Another light novel adaptation in the increasingly convoluted Kingdom Hearts series! It will always amuse me that there are technically 3 main games in this series, but if that’s all you played / read then you will be very confused as all of the offshoots are relevant to the plot. This is a novelisation of a game that first appeared on the Nintendo 3DS – which is the entire reason for the name – and which has subsequently appeared on PS4 and Xbox.
Story-wise this is an immediate sequel to Kingdom Hearts 2 and features our main protagonists Sora and Riku being given a task in order to achieve their “Mark of Mastery” and become Keyblade Masters. The Master who gives them this task is Yen-sid (the Sorcerer from Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia) and he feels this is needed to combat Xehanort (the big bad) and help the warriors of light recover the lost apprentices Terra, Aqua, and Ventus (from Birth By Sleep). They must visit and awaken 7 sleeping worlds and in so doing gain what’s called “The Power of Waking”.
Sora is hesitant to take the test but when Riku says he’d like to because he still feels unworthy (having been possessed by Darkness – literally…) Sora jumps in to agree and support him. But immediately things go wrong and Sora and Riku appear in different versions of the same worlds, knowing they are both fighting for the same goal, but never actually connected in the same place. As the story progresses we encounter a young man in a cloak of darkness who seems to know who they are and be manipulating events, we also encounter old enemies believed to be dead (In particular Riku’s nemesis Ansem, and Roxas/Sora’s Xemnas). Also, because this is a Tetsuya Nomura property we take a sideways move and encounter characters from a completely separate video game series he created – The World Ends With You. (TWEWY)
This is probably my favourite Kingdom Hearts game with it’s themes of dreams in dreams, introducing time-travel and the “real world” to the series. Also it focuses strongly on the relationship between Riku and Sora and in particular the lengths Riku will go to in order to save Sora. So the novel was a must read for me to see deeper into motivations and thoughts of characters as this is probably the most personal game in the series with a tight focus on the two leads. As such this was worth it with the novel split in two – first focusing on Sora, then Riku. You had good insight into Sora’s increasingly feelings of inadequacy and his lack of self-worth and then see Riku’s inner resolve and increasing ability to accept himself and also channel his own inner darkness for good. In particular The Hunchback of Notre Dame world has some interesting conversation with Esmeralda and Riku which seems like her acknowledging Riku is dealing with stuff he can’t express right now (basically comes across as her saying it’s OK for him to be gay and not be ready to say that…). Riku also gets the chance to make a big dramatic speech about Sora being his light in the darkness, it’s just a shame Sora is buried deep in a dream when he says that!
It doesn’t add a huge amount to the game but the look inside character’s heads at their motivations and thoughts is worth it. And this is an important part of canon as in a post Kingdom Hearts 3 world it would seem dreams, TWEWY, Shibuya, and Final Fantasy are potentially going to come crashing together and that could be confusing if you didn’t see it coming from this novel onwards