A Girl Worth Fighting For: Kingdom Hearts III and the mystery of the missing heroines

Curses! Damseled again! Aqua stands in front of a young Kairi, her keyblade drawn protectively

The first Kingdom Hearts game launched just over seventeen years ago, and I’ve been an avid fan and sometimes-apologist of the series ever since. Despite its (in)famously convoluted storyline, the character relationships and emotional blend of melancholy, hope, and heart-on-sleeve sincerity has kept me captivated into adulthood. Because, really, who cares about plot holes when you’re watching a cutscene through a veil of tears?

Needless to say, I was elated when the mythical Kingdom Hearts III finally dropped this year. I couldn’t wait to see the many stories come to a dramatic close and all the tragedy children get the endings they deserved. I wanted so badly to adore it.

And while there was a lot to enjoy (the gameplay, the graphics, most of the worlds, everything involving Axel), there was just as much that left me frustrated—and all of it linked back to the way the game treated its most prominent female characters. Kingdom Hearts’s cast and audience may have grown up, but its tired “boy saves girl” gender politics remain just as outdated as they were when the franchise first launched.

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