Peter Triezenberg
More Details on Kingdom Hearts III from Director Tetsuya Nomura
Second playable character? Bigger parties? Kingdom Hearts on Switch?? The list goes on.
07.17.17 - 9:22 AM

In case you missed it, Square Enix recently dropped a major bombshell regarding Kingdom Hearts III at Disney's D23 expo. Not only will the highly anticipated title be getting a world based on Pixar's classic Toy Story, but it also finally has a 2018 release window. Afterwards, director Tetsuya Nomura took some time to talk to IGN and Game Informer to give more information on the game.

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First of all, Nomura confirmed that Sora would not be the only playable character in Kingdom Hearts III. While he didn't elaborate further, and stated that it would be "difficult" to implement many more playable characters besides Sora, there would be at least one more, which raised all sorts of questions as to who it might be. Is it Riku? Master Aqua, who was playable in the recent Kingdom Hearts 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage? Roxas, who was mentioned in last month's Orchestra trailer? The possibilities are tantalizing.

Nomura-san also confirmed the return of the Gummi Ship, stating a desire on the part of the development staff to always try new ideas to make the mechanics wholly unique to Kingdom Hearts III. Sora will also be allowed to take a bigger party into battle, with up to two additional characters fighting alongside the trio of Sora, Donald, and Goofy (we can see Woody and Buzz Lightyear fighting alongside the party in the D23 footage). This system is an evolution of the Dimension Link system from Birth by Sleep, which was implemented due to system constraints. According to Nomura, "[D-Link] was actually a compromise in a previous iteration because we were not able to display multiple characters on that platform in [Birth by Sleep]."

Speaking of returning mechanics, Flowmotion (from Dream Drop Distance) is making a comeback: the Japanese name for this new incarnation is "Athletic Flow," and it's a new way to move about and interact with Kingdom Hearts III's environments. Each world will have instances where Athletic Flow can be used to traverse the environment, such as running up the cliff edge during a battle with the Rock Titan. Summons will also be making a return, although Nomura was unable to provide specifics. He did say that each of Sora's Keyblades will have a transformation mechanic, as we've seen in the game's trailers, and that these occur as the player successfully lands combos, building up towards the next transformation. This system hasn't been finalized, however, so it could end up being "even more impressive."

kingdom hearts III sora flowmotion athletic flow

kingdom hearts iii donald goofy woody buzz party member

Nomura has wanted to implement a Toy Story world since Kingdom Hearts II, and indeed, this has been something of a pipe dream for fans of the series for a long time. "I feel Sora really fit in and matched well with that world, and it's something I always personally wanted to see – that image of Buzz and Woody coming face to face with Sora in his toy form... to be able to execute that into the game is something I'm really excited for and I'm hoping fans feel the same way I do."

According to Nomura, Pixar Studios specifically requested that the Toy Story world in Kingdom Hearts III have its own original story, rather than loosely follow the plot of one of the movies, which is something of a first for the Kingdom Hearts series. Taking place roughly after Toy Story 2 (after innumerable back-and-forth negotiations with Pixar), Sora and the gang will be looking for a missing Andy and investigating the actions of Organization XIII in the Toy Story world. Their search will take them to Galaxy Toys, which will be where the majority of the level takes place, an incredibly large space that showcases the team's desire to make each world a fully enriched gameplay experience. The development team will be introducing new worlds leading up to the game's release, and hinted at the prospect of future downloadable content as well.

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Nomura did have a few words to say about Kingdom Hearts III's lengthy development cycle. According to Nomura, "it hurts" when he is personally accused of taking too much time to work on games, and cites internal decisions at Square Enix, such as the switch to Unreal Engine 4 after the first year of development, as reasons behind the delay. "We had to make do with the timing that was appropriate for the company… the company makes the decisions, so unfortunately sometimes it is out of my control." Nomura stresses that the long development of Kingdom Hearts III hasn't been due to personal decisions made on the part of him or his team, but rather external factors that caused setbacks. "It's out of my hands."

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Last, but not least, Nomura-san briefly touched upon the possibilities of Kingdom Hearts III coming to the Switch, or the recent Kingdom Hearts collections making their way to Xbox One. While there are no concrete plans to do so at this time, and Nomura doesn't want to make any promises, he did say that the Nintendo Switch is "a very interesting piece of hardware," and that the team could "start thinking about other possibilities" once development was complete. In regards to the Xbox One, Nomura reiterated that the possibility could be considered once primary development of Kingdom Hearts III was completed: however, the Xbox hardware has had a notoriously poor foothold in the Japan region, and with the impending release of the Xbox One X, Nomura wonders if it isn't a little too "late in the game" for the HD collections to be released on the platform.

"I feel like I've packed in much more fun than I had in my previous Kingdom Hearts titles," Nomura says. "If we are able to accomplish everything that we did plan out for, I'm pretty confident that people will enjoy and be fully satisfied with the end product." It certainly looks as though Kingdom Hearts III is shaping up to be an excellent experience. The game is due for release in 2018 for the PS4 and XB1. Stay tuned to RPGFan for more information.