Kingdom Hearts III
Kingdom Hearts III is the twelfth title in the Kingdom Hearts series. It was officially announced at E3 2013, and is the first Kingdom Hearts game available on multiple platforms at launch, releasing on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Kingdom Hearts III was originally scheduled to be released in 2018, but at the 2018 E3 presentation, Square Enix announced it had been postponed until January 25, 2019 for Japan and January 29, 2019 for the rest of the world.
There is a playable prologue to Kingdom Hearts III called Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage- as part of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue.
The game has two theme songs. The opening theme song is "Face My Fears" which is a collaboration between Utada Hikaru and Skrillex. The ending theme song is "Don't Think Twice" (titled "Chikai" in the Japanese version) performed by Utada Hikaru.
The game was announced to be in development alongside a trailer during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June 2013. A trailer was later released at the first D23 Exposition in Japan in October 2013, revealing initial gameplay.
For E3 2014, Square Enix released a thirty-second trailer as part of a trailer to Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX. In the Square Enix Present segment, co-director Tai Yasue revealed the sequence seen in the E3 2014 teaser would be relevant from the beginning of the game and the text seen and heard was going to "be a real integral part of the story". On September 17, 2014, Square Enix announced Tetsuya Nomura would be stepping down as director for Final Fantasy XV so he can focus his efforts on other upcoming titles, namely Kingdom Hearts III.
During the Square Enix E3 Conference on June 16, 2015, the Kingdom Hearts series's executive producer, Shinji Hashimoto, revealed the first gameplay trailer which shows Sora in a new outfit. Sora is seen wielding new Keyblades, fighting new Heartless, and also exploring Kingdom of Corona, a world based on Tangled. In the Square Enix Presents segment, Nomura revealed Kingdom of Corona was one of the first to be considered for the game. In a PlayStation Access interview, Nomura confirmed Final Fantasy characters will return.
In a Famitsu interview, Nomura confirmed the game would contain a secret movie.
In their financial Results Briefing Session, Square Enix President and Representative Director Yosuke Matsuda and Chief Financial Officer Kazuharu Watanabe stated the expected release can be sometime between 2018 and 2020.
During Disney D23 Expo 2017, Nomura showed a trailer depicting Toy Box, a Toy Story world, and announced the game would be released in 2018. Nomura stated the game's delay is not due to development issues, but rather technical decisions made by Square Enix such as moving the game to Unreal Engine 4. Nomura confirmed the Toy Story world features an original storyline set sometime after Toy Story 2, and hinted there would be another playable character besides Sora.
In April 2018, a collaboration campaign between Kingdom Hearts III and Kingdom Hearts Union χ, titled "Kingdom Hearts Make Your Mark" was announced where the 300 players could have their name appear in Kingdom Hearts III.
During Disney's D23 Expo Japan 2018 Conference, a private Kingdom Hearts event was held where two trailers were revealed. In one, Monstropolis, a Monsters, Inc. world was confirmed, while the other announced Utada Hikaru would perform the theme song, titled "Don't Think Twice" ("Oath" in Japanese). The event also revealed the game was being developed by the largest developing team in the history of the series, including 100 people from the Square Enix's Tokyo offices. The return of the Gummi Ship was confirmed, and it was revealed the gameplay for it, now playable as open-world instead of the preset paths from the first two games, had been split into "Battle" and "Searching" phases. The game was revealed to have been developed in three parts, with the first part being about 90% done, and the second between 60% and 70% done. Nomura noted the final world would feature "something incredible" he wanted to do for a while.
During the Los Angeles performance of the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra -World Tour- in 2018, the game's release date was announced as January 25, 2019 in Japan and January 29, 2019 worldwide. Two trailers were released, the first one confirming Arendelle, a world based on Frozen, along with confirming a number of returning characters, the second video, a Square Enix E3 Showcase 2018 trailer, which is similar to the first but with extra footage confirming a few more returning characters. Another video was released shortly afterwards to show a The Caribbean, based on Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Nomura confirmed there were no plans for a Final Mix version and that if there was additional content, it would be through patches and DLC.
During Tokyo Game Show 2018, Nomura talked more about the Secret Ending and how staff were considering a different unlock method from before, such as having the Secret Ending be exclusive DLC to avoid spoilers. They also considered adding online features.
On November 20, 2018, the development for the game was confirmed to be completed.
In December 2018, several videos of the game were leaked online after an individual stole copies from the manufacturer a month prior to release. Nomura released a statement on the Kingdom Hearts official Twitter account, notifying fans Square Enix was aware of the leaks and are working to rectify the situation, as well as urging fans not to share leaked media before the game's release.
Star Wars and Marvel titles were some of the most requested themes to appear in the game, but due to legal issues, this is extremely unlikely.
An additional difficulty mode, Critical Mode, was eventually released. Nomura also mentioned there will be paid DLC which is planned to release in 2019.
Nomura plans to explain how Xion was revived and recruited into the real Organization XIII in the DLC.
After Master Xehanort's return, Yen Sid begins searching for seven Keyblade wielders to counteract Xehanort's plan to forge the χ-blade using the real Organization XIII. Sora is told by him that he has lost much of his own strength as a result nearly being taken over by Xehanort previously. Backed by Donald Duck and Goofy, Sora continues his travels across other worlds in order to regain his "power of waking", the ability to restore lost hearts. Meanwhile, Riku and King Mickey traverse the realm of darkness looking for Aqua, while Kairi and Lea train to use their Keyblades to fight.
During each of their travels, Sora and Riku are contacted by Ienzo, who has deciphered pieces of Ansem's Code to learn that Sora's body contains the hearts of Roxas, Ventus, and Xion. Riku realizes that the Organization's members from the past are using replicas created by Vexen as vessels that enable their existence in the present, which inspires Sora to restore Roxas by transferring his heart into a replica body. Meanwhile, the Heartless Ansem enters the realm of darkness and captures Ansem the Wise, corrupting Aqua's heart in the process. Vexen reveals himself to be a double agent loyal to Ansem the Wise and he helps rescue him before sending an extra replica to Ienzo for Roxas to live in.
Riku and Mickey locate and battle the corrupted Aqua in the realm of darkness. At the same time, Sora finds Master Eraqus's Keyblade on Destiny Islands and uses it to enter the dark realm, where he exorcises the darkness from Aqua and returns her to the realm of light. Sora, Donald, and Goofy then follow Aqua to Castle Oblivion, which she transforms back into the Land of Departure to awaken Ventus. When she is attacked by Vanitas, Sora rediscovers his power of waking and resurrects Ventus, who fights Vanitas off.
With the seven Keyblade wielders, they depart for the Keyblade Graveyard to battle the Organization, only to be quickly consumed by a swarm of Heartless summoned by the possessed Terra. Awakening in a limbo realm called The Final World, Sora is guided back to the realm of light with the help of Kairi and Chirithy and uses the power of waking to revive his friends. However, Young Xehanort warns that abusing this power will result in him losing his own heart again. Returning moments before their defeat, the guardians of light eliminate most of the Organization's members; in the process, Terra, his heart revealed to be inside Xehanort's guardian, regains control of his body and reunites with Aqua and Ventus, while Lea reunites with Xion, whom Vexen restored for the Organization, and Roxas, who regains his own heart to protect Lea and Xion.
When only Xehanort remains, he provokes Sora into attacking him by destroying Kairi's body, allowing Xehanort to acquire the χ-blade and summon Kingdom Hearts. Using Xehanort's power of time travel against him, Sora, Donald, and Goofy transport him to his boyhood training grounds of Scala ad Caelum, where they defeat him. After the other Keyblade wielders rejoin the trio, Eraqus's spirit emerges from Terra's body and convinces Xehanort to surrender. Xehanort and Eraqus depart together to Kingdom Hearts, while Sora and his friends use the χ-blade to close Kingdom Hearts and return to their own time.
Trying to save Kairi, Sora uses the power of waking again to revive her; despite the risk of becoming lost forever, Sora promises to return. Afterwards, Eraqus's students return to the Land of Departure where Ventus reunites with Chirithy; Roxas, Isa, Lea, and Xion stay in Twilight Town and Naminé is restored in a replica obtained during the battle with Xehanort. Sora's friends gather at the Destiny Islands, where Kairi stays beside Sora before he fades away.
Xigbar, who survived the Keyblade War, retrieves Xehanort's Keyblade and summons four of the five foretellers, revealing himself to be a reincarnation of their fellow Keyblade apprentice, Luxu. He begins to recount his actions to the foretellers, with Maleficent and Pete watching from afar. In a flashback to their youth, Eraqus and Xehanort begin a new game of chess enacting a battle between seven dark pieces, and then placing a white piece on the board.
The player can choose their growth path in the beginning. The first set of options are Wisdom, Vitality, and Balance. The second set of options are Guardian, Warrior, and Mystic.
The Command Menu from Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II returns. The gauges for Donald and Goofy now appear next to Sora's in the bottom right corner instead of above. The MP gauge from KHII returns. The "Focus" gauge which from Birth by Sleep returns and is also meant for Shotlocks which are now tied to Keyblades. Reaction Commands are replaced by Situation Commands.
Shortcuts return which function like in Kingdom Hearts II. The player can now arrange commands in three separate configurations, similar to the Deck System with the Cards from Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, and the Panel System from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.
Formchange, a mechanic that allows Sora to change his abilities or the form of his Keyblade. Sora's Keyblade can transform into various items such as a double bow gun or a chariot to attack enemies. Each Keyblade have at least two transformations, with the second activating if Sora connects enough combos, similar to Command Styles or Situation Commands. After activating a Keyblade transformation, said transformation will be saved when switching out. To enter a Formchange, Sora must use a Keyblade transformation by using the Situation Command, although Second Form, Rage Form, and Ultimate Form are labeled exactly by their names.
Sora can now switch between three Keychains on the fly by pressing the Left or Right Directional Buttons while the cursor in on the Attack Command. This means the player can use up to three different Formchanges in active combat apart from Rage Mode.
Keychains can now level up to become stronger through the upgrading them with materials in the Keyblade Forge.
Attractions, a type of Situation Command, are a new feature which lets the party execute skills based on theme park attractions. An attraction sequence can easily be skipped by pressing or turned off completely from the Options menu
Similar to 0.2, magic affects the surrounding environment—for example, Blizzard will create a sheet of ice to slide on and Aero will move and shape the grass. If Sora uses enough magic, he can use more powerful magic. For example, using Fire repeatedly can allow him to use Fira as a Situation Command.
Characters join Sora's team as temporary party members. Now the limit of party members has been expanded from 3 to 5, so Donald and Goofy no longer need to be replaced. The AI has been improved, so allies can invite Sora into special techniques (similar to the Limit attacks from Kingdom Hearts II). However, enemies are also able to work together. Some enemies also have "armor" mode where their HP bar becomes blue and they can use powerful attacks until enough damage is dealt to end it.
The Summon system operates very differently from in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Summons are now called Links with Ariel's "Lagoon Showtime", Ralph's "8 Bit Blast", Simba's "Kingsflare", Meow Wow's "Wonder Balloon", and Stitch's "Plasma Encounter". A summon sequence can easily be skipped by pressing or turned off completely from the Options menu.
Worlds in Kingdom Hearts III are more open world with less loading screens. In the The Caribbean, Sora has his own ship and the player can sail the seas, fight enemy ships and explore various small islands.
Free Running allows Sora to run up walls. When using the Shotlock reticle, Sora can airstep.
Textboxes when talking to NPCs are removed. The dialog is now voiced.
The player can now instantly teleport between save points in worlds instead of going to the main menu.
The game contains mini-games, such as a cooking mini-game with Little Chef in Twilight Town.
The Gummi Ship returns with a revised system and going between worlds is more open-world.
Sora has a Gummiphone which can take pictures of the environment, selfies, as well as Lucky Emblems which are hidden Mickeys. The amount of Lucky Emblems photographed is tied to unlocking the Secret Ending. For example, on Beginner, the player must photograph all of them, but on Proud, the player only needs to photograph a few of them. The Gummiphone also takes on the role for Jiminy's Journal, where the journal entries are stored in it.
Theater Mode is back, which is unlocked by completing Olympus. Unlike before, the cutscenes are now unlocked by completing each world, rather than having to complete the game itself.
Worlds and Characters
A special and Deluxe edition were available alongside the main release. The Special edition was $79.99 which includes an exclusive steelbook packaging, a mini-art book with concept artwork by Tetsuya Nomura and a collectible KHIII pin. The Deluxe edition was $229.99 which has the contents from special edition along with three Bring Arts figures of Sora, Donald, and Goofy from their appearance in the Toy Box.
Notes and references
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