- “On that land shall darkness prevail and light expire. The future... it's already been written.”
Kingdom Hearts III (キングダムハーツIII Kingudamu Hātsu Surī?) is an upcoming action role-playing game, developed by Square Enix and published by Disney Interactive Studios for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is the eighth installment in the Kingdom Hearts series. During E3 2013, after years of rumors and speculation, the game was confirmed to be in development.
In June 2013, Nomura discussed the updated visuals seen in the reveal trailer as well as the gameplay. On the visuals, he said that they tried to remember that these "Kingdom Hearts characters were originally paintbrush art from Disney productions, a texture that was one of our original aims, and that it was time to return to that. So [chief creative director Takeshi] Nozue went through a series of tests, and the results are the visuals that we refer to in the team as the Kingdom Shader. It may look like a pretty drastic change, but I see it as a rich evolution of everything we've shown you up to now." Regarding the gameplay, Nomura stated: "The action's pretty frantic. The really bold action we've always had is getting even crazier. Kingdom Hearts III has three-person parties, but NPCs and other characters join the fight in each individual world, and the resulting action is really flashy and exciting. The enemy AI is a lot more intricate, too, and I think the gameplay will reflect that new dynamic balance. For example, there's a foe that's shaped like a vehicle, and Sora may jump on it and fly around; that's already implemented." Sora will gain the ability to change the shape of his Keyblade, much like Aqua's ability in Birth by Sleep.
In a Square Enix Presents interview during E3 2013, Nomura stated that the combat in the game will be along the lines of the system seen in Kingdom Hearts II, with evolution similar to what was seen from Kingdom Hearts to Kingdom Hearts II. He stated that the handheld games' combat was a place he could experiment and try new things, and that some of the well received additions may appear in Kingdom Hearts III. He also stated that summoning will return, but in a different form and system than previous games. Nomura further stated that Sora will be the main character to play as, but will look into having others be playable, such as King Mickey, if it fits in the context of the game. Finally, Nomura said multiplayer is also being considered. Nomura added in an interview in July 2013 that the gameplay would be closely tied to that in Dream Drop Distance.
At the D23 Expo Japan 2013, a new gameplay video of Kingdom Hearts III was shown with various Disneyland rides being utilized in combat, along with many cosmetic upgrades from Kingdom Hearts II.
Most of the worlds featured in the game based on Disney properties are new to the series, such as ones based on Tangled and Big Hero 6, though returning worlds appear, such as the Hercules-themed Olympus. Nomura revealed the Tangled world was the first determined to be in the game as the development team wanted to include Rapunzel due to her strong personality and her hair, saying, "...she is able to utilize her hair in such a way where she’s whipping it around. She can even use it for attacks, and that was just so appealing, and we thought it would make for such great gameplay, so we had a very strong desire to include that."
Since the release of Kingdom Hearts II, The Walt Disney Company has acquired Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment, and Lucasfilm. When asked if any of these properties would appear in Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura said, "Whenever I hear of [an acquisition], I always say, ‘woah…they’ve done it again.’ The first thing I do when I find out this news is contact Disney and see if it’s something I can use [in Kingdom Hearts]." He went on to say that "Disney's pretty honest [on the possibility of an inclusion]. If the situation is really difficult, they’ll say, it’s really difficult. If it’s impossible, they’ll say it’s impossible." He later stated, that even though the Disney Company has acquired these properties, Disney Interactive Studios may not necessarily have the ability to license the content due to existing deals (such as Disney's deal with Electronic Arts for Star Wars games). In December 2014, Co-director Tai Yasue stated that they were "looking at all of Disney, the new ones as well" when choosing worlds for the game, including worlds based on Marvel Comics and Star Wars. He expanded, saying, "We have to come up with a world that has a lot of originality. We want variety in our new Kingdom Hearts, so we don’t want too many of one sort of world, that would look the same. For each world there has to be some meaning for it, in the plot... Also, gameplay-wise, is that world something that would make gameplay fun?"
Sora will once again be the protagonist of this game, while Riku, Kairi, Donald Duck, Goofy, King Mickey, Master Xehanort and Master Eraqus also return, along side the inclusion of Disney characters, such as Rapunzel and Baymax.
Continuing from Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Sora, Donald and Goofy will attempt to search for seven guardians of light and the "Key to Return Hearts", while King Mickey and Riku search for previous Keyblade wielders in an attempt to stop Master Xehanort's plan to balance the light and darkness, which will ultimately lead to the final showdown between Sora and Master Xehanort. By the start of the game, Sora has completed his Mark of Mastery, which he was attempting to do at the end of Dream Drop Distance.
Kingdom Hearts III will serve as the final chapter of the "Dark Seeker" saga, with Nomura revealing that the plot of the game will pick up "immediately after the events of Dream Drop Distance." He also added that the plot will examine the seven lights and thirteen darknesses coming together for the final battle, but that everyone that is expected to fulfill these roles may not.
"Believing light and darkness must remain in balance, Master Xehanort seeks to spark war against the ‘tyranny of light’ to restore equilibrium.
In an effort to undermine Xehanort’s plot, Sora, Donald and Goofy search for seven guardians of light and the “Key to Return Hearts,” while King Mickey and Riku search for previous Keyblade wielders."
—Kingdom Hearts III press release
After Square Enix finished development of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+, Kingdom Hearts producer Tetsuya Nomura was approached by Disney who expressed interest in a sequel. In regard to a possible release of a Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura said "We have various ideas, but we're not at the point where we can say that." He added that due to the development of Final Fantasy XV (which at the time was Final Fantasy Versus XIII), "it's physically impossible at the present. I feel that it's not the right time to talk about the future of Kingdom Hearts." In response to questions as to the secret movie in Final Mix+, Nomura noted that it was of a "new series" in Kingdom Hearts rather than Kingdom Hearts III. When asked about Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura noted that fans and partners alike were interested in its release, and would work to "realize it" as soon as possible. In the Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Ultimania guide book, Nomura announced three upcoming titles, one of which was Kingdom Hearts III. However, Final Fantasy XV was still his primary focus, preventing him from starting production on Kingdom Hearts III. He later noted that Kingdom Hearts III would not see a release until after 2012, due to his pressing on Final Fantasy XV, regardless of the 10th anniversary of the series occurring in that year. The Nintendo 3DS video game Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance was announced to connect to Kingdom Hearts III, both in terms of gameplay system and story, similar to the connection between Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II. It has been confirmed by Tetsuya Nomura that the game will conclude the "Xehanort Saga" but will not be the final game in the series.
On June 10, 2013, Kingdom Hearts III was announced with a teaser at Sony's E3 event, to release on the PlayStation 4. In a conference the day after, Square Enix confirmed that the game would also be released on the Xbox One. Unlike Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II which were developed by Square Enix's Product Development Division 1 team, Kingdom Hearts III will be developed by Square Enix's 1st Production Department, who developed Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance, and worked on the HD 1.5 Remix collection.
Since the release of Kingdom Hearts II, Disney has acquired Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment, and Lucasfilm. When asked if any of these properties would appear in Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura said, "Whenever I hear of [an acquisition], I always say, ‘woah…they’ve done it again.’ The first thing I do when I find out this news is contact Disney and see if it’s something I can use [in Kingdom Hearts]." He went on to say that "Disney’s pretty honest [on the possibility of an inclusion]. If the situation is really difficult, they’ll say, it’s really difficult. If it’s impossible, they’ll say it’s impossible." In July of 2013 Nomura directly stated in an interview that with Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, he would like to include Star Wars characters in Kingdom Hearts III if Disney would allow it.
Directly after E3 2013, Tetsuya Nomura claimed that Kingdom Hearts III was announced "too early", based on where the game currently stands in development. He continued by saying, "Many fans were feeling impatient due to our continuous releases of spin-off titles, so we decided to announce it at the same time as Final Fantasy XV". In an interview with Famitsu in June 2013, Nomura discussed the updated visuals seen in the teaser trailer as well as the gameplay. On the visuals, he said that they tried to remember that these "Kingdom Hearts characters were originally paintbrush art from Disney productions, a texture that was one of our original aims, and that it was time to return to that. So [chief creative director Takeshi] Nozue went through a series of tests, and the results are the visuals that we refer to in the team as the Kingdom Shader. It may look like a pretty drastic change, but I see it as a rich evolution of everything we've shown you up to now."
Series producer Shinji Hashimoto stated in a September 2013 interview with IGN that as both Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV are directed by Nomura, it is expected that there will be significant gap between the release of the two, "as [they] want each game to be perfect in terms of quality." Hashimoto also reiterated Nomura's statements about the game's announced at E3 2013, as "the company thought it was about time it addressed speculation about the long-awaited conclusion to the trilogy." In October 2013, Teruzane Utada, father of singer Hikaru Utada, stated on Twitter that Hikaru would once again be involved in the theme song for Kingdom Hearts III, as she did with Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. He later clarified, however, that it is still undecided on their involvement.
In an interview in the January 2014 issue of Game Informer, Nomura stated that the plot of the game will pick up "immediately after the events of Dream Drop Distance." He also added that the plot will examine the seven lights and thirteen darknesses coming together for the final battle, but that everyone that is expected to fulfill these roles may not. On the new gameplay seen in the D23 trailer, Nomura revealed that all keyblades transform, each in different ways, and confirmed that the attractions seen in the trailer, such as "Big Magic Mountain", are not tied to the keyblade abilities, but the enemy you are up against. Also in January, Haley Joel Osment, voice of Sora in the series, stated he had been in talk with the development team after the announcement and, assuming he would be back, added that since dialogue was one of the last parts of the process, he believed he would not begin until mid-2014 at the earliest.
In June 2014, a short teaser was released at the end of the E3 2014 trailer for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX. Co-director Tai Yasue revealed that the sequence seen in the teaser was the opening scene for the game. He added that it was created by Nomura who had "a real clear picture of [what] the starting sequence" should be and that the text seen and heard was going to "be a real integral part of the story".
In September 2014, Nomura announced that he would be leaving Final Fantasy XV's development team to focus more on Kingdom Hearts III.
On October 6, 2014 it was announced that the game would be developed using Epic Games's Unreal Engine 4, instead of Square's Luminous Engine as previously announced.
In April 2015, Nomura stated there would be "news [and] new announcements" about the game in November 2015 at the Japan D23 expo.
In June 2015, Nomura revealed that development was on track and that as secret films were being considered. He also stated that the team has an internal release window they are trying to hit.
On August 17, 2015 during the D23 Expo, Kingdom Hearts producer Shinji Hashimoto announced that a world based on Big Hero 6 will be featured in Kingdom Hearts III.
On November 5, 2016 on the Parent Herald website, as KH13 recently reported, Nomura confirmed that more details about the game will be released after the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue in January 2017. He further shared that the theme song for the new game is still being decided upon.
E3 2015 Video Edit
The trailer begins with a young Xehanort and Eraqus playing chess at the Land of Departure. Xehanort asks Eraqus of the Keyblade War, which Eraqus claims is "the master's favorite story." Xehanort then discusses the lost masters, who started the Keyblade War. While Eraqus feigns ignorance, Xehanort is unconvinced, telling him to "drop the facade."
The trailer then cuts to a gameplay montage, featuring Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they battle new and familiar Heartless, as well as the Rock Titan, at Mount Olympus, a new world based on Tangled, and Twilight Town. During the montage, Sora is shown with two new Keyblades, a new outfit, new and old abilities, Keyblade transformations, and Attraction Flow.
The final moments of the trailer cut back to Xehanort and Eraqus's game. As Xehanort reflects on the land where the Keyblade War was fought, he gazes at the weapon he will eventually wield and admits the future has been already written. An optimistic Eraqus, though, counters that light may prevail in the end, and that Xehanort might be surprised. Xehanort then says, "Oh, I hope so."
As the camera lingers on the duo's kings, showing their game has ended on a stalemate, the game's logo is shown.
- It will be the first Kingdom Hearts game to be featured on a Microsoft platform, having previously only released on Sony and Nintendo platforms.
- Unlike Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II which were developed by Square Enix's Product Development Division-1, known as the "Kingdom Hearts team", Kingdom Hearts III will instead be developed by the "Osaka Team" the team responsible for Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance and worked worked on the collection of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX.
- It has been rumored that the game will feature the worlds of Star Wars and Marvel, due to Disney's ownership of the Lucasfilm and Marvel companies.
- Tetsuya Nomura also stated that he would really like to include the worlds of Star Wars and Marvel in Kingdom Hearts III, if Disney allows it.
- During his visit to Sydney Oz Comic Con 2014, Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy, has hinted that the game might feature characters from Frozen.
- Tetsuya Nomura revealed that the world Kingdom of Corona from Tangled was one of the first worlds to be considered for the game.
- On August 17th 2015, Roy Conli, producer of Tangled announced that the game will also feature a world based on Disney's Big Hero 6.
- This will be the first Kingdom Hearts title to have collaboration with the Walt Disney Animation Studios.
- In the game, Sora has a new costume seen here.