Kingdom Hearts is among one of my favorite video game series with its likeable characters, charming Disney worlds, and mature (albeit convoluted) story. When I first immersed myself into the series with Chain of Memories, I annoyed everyone I knew about what a fun game it was. I was determined to play the other installments as well, especially since we randomly owned the first and second games for PlayStation 2, even though we didn’t own said system. I did eventually get one (with some help from Shaun and his knack for persuading anyone to do just about anything), and without even starting the games, I hated Roxas. Seeing his character in the Kingdom Hearts II handbook made me angry because, as a naïve twelve year old with no Internet to tell me otherwise, I was under the impression that Roxas was replacing my favorite character Riku. In hindsight, it’s the dumbest thing ever, but for the sake of preserving some form of intelligence, I’m blaming it on my youthful naivety.
Playing through the prologue of Kingdom Hearts II the first time was difficult because of my hatred for Roxas’ existence. For the entire three hours I spent following his story, I refused to see any potential in his character, and it worked until I got to the end of it. It wasn’t until he returned to Sora that it dawned on me just how unwarranted my hatred for him was.
Outside of the fact that I was stupid for thinking Riku would be replaced just because he wasn’t in the handbook, in just those few hours, I witnessed Roxas’ final days in the virtual world as his own person before returning to Sora, and I felt childish for having disliked him so much before. It was a little easier to sympathize with him, and while I certainly didn’t think anything more of him, I felt proud for simply getting over a pathetic reason to hate him. Then 358/2 Days came out and gave me a real reason to like Roxas’ character even more.
When 358/2 Days first came out, I admit that I didn’t care about Roxas all that much. It was a given that I no longer hated him, but I certainly didn’t think anything else of him. Not only that, but I didn’t feel that there was anything else that could be said about him when he had already been focused on in Kingdom Hearts II. But 358/2 Days surprised me with the lengths it took to develop Roxas’ character and how much it revealed about him, making me realize what a great and tragic character he really is.
In the beginning of the game, Roxas is a blank slate, and as such, he’s rather bland. But his exposure to the other Organization XIII members quickly breaks him out of his shell. His curiosity grows as he ventures to other worlds, and his friendship with Xion and Axel is sweet and compelling. Through the many cutscenes of the trio eating sea-salt ice cream and chatting, I saw what kind of person he was, and it made me emotionally invested in his story. More than anything, I wanted him to stay his own person – which is a selfish thought since Sora would have stayed in a comatose sleep if Roxas continued to exist. In a way, I think that was one of the goals of 358/2 Days; to make players truly care about him and want him to live, despite the consequences. It’s part of the reason why the end of the game is so brutal, since everything he knows spirals out of control, and through it all, he just wants to be with his friends even though it’s not an option. Roxas became a compelling, likeable protagonist who I could easily sympathize with and care about.
I recently played through Roxas’ prologue in Kingdom Hearts II again, and it reaffirmed just how much Roxas has grown on me over the years. His last days with his friends are bittersweet, and through the confusion of the virtual world’s boundaries being broken around him, all he wants is to be normal. What resonated with me the most about the prologue this time around was how invested I was in his friendship with Hayner, Pence, and Olette, despite the fact that none of it was real. The memories he has of their close bond was fabricated by DiZ, and yet, even knowing this, the game still convinces me that his friendship with them, while fleeting, is genuine and real. When a game’s writing and characters has the power to make me believe in a fake friendship just as much as Roxas does, I think it’s indicative of, firstly, how excellent the Kingdom Hearts II prologue is, and secondly, what a great character Roxas is. I find now that I appreciate this prologue so much more because of 358/2 Days and the story it weaves around Roxas’ depressing life, and the combination of these two stories are the reasons why he’s become one of my top favorite Kingdom Hearts characters.