Kingdom Hearts – A Look At Character Development

Hey guys! I honestly didn’t know if this post was going to come out on time or not because of how much stuff I’ve been doing, but here we are! Time management skills! Aha, let’s just move on, shall we? This time I will be analyzing one of my favorite Kingdom Hearts characters (if not my MOST favorite character), Riku! Riku goes through a lot during the entire series, and I think we are honestly still watching him grow and develop. He has come a long way since the first Kingdom Hearts game. He went from one of the villains, to one of the Guardians of Light alongside his friends. In fact, although he was determined to get in Sora’s way in the first game, he becomes crucial to Sora’s victory in Kingdom Hearts III. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of Riku – and we’ll continue to see his character development – in Kingdom Hearts IV.

Riku’s Backstory –

The keyblade is bequethed to Riku (Property of Square Enix)

Riku grew up on Destiny Islands with his best friend Sora. When Kairi appeared on the islands, she joined the friend group. In his childhood, Riku met Terra, who bequeathed him the keyblade. Basically, this meant that Riku would one day become able to wield a keyblade. When he got older, it’s revealed that he is actually THE Keyblade’s chosen one. He had forgotten his meeting with Terra years ago, so he obviously wasn’t aware of this. He made a plan with Kairi and Sora to build a raft so they could explore the worlds together, since they were starting to get bored with their islands. Unfortunately, though, the Heartless attack before they are able to set sail, and Destiny Islands is swallowed by darkness. Even MORE unfortunately…Riku falls into the darkness, too…

The Road To Night –

Dark Riku (Property of Square Enix)

The first game has Riku as one of the villains. Sure, he had somewhat good intentions. He wanted to keep Kairi safe. But he was manipulated by Maleficent to the point where he lost a lot of his free will. Time and time again, he keeps Sora from accomplishing his goal of stopping the Heartless. He wouldn’t listen to reason, and Sora was forced to fight him on more than one occasion. Because of Riku’s fall into darkness, the Keyblade had to choose someone else to save the worlds from darkness, and it chose Sora. Riku eventually finds out he was the original chosen, and proves it by stealing the Keyblade, which makes Sora’s companions, Goofy and Donald, follow him on the path to Darkness (they were told to follow the one with the Keyblade…I think they took that command a little too far).

Near the end of the game, Riku is so far into darkness that his mind falls under the control of Ansem Seeker of Darkness. So much so that Ansem becomes a part of him. One of the final battles in the game is against this more powerful version of Riku, but Sora still beats him. Riku gets control over his mind once more just in time to help Sora close the Door to Darkness. However, it turns out that someone has to close it from the inside AND the outside. Obviously, whoever closes it from the inside has to be stuck in the Realm of Darkness, which is not a good place to be. Riku makes that sacrifice, and locks himself inside after telling Sora to take care of Kairi.

Inside the Realm of Darkness, Riku struggles to hold onto his mind. In Chain of Memories, he is brought to Castle Oblivion, but stars thirteen floors beneath it in the basement. He is told to work his way up, but he has more to battle that Sora did, arguably. He is trying to get rid of the parts of him that are still Ansem. He’s trying to work his way back to the light. He goes alone for a long time, and nearly breaks. However, Mickey arrives on time to help him.

Riku makes it to the top of the tower and defeats Ansem, but there is still a lot of darkness in him. He has a long way to go.

The Road To Dawn –

Riku fights his darker self (Property of Square Enix)

At the end of Chain of Memories, Riku meets DiZ (the real Ansem), and is given the choice of whether to walk the road to darkness, or the road to light. Riku chooses neither, and decides to walk the middle path.

“You mean the twilit road to nightfall?” said DiZ

“No…the road to dawn.” Riku replied.

The road to dawn is made of both light and darkness, and Riku wanted to master both. It wouldn’t be easy, but he knew he wouldn’t be alone. For a long time, he wears the coat of a Nobody and a blindfold to hold back the darkness in him while he tries to gain control over it. Unfortunately, a fight with Sora’s Nobody, Roxas, forces him to tap into the darkness, and it changes him. He takes the form of Ansem Seeker of Darkness, and is unable to change back. He still tries to help Sora, but won’t let Mickey tell him what happened, and he refuses to show his face.

At the end of the game, Kairi, Sora, and Riku reunite. Before Riku can get away from them, they realize he isn’t Ansem, and the truth of what happened came out. Thanks to his friends, Riku is able to take back his own form. He still has a lot of guilt over everything that’s happened, though, and tells Sora he couldn’t possibly go back to Destiny Islands after all he did. But, of course, he wouldn’t leave Sora to fight Xemnas, Ansem’s Nobody, alone. In fact, Sora couldn’t have done it without him. With the battle won, the two find themselves trapped in the Realm of Darkness. However, they decide that as long as they’re together, it wouldn’t be so bad.

Good news for them, because Kairi sent a let to Sora at the beginning of the game, and some how it reached the edge of the RoD. It opened a doorway that allowed them to escape, and it brought them straight to Destiny Islands. They were home at last! But not for long, of course, as it came time for Riku and Sora for take their Mark of Mastery exams to become Keyblade Masters.

It would seem like Riku would fail. He had so much darkness in him that he was certain he would never become a master. But surprise, surprise, he passes with flying colors, and Sora was the one who ended up becoming consumed by darkness, causing him to fail the test. As it turns out, Riku is also a Dream Eater, which is a creature that destroys nightmares. Not only that, but since he is learning to control his darkness, he has something like an immunity to it. Sora would be been destroyed had he not gone after him, and this immunity allowed him to do that.

In Kingdom Hearts 3, Riku is dealing with a lot of ghosts from the past. The darker part of him is still very present, to the point where he can see and talk to him. In fact, he seems to have become a little fond of his other self. But he doesn’t let that dark part of him hold him back or get in his way. He still uses his old keyblade, Soul Eater. At the beginning of the game, he returns to the Realm of Darkness with Mickey and comes face to face with old memories, not all of them good. It is here that in a battle, Soul Eater is destroyed, and he leaves it in the RoD. He gets a nicer keyblade known as the Braveheart that just really suits him!

At the end of the game, he is forced to say goodbye to his darker self for good after one of the final battles. While it’s hard for him to let go, it turns out to be for the best. All of his ties to his other self are gone besides the memories, but he still controls light as well as darkness.

What’s To Come? –

Riku (Property of Square Enix)

Riku as we know him now has come soooo far from where he started. He is a Keyblade Master, he’s learned to control darkness and light. He made amends with the past and his darker self. But where will we go from here? The last we saw of Riku, he was going to Quadratum to save Sora (again). What hardships will he face there? Riku has matured so much, and he understands the balance between light and darkness better than most anyone. Perhaps since Sora seems to be getting closer and closer tot he darkness, Riku may become a mentor for him?

I assume the next time we see Riku, it will be in Kingdom Hearts 4. Square Enix is clearly not done with him! It is a possibility that he could even be a playable character, which I think would be awesome since we would be able to experience his further development first hand. My prediction is that we will see Riku continue to grow in darkness and light, and become extremely powerful. I think he’s past falling back into his old ways (though I guess never say never). He’s come a long way, and while I do think there will be setbacks here and there, I know he will always find his way to the light.

Riku is probably my favorite Kingdom Hearts character, and I know he was inspired a lot of people to overcome their own darkness. He’s such a great character and his development was really something special! What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, God bless y’all and have a wonderful week!

All media property of Square Enix.

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