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New Tetsuya Nomura interview about Kingdom Hearts Series

KHIsland and KHDestiny Interview Kingdom Hearts Series Director Tetsuya Nomura

• We are very happy to meet you and we want to thank you for this interview.

Nomura : The pleasure is mine.

• Last year, you were not able to attend Japan Expo and instead drew up an exclusive promotional image for KINGDOM HEARTS 3D [Dream Drop Distance] for the French fans. Tomorrow you'll be on stage to talk about KINGDOM HEARTS -HD 1.5 ReMIX-. I think many fans will be delighted to see you in France! How do you feel about the conference tomorrow?

Nomura : At the moment we cannot reveal tomorrow's presentation in detail, but I think what you'll see will be very exciting. Yesterday I was in the audience at the Final Fantasy conference and it was really busy. So I was a little nervous, imagining that so many people at the KINGDOM HEARTS conference tomorrow.

• Ten years after his first adventure, Sora is back in HD on PlayStation 3. How do you feel seeing Kingdom Hearts, the first game of the series, appearing in high definition?

Nomura : When we first announced the HD remaster, the audience thought it was simply an update of the game, but it's not so easy to create a game in HD. KINGDOM HEARTS -HD 1.5 REMIX- took several years to rebuild the game so it's not an easy task. When I saw the final product, I really thought it was beautiful, much more than what I expected, so I'm very proud of this HD version. Even if the original game was released more than 10 years ago, the end result gives the impression that this is a new game that players will genuinely enjoy. I'm sure they will not believe it is a 10 year old game. This is why we decided to create this remaster, but also to pay tribute to the team that accompanied me during the development of the first KINGDOM HEARTS, comprised of talented and clever people. I can still feel their passion and I am very proud.

• KINGDOM HEARTS Final Mix and KINGDOM HEARTS Re: Chain of Memories are finally arriving in Europe. Regarding KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 ReMIX, did you intend from the beginning to offer these two new games to Western audiences?

Nomura : As you said, KINGDOM HEARTS Final Mix was released in Japan, and Re: CoM in the U.S. but not in Europe. But the last 10 years I've been thinking about how to make these new games available in other regions. Of course, the KINGDOM HEARTS series has many fans outside of Japan, so we took the opportunity to offer players the Western Final Mix version of KINGDOM HEARTS and KINGDOM HEARTS Re: CoM. Since the first KINGDOM HEARTS was released over 10 years ago, this means that some fans have never played the original version. So it was a great opportunity to allow all players to play the same version of the game and take the story in its infancy.

• We know that you would have liked KINGDOM HEARTS 358/2 Days to be completely remade, as was CoM with Re:CoM. In the end, the game is told in the form of videos. Was it your goal to increase the intensity of the story through expressions with more detailed characters?

Nomura : The KINGDOM HEARTS license has already existed for 10 years, and my goal with this remaster was to allow all players to better understand the history of the series and how the games are linked together, which is the reason we added the plot of KINGDOM HEARTS 358/2 Days. I really wanted to offer a playable version of this game but we announced the development of KINGDOM HEARTS III last month at E3, and it became our priority at the moment. Instead, we opted for a narrated version of the story of 358/2 Days.

• KINGDOM HEARTS HD is a link between the previous KINGDOM HEARTS and KINGDOM HEARTS III. Do you plan to expand the work to include HD remasters of other titles within the KINGDOM HEARTS series, such as Birth by Sleep, KINGDOM HEARTS II and Re:coded, seen in the credits of KINGDOM HEARTS HD?

Nomura : Of course, we will spend some time working on them before the release of KINGDOM HEARTS III. Unfortunately, there is nothing more I can say on the subject at this time.

• The Cloud Service system of the PlayStation 4 will allow players to experience titles originally released on PlayStation 1, 2 and 3. Are there any plans to utilize this system to allow owners of the PS4 to play KINGDOM HEARTS HD?

Nomura : We did not even think about the issue because our priority at the moment is the development of KINGDOM HEARTS III. Additionally, we are working on the next KINGDOM HEARTS HD remaster, which is our second priority. We have nothing planned about it for now.

• You created the surprise by announcing KINGDOM HEARTS III at E3. Concealed in the credits of KINGDOM HEARTS 3D, there was a message that read - "This leads to KINGDOM HEARTS" with the figure III formed by Sora and Riku - was this intentional to create a teaser for KH3?

Nomura : Of course, it was our goal! (Laughs)

• You said that the announcement of KINGDOM HEARTS III was necessary but may be premature. How far along is the game development on this title?

Nomura : This is the first next-gen game developed in our studios in recent years by the team in Osaka who have been working on titles for portable consoles. This is a whole new experience for this team working on next-gen consoles and it takes some time to master. However, with that said, it's not as if we just started development.

But contrary to what you can imagine, we have no playable build of the game at the moment because it will take some time to test all the new features that will be in Kingdom Hearts III. Again, the team so far has worked on titles on portable console with limited capacity, but they already have many interesting ideas for Kingdom Hearts III, and it is difficult to test each of these elements to determine which will ultimately be retained. So for now, we are more in a test phase.

• The press release for KINGDOM HEARTS III unveiled by Square Enix discusses the search for the "Key to Return Hearts." Is there anything you can tell us about that?

Nomura : There are two possible meanings of the "key." One of which is the “hardware” key, which opens doors - this is what keys are in general (laughs), and the other is the “light” key, that opens something else. In this case, it is currently unknown as to which type of key Sora must find. This is the main storyline of KINGDOM HEARTS III - Sora must go on an adventure to find the "key" without knowing what or where it is. But as you know, we can’t really say anything else on the subject (laughs).

• In the trailer for KINGDOM HEARTS III, we saw an EX gauge. What can you tell us about it? Is it a final element of gameplay or just an early concept?

Nomura : The gameplay seen in the E3 trailer has not been finalized. As I said earlier, we are in the testing phase and this version of gameplay was one of the features being tested at that time. What you have seen in the KINGDOM HEARTS III trailer was a more successful version of a test version. but the final elements of gameplay depended on the "Kingdom Shader" greatly change the game according to the environment in which progresses the characters. You will see the differences in each world, it will be really interesting.

• In KINGDOM HEARTS 3D, Sora does not become a Keyblade Master. Because Sora is one of your favorite characters, was it difficult for you to put him in this position or choice due to KINGDOM HEARTS III? And with Kairi, will she and Sora ever achieve the Mark of Mastery?

Nomura : I thought a lot about whether Sora was to become Keyblade Master or not. But because I always wanted Sora to relate to the players, if he became Master, it would have meant he would have really reached a very high level and it is not yet ready for it, and we do not want that to happen. The decision to not make Sora a Keyblade Master was not really difficult, but I thought it was better that he remains an ordinary boy to be closer to the players.

About Kairi, we really considered the question but we can not say anything about it yet. During the summit announcement at E3, we did not mention Kairi at all. We will share information when we are ready, so please be patient during the wait (laughs). And of course, there is the matter of the other Keyblade Bearer at the end of KINGDOM HEARTS 3D. Unfortunately we are not allowed to disclose the details of this character presently.

• Currently, Sora and Riku have developed many skills. In every KINGDOM HEARTS title, you have always managed to explain why the main characters like Sora are starting from scratch in terms of their skills. Do you have an idea for why this would occur in KINGDOM HEARTS III?

Nomura : As I said, we are currently doing a lot of testing on KINGDOM HEARTS III. There are many amazing things that you still have not seen, as the actions that the main characters will perform. It will be really exciting and impressive. As you know, we have developed many new features in KINGDOM HEARTS 3D with very fast movements. It was sort of what we were hoping for KINGDOM HEARTS III, and with that you could say Dream Drop Distance was a test for this game. The gameplay of KINGDOM HEARTS III will be an improved version of the KINGDOM HEARTS 3D. This is truly amazing and never seen in any existing action game.

• What is the creative process in choosing worlds for KINGDOM HEARTS? Do you start development with some worlds already in mind, or are there guidelines to follow for consistency with the previous games, or possibly requests from Disney?

Nomura : Several factors come into play. First off, Disney will sometimes offer us ideas of worlds to integrate, and then there are the worlds that I really want to include personally in KINGDOM HEARTS III. I also think of the worlds of the previous games in order to maintain consistency in the story. My team will not hesitate to provide suggestions for their own ideas. After deciding what worlds will be present, we start planning the conduct of the story in these worlds but also to make them interesting and fun for the players.

• In selecting worlds, are you interested only in Disney movies that have already been released or do you also consider future productions, such as "Frozen"?

Nomura : Of course, it is possible to include the worlds from future Disney productions. We currently have some ideas for the worlds of KINGDOM HEARTS III that we cannot speak about. Until the game’s release, new Disney productions will continue to emerge and we'll see in time with Disney for the possible integration of these films.

• The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One offers interesting features such as voice recognition, motion detection or the use of touch with the PSVita and Xbox SmartGlass. Do you plan to exploit these opportunities for your games? What is your opinion on these technologies?

Nomura : We would like to incorporate these features in KINGDOM HEARTS III. The one that we find most interesting is the voice recognition. I think it would be great to be able to control Donald and Goofy through voice command to tell them what to do. Wouldn’t that be nice? (Laughs).

• Has the collaboration with Disney evolved over the last ten years? We recently saw John Pleasants, Co-President of Disney Interactive, at the Future of Final Fantasy conference held by Square Enix at E3, and KINGDOM HEARTS III will be present at D23 Expo Japan. Disney seems to be well involved in the development process of the KINGDOM HEARTS series.

Nomura : Regarding D23 Expo Japan, this is the first time that Disney holds such an event outside the U.S., so it is a great honor for us to be invited. I’m very happy that we have the opportunity to hold a special conference for KINGDOM HEARTS. I really want to make a surprise announcement for this event but it is currently under discussion, so we’ll see (laughs). Since we announced KINGDOM HEARTS III at E3, we cannot make another announcement for the same game. Instead we will announce something else, which you will see soon enough.

I'm very shy; I do not like being on stage in front of lots of people and will usually say “no” to this kind of opportunity. But for this event, which promises to be important, I am very honored to be on stage. Concerning the Japan Expo, I do not have a habit to speak to the fans, even in Japan. I've never done before, so this will be the first time in Europe that I will deal with European fans. And it will be my first time addressing the Japanese fans at D23.

• When the first KINGDOM HEARTS was released, we did not know that the series would continue over the years to reach its tenth birthday. The story chronicles the Seeker of Darkness has it developed progressively games, or did you have in mind an idea of the overall story of this saga from the beginning?

Nomura : When I created the first KINGDOM HEARTS, I did not have a clear vision of the history of the Seeker of Darkness, but I was already thinking of the KINGDOM HEARTS II and Chain of Memories. I knew at that time that there were two additional games after the first KINGDOM HEARTS. Later, when I finished KINGDOM HEARTS Chain of Memories, I had other plans: Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days and coded. This is kind of what happened in the history of the series: I did not have a clear idea of the whole story from the beginning, but it is built over time.

About the history of the Seeker of Darkness, I knew long ago that it would end in KINGDOM HEARTS III, and also, I've always wanted so KINGDOM HEARTS III on a console. The reason for the announcement of this title took us so long, is that some things that we wanted to add in the game asked us some time to think before making a decision. More details will be announced shortly.

• In KINGDOM HEARTS -HD 1.5 ReMIX-, we have the pleasure of discovering re-orchestrated versions of original music. What motivated this choice?

Nomura : This is not something I asked for, but rather a request from the musical team and Yoko Shimomura. Since the graphics have been improved in high definition, the musical team wondered, "Why don’t we also make an improved version of the music?"

• Do you have a final message for the fans?

Nomura : First, I really want to apologize to European fans not being able to offer them KINGDOM HEARTS Re:Chain of Memories for so long. I'm really sorry about that. Also for KINGDOM HEARTS Final Mix, there are new scenes connecting with the rest of the story, so again, I apologize to European and American fans. My apologies also cover additional battles found within Final Mix, including the fight against the unknown black coat you have not benefited. I'm sure you're wondering why you have not had the opportunity to enjoy this version, I'm really sorry again.

But this time, the visual aspect is reworked, the graphics are high definition, and the soundtrack was re-orchestrated. As I said at the beginning of this interview, it's a game out there for over 10 years and yet we do not feel like it’s been that long. I'm sure fans of the series and new players who have never played the first game, KINGDOM HEARTS, will enjoy this HD 1.5 ReMIX. And most importantly, before the release of KINGDOM HEARTS III, I wanted all players to be able to enjoy the story of KINGDOM HEARTS as a whole. This really is the purpose of this remaster and I really hope the fans will enjoy playing.

“ – Via