Kingdom Hearts has always had secret endings. In the first, we got our first taste of the Organization XIII and Sora's Nobody Roxas, before they would come to dominate everything onward. In Kingdom Hearts 2, we learned that despite the heartwarming finality of its ending that there was still more adventuring left for Sora, Riku, and Kairi. (Maybe less so for that last character; poor Kairi, she deserves better.) Now Kingdom Hearts 3, hyped up to be the finale of the Xehanort saga, has its own secret ending too.
Spoiler Warning: Everything ahead in this article contains spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 3, its epilogue, and its secret ending. You've been warned!
It's an ending so secret that it was patched in two days after the game launched, as to avoid "spoilers." For most players, they won't have to really wait until they see it. For folks like me who had beat the game the week prior to release thanks to a review crunch, the wait for the epilogue and secret movie (each patched in separately) was agonizing.
The end that we've all seen by now is maybe the messiest ending Kingdom Hearts has ever had. Sora embarked on a quest to save Kairi from the unknown, and we presumably watched him turn into mist at the end of Kingdom Hearts 3. The final moment pointed to a sad truth: Sora sacrificed himself to bring Kairi back from the dead. But in the new secret ending, we see Sora's alive and sorta-well, waking up on a dimly-lit street. He looks up and finds something shocking. It's a real-world city—Shibuya, Tokyo, to be exact. Elsewhere, we see Riku's in Tokyo too, gazing up at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Excuse me? We then see Yozora, the faux-video game character from the Toy Story world that Rex and the other toys mistook Sora as being from. (Sora went along with it, but as he noticed towards the end of the world, Yozora actually looked a lot more like Riku—gray hair, gingham print accents on his outfit and all.) So, now we know that Yozora isn't just a one-off goof, but a real-deal character of some significance.
From there, an Organization XIII cloak (in all likelihood, the Master of Masters, a prophetic Keyblade Master who disappeared over a hundred years ago) makes a heart with their hands and holds it up to the moon. It signifies one thing only: now this person's after Kingdom Hearts (which takes the shape of a heart-shaped moon in the sky) too, maybe just like Xehanort was.
This shocking ending has sent up up a tidal wave of potential new directions, of fan theories, of people wondering "what the heck just happened?" So here are the biggest theories right now. Or at least, these are the ones I scribbled down in my notebook after my mind surged with confusion.
It's a Square World After All
One of the most memorable buildings in the Shibuya Scramble skyline is that of a department store: 109. In 109, you'll find dozens of familiar brands and fresh boutiques. It's a shopping paradise. In the Kingdom Hearts 3 secret ending, it's one of the first things Sora lays his eyes on, only with a key difference. The number's different, it's 104.
Curiously, the towering 104 shopping center is also seen in another Tetsuya Nomura-led JRPG: The World Ends With You. Fans everywhere immediately took this Freudian slip of copyright avoidance to mean that this world isn't actually real-world Shibuya like its HD graphics lead us to believe: it's a new sort of world in the Kingdom Hearts universe themed after The World Ends With You.
Weirdly enough, this theory actually makes somd sense, considering Sora is seemingly "dead" by the end of Kingdom Hearts 3. As The World Ends With You follows a bunch of teenagers battling for their lives in an alternate plane of existence—their last chance to potentially live onward, or else they'll die for real—Sora could very well have also found himself in this game. He would be reunited with friends he made in Dream Drop Distance too, as the main cast all appear in the 3DS title. Even just last year with the Switch remaster of The World Ends With You, a brand new epilogue episode seemed to hint at more The World Ends With You for the future. Could this be its future?
A The World Ends With You world also brings about potential over Square Enix-themed worlds in another Kingdom Hearts game. Midgar of Final Fantasy 7 would be an obvious one, but would it venture even further outside of Final Fantasy as it has in the past with The World Ends With You? Dragon Quest and even strictly published outings like Nier bear potential for astounding open worlds. In the secret movie, some fans even picked up on the music towards the end having a similar melody to Final Fantasy 15's "Somnus." Could Sora and Riku be hanging out with Noctis after all, following the conspicuous absence of Final Fantasy characters throughout Kingdom Hearts 3?
There's a lot of mystery with the Secret Ending, and a healthy amount of it seems to be pointing at a Kingdom Hearts entry maybe shedding the pristine Disney image. It'd be a nice change of pace, and I'd be excited to see what properties Square Enix would tap for the project. Presumably, it wouldn't be licensing hell like Nomura experienced with Kingdom Hearts 3—I'm guessing that's why we had to sit through the entirety of "Let It Go," for instance.
Versus 13 Lives On in Verum Rex World?
When we first zipped into Toy Box, the Toy Story-themed world in Kingdom Hearts 3, we were met with a shocking trailer that made me wonder if I hit a button on accident. In the trailer, we saw a bunch of slickly-styled, less PS2-looking character models hacking and slashing about in what looked like a cinematic that could rival any triple-A game on the big stage at E3. At the end of the trailer, we learned that this was a commercial for a faux video game called Verum Rex, and what we'd just seen was just an elaborate advertisement on TV. In the back of my mind, I thought it was almost foolish for such a concept to be let to fester as a quick gag.
And oh, how I was right. Partially because of its hero Yozora's appearance in the secret ending, but also because of how hyper-realistic the world was, much like what you'd see in Final Fantasy 15 or Final Fantasy 13. Given the commercial for Verum Rex looks like it takes place in Tokyo, hints seem to point at this new world actually being a world for the game. So in this video game there's a game world inside a game world, if you're still following. Yeesh!
The mysterious Final Fantasy 15 music appearing amidst a shuffle of Kingdom Hearts melodies lead me to another realization that I nearly forgot about. At one point in time, poor Tetsuya Nomura was stretched thin between Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy Versus 13, which later was revealed as Final Fantasy 15. (If you don't remember that E3, both were officially unveiled back to back for the first time—though the latter's re-reveal came seven years after its initial tease.) Versus 13 was once set to be a part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy series, a giant universe built around the world established in Final Fantasy 13. Eventually, Hajime Tabata replaced Nomura as director, and it shifted into being a mainline Final Fantasy game with only little bits of mythos tying it to the original idea.
Is it possible then that with the Final Fantasy thread seemingly returning—albeit subtly—to Kingdom Hearts that Nomura will enact what he originally wanted to do with Versus 13 over a decade ago? It's possible; the two clips even share the same color palette and bad boy vibe. Yozora even looks like he could be the fifth member of Noctis' boy band of noir-clad bros.
A Riku-Led Rescue Op
After Riku catches a glimpse of Sora before he evaporates in the end cutscene of Kingdom Hearts 3, my guess is he embarks on a rescue mission to save his best pal. His quest leads him to real-world Shibuya. (Or The World Ends With You world, or Verum Rex world—whichever idea you choose to believe.)
Initially, the split perspectives of the cutscene—of Sora and Riku in the same world, but in different places—reminded me of the Nintendo 3DS offshoot Dream Drop Distance, wherein Sora and Riku were both the main playable characters. In Dream Drop Distance, you bounced between Sora and Riku as they took their Mark of Mastery exam to become real Keyblade Masters. Shit went awry, and only Riku ended up passing.
Wherever Kingdom Hearts goes next, I wouldn't be surprised to see something playing with multiple perspectives again. Kingdom Hearts has done it multiple times throughout the series, namely with Dream Drop Distance and Birth By Sleep. Riku on a journey to save Sora once and for all, and Sora perhaps uncovering some new unsavory villainy seems the most plausible for a post-Kingdom Hearts 3 set sequel.
So, against what some may have thought, Kingdom Hearts 3 is by no means the end of the series. Xehanort may be gone, but there's always evil forces afoot. Plus in the epilogue ending, Organization member Xigbar is low-key revealed to be another sort of big bad for the series, revealing himself to be ancient keyblade master Luxu, last seen in Kingdom Hearts χ after instigating the great Keyblade War.
Kingdom Hearts 3 has already sold five million copies worldwide in just a week. So who knows, maybe we're in for more post-Kingdom Hearts 2-like mayhem with a lot of offshoots. Or maybe we'll have to wait another 14 years for Kingdom Hearts 4, as we did between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3. Regardless, the future is bright (or dark, depending on how you look at it) for our favorite spiky haired heroes. And this definitely isn't the last we've seen of Sora and company.