Written by Jonathan Wojcik
31 FAVORITE KINGDOM HEARTS ENEMIESListen...I played through the entire original Kingdom Hearts when it was brand new, and I liked it, but I am NOT going to give you a refresher on its storyline or universe. I can't. Nobody can.
...But Kingdom Hearts has a pretty great style to its main enemies, The Heartless, which you only need to know are a Bad Thing that Destroys Worlds. Later, we encountered some other kinds of Bad Things, and we're going to include some of them here too, but again, I am not going to explain them. I can't. Nobody can. This is a game in which Goofy has canonically killed. I don't need the pressure that comes with justifying or describing Kingdom Hearts. Other people have done it and you can judge for yourself if you understand it.
Otherwise, it's monster time.
One of the best things in the game is honestly just the purebred, basic level-one Heartless, a cute little thing that looks like a naked Jawa as designed by Jhonen Vasquez. They toddle around like precious babies, twitching their little claws and antennae with curiosity for the wonderful, wide world they've been born to dismantle. I love them and everyone else should love them.
SOLDIER HEARTLESSOne step up from the basic shadows are these lovable bastards, who really make a better type specimen for the Heartless than even the shadows, since virtually all other Heartless are wearing or look like they're wearing some sort of suit. It's an entire vast species of beings with one of my very favorite kinds of faces, and thanks to the Shadows, we know it's their REAL faces!
I recall the soldiers having loads of personality, their Boschian beak-like helmets clanging and clattering as they ran around as if in a mad panic. They're cute as hell, but the tightly muscled bodies and big, red claws still look lethal.
THOSE TINY WIZARD HEARTLESSESThere's a bunch of these, in various colors, and they're all named after types of music. This is the "Green Requiem," but there's also the Blue Rhapsody, Yellow Opera and Red Nocturne, among others. This is most likely a reference to the Black Waltz, elite mages from Final Fantasy IX. While those were powerful and terrifying villains to face, these little sweeties are barely larger than chickens, a comparison I think I'm only making because of their little dangling birdy feet. They can fly and they can cast spells, but they aren't too big a deal.
POT CENTIPEDE HEARTLESSWe've now covered three of the most basic, common heartless that were still cool enough for the list, so here's one of the total weirdos, borrowing its artwork from a different game because nobody made a big, clear version of its 3-d model.
Pot Centipede is actually a whole bunch of heartless. The head and tail are unique individuals in the collective, while the segments are made up of two-legged heartless inhabiting clay pots. It's really not a proper centipede boss if it can't break apart and keep attacking! That's not something centipedes can actually do, but it's something video game centipedes have always done, ever since they first starred in a game of their very own.
MAD RIDE HEARTLESS
Cartoon cars are SUPPOSED to have eyes for HEADLIGHTS, but I'll let that slide for Mad Ride, since it looks pretty cute with the heartless void for a winshield and a flame-printed helmet for the car's top. The big, jagged cartoon teeth in the grill are really the only thing that could have made this more adorable.
STEALTH SNEAK HEARTLESSNot all heartless have the black void OR even the glowing eyes, but that's okay! Chameleons already have such surreal and dreamlike faces that there's little room to improve upon them, and I like that one heartless is really just a big, bipedal lizard that can turn invisible. It really goes to show how adaptive the little guys are.
ANGEL STAR HEARTLESS
Interesting that, apparently, Heartless can even be "born from holy spells!" Nothing is safe! The Angel Star is as wildly eerie and abstract as you ought to expect from an "angelic" spinoff of a world-eating interdimensional plague, with some sort of light bulb for a body, a three-eyed wisp of a head and four "wings" made up of strange, chitinous segments. It looks very much like a distortion of some planktonic invertebrate from the deep ocean, which was probably the intention, considering the Clionidae or "sea angels."
ANTLION HEARTLESSThis is an interesting heartless because its body appears to be 100% mechanical, and is basically just one humongous drill with mandibles, a pretty novel way to make a more abstract, mechanical monster out of how an antlion basically works.
POISON APPLE HEARTLESSThe poison apple scene in Snow White really is a beautiful, iconic moment in animation, and I actually like how much Disney has been marketing that dripping, skull-like apple on all sorts of its own merchandise. Even before that trend, it was referenced as a type of Heartless in Kingdom Hearts X. I really enjoy the idea of a mean little shadow critter whose head is specifically a giant apple that is currently dripping in toxic slime. What could possibly be Halloweenier?!
CRABBY CAKE HEARTLESSThere are many, many elaborate and weird bosses in Kingdom Hearts X, but I've tried to narrow them down to just a couple, and I love everything about Crabby Cake. I love the utterly adorable "princess" on top with the flaming hair and hands, I love the cage-like bottom layer full of heartless eyes, I love the multiple monstrous arms holding giant eating utencils, I love that even the damn strawberries are Heartless and I love the extra little shadow riding in the spoon. I've liked the idea of a cake as a monster ever since Super Mario RPG, and this might be one of the coolest, most creative examples I have ever seen in the years since.
RIBBITOAD HEARTLESSOh my gosh. Is that MUSHROOM the "REAL" head!? Is that what's going on here!? It has a giant monster frog body but that's just a distraction from its true form, a little gothic parasol-fungus sticking out of its head!? It even gives the whole thing a bonus Deep Sea Fish vibe!
And yes, it also has completely darling little "polliwog" minions!
TERRIBLE BED HEARTLESSA bed that is terrible is a really funny concept for a monster, and once again we have one whose real eyes are in an unexpected place. That's such a running them with the Kingdom Hearts X and Union X enemies that it would be redundant to include too many more of them, but I especially enjoy this one because of the dummy body "sleeping" up top.
DUSK NOBODYWe'll take a break from Heartless for a moment here and review a couple of my favorite "Nobodies," creatures introduced in the second game that are born from people who...who....
No. Nope. Not gonna talk about this damn plot. Nobodies used to be people and now they aren't, and they're bad, alright?!
The Dusk is the basic form of Nobody, and it looks, and moves, like empty clothing. I never really noticed before that it has an additional, more Heartless-like jagged mouth inside of its zipper hood, or that its pointed hands are actually multiple, long fingers bound together. These things are floppy and stretchy and even blow around in the air like a windsock!
CREEPER NOBODYThis slightly tougher Nobody walks around sneakily on its super-stretchy arms, until it flares them open and flaps them to launch itself at you like some freakish, hollow bird.
GAMBLER NOBODYThe last nobody making this list, I just really like the personality and shape of this one, with its weirdly tall face-hole and an upper torso that hovers separately from its legs and waist. It can even retract completely into that lower body to become a sort of fat, limbless bell shape when it wants.
CURSED COACH UNVERSEDThe Unversed are another Bad Thing, these considered to be "the opposite of human life" and born from negative emotions. I don't know what The Opposite of Human Life is supposed to mean, but I know this goth-ass mournful pumpkin carriage would already be one of the coolest things I've ever seen before you told me it was also a monster in its own right. The metallic bars for "teeth" give it an extremely cool look, as do the huge, sickle-shaped eye holes, though the real eyes are the red ones on the "stem" of the pumpkin, so it's actually a monster with a tiny little head, huge round body and a mouth in its "stomach!"
WHEEL MASTER UNVERSEDSleeping Beauty's spinning wheel as a giant, rampaging monster. That's weird! It definitely lends this thing an extremely cool and unique shape, and look how much stuff it can prick you with! I never quite got what was up with her falling into a coma after sticking herself on a needle. I guess back before white Europe discovered hygiene, any little scratch could mean a fatal or near-fatal infection.
METAMORPHOSIS UNVERSEDA giant, spacefaring Unversed with three tentacles, a jellyfish-like locomotive pattern and a body described as "blubbery." Personally I just love how much it looks like both a mollusk and a sheet ghost pulsating through space.
HEBBY REPP DREAM EATERYeah, that's right, there's another kind of bad thing, fools! Dream Eaters are interesting because they look colorful and candy-like instead of gothic, though they do have "nightmare" forms where their colors just change to more purples, blues and greens while their eyes turn red and angry. Look at HEBBY REPP though. I somehow already know that's what this is. I look at this two-legged socksnake and HEBBY REPP is just what comes to mind anyway.
GHOSTABOCKY DREAM EATERThis one is a spookular ghost! But it's ALSO a hungry egg! I really like that combination, unless the egg part is accidental, but why would it be!?
ESCARGLOW DREAM EATERObviously this is one of the best dream eaters, because it's a happy snail, although I don't know what else I can say about it.
DUCKYGOOSE DREAM EATERThis, though, is most "objectively" the best Dream Eater. Good enough that it's a fat, round goose with crazed, swirly eyes, but they went and made its body one big mouth with a huge tongue. That is a super weird thing for a goofy bird monster and really pushes the "dream" association! I just love how psychedelic these things are!
SEARCH GHOST HEARTLESSSo, back to the Heartless, and specifically we're ending on a little countdown of the very spookiest Heartlessesses in the series. You might think these were designed for the original game's Nightmare Before Christmas level, but you'll first encounter them inside the belly of Monstro the Whale, which is even cooler. Those sleeves and gloves definitely carry more of a seaman vibe, and something about the lightbulb eyeball dangling on a chain has an additional "nautical" feel to me. This is also the first time I'm noticing the exposed ribs! Killer!
WIGHT KNIGHT HEARTLESSThis one IS special to Halloween Town, and it is a magnificent mummy. Long, thin limbs, pale grey-blue flesh, more exposed ribs and only a single visible eye make for a fantabulously spooky ghoul that blends well into Jack Skellington's homeland. It's no wonder he actually falls in love with the invading Heartless and tries desperately to recruit them for his Halloween parade.
GARGOYLE HEARTLESSWish there was a better image of this one, too. It's another Halloween Town Heartless, and I really dig how the hands and feet look like gnarly tree roots! Nice bulbous legs and jagged puppet mouth, too. All around quality.
CHIMERA HEARTLESSA big boss-size Halloween Town monster, the Chimera seems to be based on some sort of scientific experiment, with a machine-like body and multiple spooky heads afloat in a huge fluid-filled jar. It's even got additional jars for feet!
ILLUMINATOR HEARTLESSHow badass is this wild, shadowy lizard monster with a lantern for a tail and atrophied back legs!? Despite the name, it actually plunges its surroundings into darkness! Pete summons the Illuminator while Captain Jack Sparrow battles Barbossa like in the end of Pirates of the Caribbean because Kingdom Hearts is preposterous.
PRISON KEEPER HEARTLESSThis EXTREMELY goth Heartless is controlled by Lock, Shock and Barrel from within its dangling cage, which you may recognize as the same cage they use for an elevator in the original film. There's such a great combination of spooky characteristics here, from the bandages head-tassle to its exceptionally spidery, bony fingers!
LEECHGRAVE HEARTLESSOf course almost all of our "top spookiest" are just Halloween Town Heartless. No getting around that! I mean, look at this thing, it's both a haunted coffin and a plant monster intertwined with said coffin! True to its name, it has health-absorbing attacks, and can even imprison a victim in itself to drain them continuously!
THE EXPERIMENTI REFUSE to shrink this image. Holy crap, look at this thing. I know we keep running into designs where I just say "every part of this is beautiful" but EVERY PART OF THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. That scraggly-haired face is perfect, and the upside-down skull with yellow eyeballs for a crotch? That is art. Apparently this isn't a Heartless, but was created by Dr. Finkelstein as a playmate for Lock, Shock and Barrel, mainly so they'd just leave him alone.
PARASITE CAGE HEARTLESS"Leechgrave" back there is actually kind of a homage to this boss, functioning the same way and simply called "Parasite Grave" in Japan. Parasite Cage, in turn, is a homage to the Prison Cage from Final Fantasy 9, but while that was an awesome, withered plant monster, this thing is a bulbous, slimy intestinal parasite Heartless encountered within Monstro! I can almost tell just by the design that it's something parasitic, or at least poisonous, and I love its double-stacked face design...or is the idea here that Parasite Cage is in fact two creatures, a parasite on a parasite or hyperparasite?! Whatever they are, I love them. I love that the Heartless even adapt to the lifestyle of an endoparasite and that it's also a "cage" monster that imprisons its victims in its big, ghostly mouth.
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