Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix (2013, PlayStation 3): An Updated Re-release collection containing Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Re:Chain of Memories, and the cutscenes of 358/2 Days, all remade and remastered in HD.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix (2014, PlayStation 3): A second Updated Re-release collection to follow the first. It will contain HD remasters of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Birth by Sleep Final Mix, and the cutscenes of Re:coded.
The series contains appearances by characters and locations from the following games, films and franchises. Labeled after each is which game it appears in, abbreviated, and its role. (w) for "world" means you visit the location and can explore. (c) for "character" means only that characters from that franchise show up, whether in the form of a summon, or you meet them in person. (r) for "reference" means merely that the franchise is referenced in some way, such as art or architecture, or the world shows up in a non-interactive form.
Aborted Arc: One of the main concepts of the first game was that Sora, Donald, and Goofy cannot interfere with the affairs of other worlds, since they're outsiders. This hasn't been brought up again since the first game and is mostly ignored now.
This was, however, recycled and used in Days, where Roxas and the other members of Organization XIII cannot interfere.
Birth by Sleep adds on that Keyblade wielders are free to travel between worlds, but are not to tell their inhabitants about the existences of worlds besides their own. However by the time of Kingdom Hearts worlds are being destroyed left and right and their inhabitants are taking refuge in Traverse Town, so this isn't an issue for Sora. Even in Birth By Sleep's timeframe though, many other characters are already aware of other worlds and can travel between them in their own ways.
As far as an actual installment goes, a sequel to Birth By Sleep was planned, (most likely revolving around Aqua, King Mickey, and Riku's journey through the Realm Of Darkness) and a trailer was even included in the Final Mix version of the game. However, the executives at Square and Disney decided that having another portable game would detract from resources going towards Kingdom Hearts III and cancelled the project. Thankfully, pieces of the planned story were implemented into Dream Drop Distance, and additional elements will likely be used in III.
Achilles' Heel: Sora, Sa´x, Marluxia, and Roxas may be extremely powerful, but depriving them of their weapons would render them almost powerless. If Sora is without his Keyblade, it would take many hits to take down even the weakest of enemies, although using magic is still as effective as if you still had the Keyblade.
Mulan, Ariel, and Queen Minnie (to a more limited degree) from the Disney cast.
Tifa and Yuffie from the Final Fantasy cast.
Kairi also starts showing signs of this in KH2 once she gets a Keyblade, but at this point she's still strictly a beginner. At the end of Dream Drop Distance, it's revealed that Yen Sid will be instructing her in the ways of the Keyblade.
Adorably Precocious Child: Ienzo, who follows around his mentor in an oversized labcoat, and Young Riku, who is abnormally serious and mature for his tender years. Both are definitely played for cute.
Adult Fear: Imagine this: It's stormy outside - really stormy. Your child has been in his room all evening. You go upstairs to call him in for dinner... the window's open, he's gone, and so are his two friends and their boats. He doesn't come back for years - during which you have no idea where he is, or if he's safe, or if he can ever come back. (The parents of the main characters never get more than a shadow in a doorway...) On the other hand, Word of God states that a world remains frozen in time once it is swallowed by the darkness. Also, due to events of Chain of Memories, the parents forget about their son until Namine restored Sora's memories, which means that they only started worrying at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. Which might make it worse for them once they realize they completely forgot of their missing son's existence.
Aerith and Bob: You've got Sora, Kairi and Riku (distinctly Japanese names), amongst mainly English or more standard names (and the trio of Birth By Sleep have Latin names). In some cases it's understandable, though, such as with some Disney villains or Organization XIII.
Alas, Poor Villain: Clayton was technically controlled by the Heartless through his heart's obvious darkness, and Sora, Tarzan, and co. express pity after he's killed, which might be strange seeing as he was nothing but a Jerkass to them before getting controlled.
But if you consider Sora's character, (as a Kid Hero and The Pollyanna, with The Power of Friendship as his creed and his compulsively kind, trusting nature) plus Tarzan's own in-movie attempt to save Clayton? It's really not that strange.
Justifiably subverted with Sora's adventure as that many different worlds are being destroyed and its survivors all ended up in the same place, interacting with one another. Not to forget, the villains during that time didn't care too much about stealth. So, of course come the sequels the secret of there being other worlds is out in the open for the denizens of many worlds. Even people of worlds that still don't know about other worlds' existence learn of them through Sora (the cast of Port Royal, for instance.)
It should be noted, however, that the Organization members seem to be more serious about their "this is a stealth operation" directive.
Even ten years earlier in Birth By Sleep, the Keyblade wielders never seemed that concerned about concealing things. Standard Operating Procedure seemed to boil down to 'go up to the first person you meet and demand information from them'.
As of recent games, however, it seems that this trope has been dropped because Xehanort and his cronies have meddled with the worlds so much that not intervening would mean that The Bad Guy Wins.
One of the most prominent examples being cutscenes from KH2: Final Mix being included in the opening for 358/2 Days, as well as mention of the Chambers of Repose and Waking. Which were also only mentioned in Final Mix . Which was only released in Japan. It seems a lot of the time like Square just assumes overseas players finds out about all this elsewhere.
Well, they are kind of right...
Heck, think of the non-Japanese little kids who play Kingdom Hearts and have no idea that the Final Mix versions exist. Imagine how confused they are when the aforementioned events are mentioned in other installments.
Final Mix's secret boss fight against Xemnas is directly referenced in one of KH II's earlier cutscenes. Xemnas also mentions to Roxas that he's met Sora.
3D actually puts in a respectable attempt to prevent this; as you play the game, scenes involving integral plot points from previous games will unlock plot synopses, terminology definitions and character bios for the player to peruse, and the game generally encourages reading these as soon as they're available. Good thing too, because 3D would probably be the absolute worst offender of this otherwise.
Luckily, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, and 2.5 Remix , being released in the west will be averting this. Well for Final Mix anyway, not the Ultimania guides.
Alpha Bitch: Larxene in Chain of Memories thinks nothing of sadism and meanness towards enemy and ally (the Organization) alike.
Except possibly the characters in Halloween Town and Olympus Coliseum (Jack seems to have caused trouble in Christmas Town before Kingdom Hearts II and tells Sora it's a "long story", and Hercules has apparently already "figured out what it takes to be a true hero" and is already in a relationship with Megara).
And Auron. At one point, you get flashes of his memories—they're quotes from Final Fantasy X. Though with Auron it's kind of vague, as far the fans are concerned it could be The Theme Park Version or literally the same one.
Ambition Is Evil: Every character who has sought to further their own power or knowledge, no matter how just their cause is, ends up either being a villain or aligned with one. The main character, Sora, is notably lacking in ambition.
Anachronic Order: The (Secret) Ansem Reports. You never collect them in numerical order, leaving holes in the story for earlier entries to fill in. It either makes them confusing or deeper. Your choice.
The games themselves. The first three games were released in chronological order, but 358/2 Days takes place before II (with the first part of the story taking place duringChain of Memories) and Birth by Sleep takes place before all of them, while Coded takes place before The Stinger of Kingdom Hearts II, but the stinger pretty much took place awhile after Xemnas's defeat so it kinda got things moving forward. ! 3D finally got things completely moving forward again.
As of Re:coded, the order is Birth by Sleep, I, Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days which takes place during Chain of Memories but the majority of the game taking place after COM; then II, Re:coded and 3D, and finally III follow.
Anatomy Of The Soul: Everyone has a Heart, Soul, and Body. Well, every normal person. Individual worlds also have Hearts, and in-game text alludes to them being somewhat sentient.
Hearts contain the emotions and identity of an individual, and are made up of light and darkness. If the Heart is overcome by Darkness, it can separate itself from the Body and Soul and become a Heartless. It's accepted by most characters that a person without a Heart isn't really a person at all. The reality is slightly less complex; anyone or anything that wants to think of itself as a person can likely generate a Heart.
The Soul is seemingly simple—it's the animating force that gives life and movement to a body and heart. It's also translated as "Spirit" and synonymous with "Will" later in the series. Theoretically, if you somehow give or transplant a soul to an object, that object will gain a mind of its own and move around. In extreme circumstances, the Soul by itself could be enough to keep a Body moving. When a Heartless is formed, the Body and Soul left behind may reanimate into a Nobody, if the individual was particularly strong-willed.
Memory seems to be an important part of the soul as well. After all, Xion is made of it entirely, and Sora couldn't wake from his coma until all of his memories were restored. Xemnas's obsession with memory is meant to be a parallel to his desire to be a complete being. Even with your heart in place, you aren't whole without your memories. The fact that Terra leaves behind enough willpower to carry on the fight seems to support this as well.
The Chain of Memories is the concept of peoples' memories being connected. Obviously, if Alice has a memory of Bob, then it follows that Bob also has a corresponding memory of Alice. This chain can be broken. If Bob's memory is obliterated, any corresponding memories Alice shared will "fall into sleep". I.e. if Bob forgets Alice, Alice forgets Bob.
Further still, defeating an individual's Heartless (and potentially his Nobody, assuming they are of strong will) with the Keyblade, which purifies hearts, will free the Heart from the heartless and the body and soul from the nobody, which actually restores the original. Master Xehanort has come back because Sora destroyed the Heartless and Nobody of him possessing Terra, exactly as he has hoped. Wow, what a Xanatos Gambit!
Strong memories of emotions appear to be able to regenerate Hearts in Nobodies as well, something that's been vaguely hinted at during the series, and later confirmed in Dream Drop Distance.
And I Must Scream: The Birth by Sleep video at the end of KHII Final Mix shows Ventus being frozen completely and thrown off a cliff, and still conscious at the end of it (You can see his eyes moving.)
Animated Armor: The Guard Armor in the first game and 358/2 Days. The latter game also has a Palette Swap called the "Powered Armor".
In Birth By Sleep and KHIIFM+, the Lingering Will is this.
As well as the Armor of the Master and No Heart in BBS: Final Mix.
Don't forget the living suits of armor in Beast's Castle.
7 and 3 show up a lot, as well. Seven Princesses of Heart, seven Organization members left remaining in II (not counting Roxas), seven Orichalcum+ for the Ultima Weapon in II, seven days left in Roxas's vacation, Ansem and his six apprentices, seven letters in "Xehanort" minus the "X". As for the number 3, there's the recurring Trinity motif present in the numerous Power Trios, three types of Keyblade, three aspects of being (Heart, Body, Soul), three realms (Darkness, Light, Nothingness). In Dream Drop Distance, the true χ-blade is made up of seven Hearts of Light and thirteen Hearts of Darkness, and there's three Xehanort incarnations acting as antagonists (Young Xehanort, Ansem, Xemnas).
Art Evolution: The hand-drawn artwork has gotten much more anime-influenced, angular, and thick-lined over time, but this is less an aspect of this series and more one of Tetsuya Nomura himself. There's also a good deal of evolution in the character models, but that makes sense due to better technology. Even so, it's hard to tell Aurora from KH1 and Aurora from Birth by Sleep are the same person.
Art Shift: In Kingdom Hearts III, a new Kingdom Shader will be implemented, which basically has the characters changing appearence depending on the world they are in. I.E. If Sora and co. were to reappear in Port Royal, they themselves would look more realistic like Jack sparrow and the others were in II.
In the other titles, the art style of the game will typically shift between worlds to something appropriate to that world. Characters traveling from one world or another may or may not get altered appearances. This leads to some weird dissonance, especially in the worlds based on live-action films when you see more "realistic" characters like Jack Sparrow standing next to Goofy in Port Royale, or when you see the obviously more stylized Sora standing next to the Flynns in The Grid.
Yen Sid: If one such as you, Donald, yields to the Darkness in their heart, they too will become a Heartless. But you know this.
Also, recapping the end of the first game...
Sora: Then I guess we better go find the King first! Donald: But where could he be? Goofy: Well, we won't know 'til we look. Sora: Yeah. And the King must know where Riku is, 'cause the two of them were together in the Realm of Darkness when we closed the door. You know, after defeating Ansem.
Also seen in Re:Chain of Memories multiple times, though justified there, since Sora, Donald and Goofy knew they were losing their memories and wanted to make sure they still remembered what they were doing there.
Ascended Extra: Surprisingly enough, Cerberus. In the original movie, he shows up in the background for all of five seconds and only interacts with the hero near the climax. Despite this, he has been a recurring boss throughout the series.
Yen Sid was introduced in Kingdom Hearts II as Mickey's old mentor, and he only showed up to deliver some exposition at the start of the game. Birth By Sleep revealed he's a Keyblade Master, and as of Dream Drop Distance he's effectively the Big Good.
As Long as There Is Evil: As long as darkness exists within the hearts of sapient entities, the Heartless (and Nobodies) will continue to spawn.
Attack Its Weak Point: A staple of bosses in this series, most of whom can only be damaged if attacked in one specific part of their body. Much of the game's difficulty comes from the fact that these are often either hard to reach or are where the boss deals the majority of its damage from.
Author Appeal: Nomura's obsessions with zippers, belts, and (after a visit to a Disney resort) sea-salt ice cream.
Award Bait Song: Well, it's based off Disney movies isn't it? Protip: Search iTunes for Utada, the singer, to score the Japanese-lyric versions of both songsnote The Japanese version of "Simple and Clean" is called "Hikari", and "Sanctuary" is "Passion". And yes, the same singer (Utada Hikaru) wrote and sang both versions of both songs.
Awesomeness by Analysis: Sora's universe saving feats and daring swordplay are made even more impressive when you realize that unlike his predecessors, he is completely self-taught, his fighting style developing itself over the course of the series from his sparring with wooden swords at home. This shows when you compare him to Terra, Aqua, and Ven. They all fight in their own individual styles that show they have familiarity and training with their Keyblades. Sora wields his like a club or a baseball bat, and shows little finesse. This changes in Kingdom Hearts II, where he's a bit more experienced. The year of training Roxas had that Sora absorbed probably helped.
It's more like a very long mallet. The backswing, the block, and especially the two-handed jumping smash, all look centered toward the very end of the Keyblade, which is less pronounced for (for instance) a baseball bat. Curiously, Kairi's Keyblade seems to be a similar weapon (though probably a smaller variety). Riku's style is definitely based on some sort of sword (probably a katana), as is Terra's.
A Wizard Did It: The reason casting fire spells works in Atlantica, or how casting electricity-based spells doesn't completely fry Sora, Donald, Goofy, or Ariel.
Ax-Crazy: Larxene definitely falls under this. Sa´x is even worse when the Moon is out...
Back from the Dead: Kill a Heartless and then the Nobody, and the original person comes back to life. Master Xehanort, Braig, Dilan, Even, Aeleus, Ienzo, Isa, and Lea have all been revived in this manner. The only known exceptions to this rule are Sora and Kairi; various odd circumstances surrounding the losses of their hearts and the births of their Nobodies allowed for both of them to exist as normal humans alongside their Nobodies until both pairs went for Split Personality Merges.
Pretty much anyone trying to hide their identity or travel within the Darkness has this by default.
Bag of Spilling: Every single game does this, and every single one justifies it, at least regarding their skills and abilities (but not their weapons and items).
In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Sora and co. walk into Castle Oblivion of all places, and lose their memories so that they must learn their skills back.
In Kingdom Hearts II, they get "restored", meaning restored back to zero, erasing their memories from the previous game and with that, most of the skills they learned throughout. Also, Sora, Donald, and Goofy spent a year in a coma, making it impressive that they could even walk at the start of the game. They weren't in stasis, either, as Sora actually hit a growth spurt during that time.
In Kingdom Hearts coded you play as Data-Sora, a digital copy of Sora, thus starting from scratch with a different character.
In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days you play as Roxas, Sora's Nobody, thus starting from scratch with a different character. The fact that Roxas gets his memory erased by the game finale also justifies the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II.
In Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, which takes place ten years before the original game, you play as three completely new characters, Aqua, Ventus and Terra, all fresh rookies considerably Doomed by Canon.
3D has Yen Sid Hand Wave that the self-taught Keyblade skills of Sora and Riku are impressive, but for the purposes of the Mark of Mastery exam, they'll start fresh and prove themselves anew within the rules of the exam. This example does lead into Gameplay and Story Segregation though, since a good portion of the attacks they learn during the game are ones they had before.
The fact that they are in the Realm of Sleep (i.e. a dream) may play a factor as well.
Despite the above, every game includes minor aversions. In Chain of Memories, Sora keeps a few of his old abilities (e.g. Aerial Sweep) and his magic has taken a level in Badass. In Kingdom Hearts II he is faster and more technical from the start, retains Blitz, and immediately outstrips the previous games very early on in magic and weapon skills. It's similar in 3DS, where he has slide-dash from KH2 as part of his combo and is relatively fast and strong (though granted, never as much as in KH2), and also starts with more movement options. In all cases, Sora has never had to relearn the Guard ability (and usually the Dodge Roll too).
Big Bad: Master Xehanort is the overarching antagonist of the series, acting through various alternate incarnations. Everything wrong in the game universe can be blamed on him or his allies directly or indirectly.
Bishonen Line: Nobodies are stated to take forms closer to their original bodies as they grow more powerful, with the weakest looking like twitching white jumpsuits and the very strongest being physically indistinguishable from normal humans.
Can also apply to the Heartless as well, though only two examples exist: Xehanort's Heartless (which needed a body to remain stable, but changes the body to resemble Xehanort) and Scar (immediately after losing his heart and during the boss fight; the second visit ends with what is either the true form of Scar's Heartless or a One-Winged Angel form, the massive beastly Groundshaker).
Bittersweet Ending: The standard kind of ending to the franchise, though they usually end on a high note for the most part. Exceptions to this rule include Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, which both Downer Endings when taken on their own but resemble Bittersweet Endings when one considers what happens later on on a chronological scale, and Kingdom Hearts II, which is unambiguously a case of Earn Your Happy Ending only hampered by the fact that it isn't the final chronological adventure.
Black Cloak: Comes complete with an In the Hood function! The cloaks themselves are stated by Word of God to be protection against the Realm of Darkness' corruption, but several people who wear them (namely the Organization XIII) don't really need that due to not having hearts to corrupt.
It was said repeatedly that darkness always threatens to swallow up Nobodies because of their non-existence, so it's likely to stave it off. 3D reveals that the Nobodies do have hearts, so Xemnas kept them in uniform to protect his potential vessels.
Blessed with Suck: The Keyblades. All-powerful weapons that also look pretty dang neat, but no one we've seen who has been chosen to wield one has had a good life. Even freaking Mickey Mouse can't get away from it!
The Heartless also constantly follow Keyblade wielders no matter where they go.
Bloodless Carnage: All over the place, but special mention goes to a scene early in the first game where a horde of Shadows and Soldiers cut down a civilian and tear his heart out and eat it.
Somewhat subverted in the manga, where characters sometimes are visibly wounded, yet still bloodless.
Blondes are Evil: Larxene definitely proves this. Vexen and Luxord are also this (though technically nobodies can't be sorted as good or evil due to lacking a sense of self, emotions and ultimately a soul)
NaminÚ, Roxas (arguably), and Ventus subvert it, though.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep has Vanitas Remnant and the time-travelling young Master Xehanort. The Mirage Arena has Mimic Master and four incarnations of the Iron Imprisoner. The Final Mix re-release adds three more in the Mirage Arena - Monstro and the animated armors of Eraqus ("Armor of the Master") and Xehanort ("No Heart").
Boring, but Practical: Shadow Heartless can flatten themselves against the ground, making them invulnerable to attacks.
Boss Banter: Pretty much every single humanoid boss does this (and a few of the non-humanoid ones).
Boss Remix: A lot of themes are remixed as boss themes sooner or later, particularly character themes, and many boss themes are themselves remixed, sometimes together, to make a new boss theme. One of the most striking examples if the final boss theme of Dream Drop Distance "Eye of Darkness", which is a remix of the Dive to the Heart theme, as Riku has had to dive into Sora's heart and fight him to free him from darkness.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Demyx is described as this. Sora has shades of it at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts, when you take into account what he eventually is capable of.
Broad Strokes: The events of the original Disney films are subject to this. Some worlds feature a retelling of the plot of the source franchise with Sora tagging along, others imply the events of the source franchise occurred before Sora visited, or haven't occurred yet, and many just have an original plot. That said, the relationships of characters changes as well, and in coded and Chain of Memories when the worlds visited are composed of memories and data that aren't 100% accurate, anything could happen.
Button Mashing: A common complaint about the series, and it's not unfounded. Arguably the worst offender of the series is KH II, where upon entering A Drive Form like Valor Form or Master Form, you basically hit X until there was nothing left to attack. The series is growing out of it though due to better integration of special attacks and enemies starting to require more strategy. In Birth By Sleep for example, relying on just mashing attack to win and not properly building a balanced deck will get you crushed.
Cerebus Syndrome: The first game was a lighthearted, episodic adventure quest, and didn't really get tense until the arrival of Maleficent and Ansem. II and Chain of Memories began exploring the mysteries of the heart, soul and memories, the true value of human life, and had stronger overarcing stories, and then coded and 358/Days explored the same issues in-depth. Birth By Sleep took this trope and ran with it by introducing the most sinister villain and the highest-stakes story yet while also making the hero-villain dynamics more personal, and with 3D the series shows little sign of stopping from getting even darker.
Chainsaw Good: Sora was originally supposed to have a chainsword-like weapon (Yes, really◊) before Nomura scrapped the idea and adopted the Keyblade design. This would probably be the first time that a weapon design was ever Too Cool to Live.
Chaos Architecture: Kingdom Hearts II; Same worlds, radically different layout. Justified in the case of Hollow Bastion, as you visit the town, the mountains and the computer lab instead.
358/2 Days. Same worlds, just plain smaller (and entirely new in Neverland's case). It also partly tries to cover up Agrabah's change in appearance with a sandstorm.
Tetsuya Nomura outright states in the Ultimania for Dream Drop Distance that Traverse Town and The World That Never was are this, being anomalies with canonically changing layouts.
The Chick: Both Ariel and Mulan, the only two female guest party members in games I and II respectively, fill this role. Ariel and Sora seem to form a True Companions bond, not to mention with a little flirting in the first game. And of all the new party members you meet in II, Mulan is among the closest allies. Also Kairi plays this role in the series overall.
Tinker Bell is the only female summon in the games, being summonable in the first, and appearing alongside Peter Pan in the third.
Axel especially. At one point in Chain of Memories, he betrays a senior member of the Organization, killing him, to get into the good graces of another faction betraying the main Organization. However, he's actually The Mole, set to betray that faction under Xemnas's orders, but then he kills a member particularly loyal to Xemnas because he's secretly planning to betray Xemnas alongside Sa´x, because Xemnas is betraying the whole Organization. And then later on, during Days, he betrays that alliance when he develops friendship with Roxas and Xion, and then inadvertently betrays them, too! You need a friggin' flowchart to keep track of this dude. Lexaeus said it best:
"And then there is Axel. Who knows what that one is thinking."
The Organization's lack of discipline was lampshaded by Sora in a mocking way:
Sora: "Not a very organized Organization".
Clothes Make the Superman: Sora's drive forms in KH2 are a function of the new outfit he receives in the game, enchanted by the Good Fairies.
Collectible Card Game: Both as a gameplay mechanic in Chain of Memories and as an actual collectible card game.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The three 2008-2012 handheld games were each given a prominent color motif: Birth by Sleep is blue, Days is red, coded is yellow, and 3D is pink.
Composite Character: This happens often in the Disney worlds, usually because some of the characters are absent in their video game counterparts. These roles are usually filled by one of the original Kingdom Hearts characters. For example:
Critical Status Buff: Various abilities can boost the player's status at critical HP, like "Defender" and "Damage Control" for defense, "Berserker", "Striker", and "Grand Slam" for offense.
Cutscene Incompetence: Most of the heroes, particularly Sora. In-game the kid is a maelstrom of Keyblade-fueled Magic Knight chaos that can rip through the hordes of darkness for days on end. In cutscenes, expect to see him regularly tossed around, knocked down, taken by surprise, etc.
Cutscene Power to the Max: Near the end of Kingdom Hearts II, Sora basically turns into an overpowered action movie character. Case in point: he carves his way through entire buildings using a key. Using cuts that travel the length of said buildings. This may not count, however, depending on your definition of "cutscene".
And somehow appears on the other side of the buildings before they fall apart...
Dark Does Not Have to Be Evil: It just happens to attract a lot of bad guys, is all. Darkness, itself, is neither good or evil, and neither is light. They're just sources of power. The difference is that abusing darkness can lead to Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, and you can lose your humanity if your heart is too weak or if you go too far. Riku is the only main character (and implied to be the only character, ever) to be able to use darkness without the drawbacks, but it took him three games to master and to strengthen himself enough to do it, and it was not an easy journey. Not to mention, he still wouldn't have been able to entirely master the darkness without drawbacks had Ansem the Wise's Heart Codifier not blown up and destroyed the remains of Ansem in Riku and make him completely immune to corruption from the darkness.
However, while darkness itself is not evil, most of the protagonists associate it with such, which is easy to do since they're beings from the Realm of Light, and all of the villains use Darkness to some degree as the source of their power. Due to the mentioned risk of going too far with it, it's also seen as evil for tempting others away from light and costing them their lives. Both the heroes and villains ultimately agree that there will always be a Balance Between Light and Darkness, and the two cannot exist without the other. As Kingdom Hearts II phrases it, the heroes don't oppose darkness itself, they oppose those who abuse it for evil.
Xemnas: Denizens of light, answer this: Why do you hate the darkness?
Mickey: Aw, we don't hate it. It's just kinda... scary. But the world's made of light and darkness. You can't have one without the other, 'cause darkness is half of everything. Sorta makes ya wonder why we are scared of the dark.
Deconstruction: Chain of Memories likely unintentionally deals with a CanonRelationship Sue, while 358/2 Days likely intentionally deconstructs the Copycat Sue. The characters involved are canonically clones of some sort and are considered abominations in-universe. Their Suish traits are actually plot-relevant and tend to be the reason the villains can make use of them.
Death Is Cheap: Pretty much every single death has been, is, or will likely be undone by the end of the series.
"...there is no concept of death in the world of KH...." This seems to translate to "Nomura hasn't established an afterlife in the KH-verse" and currently has no plans to. That and the majority of characters haven't "died" as defined in the Secret Ansem Reports, so much as that they've lost their hearts or something similar.
Does not apply to Disney villains, however, whether they have a Disney Death or they actually die, such as Clayton in KH 1 or, in a shocking change from the usual Disneyfication, Lady Tremaine and the step-sisters in Birth By Sleep.
Deus ex Machina: Usually at the end of the games, most notably Mickey and Riku's sudden appearance at the Door to Darkness in I and Riku randomly finding a flying motorcycle right as Xemnas summons his dragon-shaped ship in II. But Justified in Riku's case as his appearence at the DTD in I is explained in Final Mix, but as for Mickey, thath as yet to be explained.
As the series goes on, it becomes clear that it's not random serendipity so much as it is some really frantic teamwork on the side. The flying motorcycle is a proper example, however.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Normally when one character heals another, the former shouts the latter's name. During the fight with the Guard Armor however, before they're properly introduced, Goofy shouts encouragingly to Sora "Don't give up!" instead.
In the first game, they thought of what would happen if you engaged in a bit of Sequence Breaking. If you complete Deep Jungle before Wonderland, the scene replaces Alice with Snow White. If you complete other worlds after completing Hollow Bastion, certain events with Maleficent will not play.
Disney Death: Well, Disney did help produce the game. It's even been stated by Tetsuya Nomura that there is no concept of death in the Kingdom Hearts universe, though it seems as though some of the villains from the Disney Animated Canon are exceptions to the rule.
Disney Princess: Naturally, Five of the seven Princesses of Heart, with the exceptions being Alice and Kairi.
Ariel in her original Mermaid form also appears as a guest party member. Mulan (not a princess, but often included in the franchise) too. Pocahontas, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Vanellope, and Anna have yet to appear.
As of Birth By Sleep and Coded's respective Secret endings, Aqua is very much still alive but stuck wandering the realm of darkness, Ventus is still in deep sleep, and Terra's status is unknown as his body is destroyed and part of him is still in his Armor. Also, Master Xehanort is revived and is coming back more dangerous than ever.
This is especially bad in Riku's story in Chain of Memories.
Dub Name Change: Some Heartless got little renames. "Bulk Vendor" to "Bulky Vendor". "Flare Globe" to "Fiery Globe". "Mad Dog" to "Rabid Dog". "Gate Guardian" to "Thresholder".
Conversely, very many Heartless were renamed in Days, and some renames are even inconsistent with previous renames (for example, a Heartless named "Loudness" in all Japanese games is called "Crescendo" in the English Chain of Memories but "Loudmouth" in the English Days).
Most of the Keyblades were renamed too, though not translated - aside from Oblivion (Sugisarishi Omoide - Passing Memories) and Oathkeeper (Yakusoku no Omamori - Oath's Charm), all the Keyblades had Gratuitous English names in the original. Some were minor changes ("Wish Star" to "Wishing Star", "Kingdom Chain" to "Kingdom Key", "Wishes Lamp" to "Wishing Lamp"), but some were changed more - "Power of Hero" to "Olympia", "Desire Lamp" to "Three Wishes", "Native Work" to "Jungle King".
Dummied Out: The planned Bahamut summon in the first Kingdom Hearts.
And the Jungle Book world in BBS along with several keyblades.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The manga adaptation of the first game was notable for reading left-to-right like a Western book, despite being originally in Japanese. This was dropped for all the following manga, which read right-to-left like any other Japanese book.
Earn Your Happy Ending: It takes three full games for everyone to reunite and return to their home safely. And even then, Sora's job isn't done.
Enemy Scan: It only shows an HP bar, but it's on-off and will work on any enemy, including bosses.
The Heartless are some of the cutest ones ever, but it really depends on how you play them out to be. Shadow Heartless jumping around? Freaking adorable. A Soldier Heartless ripping someone's heart out? Holy cow...
The Nobodies are worse. Even by the cosmology of the series, it's stated that their existence simply doesn't make sense. It doesn't help that most of them look and move like animated clothing or that their movements look like a video playing in reverse.
If you want a more specific and extreme example that doesn't involve heartless who are "cute eldritch abominations", World of Chaos fits this trope to a T. A gigantic organic battleship that's as fugly as all hell with a fugly demonic face and is also a living thing, with an pretty much just as fugly upgraded version of Ansem's Guardian mounted on top, along with ugly colors. If you see a little tan dot, that's Ansem.
Darkside is a much more minor example of this and is more like an ugly giant humanoid with a giant heart-shaped hole in the body and black tentacles covering/making up all of the head except for the eyes, but, like in the picture here, it's pretty unsettling.
Elemental Powers: Organization XIII. Most of them. Their individual powers are accurately "attributes", or themes to their abilities. This gets corrupted into "elements" by fans.
Some of them aren't quite what they're made out to be anyway. For example: Xemnas has "Nothing" and Luxord has "Time", but they turn out to be more like "Yin-Yang Bomb" and "Timed Mission" in practice.
Eleventh Hour Superpower: The Final Form transformation in Kingdom Hearts II. Granted, it's available for a while before the final boss, but it's hard to unlock quickly. It's really, really broken too, seeing as how it automatically attacks with every movement, including flying or drinking potions.
Gambit Pileup: Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II, 358/2 Days...And we'll soon find out if Birth By Sleep follows this trend.
It does. It also ties the ones from the other games all together into one Gambit Roulette. Thanks, Xehanort.
Gambit Roulette: Master Xehanort. He had been manipulating Terra and Ven for years to accomplish his goals. In the end, Terra, Aqua, and Ven used The Power of Friendship to stop him, but not before getting totally screwed over in the process.
And in Dream Drop Distance, we get a plan that involved all of the previous plans going off exactly as they did so that a crazily convoluted plan involving time travel and dreams to finish what every single game previous has set up can go off according to plan.
Gameplay and Story Integration: On the one hand, the developers put a lot of thought into making the gameplay reinforce the idea of teamwork and friendship. By and large, it's not too Anvilicious and almost universally regarded as fun. You also have a lot of little tidbits highlighting Sora's growth in skill.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: It is said many times that The Heartless can only be defeated with the Keyblade... yet Donald and Goofy (and whatever guest character who happens to join for the level) can mow down tons of them by themselves. 358/2 Days clarifies things: Heartless can be defeated by any weapon, but they'll just come back some time afterward. The Keyblade is the only weapon that can purify the hearts that make up the Heartless upon defeating them, vanquishing them for good.
Genre Blind: Increasingly so as the series has gone on, the heroes haven't yet clued in that listening to Xehanort is never a good idea, but they let him do in anyway instead of just summoning the Keyblade and lunging at him when he appears. 3D is particularly problematic about this, since of all people Sora and Riku should know better by now.
Glass Cannon: Sora's Anti-Form maximizes his attack, but minimizes his defense and removes any way of recovering health.
Aqua in Birth By Sleep is a master mage, mastering every element and is incredibly agile and strong. But she cannot take a hit early on in the game.
Good Is Dumb: Riku's ambition and independence radically decreases with each game until he's perfectly content to play the Mysterious Protector and wait for Sora to finish the real work. This stems from a not inconsiderable amount of shame from failing to control the darkness and being possessed by Ansem in the first game, and from the Keyblade quite pointedly rejecting him in favor of Sora.
While they don't turn good, the Organization XIII members that you control in mission/multiplayer mode in 358/2 Days are a good deal weaker than their incarnations as boss-fights in Chain of Memories and KH2. Most of them have their signature attacks reduced to only being used as their Limit Break, and some abilities (Larxene's after-images, Demyx's water-clones, Xaldin's whirlwind-spear-dragon) are missing entirely.
Grand Theft Me: Introduced at the end of the first game, the rest of the series more or less revolves around it.
Italian titles for the background tracks are not uncommon. 358/2 Days throws in some French.
In the Japanese version of 358/2 Days, Xaldin's weapons all have Chinese names. Larxene's weapons have French names in both versions.
Green Lantern Ring: OK, as of Birth by Sleep, Keyblade wielders can smack you up, cast magic, lock and unlock pretty much anything, teleport the Keyblade back to their hand, create portals to other worlds, generate armor, turn their Keyblades into spaceships, and create elaborate castles out of rubble. Are we forgetting anything?
Heroic Sacrifice: Sora in the first game and Axel in the second game. They both come back.
Hijacked by Ganon: In any given game, you can be sure that if some incarnation of Xehanort isn't behind everything, one of his subordinates is. The only game where this isn't true is coded, where the Big Bad is Sora's Heartless, but Xehanort still indirectly caused the being's creation.
HP to One: Because of the Once More and Second Chance abilities, the developers have deigned it necessary to practically require the use of them in order to survive, especially on harder difficulties and with the later/bonus bosses. Thus, rather than having bosses with HP to One-type attacks, they simply have massive attack power which will always reduce you to within an inch of your life, regardless of your defense stat. Perhaps a form of Fake Difficulty, some bosses degenerate into the pattern: attack —> get hit by one attack (hanging on with 1 HP) —> heal —> get hit by another attack —> dodge like crazy waiting for your magic to regenerate so you can heal again —> repeat.
Impossibly Cool Weapon: Keyblades. While consistently referred to as swords and variably used in many varieties of fighting styles including mediums for channeling magic, at the end of the day, Keyblades are still just giant keys. How most of them can actually cut anything is a mystery since only a small handful have any sort of cutting edge or even points on the striking side.
A variation: all games prior to KH2 were dubbed into various European languages, but all games released afterwards only had English voice tracks for their Europe-wide releases (although text was still translated). Oddly enough, Quebecnote and the rest of Canada and the US too, but they don't care as much and aren't affected by the pseudo-law mentioned here only received games up to KH2 in English, and only started having French options for the gamenote on the same cartridge as English and other European languagesat the very point where they stopped providing French audio, which just happened to coincide with a pseudo-law requiring games to be released in French in the province.
Infinityľ1 Sword: The Oblivion keychain can be gotten in-game once you pass a certain event. While it's not Ultima, it's still pretty fantastic. Its attack power is outstripped only by Ultima and Fenrir, and doesn't have the latter's downgraded magic stats.
Jigsaw Puzzle Plot / Kudzu Plot: As Mickey says in Re:coded, "I should have known there were no coincidences—only links in a much larger chain of events." Looking at the series chronologically in-universe helps one make sense of it, but the mythos of the series is so deeply entwined that you need knowledge of the plot of every game to understand it; something not everyone can afford since the series is expanded through (so far) ''SIX' different game platforms (but there are numerous remakes that mean you can disregard the mobile and Gameboy Advance titles). By this point it's pretty much impossible to follow the overarching story if you just pick a random game and dive in.
Thankfully, The upcoming Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMix collection (Which contains 1 Final Mix, CoM, and a cinematic version of 358/2 Days) and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD ReMIX (Which contains 2 Final Mix, Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and a set of cinematic videos of Coded) for PS3 aims to make following the overarching plot a little easier (not to mention a lot cheaper as well.)
As of Dream Drop Distance, on top of the Mind Screw, Mind Rape, human cloning, death and resurrection, alternate dimensions and Gambit Roulette games, we're adding time travel to the equation now.
Sephiroth appears as a Bonus Boss in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. The first one as one of the coliseum matches with no context except for one Final Mix exclusive cutscene, the latter game has him cameo during the 1000 Heartless War where he asks where Cloud is, vanishes and then taunts Cloud a little bit later.
The Absent Silhouettes in Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix are Bonus Bosses against the members of Organization XII that had "died" in Kingdom Hearts Chain Of Memories.
Xehanort (or rather Xemnas and Young Xehanort) invert the trope, as they first appeared as Bonus Bosses in Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, respectively, albeit with their identity hidden from the characters (and the audience).
Legacy Character: Many games have new characters that physically resemble established characters and often have similar personalities and abilities. This is actually almost universally significant, as it means those characters are likely connected to each other in some manner. The exception is Aqua and Kairi, whose connection (Aqua inadvertently named Kairi her successor as Master) is comparatively superficial, thus, Aqua looking like an older Kairi and happening to be friends with Legacy Characters of Sora and Riku, is just coincidence.
Kairi, Sora, Riku, Roxas, NaminÚ, Xion, Ventus, Aqua, and Terra all have their own theme tunes, although Xion's uses riffs from Kairi's, Ventus's is a combination of Roxas's and Sora's, and Aqua's and Terra's are lifted wholesale from "Fate of the Unknown" [Aqua's theme also has riffs from Castle Oblivion's world and battle themes].
Battles against Riku and/or "Ansem" in the first two games open with identical organ chords.
The vast majority of tunes related to Organization XIII use some part of "Another Side"'s melody.
Many late stages and some final boss battles use an arrangement of "Destati".
All of the Nobodies' themes seem to be the normal characters' themes (for those that have them) slightly altered.
Let's Get Dangerous: See, Demyx has all the work ethic of a bar of soap. He goes above and beyond the call of Dismotivation, running and hiding at the first sign of combat. Sa´x tries and fails to get Roxas to motivate him. But put a traitor in front of him, and you better run for your life.
Literal Split Personality: Sora's Nobody, Roxas and his replica, Xion. They're put back together in one being by the end, but Roxas and Xion still exist somewhere in Sora, somehow - but the games never really explore any possible future consequences of that might have. However, Birth by Sleep and coded shows that part of Ventus's note who, in turn, may have Vanitas's heart was absorbed into Sora, and that all of the people in Sora will likely get their own bodies back in a future game.
coded alludes to some of the issues involving clones/copies/replicas/etc. While Kingdom Hearts II put forth the idea that they should be re-absorbed with the original and don't have true identities of their own, coded seems to argue that copies who develop connections to others are deserving of their own identity.
Dream Drop Distance shows that Sora thinks they deserve to be their own people, not just a part of him. If this means anything, it's that they will be back.
Xehanort is even worse. Not counting the people he goes Grand Theft Me on, there's his Heartless Ansem, his Nobody Xemnas, and his younger self who all coexist with each other.
Even without the borrowed canon, it achieves Loads and Loads of Characters from just the original cast. A group of thirteen villains, a full cast in the prequel game and the numerous Replicas, Clones and alternate copies make a huge cast, most of which being relatively important. The main antagonist himself nearly counts as loads of characters there's so many different incarnations of him.
MacGuffin Location: The Chamber of Waking, which houses a comatose Ventus, and is located in Castle Oblivion. Somewhere. Only Aqua (the person who created the Castle) is capable of finding it again.
Made of Evil: The Heartless and their predecessors the Unversed.
Magic A Is Magic A: An underlying component, and one that may be surprising to newcomers or those merely scanning the plot, is that the series is internally consistent. Retcons exist, usually for the purpose of clarifying/simplifying the cosmology, and the first installment is often glossed over. Despite this, the myriad plot points all conform to what is an overarching storyline.
Magic Knight: All Keyblade wielders and most of Organization XIII.
Magitek: All over the place, most prominently the Gummi Ship and the Hollow Bastion/Radiant Garden laboratories. When you're talking about a physical machine that subjects someone's heart to darkness in order to shatter their heart and turn them into a Heartless, it's hard to draw the line between science and magic in this series.
Malevolent Architecture: The Land of Departure lies directly between the light and dark realms. Word of God clarifies that the castle houses a mechanism that transforms it to invoke this trope should it fall into the wrong hands, and that's how Aqua made Castle Oblivion.
Meaningful Name: Sora means sky, the "kai" in Kairi means sea, and Riku means land. Also, the Keyblade Knights in Birth by Sleep happen to be called Ven(tus), Aqua, and Terra. Hmmmmm.)
There's also NaminÚ. "Nami" is a word for "ocean wave". Remember whose Nobody she is?
The first part of Xion's name- "shio"- is the word for "tide".
"Shion" is also the name of a plant associated with memories in Japan.
Xion's name, sans the "X", is an anagram for "No i". For those who do not understand, "i" is a mathematical term for the square root of -1, an imaginary number.
This could just as easily be referring to her eventual lack of a sense of self.
To be specific, Ventus, Aqua, and Terra stand for wind, water, and earth respectively.
"There are many worlds, but they all share the same sky."
Nomura really went all out with Vanitas. Not only does it mean "emptiness" in Latin and looks like Ventus, but the kanji for emptiness is the same one as the one for sky.
And that's not all, folks. His name is connected to a Biblical quote, as well — "all is vanity" and a striving after wind. Now consider what he spent most of the game doing...
Metafiction: The series has acquired a surprising amount of meta subtext.
NaminÚ and Xion deconstruct a lot of tropes associated with the Mary Sue/Self-Insert Fic tendencies of the fandom's fanfic writers, demonstrating that they're only useful because of their Common Mary Sue Traits and their presence generally just causes a lot more complications and problems for the heroes and the story than if they had never existed, as well as the contrivances and Retcons needed to make their existences plausible.
Dream Drop Distance, without going into spoilers, makes reference to a group of 7 and a group of 13, and the arrival of the 13th member of the latter group completes the set. The series contains seven base games current — Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II, coded, 358/2 Days, Birth By Sleep, and Dream Drop Distance. Add in the Updated Rereleases of all games except Dream Drop Distance and Days, and that's an additional 5, bringing the total to 12, and the promised Kingdom Hearts III makes thirteen. If Nomura really didn't have all this planned out from Day One, he is playing some mean Xanatos Speed Chess to make it all work together.
And if you really want to read into it, the 7 and 13 form the χ-blade, formerly attempted to be formed by Ventus and Vanitas, but they didn't form a complete union. There's been two HD re-release bundles for the series that bring the first six games into HD, but they're missing 3D and thus the series is not complete just with them.
Metal Slime: White Mushrooms and Rare Truffes to some degree, Black Fungus all the way.
Mind Screw: It starts with a boy teaming up with cartoon characters to fight the forces of darkness with a giant key that may or may not be mildly sentient and a spaceship made out of gumdrops run by chipmunks. It gets weirder from there.
The second game opens up with characters that by definition do not exist including you. Even though they're very clearly beating the crap out of you. It gets weirder from there.
358/2 Dayssomehow puts the above games to shame in this regard. It gets weirder too.
Let's face it, the series started weird, dove headlong into Mind Screw territory with Chain of Memories, and hasn't let up since.
Morph Weapon: Keyblades do this in two different ways: using different keychains makes them take on different looks and abilities while retaining the same basic shape, while characters from the Birth by Sleep era can morph their signature Keyblades into...well, just check out Green Lantern Ring above. The "Gear" system in Days means this also applies to the weapons of the Organization - fittingly, their signature weapons are among their most powerful.
Museum Game: To varying degrees. For example, the first and second main games in the series not only have you visiting different Disney movies and interacting with the characters, but there's even an information gallery with details about the characters (albeit their role in Kingdom Hearts rather than their own movies specifically), including details of when the character was first created, and occasionally trivia (e.g. "Doorknob was the only character in Alice in Wonderland who wasn't in the original book").
Mushroom Man: The Mushroom Heartless family, which includes White Mushrooms, Black Fungi, Rare Truffles, and Pink Agaricuses.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The progress the Organization has made with its plans is due to the unwitting help of Sora, Roxas and to a metaphysical extent, the player himself.
Probably even worse, according to coded, is that, thanks to killing off Xehanort's Heartless and Xemnas, Sora and Riku ended up reviving Xehanort, and not long thereafter, Master Xehanort. REALLY nice job breaking it, hero!
Terra, Aqua, and Ven do this over and over again due to Xehanort manipulating them.
Non-Indicative Name: Starting with KH2, retroactive continuity establishes that the Heartless are actually hearts that have been consumed by darkness, and it's the Nobodies ("no body") who are actually the empty shell of the body left behind when a heart is thus consumed.
Non-Lethal K.O.: Party members just get dazed when defeated. After a breather (or some healing) they'll be ready for action again. This doesn't apply to Sora unless it's a battle Mickey shows up in.
Non Standard Skill Learning: The series spreads learning abilities across various methods (level up, progress the plot, defeat a boss, or complete some other challenge), but that comes across as not having one "standard" method in the first place. Though stat boosts come primarily through level-ups, so that might create an expectation that most character growth is from experience points.
Lucky Seven: The Princesses of heart are seven human incarnations of light. 3D introduces the idea of seven guardians of light.
Thirteen Is Unlucky: Organization XIII, of course. Dream Drop Distance introduces another example with Xehanort's ultimate plot: creating thirteen human incarnations of darkness, the seekers of darkness, as a direct counterpoint to the guardians of light.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In KH2, Kairi and Mickey get knocked outside the door to Kingdom Hearts as Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Riku go to fight Xemnas. But at the end of the battle, all six characters are shown facing Xemnas in fighting pose, as if they HAD been fighting. Then, Square Enix... why didn't you just find a way to have them fight in the actual gameplay battle!?
Ominous Pipe Organ: "Forze Del Male" and "Beyond the Door" from Kingdom Hearts; "Struggle Away", "The Force in You", "Revenge of Chaos", "The 13th Struggle", "Castle Oblivion", "Forgotten Challenge", "Graceful Assassin", and "Scythe of Petals" from Chain of Memories; "Tension Rising", "The Corrupted", "The 13th Dilemma", and "Darkness of the Unknown" from Kingdom Hearts II; and another boss theme from 358/2 Days.
Riku and Rikku. Rikku was actually cut from the first game out of the fear that this would cause confusion, and her name is never actually spoken aloud when she appears in Kingdom Hearts II.
Jack Sparrow and Jack Skellington. The game interface calls the pirate "Sparrow" and the skeleton "Jack" to avoid confusion.
One-Winged Angel: Most final bosses do this at least once. We're talking about Square Enix AND Disney, King and Queen of this trope. note In case you're wondering, this was the debut of trope-naming wing belonging to Sephiroth.
Only Friend: During Axel's death scene, he tells Sora that Roxas was the only one he liked, and basically his only friend.
Sora restarts each game he stars in at level one when he was one-shotting enemies and soloing bosses in the previous game. However; it's explained in Chain of Memories as being forced to forget, and at the start of Kingdom Hearts II, he was spending the past year asleep, progress being hampered by Roxas and Xion. In Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], his and Riku's reversion back to Level 1 deals with them entering the Sleeping Worlds and losing all of their abilities to learn the proper techniques for Keyblade Masters. Sora then gets his heart temporarily shattered and goes comatose for a while at the end of that game, the damage and need to recover from which explains his drop back to level one for the next game.
However, played completely straight with Donald and Goofy. When the court mage and knight-captain join Sora, they're at the level he is and only have a fraction of their abilities.
P - Z
Palette Swap: Many, many enemies in Days get this treatment.
Even some of the Keyblade designs in Days get this treatment.
The coloration of most Heartless in both Final Mixes are Palette-Swapped compared to their original games for no particular reason. The original colorations are the canon ones, though.
Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days went even further with the should-not-be aspect with Xion, her being just a puppet holding and absorbing memories of Sora.
Parental Abandonment: Kairi's grandma, Ariel's father and Simba's dad are the only parental characters given any screentime. Of those three, Mufasa is dead and Kairi's grandma hasn't been seen since Radiant Garden fell. Sora's mom gets one line from offscreen near the start of the first game. Anyone else's parents are either invisible, implied to be dead (Ienzo), or completely unmentioned.
The Password Is Always Swordfish: Played embarrassingly straight in II on several occasions. The passwords were (the first two of these were correctly guessed on the first try): "Belle, Snow White, Aurora, Alice, Jasmine, Cinderella, Kairi," "Sea-salt ice cream," and "Sora, Donald, and Goofy".
Pieces of God: In game mythology, "the light" was once whole; but was shattered; and the pieces survived in the hearts of children.
The Power of Friendship: This concept is key to the series, but it's usually done in such a well-executed manner as to still feel natural, despite being idealistic. Keyblades in particular appear to be drawn to individuals who have strong hearts, and thus, exemplify this trope.
Prolonged Prologue: The second game is notorious for this. The first game is no slouch in this department, either, though most of the stuff you can do on Destiny Islands is optional. However, the spin-off games are typically a lot better at this. Birth by Sleep's prologue is both very brief and can be skipped on subsequent playthroughs (which is helpful since there are three separate storylines to get through), and Chain of Memories barely has a prologue at all.
Recurring Riff: No matter which series installment you're playing, the title screen will always have some variation of "Dearly Beloved". Another standout is "Destati", which has been left out of only two games.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Many examples: Sora and Riku, Sora and Roxas, Axel and Sa´x, Terra and Aqua, Hayner and Roxas, the list could possibly go on.
Sora's Valor Form and Wisdom Form. The former uses exclusively physical attacks, while the latter relies on magic.
Donald would probably like to be this to Sora, but fails due to his own faults.
One example of the trope occurs with Sora during the year between Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II: while Sora is sleeping and NaminÚ is reconstructing his memories, everyone who knew him forgets that he existed until he awakens again.
Another example is Xion, after her death, which is devastating to watch after seeing the development in 358/2 Days. As of 3D, she's being remembered more, by Sora, Riku, and possibly Roxas.
The Rival: Riku is this for Sora, at least until the end of the second game.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: For the player rather than anyone in the game. Seriously, name something from a Disney film that scared the bejeezus out of you as a kid. Maleficent, Chernobog, Ursula, Oogie Boogie... odds are good that whatever you named, you're gonna get to dish out some long overdue payback on.
Also played in-universe during a scene on Hollow Bastion. After defeating Demyx, a rock falls toward King Mickey. Goofy shoves the King out of the way only to catch the rock dead on his head himself. For all appearances, Goofy is now dead. After a brief mourning scene, Mickey declares that "they'll pay for this", throwing off his cloak, revealing his Keyblade and leaping into the battle, followed by one pissed-off Donald!
Roxas goes on one after Xion dies, but is cut short by Riku.
The entire ending portion of Terra's storyline becomes this in Birth By Sleep.
Rule of Symbolism: A huge amount of Christian imagery is built up to depict Sora as Jesus and Master Xehanort as Satan, and the realm of Kingdom Hearts as Heaven.
A central part of Sora's character is that he has Chronic Hero Syndrome, always taking on the burdens of others and helping those in need. Two particularly symbolic moments are when he sacrifices himself to save Kairi and comes back to life, and when he carries a wounded Riku out of the Realm of Darkness on his back — and the part of the Realm they were in was a beach. Meanwhile Master Xehanort is The Corrupter to anyone and everyone he can, and is tied up with Fallen Angel symbolism. His Keyblade armor is bright white and silver with feathers and his Keyblade Glider is a set of wings that attached to his back, but he cast his armor and glider away when he began using the powers of darkness and felt he didn't need them anymore. As of 3D, we can add to the list of symbolisms that Xehanort tempted Sora into darkness, and Sora is saved by Riku and Mickey, who have been watching over his trials protecting him from afar.
The Kingdom Key and Kingdom Key D which seal the door to Kingdom Hearts appear as a silver key with a gold handle and a gold key with a silver handle — the Keys of Heaven. The χ-blade appears with two crossed Kingdom Keys in its design, a common depiction of the Keys, and likewise can open the door to Kingdom Hearts. Furthermore, an alternate reading of χ-blade" could be "Christ-Blade". Keyblades are variably used to seal or open the hearts of worlds, protecting them from darkness or leaving them vulnerable; when Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, God had angels with flaming swords guard the entrance to protect the Tree of Life.
You can also add in that the capital city of light that was corrupted by evil and the people forced to flee when Xehanort came, is called "Radiant Garden".
As a flip on the Jesus symbolism being applied to Sora, Organization XIII is lead by Xemnas as a Dark Messiah to Nobodies, and Roxas, the thirteenth member, betrays them. Repeated with 3D, as Sora is the intended 13th member of the True Organization. This is really driven home by how the Organization members in II constantly refer to Sora/Roxas as a traitor.
Also a lot of Taoist symbolism, that nothing can exist without its opposite to give it proper meaning, commonly seen in the yin yang symbol. Seen in the series with the balance of light and darkness and the belief that Dark Is Not Evil, its just misused, and the existences of the Nobodies and Heartless. Furthermore, the three realms of Light, Darkness and Nothingness, tie into the "third" element of yin and yang, wuji, nothingness, limitless.
Rule of Three: There are apparently three enemy types, but we only know that Nobodies are the third (Unversed and Heartless are, presumably, the first two).
There's so much more than that. Groups of people often show up in threes (Sora, Donald and Goofy, Sora, Riku and Kairi, etc. etc. - see Two Guys and a Girl below for more examples), there are three "alignments" for lack of a better term (Light, Darkness, and "Twilight"), as well as a representative of each (Sora for Light, Riku for Twilight and Mickey for Darkness), as well as another combination of Light, Darkness and "Nothing", three paths at the start (Sword, Shield or Staff), three ways of levelling up (journey begins at dawn, midday or dusk)...
Enter Bizkit047, who meets the above description and has more restrictions for several of these fights.
Want to get an idea of what it takes to be this good? Watch some of these hard Lvl. 1 CM no damage fights with restrictions: Terra and Sa´x Data.
Xigbar Data with all these restrictions is simply insane.
Do not forget his several hacked fights. One Sephiroth? Make it two. Watch this Xigbar x2 + Xaldin fight. Make sure to look at related videos and look at the other hacked fights from there (such as triple Sephiroth and quintuple Sephiroth/Terra).
In Re:Chain of Memories, Bizkit047 also takes up the no HP+ Challenge on Proud.
Meanwhile, apulapul2000 has some very good time attack videos.
358/2 Days: Everything is equipped in the panel grid, including level ups, so it's quite easy to impose a level 1 challenge on yourself, among other things.
Self-Insert Fic: Literally done with the 100 Acre Wood, in which Sora inadvertently rewrites the story by finding the pages and interacting with the residents to include himself as a prominent character. It even includes him on the cover where Christopher Robin would've been when you clear the stage and find the keyhole.
Sentient Cosmic Force: The Light; among other possibilities, this is the stuff of which worlds and people are made. It's apparently also the source and distributor of the Keyblades and Sora's initial visions. Can also impart Mysterious Monologues with the best of them.
Sequential Boss: No self-respecting final boss in this series would be caught dead without at least three forms.
It kind of sinks Axel/Roxas as well, as Axel specifically states that he considers romantic love (the kind between Belle and Beast being the topic-starter) and love between best friends to be completely separate.
Shoo Out the Clowns: In the original game, played straight with the Hollow Bastion Climax Boss, but subverted in the final battle (in which Donald and Goofy rejoin you gradually). Played straight at the end of Kingdom Hearts II, in which Sora and Riku are the only heroes at the final battle, but that's because Donald and Goofy had just left earlier after everyone thought that Xemnas was dead already.
The majority of Mook Nobodies are named after the various job classes in the Final Fantasy series, and often behave as such.
The Darkside Heartless is named after Tales from the Darkside, an anthology horror TV series. The Twilight Thorn is called Twilight Zone in Japanese, referencing another famous horror TV series.
The poses Sora does when he wins a tournament round in the first game are victory poses from Final Fantasy VII, VIII and X.
Most of the Gummi Ship names are names of various airships from the Final Fantasy games.
Part of End of the World from the first game seems to have been inspired by Nowhere.
Xigbar's title, "Freeshooter", is taken from the title of the German opera Der FreischŘtz. The eponymous marksman makes a Deal with the Devil in exchange for seven magical bullets; the first six are controlled by the marksman while the seventh is controlled by the Devil.
Sigil Spam: The Heartless emblem and the Nobody sigil both show up on pretty much anything connected to their groups.
And you can pretty much bet on the Unversed sigil getting the same treatment, as well the Dreameaters.
Curiously enough, Hayner's T-Shirt has a skull-and-crossbones designed the same way as the Heartless emblem.
Speaking of Hayner and friends, Roxas has an X necklace, the common letter in all Organization XIII names.
And also the χ-blade, being that he's related somehow to Ventus.
Significant Anagram: All of Organization XIII; each of their names is an anagram of the old selves' name with an added X. Leads to Epileptic Trees about the original names of the "other" members.
Xehanort especially. Get rid of the X and we get both "No Heart" and "Another". Nomura says both were entirely intentional.
Given what happens to Terra in Birth by Sleep, we have a third one - "No Earth".
And Ansem can be rearranged as "Names", though this one is probably unintentional, but hilarious considering the number of characters using his name.
Eraqus can also be arranged as "Square." Almost a complete reversal of the name in fact, just with the "u" being placed after the "q" to follow English vocabulary rules. This is done to make him a counterpart to Yen Sid, which is "Disney" spelt backwards.
Axel displays these in KH:ReCoM during Vexen's and Zexion's deaths, and before fighting Roxas for the last time in II.
Ansem, when he takes over Riku after he kills Lexaeus.
Vanitas and Master Xehanort display them quite often in Birth By Sleep.
Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 5 (Full Lockout). From the second game onward the games head straight into Kudzu Plot with any detail potentially Foreshadowing future games (Xigbar's cryptic lines in II being an example). Dream Drop Distance has "memoirs" thought that record the plots of the preceeding games and unlocks them when a Continuity Nod/Call Back to the respective game first occurs. Making the games a Level 4 (Arc-Based Episodic) at least (though without that game it still remains at 5).
The Soulless: Well Heartless, if you want to get technical, but the Nobodies fit this like a glove.
It's amusing in the latter's case, considering that, according to the Secret Ansem Reports in Kingdom Hearts II, Nobodies consist of the body and soul of an individual left behind after the heart leaves.
And then 3D reveals that Nobodies can actually develop hearts from their thoughts over time.
Spell My Name with an S: Never Land or Neverland? Never Land is probably right, given that it was written as "the Never Never Land" in the original play (Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up).
Spiritual Successor: The World of Mana series was succeeded by Kingdom Hearts, more or less. And now it looks like Disney Fantasy Online will be a spiritual successor to Kingdom Hearts, as it's essentially Kingdom Hearts online with the Square Enix properties filed off but with the Nomura art style and core concepts retained.
Squishy Wizard: Donald, in spades. Aqua can be a bit like this as well.
Stars Are Souls: Kingdom Hearts is a bit iffy on this one. Usually, the stars in the KH universe represent worlds as a whole and they disappear from the night sky when that particular world is submerged in darkness. Then, in Kingdom Hearts II, we have the Pride Lands as a world, which reaffirms the plot point that the old rulers of Pride Rock become stars in the sky upon death. This is also shown in Birth by Sleep, when, after Master Xehanort strikes down Master Eraqus in front of a horrified Terra, Yen Sid notes, "Eraqus's star has blinked out." The contradictions can just be chalked up to the world running on the Theory of Narrative Causality.
Still Wearing The Old Colors: Neither Roxas nor Xion ditch their Organization XIII cloaks after they quit the organization. It's unlikely that Roxas had time to buy anything else to wear and Xion probably was wearing it to protect her heart from darkness, like Riku does.
Final Form is all of the above and cranks it Up to Eleven. Power Glows and Power Floats (and Dual Wields floating Keyblades). It can glide and high jump. Almost every action prompts rapid attacks from the Keyblades (including jumping, landing, and drinking a potion). Every physical and magical attack is a Spam Attack, to say nothing of the finisher versions. The only thing it lacks is Master Form's unlimited casting ability, but that's not much of a loss.
Subverted with Anti-Form, which raises attack to maximum, but lowers defense to minimum. If you're good at evasion, this can destroy most enemies and even bosses pretty quickly, but you will drop after taking a few hits which makes this a double-edged sword.
Surprise Creepy: Especially if all you saw before playing was the Disney element or hadn't actually watched some of the Disney films featured (did you think Pinnocchio portrayed being swallowed by a whale nicely?)
Taken A Level In Badass: Mickey Mouse, in his cartoons sometimes goofy, overly polite but assertive. Now kicks all kind of ass in a Badass Trenchcoat to boot, and sometimes in KHII if Sora is losing in a boss fight, Mickey fights in his place, and is much more overpowered.
And Vanitas takes the same pose in the opening for Birth by Sleep, facing Ventus.
Axel does it in Chain of Memories to Sora, but he doesn't accept it. Seeing what we learn of Axel later, that was definitely the right choice to make.
Axel also does this to Kairi in Kingdom Hearts II when he offers to take her to Sora, but she also doesn't accept. So naturally, kidnapping comes next.
Take Up My Sword: The way someone claims a Keyblade is by performing The Rite of Succession with a Keyblade Master. A Keyblade still has to choose them, though.
Teens Are Short: Sora, Riku, Kairi, Roxas, NaminÚ, etc. are all shorter than almost all of the adults in the game. "Shorter than some" would be understandable, as would "slightly shorter than most", but there is a significant height gap most of the way through, at least for the males. Although Riku does hit a growth spurt after Chain of Memories and becomes "adult height" for Kingdom Hearts II.
Sora's growth spurt was nothing to scoff at either. The pants that reached his ankles in the original didn't even pass his knees in the sequel.
Not really a teen, but seeing Goofy next to some of these other characters makes you realize that he's not so tall as much as all of his friends are just short.
Gets really weird in 3D when you see them interact with the cast of TRON: Legacy (which are portrayed are as real, detailed, and unsettling humans) and see them tower over Sora and Riku.
Terrible Artist: NaminÚ. Which may be forgivable as she is working in crayon then. In pencil, of course, she's completely amazing.
Theme Naming: The three major protagonists are named after the sky (Sora), land (Riku), and sea (Kairi).
Their counterparts from Birth By Sleep match, being named after the wind (Ventus), earth (Terra), and water (Aqua).
Kairi and the two Nobodies born from her from her have a theme of a Japanese word related to the ocean with an extra mora at the end: Kairi (kai/ocean+ri), NaminÚ (nami/wave+nÚ), and Xion (shio/tide+n).
All the names of the Organization XIII members are anagrams of the names they had before they became Nobodies with an "x" added in.
Theme Song Reveal: The series runs this trope as far as it can take it. Many themes are remixed and incorporated into other themes, and analysis of such can provide a glimpse into connections between characters when one of their themes incorporates snippets from the other's.
There Are No Therapists: Especially for Ventus, Aqua and Terra in Birth By Sleep.Aqua winds up having to put down both Terra and Ventus, Terra loses his body and kills his master, and Ventus finds out he has to sacrifice himself. Though some of Organization XIII could also use them.
In Birth By Sleep, if Ven had told Terra and Aqua about Vanitas' warning, if Terra had told them about Master Xehanort's side teachings, basically if all three had just talked before things got out of hand Terra may still have his body, Ven wouldn't be in a coma after destroying his heart to defeat Vanitas, Aqua wouldn't be trapped in the Realm of Darkness, Eraqus may still be alive, and Xehanort's plans would have been either halted or siderailed.
Deconstructed and intended for the Nobodies of Organization XIII. By denying their emotions since they had no hearts, none of them progressed, and as revealed in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], none of them could regain their hearts due to keeping those feelings locked up. Best part? This was Xehanort's plan from the start, so he could have vessels to put his heart in and create his Thirteen Seekers of Darkness.
Took a Level in Badass: Mickey is shown to have been clumsy at wielding a Keyblade when training under Yen Sid in Birth by Sleep. In the present day, he's the most skilled Keyblade wielder of all.
Roxas gains a level in badass when he absorbs Xion, gaining his signature power to dual-wield two Keyblades.
Sora in Kingdom Hearts II not only gets Roxas's dual-wielding, but later on takes his own level in badass when he gets the power to use Drive Forms.
Drive Forms nothing, play through Kingdom Hearts and then through Kingdom Hearts II. Sora's skill with the Keyblade drastically increases, and his techniques, combos and agility are leaps beyond what he was able to do in Kingdom Hearts.
Tournament Fighting with Hades: Most bizarre in the original, where the Hades Cup is harmless. (Well, as harmless as a 50-round chain battle featuring lots of tough Heartless and a battle with Hades himself can be, anyway.)
Trilogy Creep: By the time the prophesized "Kingdom Hearts III" comes out, there will be an impressive eight preceding games sans remakes, four of which (coded, 358/2 Days, Birth by Sleep, 3D) have been released between II and III.
Two Guys and a Girl: Sora, Riku, Kairi; Terra, Ven, Aqua; Hayner, Pence, Olette (if you don't count Roxas); Roxas, Axel, Xion. Not to mention the evil, non-friendship version with Marluxia, Axel, and Larxene in "Chain of Memories". This series loves this trope.
Pretty much spelled out when Sora meets Terra, one of the previous Keybearers. The latter flips out upon seeing the Keyblade in the hands of someone other than the one he chose. Cue Bonus Boss.
In contrast to Sora, both Riku and Kairi actually areThe Chosen One, selected by Terra and Aqua, respectively (Although in Kairi's case, it was accidental, and in Riku's case, as mentioned above, he lost his chosen right and had to work hard to eventually transform his sword into a Keyblade instead.)
In regards to Sora being Unchosen, this isn't entirely true. He wasn't chosen by any of the Keyblade wielders; however, he was chosen by the Keyblade itself.
Updated Re-release: The Re: and Final Mix editions of each game as they come. Kingdom Hearts I, Kingdom Hearts II, and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep all have Final Mix editions that include additional bosses, areas, weapons, minigames, cutscenes, powers, and items, but, until Kingdom Hearts 1.5: HD Remix was announced with the original game's Final Mix included, none of these were available outside of Japan, despite having some international voices. The Re: editions (of coded and Chain of Memories) have been available internationally, however, albeit in some changed format and minor changes to story elements in the process.
Unscaled Merfolk: While in Atlantica, Sora is half dolphin, Donald is half octopus, and Goofy is mostly turtle (only his head is still clearly him).
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: You'd think someone like Jack Sparrow would say something when faced with an anthropomorphic duck. (Then again, considering this is Jack Sparrow's mind...) In fact, someone would probably comment on there being several people looking like they just stepped out of a cartoon in a place that clearly doesn't have that kind of stuff.
Likewise, in the Mulan level, the Captain doesn't seem to notice that the three most powerful of the new recruits don't look Chinese, don't have Chinese names, and aren't wearing Chinese soldier armor.
Or that one isn't wearing pants... and is a walking duck.
The Usual Adversaries: While they are also obviously The Heartless, the Heartless and Nobodies are also this. Birth by Sleep brings the Unversed, and Dream Drop Distance introduces the Dream Eaters.
However, Rikku did make it into Kingdom Hearts II, though her name is never actually said in a voiced cutscene.
Villain-Based Franchise: Master Xehanort (or one component of him) managed to cause every single problem in the series in some manner.
Nomura recently has basically stated that Kingdom Hearts I through III and the associated spinoffs will comprise the "Xehanort saga" of Kingdom Hearts. Yeah, all these games are just part of one villain-based saga.
Villain Teleportation: Maleficent, Riku, Master Xehanort, Vanitas, Organization XIII Members and other Disney Villans.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Xehanort believes himself to be this. Sure he's screwing over Eraqus and his pupils, but he's doing it to bring about cosmic balance. It's just that his idea of cosmic balance requires causing a war between Keyblade masters that will destroy the universe.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The Nobodies. Sora in particular sticks to his "You don't exist, you don't feel anything" mantra right until the end, even after one of them pulls a Heroic Sacrifice for his sake yet comes back to life as a human, because of it... One might think he was speaking directly to Disney's censors. Meanwhile other, non-Nobody villains succumb to The Heartless, a Karmic Death, get One-Winged Angel enough to get covered by this trope or survive for a while.
To Sora's credit, once he actually gets some room to just process everything that went down in Kingdom Hearts II, he is the first to avert this trope and he isn't shy about calling himself and others out for their bullshit.
To a further extent, Nobodies unlucky enough to not have a human appearance are treated less than the ones that do. Just imagine a Dusk in place of Roxas or Namine or any member of Organization XIII.
White Hair, Black Heart: Several—though two or three, depending how you count, are kinda the same person—and a couple subversions too.
White Void Room: Most of the rooms in Castle Oblivion. Most notably NaminÚ's.
Also NaminÚ's room in the Old Mansion in Kingdom Hearts II, and also the Pod Room where Sora sleeps. Also, while not technically a room, the Realm of Nothingness where the final battle against the really, REALLY final form of Xemnas is fought.
The Chambers of Waking and Repose, in Castle Oblivion and Radiant Garden, respectively.
Xehanort Gambit: As of Dream Drop Distance we have this predicament: Either The Keyblade wielders face Xehanort and forge the χ-blade in the process starting a new Keyblade War, or he attacks and takes the Princesses of Heart by force and creates it anyway.
Yoko Shimomura: Has composed for every game in the series, although she had help from Takeharu Ishimoto and Tsuyoshi Sekito on Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance.