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We've now reached Kingdom Hearts 2 in our look back at forgotten interviews and comments by key staff. Let's start it off this round by revisiting the Kingdom Hearts Series Ultimania Alpha.
Released in 2005, the Series Ultimania Alpha serves as a series recap and promotion for Kingdom Hearts 2. Here, Director Tetsuya Nomura briefly discusses some highlights of the worlds featured in KH2 and reasons behind their inclusion.
Highlights of Twilight Town According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
A fitting town to serve as the setting for the beginning of a new story.
As this is where the adventure starts, I decided I wanted to make it so that both those who played the previous games and those who didn't could stand at the same starting line. I didn't want to start partway through the story, as everything would be nonsense to people who were starting with KH2. The story I created with that in mind ended up becoming very sad, so I decided to also make the town it was set in one of twilight. Plus, it also fit neatly with the vibe of "a space between darkness and light" that we started in Chain of Memories, making it a perfect place to start the story of KH2.
It's a rather large-scale town. But, size alone doesn't make something interesting. That's why we tried scattering mini-games in the form of part time jobs throughout the town. Each mini game has its own kind of challenge.Also, many FF characters appear in this town. I got a lot of requests from fans to put Vivi in Kingdom Hearts. I think he turned out very cute, so look forward to seeing him. I included Setzer in part because I personally wanted to see him in 3D (laughs). Rufus from FFVII was another candidate I considered for that role.
Highlights of Hollow Bastion According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
A world FF fans are sure to enjoy
In this game, Hollow Bastion is a world in the middle of reconstruction. They are rebuilding the castle that served as the main setting in the previous game which is now half falling apart, the water that surrounded it is dried up, and they are putting together an urban area… I think it's very interesting to spot the differences from the previous game.
Also, this world has many FF characters, and I'm looking forward to you getting to see how they've changed. For example, Yuffie appears in her well-received costume from FFVII Advent Children, and Leon's outfit is also closer to his FFVIII one. Aerith has a new outfit too, of course. She didn't have a new outfit in Advent Children, so I took the plunge and based it on her Before Crisis outfit.
Let's talk about the cutscenes. In this world, there is a huge battle where Sora fights against an actual army of enemies. During this battle, all the FF characters appear to fight alongside you - I think you will get a rush from it. This makes it a world FF fans are sure to enjoy.
Highlights of The Land Of Dragons According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
Check out the snowy mountains that look exactly like the original movie
We have added several new worlds this time. My first thought was that I wanted to add a world with a completely different style than what we had so far. In that regard, I thought Mulan with its Chinese setting and Asian aesthetic would be interesting. Also, the story itself was very easy to turn into a game. There are fights in various places, and a big battle in the snowy mountains.
I think perhaps the highlight of this world has to be the snowy mountains. We were very particular when creating the graphics for the scenery, and we worked very hard to make scenes like the avalanche as faithful as possible to the original movie. I'd love for you to see what this movie would look like in 3D. Also, we have upped the quality of the facial animations in this game, and since this world in particular has characters with mobile faces, I think it turned out very well.
Highlights of Beast's Castle According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
You can see a glimpse of the Beast's kindness in his movements
In the previous game, Beast is a character who guided Sora when he was at his lowest, which I thought made an impact on people. It definitely left an impression on me. I wanted to bring him back, so I added a Beauty and the Beast world. The map itself only covers the Beast's castle, but we have set up all kinds of things to make sure the player won't get bored. I hope you enjoy.
Also, please pay attention to the expressions and movements of the characters. The Beast in particular: his motions look ferocious, but sometimes you can also catch a glimpse of his kindness… I think we succeeded in showing such a subtle thing. Oh yeah, there were complaints from the last game that due to the Beast's largeness, he would block the camera and be a nuisance. In this game, he rushes straight for enemies. Is that a reflection of his personality? Or is it so he doesn't block the player's view? (Laughs)
Highlights of Olympus Coliseum According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
The Underworld is linked with the Farplane, so we included Auron
In the previous game the map only covered the coliseum, so this time I decided I wanted to allow players to walk through a wider variety of maps. Then, when thinking of what to use for a setting, I remembered how popular Hades had been in the previous game, and knowing it would allow for a completely new atmosphere, I decided to try making the Hades-ruled Underworld the main focus.
The FF character Auron appears not just because of the huge number of people who told me they wanted to see him in KH, but also because the Underworld, a land of the dead, links to the Farplane in FFX. I was worried that his Japanese style clothes wouldn't suit the world of Hercules, but in the end I didn't change him much. Got rid of his sunglasses, made him a bit younger, that's about it. I also made him a bit chibi, with a thinner waist and a sharper overall silhouette to match the world of Hercules. By the way, his dialogue is a parody by Nojima himself, who was in charge of the scenario of both this game and FFX.
Highlights of Disney Castle According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
A world made playable due to the voices of fans
In the previous game this world only appeared in the opening cutscene, and I received a lot of feedback from fans wanting to know why they couldn't explore it, and wanting us to let them play in it. So, this time I decided to include it as a regular world. You could say it's a world made playable thanks to the voices of the fans.
However, since it had only appeared in cutscene form before, we hadn't taken characters walking around into account when we made it, creating an awkward map. We weren't able to use all the existing assets as they were, as we had to make a map that you can walk around properly in and battle in: it was a large scale remake. But, we couldn't deviate from how it looked in the previous game too much, so we worked very hard adjusting things. There are a lot of technical issues behind turning an area you originally shouldn't be able to fight in, into a place where battles can happen.
The outside of the castle is based on the Disney Logo that appears before Disney cartoons, with some adjustments. Also, I wanted to make this world feel like Toontown at Disneyland, which is why the castle's pillars and things are bendy.
Highlights of Timeless River According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
Sora is the only one with different looking eyes
This world packs quite the visual punch, being in black and white. I added it because I personally wanted to try making a black and white world in 3D. In creating Sora's model, we imitated the old school style of Donald and the others. But, we had a lot of trouble with how to do his eyes. Characters from this period all had completely black eyes, but no matter what I tried, Sora didn't look cute when he was drawn like that. In the end, I gave him, and only him, the triangle slice style eye, which is a little more modern than the world's setting.
Also, we purposefully made the audio a little fuzzy. Actually, I was surprised when I played the final product (laughs). The staff in charge of all parts like sound, not just the graphics, put a lot of care into making it feel retro. By the way, this world isn't only based on Steamboat Willie, but also several other black and white pieces. I think fans of Disney will enjoy it a lot.
Highlights of Port Royal According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
You can take out undead pirates when they're under moonlight
I wanted to include a world that nobody would ever expect. While I was thinking about it, Pirates of the Caribbean released. It was such a good movie, and my staff got very excited when I pitched the idea of doing a world based on a live action movie, so I decided to go with it.
It felt similar to working on a Final Fantasy movie. Our dev team has a lot of staff who originally worked on FF, so they got really fired up about working on a hyper-realistic world again after so long, like a release of pent up energy.
In the original film, the cursed pirates reveal their true forms under moonlight, and we made sure to make good use of that premise in this game. While in shadow, they look like regular humans and Sora's attacks do nothing. But, get them under moonlight, and it will reveal their zombie looking forms - allowing you to take them down as usual.
Highlights of Atlantica According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
Sora sings several songs from the original movie
One of the most famous things about Disney is the musicals. I'd always wanted to find a way to include them in the games that felt natural to the story and included proper gameplay. Atlantica features Sebastian, set up as a genius musician, which made it perfect to serve as the world for a musical part. We included many famous songs that even people who haven't seen the original films have probably heard somewhere, like Under the Sea - I think listening to Sora, Donald and the others sing them is a pretty fun experience.
During musical events, all kinds of actions happen when you get the buttons right. But since the person playing is focusing hard on that, I think perhaps people watching them play who can see the whole screen will enjoy the performances more (laughs). I think KH2 is a game that's both fun to play as well as fun to watch.
Highlights of Agrabah According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
Don't miss the flying carpet battle
The staff recommended we have Agrabah as a world again as it was very fun area to play in the previous game. So, we put it in KH2 with the goal of keeping that vibe. There are more new things to do - for example, there's a stand-out part where you battle while riding a flying carpet. I think riding the carpet captures the exhilaration of flying. We also expanded greatly on Genie's animation. His face gets big, his eyes fly off - you'll get to see lots of fancy animations like that. There are actually a lot more than I just described, but… you'll have to look forward to seeing them when you play. When you get to use Genie's power, make sure to try out all kinds of things. I'm sure you'll be surprised.
By the way, the plot of Agrabah in this game is based on the sequel to Aladdin, The Return of Jafar. Aladdin got animated sequels, so we weren't strapped for plot ideas.
Highlights of Halloween Town According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
Character animations are even closer to the ideal
Among the development staff there are many big fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas, including myself, which is why we decided to use Halloween Town again in this game. This time we went with a plot closer to that of the original film, and had Christmas Town appear. The difference between the dark Halloween Town and the flashy Christmas Town is interesting.
I hope you pay attention to Jack's animations, too. This time we managed to get his character animations even closer to my ideal than we had in the previous game. His mouth movements are especially well done. Oh yes, we have Jack dress in his Santa outfit, but Sora and the others only have Halloween Town versions. I wanted to include Santa versions for Sora and the others too, but it was too late by the time I thought of it… If I get a chance, I'd like to put those somewhere.
Highlights of Pride Lands According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
A long-desired world
I had actually wanted to put this world in the previous game, but changing two legged characters into four legged ones required a different program, so we gave up. That's the background behind this world. This time, all the staff said from the beginning that they wanted to put it in, so we finally got to make it a reality.
We were constrained to African animals only when it came to things we could have Sora and the others change into, which had me thinking hard. Our Sora designs kept looking too similar to young Simba, and Disney wouldn't give us the OK. That was a struggle. Donald is based on Zazu (a bird who appears in the original film as Mufasa's right hand man), and since Goofy was a turtle in Atlantica we took that and made him a tortoise. Tortoises are too slow when they walk, so we made him get about by spinning. In order to reproduce the wide open spaces of the original film, we made the three of them more speedy than they are in other worlds.
Highlights of Space Paranoids According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
Enjoy the retro computer vibe
When I was in Los Angeles developing the international version of the last game, Disney happened to be working on a Tron game.* I saw promo posters and such here and there in the Disney building, and decided I wanted to use it as a world. I thought it would be interesting to let you all enjoy the retro computer vibe that flows through every aspect of it. Even the sound effects mimic old school blip blop digital environments, I think it makes for a new experience. As such, when we started work on KH2, Space Paranoids was the very first new world we decided on.
When it came to Sora's design, giving him the exact same outfit as Tron would mean he'd lose his trademark spiky hair, so I made sure that at least that wouldn't be covered. The electronic lines running over his body are so fine that drawing them was a big task… Shout out to the texture team for their hard work.
(*Given the timeline, Nomura is likely referring to Tron 2.0, developed by Monolith Productions and published by Buena Vista Interactive.)
Highlights of 100 Acre Wood According to Director Tetsuya Nomura
The mini games are even more fun than the previous game
With the previous game we made the map before we thought of the mini games, which restricted us a lot when we went to put them in. It was a huge pain. But this time we designed the map as a stage for mini games from the beginning, and I think the extra freedom we had let us create things that are even more fun than the ones in the previous game. Among them, Hunny Slider is my personal favorite. Along the way you leap out of the forest and into the world above the picture book - it feels just like a ride at Disneyland.
The plot also includes elements from various episodes of the original, like Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and The Search for Christopher Robin. I think there are a lot of things that will make Pooh fans grin. I think this world really makes it obvious how many Disney fans are on the development team.