the only villain on staff
Kingdom Hearts 3 is the cover feature of the 7/5 issue of Weekly Famitsu released this week, containing a ton of new information about Arendelle and The Caribbean released during E3 2018. The issue also features a brand new interview with series director Tetsuya Nomura about the potential for a Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts 3, DLC plans, the lack of dual audio, and the secret movie for Kingdom Hearts 3.
Translations are now available thanks to goldpanner and Saken!
Tetsuya Nomura Interview Digest
---There were lots of announcements at E3 2018 - but first of all, please tell us why the release date ended up being a little later than 2018 as first expected.
Nomura: As the scope of KH3 as a title is huge, we had been fine-tuning the release date with each involved party. We heard that from sales, manufacturing etc. perspectives, the end of the year could easily pose limitations, and that it would be difficult to prepare a sufficient system for worldwide expansion. Also, we heard from associated companies and our foreign branch that they wanted us to keep the international release as close to the Japanese one as possible, and we were told January was best if possible. Besides, development-wise it wasn't like we couldn't use the extra time. Based on several points such as those, in the end our company made the decision.
---It sounds like a complex situation. Now, let us ask about the trailer and new information revealed. You finally confirmed Frozen as a new world, didn't you?
Nomura: It follows the same timeline as the film, so scenes from the film play out right in front of you. "Let it Go" is going to play, too. Anna and Elsa aren't going to join the party during battle, but Marshmallow, who Elsa created with magic, will lend a hand. There's also of course a section where you must explore a maze of ice created by Larxene in the snowy mountains.
---The Pirates of the Caribbean world got a big reaction, too.
Nomura: The setting of the world this time will be based around Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. KH3 will suitably take as its setting the 3rd film in the Pirates franchise, while you’ll be able to briefly touch upon a basic outline of what happened in the 2nd film. In the 2nd film, Dead Man’s Chest, just as its name implies a certain box holds the key to the story. In KH3, there is a link between this and the “black box” that Maleficent and the New Organization XIII are searching for.
---Was the scene that looked like Ratatouille from the trailer from a mini game perhaps?
Nomura: Chop and cook the ingredients indicated by Remy and you can create dishes that up your status. If you mess up it'll burn black (laughs). You can play this game in Twilight Town, and you can gather the ingredients in various worlds.
---In the Tangled world, that dance scene looked like gameplay too.
Nomura: It's basically a rhythm game. Most of the minigames - Remy's game too actually - came about because a member of staff came to us with a drafted-up plan, saying they wanted to create something like so. Or, it's because (Co-director Tai) Yasue is giving over to a creative high (laughs). I generally don't say no to the things that get brought up during times like that.
---There are going to be 20 kinds of games in Classic Kingdom - that was definitely your idea, wasn't it?
Nomura: Yes. I wanted to do even more if possible though (laughs). It may be a response to having worked on so many high spec titles, but then again I've always had a taste for this kind of thing. I actually want to make something for each LSI device. However, that's too difficult at this point, so I've implemented it within a game. The Classic Kingdom games are hidden around various worlds, and once they've been found, you'll be able to play them any time on a device Sora carries called the Mobile Portal.
---As we got to experience in the media preview demo in May, simply running up and kicking off walls is so exciting, and there's quite a large number of techniques you can pull out in battle. We felt that there is so much gameplay packed into this title.
Nomura: I think running is just one example of how we wanted to make a game that is "fun to be touching." In battle, depending on Sora's actions "situation commands" appear on the left of the screen. You do not only have your permanent commands, you have time-sensitive tasks that stack up, and you can create your own strategy by choosing which to use and when. This is a style of gameplay I really wanted to make happen for this title.
---Sometimes around 5 commands can appear, but those time limits make us a little worried about whether we can use them effectively.
Nomura: You can of course mash buttons and use them more and more as you go. Making different techniques come out one after another is strong enough on its own, as well as kind of exhilarating. I think you can start choosing your techniques beforehand once you're used to how it goes. It's not like there's only one way that will work, so people who aren't so keen on action will be fine.
---So, we shouldn't think of it as difficult, then. Among the techniques that appear as Situation Commands, there are some flashy ones that look like theme park rides called "Attraction Flow" that even feel a little like mini games. We thought setting them off was fun all by itself.
Nomura: Attraction Flow differs depending on where you set it off. Similar to the premise that "Firaga" is a "Fire-type" attack, the appearance of Situation Commands have different kinds of conditions.
---Being able to instantly swap out three Keyblades and also even transform them felt fresh too. Was it created to broaden gameplay strategy?
Nomura: Yes. You can have fun pulling off different techniques with the new Keyblade-related gameplay without aiming to master it - but talented people will be able to put together efficient strategies. My goal is to prepare all kinds of choices and create battles with a wide range of possible strategies, and the Keyblade transformations are an important part of that.
---The transformations have quite an impact. There's a hammer, a yo-yo, and finally a tower - things we couldn't have imagined.
Nomura: I'm so glad it felt that way to you. Each of the forms have a completely different style of action to enjoy. By the way, there are several Keyblades that don't transform, and these have unique abilities. For example, the "Kingdom Chain" allows you to use techniques from Sora's past.
---We got to experience Links in the demo, where it was revealed that Ralph from Wreck-it Ralph appears.
Nomura: The Link component has changed several times. Originally, it was implemented as "Summons." Then, once it had settled into its current form of borrowing the strength of Disney characters, the name became "Link." As I'm sure you know from the battle elements you saw Linking with Ralph, KH3's Links are unique in that the Disney characters don't appear and do a technique and leave - you, the player, can intervene and control things.
---Meow Wow's inclusion was also revealed when it appeared in Link - will we be able to intervene with that too?
Nomura: Yes. You'll be able to ride on it and bounce it around like the good old days (laughs). Actually, the reason we were first trying to do it as "Summons" was because we had a gameplay system where you could individually call all of the types of Dream Eaters from Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance (hereon KH3D). The KH3 Meow Wow Link is what remains of that.
---ALL of the types of Dream Eaters!?
Nomura: Yeah. We planned to prepare an incredible number of them, but as we came to see exactly what kind of resources the whole game was going to take the staff told me it was "absolutely impossible." So, I decided to try putting Meow Wow and lots and lots of other Dream Eaters in Link (laughs.)
---Kairi appeared in the most recent trailer, so now we have the full set of Sora, Riku and Kairi. Please tell us about their new designs.
Nomura: Sora has less decorations. So far his chains and big belted pockets and such have been one of his main features, but accents like that have been pared down. That's because in this title Sora pulls off quite dynamic action, so I wanted him to have a more 'active' design.
---What about Riku and Kairi's outfits?
Nomura: The tastes are partially made to align with Sora. Since Sora's main colors are red and black, I went with a blue base for Riku, with a yellow accent on his shoulder, and Kairi is mainly pink. These color schemes follow their usual designs. In this title, all the characters including Mickey get their new outfits from Yen Sid. Well, of course it's the three fairies who actually make them, as always. Because of this, I wanted some kind of element that was shared among all of their outfits - so I went with the chequered pattern.
---Moving on, we would like to ask about something that piqued our interest during the trailer. The subject of Roxas being revived is touched on - it seems both Sora and the New Organization XIII want him to be revived.
Nomura: Sora in particular has a connection with Roxas, so he is working to bring him back. It's not something that's going to get resolved just like that, though.
---And Ienzo (Zexion) and Hayner and the others are helping…? We were also intrigued by the New Seven Hearts Larxene mentioned.
Nomura: She's talking about a new generation of Seven Princesses. In KH3D, it was revealed that even if they don't gather all seven guardians of light, Master Xehanort will go after seven princesses instead… right? Those seven princesses are now new successors - Kairi is the only one who has kept her position. People considered candidates as one of the other six - Rapunzel, Anna, Elsa etc. - are now being targeted.
---There are many mysteries surrounding the activities of the New Organization XIII. Vanitas is here too - why is that?
Nomura: The Vanitas who appeared in KH3D was just an illusion, but this time he's come back. However, exactly how Vanitas was revived differs when compared to the other members of the New Organization XIII. There are members from Organization XIII who, after being defeated once, returned as humans and then once again became Nobodies, and there are also those who have returned by completely different means. As for other members like Lea and Ienzo etc. who have returned and are helping Sora, they have been revived as humans.
---In a scene, we see Lea with Kairi, who are training to become Keyblade Wielders, at a particular place. Can you tell us where this is?
Nomura: You won’t be able to go there as part of a world, but that scene is in a new location. As the story progresses, there will be scenes weaved in showing how the both of them are doing in a sort of “Meanwhile…” style. In some of the past Orchestra concerts, we were able to hear Kairi talk about how her training was getting along. This exact monologue will be included in a scene in-game.
---Again, Aqua’s appearance was also quite a shock! Her eyes now yellow, she really appears to have completely fallen to the darkness.
Nomura: It seems like everyone was blown away, far beyond anything I was expecting. In that scene, King Mickey and Riku are in quite the pinch of a situation, where Aqua then appears in the form we see in the trailer. In KH3, a large amount of characters’ problems, Aqua’s included, I strived to put to conclusion, so the writing this time was especially tough.
---You’ve mentioned before that you had a Secret Movie in the works?
Nomura: We have already begun work on it, however it’s still in a non-finalized form.
---Since the very first title so many years have passed and the story has evolved substantially. There are definitely fans out there who very faintly remember the complicated story, or who have never played any game outside the numbered titles. Is there anything under consideration for players like this?
Nomura: There are a lot of connected titles and recurring characters, and if we were to explain them all in-game each time the story would get bogged down, so we are currently working on something for the official website to help with that. We are going to create five videos that cover the story so far in episode format, summarized and narrated by Chirithy. We plan to open the site after E3, so you won't have to wait too long. I hope you can use these videos as well as the HD remakes of the past titles to enjoy the time until the release date. Also, we are currently considering including these summary videos on the KH3 disc, allowing for adjustments.
---Having cleared the hurdle of announcing a release date, while I do imagine things are heading toward conclusion, can you update us on the current development situation?
Nomura: We’re currently in a place where it’s quite difficult to express progress as a percentage. There’s actually so much content, that we’re quite concerned about if we’ll be able to fit it all in or not.
---Can you elaborate a bit more on that?
Nomura: There’s a lot that contributes to the overall issue, but the biggest problem lies with the sheer volume of movies. When it gets to the point where data for real time cutscenes needs to be read, if the cutscene is occuring in the same scene then the amount of data to be read is not so much and can quickly be shown on screen. However, in instances such as in the aforementioned “Meanwhile…” scenes, since all data for that completely different scene must also be read, the loading times take quite a hit. In order to solve this, we’ve converted some of these cutscenes to movies to cut down on the time taken to read them, but then because we are trying to preserve the high quality during conversion, the size of the data increases drastically. This is something we weren’t really expecting.
---When it gets to the point where you are struggling to fit it all on disc, then an audio switch option between English and Japanese also becomes very difficult right?
Nomura: Exactly. Not only the voices, but the data for things like ensuring proper lip sync also becomes a problem. I recognise that there’s a demand (T/N: In Japan) for KH3 to be able to be experienced with English voices as per previous Final Mix titles, but it will probably be too difficult to add this feature in.
---Are there plans to release a Final Mix version of KH3, containing extra content?
Nomura: I’m not really considering it at the moment. Well even if I wanted to, it wouldn’t fit on disc (wry laugh). We’ve got plans to release game updates through DLC, so if we were to add content it would be through that, instead of in the “Final Mix” format.
We’re yet to fine tune the details, but we won’t be doing things like having Keyblades for sale, instead we are looking more at gameplay expansions. And not in the form of any sort of “Season Pass”, we plan to deliver the content as is in individual packages. At any rate though, first priority lies in putting our utmost into delivering the best main package we can, and then we shall see about the rest.
---If it’s okay, we would like to ask a bit about some other titles. How is development on the FF7 Remake going?
Nomura: We’re currently trying to plan when to release the next wave of information. We had already pretty much decided when that would be from before we switched to in-house development, which is coming along smoothly. In regards to scenario, we are really trying to capture the feel of the original, and beginning with the members of AVALANCHE, we are really trying to dive deep into each and every character. It’s actually progressing a lot more than you’d think, so please rest assured and wait for future announcements.
---In regard to Dissidia Final Fantasy, I’ve heard there is a new character in the works. We already know she’s female, it’s her first appearance in the Dissidia series, and that she comes from the later half of the Final Fantasy Titles… do you have anything further?
Nomura: After E3 is over, I need to get to work on the promotional material for that (wry laugh). I feel like she’s a character who’s image could very largely change depending on her voice and how the actor portrays her, so I had a pretty hard time deciding who to cast for her. After she’s announced, I think people may be surprised by who I ended up picking. If we’re able to continue at our current pace, we should be able to announce more about her relatively soon. Please look forward to it.
---Please tell us what's next in store regarding KH3. For example, will the demos created for the media preview be released online?
Nomura: No, as they were not created with that in mind and the process behind creating a demo for online release is quite different. However, fans in Japan will most likely get a chance to play a demo at Tokyo Game Show. I would love for you to go there and experience for yourself the new Kingdom Hearts, and get even more excited. I am so, so sorry that we are making you wait a little longer for the release. But now that the date has been set, we are simply going to put everything we have into it until then, so please wait just a little more.