Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Video Game Character of the Month - May 2019 - Aqua - Kingdom Hearts

Video Game Character of the Month
May 2019
Kingdom Hearts
Is it done? Can I come out now? Yes, that's right, dear readers, I've finally finished enough of Kingdom Hearts 3 that I feel comfortable searching keywords (pun intended) involving the franchise. And, therefore, I think it's time to give Master Aqua another award. And this one is even harder to achieve than the Mark of Mastery. It's the Video Game Character of the Month Award!
And now for a little bit of info on Aqua:
Major spoilers ahead:

She has blue hair and blue eyes
Her name means 'Water' in Latin
She is referred to as 'Dancing Waters Forming Bonds' on the official Japanese website
Her Keyblade is called Rainfell
The upgrade for this is called Stormfall
Small petals form when she summons her Keyblade
Kairi accidentally inherited the Keyblade by touching the Aqua's Keyblade when they met in Radiant Gardens
She put a protective charm on Kairi
She is the only one of Master Eraqus's pupils to have been recognised as a true Keyblade Master
She has passed her Mark of Mastery exam
She is best friends with Ventus and Terra
She saves Ventus and hides him in the Castle Oblivion
She braved the Realm of Darkness for over twelve years, alone
Her homeworld is the Land of Departure
She is voiced by Willa Holland in English and Megumi Toyoguchi in Japanese
She gains control of Master Eraqus's Keyblade but loses it
She becomes Anti-Aqua after losing to Ansem, Seeker of Darkness and being thrown into the Dark Margin's waters
She has a 'tricky' fighting style
She is a magic and agility based fighter
She is capable of using her Keyblade while doing cartwheels
She is slower than Ventus but faster than Terra
She is third only to Master Xehanort and Master Yen Sid as a Keyblade and magic user
She has her own unique versions of Fire, Ice and Thunder spells and can cast Reflect indefinitely
Her exclusive Command Styles are Spell Weaver and Ghost Drive
Her unique Shotlocks are Prism Rain, Bubble Blaster and Lightbloom
Her exclusive Keychains generally share a water-theme and are focused on magical strength
Her Keyblade, Brightcrest, is the most magically-powerful Keyblade in Birth By Sleep
She has a strong sense of justice and moral code
She will do anything to protect her friends
She is rather modest, only referring to herself as 'Master' near the end of Birth By Sleep
She is arguably the true protagonist of Birth By Sleep

Origin of Aqua:
In-Universe - Aqua is one of the three apprentices of Master Eraqus, along with Terra and Ventus. Over the course of Birth By Sleep she is tasked with finding and bringing Ventus and Terra back home, while also watching out for the darkness in the latter. Throughout her adventure she fights many Unversed through many Disney Worlds and comes into conflict with Vanitas and Master Xehanort. Eventually she hides the sleeping Ventus in Castle Oblivion and sacrifices herself to save Terra from the Realm of Darkness. She takes his place and resides there for the next twelve years, fighting for survival against the darkness.

Out of Universe - Aqua was first revealed in the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts II (what most people, including myself, were sure would be Kingdom Hearts III. How wrong we were). Nomura was unwilling to say who the character was but did comment that her story took place before Kingdom Hearts I. Her name was revealed by Lingering Will in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and Nomura explained that her name follows the water theme originated by Kairi's name. However, this was meant to be the only connection between the two characters (unlike the stronger connections between Ventus and Sora, and Terra and Riku). Unlike her two friends, Aqua didn't have a reference point for her design, leading to Nomura having to create her character from scratch. Her outfit was based on Terra's Japanese-inspired clothes, which are meant to exemplify the student-teacher bond shown between them.

Aqua's outfit was altered three times during the development of Birth By Sleep. The open back of Aqua's outfit presented at the Tokyo Game Show way back in 2009 was considered too revealing and Nomura altered it to make it more conservative. The 'X' was added to her clothes in order to give her the means to activate her armour. Nomura was worried that the character would be unpopular due to her weak connection with other Kingdom Hearts characters and so extra care was taken to make her a 'strong' character. Unlike with Xion, who underwent a similar character design, Nomura wanted Aqua to retain her feminine qualities along with her strength.

Megumi Toyoguchi's work as her voice actress was noted by Nomura as a reason for her popularity,  while Willa Holland received more mixed reviews as some thought she sounded bored. Aqua's story was the last one written in Birth By Sleep and was intended to be the last one played by players. Her gameplay, with its emphasis on magic, was designed to take some getting used to and should be played last once the player's gotten used to other gameplay mechanics. The original ending of Aqua's storyline was moved to the game's secret ending so that the main game wouldn't end in such a negative fashion. Her movements were designed to reflect her personality as a serious and dignified woman.

Evolution of Aqua:
In-Universe - Aqua's armour and Keyblade make a brief cameo in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. They reside in the Chamber of Repose, and Xemnas often visits the armour and refers to it as 'friend'. Xigbar states that he once heard another voice respond to Xemnas (although it is unknown if this voice is Aqua's - what do you think?). Xigbar also alludes to the 'other Keyblade bearers' in The World That Never Was. In the secret ending of Birth By Sleep, 'Blank Points', Aqua ends up at the Dark Meridian and the events between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II are explained to her by Ansem the Wise. In Kingdom Hearts Coded/Re:Coded she is mentioned by Data-Naminé as one of those connected to Sora in need of help. In Dream Drop Distance, she appears in the opening movie as well as figment created by Sora's heart at the end of the game. Sora first sees Kairi who turns into Aqua. This leads to Sora remembering his childhood meeting with Aqua. In the secret ending of the game, Aqua is standing on the Dark Meridian. She is the protagonist of Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage and is shown to be fighting for her own survival in the Realm of Darkness. She explores some of the Disney worlds that have fallen to darkness and has to fight Heartless and phantom versions of herself, eventually with the aid of Mickey Mouse. She witnesses Mickey and Riku's closing of Kingdom Hearts and saves Riku from the Demon Tower, forcing her to stay in the Realm of Darkness. Eventually, she ends up in the situation detailed in 'Blank Points'.

In Kingdom Hearts III she fights Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, even without her Keyblade, and loses. This causes her to be thrown into the Dark Margin's waters, becoming corrupted by the darkness and turning into Anti-Aqua. She believes that she had been forgotten by Mickey and decides to attack him with the aid of a Demon Tower. She is defeated by Sora and begins to sink into the Dark Margin's waters but is saved by Sora and brought back to the Realm of Light. She later wakens Ventus, defeats Vanitas and goes with the other Seven Guardians of Light to fight Xehanort. She is taken by the darkness when fighting Terra-Xehanort but is saved by Sora and, later, the Lingering Will (Terra's armour - I'm afraid I don't have enough words to explain the entire story of Kingdom Hearts here so please bear with). She finally defeats Terra-Xehanort but is snared by chains of unbreakable bonds which are broken by Terra's Heartless. With the help of the other Keyblade wielders, Aqua seals Xehanort in Scala ad Caelum along with Sora so that he can defeat him. She remains behind but follows to find Sora once he has defeated Xehanort. She gets to meet Master Eraqus, who was slain in Birth By Sleep but whose heart was retained by Terra. Eraqus apologises for the burden he placed on her by making her spy on her friends for him. Along with Terra and Ventus, Aqua returns to The Land of Departure to mourn the loss of Eraqus. Finally, she goes with everyone else to Destiny Islands and watches Sora and Kairi share a sunset together before he fades away. 

P.S. As I've mentioned, I don't have the words to explain the full story of Kingdom Hearts in this Video Game Character of the Month (it's meant to be focused on Aqua after all) but I would recommend giving this confusing but spectacular series a go.

Out of Universe: Kingdom Hearts 2.8's co-director Tai Yasue expressed that the staff wanted to explore Aqua's torment in A Fragmentary Passage. Aqua was used to show the new magic and movement systems that would be in Kingdom Hearts III in A Fragmentary Passage. Finally, Nomura was surprised by people's reaction to Aqua falling into darkness in the E3 2018 trailer for Kingdom Hearts III and expected her role in the aforementioned title to surprise the audience even more. I think he was right there.

Kingdom Hearts II: released (Japan) on December 22nd, 2005/(North America) on March 28th, 2006/(Australia) on September 28th, 2006/(Europe) on September 29th, 2006/(Japan - Final Mix) March 29th, 2007 on the PlayStation 2
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep: released (Japan) on January 9th, 2010/(North America) on September 7th, 2010/(PAL) on September 10th, 2010/(Japan - Final Mix) on January 20th, 2011 on the PSP
Kingdom Hearts Coded: released (Japan) on November 18, 2008 (Pre-Install Episode)/June 3, 2009 (Episode 1)/July 8, 2009 (Episode 2)/August 5, 2009 (Episode 3)/September 17, 2009 (Episode 4)/October 15, 2009 (Episode 5)/November 26, 2009 (Episode 7)/December 26, 2009 (Episode 7)/January 28, 2010 (Episode 8) on mobile devices 
Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded: released (Japan) on October 7, 2010/(North America) on January 11, 2011/(Australia) on January 13, 2011/(Europe) on January 14, 2011 (Europe) on the Nintendo DS 
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance: released (Japan) on March 29, 2012/(Europe) on July 20th, 2012/(Australia) on July 26th, 2012/(North America) on July 31st 2012 on the Nintendo 3DS
Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix: released (Japan) on October 2nd, 2014/(North America) on December 2nd, 2014/(Australia) on December 4th, 2014/(Europe) on December 5th, 2014 on PlayStation 3
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix: released (Japan) on March 9th, 2017/(North America) on March 28th, 2017/(Europe) on March 31rd, 2017 on PlayStation 4
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue: released (Japan) on January 12th, 2017/(World Wide) on January 24th, 2017
Kingdom Hearts 3: released (Japan) on January 25th, 2019/(World Wide) on January 29th, 2019
Kingdom Hearts X: released (Japan) on July 18th, 2013 on Web Browsers
Kingdom Hearts Unchained X: released (Japan) on September 3rd, 2015/(North America) on April 7, 2016/(Everywhere Else) on June 19, 2016 on Android and iOS
Kingdom Hearts Union X: released (Worldwide) in April 2017

That's all on Aqua but, as always, if I've missed anything out or made a mistake then please don't hesitate to comment! Also, if you have any suggestions on future recipient's of the award then please comment as well!

Goodbye for now, Harry


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