Why Kingdom Hearts’ Roxas Is a Great Character

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.

Kingdom Hearts 2 CG poster

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.

I guess Roxas was having some problems with the hair dye – it’s the only explanation for how orange his hair looks.
I guess Roxas was having some problems
with the hair dye – it’s the only explanation
for how orange his hair looks.

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.

3 thoughts on “Why Kingdom Hearts’ Roxas Is a Great Character

  1. You know, I appreciate your writing about Roxas. I read quite a few KH fans who are not much of a Roxas fan simply because he is too depressing and easily stated as ‘an emo whiny brat’. For me, Roxas seems to be the kind of a teenager who handles his situation pretty well for his age. I mean, he is technically around 1 year old, molded into his presence self right from scratch and his development within a year is simply astounding.

    Calling him a whiny brat just because he has quite a temper for what is happening all this time (and all the things happening are serious shit and not just crying over spilled milk!), for these haters to want him to be more Sora-like; positive, optimistic… Don’t you think they’re asking too much of Roxas to be like that? Yeah, he can be portrayed like that, but come on. Let’s be realistic for once. He’s shown to be like how any teenagers would act. But I see him to be slightly more positive and in the end, he did accept his fate and gave up his existence.

    Overall, his story really did have a huge impact for me and I would definitely say he is one great character. I am just happy a lot of Kingdom Hearts fandom are dedicated around him and as we all know, he is the darling of Kingdom Hearts plot and without him, there wouldn’t be a great storyline to this franchise.

    1. I agree that the Roxas hate is unwarranted. He’s not supposed to be like Sora, and if anything, Ven gets criticism for the very reason that he a lot like Sora but not in a good way. I don’t mind Ven, but the fact that fans assume Roxas and Sora should be similar is an odd one. Not to mention that Roxas is far from emo considering what he goes through. He has a horrible life, after all. He loses his closest friends and is constantly questioning the meaning of his existence, and when he finally has a chance at living a normal life he can’t even do that.

      I like that you brought up his temper because it rubs off on Sora later on, not to mention his temper stems from a lack of answers. He wants to understand what’s going on, and doesn’t like that secrets are kept from him. It doesn’t make him a whiny brat or emo, it shows that he wants the truth. It’s a realistic reaction that is surprisingly ignored by most of the fans.

      I really love Roxas’ story. It’s a well-told story marred with tragedy but not without its moments of happiness, as fleeting as they are. It’s a vital part of the series and really reinforced by 358/2 Days. Sure, fans will complain about the ice cream scenes (though I enjoyed them for various reasons), but it was still a great story that emphasized friendship, so when Roxas loses that and has nothing left, it’s heartbreaking. I don’t know how fans can play 358/2 Days and not at least care about Roxas in the slightest. There’s something wrong there. His story is a vital part of the series and makes you hopeful that Sora will make everything right again in Kingdom Hearts III.

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