The Heartless (ハートレス Hātoresu?) are physical, living manifestations of the darkness within people's hearts. They manifest in two forms; "Pureblood" and "Emblem" (Emblem Heartless being created artificially), and they behave entirely devoid of emotion, hence the name "Heartless".
The Heartless are the main enemy type in the Kingdom Hearts series. There are varying types and sub-types that appear as enemies in every game.
As Xehanort had yet to release the Heartless in earnest, very few Heartless appear during Terra, Ventus, and Aqua's adventure. When Ventus had still been Master Xehanort's apprentice, Xehanort had summoned several Neoshadows in order to force the boy to embrace his darkness, but Ventus refused, and was soundly beaten by the Heartless instead of them stealing his heart.
Much later on, as Aqua wanders the Realm of Darkness following her battle with Terra-Xehanort, she encounters a pack of Darksides. Although she immediately summons Master Keeper, she decides that fighting would be useless, and lets the Darksides come at her to end her misery. However, both the Earthshaker and Wayward Wind come to her rescue, a last symbol of hope from her old friends Terra and Ventus, and destroy the Darksides.
Aqua regains her spirit and fights her way through the Realm of Darkness, encountering several Darkballs.
Though various Pureblood Heartless appear throughout the story, the only instance where they can be actively fought is in the "Secret Episode" in Birth By Sleep: Final Mix.
Between Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts
Some time after Xehanort was taken in by Ansem the Wise, Ansem became worried about the darkness and the threat it posed to the people of his kingdom, Radiant Garden. Ansem began his experiments with psychological tests, with the help of Even. One of the willing subjects was the amnesiac Xehanort, whose dormant powers Ansem could sense. At the time, Ansem and Xehanort had tried ethical experiments, but this led to their subjects' hearts to collapse.
Xehanort had confined these subjects below the Hollow Bastion and returned to check up on these patients to find creatures of pure darkness in their place. Ansem was informed of these strange beings by Xehanort and helped conduct a few experiments. During this time, Ansem and Xehanort named them Heartless. They eventually were led to the heart of Radiant Garden by one of the Heartless, leading to a meteor shower, that came from the breaking of their world's outer shell.
Following this, King Mickey befriended Ansem and warned him about the dangers the Heartless presented, giving Ansem an ultimatum: continue his research and endanger his world or stop his research and keep Radiant Garden safe. Ansem chose to end his research, but Xehanort continued on with the experiments after recruiting Ansem's other apprentices, Braig, Dilan, Even, Aeleus, and Ienzo. As they dabbled deeper into darkness in their research on the Heartless, they went insane and revolted against their teacher, Ansem. They banished him to the Realm of Darkness, where his lust for revenge drove him to become the mastermind, DiZ.
Without their master to bar them from unethical methods, the apprentices experimented further on the Heartless, creating a Manufactory below Ansem's lab to produce artificial Heartless—the Emblems. In time, the Heartless escaped Hollow Bastion and began terrorizing the city of Radiant Garden, devouring many hearts and many innocent lives lost.
After this, the apprentices had become Nobodies and no one else was around to direct the Heartless except Xehanort's Heartless, leading to their decade long destruction of other worlds, leaving nothing left of Radiant Garden, but Hollow Bastion. In time, Maleficent found Radiant Garden and took over the mutilated castle the apprentices left behind.
The Heartless appeared inside Sora's Awakening in preparation for the coming invasion of Destiny Islands. They succeeded in separating Riku from the world, and consumed Destiny Islands and everyone who lived on the islands, all except Sora, who slew many of them with the Keyblade. After he escaped, he met Leon and Yuffie, who told him about the Heartless, what creates them and what attracts them to people: the darkness in every heart (it is later revealed in the Ansem reports that the heartless' goal is to feed off of the energy of the hearts of people and worlds). This lead to Sora fighting the Heartless alongside Donald Duck and Goofy in an effort to save the worlds.
The Heartless were actually being used by Xehanort's Heartless, who renamed himself as "Ansem, Seeker of Darkness", and Maleficent, who sought to use their power to rule over all worlds. However, Maleficent's plans were thwarted by Ansem, who possessed Riku's body to pierce her body with a Keyblade formed from the Princesses of Heart, and change her into her dark ego. After she was beaten by Sora, Ansem said that she was actually being used by the Heartless while they slowly ate away at her heart.
Sora rushes to Kairi, and then encounters the Ansem-possessed Riku, who explains that Kairi's heart was inside of Sora the whole time. He also tells Sora his false name (Ansem). Ansem needed Kairi's heart so that the Heartless could devour the worlds, but Sora stood against him, and defeated him. Ansem fell, but he took Riku along with him as his vessel. After turning into a Heartless to restore Kairi's heart, then regaining his human shape from Kairi's own heart, Sora went out to save Riku from Ansem and the rest of the Heartless in End of the World.
Ansem used the Heartless to try and annihilate Sora so that he could unlock Kingdom Hearts, but he was bested once again. Ansem proceeded to reach out to Kingdom Hearts to try and control the darkness from within. However, Sora spoke out, saying that he was wrong, and in actuality, Kingdom Hearts was made of Light. The light, shining through toward Ansem, destroyed his dark-fused body, giving Sora enough time to try to seal the door. This kept many Heartless from escaping the Realm of Darkness through the door.
The Heartless that appear in all of the worlds recreated from Sora's memories of his last adventure are fake, while the ones infesting the top floor of Castle Oblivion are real. The Organization was still using Sora to free hearts from the Heartless even at this point. However, the Heartless were most probably not on the Thirteenth floor until Larxene's death.
Roxas was sent by Xemnas, Xehanort's Nobody, to work with other Organization members and release the hearts of every Heartless that he encounters. Since only Emblem Heartless release hearts, the Organization only seeks to slay their kind; Pureblood Heartless are seen only as obstacles. This also explains when you destroy a Pureblood Heartless, such as a Shadow, on a "collect hearts" mission, they do not add to your mission gauge.
However, on several missions, Roxas must destroy a number of Purebloods to complete the game. For example, during the game, Roxas must enter Wonderland to destroy a Novashadow. This, however is because if the powerful Purebloods were allowed to roam free, it would obstruct further missions in other worlds.
Roxas's sole purpose in the Organization is to destroy Emblem Heartless, and in doing so complete Kingdom Hearts for the Organization. Thus they are the main enemy in the game.
Pete is also busy in the game coming up with powerful Heartless to add to Maleficent's army to conquer the universe; Roxas ended slaying most of them during his missions, causing more than one run in with an angered Pete.
Heartless were also appearing in abundance in Neverland due to Pete manipulating Captain Hook into digging for fake treasure; the last map turned out to be real and the greed from Hook turned into a poweful Heartless known as the Ruler of the Sky.
After Sora awakens in Twilight Town, he travels to the Mysterious Tower, where he meets Pete, Maleficent's second in command, who is working to try and make an army of Heartless for Maleficent to use. After a skirmish with a couple of Heartless, Sora realizes that the worlds are still in danger. He meets with the Tower's master, Yen Sid, who explains Sora's new mission to him, though the Heartless have returned, they are not the main enemy this time; the new enemies are the Nobodies.
In almost every world, the Heartless appear alongside Pete, Maleficent, and one of the Disney villains. It was later revealed by Axel during a war on Hollow Bastion that Organization XIII was using Sora to release the hearts of every Heartless he destroyed so that the Organization could take them and create their own Kingdom Hearts.
After learning this, Sora heads for the Organization's base, The World That Never Was, to try and destroy their Kingdom Hearts. After Ansem the Wise was sent to the Realm of Darkness by his exploding machine that damaged Xemnas' Kingdom Hearts, the hearts falling from the wounded moon attracted the Heartless below the castle. The Heartless climbed the castle to seek whatever they could eat. Maleficent and Pete ironically fought off their minions, the Heartless, while Sora, Kairi, Riku, and the others went on to defeat Xemnas in exchange for the Organization's castle.
The Heartless appear once again as enemies inside of the digital world in Jiminy's Journal. They are not the actual Heartless, but rather the information regarding Heartless that Jiminy wrote down during Sora's first adventure (hence why they have no real hearts to release). The Heartless cause tons of havoc in their data worlds by infecting System Sectors, which cause a variety of glitches in the world they are infesting. While inside a System Sector, Heartless can gain increased abilities by fusing with Bug Blox to become Bugged heartless. When Bugged, they become fuzzy pitch black with menu screen floating around them. They are divided into four categories.
- Red: A Bugged Heartless with a red hue gains the Brick Wall ability, preventing them from being staggered by attacks.
- Blue: A Bugged Heartless with a blue hue is able to fade into the background and become invisible. However, they are still able to be targeted with the Lock-On feature, provided Data-Sora is close enough to them.
- Yellow: A Bugged Heartless with a yellow hue gains the Attack Haste ability, allowing them to pull off their attacks at a much faster pace.
- Green: A Bugged Heartless with a green hue becomes larger, at the cost of some of its speed. However, its attacks are much more powerful in order to compensate for this, as well as having increased HP and defense.
Although Heartless never appear in this game they are mentioned several times. Ansem Seeker Of Darkness as one of the many forms of Xehanort appear in the game. Ansem Seeker Of Darkness is the only Heartless boss fought in the game as he is fought twice. It should be noted Heartless along side Nobodies were originally going to appear in this game, but were scrapped and replaced with Dream Eaters. A few Shadow Heartless appear in very early scans and the first trailer.
According to legend, the people of the universe once lived in harmony on one world, with their hearts full of light. Unfortunately, they began to selfishly fight over the light, and darkness grew within their hearts, covering everything and destroying the world. The light survived in the hearts of children, who were able to rebuild the broken fragments of the one world into many, smaller worlds. However, the true light was still hidden in the darkness, so the worlds remained separate. As manifestations of that Darkness, natural Heartless have existed within the Realm of Darkness ever since. However, due to the walls between the worlds, they could initially only enter the Realm of Light when summoned.
About a decade before the events of Kingdom Hearts, Ansem the Wise, ruler of Radiant Garden, took it upon himself to study the darkness within human hearts, so he and his apprentices, Xehanort, Braig, Dilan, Even, Aeleus, and Ienzo, conducted experiments on the heart beneath his castle. While these tests began with simple psychological tests on willing subjects like Xehanort , they quickly snowballed and eventually caused their subjects' hearts to collapse, producing a Heartless.
Keyholes , he invented a machine within the Heartless Manufactory that recreated the conditions which naturally spawned Heartless in order to create artificial Heartless. In order to differentiate the natural and artificial Heartless, Xehanort set the machine to mark its creations with the castle's emblem, and named the two types "Pureblood" and "Emblem", respectively.Unable at first to determine what they were, Xehanort named them "Heartless" due to their apparent lack of emotion. After finding that the Heartless were naturally drawn to the worlds'
After a visit from King Mickey Mouse of Disney Castle, Ansem officially ceased his experiments , but they continued to be performed by his apprentices, while he was exiled by them to the Realm of Darkness.
To further their research into Heartless, as well as the Keyblade and the Princesses of Heart, the apprentices cast off their bodies and surrendered their hearts to darkness, giving birth to their Heartless and Nobodies. Against expectations, Ansem, Seeker of Darkness retained his human form , as did the apprentices' Nobodies. Eventually, the witch Maleficent learned of the Heartless and began using them in her quest for power, and gave the power to lead the Heartless to those who joined her in her quest.
Nine years before the events of Kingdom Hearts, she sent a swarm of Heartless to conquer the Radiant Garden, causing it to be lost to darkness so completely that only the castle that became known as Hollow Bastion remained, even in the survivor's memories.
During this time, whether from the machinations of Ansem's apprentices or Maleficent herself, the Heartless became able to invade the Realm of Light at their own choosing, and whole worlds began disappearing to the darkness.
Pureblood Heartless are natural Heartless, born from the darkness in people's hearts. They are ink-black in color, with yellow beady eyes. They are more common in places that are close to or saturated in darkness. Upon their destruction, they simply disappear in puffs of darkness, without a heart leaving its body.
Emblem Heartless, on the other hand, were originally created from machines that reproduce the process of a heart being consumed by darkness. Afterward, stolen hearts can become Emblems. They have more varied shapes, colors, and are branded with Xehanort's symbol to differentiate them from the Pureblood ones. They are more common on the worlds within the Realm of Light, and usually mimic the shape of creatures or objects within that world.
Heartless, Emblem or Pureblood, possess several key characteristics that define them as Heartless. All Heartless are created when the darkness that resides in a person's heart consumes him or her, thus giving the darkness shape and form (this process occasionally forms Nobodies, which are born from the body and soul left behind when the heart is lost). Being born from darkness, they are mindless and act on instinct, their only goal to find hearts, and consume them to create more Heartless. But what they desire above all are the hearts of worlds, and thus they enter worlds in search of the way into the hearts of the worlds. When they consume these colossal hearts, the remains of the world form new worlds, such as Traverse Town and the End of the World.
At the same time, Heartless seek out the users of the Keyblade, since the Keyblades are able to vanquish Heartless very effectively. In order to stop the users of the Keyblades, the Heartless use the Keyblade itself as a homing beacon, but ultimately desire to take the heart that commands it. Because of this, Keyblade wielders are under constant attack.
Heartless, being formed from darkness, have varying strengths, depending on the amount of darkness in a person's heart. The darker the heart producing a Heartless, Emblem or Pureblood, the more powerful and more monstrous the resulting being will be. An exception to this is Xehanort's Heartless, who retained his human appearance after willingly allowing darkness to take his heart (why this allows retention of human form and mind is unknown). This is a direct contrast to Nobodies, which determine rank according to the strength of the heart, and whose appearance becomes more human as they increase in power.
The Heartless, being mindless, usually have no master to direct their actions and instead act on the instinct to gather more hearts. However, there are some higher beings who can command them. Heartless will obey those with an affinity for darkness and a strong will. If many people attempt to control them, the Heartless will side with whomever is most powerful. Those with hearts, such as Maleficent, endanger themselves however, as the Heartless are attracted to their hearts and if they show weakness, the Heartless will not think twice of consuming their hearts.
On the other hand, higher ranking Heartless, like Xehanort's Heartless, can fully command other Heartless without endangering themselves. Also, Organization XIII is able to command them as well with their strong wills, but are not endangered of being consumed by them for their lack of a heart.
Heartless make use of the "corridors of darkness", inter-dimensional pathways that connect the many worlds. These pathways are located in the Realm of Darkness, and thus are very dangerous to use if one is not accustomed to the darkness.
The Heartless invasion
While the Heartless were not researched with the intent of creating a fighting force, their very nature as manifestations of the destructive force of darkness made them naturally suited for conquering and destroying the various worlds. Their natural ability to travel to various worlds through the use of Corridors of Darkness makes it virtually impossible to fully defend a world from Heartless, and the method in which they are created and exist make it practically impossible to cut them off at the source. Even fighting them once they appear is made difficult due to their immunity to standard weaponry.
While sealing a world's Keyhole will save the world itself, it is still possible for the Heartless to appear on the world and hunt the people themselves. For example, even though the Final Keyhole at The Radiant Garden and the Door to Darkness was sealed by Sora in the Kingdom Hearts, the Heartless were able to remain on that world even after the destruction of the End of the World and the restoration of the worlds, and propagated to form a gigantic siege engine of over a thousand Heartless.
The Heartless's natural danger is only increased due to the many villains who seek to harness the creatures' power for their own goals. Many of these villains, such as Pete and Organization XIII, specifically seek to create abnormally strong Heartless by forcing beings with strong hearts to succumb to darkness.
The primary weapon for destroying the Heartless is the Keyblade, as it is both specially suited for manipulating the bonds between heart, body, and soul which create Heartless, and it is the only object able to thwart the Heartless in their goal of devouring a world's heart. However, in the absence of the Keyblade there are several other options. Magic is effective against the Heartless, as are magical weapons. In either situation, invading Heartless can be made disorganized by defeating the major Heartless which leads them, or the dark heart which attracted them to that world. While this does not by any means purge the world of its Heartless, it gives no small respite from their threat.
End of the World and Kingdom Hearts
The Heartless reside wherever darkness is abundant, especially the Realm of Darkness. However, they also reside in places such as the End of the World, a collection of the remnants of worlds that is located near the darkness. Another area that the Heartless live in is The World That Never Was, the world of the Nobodies that rests dangerously close to the darkness upon which the Heartless thrive.
Heartless, as they seek and consume hearts, also desire to return to the greatest heart, the heart of all worlds, Kingdom Hearts, that resides deep within the Realm of Darkness. And because of this, Heartless seek immense darkness, enough to completely consume the Realm of Light. The entryway into this place of great power is the Door to Darkness, the door that separates the realm of light and the realm of darkness. However, with the efforts of Sora and the King, the door is closed, which causes the worlds lost to the darkness to be restored, and preventing a massive army of Heartless from pouring into the realm of light.
The forces of the Heartless were extremely weakened after the door to Kingdom Hearts was sealed off, though there were still many left. At the end of Kingdom Hearts II, it is unknown what exactly happened to the Heartless and if they still pose a threat. It should be noted though that Yen Sid has mentioned that the only true way to destroy all Heartless is to have all people have light filled in their hearts and no darkness, leaving nothing to create a Heartless or something for them to thrive for.
Notes and references
- ↑ Ansem Report 2: "One thing I am sure of is that they are entirely devoid of emotion".
- ↑ Kingdom Hearts, Kairi's Grandma: "Long ago, people lived in peace, bathed in the warmth of light. Everyone loved the light. Then people began to fight over it. They wanted to keep it for themselves. And darkness was born in their hearts. The darkness spread, swallowing the light and many people’s hearts. It covered everything, and the world disappeared. But small fragments of light survived... in the hearts of children. With these fragments of light, children rebuilt the lost world. It's the world we live in now. But the true light sleeps, deep within the darkness. That's why the worlds are still scattered, divided from each other. But someday, a door to the innermost darkness will open. And the true light will return. So, listen, child. Even in the deepest darkness, there will always be a light to guide you. Believe in the light, and the darkness will never defeat you. Your heart will shine with its power and push the darkness away. Do you understand, Kairi?"
- ↑ Kingdom Hearts, Leon: "[Maleficent's] the reason this town is full of Heartless. Don’t take her lightly." / Aerith: "She's been using the Heartless for years". / Leon: "We lost our world, thanks to her". / Cid: "One day, a swarm of Heartless took over our world!" / Leon: "That was nine years ago".
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