Honoring Kingdom Hearts’ Aqua in 2.8 HD

Kingdom Hearts is a series that’s been meandering for the last few years. We’ve seen a lot of running in place, rather than actual movement forward. When it comes to Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD Final Chapter Prologue, we’re getting a rare bit of progression. While the meat of this meal is an HD port of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, there’s something more substantial here too. A Fragmentary Passage will finally advance Aqua’s story.

For people who’ve been avoiding unnumbered Kingdom Hearts installments, Aqua might be a bit of a mystery. This heroine made her debut in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, a PlayStation Portable prequel to the original PlayStation 2 game. In it, she is one of Keyblade Master Eraqus’ three pupils. At the game’s outset, the trio take the Mark of Mastery exam that would allow them to become Keyblade Masters. She is the only one to pass, and her actions throughout the game show exactly why she deserved such a rank.

Throughout Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Aqua displays the sort of consistent heroic qualities and actions that sometimes even Sora, the series star, and Riku, one of the only other current Keyblade Masters in the series, don’t. Before the exam takes place, she shows consideration for her two “classmates” by making them good luck charms. Immediately after, Eraqus tasks her with keeping an eye on Terra and Ventus, bringing them home if necessary. She’s the one who put a charm on a younger Kairi’s necklace, to ensure she’d be brought to someone who’d protect her, Sora at the Destiny Islands, if she were in danger. She aids people in multiple worlds throughout her adventures. She even has an eye for talent, seeing Sora’s potential as a future Keyblade wielder.

Aqua also displays the sort of battle prowess we’ve only seen from characters like Sora and Riku so far. Throughout the course of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, we see her duel and win against Vanitas, Ventus’ other half, multiple times, Braig, Ventus and Terra-Xehanort. In fact, when fighting Braig and Ventus, she even destroys the fabled χ-blade Xehanort attempted to create.

But, her most heroic actions are the ones she’s performed for the sake of Ventus and Terra, her friends. After that fateful battle with Braig and Ventus, Ventus loses his heart. She takes the unconscious boy, brings him to the Land of Departure, places his body to rest, then uses her powers to turn it into Castle Oblivion to protect him. She does as Eraqus requested years ago and brings him home.

With Terra, she fulfills another promise. Due to the aftermath of her battle with Terra-Xehanort, he goes plummeting into the Realm of Darkness. Aqua doesn’t thing. She dives in after him. Sacrificing her all, her armor and Keyblade, she uses it to save him and do the other thing Eraqus asked; she brings Terra back when his heart is too close to the darkness. Even though it means she has remained trapped in the Realm of Darkness in every game since.

And now, with Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD Final Chapter Prologue, she moves forward. Aqua, one of Kingdom Hearts’ greatest heroes, has remained stagnant for years. While she’s wandered in this realm, encountering Ansem the Wise and finding the Castle of Dreams, we’ve never seen an opportunity for her to display her warrior spirit and fight back. In A Fragmentary Passage, we will. Previous games have already shown her finding this lost world, Cinderella’s world, in the darkness. She’ll go through a fragmented version of this world, giving us our first peek at a Kingdom Hearts world that had been entirely devoured by the darkness.

With Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD Final Chapter Prologue, we’re being given an opportunity to enjoy a learning experience. One of the best characters in the series will return and show the skills that made her one of the series’ few Keyblade Masters. People who haven’t met her will have a chance to see what makes her so special; those who know her will see exactly what this woman is capable even when trapped in the series’ most dangerous locale. Aqua is an extraordinary character who has always deserved more attention, and in January, she’ll hopefully be properly honored.

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