Kingdom Hearts III
|Kingdom Hearts III|
|Developer(s)||Square Enix 1st Production Department|
|Distributor(s)||Disney Interactive Studios|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 4|
Kingdom Hearts III (Japanese: キングダム ハーツIII Hepburn: 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 will be the first Kingdom Hearts game to be featured on a Microsoft platform, having previously only released on Sony Computer Entertainment and Nintendo platforms, and the first to originally release on more than one console. It is the eighth installment in the Kingdom Hearts series.
|Kingdom Hearts series
Sora will once again be the protagonist of the game. The game will also see the return of Riku, Donald Duck, Goofy, and King Mickey, as well as the inclusion of familiar Disney characters. Continuing from 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 may ultimately lead to the final showdown between Sora and Master Xehanort.
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 trailer 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, effectively being built as a port of the PlayStation 4 version. 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."
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." 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.
Series producer Shinji Hashimoto stated in a September 2013 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."
At the Disney D23 Expo Japan 2013 in October, 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. Also 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 the player is up against. Also in January, Haley Joel Osment, voice of Sora in the series, stated he had been in talks 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, it was announced that Nomura would no longer be the director of Final Fantasy XV, focusing his attention on other projects, including Kingdom Hearts III. Nomura had been the director of Final Fantasy XV since the game was announced, as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, in 2006.
In October 2014, Nomura revealed that the game had switched to using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4, due to a "variety of reasons". He also added that the development team has the full support of Epic, and the change would not hinder the game's development. According to Kotaku and IGN, it was noted that it had been assumed that Square Enix had been using its in-house Luminous Engine to develop the game.
In December 2014, 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?"
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