Square Enix sat down with Kingdom Hearts series creator and Final Fantasy XV director Tetsuya Nomura for a live talk at E3 in Los Angeles today. During the sit-down, he discussed Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, Kingdom Hearts III, and the newly announced Final Fantasy XV. Find the full transcript below.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix
How did you come up with Kingdom Hearts and where did the name originate?
Originally, I wanted to find a title that fits Disney because it’s a Disney-related game. When I thought of this game, I thought of amusement parks. I wanted to make something kind of like what you can imagine at Disneyland. I knew of the name “Animal Kingdom.” So “Kingdom” became the first name that came in my mind. So at first, the development team was calling it “Kingdom,” but I couldn’t get the IP for “Kingdom.” So then we thought of “Heart” as part of the story, and we just combined those together and it became “Kingdom Hearts.”
Originally, our producer Shinji Hashimoto became friends with a Disney employee. We share the same office in the same building. He chatted with people from Disney and said it would be great to make a game together in the future. He brought that idea back to us and asked me if we could make something, and that’s actually how the Kingdom Hearts franchise was born.
In terms of our relationship with Disney, it’s been good, I think, because we’ve been working together for 10 years, and we actually still have the same counterpart at the Disney side. Sometimes, of course, we’ll have heated discussions, but as a result we’ve made so many games in the [Kingdom Hearts] franchise. So I think the relationship has been pretty good.
What’s involved in the process of remastering Kingdom Hearts?
Kingdom Hearts I was created a long, long time ago. Actually, the original data was missing—it was lost. So we had to research and dig out from the actual games available and recreate everything for high-definition. Then we had to recreate graphics, and it was actually not that easy.
What makes this the definitive Kingdom Hearts experience? Especially considering this version was never released in North America?
The Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts was available in Japan but not available in North America or Europe. I had intentions to eventually bring it everywhere, all over the world. There were additional elements that existed in Final Mix that were not seen by fans in other territories. This became a really good opportunity, and I knew that making a remastered high-def game was not something that comes by very often. So we added two games and one movie as a package in HD 1.5, made it into high-definition, and now everyone in the world can share in the Kingdom Hearts world.
Who is your favorite character?
Xehanort, who appeared for the past ten years in the whole series, is definitely one of my favorites. And also in Kingdom Hearts I, there is an enemy character named Ansem, and he’s one of my favorites as well.
What kind of worlds do you want to see in Kingdom Hearts games?
I mentioned this in other places before, but Jungle Book is one world that we always talk about—the team wants it. Each time we try to insert it, but each time it’s cut.
What does Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix mean in relation to Kingdom Hearts III?
Because we decided to make Kingdom hearts III, we decided to make 1.5. It basically shows my determination to Kingdom Hearts III. So for the fans, I wanted to make sure everybody plays 1.5 to prepare for Kingdom Hearts III.
Kingdom Hearts III
What new worlds can we expect in Kingdom Hearts III?
Of course, I’m not allowed to say what will be coming in Kingdom Hearts III. But each time I select worlds for the game, I choose some stable choices necessary for the game’s story and of course, I also try to insert surprising factors. I want to make sure everyone is surprised to see that particular world. And so for Kingdom Hearts III, I want to make sure there are lots of surprises.
Is the battle system like previous games? Has it evolved?
Previous Kingdom Hearts titles, especially I and II, are core games, so I want to make sure an appropriate evolution is happening. And I think it’s necessary. For spin-off titles, I wanted to experiment with new challenges or new styles. Kingdom Hearts II had game systems that were well received by the game players. And I think Kingdom Hearts III will have some evolution of that game system. Also, we did a lot of experiments in spin-off game titles. Some of them were well received, some of them were really interesting, so we would like to incorporate those, as well.
Will we see any new Final Fantasy characters or get a chance to play as King Mickey?
Final Fantasy characters, whether they’re included in Kingdom Hearts III, are definitely under consideration. For a while, previous titles in the Kingdom Hearts series haven’t had Final Fantasy characters. So I think it’s time to include someone. In terms of King Mickey, I know you want to play him, I really know! So I want to take that into consideration, as well. Of course, Sora will be the main playable character, but it would be nice if other characters are playable as well. And if we take your consideration, King Mickey will be playable, too.
Are there any plans for multiplayer?
Multiplayer elements are also under consideration. We are looking into online possibilities. With that online capability in mind, multiplayer will be under consideration, as well. But again, we will announce more details at a later time.
Will summoning return in Kingdom Hearts III?
Yes, summons will be available, but in a very different form. Before, in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, you probably remember Disney franchise characters could be summoned. But in Kingdom Hearts III, it will be a very different system.
Is this the end of Organization XIII and the Nobody characters?
Yes, the battle against Organization XIII will be ended in this title. I don’t know about Nobodies, but Master Xehanort is the one who controls Organization XIII and the battle against him will be the end.
Will we actually get to see Kingdom Hearts?
I don’t want to say too much because I want you to look forward to the actual game, but Kingdom Hearts appeared occasionally during the franchise’s past ten years, and I think it will appear again.
Nomura remembers something…
For Kingdom hearts III, if you see the trailer, you might have noticed—but there is a technique called “shader.” Using that tool, the description of characters have been changed. The texture, which is to put on the surface of the character models, have been used to describe the surface of the Disney characters and make them similar to the Disney characters people are familiar with. For Kingdom Hearts III, we would change the different shader for different worlds, so that it would match those worlds.
Final Fantasy XV
What led to the decision for the name change from Final Fantasy Versus XIII? And what gives it the feel of being one of the numbered titles in the Final Fantasy universe?
Within the company, about to one to two years after Versus XIII was announced, we had a discussion about—because of the scale of the game—if it would be appropriate to make it XV. So we had this discussion for several years, and about two years ago, when we started hearing about next-generation consoles, we officially confirmed to make it XV. And about a year ago, we decided that all the development would shift to next-generation consoles.
Is it more of an action RPG or traditional RPG?
Yes, it is an action-based RPG. There’s not much turn-based style in it, but if you look carefully in the trailer, the command system is on the screen, as well, so we tried to keep a Final Fantasy taste. But we are not trying to make it an action-only game. Making the game Final Fantasy is the most important thing. I want everyone to imagine if Final Fantasy would be an action game—this is what it would be.
Noctis already has a huge following…
To be honest, Noct is not cool inside. His appearance might tell you he is cool, but he is not very cool. He is a very quirky guy, so in the end being ‘not so cool’ is one of his characteristics.
Does the game focus mainly on Noctis, or on the other characters in the party, as well?
In Final Fantasy games, party is necessary, I think. So how we use party members is a core part of Final Fantasy games. How to take turns and how to act is very important. Noct can battle himself, but in the trailer, you can tell he did battle with other characters, as well. So I think there will be a lot of co-operation within the team, but in a different form from previous Final Fantasy games. In the trailer, you probably saw that three players were co-operating with each other to fight with that giant, so there was some drama in it. I don’t want to make it into a systematic team play, but that it has some story to it. We are always aware that party battle is necessary in the Final Fantasy series.
In the trailer, it seems he’s able to defy gravity. Is that an ability we’ll be able to activate in the game?
Actually, he wasn’t defying gravity. He has the ability to teleport himself into the sky. I think that if we tried to make the game very realistic, it would become impossible to enjoy as a game. For example, if you try to float an enemy in the air and try to battle with tumble attacks and he falls at regular speed, it would become kind of strange. So we’re always trying to figure out the balance between realism and fantasy.
Can you discuss the platforms?
Up until about a year ago, we were making Final Fantasy XV for current generation consoles and keeping that in mind, as well. But as you’ve seen in the trailer, next-generation consoles have really good quality that make it possible to create the game in really good high quality. And I think the quality will increase even more in the development process.
The way we’re developing the game has changed and is very different. Before when we said multiplatform games, we developed a game to fit to one console’s specifications and evened it out to the rest. But now, we make the game in a different way. And I always had in mind that I didn’t want to make a game that compromised the quality.
This time, we are using a different method of development. We are not looking at the consumer consoles to meet their specifications. We are making the higher quality game for next-gen consoles, but use a tool called DirectX 11 to make it. Then, whichever consoles are able to handle that tool can be used to port the game to it. So we just care about the specifications of each hardware and hope that they will maintain the original high quality of the game we are making when it’s ported to the console.
Again, it’s not like we have to care about the difference in each hardware, but it’s just about whether the console can handle its high quality. So that’s the only part we will have to be aware of.
(Note: He appears to be saying that they make they game in DirectX 11 on PC and port the game to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One since they’re able to handle it. And that they can consider any hardware that supports DirectX 11 functionality.)