Kingdom Hearts 3 has been a long time coming. Fans of the popular Disney and Square Enix creation didn’t get a new console title in the series during the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation. You can play Kingdom Hearts games on the PlayStation 3, but none of them were new entries in the series. When it was finally announced Kingdom Hearts 3 would come to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, fans rejoiced. However, there hasn’t been a lot of information on the title since.
We already covered the minor shuffling in management and the switch to Unreal Engine 4 that set Kingdom Hearts 3 back a bit in terms of development time. Now we have a few new bits of information to share with those eager to pick up the story of Sora, Mickey and the crew. At the time of the switch to Unreal Engine 4 was announced, we didn’t know the full extent of that process. It turns out series director Tetsuya Nomura and his development team had to virtually start over from scratch with the new engine.
As you might guess, there were a lot of in-house effects developed for the Luminous Engine. When it was decided the game would shift over to Unreal Engine 4, copy and paste was not an option. That’s why the team essentially had to start over from square one. There have been plenty of cel-shaded games, and while Kingdom Hearts has always had a cartoon-like feel, it never looked like your standard issue cel-shaded title. That was partially due to a custom shader specific to Kingdom Hearts. However, when you deal with such specialized tools, it takes much longer to transition to a brand new engine.
One of the big talking points of the trailers for Kingdom Hearts 3 has been the keyblade transformations. This isn’t just a new gameplay element, it actually factors into the story of Kingdom Hearts 3. Sora must go through a mastery test, and through this procedure he gains the ability to transform the keyblade. However, don’t expect this to be the only new facet of the combat system. While the combat will still feel like Kingdom Hearts titles of the past, Nomura and his team learned quite a bit during their time developing the other Kingdom Hearts games (many of which have a very different combat system). We don’t yet have exact details on how the combat has evolved, but expect the new system in Kingdom Hearts 3 to borrow a bit from the other spin-offs in the series, while paving a new path forward.
For some time, Kingdom Hearts fans asked for multiple playable characters in the games. Nomura would not confirm if Kingdom Hearts 3 would feature more playable characters, but he did hint at the possibility, commenting that it’s a secret. Hopefully by E3 2016, Square Enix is ready to show off some of these secrets Nomura and his team have been keeping.
It was recently confirmed that Big Hero 6 would receive a world in Kingdom Hearts 3, but the development has yet to confirm if big name Marvel franchises or Star Wars (both owned by Disney) would get worlds. We still don’t have direct confirmation of that, but all signs point to yes. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens due out in a few short months, and more Star Wars films planned for yearly intervals, it stands to reason we’ll see a Star Wars World announcement sooner or later.
From what we’ve gathered, Final Fantasy 15 will release before Kingdom Hearts 3, which means Square Enix has some time to release new information on the game. It’s unlikely the company will want to risk overshadowing Final Fantasy 15 in favor of releasing new information on Kingdom Hearts. Still, while fans wait for the next installment in the series, they can get a glimpse into the future and revisit the past by picking up Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue when it releases for the PlayStation 4 in 2016. The compilation includes Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage, which uses the same technology from Kingdom Hearts 3 and tells the final story information that leads directly into the upcomingsequel.
We’ll have more on Kingdom Hearts 3 and Kingdom Hearts 2.8 as new information becomes available. In the meantime, be sure to check out our article on everything we know about Kingdom Hearts 3, as well as a potential release date.