The Shadow is a Pureblood Heartless introduced in Kingdom Hearts. Although the Shadow is one of the weaker, more common types of Heartless, it is still a threat to those without the Keyblade. It is found in each world in every game, excluding the worlds of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance; Atlantica in Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts II; and The World That Never Was in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. In Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix, this Heartless appeared only in the Realm of Darkness during the Secret Episode of the game. Certain Heartless, such as the Darkside, the Dark Follower, or Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, can also summon Shadows.
A normal Shadow has a vaguely humanoid body structure. It has a round, spherical head with circular, glowing yellow eyes. It also has two long, twisted antennae sprouting out of the top of its head. Each of its hands has three clawed fingers, and its feet are large and lack any discernible digits. With the exception of its eyes, this Heartless's body is completely black (with the exception of the Shadows summoned by the Dark Follower, which are dark purple).
The Shadow's name is a reference to a shadow, highlighting its status as the most basic type of Heartless. The name could also be a reference to the Shadow's ability to flatten itself into a silhouette on the ground, and become a literal shadow.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
While Aqua is traversing the Realm of Darkness, she encounters the Shadow among a few other Pureblood Heartless.
The Shadows first appear within Sora's Dive to the Heart, but are summarily destroyed by Sora, along with the Darkside, and he awakes from his dream. However, when Riku opens the door to Destiny Islands's heart, the Shadows reappear to devour the children's island. Sora notices the storm caused by their arrival and races to the island, but although he attacks them with his Wooden Sword, he is unable to damage the eldritch monsters until he discovers the Keyblade. Although he is now equipped to fight back the horde, his friends have already fallen into the darkness, and the island's heart has been devoured.
Shadows continue to appear as minor Heartless throughout the worlds, but do not reappear in force until Sora completes the Door to Darkness at Hollow Bastion by releasing Kairi's heart from his body. Not only does this change him into a Shadow, but the triumphant Ansem summons a swarm of Shadows to chase Kairi, Donald Duck, and Goofy from the castle. However, at the Entrance Hall, Kairi notices the Shadow that is Sora and embraces him, sharing her light with him and returning his human form.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Shadows appear when Roxas trains with Marluxia in Twilight Town, who uses them to illustrate why Organization XIII pursues Emblem Heartless but ignores Purebloods. Much later, when Roxas goes to Halloween Town on a mission in which he is to meet up with Xigbar, he is surrounded by Shadows before being rescued by his senior. Still later, Roxas fought a more powerful version of the Darkside, the Dark Follower, which summoned a swarm of Shadows in its unsuccessful attempt to repel the Nobody.
Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories
Several Shadows spawn when Sora and company attempt to leave the card world of Monstro, when Jack Skellington mentions a "problem" in Halloween Town, and when Sora arrives in Agrabah to find Aladdin under attack by Heartless.
Kingdom Hearts II
When Sora's and Riku's teams enter the Hall of Empty Melodies, swarms of Shadows appear and attack them separately. Riku lends Kairi a Keyblade, and they each fight back the swarm. However, it is Xigbar who finishes the Heartless off before challenging Sora to battle.
After Ansem the Wise fires the Kingdom Hearts Encoder at Xemnas's artificial Kingdom Hearts, the shower of hearts that results attracts a gigantic swarm of Shadows, who attack the castle. Maleficent and Pete offer to hold off the Shadows so that Sora and his friends can defeat Xemnas, in exchange for the castle itself. The castle and the artificial world it was built on are destroyed in Xemnas's final assault, taking the Shadows with them.
Kingdom Hearts manga
When Sora goes to check on the raft during the night of the storm, he spots Riku and Kairi's boats at the dock and rushes off to make sure they're safe, unaware of the Shadows beginning to emerge from the ground behind him.
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Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Multiple Shadows are shown in the concept trailer for Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, appearing before Sora in Traverse Town and surround him. However, both the Heartless and the Nobodies were cut from the final release of the game, to be replaced with Dream Eaters.
Kingdom Hearts III
Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories
Kingdom Hearts II
Shadows emerge from the ground to attack with a simple but powerful scratch attack. These Heartless are easy to defeat on their own, but their habit of attacking in large swarms can be quite overwhelming. When facing swarms of Shadows in Kingdom Hearts, the Thunder spell is an effective means of finishing off these foes quickly. The Keyblade is sufficient enough to take down a Shadow when it challenges Sora on its own, however.
Notes and references
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