond what our memory can withstand. To 90-81: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121583-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-90-81/ To 70-61: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121605-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-70-61/
  15. 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. 90. “Wayfinder” (Birth by Sleep) Perhaps the “hopeless sleepyhead” of it all doesn’t work exceptionally well, but there is a whole lot of heart in our introduction to the Wayfinder trio. Aqua’s allusions to Destiny Islands offer imagery that is familiar in theory but seem ever so distant in the context of Birth by Sleep’s prequel format. That this is the last time until their grand reunion in Kingdom Hearts III that this group will get through a conversation without it breaking down into hurt feelings is a heartbreaking realization in hindsight. 89. “The Letter” (Kingdom Hearts) It’s a bit difficult at this point to imagine a time when such series standards as the world order, Gummi Ships and Jiminy Cricket were still being established, but here it is. In just a quick four-minute clip, Tetsuya Nomura expanded his world by introducing us to the chaos going on in the outside world. Set as a reflection of Sora, Riku and Kairi’s aspirations, it becomes clear to the player that the impending hero’s journey will not be one littered with the clichés of simple fairy tales. 88. “Clashing Heads” (Kingdom Hearts) The scene that seems only to get better as the plot thickens, and it comes from a Disney world of all settings. The original game had a way with incorporating the grander ideas at play into the less consequential areas. It had great storytelling pace and balance in that regard. King Triton’s seemingly secondhand knowledge of the Keyblade War is invaluable insight in retrospect, and it inspires Sora to briefly question the power he holds. 87. “Got it Memorized?” (Chain of Memories) Our introduction to the iconic double agent phase of Axel’s character is a doozy. From his enthusiastic greeting to the first use of his catchphrase to a reference to actual death, it becomes immediately clear that this is no ordinary character. Quinton Flynn’s magnetic and recognizable work enhances just what Axel means to the Organization. He reveals the humanity in this group of shady characters hidden behind the leather of their hoods. It’s fitting that his is the first face we see of an Organization member; none of the others can elevate the action like Axel. 86. “Confrontation with Vanitas” (Kingdom Hearts III) Affectionately referred to as “Yeetus Vanitas” by some fans, there’s a bunch of great stuff happening in this surprisingly pivotal scene. Sora is given the Ventus story, partly giving way to Donald and Goofy acknowledging the Birth by Sleep era’s circumstances. This is also the entrance of the deliciously psychotic Vanitas we are treated to in Kingdom Hearts III. But yes, Mike and Sully teaming up to trash the little brat, and simultaneously showing that there’s some worthy muscle in the Realm of Light, is maddeningly fun to watch. 85. “Farewell” (Kingdom Hearts II) Intentions never cease to blur the line between good and evil, at least according to the end of Ansem the Wise’s role in Kingdom Hearts II. The battle of wits on display between the disgraced sage and his former student, Xemnas, contributes to some of the most impressive dialogue the series has to offer. It is the haunting imagery of the Dusks in the Dark City leaping to capture released hearts, however, that confirms the desperation of the world the characters inhabit, and signals that an end to the madness must be in sight. 84. “The Truth About DiZ” (Kingdom Hearts II) The mysterious DiZ was given a face reveal that was telegraphed and detected by keen listeners (See: Christopher Lee). However, it is by how he explains his plight, not how he looks, that this scene is made special. At first, his intentions are bent on selfish thoughts of revenge that directly lead to Riku’s appearance being tainted by the face of darkness. By scene’s end, he declares himself a changed man on the road to redemption in the face of certain mockery and his possible demise. For a character we hardly knew at that time, it is quite the emotional punch to absorb. 83. “Magic to Keep Kairi Safe” (Birth by Sleep) Each member of the Wayfinder trio gets an opportunity to interact with younger versions of the original main cast in some way, shape or form, but the moment in which Kairi and Aqua meet stands out as the sweetest of them all. Kairi’s role as a Princess of Heart is given some very nice emphasis, as both Aqua and Mickey instantly point out her natural glow. In addition, some background on the series’ leading lady was much needed in the way of her home world and her path to ending up on Destiny Islands. And to top things off, we get a fully voiced retelling of the modern world’s rise from the grandmother we all wish we had. 82. “Tears” (Kingdom Hearts II) The ending of Kingdom Hearts II’s prologue may be more appropriately identified as being right here, as in the moment we say goodbye to the Twilight Town gang for a while and head to Yen Sid’s tower. It would be an instance of some emotion regardless, but when a single tear drops from Sora’s eye as he bids farewell to the crew, the entire complexion of the game is rewired. Not only is this Sora’s quest, but the weight of Roxas’ journey shall vicariously live on as well. A soft goodbye to the friends Number XIII only sort of had is the first bittersweet reminder of his abridged experience. 81. “The King’s Memory” (Kingdom Hearts II) Mickey just happened to be present for what must have been one of many clashes between Ansem the Wise and his apprentice, now often referred to as Terranort. This was our first look at the man who was the whole of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness and Xemnas, the two biggest bads the series had to offer at that point. Knowing this, there would likely be an assumption that the apprentice named Xehanort would be someone more outwardly vile than the respectful lab rat we see in this scene. On the contrary, his descent into madness would not be fully explored until later titles. In true Kingdom Hearts fashion, the finer moments leave us with a wanted answer and another wave of questions. To 100-91: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121575-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-100-91/ To 80-71: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/121594-the-100-greatest-kingdom-hearts-scenes-80-71/
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