Kingdom Hearts 3 has been a long time coming, and despite the series’ many spin-offs, remakes and re-releases, fans are hungry for another adventure with Sora and friends. It’s been 12 years since Kingdom Hearts 2 came out on PS2, and in a recent group interview at Disney’s D23 expo, game director Tetsuya Nomura explained what’s taken so long.
“A lot of people have been mentioning and making it sound like ‘Oh, Nomura’s taking too much time,’ and it hurts,“ Nomura said, through a translator. He explained that the decision was made above his head to switch development to Unreal Engine 4 after about a year of development, which caused extensive delays. In addition, certain timing and resources challenges within Square Enix had an effect.
“There was a decision made to change to an external [engine]...Unreal Engine 4,” he said. “So we switched over to that. Unfortunately there was a bit of time that needed to be rewinded and started over. So there was a bit of a setback there, but it was a decision that the company had to make, so it was inevitable.”
“We had a plan of the period that it’s going to take for us to create the content at the start of the project, and we laid out, after such and such years, we would need to add more personnel resources,” he said. “We had submitted it to our headquarters and had it approved, but internal personnel is very limited, and there are various different projects that happen within our company, so unfortunately timing did not work out. So we had to make due with the timing that was appropriate for the company...the company makes the decisions, so unfortunately sometimes it is out of my control.”
He was keen to emphasize that it hasn’t been problems with development or any choices made by him or his team that have caused Kingdom Hearts 3 to take so long. “I wanted to emphasize that it wasn’t a problem on our development teams," he said. "It just happened that way, and there were some decisions that the company had to make, and it just didn’t work out for certain timings that we were hoping to hit.”
“It’s kind of out of my hands,” he added. “I mean, yes, time has passed. But it’s out of my hands.”
At D23 Nomura took the stage during Disney’s video games panel to announce another new world for Kingdom Hearts 3, one based on Toy Story. Nomura said it’s one he’s wanted to add to the series for years, but never had the opportunity to until now.
The series’ signature combat has played a big role in all its trailers and appearances so far, and the game looks more fun and chaotic than any other in the series. One central new system is keyblade transformations, which Nomura said has been a big focus during development. Each world now will also have unique mechanics, like the giant robots Sora is able to pilot in the Toy Story world. Jumping into one during combat switches the view to a first-person camera, a new type of drastic gameplay shift that Nomura said they hoped to capture in some way on every world in the game.
Speaking of the game’s various Disney-themed worlds, of which Toy Story is just the latest to be revealed, Nomura said they likely won’t be saving any as a surprise for players to discover on their own. “I don’t think we’ll be keeping any worlds secret until the game is released. I think we will be introducing them leading up to launch,” he said. “Nowadays games can add content on after the fact through DLC content, so there’s no need to hide any worlds.”
That of course begged the question: Are they already planning downloadable content for Kingdom Hearts 3? “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. “We can’t suddenly develop a system where we’re accommodating for downloadable content. So it’s not confirming or denying either way, but just so that the development team will be prepared, I have informed them of making the preparations.”
It sounds like Kingdom Hearts 3 may have fewer worlds than the series' previous games, but each world will be more dense and detailed than what we’re used to. “I feel like I’ve packed in much more fun than I had in my previous Kingdom Hearts titles,” Nomura said.
“Kingdom Hearts 3 is going to be our first full HD game in our current console generation,” he continued. “It does involve a lot of bandwidth and resources in order to create in full HD, so our directive was to have as many elements [as possible] of gameplay included in one single world, rather than having multiple different little worlds with few elements. We wanted to pack in as many gameplay elements and fun into a single world.”
“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,” he finished.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is, at long last, scheduled to be released in 2018.