Today has brought about a lot of news for Kingdom Hearts III. Famitsu managed to sit down with Tetsuya Nomura and Tai Yasue to discuss recent revalations and information pertaining to Kingdom Hearts III.
Thanks to Goldpanner for the translations!
--Tell us about the theme of the KH series and KH3.
Nomura: It's in the title: hearts. The consistent theme across the whole series is "What is a heart?" In KH3, in addition to that, there is a big theme of "resolution" everything that has happened so far.
--Does the story of KHIII have a dark tone?
Nomura: I think there have been plenty of serious moments in the main story so far, and KH3 is no different. As I just said, one of the themes of this story is "resolution," so there is a sense of tension regarding the final battle flowing throughout the story. On the other hand, I think there is plenty of fun to be had in each Disney world.
--How did the collaboration with Disney for Kingdom Hearts come about? There's a rumour(※) that it was decided in an elevator.
*It seems as though the details of this story have not spread much in the west, so it was confirmed again at this event.
Nomura: At that time, Square (now Square Enix) and Walt Disney Japan had offices in the same building. One day Hashimoto, who said hello just before, happened to be in the same elevator as someone from Disney and apparently they had a conversation about how it'd be nice to be able to work on something together sometime. That led to Hashimoto and Mr Sakaguchi (Hironobu Sakaguchi, currently at Mistwalker) talking with Disney about doing something together. I happened to be there at the time, and put my hand up. That's how it started.
--How did you come up with the idea of travelling to many Disney worlds?
Nomura: When the time came to collaborate with Disney for real, I had to come here (i.e. Los Angeles) many times for meetings about what kind of game we would make. They made all sorts of proposals, but I am greedy, and I didn't want to be limited to one world setting - I wanted to be able to make something that shared many world settings. So, I suggested the idea of travelling to many worlds.
--How are the Disney worlds made? (※)
*Here, an extract of the Making-of Feature from D23 Expo Japan 2018 debuted, which Yasue explains (photography not allowed.)
- When creating cutscenes, we move through this order: storyboard→voice recording→layout→rough movie creation→actual cutscene creation
- We have always had a writing team, but the KH3 writing team have the important job of giving scale and depth to the game.
- Cutscenes also require the addition of indirect lighting to express what we are aiming for
- In the Tangled world, it is difficult to represent Rapunzel's long hair. We had to research and develop something to control her hair's behaviour, and even create middleware. We worked extremely hard to make sure the parts that connect to gameplay (hair roping, etc.) behaved naturally. Disney helped with this too - we were able to create something that both moved dynamically and looked natural.
- Level design (stage layout, enemy placement etc.) is divided into several phases. The first one we call Phase Zero - we make something simple-looking and roughly arrange the enemies and features, and adjust the way it feels to play overall. Then we insert the art materials and lighting etc, and finish it.
- In KHIII there are worlds where there are many NPCs that interact with Sora and his friends, as well as crowded areas
--KHIII features many new types of gameplay. What are your thoughts?
Yasue: Each world adopts new features. In OLYMPUS, which you can play a demo of, you can dive from the sky and climb walls. OLYMPUS in particular has a sense of scale to it. Also, KHIII includes the evolved forms of gameplay from past titles in the series. For example, the multi-storey maps from KH3D are even more powered up in KHIII - not only can you kick from wall to wall, you can now also run straight up walls. We have adopted all sorts of elements that allow you to really adventure, and the maps are vertically expansive.
--What about other new elements?
Yasue: In the Toy Story world, you can ride Gigas (robots) in battle, which is a key new gameplay style. In KHIII we have created brand new ways to play for each world, making each world fresh and exciting.
--Do you have any hints about gameplay, or points you want players to notice?
Nomura: The element I wanted to reveal next month (New link element. See our play report) ended up being included in this demo version, so I guess I want you to go look at that (laughs).
Yasue: There's a very exciting Attraction Flow in OLYMPUS. We would love for you to play it very thoroughly. In the Toy Story TOY BOX World, as I said before, you can control robots - and there are several types of robot. Also, in TOY BOX, investigating is crucial, so make sure to enjoy all the toys and features. Personally, I hope you try hitting the gas tank and watching Sora and the others' reactions (again, see our play report).
--When is the release date?
Nomura: I can't tell you that today (laughs). But, I do plan to announce it early next month. There are a lot more people and companies involved in KHIII than usual, so right now we are in the middle of final adjustments.
--Why did you go with designing a key as a weapon?
Nomura: Battles are an important element of this series - but as I was borrowing Disney settings for battles, I didn't want to approach anything too violent. Rather than attacking, I wanted to go with using a key to free and take back hearts. Once I had that setup, it led to the concept of the Keyblade.
--In past titles, wasn't the use of the Keyblade to lock worlds?
Nomura: Since that role in the first game to lock worlds and their hearts, many other uses for Keyblades have appeared. In KHIII, they Keyblade is used to unlock the routes to new worlds, similar to its role in KHII.
--Does the Keyblade have different uses compared to past games?
Nomura: One big difference is that the Keyblade can transform. As seen in KH Birth by Sleep, Keyblade transformation is an ability only formally trained Keyblade wielders possess - however, now Sora has finally become able to do it too.
Yasue: In the demo, the Infinity Badge (Toy Story Keyblade) transformation has pretty strong destructive powers. Personally, I like the twin yo-yos of the Smile Gear (Monsters Inc. Keyblade). Also, in this game you can switch Keyblades mid-battle - the increased depth of possible strategy is a draw of this game.
--What is the design process for each Keyblade?
Nomura: I check all designs done by the designers myself - not just for Keyblades, but also for the UI, items, icons and such. I have them present about three versions of a design. Sometimes I choose one from among them, and sometimes I have them combine elements from version A and version B. And then sometimes when I' submitted the completed designs to Disney for approval they have some kind of order and we have to do revisions, which I then have to check again myself… That's basically how the design process works. The Keyblades for this game were designed from picking up various elements from pictures of the worlds serving as the motifs.
Yasue: The concepts for Keyblade-related action begin at the same time as planning the world itself. We aim to give each Keyblade its own play, strategy and action styles so that each feels different in your hand. Post-planning, we hold 20-30 person review meetings about once a week as we adjust the action, where everyone puts forth their opinions. In this way we continue to brush-up things up little by little, adding more excitement to the gameplay.
--Are rich minigames a staple of the KH series?
Nomura: The previously announced (80s style LSI game) CLASSIC KINGDOM will be available to play early in KH Union Cross. We are creating over 20 different mini games. However, you won't be able to play all of them right away - getting CLASSIC KINGDOM together is itself part of the game, so please try to collect them all. We are also planning several mini games other than CLASSIC KINGDOM, and I think I will be able to announce some next month.
--How can you get to play CLASSIC KINGDOM in KHIII?
Yasue: In the story of KHIII, Sora is carrying a portable device called a Mobile Portal, and in scenes where Sora is using it, you an access the games. You can also access it through Jiminy's Journal.
Nomura The Mobile Portal isn't just for CLASSIC KINGDOM, it's also got a lot of other functions. Jiminy's job might be in trouble (laughs).
--So Disney's classic works are the motif for CLASSIC KINGDOM?
Nomura: Yes. I wanted to make a world based on the black and white titles, like Timeless River in KHII, only playable on a single screen - and this is how I brought the idea to life.
--Tell us about Links, which allow you to call in your friends.
Yasue: We have created quite a few typs of Links for KHIII, most of which are based around arranging attacks. For example, Ralph (from Wreck-It Ralph) can arrange blocks, which the player can use to make traps for enemies. Ariel can dive into water to create a fountain, which I designed myself to look like a show. Each Link has its own indivifual style of play.
--A final message?
Yasue: Being able to do our first global demo here in Santa Monica is very special for me personally. That's because I got so much encouragement here from Pixar, and because I referenced the cliffs in the nearby Yosemite National Park when designing the cliffs in Hercules - I got so much inspiration from this place. Jason said this just before too, but when I went to Pixar to plan the GALAXY TOYS for the Toy Story world, they told me they wanted to make the kind of toy store that only we could design. I feel in my heart that the chemistry between the things inside us and the things in Pixar and the things here in this place came together to create something really fun. I want you to feel it too, and I would be honoured if you were to play our game.
Nomura: I'm sure there are many things you still want to know - and next month I think quite a lot of new information will be revealed. I would like to use this event as a chance to get you all excited for next month.