Making Kingdom Hearts III certainly must come with a heavy load of baggage. The passionate fanbase has been waiting for over ten years for a third entry in the series, and nobody wants to feel their wrath should the game not live up to expectations. With no doubt many members of the original Kingdom Hearts team moving on over the last decade, Square Enix can’t throw a bunch of newcomers into the fire pit and tell them to make the game perfectly.
Obviously, they’ll need a little practice first, and even the veterans might need to shake off the rust.
That’s where the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 and 2.5 REmixes come into play. Square Enix crammed nearly every single game from the series into two enjoyable packages not only to stir up the fanbase and get them excited, but also to give the Kingdom Hearts III team a little practice to prepare for the main show. Kingdom Hearts 3 Co-director and Game Designer Tai Yasue explains to Kotaku London.
“We have been working on 3 and 2.5 at the same time. so a lot of people are crossing over and doing both. There are also a lot of new people working on both. In a way, we’ve learned what was good about our previous Kingdom Hearts [games] by making 2.5.
For 3, we want to evolve it in a new direction, but at the same time we don’t want to change what is fundamental about Kingdom Hearts. We’re hiring new people continuously, so they are learning about Kingdom Hearts through making 2.5. It’s a good learning experience.”
You also have to remember that Kingdom Hearts was rebuilt from the ground up after Square Enix admitted to losing the original resources for the game! Remasters are one thing, but perfectly rebuilding a game is an entirely different beast. Gotta be careful where you put those resources.
Yasue also dedicates a lot of time to the difficulties of being loyal to the original Disney art-design of many characters and making sure that the original vision remains intact. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 REmix helped give him a base to build from.
“There’s a lot to get used to working with the Disney content,” he says. “You have to have a lot of dedication and respect for their visual IPs for example, and when you play Kingdom Hearts 2you see that: when you summon a character or use a spell there’s a lot of love and care that goes into the presentation. When you see Stitch coming out of the screen, for example, it’s very true to the original movie. That dedication is something you learn through the process or remaking 2.
As Square-Enix, if someone else was making a Final Fantasy or a Dragon Quest, we’d be very protective of that too. So we really understand the importance of not changing the brand and respecting the fans. We want to make it true to Disney – we don’t want to change it fundamentally. We always strive to make original content, but with Kingdom Hearts you have to really respect the source material, and that’s something people really like about the series.
As someone who creates games I think the constraints make you really think. They are what make you strive to come up with new ideas – ideas that are acceptable to Disney, and also fun. That balancing act leads to a lot of surprises. It’s very challenging, but we work on it daily. We continuously talk with Disney and see what they think is acceptable… but we constantly want to surprise our players, too, so we need flexibility. It is challenging and makes you think.”
I’m excited for Kingdom Hearts III, but the more I read about it, the more and more I am reminded that I still haven’t had the chance to dive into Kingdom Hearts II. Maybe I’ll even need to replay the first one as well. I was a fan back in the day, and I beat the game to nearly 100 percent completion. With the perfect packages available to finally go back and revisit the first two games, I’ll throw them up on my bucket list of games to complete before the end of the year.
Playing Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II will be equally good practice for me to enjoy Kingdom Hearts III as it is for Yasue in making it.
Kingdom Hearts III will be released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. No date has been established yet.