The Kingdom Hearts series is heavily influenced by the Final Fantasy games from which it was born. After all, players meet various characters from the Final Fantasy series as they traverse the multitude of worlds that populate the universe of Kingdom Hearts. The first two mainline entries wore those influences on their overly-zippered sleeves, with Cloud and Squall joining Sora in a climactic battle against the Heartless in Kingdom Hearts 2. Later titles moved away from Final Fantasy somewhat in what seemed to be an attempt to set Kingdom Hearts apart as its own franchise, but revelations from the ReMind DLC for Kingdom Hearts 3 seem to point toward a coming resurgence of Final Fantasy influences.
Kingdom Hearts is nearly twenty years old now as a franchise, and thus has had a lot of time to set itself apart from its Final Fantasy predecessors. The last mainline title, Kingdom Hearts 3, originally featured no Final Fantasy characters at all. Some long-time fans were initially put off by this, but in its story-expanding ReMind DLC, the game reintroduced some of the characters that had been mainstays in Kindgom Hearts like Squall and Yuffie. Interesting developments through the DLC might also indicate that Yozora, originally portrayed as just an in-universe video game character, may become a vehicle for bringing in elements from Final Fantasy 13 and Versus 13.
In the original chunk of Kingdom Hearts 3, Yozora is seen inside of a trailer for a video game being watched by some of the Toy Story characters. At first glance, this seemed to be a sort of cheeky reference to Final Fantasy Versus 13 and its impact on modern Square Enix games like KH3 and the upcoming Final Fantasy 16. The trailer showed three characters that seemed like reflections of Sora, Riku, and Kairi engaging in futuristic battles in a world reminiscent of sci-fi style Final Fantasy games. Main character Yozora bore an unmistakable likeness to the early concepts for Noctis in Versus 13 before the project evolved into FF15.
Questions about Yozora’s inclusion as more than just a reference sprung up after players discovered the secret ending to KH3 that shows Sora and Riku waking up in what seems to be the real-life Shibuya district of Tokyo. This immediately started up theories about where the next Kingdom Hearts would be headed and if it may be looking to separate itself somewhat from Disney as much as Final Fantasy. As the two protagonists are wandering through the dreamy cutscene, the camera pans to show that they are being watched from afar by Yozora. Theories about whether this meant that they had been transported into the game world or whether Yozora was real have spread since that secret ending.
Midway through last year the story DLC ReMind was released to expand on the ending of Kingdom Hearts 3. The expansion added some features that fans had been hoping for in the original like the ability to play as other characters like Roxas and Aqua, if briefly, and ended on a scene that threw many fans for a loop. In somewhat of an Easter egg for Versus 13, ReMind concluded with a battle against Yozora. The battle leads to two different endings based on whether or not players are victorious. Both endings include a direct reference to Versus 13 and its original trailer, but when players lose in the struggle against Yozora, they watch as Sora is turned into a crystal statue. Yozora vows to “save” Sora after this event and seems like a somewhat subtle to Final Fantasy 13 proper.
Being turned into crystal after one of the most intense battles in Kingdom Hearts seems to be a direct reference to Final Fantasy 13. Versus 13 was originally planned as a spin-off title within the same universe, but since not much about the game’s original trajectory was known, it’s not known for sure but seems likely that some elements would have been congruent between the two. In the world of Gran Pulse and the floating biodome of Cocoon, the backdrop of Final Fantasy 13, powerful beings known as fal’Cie create servants out of normal humans by cursing them as l’Cie. The humans are granted powerful magic abilities but are assigned a Focus, a specific mission in service to the fal’Cie. If the l’Cie fail to fulfill their Focus, they are transformed into crystalline statues of themselves.
Kingdom Hearts has similarities to Versus 13 and Final Fantasy 13 in a number of ways, aside from having famously convoluted storylines, but it seems like Square Enix is looking to tie some themes together between the three. Sora being transformed into a crystal statue seems to be a reference to the l’Cie in FF13 and could mean a myriad of things when considering the future of Kingdom Hearts. It seems unlikely that Sora will be revealed to be a l’Cie in a direct sense, but it’s possible that some similar relationship had been established between him and either the Darkness or the Keyblade. Sora doesn’t discover his magical abilities until his original encounter with the Darkness and the Keyblade, so it’s possible that the idea of a Focus could be adapted to fit the Kingdom Hearts narrative.
That seems could easily be a stretch, though, as longtime players have seen the aftermath of Sora losing a battle a number of times. While it’s just the game over screen, seeing Sora floating in the dark with his heart floating above him implies that the failure for Sora is often becoming a Heartless. FF13 and Versus 13’s impact on Kingdom Hearts, however, is plain, and it seems like more of those themes are likely to find their way into the next Kingdom Hearts mainline game. Whether the protagonists are now under the rules of a new world or pressed by a new threat remains to be seen.
Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts are two franchises that inspire a lot of fan theory and speculation. After the events of ReMind, it seems likely that Square Enix is looking to meld elements of FF13 and Versus 13 into Kingdom Hearts. Having such direct references to the two titles are made even more interesting by the ending (good and bad) of ReMind that sees Yozora and Sora speaking the first words of the Kingdom Hearts series in unison. It’s even possible to imagine a Kingdom Hearts 4 where Sora isn’t the main character, or that a spin-off to revive Versus 13 but in parallel to Kingdom Hearts is happening. But with likely years to come before the next mainline Kingdom Hearts, eager fans are left with little but their theories at this point.
Kingdom Hearts 3 ReMind is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.