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The History of Kingdom Hearts III

Kingdom Hearts III is almost here and we at Mammoth Gamers couldn’t be more excited. Over the last few months, we’ve been detailing the story of the long-running franchise and keeping you up to date with any announcements from the hotly-anticipated title. But did you know that KH III has been in the works for a long time? We wanted to take this opportunity to revisit the history of Kingdom Hearts III.

To start with, Kingdom Hearts III has roots all the way back to 2006. Yes, nearly 13 years ago we were all excited about the prospects of the trilogy-capper. In an interview with Dengeki PlayStation, as relayed by IGN, series creator Tetsuya Nomura said, “We’ve already been approached by the Disney side saying that they want us to make [Kingdom Hearts III].” He continued saying, “What I can say at this time is ‘We have various ideas, but we’re not at the point where we can say that.’” He then went on to point out that the team was busy with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ (a “director’s cut” so to speak of KH II with new content and new cutscenes) and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which morphed into Final Fantasy XV. “I feel that it’s not the right time to talk about the future of Kingdom Hearts,” he concluded.

Back in 2013, this felt unreal.

After a few more years of releasing games not titled Kingdom Hearts III (11 games in total if you count the Re: titles and bundle packages), Nomura and Square Enix released Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3DS. This game brought the story to the furthest point yet and features gameplay and a story that gave players a hint at what to expect for the eventual KHIII.

But it took until Sony’s 2013 E3 press conference to finally get an official Kingdom Hearts III announcement. You bet fans lost their minds. Shortly after the announcement, it was confirmed that the team that developed the original game wasn’t working on the newest release. Development reins went to the team responsible for Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance. The trailer isn’t much, but it was enough to know that fans would eventually get the game they’ve waited so long for.

Even better, Square launched a gameplay trailer at D23 Expo Japan. The game felt more real now than during the teaser trailer. Nomura and his team had progressed enough into the development timeline to show off combat and the new ride attractions in combat. Even the scale of the game seemed bigger than ever before with Sora, Donald, and Goofy riding a train during a battle with the Rock Titan from Hercules.

Kingdom Hearts III fever was just starting to rev up. The company even showed the intro to the game, all the way back at E3 2014 in their Kingdom Hearts 2.5 trailer.

Then a bombshell announcement happened, Nomura decided to change engines. Originally developed on the internal Luminous engine, the team switch to the popular Unreal Engine 4. This decision reportedly came a year into development, and according to Nomura, this caused the team to have to restart development in certain areas of the game and have team members leave the project.

One of the first confirmed worlds.

In 2015, Goofy goofed when his voice actor, Bill Farmer, said the game was coming out in 2015. Then, we finally got a confirmation on a couple of Disney-themed worlds in Tangled and Big Hero 6. Other than a screenshot, we wouldn’t see much more of this world for nearly three years. Oh, a resume leaked the return of the Gummi Ship, as well.

The next year was quiet on news, as Square was pushing towards, you know, finishing the game. They gave fans a look at a couple of new screenshots that showed a new Drive form, which was kind of cool.

2017 started with the launch of the confusingly titled Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (insert joke about dumb Kingdom Hearts titles) that gave players a new story that goes all the way back to the beginning (with Back Cover) and another tease about what’s to come. Oh, and Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep — A Fragmentary Passage (insert another joke about dumb Kingdom Hearts titles). A Fragmentary Passage is, for all intents and purposes, a demo for Kingdom Hearts III. This three-hour experience reintroduces Aqua, from the PSP iteration Birth by Sleep (one of the 11 games I mentioned above), and tells the story of what she’s been up to since the credits rolled. Yes, it also does bleed into Kingdom Hearts III, so you might want to find a way to play it if you haven’t.

There was also the news that Kingdom Hearts III (and Final Fantasy VII Remake) “still have a ways to go.” Nomura also stated that “there are still worlds untouched.” Only for new screenshots for both of those games to be shown off during the Monaco Anime Game International Conference 2017.

But don’t worry, Square confirmed both Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy VII Remake would launch “in the next three years or so.” Wait…what? Obviously, we now know that KHIII will hit that timeframe (just under two years after that quote came out), but what about FFVII Remake? Time will only tell on that one. Keep in mind, that this quote was terrible and deflating when it first came out. Even Nomura eventually said they announced the game too early. At least the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra event brought a new trailer for fans.

The look on everyone’s face when they saw Toy Story in this game.

The summer of 2017 was big for Kingdom Hearts III. First, there was the Orchestra trailer, then there was the confirmation of a Toy Story world, making it the first time a Pixar film makes it into the franchise. Oh, and the announcement of a 2018 release date was tagged to the end of the trailer. If you remember hearing a loud scream on this day, it might have come from me, but I can’t confirm or deny it. There was also the tease of a second playable character and the confirmation of the return of the Gummi Ship.

Finally, 2018, the fabled year of launch. Square had 365 potential days to choose to release the game. They chose to use D23 Japan 2018 to reveal the second Pixar-themed world with Monsters Inc. Also, the Classic Kingdom was announced, where Sora would play mini-games inspired by old Game and Watch handhelds. Fans would also be allowed to download Kingdom Hearts: Union X and play them on their phones to get a code to unlock a new keyblade.

Then, we got the tease of the release date. Yes, the hype is reaching an all-time high. After the confirmation of a world themed around Frozen, we finally got the release date at E3 2018. January 29, 2019! Kingdom Hearts III finally got its long-awaited release date and it’s delayed! Okay, so 2018 wasn’t the year of release, but at least it didn’t miss 2018 by much, plus the extra time would be used for polish.

Not a bad job with the design.

The next day, Square announced a $230 Deluxe Edition and another new trailer showing the return of Pirates of the Caribbean. For the first time in the series, there is ship-based combat. The day after, there was a third KHIII trailer (three in three days if you’re keeping count) and the announcement of a Kingdom Hearts III PlayStation 4 Pro.

Then, a bunch of news started coming out over the next few months. Somehow the length was thought to be around 40-50 hours, but that was never confirmed. The Kingdom Hearts VR Experience was announced (and eventually delayed). A lot of the voice cast was announced, the box art was shown. Hikaru Utada was announced to return, this time accompanied by Skrillex. Winnie the Pooh is coming back. The opening movie was released. We get the confirmation of a second playable character. The confirmation of completing the development on Twitter!

And then, the game leaks. Over six weeks away from release and the game got out to someone early. This person was selling copies as well. Nomura went on Twitter to respond. “We’re sorry to see this caused concern amongst our fans who are excited for the release.” He continued, “We want everyone to be able to equally experience the full game after its release, so we ask for your continued support on this matter.” He also assured that the “biggest spoilers” are planned for a later release.

A live look at my aging process as I’ve waited for Kingdom Hearts III.

Now, you’re all caught up on the history of Kingdom Hearts III’s timeline. What started nearly 13 years ago will culminate in the launch on January 29, 2019. Not very simple and clean, is it?
Need help in understanding the story to Kingdom Hearts? Take a look at our in-depth story recap for each of the games in the series. And for more Kingdom Hearts III, keep it locked to Mammoth Gamers.

Brandon has been a gamer since he could remember. He plays any game recommended to him. Kingdom Hearts is a subject you don’t want to start him on. Outside of gaming, Brandon enjoys watching baseball. He wishes every console had a handle on the back like the GameCube.