Interview with Director of the Kingdom Hearts Series Mr Tetsuya Nomura! Finally heading for the climax of Xehanort’s reign as threat in the ‘Seeker of Darkness Chronicle’
Here we present an interview on Square Enix PS3 title Kingdom Hearts -HD 1.5 ReMIX-, urgently announced at Tokyo Game Show 2012 and gathering attention from many gaming fans.
Commemorating the 10th anniversary since the first Kingdom Hearts, this title is a compilation of HD remakes of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, with the added plot of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days put to HD video, all in one. You can enjoy everything from the beginning of the adventures of Sora and friends up until the developments that lead to Kingdom Hearts II in one hit.
We listened to the man employed as the director of the Kingdom Hearts series, Mr. Tetsuya Nomura. He spoke on many subjects that fans cannot miss, such as how things have gone so far developing this title, the particular appeal of the three included titles. He also talked with us about the Kingdom Hearts title for PC browsers that was announced at the same time.
Now, with the story of this ten-year old series finally heading towards a conclusion, including the significance of reflection you could say this title is not to be missed. Now, this interview is a reproduction of the one published in Degenki PlayStation Vol.528, sale date 11th October 2012. (※Full names not used in the interview)
Remaking a ten-year-old title in HD was a stormy ride!?
---First of all, please give us the full story behind work on the title announced at Tokyo Game Show 2012, Kingdom Hearts -HD 1.5 ReMIX-.
Nomura: We’d had plans to do a HD remake for quite a while. Since even before we decided to do theFinal Fantasy X HD remake, actually. We were consulting the Osaka development team over whether we could do something using the HD specs of the PS3.
---So what kick-started development from there?
Nomura: One thing was that the Kingdom Hearts series had been released over several different consoles. I wanted to unite the scattered titles at once at the right time. Another thing was that, approaching the ten year anniversary, the series had become difficult for new players to enter. There are players who look at all the titles and worry over which ones to play, so I wanted to set them out in chronological order.
The three titles in this compilation have been lined up in an order that will make the plot easy to understand, so I think even people without prior experience of the series can be at ease. Also, the story that is currently developing is finally drawing to a close, so I also feel it will be a useful refresher for fans.
---On remaking what was originally PS2 title in HD, what points gave you hardship work-wise?
Nomura: I can’t say in detail, but for example, there were situations like ‘finding each and every book in view in a huge library’. We entrusted the HD remaking to two programmers in Osaka, and thanks to their steadfast efforts, the remake was fully realised in close to a year.
---Listening to you, preparation for the HD remake work actually started quite a long time ago, didn’t it.
Nomura: In an interview some time ago I said ‘I am investigating this and that,’ and what I meant was a HD remake of Kingdom Hearts. The trailer we were able to release at the Game Show this year was also thanks to the considerable efforts of the Osaka team.
Kingdom Hearts exists in its current form because of the Osaka Team
---The Osaka team is the production team who have been working on the Kingdom Hearts series recently, right?
Nomura: Yes, that’s right. Since Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, they are the team who has worked on titles such as Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D[Dream Drop Distance]. That said, the programmers who were in charge of the HD remake were merged in from a team that hadn’t been involved in the Kingdom Hearts series before.
---Thinking about the active role they’ve played in recent years, it feels like the Osaka team is now the series main staff, doesn’t it?
Nomura: That’s because that’s practically true. The Tokyo Kingdom Hearts team that we had in the early days has undergone some drastic changes. Even so, there are of course still Kingdom Hearts staff on the Tokyo side that collaborate with the Osaka side, but besides that the Osaka side form the basically unchanging lineup as a team, so in essence you could say they are the existing Kingdom Hearts staff. They move things along extremely energetically, and the Kingdom Hearts series is able to continue to this day only because they are there.
---What is the current state of progress on HD?
Nomura: Actually, it’s basically in the final stage. At first I thought about fully remaking Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (hereafter Days) in a form you could actually play. However, work on Days alone would have needed one year at the very least. I worried quite a bit over it, and I thought, weighing up a new title or a remake, players would want the new title. Even so, I had to include Days, so I decided if this is how it has to be then I will re-do it as a video volume.
---Are the HD videos of Days you may enjoy the same as the cutscenes compiled in ‘Theatre Mode’ in the original title?
Nomura: They are included too, but we’ve put around 70% of the main story overall (※excluding cutscenes from Disney worlds) to video, and the Disney worlds and such are supplemented through screens of text. According to the person in charge, there are over 100 cutscenes, and they are about 2-3 hours in total. It’s still not finished so I can’t give you the exact time, but the content will take more than an hour to finish viewing, at least.
---With that much volume, we can expect a whole new way to enjoy it, can’t we!
Nomura: Yes, because even though it’s video-only, the content is almost enough for one new title’s share. There is a considerable volume of newly recorded voicing, too. We were unable to record many voiced cutscenes for the original Days due to capacity issues, but I think this time fans will definitely be satisfied.
---Will we be able to enjoy Days as soon as we begin the game?
Nomura: Yes. You can select it right from start-up. The videos are divided into chapters, and you can also watch the whole thing in one flow, so please experience it whenever you like. If you have played Kingdom Hearts andKingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories so far but haven’t played Days, I think you should by all means get your hands on this.
HD Remake “2.5” to definitely come to be?
----The HD remake of the first title, Kingdom Hearts, is based on Kingdom Hearts Final Mix (hereafter KHFM), isn’t it?
Nomura: Yes, it was. Aside from the entire thing being reborn in HD quality, and I’m sure some players will have noticed this, but the models for Sora and some of the other main characters have been replaced with the latest versions. If you compare them I think it’s very obvious.
---Is there also trophy support?
Nomura: It’s a PS3 title, so yes, there is support. However, I personally have never been that fixated on trophy features, so I am still researching now what sort of content we should include. There are trophies for clearing each world and such, but I don’t think you’d need one for first obtaining a Keyblade, would you... those are the sorts of discussions that are underway. Please anticipate some as factors for speedruns.
---Are there any other parts you adjusted or added?
Nomura: We’ve adjusted the controls to make them a little easier to use than back in the day. In the firstKingdom Hearts game, special controls (opening chests etc) were shown right at the bottom of the commands, but we’ve now gone with displaying them at the top with a triangle button. Also, the camera controls and such have been changed to match Kingdom Hearts II. So, I think the gameplay in Kingdom Hearts will all feel like something based on Kingdom Hearts II.
As for any big additional elements, I have already said this, but there aren’t really any. Please think of the addition of HD image and trophy support as all there is to KHFM and KH Re:CoM. The theatre of Days is the number one showpiece for Kingdom Hearts -HD 1.5 ReMIX- this time.
---Can the fans of the series look forward to the usual secret movie...?
Nomura: I really don’t want to lead anyone on or cause false hope, so please let me be clear on this: unfortunately, this time, there is no new secret movie.
---Recently there have been many Kingdom Hearts titles on handheld consoles, so it’s quite nostalgic to have one for a main console.
Nomura: The last title to come out on a main console was Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ (※released on PS2 in 2007), wasn’t it? At the time of Kingdom Hearts 3D[Dream Drop Distance], I said that the next Kingdom Hearts game would be coming out on a main console, and we have made that happen. To the fans who haven’t played Kingdom Hearts on a main console in a long time, I would be so happy if you would welcome this title.
---Are there by any chance plans for a bundle with a custom PS3?
Nomura: Should I do that (laughs)? There are no plans as of now. I hadn’t even thought of it (laughs).
---In any case, does putting “1.5” in the title mean there will be a “2.5”?
Nomura: If there wasn’t a “2.5” after this, it would be pretty unnatural (laughs).
---As things stand now, will this HD version we’re all so eager for be releasing in 2013?
Nomura: I touched on this before, but work is already in the final stages. Seeing as development is going well, I want to get it to you as fast as I can. I also want to keep it as close as possible to the Kingdom Hearts 10th anniversary.
A browser game packed with a charm different from anything else so far
---Next we would like to ask about the PC game you announced, Kingdom Hearts for PC Browser (working title). What sort of game content will there be?
Nomura: Fundamentally it’s a typical browser game. Unlike the main series it is not strong on action content, but instead has action battles with simple controls using cards. The style of play, in which you customise your own avatar and adventure through Disney worlds, is a different vector than anything so far. Among other things you can co-operate with multiple people to battle bosses, and online-only components.
---Is paying together with several people the pivotal element of this work?
Nomura: No, it’s fundamentally single-player. I think that most fans of the Kingdom Hearts series would rather play in the single-player format that they have always had.
---Are the Osaka team in charge of this title too, by any chance?
Nomura: No, it’s being developed in a different place. The plans and designs were made in-house, but because it’s in a special format on a browser unlike anything we’ve done before, we’re entrusting it to people on the outside who have the know-how. Currently construction in the area of gameplay is going favourably, but we plan to brush up the visuals a bit more. It’s still mid-production, but we plan to add things after the service begins, so we’d love for many people to join in.
---What sort of content is there story-wise?
Nomura: It is a spin-off title, completely separate from the main plot thread. Because of the nature of browser games from the start, we weren’t going to put in any grand set-up. You can say that this means both existing fans and people new to the series will be able to play standing at the same starting point. Of course we aren’t discarding the established universe of the series, and if you are a fan, we have included some developments that you can consider deeply. We also plan to draw up some new characters for Browser.
---New characters will appear, will they! Will there be developments that embroil these characters in the main plot thread...?
Nomura: I can’t tell you that, but since we are working diligently on Browser so that you may play for us soon, please wait just a little more.
New movement for The World Ends With You!?
---We’d like to ask about a slightly different title now. First, The World Ends With You (hereafter TWEWY) -Solo Remix- is available now. Why did you make it an iOS app?
Nomura: It was a decision made after many complicated reasons stacked up. I have heard generally favourable things from people who have played it, that is the most important thing.
---We think there must be many voices calling for a sequel to TWEWY.
Nomura: I personally love TWEWY too, it’s a title I do want to branch out. For the sake of future prospects, I hope that many people play and enjoy TWEWY -Solo Remix-.
---A few days ago at the FF Exhibition, Lightning Returns FFXIII was announced. In what way is your work involved in this project, Mr. Nomura?
Nomura: I worked on Lightning and Snow’s new outfits, but that is all, and I am finished.
---On the subject of Lightning, we’re also interested in any movement regarding Verses?
Nomura: Work is progressing properly, and all us staff are working hard and doing our best, so please wait a little for news.
---And now, finally, a message for fans of Kingdom Hearts, please.
Nomura: The story we have been telling consistently so far, which is called the Xehanort Saga, bears the formal name of ‘Seeker of Darkness Chronicle’. Before we look to the conclusion of this ‘Seeker of Darkness Chronicle’, I would love for you to prepare with the HD remake.
The Kingdom Hearts series has now been going on for ten years, and the two titles we have announced, Kingdom Hearts -HD 1.5 ReMIX- and Kingdom Hearts for PC Browser (working title), both take completely different approaches, but please look forward to them as we turn our thoughts to the last of the current series.