The heart may be weak, and sometimes it may even give in... But I learned that deep down there's a light that never goes out.
A Heart is one of the three parts which comprise a being in the Kingdom Hearts universe, the other two being body and soul. Hearts are one of the key points in the game's mythology, and the antagonists often seek to use them for their own gain.
What actually makes up a heart is a mystery in the Kingdom Hearts universe. However, as Vexen noted in the case of Davy Jones, this doesn't refer to the physical organ. Much research has been done to try and unravel the mystery, most notably by Ansem the Wise and his apprentices. However, this research only served to lower the barriers between worlds, set up the events for Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts II, and cause many worlds to be plunged into darkness.
Nomura later states, that the heart doesn't have a form so the memories play an important part of forming the heart. The rest of the heart is either of light and/or darkness. The exception to this are the Princesses of Heart, maidens whose hearts are free of darkness, Ventus, whose darkness was torn from his heart, and Vanitas, who has a heart of pure darkness and is the darkness from Ventus's heart.
The heart appears to be responsible for the composure of memories, will, goals, and ambitions, as is the case in the transfer of Master Xehanort's heart into Terra and the internal struggle of wills inside Terra-Xehanort.
The heart is also responsible for emotions, as beings lacking one, such as the Nobodies, cannot feel emotions. Still, the members of Organization XIII seem to be able to feel emotions, as shown by Axel feeling sadness over the fact that Roxas left the organization in the events of 358/2 Days
A Tie-in to the Worlds
According to legend, the worlds were one and united through the light in people's hearts. Once these hearts became filled with darkness, however, chaos resulted, and the worlds were separated. It was the light that remained only in the hearts of children that would keep the worlds in existence before they were shrouded in darkness completely.
Scholar Ansem the Wise was struck by a great curiosity of the heart and its true nature. He began research on the topic so he could better protect his world from the forces of darkness, together with his six apprentices, and started to write his reports. However when Ansem realized that his experiments could bring disaster to the world he stopped all his research.
However Xehanort decided to continue the experiments and realized that when hearts were seduced by darkness, a creature he dubbed a "Pureblood Heartless" was born. He made note of how Heartless acted on instinct, and wished to try creating his own Heartless. To tell them apart from the Purebloods, he dubbed them "Emblems" and christened them with what would later become the Heartless insignia. He made note of how they behaved relatively the same way, continuing to experiment in other areas with which the heart was concerned.
He had no idea that he had caused chaos to brew. However when Ansem became aware of Xehanort's activities, he ordered that his research be stopped at once. This strict request would lead to the birth of Xehanort's Heartless and Xemnas, as well as the rebellion of Ansem's other apprentices. Xehanort and the other apprentices' Nobodies would later grow to form Organization XIII, a group that had the sole purpose of unlocking the secrets of the heart.
While Ansem was cast out into the Realm of Nothingness, Xehanort wrote the Ansem Reports. After he put his research and his findings to paper, these reports scattered across the worlds, and were able to help the residents of Traverse Town and Sora in his first journey when it came to learning about and fighting the Heartless. Ansem's experiments on the heart would continue to haunt him even after his escape from the Realm of Nothingness, throughout the story of Kingdom Hearts II, as his reports continued to spawn as the Heartless he had created returned.
He was forced to recall his past mistakes and even failed to succeed in avenging his dignity, realizing all his experimentations had gotten him nowhere. Upon his supposed death, which instead erased the majority of his memory and sent him to the Dark Meridian, one of the last things he would hear would be Xemnas's accusations that he was the source of all Heartless, and that the chaos and turmoil that had resulted over the past years were all his fault.
The Seven of Pure Light
Supposedly, seven maidens existed with hearts of pure light, whose hearts when joined as one could unlock Kingdom Hearts. It was for this reason that the maidens, called Princesses of Heart, were sought by beings of the darkness who wished to rule the Heart of all Worlds, particularly Maleficent and Xehanort's Heartless. Kingdom Hearts could only be accessed by the completion of a Keyhole in Hollow Bastion, which required all seven pure hearts to be joined as one in the Keyblade of Peoples' Hearts. These hearts were released, however, due to Sora keeping Kingdom Hearts out of the villains' reach.
Powers and Abilities
A cherished element throughout the Kingdom Hearts series, hearts possess many unique powers and abilities. It is for this reason that antagonists seek them. Hearts are able to produce emotion, something that members of Organization XIII crave. As shown with Kairi and Ventus, if one's body remains intact when the heart is lost, the person will enter a state similar to catatonia until the heart is restored.
Hearts are also able to merge with others or be split, as seen when both Master Xehanort and Master Eraqus join hearts with Terra, and when Ventus's heart merges with Sora's. A much later instance of this would be Kairi's heart merging with Sora's during his first journey. They can be split to produce an embodiment of either the light or the darkness, as seen when Master Xehanort produces Vanitas by unlocking the darkness of Ventus's heart. Hearts can also be merged to create unique Keyblades, major examples being the χ-blade and the Keyblade of People's Hearts. These Keyblades ultimately grant access to the grandest of hearts: Kingdom Hearts.
The heart also has a heavy influence on all that lives, having the power to produce Heartless and potentially Nobodies at its loss or corruption by darkness. As the heart grants emotion, negative emotions formed when Vanitas and Ventus were split caused the Unversed to spawn, hence their connection to the heart.
In KH Union X, it is confirmed by MoM and Darkness, that the hearts can regrow a new body of it's own to inhabit as long as two aspects are fulfilled: it needs a medium to rebuild the body and someone else who has memories of that heart(person). The medium can be different things as shown by Sora, who used Kairi's heart, MoM, who used the Keyblade No Name, Malifecent, who used her coat, Vanitas, who used Ventus body, and Naminé, who used Sora's body. If those aspects aren't fulfilled, one will be like a ghost, as Maleficent stated, if they lose their body. This is shown in the case of Namine, who had the medium aspect fulfilled but not the memories, in a sense, as the memories of "herself" that existed in others heart at the time of birth was not of "Namine" but "Kairi", hence, Namine was stated to have an extremely ephemeral atmosphere and an unstable pale body to the point that it looked as if she would disappear any minute.
Kingdom Hearts is the largest and grandest heart of all. The heart of all worlds, it is a source of fantastic power and wisdom, and as such is sought out by many villains for different reasons. The artificial Kingdom Hearts of Kingdom Hearts II takes on the shape of a heart shaped moon, which further reinforces the fact it is the heart of all worlds. Upon a heart's release after the defeat of an Emblem Heartless, these hearts travel to Kingdom Hearts, empowering it, and in the case of the Kingdom Hearts II storyline, benefiting the Nobodies. However, a destroyed Pureblood Heartless releases no heart.
When a being, be they good or evil, gives in to the darkness in their heart, their heart is consumed by it and becomes a Heartless. This new entity separates from the body and soul, which fade into darkness, and begins to act on a primal instinct to gather other hearts and corrupt them. This instinct results in Heartless attacking other beings to increase their numbers, and attacking the heart of a world by means of the Keyhole, causing it to be completely overwhelmed by darkness. Of course, as dictated by their instinct, the Heartless seek out the biggest heart of all: Kingdom Hearts.
The amount of darkness in the heart, as well as the strength of the heart, seems to dictate the strength of the Heartless formed (as the Princesses of Heart contained no darkness in their hearts, they could not create Heartless. Likewise, Sora's heart contained so little darkness, his became a small Shadow, though his heart was immensely strong. This let him keep his emotions and memories instead of fading to the darkness.) The Heartless are arranged in a hierarchical society, with the most powerful Heartless directing the others' actions. This theory was proven by Xehanort whose Heartless went on to control all others.
Emblem Heartless defeated by the Keyblade give up the stolen heart, which causes it to return to the owner's original body. However, in Kingdom Hearts II, the hearts went to Organization XIII, which may mean there is a way to change the flow of hearts. Hearts will also not return to their owner if a Nobody was formed.
When a particularly strong heart is turned into a Heartless, its body begins to act of its own accord due to the strong will it possesses. This being is called a Nobody, a being which does not truly exist. Depending on the strength of the heart, the body may or may not be warped. Members of Organization XIII all possessed remarkably strong hearts, causing their Nobodies to retain a human appearance. Due to a lack of a heart, however, a Nobody cannot truly feel emotions and in Organization XIII's case they pretend to in order to achieve their ends, that being to finally be whole again by obtaining a heart.
When a Heartless and Nobody are defeated the heart, soul and body are reunited leading to the reformation of the individual. The individual will gain the Nobody's memories and abilities. Depending on the individual the darkness is purified from the heart leading to the restoration of the original personality; Lea, Dilan, Even, Ienzo and Aeleus were restored to their original personalities while Isa apparently remains corrupted by the Darkness.
The Nobodies that make up the Organization had the ability to regrow new hearts in place of their lost ones in due time if they experienced something deeply emotional, such as Axel's friendship with Roxas and Xion. However, this was hindered by Xemnas, as part of Master Xehanort's plans, who lied by telling them completing Kingdom Hearts was the only way to reclaim their lost hearts.
In Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Organization XIII's heart collection process was greatly elaborated. While on several missions to various worlds, Nobodies of the Organization would seek out as many Emblem Heartless as possible, obtaining a captive heart from those they defeated. The captive hearts would then be absorbed by Kingdom Hearts, more specifically, Xemnas's synthetic incarnation of the world, immediately afterwards. Organization XIII completely ignored Pureblood Heartless, as they lacked the hearts they sought.
The heart collection field was strictly where Xemnas found a use for Roxas, Sora's Nobody being the only one amongst their ranks able to actually release hearts, as he wielded the Keyblade (any other Organization member simply caused a Heartless to fade back into darkness when it was defeated, without the released heart side-effect). Xion also possessed this power, as she was Sora, and to a lesser extent, Roxas's replica.
While Xemnas planned on having Xion absorb Roxas so he could have the full power of Sora's Keyblade in the end, he desperately wished to reclaim Roxas after Xion was defeated when Sora's Nobody fled the Organization. He did not count on Roxas being captured by Riku in the Nobody's attempt to free Kingdom Hearts so he could revitalize Xion. This forced Xemnas to use Sora himself as an alternative.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Organization XIII switched tactics and used Sora for heart collection, because no surviving member was able to collect hearts after Roxas was absorbed by Sora. Sora remained unaware of his role in Xemnas's plan, sending captive hearts to Kingdom Hearts as he saved each world from the Heartless threat. When Saïx revealed this role to the Keyblade master, however, Sora became wary of defeating Heartless, as he did not wish to aid his enemies, the Organization. He had no choice, however, eventually reaching The World That Never Was, Organization XIII's stronghold.
When King Mickey met up with Ansem the Wise, the elderly scholar attempted to encode Kingdom Hearts as data with a special device, the Kingdom Hearts Encoder. He realized, upon the machine's self-destruction, that hearts couldn't be encoded as data, destroying Xemnas's synthetic Kingdom Hearts and releasing every heart it held inside before not only his death, but the final battle in Kingdom Hearts itself between Sora, Riku and the Organization's Superior.
It is unknown what became of hearts released in Kingdom Hearts. While Organization XIII did exist, they did not collect hearts until Roxas's birth, after the events of Hollow Bastion, and after he trained with the Organization members featured in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. It is most logical that these hearts went back to their bodies and returned to their original form.
While hearts are released when Sora defeats Emblem Heartless in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories whilst he treks through Castle Oblivion, these Heartless were of his memories just as the worlds he encountered them were, thus the hearts they held were merely figments. Hearts released in the 13th Floor of Castle Oblivion, a true "world" even though it was accessed by a card made of Sora's memory, were most likely absorbed for this exact reason, the fact that they were the only true hearts in the entire castle.
The Unversed lack a direct connection to the heart. Instead, they are embodiments of negative emotions produced when Ventus's heart was split in half by Master Xehanort. Master Xehanort extracted Ventus's darkness from his heart to produce Vanitas. The Unversed have a strong connection to Ventus's and Vanitas's hearts; however, they only obey the dark half - Vanitas. The destruction of Vanitas during the final internal struggle in Ventus's heart, caused him to lose his heart. This in turn eliminated all the Unversed in existence, as what served as the source stabilizing their own existences no longer existed himself.
In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Vanitas has been seen as one of the people the Unknown accompanies through the seven worlds in the Realm of Sleep, perhaps signifying his return and the Unversed's recreation.
Currently, the only known requirements to wield a Keyblade are having a memory of wielding a Keyblade and possessing a strong heart, whether it be a heart of darkness or light. This connection is expected to be further expanded on in the series.
A type of Keyblade made from hearts also exists. The only known Keyblades of this type are the χ-blade, which is made from a heart of pure darkness and a heart of pure light, and the Keyblade of People's Hearts, which is made from the hearts of the seven Princesses of Heart.