It’s been almost 12 years since Kingdom Hearts 2 was released. In that time we’ve gone through one and a half new console generations and played many spin off titles, but the mainline Kingdom Hearts story has retained a constant place in the back of our minds.
It wasn’t actually ever certain that Kingdom Hearts 3 was even going to come until 2013 when Square Enix officially confirmed its existence. Though Square Enix has released many spin-off titles across several platforms, none of them furthered the main Sora storyline told across Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 and instead explored side characters and stories.
After the initial confirmation and announcement trailer in 2013 we then got a teaser trailer and some tantalizing details at E3 in 2014 and even more news and a gameplay trailer at E3 2015. Since then news has been fairly thin on the ground but we’ve collected all of the latest news and rumors and placed it right here for your convenience.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The long-anticipated third mainline title in Square Enix's action roleplaying crossover series, Kingdom Hearts.
- When can I play it? There’s no official release date but late 2017 to early 2018 is looking increasingly likely.
- What can I play it on? PS4 and Xbox One
Screenshots and trailers
The most recent trailer for the game was released at JumpFesta in 2016. The trailer gave an insight into how the game’s combat will work as well as a glimpse at special abilities and the impact the game’s environment will have on fighting.
Prior to this there was another and much more full trailer released at E3 in 2015. In this gameplay trailer fans got a look at what appears to be a new location – the exterior of Rapunzel’s tower from the film Tangled.
A much shorter trailer was revealed at E3 in 2014, setting the stage for the game's main story.
And of course we can't forget the announcement trailer from all the way back in 2013. There have been lots of trailer haven't there?
Despite the fact that the game was confirmed in 2013 and we’ve now seen it make an appearance at three consecutive E3 events, we still don’t have a final release date for Kingdom Hearts 3.
In a recent interview with Famitsu that was translated by Gematsu, the game’s director Tetsuya Nomura revealed that the game’s development wasn’t yet near completion:
“While I can’t make a sweeping statement because the development process is different from what we’ve done so far, there are still worlds untouched. Production is progressing on unannounced worlds, in a state that we cannot show them off. In terms of the state of development, there is still some way to go.”
Nomura added that though the wait for the game would be “a bit longer” he’s planning to show the development progress “at an event somewhere” which suggests another E3 presentation.
This interview took place in January 2017, which makes it unlikely that the release will be before the Christmas period. If anything, a 2018 release seems more realistic.
Is it coming to Xbox One?
The game has been announced for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. There was a flurry of panic at the beginning of the year when the Xbox One listing disappeared from the Xbox Japan website leading people to speculate that the game would no longer be released on the platform.
Will it come to Nintendo Switch?
In a recent interview Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda told Nikkei (via MyNintendo) that the company is focusing on bringing more of its current and future titles to Nintendo’s new console, the Nintendo Switch.
Though Matsuda makes no direct reference to bringing Kingdom Hearts 3 to the Switch, it does suggest that if such a move is feasible and the hardware limitations aren’t too great, Square Enix will make it happen.
What we know so far
Kingdom Hearts 3 will see players once more take up the role of Sora as he travels with his closest friends Donald and Goofy across a variety of world themed around and populated by a host of famous Disney and Final Fantasy characters.
Game director Tetsuya Nomura has confirmed that the game’s story will start straight after the ending of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.
This means that the game will follow our trio in their pursuit of the Seven Guardians of Light to prepare for their final showdown against Master Xehanort. All the while, King Mickey and Riku will continue their hunt for the remaining Keyblade wielders.
Does all of this sound like complete gobbledygook to you? Not to worry, if you’d like to catch up on all of the essential story you can do so on PlayStation 4 by playing Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix and Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue.
Not sure you’ve got the time for playing through all of that? Then you could watch the below summary of the franchise timeline created by Game Trailers. It’s still almost an hour long but it’ll do the job.
Kingdom Hearts 3 will adopt a slightly visual style to previous games in the franchise, aiming for more of a brush-like look than photo realism. In an interview with Famitsu (via Kotaku) Tetsuya Nomura was very open about the decision to take a new visual approach, stating that this new direction was an attempt to “Express Disney's 2D brushwork in 3D.”
Nomura said this was a look they’d wanted since the first game but “At the time, the [PlayStation 2] didn't have the processing power to allow us to freely adjust the lighting.”
The new PlayStation 4 hardware, however, is much more capable and Nomura said it’s possible to get “a real feeling of evolution by just making the standard graphics into HD.” Nomura admitted that it’s a fairly “drastic change” but added that he sees it as “a rich evolution of everything we've shown you up to now.”
It looks like the action RPG gameplay won’t change too much from previous titles in the franchise, most likely drawing from and improving on that of Kingdom Hearts 2 and perhaps integrating particularly successful elements from the handheld titles.
It’s been confirmed, though, that Sora will be much more mobile in combat, able to wall run, jump on enemies, and largely take greater advantage of the game’s much larger environments.
Back in 2013, Nomura said that the combat in Kingdom Hearts 3 will be “pretty frantic”, with NPCs able to join in the three-person party fights as well as “more intricate” enemy AI.
A couple of interesting new combat features that have been confirmed include Attraction Flow and Keyblade Transformations.
Attraction Flow attacks are new super moves that will apparently be triggered under certain though unconfirmed battle conditions. These powerful moves based on the Flowmotion moves from Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance are inspired by some of the biggest rides at the Disney theme parks such as the Teacups, Pirate Ship and Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Keyblade Transformations are fairly self explanatory and will allow Sora’s Keyblade weapons to transform in battle with different effects.
According to Nomura, Keyblade Transformations will only be unlocked when all missions from one of the game’s worlds are unlocked, with each individual world offering its own unique transformation.
For example, it was spotted by KH Insider that an Olympus Keyblade was able to cast Zeus’ lightning as well as transform into a Pegasus-drawn chariot.
Disney’s been busy in the years since Kingdom Hearts 2 was first released so as you’d expect, there are going to be a few new worlds to play in. Thus far the Kingdom of Corona from Tangled, an as yet untitled world from Big Hero 6, Mount Olympus from Hercules, Twilight Town and Mysterious Tower have been confirmed as new additions.
Though Disney has also acquired Marvel and LucasFilm, it’s unlikely their franchises will appear in Kingdom Hearts due to a variety of other license agreement barriers, with Nomura cautioning that “the other associated companies under Disney [are] not something that is as simple as us consulting with Disney Interactive. So, unfortunately, the lineup is kind of considered as different.”