Could Roxas Have Been More Involved as a Kingdom Hearts Character?

Roxas is a Fan-Favourite KH Character - But, was he just more Sora-filler?

Roxas – The True ‘Nobody’ of Kingdom Hearts?

Do you remember the first time you saw Roxas? After god knows how many hours of investment into the game and unlocking its secrets, you sat there triumphant and sure that you would eventually get over the cliff-hanger ending of Kingdom Hearts, until “Another Side, Another Story” began to play.

Watching this mysterious blonde-haired kid in a black coat walk down a dark street in the rain, duel with a blindfolded Riku on a skyscraper, and take out a huge horde of humanoid Heartless–that was guaranteed to keep you hooked. But when he drew out two Keyblades, you knew you’d be stuck to the computer screen waiting for every scrap of news for Kingdom Hearts 2, hating Nomura for his clever marketing schemes.

The secret ending of the first Kingdom Hearts, "Another Side, Another Story" and "Deep Dive" kept the fandom alive through the 5 year dark period before Kingdom Hearts 2.

Yeah, love him or hate him, Roxas holds a special place in the Kingdom Hearts fandom, and not just for his entrance into the series (“Deep Dive” still remains one of my favorite videos to randomly watch to this day). He’s the main reason two of the Kingdom Hearts spin-offs came into being, he influenced several character designs, fueled plot developments, and may very well have been the central reason behind Nomura’s idea of Nobodies (did the egg or the chicken come first here?).

Putting that aside, Roxas was the first real tragedy of the series. His story (ideally) tugged at our heartstrings. So why is it that, despite all this, I find that something’s missing from the character? Why is it that he ultimately feels irrelevant within the story?

Is Roxas Irrelevant?

I want you to think hard about what Roxas contributes to the series. Not the elements of story, like mood, atmosphere, inspiration, and all that good stuff either, but simply what he actually contributes to the story–What does he do that’s important in the long run? What role does he play in stopping Xehanort (or his Nobody, Xemnas)? Keep in mind, while doing so, that when Kingdom Hearts 2 was being designed, there was no solid assurance that there would be a Kingdom Hearts 3 (and the subsequent four spin-off games in-between). What did you come up with?

It took me five years (give or take) to realize the whole point of Roxas in the grand scheme of things. Call me slow–maybe you’d be right–but when it’s a blink and miss moment and you’re too busy taking everything else in, I feel a little justified for being skeptical. I mean, consider his story, as it really goes:

The World That Never Was. Was Roxas only necessary to make a heart-shaped moon?

Roxas “wakes up,” he’s found by Xemnas and recruited into Organization XIII, and then he spends all his time as a Nobody killing Heartless and collecting hearts to form Kingdom Hearts. During the period where he’s with the Organization, he makes friends with Axel and Xion. But eventually that friendship ends when he finds out what Xion’s true purpose is and he realizes that Axel is controlled by his obligations to the Organization. He leaves the Organization for this reason, and then returns to end Xemnas’s schemes because of the atrocities he had committed against him and Xion. The epic battle he has with Riku cuts that plan short, when Riku defeats him and (with DiZ’s help) uploads him into a digital world so he can ultimately merge with Sora again. While in the data world, Roxas has no memory of his life as a Nobody, until all his memories come back to him (modified due to Xion’s terms of existence) just before he is merged into Sora again, who then goes on to do the happy dance and to have several more adventures.

Did you catch the point to all this? If you didn’t, welcome to my boat. Like I said, it’s blink and miss, so subtle it’s hard to catch–harder still if you’ve never played 358/2 Days (and I didn’t). The whole reason the character’s existence is justified in terms of plot is this:

When you go to the World That Never Was for the first time with Sora and see that big floating moon that’s Kingdom Hearts, and you’re just about to ask how Sora has managed to create that, in such a short space of time (I don’t care how much grinding you did, you did not kill enough Heartless to form Kingdom Hearts), Nomura points with a nice big smile at Roxas and reminds you he’s been at it for about a year.

I love you Nomura, I really do, but [censored for good taste].

Okay, so it also allows for Ansem the Wise to put that special data into Sora, but, well, read how that circle probably worked out.

Roxas or Xemnas–Who Did Nomura Think of First?

When I consider that Roxas’ only role, plot-wise, is to be a justification for having Kingdom Hearts formed by the time Sora reaches the World That Never Was, I scratch my head–and with good reason. I mean, it’s impossible to dog on Roxas without acknowledging all that’s been done because of him in terms of inspiration. People talk about Sora, Sora everywhere, but I look and all I see is Roxas as the character behind a huge amount of Kingdom Hearts merchandise. I like what’s been done, don’t get me wrong, but it baffles me that someone with this kind of impact on the fandom has such little importance to the story.

Xehanort from Birth by Sleep. We know that the duel-wielder depicted in "Another Side, Another Story" was a work-in-progress at the time. So did this character (who later became Roxas) inspire the Xehanort plot-line?

Consider this: We have two games wholly because Nomura decided to introduce Roxas, (Re:)Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days. Okay, I lied, Nomura had other things going on with Memories, but you get the point. Nomura could have just as easily said that Sora had been traveling and exploring that whole time, give the teenager a beard, and the question of “How did that moon get up there so fast?” would have been solved and everything would have stayed simple–although I admit that the idea of Sora with a beard is highly disturbing. More importantly, Memories and Days would never have happened. While the debate of whether or not that would have been a good thing will surely rage into the night, you’ve got to admit that that’s some hefty power heaped onto one character. (Also, for the sake of debate, consider that if we didn’t have Memories, its game system probably would have ended up in Birth By Sleep, and we’d be crying in a corner)

Then you go into things Roxas has inspired. I don’t know which came first, the tragic hero or the re-used villain (love ya Xemnas), but, on the off chance that it was this character’s fault, the idea of Roxas could have inspired the re-use of Ansem as a villain, which probably led to the concept of Nobodies, the metaphysical elements of a person in the Kingdom Hearts universe, the cosmology of that universe, and so on and so forth. Then you go and make the rest of Organization XIII (give praise, [insert Org. Member here] fans), and then, for kicks and giggles, you make poor little Namine to justify other points, which even further complicates the crazy world we play in. Then you go back to the re-used villain and then create a greater continuity of his debauchery–see Xehanort–which leaves a dangling thread for more games. Which, hey, he does. We haven’t even left Kingdom Hearts 2 yet folks, and I’m sparing you the nitpicking.

Roxas, the Many-Headed Monster

So, moving away from the mess that Roxas has caused in Kingdom Hearts 2 alone, let’s look at other games.

Clockwise from the top left: Sora, Vanitas, Roxas, and Ventus. Can we come up with a new design already?

Briefly, we have him as the reason we fight Xemnas in the first Kingdom Hearts Final Mix (which left us all debating on a rock for ages). He is the main basis for Re:Coded (I haven’t played it, so forgive me for not tearing into that more). He made us all absolutely sure that Ventus is Roxas is Sora because of Birth by Sleep. From there, he inspired the design of Ventus, which inspired the design of Vanitas, which inspired both of those characters’ development, relationship and so on, which further affirms the re-used villain’s purpose and role, which probably defines Terra’s role, which (add them together and carry the pi) probably inspired the design of Aqua, which may have further inspired Eraqus, which leads into the Birth by Sleep Final Mix and its secret bosses and, and–it’s a freaking inspiration conspiracy!

Okay, I may have facts wrong–I admit to not having all of the Nomura Reports in regards to Birth by Sleep (that itself is a whoooole ‘nother rant), but I think you can see how it is, at the very least, possible that all these threads and strains came from just one cool-looking, duel-Keyblade-wielding, blonde-haired kid, whose only real purpose is to put the moon in the sky. I didn’t touch on moods, atmospheres, themes, music, or anything else, because quite frankly, we’d be here all day. But you can see why it’s such a letdown for the character who caused all this mess to not really have much of a purpose in the story.

What Kingdom Hearts 2 Could Have Done Differently

I love Roxas, despite my frustrations with his plot function, because he is a very vivid character. He’s a character that feels emotions strongly and shows it, who can be both selfish and selfless, who can kick rear and still pull our heartstrings with his tragic existence. And I do love the direction the games have gone in since the first game came out. I just have those moments where I’m not satisfied, and would have liked Kingdom Hearts 2 rewritten to better accommodate Roxas.

Would Kingdom Hearts 2 have been better if Sora and Roxas had simultaneous storylines throughout the game?

The main thing which should have been done is what they’re currently doing with Dream Drop Distance. No, not the screw-flying thing (although I finally have an interest in 3D because of that), but the idea of playing the game through with two protagonists. I’m not too sure how having the Sora/Riku angle will work in that game, and I’m not too sure I particularly want it in that game (apologies to the Riku fans), but the principle itself would have been fantastic in Kingdom Hearts 2. To bounce back and forth between Sora and Roxas, to have them both strike fatal blows to the Organization and uncover more of the mysteries probably would have made for a very different game. I’d place bets that it would have been more of a compelling game on the whole, if Roxas had been given a lot more relevance to the main conflict and a lot more development. In the end, I think that would have made the battle between Roxas and Sora at the World That Never Was much more heart wrenching and powerful–as if it needed that (it would have been especially tragic to have Sora fight Roxas without knowing him, even though gamers would have played as Roxas throughout the game, and to have them both fighting for survival).

But then again, it was already a good game anyways, and I’m not a professional developer, so I’ll admit it might have been a total flop as well.

Give Me Your Opinion

Arcane – Do you think Roxas is good how he is or should there have been changes? Should he have been given more to do in the story or should he have been cut out altogether? What does Roxas do for you as a fan of the series? How do you think his creation has influenced Kingdom Hearts 2 (and the series)? And, of course, did you enjoy this article? Either way, I’ll catch y’all later.