Fewer things shocked attendees at E3 like the reveal for Square Enix’s long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III. (By comparison, people probably would’ve just shrugged off a playable build of The Last Guardian being on the show floor.) Now that the sea of excitement has calmed a bit, series director Tetsuya Nomura sat down with Famitsu (as translated by Siliconera) to discuss where the game is at development-wise, and the long road before release.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Kingdom Hearts III isn’t coming out anytime soon. In fact, Nomura thinks announcing the game at E3 was probably a poor choice. “Since the release of Kingdom Hearts II, I believe that 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. However, looking at the current development status, I think we may have announced it a little too early.” The takeaway here is that the team is working hard on the game and wanted to reward the series’ devoted fans with confirmation that a KH sequel is officially in development; it just won’t be ready for quite some time.
On the bright side, Nomura says Kingdom Hearts III is progressing quite nicely, with a new feature in particular called the “Kingdom Shader” further enhancing the title’s visual appeal. According to Nomura, thanks to the Kingdom Shader, “the characters will look like in the original worlds. The shader will adjust according to each world, so Disney’s worlds will have their own fitting visuals.” In case the translation is a bit rough to interpret, this basically means the Kingdom Shader allows the team to give each world players visit a distinct and authentic visual style. Disney locales in particular, having such iconic visual flare, will be faithfully recreated in a way that should makes fans better appreciate their surroundings.
In hopes of achieving the graphical fidelity and vibrancy on display during the announcement trailer, which Nomura admits was meant to be a representation of the quality he would like for the final product and not footage already running in real-time, the developers are using the Luminous Studio engine. (Remember when Square Enix introduced that Agni’s Philosophy tech demo last year? Yeah, that was built on the Luminous Studio engine.) Nomura says they actually have a demo version running on the engine already, to simulate what the game and new battle mechanics will look like. In it’s current state, he said that “The ‘bold action’ has become even greater.” Further elaborating, Nomura explains that, “Kingdom Hearts III features a party of three, but you’ll also have different NPCs join the battle in other worlds, and the action is pretty flashy. You’ll be flying all over the place in aerial-combat, without ever having to land.”
To anyone worried that Square Enix is spread too thin now that they’re working on both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III in-house simultaneously, Nomura says the two franchises are actually better off for it. “Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III both have a healthy rivalry relationship together, that continues to better each other through competition. During a preview showing within our company, we feel that even though the development stage is still early for Kingdom Hearts III, the response can already be felt,” he said. “We are currently experimenting with online features for Kingdom Hearts III, which has yet to be seen in any previous Kingdom Hearts games. In addition to this year’s Tokyo Game Show, we’re also thinking about revealing more information during the Disney’s ‘D23 Expo Japan’ event in October.
There’s some key information in that last bit. Nomura reveals that the team is trying to figure out a natural way to implement online functionality in KH3; whether or not that hints at the potential for multiplayer remains to be seen. Online features could just as easily be attributed to social or content sharing additions, meaning that the game will still retain a single-player focus while allowing for others to experience your adventure in a passive way. Whatever Square Enix has in store, the next time we’ll hear news about Kingdom Hearts III will come out of this year’s Tokyo Game Show, which is scheduled to take place from September 19-22. Additionally, we will have to keep our eyes peeled for more potential information out of the “D23 Expo Japan,” Disney’s first-ever D23 event held in Japan at the Tokyo Disney Resort from October 12-14.
It’s a shame Kingdom Hearts III is so far off, but it’s nice to know that the game is actually happening. It’s one thing to assume a game is in development because of a series’ massive popularity, and another to have actual proof that work is already underway. Fans can finally exhale after holding their breath for so many years. (Which is quite an impressive feat, now that I think about it.) Thoughts can now shift to focusing on how the series is going to evolve and what new features will be included. (Dual-wielding Keyblades all around, anyone?) As it stands, the three-quel is scheduled to release on both Xbox One and PS4 (to clear up any exclusivity confusion caused by the title’s announcement during the PS4 presentation.) whenever it’s ready.
How do you folks feel about the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III? Knowing that the series is well over a year away, would you have rather the team waited longer before spilling the beans? Or is it enough to just have confirmation that development is actually happening? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. And if you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.