Fusing the worlds of Square Enix’s FinalFantasy games with Disney’s stable of beloved, animated characters in an action-RPG,Kingdom Hearts was one of the most surprising hits of the PlayStation 2. Kingdom HeartsII followed just a few years later to even greater acclaim. Despite a dizzying array of spinoffs and prequels in the intervening years, including the nonsensically titled Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologuewhich hit stores in January, fans have now been waiting over a decade for a proper sequel.
At long last,Kingdom Hearts III‘s release is in sight. Here’s all of the intel we’ve gathered so far about the game to date.
Kingdom Hearts III will launchJanuary 29, 2019, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Publisher Square Enix bizarrely announced the release date in a late-night tweet days before its E3 2018 livestream.
Though it won’t be available at launch, a Nintendo Switch version may be a possibility. In an interview with IGN, game director Tetsuya Nomura claimed that his team may consider bringingKingdom Hearts IIIto other platforms, but only after it launches on PS4 and Xbox One.
Kingdom Hearts III was initially announced at E3 2013 and we’ve seen its release window change several times since the first teaser was shown. Speaking with GameSpot in July, Nomura said that the long wait for Kingdom Hearts III can be attributed to the switch to Unreal Engine 4, and other decisions made by higher ups, not because of himself or his development team.
We’ll see multiple trailers for Kingdom Hearts III at E3 2018, with at least one of them likely coming during the Square Enix press conference on June 11.
In general the action RPG gameplay will be familiar to fans of the series as an evolution of the action inKingdom Hearts II. As shown in the latest gameplay trailer above, however, successful ideas from the handheld titles, specificallyKingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, will be integrated as well. There will be a greater emphasis on mobility, with Sora able to jump on certain enemies and to wall run. Major new features revealed so far include:
Sora returns to lead the cast ofKingdom Hearts III, along with series mainstays Goofy, Donald Duck, King Mickey, Master Eraqus, and Master Xehanort. Continuing the story from Kingdom Hearts:Dream Drop Distance, Sora, Goofy, and Donald will search for the seven masters of light while Xehanort attempts to overcome the “tyranny of light” by restoring equilibrium between light and dark. King Mickey and Riku, meanwhile, will search for previous keyblade masters. All of this will likely lead to a climactic confrontation between Sora and Xehanort.
Like numerous other entries in the series, there will be an additional playable character beyond Sora.“Unfortunately we’re not able to disclose who it is yet, but there will be [another playable character],” Nomura said in an interview with IGN.
As in past games, Kingdom Hearts III will feature game world based on popular Disney properties. According to trailers and gameplay demos, the game will have worldsbased on Disney’s Frozen,Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph,Big Hero 6, andHercules.
As revealed at D23 2017, Square Enix teamed up with Pixar to recreate the world of Toy Story,marking the first time that Pixar film has made an appearance in the franchise.Demonstrated by the trailer above, Sora, Donald, and Goofy have their own Toy Story-themed costumes while in the world. At D23, we learned the premise of the Toy Story storyline. Sora and crew must seek the help of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Hamm, Rex, and Sarge in order to find Andy, who has mysteriously vanished. The story will be unique to Kingdom Hearts III, but locations and characters from the films are likely to appear (Andy’s bedroom is shown in the trailer).
Besides the setting reveal, the D23 Expo trailer showed that Sora can have more friends fighting alongside him at once than ever before. Sora teamed up with his old pals Donald and Goofy, and his new acquaintances Buzz and Woody — all at the same time. Nomura confirmed to IGNthat, unlike previous entries, players won’t have to swap out characters, or limit themselves to a party of three. “Up to five people can join, even more, multiple characters can join your party,” Nomura said.
In a gameplay trailer released just before E3 2017, we received an extended look at the Hercules-inspired world (Mount Olympus). Sora was with his pals Donald and Goofy, and we also sawMaleficent, Hades, and Pete talking in another part of the world. The trailer ended in Twilight Town, with Sora speaking withXemnas about Roxas.
In many cases, those worlds often feature characters who temporarily fight with Sora: It appears thatRapunzel will join him in theTangledworld, and the inflatable robot Baymax will back him up in Big Hero 6 land. Rapunzel was apparently the first new Disney character considered, because of her strong personality and the mechanical possibilities of her hyperbolically long hair.
A fan-favorite Pixar property is also coming to Kingdom Hearts III. The game will feature a world based on the Monsters, Inc. series, as revealed during D23 Expo in Japan. Both Mike Wazowski and James Sullivan from the film, originally voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman, respectively, will make appearances.
Nomura told theLA TimesthatKingdom HeartsIII will be the concluding chapter for the “Dark Seeker Saga”, which has cataloged the struggle between Sora and the sinister Xehanort. He said he intends for the series to continue on afterwards, however, telling new stories in the same world.
Series newcomers or fans looking for a refresher may want to play through the series so far in preparation forIII. With so many spin-offs and remakes, that can be a daunting prospect for the uninitiated. Here is the series in narrative chronological order:
If you don’t have ready access to all of those platforms, however, the series has been remastered and compiled into convenient collections:
If you’d prefer to just get the cliff notes, the now-defunct Game Trailers produced this hour-long Timeline video to explain the series’ story:
If you’re looking to get caught up on the Kingdom Hearts series’ massive amount of lore and narrative before Kingdom Hearts III releases, you may want to pick up HD 1.5 ReMix, HD 2.5 ReMix, and HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue or at least their boxes.
In an interview originally translated by fan site KH13, director Tetsuya Nomura revealed that there are two separate “secrets” hidden among the three games’ box art. Protagonist Sora, seen in the center of all three pictures, is sitting in HD 1.5 ReMix, standing in HD 2.5 ReMix, and finally walking forward in HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. In addition, the time of day changes between the three games dusk, then night, and finally dawn.
“Those illustrations have a message regarding the final chapter,” said Nomura in the interview.
It isn’t clear what this secret message actually conveys, but all signs point to it focusing directly on Sora, and not his cast of allies. Only Sora remains in the same position in each cover (Goofy, for example, is on the right in the first two before moving to the left in the third), and Nomura reminded fans of the other meaning for Sora’s name — “sky” — which seems to have special importance.
One particular fan on the interview’s page puts forward his own theory, saying that in the final Kingdom Hearts III cover art, Sora will be “running for cover” as he anticipates his final battle. He also speculates that the sky behind the characters will be bright, reflecting a “ray of hope” the friends still believe in.
In the intervening decade sinceKingdom Hearts II, Disney has been quite busy staking a larger and larger claim of the pop cultural landscape, most notably acquiring the rights to Marvel Comics and Star Wars. The Kingdom Hearts team has expressed in interviews that they are certainly interested in the possibility of bringing in worlds and characters from these fictional universes. When asked about Disney and Marvel, co-director Tai Yasue said, “they’re all under consideration. Nothing’s off-limits, we’re considering all of the worlds. There are so many wonderful concepts. We’re happy about that, but at the same time it’s really tough to choose.” However, when asked about Star Wars, series lead Nomura cautioned that “the other associated companies under Disney [are] not something that is as simple as us consulting with Disney Interactive. So, unfortunately, the lineup is kind of considered as different.” In other words, extant licensing agreements for certain properties, such as Electronic Arts’ deal for the rights to Star Wars, might make it tricky to bring the franchise to Kingdom Hearts.
In the JulyGameSpot interview, Nomura said he expects all of the game’s worlds to be revealed before launch, including the presumed bevy of unannounced worlds. However, he added, “Nowadays games can add content on after the fact through DLC content, so there’s no need to hide any worlds.”
To be clear, Nomura didn’t confirm that Kingdom Hearts III will feature post-launch DLC.“Nothing is set in stone, and I’m afraid we can’t go into details, but I have told the team: Just be prepared to be able to accommodate for something like that,” Nomura said.
Updated on 6-10-2018 with official release date.
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