Terra (Japanese: テラ Hepburn: Tera) is a fictional character from Square Enix's video game franchise Kingdom Hearts, prominently featured in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep as one of the game's three playable protagonists. He appears in-game as a pupil of Master Eraqus who trains alongside his friends Aqua and Ventus to become a master of the Keyblade weapon. Terra's storyline highlights his struggle to tame his inner darkness, a negative attribute that serves as a source of both power and corruption for him. Prior to Birth by Sleep, he had a cameo appearance in a secret ending of Kingdom Hearts II and its re-release Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix; the later game included an optional boss fight against the Lingering Will (留まりし思念 Todomarishi Shinen), a hollow armor containing Terra's mind.
Series director Tetsuya Nomura designed Terra's character when preparing the secret endings of Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. He was developed to be reminiscent of series antagonist Xehanort as he appears in previous titles, as well as having a connection with Riku, one of the series' main characters. Ryōtarō Okiayu has done the voice of Terra in Japanese and Jason Dohring in the English version. Video game publications gave mixed responses to Terra's character, with many noting his similarity to the Final Fantasy VII character Zack Fair, and later commenting on his naive portrayal in Birth by Sleep.
|'Kingdom Hearts' character|
Artwork for Terra in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.
|First game||Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (2010)|
|Created by||Tetsuya Nomura|
|Designed by||Tetsuya Nomura|
|Home||Land of Departure|
An early character concept for Terra first appeared in the secret endings of Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, titled "The Gathering" and "Birth by Sleep", respectively. Additionally, the latter game and remakes include the Lingering Will as an optional boss that is accessible upon clearing the game's story.
The prequel Birth by Sleep introduces Terra as an apprentice Keyblade wielder who trains alongside Aqua and Ventus at the Land of Departure. Early in the game, Terra is denied the rank of Keyblade Master when his mentor and father figure, Master Eraqus, detects a strong presence of darkness in his heart. Disheartened, Terra is given a chance to redeem his failure when dispatched to eliminate an insurgence of dark creatures called the Unversed in neighboring worlds. Periodically, the vagabond Master Xehanort appeals to Terra to channel the power of darkness freely, creating a schism between him and his friends as they grow troubled by his actions. This eventually leads Terra to clash with Eraqus when he finds his master inexplicably attacking Ventus, which ends with Xehanort vanquishing the weakened Eraqus. Realizing the entire conflict was engineered to stimulate his inner darkness, Terra confronts Xehanort at the Keyblade Graveyard and succumbs to rage, allowing Xehanort to transplant his heart into the youth's body to prolong his own life and convert Terra into the first of his thirteen thralls. The process that turned Terra into Terra-Xehanort also transferred his disembodied mind into his discarded armor, becoming the Lingering Will that defeats Xehanort and remains in the Keyblade Graveyard. Following Terra-Xehanort's battle with Aqua, having been transformed into the Guardian Heartless, Terra's heart begins resisting Xehanort as the thrall ends up in an amnesic state by the time Ansem the Wise took him as an apprentice. As revealed in the other games, Xehanort gradually regain control of his host and splintered Terra's being into two new thralls: The Heartless that took the name of Ansem and the Nobody Xemnas who established Organization XIII which a reconstituted Xehanort takes over with eleven thralls.
Terra makes an appearance in Kingdom Hearts Coded alongside various other suffering characters who are bound to Sora's heart. He is also mentioned in the secret ending of the remake Re:coded, where Mickey Mouse and Yen Sid discuss his and Ventus' whereabouts following the events of Birth by Sleep. Terra briefly appears in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, first during Sora's dream where Sora's friends, Riku and Kairi, are transformed into Terra and Aqua; and again when Sora declares his pride in being connected to many Keyblade wielders. A vision of Terra makes an appearance in Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, a part of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, while Aqua explores the realm of darkness. In Kingdom Hearts III, the Guardian reveals himself as Terra and helps Sora defeat a reconstituted Terra-Xehanort before being restored to his true self once the fragment of Xehanort's heart is removed from his body.
Terra's role from Birth by Sleep is reprised in Tomoko Tanemaki's light novels of the game. Additionally, the final chapter shows the Lingering Will fighting Sora from Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix.
Although Terra, Ventus and Aqua first appeared in the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts II wearing armor, director Tetsuya Nomura still had not designed their final look, having only thought about their story. Despite not revealing their identities, Nomura still said that they are characters from the past from the Kingdom Hearts series. Following the release of the Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Nomura revealed a connection between them and the game's villain Xemnas, but wanted to leave it up to people's imaginations as he still could not reveal their identities. Terra's face was first shown in the 2006 Tokyo Game Show in which he was described as an avenger against Xehanort. Nomura also confirmed that the Lingering Will was connected with Terra. He also stated that his name, meaning "earth" from Latin, follows the "land" theme Riku represents, as well as connecting him with the other main characters' names from the series. In October 2007, Nomura was asked if the Lingering Will was actually Terra due to their similarities, but he responded it was still uncertain. When asked about the Will's true nature after being revealed to contain Terra's memories, Nomura stated it was not a Heartless. Nomura expressed that the fans liked the inclusion of the Will's battle due to his challenging difficulty, which led the staff to design another hard boss character for Birth by Sleep.
Out of the three protagonists from Birth by Sleep, Terra's design was the only one Nomura decided on from the start, with Nomura stating Terra would be designed younger than shown in previous games. Japanese-inspired designs were incorporated into Terra's outfit based on the "master and apprentice" relationship featured in the game. Nomura had troubles designing Terra's, Ventus's and Aqua's armors due how they would be able to summon them. Therefore, an "X" was added to their clothes as a means of activating the armors as well as due to the fact it was one of the game's keywords. Ever since development of Birth by Sleep started, the staff already decided that the three stories would be told in separate scenarios, with Terra's story being the first one written. Nomura wrote Terra's conversation with Riku early on development, wishing to explain the reason for Riku's ability to use the Keyblade, and he requested the staff in charge to make it into the game. The staff also wanted to emphasize the lack of coincidences in the series, leading to the characters' interaction between the three scenarios. Nomura recommended players to first play as Terra in Birth by Sleep in order to understand the story better. Terra's gameplay was also described by Nomura as "heavy" in comparison to Ventus's and Aqua's.
To expand the connection between Terra and Riku, scenes foreshadowing future events involving Riku from Terra's perspective were added to the game, though Nomura has stated that these scenes are not of a precognitive nature. Nomura expects that in future games, the connection between both of them would be expanded. Ryōtarō Okiayu was chosen as Terra's Japanese voice actor as the staff wanted an actor who sounded similar to Chikao Ōtsuka, Xehanort's original voice actor, and Akio Ōtsuka, Xehanort's current voice actor who also voiced the villain while using Terra's body. The staff found Chikao's was a dry sort of voice, Akio's a deep, resonating sort of voice, and liked how Okiayu bore elements from both actors.
When Terra's character was first revealed, 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish found him to be very similar to Zack Fair from Final Fantasy VII to the point where he wondered whether he would actually be Zack. However, when considering Terra's weapon being a Keyblade in contrast to all the other Final Fantasy characters shown in previous Kingdom Hearts games, he thought he may not be Zack. Amanda L. Kondolojy from Cheat Code Central found there have been various speculations regarding the similarities between Terra and Zack, but thought it would not be strange considering the existence of Nobodies in the series. Selecting Terra for a demo of Birth by Sleep IGN's Ryan Clements agreed with Parish, finding only minor differences between their outfits.
Terra's role in Birth by Sleep has received mixed critics with Adam Ghigiino from PALGN criticizing his naive personality when finding the three protagonists unappealing. VideoGamer.com writer Emily Gera stated that players may know little about them due to their role in Kingdom Hearts II, but with Birth by Sleep, players will able to know about them. Writing for GamesRadar, Crhis Antista commented that he did not understand the importance of him and the other characters being briefly featured in Kingdom Hearts II, although it could be explained once the player finishes Birth by Sleep. PlayStation LifeStyle's Thomas Williams found the trio as welcome additions to the franchise, finding their stories enjoyable even though the three travel to the same worlds. X-Play found Terra to be very similar to Riku due to his personality and vulnerability to evil's allure. Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot criticized Jason Dohring's work as Terra's English voice actor, saying he "can't express angst, excitement, sincerity, or any other emotion", affecting the storyline. VanOrd also pointed this out when Terra interacts with Disney characters, finding the latters' voice actors to be "uniformly excellent and absolutely comparable to the original source." Bob Miur from Destructoid compared Terra's storyline with the film Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith due to the struggles he faces, and found that gamers familiar to the series may realize that his fate in the game "won't turn out to be very pretty." Miur also commented on Dohring's work, praising how he makes Terra "tortured and conflicted", but still criticizing the result. UGO Networks listed Terra's Helmet nineteenth on their list of "The Coolest Helmets and Headgear in Video Games", stating "For a minute, but only a minute, the two-horned helmet will get you feeling like the Keyblade is a viable weapon." In a Famitsu poll, Terra was voted as the fifth most popular Kingdom Hearts character. Kimberly Wallace from Game Informer expected Terra, alongside his friends, to appear in Kingdom Hearts III.
Eraqus: However, only Aqua has shown the Mark of Mastery. Terra, you failed to keep the darkness within you sufficiently in check.
Eraqus: Eliminate the Unversed and find Master Xehanort. I have unlocked the Lanes Between. You may use these forbidden pathways to travel between this world and countless others.
Eraqus: Terra. Consider this an opportunity. A second chance for you to change my mind. /.../ Terra: Thank you, Master. I swear...I will not fail you again.
Xehanort: You are fine as you are. Darkness cannot be destroyed. It can only be channeled.
Terra: It might be a different route, but I'm fighting the darkness. / Aqua: I'm not so sure. I've been to the same worlds as you and I've seen what you've done. You shouldn't put yourself so close to the darkness. / Ventus: Listen to yourself, Aqua. Terra would never— / Terra: You mean you've been spying on me? /.../ Just stay put! I'm on my own now, all right?
Eraqus: Why do all my attempts to reach you fail? If you don't have it in your heart to obey... then you will have to share Ventus's fate. /.../ Terra: You may be my master... but I will not... let you hurt my friend!
Aqua: I was told...the Master was struck down. / Terra: Yes...that's right. I was stupid and helped Xehanort do it. [...] But I was tricked. Xehanort set the whole thing up—all so he could awaken the darkness inside me.
Terra: You will pay, Xehanort! Was my Master—no, my father, Eraqus not enough for you? Leave my friends alone! / Xehanort: Yes, boy, that's it! More! Let your whole heart blacken with anger!
Xehanort: At last, our moment is here. Out with the old and brittle vessel and in with a younger, stronger new one! [...] And now it is your darkness that shall be the ark that sustains me!
Terra-Xehanort: Your body submits, your heart succumbs, so why does your mind resist?
Terra: Even if you cast me into the deepest, darkest abyss, you'll never swing me from the one cause that pushes me to keep fighting.
Mickey: Yen Sid, I think we're finally close to figuring out where Ven's heart is. / Yen Sid: Is that so? Then that only leaves Terra.