Updated: May 8, 2021
I received my first Playstation gaming system when I was about 12 years old. It was a PS2. This new console brought new worlds to me. One of my favorite games that was released around that time was called Kingdom Hearts, a magical game that put two of my favorite things together: Disney and Final Fantasy. It might just be a game, but it has changed my life and my view of friendship forever.
Kingdom Hearts is a beautiful game with captivating music and gorgeous graphics ahead of its time, but it’s really the story that sets it apart. Sora, Kairi, and Riku are your main characters on Destiny Island when the game begins and you find them working together to build a raft to “explore” (pun intended) other worlds together. After “the Darkness” comes to the island, the trio is separated and scattered to the winds. Sora is then appointed the daunting task of saving worlds with the help of his new friends,
Goofy and Donald — but throughout the journey, Sora’s Sora discovers the real mission is friendship. He is determined to find Kairi and sticks by Riku’s side even when he is being super evil. Their experiences include the end of worlds, memory wipes, lost hearts, and time. In this first game and throughout the sequels, they remain loyal to each other through all kinds of obstacles, against all odds. It is clear that at the end of the day, their friendship carries these heroes through their battles.
Although Sora is the main hero, I always related pretty strongly to Riku, a bad-ass kid with a bit of an attitude and a savior complex. He and Sora are friends as well as rivals because Riku harbors some jealousy toward Sora who is liked by everyone due to his annoying abundance of optimism. Riku also wants to help find and save Kairi but thinks he has to do it alone and can only do so if he’s powerful enough. He is manipulated by Maleficent, who pretends to be his friend and confidante but is really an agent of Darkness with her own agenda. Riku’s heart becomes corrupted and he is sucked into “the Darkness”. Instead of harnessing power, his heart is swallowed up and he loses himself. It is his friends, Sora and Kairi, who save him from “the Darkness” and from himself.
After the first game, even though Sora saves him, Riku feels unworthy and unredeemable. He racks himself with guilt over his actions and for being duped by Maleficent. Later, in one of the sequels, he is willing to sacrifice everything to protect Sora when he is at his weakest. Riku overcomes his darkness. This reminds me that even though I am unable to undo the trauma that has happened in my own life, I can use it to sympathize and connect with others in a greater way than before. Riku’s story proves that no matter how far you fall, you are redeemable. That is a message that can inspire anyone and is the sort of lesson that makes a girl who’s sitting in her bedroom, razor blade in hand, think twice about what she is about to do when she feels she is not worthy or good enough.
Riku’s story proves that no matter how far you fall, you are redeemable.
Sora also does questionable things, makes a lot of mistakes, but he really, truly wants to do good for his friends - because he loves them. True friendship is hard and messy. It requires work, sacrifice, and forgiveness when we have been hurt or have hurt others. We can act or speak from the best of intentions and it can bring the worst results. There are times we will fail one another and it is painful, even heartbreaking. To quote one of the main villains, Xemnas, “a heart is just pain,” to which Sora responds “pain is being human.” Xemnas then comments that it “must take incredible strength.” And it does. The heart of friendship is strength. The strength to be vulnerable, to not be defined by your past, to overcome the darkness, and most importantly, to not do it alone.
The heart of friendship is strength. The strength to be vulnerable, to not be defined by your past, to overcome the darkness, and most importantly, to not do it alone.
After failing to be a good friend or breaking ties with a friend who was not good for me, it is easier for me to want to follow Riku’s path. Trust no one again. Rely on your own strength. Do it alone. There are times in my life where I, like Riku, also feel like I’m drowning in the darkness, but I remind myself of the people who love and fight for me. I hold on to those who are close to my heart who help to carry me through. The friends who never give up on me and continue to show up for me, even if I make a mistake.
I hold on to those who are close to my heart who help to carry me through. The friends who never give up on me and continue to show up for me, even if I make a mistake.
Kingdom Hearts is more than a video game about a kid with spiky hair traveling to various Disney worlds. It is a story about hope, friendship, and identity. It has helped me find love, provided comfort in loss, and acted as a guiding light of consistent positivity in a world that’s increasingly dark and disappointing.
“Although my heart may be weak, it’s not alone. It’s grown with each new experience. And it’s found a home with all the friends I’ve made. I’ve become a part of their hearts, just as they’ve become a part of mine. And if they think of me now and then, if they don’t forget me, then our hearts will be one. I don’t need a weapon. My friends are my power!” — Sora
Friendship Awaits, Amber