In the last edition of Kingdom Hearts Crash Course, a summary of the series’ storyline for newcomers who are curious about the upcoming 3DS game but afraid they’ll be confused by the plot, I covered the original PlayStation 2 game from start to finish. We left off with Sora stranded in a remade universe, and now we’ll pick back up at the grounds of the mysterious Castle Oblivion, a place where memory forsakes all who enter…
As the world reforms from its fragmentary state, wrought at the hands of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, Sora finds himself in a strange land he has never seen before. An enigmatic figure in a Black Coat beckons him to follow, and he arrives at the grounds of a towering castle: Castle Oblivion. Donald and Goofy follow him inside its whitewashed halls, and the mysterious black-robed figure hands Sora a card that apparently holds his memories. The card unlocks the double doors ahead, and Sora steps through…
A World Made from Memories
He emerges in… Traverse Town? Apparently the cards of Castle Oblivion have the power to tap into the user’s memories to create facsimiles. The Heartless have invaded his memory world – or are they memories themselves? Sora fights his way through the confusion and darkness, meeting many familiar faces along the way: Leon and Yuffie among them. But no one seems to remember who he is! After fighting his way through his memories, Sora receives a warning from Aerith: “Stay strong, Sora. Don’t let the illusions distract you from what’s truly important.”
He emerges from the memory world on the second floor of the castle, where the mysterious man in the Black Coat meets him. Another robed figure joins the first, revealing himself to be called “Axel.” Axel challenges Sora to a fight to test his strength. When the battle is finished, Axel warns Sora that he will lose his memories as he climbs the tower, and may not be the same person when he reaches the top. Resolved to press on, Sora moves forward.
As he ascends the tower, he continues to face additional worlds from his previous adventure, all the while losing memories that are precious to him. We learn that he is part of a plot planned by the black-robed figures – the “Organization” – that involves replacing his memories with false ones. He forgets Kairi, and all his memories of her are replaced with fictional ones, all revolving around a girl named Naminé.
Stationed in Castle Oblivion are two groups of Organization members. One group, consisting of Marluxia the “Graceful Assassin,” Larxene the “Savage Nymph,” and Axel the “Flurry of Dancing Flames,” is conspiring to overthrow the Organization’s leader by using Sora for their own devices. The other team, consisting of Vexen the “Chilly Academic,” Lexaeus the “Silent Hero,” and Zexion the “Cloaked Schemer,” is studying how to create Replicas based on a subject’s memories. They create a Riku Replica, modeled after Riku’s twisted dark form inherited from his possession by Ansem, to further torment and confuse Sora. Eventually they catch onto Marluxia’s scheme and attempt to subvert him.
All the while, even as his memory deteriorates, Sora manages to defeat two members of the Organization on his way to the top of Castle Oblivion: Larxene and Vexen. Axel arrives to finish off the latter of the two, charged with eliminating those who would interfere with Marluxia’s plans. However, Axel is secretly working against Marluxia as well, and helps Naminé to escape the Organization’s clutches and warn Sora of the truth.
Once he begins to regain some of his lost memories of Kairi, Sora knows that he must cast aside his false memories. He defeats Marluxia, freeing Naminé from the Organization’s will, and she promises to restore his memory. To do so, however, she will need to reconnect the links in his chain of memories, which requires that she put him into a deep sleep. In the meantime, those whom Sora has forgotten will in turn forget him. Sora chooses to recover his true memories, and entrusts his fate to Naminé…
While Sora ascends the castle in his struggle against Marluxia, Riku awakens in the darkness in the depths of the castle’s cellars, drawn by a mysterious light and guided by a strange voice. He, too, must climb the castle – but instead of his memories slipping away, he must face the darkness that he has fostered inside him, and the consequences of the actions he took in order to embrace its power.
Meanwhile, Ansem’s taint remains, tempting him to give in, threatening to take control once again. With help from King Mickey, his new ally, Riku is able to keep his darkness under control. As he climbs, he defeats his own Replica, as well as Lexaeus and Zexion of the Organization.
Riku proves that he has learned to recognize true darkness by identifying the mysterious voice that guides him as a false Ansem. The owner of the voice rewards Riku by revealing himself: he is DiZ, “Darkness in Zero.” DiZ recognizes that Riku stands uniquely between the light and the darkness, in twilight, and is free to choose to pursue either. He wishes for Riku to meet Naminé so that he may complete that choice.
Naminé offers to lock up Riku’s heart so that Ansem may never threaten to emerge again. At first, Riku is tempted to take her up, but decides against it, believing that he must face Ansem head-on, or find a way to live in tolerance of his own darkness. In the end, he manages to suppress Ansem, but this means that darkness will ever linger inside him. Mickey’s power of light prevents him from being swallowed up, and he emerges, renewed. Confident that he is ready to coexist with the power sleeping inside him, he dons the Organization’s Black Coat and joins Mickey on a journey to protect Sora as he sleeps.
As he leaves Castle Oblivion behind him, DiZ asks whether he has will walk the road to light, or the road to darkness. Riku responds that he will choose neither, and instead take the middle road. DiZ asks, “Do you mean the twilight road to nightfall?” But Riku replies: “No. It’s the road to dawn.”
I’ll be publishing a new entry in this story recap series every two days – that means the next part’s coming Sunday, July 22. Part 3 will cover Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, the series’ first DS title, which follows the story of Roxas and occurs concurrently to Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
In the meantime, if you’re new to the series and still find yourself confused by anything that’s laid out here, submit your questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them in a timely fashion!
For other chapters, check out the links below: