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Kairi: The True Forgotten Girl in Kingdom Hearts

We hope you all have been enjoing the user-submitted editorials that have been written by KHInsider's fantastic members. Today we bring to you LightUpTheSky452's very insightful article on the lack of Kairi in the series thus far and her hopes for the seventh Princess of Heart in future KINGDOM HEARTS games! Enjoy!

Kairi: The True Forgotten Girl in Kingdom Hearts
By: 
LightUpTheSky452

Okay, I’ll be the first person to say that I’m a pretty big SoKai fan, but what can I say? Ever since a nine-year-old Shanna beheld their cuteness with wide eyes, one thing became abundantly clear: I will go down with that ship. 

Now, before fans of other pairings—or those who don’t like Kingdom Hearts pairings at all—leave this post, let me be quick to inform you that this article isn’t about pairings. Rather, this is an article about Kairi and her recent disappearance from the series, and some of the problems I think that’s caused.  

Whether you like her or not, there’s no denying that Kairi added something to the overall formula, so here we’re going to take a look at one of the reasons Kingdom Hearts will always be held in high regard…whereas Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] fell a little short of the mark.

Kicking things off, let’s start with the first Kingdom Hearts. Arguably the best game in the Kingdom Hearts series, and a fan favorite, one of the reasons this game was so powerful was because we had Sora and Riku desperately trying to save Kairi, but going different routes to do so. Though the little bit of shipping in this game was also cute, and implemented rather well, that isn’t to say I don’t like Kairi by herself. To the contrary, I light up about anytime she has screen time. When it comes down to it, I really respect the sweet, feisty, and strong-willed princess. 

It is for this reason that I will always value Kingdom Hearts’ ending over a lot of the others. Not only is Sora and Kairi’s goodbye rather heart wrenching, but the entire CGI ending ends up being a Kairi montage of sorts. And though the Kairi ending is truly inspired, it’s something that hasn’t been carried onto other installments in the series. With that in mind, we move on to some of the problems Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories presents on the Kairi front. 

Chain of Memories was a truly beautiful game. It added a new strategic sort of gameplay, it had a beautiful story that I think was good enough to stand on its own as an IP, and the return of Sora, Donald, and Goofy in the way they should be written was also great. 

Despite how much as I love this game, there’s no denying this was the beginning of Kairi’s disappearance from the series. Instead of fighting to save Kairi this time around, we are instead met with her Nobody, Naminé. And sure, all of the memories she gave Sora were an outright lie, and mostly based on Kairi herself, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve gone from having substantial Kairi scenes to metaphorical ones. 

Also, as much as I love Naminé and Xion, it doesn’t make Kairi look very good when she’s being overshadowed by “other versions of herself.” Still, at least Kairi was a driving force in this game, and at least we can see Sora looking at his lucky charm many times during it. 

Now, we cannot forget 358/2 Days. I will be one of the few who openly admits to loving Days and Xion both, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with Xion’s addition to the franchise.

On one hand, I like Xion a lot because she might be the closest we’ve gotten to an insight into Kairi’s mind (as Naminé said, Xion is “the Kairi that Sora remembers”). And there’s also no doubt that Xion stands as an example of all Kairi could be, if she was given the chance, but...  

The problem is Kairi’s being featured in a roundabout way, but they’re not featuring Kairi herself. Granted, I’m more than willing to give Nomura a break on this one (since it had been established in Kingdom Hearts II that Kairi had been living a normal life on the islands, and thus couldn’t have really been in Days), but this just seems like another problem on a growing list of Kairi problems. And it is ironic that even though Kairi’s “Others” are supposed to be the sympathetic “forgotten characters of Kingdom Hearts”, I’m beginning to think that title better suits Kairi.

I have to say I was a big fan of Kairi in Kingdom Hearts II. What other people didn’t deem good character development for Kairi in it, I thought was more than enough for this stage in her character arc. Taking from her line in Kingdom Hearts about wanting to protect Sora to heart comes Kairi’s similar line of “this time I’ll fight.” Though I do think there are some problems with Kairi in this game, I did enjoy Nomura beginning to slightly—and realistically—break Kairi out of the Princess of Heart/Damsel in Distress mold.  

If I have to say one thing that bothers me about Kingdom Hearts II it has to be towards the end, after the trio has been reunited, when Sora and Riku seem to be ignoring Kairi. Okay, so that isn’t really the case at all (rather, Kairi just has a case of flat-character-syndrome, and Nomura just doesn’t know what to do with her), but no matter how one chose to perceive those scenes, they were a bit unsettling. Even so, for the most part I was happy with Kairi trying to pull her own weight in this game, and was so excited to see what she’d do next! Except that hasn’t happened yet, and it looks as though it might not happen until the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III.

Like in Kingdom Hearts II, I thought Birth By Sleep did a lot of things right with Kairi. It set up her being a Keyblade wielder (and possibly one of the Seven Lights); it explained how she would get to Destiny Islands a few years later, etc. But it was at this point in the series that I started to see a real problem with Kairi’s inclusion in it.

Granted, I’ll once again give Nomura the benefit of the doubt and believe he has something amazing planned out (and remember that he does have a lot of characters to juggle), but let’s look at this realistically. For one thing, this is the game that is starting to make the “trio” seem more like a “duo”; it has a ton of cute scenes with Sora and Riku as children, but none of them with Kairi. (This would have been the perfect time to show how Kairi got to the islands, too.) 

As the Sora and Kairi scenes are starting to come less and less now, and there are little to no Riku and Kairi scenes at all in the series, it’s ironic that in a series about trios it is the main trinity that falls the flattest. But even with all of this, this is not my main qualm about Birth By Sleep. No, my main issue about Kairi in Birth by Sleep is “Blank Points”. 

Though I do enjoy “Blank Points” very much, I can’t help but feel Kairi was out of character in that cutscene. Handing Sora her charm and saying she’ll “see him soon”? What in the world happened to the girl who said, “I’m tired of waiting, so don’t tell me to stay behind! From now on, wherever one of us goes, the other follows, got it?”?!  

Once again I am looking for some explanation to this, so as not to think Nomura’s just forgotten how to characterize her, it does seem that Kairi is just putting on a brave face for Sora (and it is in her nature to put others first), but I really cannot understand why Kairi couldn’t have just gone with Sora and Riku to watch them take their Mark of Mastery. After all, Sora and Riku thought their biggest threat was gone at this point, so this would have been a great time for them to show Kairi the wonders of the multiverse (and begin training her a bit). 

I don’t understand why she doesn’t appear at Yen Sid’s until the secret ending of [Dream Drop Distance]. And that game just seems so… empty without her somehow. Especially after Sora’s heart’s been shattered, and all his loved ones should be there for him... 

Another game that didn’t include Kairi the way it should have is Re:coded. The basic problem here? Nomura explicably stated in an interview that there could not be a Data Sora without a Data Roxas, as they make up one existence. And yet, there’s a Data Naminé running around with no Data Kairi? The argument that Naminé was technically created from Sora, aside… it still is a weak argument, and now Nomura seems to be bending his own rules, too. He may have been able to argue the Data Naminé and Data Kairi thing, but there is no denying Kairi should have at least been in the Journal’s memory of Destiny Islands.

As bad as Re:coded was, [Dream Drop Distance] tries to fix the problem a little too late. Even though I was ecstatic to see Kairi in the secret ending, and in Sora’s “my friends are my power” speech, this game also does a lot wrong with her. For one thing, Sora doesn’t look at his lucky charm once in the game. Honestly, this might have to do with her being completely safe for the first time in who knows how long, but it just seems odd that the characters don’t think of her too much at all (or even consider she should probably be there during certain scenes).  

This game had a lot of opportunities for Nomura to work Kairi into things. Sora thinking Shiki is Kairi, anyone? The game was said to be rushed, but still. I can’t help but feeling Kairi’s role is becoming less and less as these games progress.

It certainly doesn’t help in knowing that some of the things that distinguished her from the the others aren’t so special anymore. Sora and Kairi’s hearts being connected? Sora’s heart is pretty much connected to everyone’s these days. Kairi somewhat being the balance between Sora and Riku? Nope. It’s now revealed that Riku keeps Sora “on his toes,” and Sora is the person Riku strives to be like. With all of that, I can’t be the only one wondering where Kairi’s role is in all of this. When talking about her a few times in [Dream Drop Distance], the characters don’t even always use her name! It’s disheartening, really. 

To tell the truth, [Dream Drop Distance] did not reach me as much as it could have, and I do believe it’s because Kairi wasn’t in it. I really did not care about Sora and Riku’s test, or think there was any real danger to them at all, until the end of the game. There’s no arguing that Sora and Riku trying to save Kairi in past games had much more of an impact than this game’s story did. And really, since this was the ten-year anniversary of Kingdom Hearts, it’s simply unacceptable how little Kairi was in it.

There’s no denying that Kairi’s role has changed a lot in this series, and I personally think it is a loss. It seems as though Kairi might finally get her time to shine in Kingdom Hearts III, but isn’t that just too little too late? Do you possibly think her having a nice role in Kingdom Hearts III can make up for all the previous neglect? 

What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you think Kairi being gone is a loss to the series, or do you think it’s the best thing that ever happened to it? Do you want the Kairi loose ends to be tied up, or do you simply not care about them? Do you think, like I do, that Kairi should have been one of the first characters to be developed, or are you glad the bone was thrown to characters like Ven, Terra, and Aqua instead? Whatever you feel, be sure to discuss it in the forums!

For me personally, I know I’ll be eagerly hoping for more Kairi scenes. In my eyes, it’s high time we see the trio connect, and see their love for each other again. I think it’s time for Sora to grow up a bit and feel a little weighed down by things, and what better way than through his feelings for Kairi?

I want to see Kairi as she was meant to be all along: the Light within the series’ Darkness. As a character who’s supposed to be extremely important to Kingdom Hearts, I think she more than deserves the chance to show us just what she’d made of.

And with that in mind, this is Shanna signing off.

 

COMMENTS

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Javelin434

April 19, 2013 @ 08:46 pmOffline

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This is... quite possibly the most wonderful thread that I have ever stumbled into. Completely agree on the fact that she's been given less of an appearance since KH, and it pains me to see this happening. Though, I'm hoping something spectacular will happen when KH3 rolls around.

LightUpTheSky452

April 19, 2013 @ 08:51 pmOffline

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So… here are a few other things I meant to mention in the article, but ended up not doing for certain reasons. Back to the whole Kairi being written out of the series thing, it’s sort of sad that Riku says it’s Terra that made him want to see new worlds in DDD, when he said it was Kairi in KHI. “If you hadn’t come here, I probably never would have thought of any of this.”… Apparently that’s not the truth, after all:(

Also, I sort of wish that DDD had ended with Riku going to get Kairi, so she could pull Sora from the Darkness again. Or maybe they could have at least tried it, and then gone with the true ending when that didn’t work? IDK. But I would have liked to see her in 3D (especially the ending) more.

It would have been nice, too, if Sora had thought of Kairi when his heart was shattering. It would have been a nice parallel to KHI, when he was lost in the Darkness, and the memory of Kairi was what brought him back. And it also would have just been cool, since it was the ten-year anniversary, and Kairi should have been commemorated more. Personally, if Sora would have shown guilt or sadness for not being able to return to Kairi like he’d promised, I think it would have been really emotional and powerful, but I’m gonna stop talking now.

Hope you all enjoyed the article. –bows-

Swoosh

April 19, 2013 @ 09:12 pmOnline

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Great editorial lightupthesky. I too am a soraxkairi shipper and agree that kairi needs to have a larger role in the series.. Hopefully kairi will become more developed in kh3

LightUpTheSky452

April 19, 2013 @ 09:21 pmOffline

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Aww, thank you so much, Javelin434 and swooshbarnes! Your support and kind words mean more to me than you two could possibly know. And, yes. Hopefully she’ll get her chance to shine soon; she more than deserves it at this point. I just hope they develop her a bit better than they did Serah in XIII-2. –shot-

Anyway, I’m glad to know this article was somewhat decent to you guys, seeing as how it’s the first one I’ve ever “published officially”. Knowing it’s not totally terrible is certainly a load off. Hahaha. So thanks!

-Shan

P.S. SoKai ftw. –shot. shot. completely shot.-

Wehrmacht

April 19, 2013 @ 09:22 pmOffline

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Your points are pretty spot-on. For someone who was supposed to be such an important character, her relationships with both Sora and Riku are woefully undeveloped, no doubt because she's absent a lot of the time. They don't even bother to try and flesh her out in flashbacks. What interaction she does have with Sora (especially in KH2) is just poorly-written and scripted shipbait. With that said, I can't say I hold Kairi herself in any high regard, because I think this lack of screen time and fleshing out has made her a pretty boring character, who honestly should have been way more fleshed out and important to the series. It just seems like they don't know how to and/or don't want to incorporate her properly into the story. It's just one of the many problems the series has piled up over the years.

skyfoxx

April 19, 2013 @ 09:29 pmOffline

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Gonna have to respectfully disagree with a lot of the points here.

KH3D really didn't need Kairi up until that secret ending. And "Sora thinking Shiki is Kairi" is just as dumb as Ami always confusing every single Hedgehog for Sonic despite that none of the Hedgehogs look a thing like him (Silver's got different shaped spikes for crying out loud)



"Kairi might finally get her time to shine in Kingdom Hearts III, but isn’t that just too little too late?"


Here's the thing. COM, Sora was away from Kairi and Namine was taking over her memories. So of course Kairi wouldn't really be there.


358/2 Days isn't about Kairi. It's about the organization members and Riku. Kairi wouldn't have done something in the game because she's still in the island.


Re:Coded doesn't have much of a plot to begin with... and what would have Kairi done there? Sora and Riku weren't even really there. I don't really think a Data Kairi would've really added much anyway. She's not really "suffering" like Namine, Roxas, Xion, Terra, Aqua, and Ventus are.


BBS is a 10-year prequel so it makes sense that they would have Kairi in Radiant Garden and not with Sora and Riku. So I don't see the problem there.

Also the point about "Oh, it wasn't Kairi that made Riku want to go to other worlds, it was just Terra..." I would say it's both. Just because it's revealed that Terra had a big influence doens't make it the only reason. I'm sure once Kairi came to town, that was the point in which the idea would stick to Riku's head. So I'd say it's both really.


And KH3D was the mark of mastery exam for Sora and Riku. Sora still goes by the thought that Kairi "would kind of get in his way." And considering the one time she did fight in KH2, who could really blame him? And shoot, just about everyone except Riku really knew Kairi could wield a keyblade, and I'm sure Riku wanted Kairi out of the situation if at all possible. The only reason he would let Kairi fight at all would be if the situation wasn't too difficult for her to handle (they were only Shadows) and the fact that she was already there. In reality, both Sora and Riku would prefer her to just stay that "waiting" girl in the island. I'm sure the only reason they are using Kairi at all is because they're completely desperate. If they had anyone else, they would. Because they don't want to see Kairi get hurt (and considering what they're up against, who could blame them?)


Now granted, it was a little out of character for Kairi to simply say "See you soon" during Blank Points. But other than that, I really think it only makes sense that in KH3 would be when Kairi finally gets out. I mean, she only got action during KH2. And Re:Coded takes place immediately afterwards while Sora, Riku, and Kairi are just chilling at the island. And KH3D doesn't take much longer after that. Soooooo I really don't see the problem with having KH3 be the one in which she finally wields a keyblade properly.

The only reason it seems so long is because KH3D is really the first KH game to take place after KH2 and have major importance. The other games either took place when Kairi was still waiting in the Islands or when Kairi was in Radiant Garden. So you can't really do anything about that.

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Saikex

April 19, 2013 @ 09:30 pmOffline

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Kairi's back, and with a bigger role. What more do you want?

You should think of KH3 as the big debut for Kairi. I betcha KH3 is gonna fulfill a lot of fan service. You know, lovey-dovey stuff!

1. Sora and Kairi's relationship will be more flirtatious

2. Mickey Donald and Goofy will giggle every now and then when the romance is obvious

3. Riku is gonna encourage Sora to confess to Kairi (maybe some bit of guilt/jealousy)

4. Something horrible will happen that will risk Kairi's life

5. Sora heroically saves Kairi (maybe they save each other, whatever)

6. Sora and Kairi share a traditional Disney true-love kiss!

A lot can happen, you never know. Keep your fingers crossed .

Sorarocks93

April 19, 2013 @ 09:51 pmOffline

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Amazing article, nice stuff.

I do believe Kairi should get more screen time or that she should have gotten more screen time. She is my favorite out of all the girls.

I also believe that she has to - no - she needs to play a bigger role in the game. She needs to be able to stand up for herself like Aqua does. Hopefully that will be achieved with her training.

Nomura also needs to develop her relationship with Sora, I mean we all saw that Sora had feelings for Kairi - in this case Namine - in CoM.
Yes yes I'm going to get flamed to death for saying this but look at it this way. Sora is a hero of sorts. Kairi is a Princess, and Disney is involved with this game. See where I'm getting at? That however does not mean that Sora wouldn't look everyone else the same way he does Kairi. I mean does he look at Riku differently than the others just because he is his best friend? Let's say everyone is in danger. He will try to save them all and not the only two people he cares most about, in this case Riku and Kairi.

Anyway, I hope she gets an important role in KHIII, why else would she be in the secret ending of DDD?

Javelin434

April 19, 2013 @ 10:02 pmOffline

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Kairi's back, and with a bigger role. What more do you want?

You should think of KH3 as the big debut for Kairi. I betcha KH3 is gonna fulfill a lot of fan service. You know, lovey-dovey stuff!

1. Sora and Kairi's relationship will be more flirtatious

2. Mickey Donald and Goofy will giggle every now and then when the romance is obvious

3. Riku is gonna encourage Sora to confess to Kairi (maybe some bit of guilt/jealousy)

4. Something horrible will happen that will risk Kairi's life

5. Sora heroically saves Kairi (maybe they save each other, whatever)

6. Sora and Kairi share a traditional Disney true-love kiss!

A lot can happen, you never know. Keep your fingers crossed .
I SERIOUSLY hope this happens. I wanna see them kiss before I die by a possible war conflict...

Zer0sky

April 19, 2013 @ 10:14 pmOffline

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Yeah like skyfoxx was pointing out i interpreted

“If you hadn’t come here, I probably never would have thought of any of this.”

as terra gave him the idea and kairi gave him the motivation to actually implement it. I also think khIII is a great place to bring back kairi and hopefully she's actually really tough/cool by taking out heartless that riku and sora have trouble taking out opposed to being that support character that the team will just be leaving the little shadows to. Kairi could have been in DDD but would it really have made much of a difference, i mean even Axel~Lea was really downplayed because he was just standing there (kinda awkwardly) with the Disney characters. Now imagine kairi there. Wouldn't it have seemed a little annoying/unnecessary to have Kairi there to asking is Sora and Riku alright. I feel if she was to be included in that game she would have to have been taking the mark of mastery with riku and sora.

Also I doubt there will be some sort of love triangle situation between kairi, sora, and riku because in (I think) every disney love story in kh's worlds there is never a love triangle just a linear love line, simple.

Spoiler Spoiler: kh DDD Show


Also nice article.

Zephyr

April 19, 2013 @ 10:21 pmOffline

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I love your editorial LightUpTheSky452. Maybe Nomura has something really big planned for Kairi seeing how the secret ending in KH3D turned out.

LightUpTheSky452

April 19, 2013 @ 10:38 pmOffline

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@skyfoxx Yeah, Sora thinking Shiki was Kairi might have been a bit silly, but I don’t know. I think it would have been nice to see him think about her more often in this game, seeing as how it was supposed to be the anniversary one, and it just would have been nice to show the characters haven’t forgotten her completely. Maybe if he’d just seen a glimpse of Shiki? Or he could have been disoriented and thought she was Kairi, like he once thought Yuffie was (which also would have been a good tie to KHI).

My main point here is that they really haven’t handled Kairi’s character the way they should have. Her character is very, very one-dimensional, and it’s getting to a point where they’re almost rewriting her out of the series more and more. Via it be her “clones” taking up the spotlight, pre-established canon, changing certain facts (like the Terra thing), you name it. And remembering how important she was in KHI (and that she’s supposed to be the main girl in the main trio) is very disconcerting.

At least in Days and BbS, they tried to develop all the sides of the trios, but Sora/Riku/Kairi is seeming more like a duo between Sora and Riku than anything else. We don’t really see Sora/Kairi scenes anymore; there have never been many Riku/Kairi scenes... And though I know this series is a “know how to fight or go home” kind of saga, I still think they could’ve handled Kairi better. I mean look how much and influential Naminé is in the games. They could have easily split up some of that role and given it to Kairi, in my opinion, but I digress.

It just seems like they’ve written themselves into a corner with her, tbh. And though I know it would have just been pointless eye candy, I wouldn’t have minded Kairi just chilling at Yen Sid’s to give the boys moral support during the exam. Just something to show she still has relevance and connections in the series.

And I do think it would have made Sora’s state that much more real if Kairi had been there when they came back with his comatose body. I still don’t really get why she couldn’t have gone with them. Once again, it just seems out of character for her. Especially since they all three always wanted to see worlds together, Sora wants to take her to Neverland, they thought their biggest threat was gone yada, yada. I don’t think she could have gotten into much trouble on the way to Yen Sid’s with everyone else. Really, I just think it would have succeeded in making “the secret ending” happen sooner, and they could have jumpstarted her training, etc, etc.

And actually, the secret ending doesn’t sit well with me, either. It’s like Square thinks people don’t remember Kairi wielded in KHII. And the fact Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Riku are shocked she’s going to be trained, it’s like: “Hello, you saw Kairi fight with her Keyblade during KHII.”

I just don’t understand. Though I do know they couldn’t easily fix all of this stuff, or even change a lot of it, I do wish they’d try harder with her character, and have changed things from the beginning. You don’t have to be a warrior to be a huge driving force (CoM is a good example of how important Kairi could have been in the other games, as she affected a lot without even being there!)

Anyway, I’m starting to get off topic. And I completely agree with you on the games thing, btw. If they’d just made I, II, and then III, Kairi’s development wouldn’t have been a problem at all. It was when Days, BbS, Re:Coded, and DDD happened (where Kairi wasn’t in them, or couldn’t have been in them for already established reasons), that caused issues.

Shutting up now. Good discussion, btw. And thanks:)

-Shanna

Sephiroth0812

April 19, 2013 @ 11:10 pmOffline

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And I do think it would have made Sora’s state that much more real if Kairi had been there when they came back with his comatose body.
I definitely agree with the notion that the amount of neglect Kairi got so far is extreme, also since she has close to no meaningful interaction with other main characters beside Sora except some small tidbits with Roxas and Naminé in KH 2.

That said though, what has Sora's state being " more real" to do with the fact if Kairi was there or not? The whole set up was obviously meant to parallel and reflect the predicament Ventus was in the end of BBS, only with the difference that this time the good guys could do something about it.
And going by Mickey's, Donald's and Goofy's reactions and expressions the state was pretty much "real and grave" to begin with. Mickey even feared that Sora had suffered the same fate as Ventus until Yen Sid corrected him.

MATGSY

April 19, 2013 @ 11:46 pmOffline

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There's no reason Kairi couldn't have come with them to Mysterious Tower in 3D. Donald & Goofy didn't have anything to do there either but they still showed up. So why wouldn't she? Even seemingly little things like Sora saying Riku's name 1st when he saw their illusion-whatevers bugged me. Kairi really should've been the 3rd playable character in 3D. From TAV in BBS to SRK in DDD, would've been a perfect fit.

Plus we likely would've gotten Frollo & CLU bossfights with another character *grumblegrumble*

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