Dear Ansem, Seeker of Darkness,
I was nine years old when the first Kingdom Hearts game was released in North America. No one series has defined my life more than Kingdom Hearts. No one villain has impacted my view of antagonists more than you. While Xehanort would become the villain synonymous with the series, it didn’t start that way. Before Master Xehanort, Young Xehanort, Terra-Xehanort, and all the other Xehanorts there was Ansem.
There I was, nine years old, already filled with a love of Disney and a curiosity for Final Fantasy (a bonus of having older siblings). It was like Kingdom Hearts was made for me. I turned the game on, slipped into the oversized shoes of Sora, struggled for weeks to get through Wonderland, lost to Cerberus more times than I can count, and eventually unlocked my first “report” from a mysterious figure called Ansem. I didn’t know then that this was the game introducing me to a story that would shape my story for years to come.
Final Fantasy parades complex villains, but they inevitably turn out to be some unknowable monster. Disney loves evil queens and dark magicians. You are none of these. You are a scientist. A man corrupted by his desire for knowledge. When you clashed with Sora you presented yourself as a philosopher seeking truth. You spoke about the nature of the universe and about a person’s place in the grand scheme. You were the first villain who made me realize you believe in your cause. In that final boss fight you saw yourself as the hero.
This is reflected in the way you speak and carry yourself. While Richard Epcar does an outstanding job giving voice to your character in the sequels, I will always lament that Billy Zane, your original voice actor, was not given the chance to reprise his role. Zane chose to give your voice a calm, smooth tone that was strangely inviting. I could immediately understand why characters in the story were seduced by your teachings.
Then, there’s your character design! Who knew sexy scientist was an aesthetic? While Megaman and Sonic present old, wizened scientists as their final villains, everything about your design is attractive. You perfectly exemplify the idea that power and darkness are seductive.
As I said, Kingdom Hearts defines me, and you define why I love villains. I learned to love the writing of video games through you. I started this journey with you in 2002, and in 2019, I got to finish this journey with you.
Oh sure, Kingdom Hearts 3 is the story of Sora versus Master Xehanort for the fate of the universe. For me, though, this story came to a close in the penultimate battle. The final showdown between Sora and Ansem - the duo that started it all.
Your final moments weren’t ones of intimidation, but of quiet reflection. Once again, you were the philosopher, discussing all you had seen and what came next. Your final words weren’t directed at Sora, but at us, the players. At me.
“It is time to move on, boy . . . There is more to seek. . . so go forth now, and seek it . . . ”
We started this journey together, and after 17 years, you let me know it was finally time to close the book on that journey. That you - and the story you represented - had taught me all you had to teach. Kingdom Hearts has reached its end. Sure, there will be more sequels and DLC, but, for me, this was your story and you’ve told it. You’ve moved on, and you’ve given me permission to do the same.
Thank you for being the villain who shaped the stories I want to tell.
What a journey you and I have had,