Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 Final Chapter Prologue is available in Japan right now, and as promised the latest edition of Famitsu has released alongside it. The coverage includes information about each game in the collection and ends with a lengthy interview with Series Creator Tetsuya Nomura.
We are working on translations for the interview, but for now please enjoy viewing the scans of the magazine!
Update: Saken and Goldpanner have translated the entire interview! Please check it out below:
Interview with Kingdom Hearts Series Director Tetsuya Nomura
Operation "Interview Tetsuya Nomura regarding [KH2.8]" has been carried out. The main topics of our conversation with him revolve around the latest story developments in [KH0.2] and [KHXBC]. So to avoid spoilers, we urge you to definitely play the game and watch the cutscenes first! Being the 15 year anniversary of the Kingdom Hearts series this year, we also touch base about that, as well as about the FFVII Remake!- Firstly, once again, can you explain to us the position of [KH2.8] in the storyline and the kind of game that it's turned out to be?
Nomura: In regards to story, it can be said to be in the position of a prologue. It's a story you should know about before playing [KHIII]. It's a story set right before [KHIII], or perhaps it's ever so slightly crossed over into [KHIII]'s domain...?
- In [KH0.2], there's a scene where Sora and friends make an appearance. Is this a scene that's crossed over into that domain?
Nomura: We may put that episode into [KHIII] as a sort of digest, but the only place you will see it in fine detail is in [KH0.2]. If you check its chapter name in the Theatre Mode, you will understand its purpose.
- Something we should all definitely check out then. Also, in [KH0.2] we see Riku and King Mickey receive suitcases with new outfits prepared inside. It seems like a change of wardrobe for [KH3] has already been decided?
Nomura: The design is already finished, with a small glimpse of their prototypes appearing on an illustrated card in [KHX]. Riku's hairstyle has also changed, so please look forward to future announcements.
- The contents of [KH0.2] were of an unexpected large volume, with it being a short episode but also containing so many things we wanted to know, honestly we were shocked. Also with the additional "Challenges" and so on...
Nomura: The addition of Challenges and the Customization was not a factor in our original plans, but at the very end of development our staff wanted to add them in so they worked hard and did.
- Were decorations such as the cat ears also a choice of the staff?Nomura: Yep. The plans as well as all the choices were all by the staff. There were some designs I had to decline, but mostly all of it was implemented into the game.- Will you also consider adding these decorations into [KHIII]?Nomura: I'm still not sure. Since [KH0.2] is a short episode, the plan was to add them in to give some sort of additional content for replay value. As for [KH3], there are already plenty of other factors implemented for that sort of replay value, so it all depends on the state of development as time goes on.
- I see. With [KH0.2], the gameplay felt even easier to handle, even more so than the previous times we played it. Even the graphics have been further beautified!.
Nomura: We brushed them up according to the opinions and feedback we received from the demo versions. Especially for the graphics, we put a lot of work into fine tuning the lighting, where I couldn't help but think that Aqua had become quite cute, even more so than before (laughs). According to the time we had, we tried as much as possible to polish up [KH0.2], and we will only just continue to improve as [KHIII] approaches.
- For concepts like battles, etc. how did you go about developing them?
Nomura: I used things like Flowmotion from the game before this one, [KH3D], to create action that was even more thrilling than before. In regard to the [KH] series, [KH3D] was an important step forward toward its evolution, so focusing on that idea I concentrated on developing actions that involved even more valiant, dynamic movements, ones where you'd think, "that's overdoing it". These sorts of magnificent and dazzling actions I used as concepts.
- Ah yes, you've talked about these concepts in interviews back when KH3D was releasing.
Nomura: [KH0.2] is the first game to represent these concepts as a [KH] game created for current generation consoles. Therefore, in regards to those concepts, from [KH0.2] onward the [KH] series will change completely from what was seen before. Even the CG models you see in [KH0.2], not a single model from prior was able to be used, so even the bones (A CG model's joints, which connects parts of the skeletal structure) have been completely changed, meaning all actions have additionally been remodeled from the ground up. All this considered, we aimed to create something that would not tamper with the regular feel you expect from a [KH] game, while also aiming to implement those exhilarating actions previously described.
- We didn't feel anything out of place when it came to all that newly created content, that's for sure. Actually, we felt an evolution, quite especially so for magic. There was this freshness about it.
Nomura: About magic, instead of the usual “fire off your magic and damage the enemy”, from the very beginning we decided to instead have it affect both the environment and the enemy's own status.
- As a system, being able to choose which Situation Command you propel yourself into gives a feeling of strategy, doesn't it?
Nomura: Through completing various tasks, you are able to select your favourite command to execute, but only for a limited time. This idea stems from wanting to abolish the feeling of a sort-of forced QTE (Quick Time Event). For [KH0.2], we took the system from [KHIII] and adapted a [KHBbS] style into it, resulting in the arrangement you see.
- Well then, will we see Situation Commands in [KHIII]?
Nomura: Yes. In [KHIII]'s battles there are a huge amount of options, so players can actively choose which command they wish to fire off. What we see in [KH0.2] can be said to be one small part of this larger system.
- So, are you saying things like the Shotlocks we saw in [KH0.2] will be part of these options?
Nomura: Well, as we've shown once in a [KHIII] trailer, there will also be variations. Locking onto a huge amount of enemies will send Sora flying between them, landing blows as he moves from target to target. Expect to see these sorts exhilarating and fun to execute Shotlocks.
- In [KH0.2], exploring and solving the riddles of the worlds was incredibly fun. Apart from the first town on the outskirts of the castle, you can't say the areas were particularly small, but the content was especially rich considering their size!
Nomura: This is because the leading force behind the [KH] games, the Osaka Team, never cease to show their prowess and excellence in dealing with the organisation of the world's areas. And certainly, looking at the mini-map, you don't really get a feeling of how large the areas actually are, where there's a perfect balance between mystery and exploration. This is an area of the team I trust wholeheartedly, so I didn't really pester them much about it (laughs).
- Well then, which areas of the team, regarding development, did you pester them most about?
Nomura: I'm particularly fussy about the battle system and proper scene direction, so it'll have to be about those areas. Well, from early stages of development, concepts for the battle system were already solidified, so I didn't pester them too much. But it's just in [KH0.2] there were alterations to the Situation Command portion of the battle system. At first, there was a gauge that would fill, and once full, to understand that it had been filled, a sign would appear above the gauge. This was difficult to understand, so, as we showed you once in a trailer, we changed it to have a big green triangle appear in the middle of the screen. However, in my eyes that looked to be too forceful so I urged them to change it. Finally we decided to go with having the text "STANDING BY" appear on the screen.
- Without a doubt, having the triangle mark appear on the screen would almost make someone push it out of reflex.
Nomura: You did get a feeling like it was shouting at you, "Push it!" right? After all, the purpose was meant to be to signify that the command is prepared and ready to use, so not liking this forceful impression it had, we scrapped it. I wanted to treat it more like your options for battle had opened.
- Such considerate thoughts are what contribute and heighten the quality of [KH]. Additionally, the representation of enemies was also a highlight. The enemies seen in [KHIII]'s trailers made appearances which was exciting to see.
Nomura: We also remade the enemy models from scratch. Each staff member responsible for the models did countless before-the-matter tests in order to present the enemies in the most [KH]-esque way. I think the fruits of their labour definitely shine through. I think this title is one the staff definitely grew quite fond of.
- Especially the Devil's Wave boss, we really felt the determination put into it. We were able to enjoy the battle to our heart's content.
Nomura: That boss, between the first time and last time you see it, its movement pattern and appearance changes, as does its name, first being the "Devil's Tower" and at last the "Devil's Wave". The Osaka team put particular effort in this enemy, so much so that even when reaching a time in development where we could no longer tamper with the contents of the game, called "Datalock", the staff in charge, with strong aspiration, pushed onward until the very last moments, constantly fine tuning it. [KH0.2]'s development time was short, so even staff working simultaneously on [KHIII] stepped in to help. Even so, the time devoted to it wasn't actually long and I think we did all we could with that time.
- In [KH0.2]'s opening, Utada Hikaru's "Hikari -Ray of Hope MIX-" played in the background and left such an impression on us. We were so happy.
Nomura: We are always approaching Utada-San, and this time the timing was good. Most of all, I think that the constant heartfelt shouts from fans all over the world had a big impact on her decision.
- The story had quite a dark tone, with Aqua battling along alone, I was honestly so relieved when she reunited with Mickey.
Nomura: Writing all that was actually really difficult.
- What do you mean?
Nomura: Since it's only Aqua, there is a lot of monologue because the only option was to express what she was thinking in that form. So unfortunately, with a slight groan I was forced to write a lot of it (laughs). Along her journey, she finally meets Mickey, which gave me a chance to write some dialogue, so I felt that relief too, albeit in a different way. (laughs)
- I see! (laughs). Her conversation with Terra was also a very important scene.
Nomura: At last year's concert, a scene was vocally presented between Terra and Namine in front of the audience. Namine said "Soon, that girl will come and when she does, I need you to guide her" to Terra. This is a directly connected to that scene you mentioned.
- Oh so that's what it was!? By the way, Aqua was seen to use the chains of light that Master Eraqus once did... how?
Nomura: Those shining chains are a special ability of Eraqus and his students. By becoming a Master, Aqua also became the successor to Eraqus' "Master Keeper", resulting in gaining the ability to use it also.
- Lots of mysteries were solved but, I never thought that the reason that King Mickey wore nothing on his upper body when he was first introduced would be explained! (laughs)
Nomura: I personally specified that scene, and actually now that I watch it, it does seem a little strange (wry smile). I actually had an image of him sustaining heavy amounts of damage and being unable to move but, he is the King after all...
- I was deeply moved by Aqua's determination at the end...
Nomura: I was worried about that right to the end. Do I have her break down and complain? Or do I have her embrace the end with cold dignity? Initially, in an ending that would really pull the heartstrings, I was going to have her separate from Mickey, then have her cry out, unable to contain herself, that she just really wanted to go back home. Finally though, I thought it was probably best to end it in a way that was much more like Aqua.
- In both [KH0.2] and [KHxBC], the phrase "May our hearts be our guiding key" came up. What does it mean?
Nomura: That's something Oka (Masaru, scenario planner) put in. In terms of scenario, first I tell Oka the general plot, Oka then comes up with ideas for level design while also working on some initial modeling, which then gives that design some initial shape. I take a look at this and write a final manuscript, handing it back to Oka to give it one more proofread in order to verify it. Our process works in a sort of "sandwich" style, and even if the scenario writer changes, the process remains the same. During the process this time, Oka thought to add the phrase as a symbol to simply represent the Keyblade Wielders, so we added it in. In [KH0.2], it appears as an "ancient phrase" which gives a nod to the events that occurred in the era of [KHx].
- That's just one instance where we can see the connection between those two stories... In [KHxBC], we catch a glimpse at the human side of each Foreteller, which wasn't evident in [KHx] or in [KHUx] and it was refreshing.
Nomura: It's the first time hearing the voices of those that appear in [KHxBC], and for the people that haven't played [KHx] or [KHUx], then this is also the first time ever meeting them. Being a bit short of an hour, during this restricted time, I had to be careful to display their individuality, and have the player feel a sense of attachment and empathy toward them. Now, it should be noted that [KHxBC] is a story about the Foretellers and the events that occurred behind the scenes, so for the parts of the story which are important and connected to the main story, including the Keyblade War, I have separated the story telling of that into [KHx] and [KHUx], which can only be experienced by playing them.
- By the way, that Master... He's quite the weird guy. Why did you give him that personality? (laughs)
Nomura: Well, I thought that for such an incredible figure, this is the only way to represent him (laughs). I guess you could say that he doesn't seem to care about anything. He doesn't get annoyed, he doesn't scheme, but when he's serious, he's serious.
- I think it's a hard role, but Tomokazu Sugita gave an outstanding performance.
Nomura: I was worried about who I was going to pick. On top of having both silly moments, as well as really charismatic moments, he also has a very unique style of speech, so it was difficult to decide. But after imagining it all in my head, there was only one voice actor who could perform all that with incredibly quality, and that was Sugita-San.
- There was one more person important to the story – Luxu. Performed by Kenjiro Tsuda, how did that all begin?
Nomura: In all my works, including [KH], Hiroshi Shimizu has always been in charge of supervising and controlling audio, as well as directing the compilation and editing. When I talked to him about the secrets behind Luxu, and consulted with him about who would suit to voice him, he was the one to recommend Tsuda-san. Tsuda-san has played “Shakespeare” in another game called “Rampage Land Rankers” and also provided the Japanese dub for the voice of Kylo Ren in Star Wars 7.
- I should probably go and get Shimizu-san’s autograph then. When the Master and Luxu are talking with one another, while it feels like a very frank conversation, the end takes a turn with some hidden implications.
Nomura: I’ve depicted both the Master and Luxu as people whom you will never be able to grasp what in the world they are actually thinking. Luxu is more of the philosophical type, and if I try to put words to it, you could say he’s like the Master, except he’s a bit boring because he lacks the interesting quirkiness.
- A boring version of the Master! (laughs) He seems like quite an important and powerful person, however.
Nomura: Well, he was tasked with the most important mission. The Master even said it himself. It’s all because of the success of that mission that he is able to peer into the future.
- So the Keyblade that received the Master’s eye is being passed around in the world of the future then?
Nomura: Well, it’s hard to confirm whether that’s really true or not. We’re talking about the Master here. In his words, he would probably say something like, “But that can’t be possible!! Right??”
- Huh!? But...That being said, the aforementioned Keyblade...It’s the same one that Master Xehanort holds in the future, right?
Nomura: Yes, it’s the very same one. Succeeding from Luxu, it’s been passed through time and is now held by Master Xehanort. So it can be considered that Master Xehanort is the legitimate successor of that Keyblade, meanwhile Master Eraqus inherited control over the Land of Departure.
- The Master appears to be quite the important character, will we find out the reason for his disappearance in [KHIII]?
Nomura: Some of the story developments from [KHxBC] will be touched upon in some way or shape in [KHIII], but the Master won’t make an appearance. As for his “surprise” on the other hand...
- By that are you talking about the box that the Master called a “Suprii~se!” and entrusted to Luxu along with the Keyblade? There was also something written on it...
Nomura: The perceptive fan may have already worked it out but, it still remains a secret. In [KHIII], a certain person is looking for that box...- So the box’s contents will be revealed in [KHIII]... By the way, in this world that can be considered to be during “the time period spoken about in fairytales”, what sort of position is the X-blade in?
Nomura: The Master knows about its existence. Using the X-blade as a model, he creates his own Keyblades. Well, by create I don’t mean that in the physical sense, such as forging and tempering them, I mean more along the lines of pulling one out from the depths of a heart.
- From what I gather, as a result of the Keyblade War that occurred in the events of [KHx], the Keyblade Graveyard was created, where the Keyblades of the owners that vanished there have been left behind?
Nomura: That’s right. Basically, they remain there as simple hunks of metal.—This year will be quite a milestone, with KH celebrating its 15th anniversary, FFVII its 20th, and FF its 30th. If possible, we'd like to hear about what's happening in regards to each of those.
Nomura: First we have KH2.8 releasing in January, then an ice sculpture display for FFVII at the Sapporo Snow Festival in February, then in the lead-up to the release of KH1.5+2.5 in March, the 15th anniversary concert Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour will begin. There's Disney's D23 event, too, where we may be able to do something. And then, season two of KHUχ is coming soon, too.
—We're very interested in what will unfold in season two of KHUχ.
Nomura: We're calling it season two right now, but in a way it will be a total rebirth. We're using the opportunity to add huge new features, and many parts will be made new. The story approaches a massive turning point, too. Actually, we showed a hint towards the characters that hold the key to that on the official twitter. Ephemera, Skuld, Ventus, and then two more… whose faces I haven't shown… but, the five of them hold they key. You can be sure that a huge upheaval will take place.
> It's been a year. Thank you for helping us reach this anniversary. We have all sorts of things in the works, and not just the things I mentioned the other day, so I hope you continue to enjoy the game for a long time. -Nomura #KHUX https://t.co/5Knpb8BdrP
—Kingdom Hearts Uχ official twitter (@KHUX_PR) 2016-09-03 12:31:55
—Five? That sure catches our attention. By the way, the Dream Eaters that appeared in KH3D became relevant in KHχ, KHUχ and KHχBC, where their origins were touched upon. Will we see more explanations regarding the Dream Eaters in the future?
Nomura: Dream Eaters, Spirits and Nightmares, will appear in KHUχ season two. Also, there will be a feature relating to them in KH3.
—We are also looking forward to the March release of KH1.5+2.5 for PS4. Will there be any changes from the PS3 versions?
Nomura: On the PS4, the playable section will be 60fps. As you can see in the version of KH3D included in KH2.8, moving is glassy-smooth in 60fps, which changes the sensation considerably.
—What about trophies?
Nomura: There will be changes. We are currently tweaking the hurdles to be a little lower. That's not to say that the games will be exactly the same aside from trophies; we're making fine changes.
—Do you plan to release a bundle that includes KH2.8 alongside KH1.5+2.5?
Nomura: The timing isn't very good, so we won't be releasing a full pack just yet. But, we are preparing a box, such as you often see for DVD sets. The box will be able to fit KH1.5+2.5 and KH2.8. I think it will be a Square Enix e-STORE limited edition. Also, we're planning a campaign for a chance to obtain the KH2.8 acrylic stands, which were limited edition. Details are coming soon, so please wait.
—Also, on the same day KH2.8 releases, January 12th, we will be able to enjoy the "Champion: Sora" free DLC in World of FF. Fans of the series must take note.
Nomura: In this peak age of social network games, collaborations like this are getting less rare. I'd been looking for a way to collaborate with WOFF too, so I made the proposal myself. But the hurdles were pretty high; it was definitely rough going. As I was the one who brought it up, in the end I was the one who went to negotiate.
—The concert is going to start soon, too. Will it begin with a skit reading like the last one?
Nomura: This time we have access to monitors at each of the event halls, so I'm thinking of some kind of video production. We're in the middle of preparing concert merchandise, too. As for a skit reading: we're going to make the video the centrepiece, and we can't change the production too much since we are visiting many countries so it's probably going to be too difficult.
—Please tell us where the development of KH3 is up to.
Nomura: KH3 requires a different work process than other titles so far, so I can't strictly say. On one hand there are worlds that are pretty much finished, on the other hand there are worlds we still haven't even touched. Worlds we haven't announced yet tend to be further along in development, so we're at a stage where what we could show is what we can't show. Maybe hearing there's parts we 'still haven't touched' is going to make people worry, but it's business as usual; we never start by working on all the worlds at the same time. In order to avoid having to redo things once we've started it's necessary to let things take shape only after all the elements have received approval, and there are currently some worlds that are still being audited. As I said a while ago, we also have to remake all the character models and such for current-gen consoles, so there's still a lot of development work to do. But, you don't have to worry about the quality, so please wait until the next opportunity I have to show you something. Preparations are underway.
—Okay. FFV has reached its 20th anniversary. For the 10th anniversary you made a logo; are there any developments in the works?
Nomura: Oh yeah. I have to draw a logo. (Mr Yoshinori) Kitase asked me to do that. Anything happening is up to Kitase. He's better at bold suggestions than I. The content of the game has been left to me, but I consult carefully when anything outside that is to be decided.
—By the way, there's a 30 anniversary ceremony for FF on January 31st, isn't there?
Nomura: I don't plan to participate. FFVII's snow sculpture will debut at the Sapporo Snow Festival in February, and if my schedule permits I do want to go to that.
—We see. How is FFVII coming along, then?
Nomura: Work is moving solidly. There was a test video today…
—Ooh, this is *that* place, from the opening, right? Whoa (stares for a while)... Wow!!!! In just a scene of Cloud walking we can already tell that the unique vibe has been carried through!
Nomura: That's exactly why we'll have to keep you waiting a little more for KH3 and FFVII Remake. It can be difficult for the in-office and non-office staff to link up, and then there's KH3 on top, and then the supervision works a little differently than it has before now. But these issues are physical ones, not ones with the (game) content, and we are currently moving towards solutions with the combined efforts of each section, so please don't worry. I'm very sorry to keep you waiting, but it means we can make both titles something that will meet your hopes all the more.
—We would wait another decade if it meant getting to play as that Cloud (laughs). That reminds us, you will be attending MAGIC (Monaco Anime Game International Conferences) in Monaco in February, right? What will you do there?
Nomura: I was kindly invited to do a talk. I won't be making any announcements about specific titles; I was asked to speak about my career so far. It'll be the first time I've done a talk like that and I haven't decided what I'll say yet, so I'll be getting ready for that soon too.
—It sounds like 2017 will be another busy year.
Nomura: There are also the annual events—E3 in June, Tokyo Game Show in September, Jump Festa in December—and on top of preparing for the KH concert I'm simultaneously managing things like season two of KHUχ and Dissidia FF, so yes, this year is looking to be fully loaded. I didn't give much information on KH3 or FFVII Remake last year, but I hope I can show you our progress if any events align this year. I apologise that there's still some time before I can release them, but there are many other titles releasing this year, and so I'd like for you to please wait for your 'surprise'.