Heads up: Spoilers for the first two Kingdom Hearts games, Birth by Sleep, and Dream Drop Distance ahead.
Flying a Gummi Ship (Kingdom Hearts 1/2)
Gummi Ships serve as the means of traveling between worlds in the Kingdom Hearts universe. In the first game, doing this for the first time was a huge thing, as it meant you could finally get out and explore Disney worlds. The sequel added onto this by improving the Gummi Ship mode in almost every single way, making it more action packed, faster paced, and adding an easier custom Gummi system that you could utilize by destroying certain ships.
Turning Into a Lion (Kingdom Hearts 2)
Turning into a lion upon visiting the Pride Lands world in Kingdom Hearts 2 was quite a treat. Similar to Sora’s merman form from the previous game, this form changed up the gameplay and how you would control Sora, putting an emphasis on fast running, pouncing, and more chaotic attacks.
What made this doubly special was the fact that the original game was planned to have something like this, but at the time, the developers weren’t able to put it in, due to hardware restraints. The level planned? The Pride Lands. It was nice seeing a failed idea from before suddenly spring to life in the best possible way.
Visiting Disney Castle (Kingdom Hearts 2)
Disney Castle was a world we saw very brief glimpses of in the first game. It was the world where many of the major Disney characters of the series resided; characters like Donald, Goofy, Minnie, Mickey, and Pluto. And yet, it wasn’t a world you could visit in the game. Even though it appeared on your Gummi Ship map, it was unfortunately dulled out.
So, when the world appeared in Kingdom Hearts 2 completely playable, many fans were overjoyed. While a smaller level than the others, it starts out in the sequel swarmed by a very large amount of heartless, making your first visit to the world a dangerous one. It also served as the linking world to the past by housing the door to Timeless River.
Fighting Squall (Kingdom Hearts 1)
Squall Leonhart is one of the first Final Fantasy characters you meet when awakening in Traverse Town in the first game. After just meeting the friendly Cid, you go outside, only to get suddenly attacked by this guy, who wonders why you have the Keyblade. The fight against Leon is memorable for being very difficult, especially the first time you do it.
Since you’re just starting out the game, you likely won’t be very high leveled. Leon’s attacks can cut your health down very fast, which definitely doesn’t help. However, with enough determination, he can be beaten, although Sora passes out from the effort. Beating him also causes him to broodingly acknowledge it later on in the level. Bragging rights!
Fighting Sephiroth (Kingdom Hearts 1/2)
Sephiroth is one of the most well known villains in the Final Fantasy series, and one well known for his insane power. It’s for this reason that Square chose him to be a fightable side boss in both KH1 and 2. KH1 ends up surprising you with it, no less.
You’ve fought your way through the tournaments at Olympus Colosseum, and it was a tough struggle to get there. Suddenly, a match simply entitled ‘????’ appears on the list. You select it, the cutscene begins, and Sephiroth makes a very intimidating entrance. All is eerily quiet until he signals the start of the fight, and his famous theme music, One Winged Angel, kicks in. In both games, Sephiroth is one of the hardest bosses around, and every fight serves as an awesome moment of quick thinking and adrenaline.
Sora Turning Into a Heartless (Kingdom Hearts 1)
Late into the first Kingdom Hearts, Kairi has become apathetic; an empty shell of a person with her heart missing. As Riku (being possessed by Ansem) reveals, Kairi’s heart was hiding away within Sora’s this whole time.4
Sora, after defeating Riku, picks up his special keyblade, one with the ability to release hearts, and makes one of the most selfless, noble sacrifices ever: He stabs himself with the Keyblade, releasing Kairi’s heart and bringing her back to her normal self, but at the cost of losing his own heart, and turning into a Heartless. Luckily, a few moments later, Kairi returns the favor and saves him.
Organization XIII’s True Purpose (Dream Drop Distance)
At the end of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, it’s finally revealed what the true purpose of Organization XIII was all along. In KH2, we were led to believe the group was searching for a way to regain their hearts, since they lacked them. KH3D reveals that this was not the case, but rather that they were being manipulated by Xehanort, the series’ big bad. His goal was to use the members as vessels, in order to create a new Organization XIII made up of 13 hearts of darkness.
Why this moment is so great is because it’s such a stunning reveal. Everything we thought we knew from KH2 was a lie. What’s even more important is that this sets up the plot for the next game in the series, Kingdom Hearts 3, by establishing the main villains of that game.
Battle of the 1,000 Heartless (Kingdom Hearts 2)
This battle was teased quite a bit before Kingdom Hearts 2’s official release, and gave fans a mind blowing concept of a fight: a face-off against 1,000 Heartless. While the initial previews had more types of Heartless in the fight (compared to the two types in the final version), it was still an amazing set piece of a battle, topped off at the end with a reveal that shatters Sora and the gang’s beliefs to their very core. All those 1,000 heartless you just slayed? Their hearts were added to the Organization’s recreation of kingdom hearts itself.
The battle was made all the more awesome with the two powerful reaction commands you could use. One involved slicing through rows of heartless, while another involved grabbing one and using its laser to take out huge groups in one go, making the set piece all the more awesome.
The Final Battles (Birth By Sleep)
Birth by Sleep is the prequel game in the Kingdom Hearts series, and deals with a lot of darker themes and events than the other games. This is made painfully clear by the final battles for each of the three protagonists (Terra, Aqua, and Ventus) in the game, and all of the events that transpire around them during these battles. While most KH games end with a cheery and hopeful ending, the fates of the main characters of BBS are extremely sad, and downright horrifying.
Terra ends up becoming possessed as a vessel for Master Xehanort, becoming Terra Xehanort, an important player in a lot of the bad things that happen in the future games. Aqua, in a sacrifice to save Terra, ends up stuck in the Realm of Darkness. And last, but not least, Ventus, in an intense final battle with Vanitas, loses his heart, only later for it to be found by Sora, and stored within him.
A very sad, but very powerful set of events in the series as a whole.
Roxas’ Story (Kingdom Hearts 2)
Roxas is a very important character in the Kingdom Hearts series, and one that is deeply connected to Sora, being his Nobody. Back when Nobodies weren’t even a thing, and Kingdom Hearts 2 hadn’t been released yet, many teases were shown towards the beginning of the game: a playable protagonist who wasn’t Sora, at the time nicknamed Blonde-Haired-Kid.
Speculation was on fire around this time as everyone wondered who this boy was, his role in the story, and how long we’d play as him. Come release time, Roxas’ story was the prologue of the game, and a powerful one that kicked the game off with a bang, and a whole lot of mysteries. What made the prologue of KH2 so great was that it introduced many of the concepts to the series that are so important in it today, as well as an entirely new character. With no explanation given, you’re thrown right into Roxas’ story wondering what the heck is even going on.
Over the course of several days, Roxas discovers his true identity, and his connection to Sora, all through the lens of a seemingly normal and sleepy town. It all ends with a final sad note when Roxas discovers Sora just before he awakens, and states his last words of the prologue just before being absorbed into Sora: “Sora. You’re lucky. Looks like my summer vacation is…over.”
This post was originally written by Tanner Fugate.