The problem of time travel
The most frequently asked question I’ve gotten since Dream Drop Distance was announced was “Why do Riku and Sora” look like their KH1 ages in this game?”. My initial answer before playing the game was that you weren’t playing as the real Sora and Riku, rather their dream selves, but I was wrong. Now that’ I’ve beaten the game and had time to analyze it my definitive answer is now time travel.
In the flashbacks taking place before the start of the game, Yen Sid explains to Sora and Riku that in order to effectively combat Xehanort they not only must become masters, but they must also forget their self-taught method of using the Keyblade and learn from scratch, the easiest way to do so? Have Sora and Riku revert to themselves at the moment when they first received their keys, the moment the Destiny Islands fell to darkness.
Now, let me go ahead and explain the conditions for time travel before we move any farther:
- You must leave your body behind
- There must be a version of yourself at the destination
- Upon arrival, you can only move forward in time
- You cannot rewrite destined events, changing the set timeline is impossible
Presumably, Yen Sid did something to the boys to transport them to the Destiny Islands the moments before it fell to darkness, de-aging them by two years. The two boarded the raft they built and set sail where they were attacked by a random Ursula which I still can’t explain. But after the fight their raft got wrecked and they fell into the ocean, it was then that their Keyblades were summoned and they opened the Keyhole to the sleeping realm.
Rule 1: You must leave your body behind
In the various interludes between worlds we see no sign of Sora and Riku’s bodies remaining in Yen Sid’s tower, so unless they were shoved in to the back room it can be assumed that their physical bodies were the ones on the Destiny Islands, and when they entered the sleeping worlds it was really them. My “dream selves” theory was mainly based off of the new outfits, but as it turns out there’s a deeper explanation for it. Sora gained a new outfit because Xehanort needed a way to track his journey and lead him to the final destination, The World That Never Was. Riku got a new outfit because he dived in to Sora’s dream and became a physical embodiment of a Spirit Dream Eater, which explains the sigil on his back, he became Sora’s guardian Spirit.
Ansem, Seeker of Darkness forsake his body and became nothing but a heart so that he could travel through time and inform his various selves of the plan. Which leads to the next rule.
Rule 2: There must be a version of yourself at the destination
With Ansem SOD reduced to nothing but a heart he was free to swim through the flow of time and mingle with any version of himself and discuss the plan with them. He took advantage of this to travel back in time to greet his younger self that we see at the beginning of Birth by Sleep. He informs him of the plan and sets him on his destined course.
Rule 3: Upon arrival, you can only move forward in time
This should be fairly self explanatory, once arriving at your destination you can only move forward in time. To travel again you must either return to your original time or forego your body again. In theory you could go back and pull an Akemi Homura and reset the timeline to suit your liking but…
Rule 4: You cannot rewrite destined events, changing the set timeline is impossible
Probably the most crucial rule in this set, and the one that screws with all other time travel laws. So according to this rule the entire timeline is predetermined, so if you travel through time it has already been decided that you will. It would be impossible to change the predestined timeline because everything has been determined beforehand. There is no way to split off the timeline and create parallel universes because there is only one Omega (Ω) universe, so by travelling through time you’re actually moving through time the way you were destined to, just not in a directly straightforward way.
So my theory would be that Master Xehanort set this all in motion in the moments between when he seperated his heart from his own body and when he implanted it in Terra, it would make sense because when you return you come back to the exact moment of departure. But that would mean that he created a seperate timeline, a Beta (β) timeline if you will to set the events in motion. But this single linear timeline confuses me because it violates the very principles of time travel.
My problem with this system of time travel
It’s obvious to anyone who’s played Final Fantasy XIII-2 that Square Enix obviously has trouble grasping the basic mechanics of time travel, one of the most ridiculous features of that game’s system of time travel was that if you changed the future you would also change the past, THAT MAKES NO SENSE. As does the single timeline of Kingdom Hearts. The only plausible way for this system to make sense would firstly to have a completely pre-determined timeline, meaning that there would have to be a point in the farthest future that Ansem SOD could have visited to see the outcome of Xehanort, because he could go the farthest he could until there was no longer a Xehanort a the destination, so the whole “the future is beyond me” line could be rendered moot. Secondly, the greater linear timeline would have to be made up of a system of intersecting time loops that both repeat and end, thus paradox.
From my own research, time travel requires breaking the timeline and creating parallel universes. Let me go back to Madoka Magica to explain, the original timeline in which Madoka dies and Homura makes her wish would be the Alpha (α) timeline, as it is the original timeline which all of the other timelines branch from, as she continues to fail and reset the timeline she ends up creating more and more timelines, these abandoned timelines do not cease to exist though, they continue to exist in their set course only without Homura there. The Omega (Ω) timeline is the final timeline, this is the timeline in which Madoka is the goddess and has recreated the rules of the universe, the one without witches. This is where the separation stops, this is the end of the line and time will continue forever in this timeline because the rest were destined to end at the hands of witches.
What Homura did was not simply rewind time and go back to before she met Madoka, she transported herself to a seperate timeline where she had never met Madoka and lived in that time until she failed and reset. With this system of time travel you are safe from loops and paradoxes because you move forward in the same line, but when you go back you create a new line.
Kingdom Hearts time travel leads to plot holes and time loops and paradoxes, making a deeper analysis of the story very hard because you have to overlook the problems of the system and assume it works in order to move forward, but it is very hard because the loops and paradoxes screw up logical thinking.