Inspired by the new Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer featuring the Toy Story world, my partner has been replaying the Square Enix game series with me so that we can both be up to date. In parallel, I have been immersing him in the Star Wars saga in preparation for Episode VIII this December. We went through his games first, and I couldn’t help but pick up on several similarities between the journeys of Terra and Anakin Skywalker.
Terra is one of three main characters in the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep game, the first game in the timeline, discounting exclusively Japanese games that were never released in America. Terra, along with Aqua and Ventus, must face off against the darkness that threatens to engulf their world. They are pushed into this battle by Master Xehanort’s involvement; in the beginning of Birth by Sleep Terra and Aqua put their skills to the test to become Keyblade Masters, but because Terra was unable to properly keep the darkness within him in check, he was denied mastership. However, Xehanort took notice of this slip, and from there is out to take advantage of Terra’s emotions. While still a strong character, he is weaker than his friends when it comes to rejecting the darkness. It is unclear throughout the game whether he will fall to the dark side. His friends and his teacher, Master Eraqus, believe that there is light within him, but are forced to acknowledge his need for further guidance lest he succumb.
About two levels into this game I began to get the feeling that I had seen this story arch before. My mind immediately harkened back to Anakin’s own trials and tribulations throughout the Star Wars prequels. On the surface, there are a lot of easy similarities: In both worlds, there is a clear battle between good and evil (in both media platforms these forces are known in their simplest terms as light and darkness); darkness/the dark side is driven by emotions, particularly anger and fear, and it is a faster way to strength, whereas light/the light side requires patience and training to master. Displaying evil in darkness and good in light is a common trope that cannot be specifically credited to Star Wars as their idea, but the point is one of several comparisons.
Powerful users (either of the Keyblade or of the force) are addressed as Masterㅡthe Sith, of course, go by Lord or Darth more typically, but the titles follow the same principle of a commanding position higher than the rest. Lastly, in each world, once somebody has converted to the dark side, their eyes turn yellow; we see from the get-go that Master Xehanort and Lord Sidious have yellow eyes, but the camera explicitly makes note of the moments when Anakin’s and Terra’s eyes turn yellow. This is the most damning piece of surface evidence, I’d say, considering how iconic yellow eyes have become to the Star Wars universe. The use of yellow tends to represent positivity, brightness, and even enlightenment, but it can also represent cowardice and deceit. Therefore, because it is less likely that Square Enix and George Lucas intended their villainous characters to represent enlightenment and the freedom that darkness might bring, we may think that a person must be of lesser moral value to fall to evil. In addition, yellow is an unnatural eye color, one that is not as worn out as red, symbolizing an unnatural change in our men.
Those were smaller pieces of the puzzle I noticed, but with more analyzation the paths that Anakin and Terra travel are not so different, even if their destinations are. Both characters are denied status due to their questionable intentions (Terra was rejected as Keyblade master, Anakin was rejected as Jedi master upon his indoctrination into the Jedi council). Both characters fight extra hard in order to fight off the darkness within them, trying and failing in instances to suppress it. This point is due to their like drive for power. Master Eraqus warns Terra directly about his obsession with power early in the game. Terra is later insulted that Aqua followed him from world to world, feeling untrusted and looked down upon. He even tells Master Xehanort to not underestimate his powers in their final battle. Similarly, Anakin’s quest for power is heavy-handed in Episode II. He is constantly competing with his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to be top-dog in their dynamic. He undercuts direct orders to watch over Senator Amidala without trying to uncover her potential assassin; he rightfully calls the use of Jedi as passive bodyguards “overkill.” He attempts to step on the Senator’s feet when they are to hide out on Naboo, stating that he is in charge of security and ignoring the knowledge of the land that Padmé has. He is insulted by his restriction of power in Episode III by the Jedi council. The examples of Anakin’s quest for power really go on. And, just as Xehanort takes advantage of Terra’s inner darkness, Palpatine takes advantage of Anakin’s pride and subsequent dark side.
As a consequence of their wavering faith in light, both men are given a chance at redemption. Master Eraqus sends Terra out to battle the Unversed as a way to change his mind about the apprentice’s Keyblade status. When Anakin goes to Master Windu to warn him that Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord, the Master Jedi assures the padawan that he will have his trust if he is correct. Of course, their challenges for redemption are not perfectly equal. Terra has to fight off enemies while Anakin has only to be patient and wait in the Jedi council room for his masters’ return. However, their initial trust in evil characters damages their resilience to complete their tasks so easilyㅡin Anakin’s case, complete it at all.
Where the men differ is in their game-changing decisions when faced head-first with the dark side. We know that Anakin succumbs and is reborn (in a manner of speaking) as Darth Vader, but Terra does not go down as easily. Terra and Anakin are both driven by their love for somebodyㅡfor Terra, his friends and for Anakin, his wife. They want to be the best they can be for those they care about, but Terra sees this as staying good while Anakin sees this as simply being strong. Terra is the most easily seduced out of his friend group, and is even pushed to kill his Keyblade master by the darkness. But, he ultimately remains faithful to the light. Despite Xehanort taking over Terra’ body in their final fight, his heart resists, keeping him alive only in his battle armor. Terra lives, but never in his own body again. Anakin, as the Jedi Masters anticipated, too easily forms attachments to external things like people and power, making the dark side appealing to his nature. He might not have killed his own master but he does kill a Jedi Master at the hand of the dark side, along with younglings, and commences to fight Obi-Wan on Mustafar later. Just as Terra’s battle immobilized him, Anakin’s battle left him a stump of his former self. And, just like Terra, Anakin (now Darth Vader) is confined to armor in order to live, but not because his heart resisted possession. Vader’s limbs are cut off and he is burnt alive; he has no choice but to live within his suit.
The choices of Terra and Anakin Skywalker are dramatic. Their differences are important, as they both demonstrate the ways that a path of evil may lead you. Terra’s story suggests that of a saved man, kept afloat by his own will and the compassion of those around him but still put in danger by his own internal struggles. Even though he meets an unfortunate fate, light still survives within him. Anakin, on the other hand, more accurately represents a fallen angel, dispelled from grace. He is eventually redeemed by the faith of his son in Episode VI, but in regards to the prequels he falls hard! His seduction into darkness at the end of Episode III truly makes my heart hurt, seeing where he was and how far he fell; showing his agony in conjunction with Padmé in labor only furthers his status as a tragic hero, and certainly more tragic than Terra.