From Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories onward, Organization XIII members have been a major part of Sora, Riku, and the rest’s lives. We’ve seen them as minor annoyances, major antagonists, and even as allies in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. With Kingdom Hearts III, we have an even greater opportunity. While characters were introduced and developed in past titles, we see some people really get even more time to come into their own here in this installment. Some are taking on new roles that force us to change how we think of them. Others seem to be up to the same old tricks. In either situation, it gives us an opportunity to see more of who they are, enjoy the people they have grown into over the years, and appreciate the future ahead of them in the game.
Editor’s note: While there will be spoilers for some of the Organization XIII Kingdom Hearts III appearances here, major character twists, the ending, the epilogue, and the secret ending will not be spoiled.
Kingdom Hearts III kicks things off in a rather brilliant way. Within the first two hours, we see opposite ends of the Organization XIII spectrum. Everything kicks off with Xigbar, the Rank II member who appears in Thebes to goad Sora. When things left off in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, he revealed he was firmly on Xehanort’s site and dedicated to the cause of collective vessels, something he is still obviously up to now. But, true to his personality, he’s rather arrogant, confident, and not exactly forthcoming. Rather, meeting him is setting up things to come.
Sora almost immediately is reintroduced to another former member, Ienzo, offering players new and old a chance to see how different Organization XIII members can be. But while Xigbar’s foreshadowing feels forboding, Ienzo is far more positive. The recompleted Nobody of Zexion is working alongside another past opponent, Aeleus/Lexaeus, for the good of the cause. He offers insight into proper Gummiphone usage, helps with getting into the computer in Twilight Town, and provides all sorts of technological support and research. It is quite a contrast from the child and man we saw in past games. In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, he was a quiet child that was smart, but also seemed quiet and maybe even a bit hesitant. As Zexion, he was critical, emotionless, and logical. But the Ienzo here is warm and friendly. He freely shares knowledge, rather than lording it over anyone. He even smiles. (This is actually a big deal.)
Kingdom Hearts III shows players over and over again the contrast between members and how much of a threat they could serve or help they could be. We see how much they have changed and how their loyalties might lie after being exposed to Xehanort and Sora over the years. Consider some of the characters who, as we go through this installment, are introduced as being a part of Xehanort’s court. Demyx provides some much needed comic relief. He’s the often benched member, with people joking about how valid he is (or isn’t) and him downplaying whatever possible abilities he might have. Seeing him around Larxene, who is as assertive as ever, leads to some enjoyable quips. Watching him paired up with Vexen is just as fun, considering the seriousness of the other member and the frustration he likely encounters by working with someone with a different personality.
Seeing the progress Lea makes is even more striking. He has been on this journey since Kingdom Hearts II. He was the one Organization XIII member who seemed to genuinely care about other people and behave as though he had a heart. He was the one to break through and commit himself to the cause, helping Sora and protecting the people who matter. In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, we saw real progress made in his hero’s journey, due to him actually summoning a keyblade. During his training sessions with Kairi, we see him really develop his reasons to fight as memories from games like Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and 358/2 Days and further his dedication to reunite with the people he has lost. While other people who were connected to the group join Sora’s side and fight for the light, Lea is the only one to actually take up a weapon and join them as a warrior, and his evolution helps us really appreciate how strong a heart can be.
All of these people, originally introduced as foes, receive so much more attention and progression in Kingdom Hearts III. As the final conflict draws to a close, it is fascinating to see which sides they choose and how they react to Xehanort, Sora, and each other after all these years. The eventual payoff for each one at the end is also quite satisfying, since it finally offers some resolutions for people who have tended to appear and disappear throughout the installments and years.
Kingdom Hearts III is available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.