~Visuals with a soft feel, and even bolder action
—We were surprised that you would release a KHIII trailer so soon, what with KH 3D [Dream Drop Distance] (hereon KH3D) and KH -1.5 HD ReMIX- still so recent.
Nomura: I know there are many fans who are restless because we have only released spin off titles since KHII, so I decided to announce it along with FFXV. Considering the stage of development, though, I do think perhaps it is a bit early to be announcing it.
—However, it does seem like the visuals already have a solid direction.
Nomura: Among the developers we are calling the visuals the ‘Kingdom Shader’. On original worlds, the characters will go around with that feel to them. Then, to match the style of each Disney World, the Shader will adjust the visuals depending on the world.
—We weren’t expecting the soft, illustrated feel as seen in the KH3D movie, rather than a more realistic look.
Nomura: Perhaps the ordinary course of things would be to go with the realism close to the visuals in the movies so far, but then there wouldn’t be any surprises, would there? I think the same thing about existing things like cel shading, too.
—How did you come up with these visuals?
Nomura: How should next-gen Kingdom Hearts be… should I go with the realism from recent works, or go with something different? I thought long and hard about several answers. From that, I knew we had to go back to our original goal for the graphics of the Kingdom Hearts characters: evoking the feel of the brush paintings in Disney works. So, I called on (Mr Takeshi) Nozue and we did test after test, and the result of all our investigating is the ‘Kingdom Shader’. Because we are skipping a generation of hardware with our numbered titles, Kingdom Hearts II having been released on PS2, perhaps it will seem like we are changing things too radically. However, we are doing our utmost best to take everything you have seen so far and evolve it to be even richer.
—Like FFXV, is KHIII being developed on Luminous Studios?
Nomura: We are currently verifying going with Luminous as our main. Working on an over-spec and porting to both PS4 and Xbox One is also going to be the same. In the trailer we showed, for the battle section we didn’t have time to prepare a clip of it working on the actual hardware because of tool issues, so instead we made a concept FMV that depicts what is possible in realtime. That said, the actual thing working in realtime doesn’t look much different at all.
—And development is being handled by the Osaka team responsible for KH Birth by Sleep, KH3D and KH -1.5 HD ReMIX-?
Nomura: The base is the Osaka team. With (Mr Tai) Yasue as Co. Director, they are working in conjunction with the Tokyo Kingdom Hearts staff.
—We’re interested in how the action in KHIII will have evolved.
Nomura: Right now there’s a demo version that runs on the hardware… and it’s an absolute storm (laughs). It goes even beyond ‘bold action’. In KHIII you will have a three person party, but depending on the world NPCs will also join in fighting. Basically, some very flashy action will unfold. You’ll be flying through the sky flowing through air battles without landing.
—Just with Sora (laughs).
Nomura: I suppose so (laughs). The enemy AI is becoming rather elaborate, and we’d like for coordinated action to flow from enemies and allies alike. For example, there’s a vehicle-type enemy, and we’ve already got Sora being able to ride that enemy all around during battle.
—Even just from watching the Shadows in the trailer moving we certainly can tell that the enemies have evolved. And, on the other side, Sora has gained powers befitting a ‘Keyblade Master’, hasn’t he? Will he be able to transform his Keyblade?
Nomura: In this stage of testing he can transform it. By the way, in the trailer, Sora picks up the Keyblade belonging to Master Eraqus that Aqua had. We put that together in order to remind you of the story of KHIII, as this time we weren’t able to prepare a scene that would show you a portion of the drama.
—That means the story begins after the end of KH3D, doesn’t it.
Nomura: Yes. We are currently working through the selection of new worlds. As this is the last chapter of the Dark Seeker Chronicles that has been going since KH1, there will be a final showdown with Xehanort.
—If the story continues from KH3D, then is it possible that we will be able to control not only Sora but other characters such as Riku and Kairi?
Nomura: I can’t say the possibility is zero.
—We apologise for what might be an overly-specific question, but, what happened to Meow Wow…….
Nomura: ……What indeed (laughs). The last part of KH3D was meant to be tentative foreshadowing.
—So perhaps we can get our hopes up (laughs). Lastly, a message for your fans.
Nomura: FFXV and KHIII are projects that, like great rivals, polish each other up as they develop. At our private conference, despite KHIII being the lucky last and being at an early stage of development, I I already felt the response. For KHIII, developments unseen in the KH series so far involving online elements are under investigation, so please look forward to upcoming news. This year in Japan we will be exhibiting at Tokyo Game Show and at Disney’s D23 Expo Japan event, so I think there will be more information available around those times.