It’s a controversial topic that's being lingering around the Kingdom Hearts series ever since Square Enix's action role-playing game received a sequel in 2005 and gained mass appeal. The question at hand? "Where are the black characters in Kingdom Hearts?"
That's a very good question, particularly when you study the various npcs in the series, from Final Fantasy and Disney's cast of iconic characters to the series original Kingdom Heart's characters such as the nobodies and numerous citizens.
Kingdom Hearts—one of the most popular videos games—centers on a monolithic cast of predominantly fair skinned characters. While the game has improved its representation in the second game, its racial diversity doesn't extend to neither dark skinned protagonists nor black characters, so we ask is there really nothing the creators can do about that?
While Final Fantasy hasn't featured a lot of black characters, let's not play ignorant and pretend that they're non-existent. Same with Disney, who have had it's own share of black characters, even to eventually create a black princess in Tiana from the Princess and the Frog in 2009.
The closest that the kingdom Hearts series has gotten to a main dark skin character is Ansem, an ambiguously brown man who also happens to be the primary antagonist in several of the games, most notably Kingdom Hearts 1.
In Kingdom Heart 2 there was a mysterious man called DiZ who some believed to be possibly black due to his red mummy-like bandages revealing dark skin, but disappointment would soon set in for players who finally thought that the series had debut it's first black character.
DiZ was in fact revealed to be Ansem the Wise under the mummy inspired disguise, a middle aged man with blonde hair and light skin. The dark skin seemingly evaporated into the ether. Meaning that DiZ was not black but another light skinned character to add to the list.
Outside of Disney's Aladdin, the only tanned characters that exist within the series who aren't evil are the pre-designed Disney citizens who inhabit the city of Agrabah, a world based on Disney's 1992 film Aladdin, let that skin in.
It's not to say that the developers hasn't had a chance to implement black characters into the series. There's been a lot of chances which ended up not happening for reasons unknown, despite making sense and giving way for more needed diversity. Quite a few come to mind in fact, starting with Disney.
Hercules plays a vital role in the Kingdom Hearts series and many characters from the animated feature appear in the game, yet the only black characters in the entire film are given the shaft. We're talking about the Muses, five beautiful sistas who are supporting characters in Hercules, they sing a majority of the songs involved in the movie.
Yet they seldom make an appearance in Kingdom Hearts. The Muses would be perfect for Kingdom Hearts and before you ask how, it's simple really. As goddesses, the Muses possess the natural powers and abilities of Olympian deities.
There's many ways that Square Enix could implement the Muses and one way could be through a summon. As a matter of fact a Muse summon wouldn't be a bad idea for Kingdom Hearts 3. For those new to the series, a Summon is a special character that can be magically called upon to help Sora and his companions.
Barret makes a cameo in Kingdom Hearts, though only in namesake. Unlike many of the other Final Fantasy characters VII who appear in the flesh and compliment the main story. A missed possibility to create racial diversity within the Final Fantasy line up.
In Kingdom Hearts II, a shopkeeper called "Wallace" appears in Twilight Town alongside Biggs, Wedge and Jessie. Much like the other characters his design is different from his namesake, his being the most extreme as Wallace is white instead of black and tubby instead of muscular.
Was this a missed opportunity to include a black npc? Pretty much. Though not a big loss it wouldn't have hurt to at least made Wallace in more likeness to his dark skin counterpart or better yet race lift one of the other avalanche members.
The disappointment set in when it was realised that Wallace was suppose to be a reference to Barret Wallace, yet he was pale in complexion and shared nothing in common with the avalanche leader besides his last name. Kingdom Hearts has seen it's highest sales from North America, with a staggering 3.0 millions players.
Amongst those fans, many of them happen to be black, there's no doubting that. So for a large diverse setting like Kingdom Hearts to have zero black characters is disappointing to say the least.
"Wait but Square Enix is a Japanese game developer and there's hardly any black people in Japan." Let's not, it matters not whether Square Enix is a Japanese company as they cater not only to the East but also to the West where they see most of their sales.
Besides Square Enix hasn't been one to shy away from creating black characters in the past, as previously stated. Just take games like Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy XIII which feature a playable black party member.
The world of Kingdom Hearts is beaming with life and it really captures the charm of Disney and Final Fantasy. The world is full of characters new and old, each with their own unique designs. Which is why it was unsatisfactory that not a single one of those characters happened to be black when Kingdom Hearts sees most sales from the west.
Take for example Organisation XIII, a group of almighty Nobodies who claim to seek to regain their hearts and become whole again. Thirteen characters all unique in their personalities, vibrant hairstyles and gender, but that's where the line is drawn.
A missed chance, but racially diversifying Organisation XIII would have shown that the developers was thinking outside the box and not playing it safe. Thinking about their players who ain't represented in the game. There's thirteen characters and all of them are pale.
This wouldn't even as much as an issue if the game had existing black characters in at least semi important roles but that's the thing it doesn't and it unforgettably rings bells. Almost every other race has been represented in Kingdom Hearts yet black characters appear to have not been considered at all.
Let's play devil's advocate, maybe Square Enix didn't know how to implement said race into the series or maybe there were limitations, still it's not a good enough excuse as to why there isn't a single black character in the entire series since the game's debut in 2002.
By excluding black characters in Kingdom Hearts, Square Enix sends the message that black characters can't exist in a fantasy world or ain't important enough to include and we're sure this isn't the message that SE wants to deliver, especially since it has a strong following in the west.
Again what message does it send when a large fantasy world such as Kingdom Hearts, with an abundant of charming characters doesn't feature a single black character. We shouldn't have to make this article for such a beloved series but it has to be said, even if no one wants to admit or acknowledge it.
This would be the perfect opportunity for Square Enix to finally add some black characters from both Disney and Final Fantasy to Kingdom Hearts 3. Let's not stop there, even an original Kingdom Hearts character wouldn't hurt.
Although the racial diversity in Final Fantasy XV's main cast was non-existent, there were three black characters in the game you could accept quests from, including a black female character called Sania.
We'd expected a black male npc at some point but Sania was a pleasant surprise and we applaud Square Enix for creating her. Now if only they could do this for their other video game franchises, Kingdom Hearts included.
Now although different series, it's still the game company and there's no reason why Kingdom Hearts can't be as diverse as Final Fantasy XV especially when most of it's sale come from the west.
Although not a lot, Final Fantasy has quite a few black characters and a character like Sazh Katzroy or Barret Wallace wouldn't be out of place in a massive and enchanted world such as Kingdom Hearts.
Better still, step out the comfort zone and include a new original black Kingdom Hearts character who's a keyblade Wieder (as Riku and Mickey Mouse are searching for Keyblade Wielders.) A noble gesture like this would show that Square Enix is thinking about all it's fansbase.
Since Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 missed the mark then Kingdom Hearts 3 would be the perfect chance for Square Enix to implement said black characters who were missing from the first two games.
We have faith that Square Enix can do the right thing and include these characters and more, seeing as their record for including dark skin and black characters be they npcs usually hold up well in the Final Fantasy series.
Let's see how many black characters that would be a perfect fit for the Kingdom Hearts series shall we? If you have any suggestions feel free to write down the character in the comment section.
Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)
Cobra Bubbles (Lilo and Stitch)
Wasabi (Big Hero 6)
John Henry (John Henry)
Cutler (Tron: Uprising)
Vince LaSalle (Recess)
Nick Fury (Marvel)
Black Panther (Marvel)
Miles Morales (Marvel)
Finn (Star Wars)
(See black Final Fantasy characters)
We kind of went over board but majority of these characters would fit right in with the Kingdom Hearts crew, can you imagine Sora going head to head with Black Panther or racing Vince Laselle around an obstacle course? Then you've got the right idea.
Obviously most of these character's choices are very slim but then again you never know, again we ask you which characters would you like to see appear in Kingdom Hearts 3, let us know your thoughts on the matter as well.
It's worth noting that Big 6 Hero is going to be one of the worlds Sora visits in Kingdom Hearts III. Square Enix revealed this information at the D23 expo in 2015, so the chances of seeing Wasabi in KH3 are somewhat higher than the rest on the list.