John Boske and I had the pleasure of being invited to a round table interview with Tetsuya Nomura about the upcoming Kingdom Hearts games.
The chat began with someone asking how Birth by Sleep performed in Japan. Nomura gave a surprisingly lengthy answer to the question by saying that of the three handheld Kingdom Hearts games he has developed, this one is the most praised. He believes it is because the gameplay is so similar in style to the two numbered Kingdom Hearts titles. He also said that even though some people might regret the lack of Sora in Birth, it has sold approximately 750,000 copies so far in Japan.
The next question dealt with the differences in developing games for the DS versus the PSP. Nomura answered that the PSP is very much like a small PS2, and therefore it is very easy to develop games for. The main difference to him is that the DS does not have an analog stick, therefore it does not lend itself to the frantic gameplay that is possible on Sony’s systems. To overcome this limitation, Nomura used systems like the Panel system from 358 to make battles simpler.
I then asked how Nomura developed the story for the various Kingdom Hearts games. Did he have a grand vision from the beginning, or did the story evolve and grow with Sora? Nomura answered that while he was finishing up Kingdom Hearts, he was busy thinking up ideas for Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II. When he was working on Kingdom Hearts II, he was working on the stories for the most recent generation of games. And now that he’s finishing up Birth by Sleep and Re:Coded, he’s now looking forward to future titles like Kingdom Hearts 3DS.
John followed up with asking about the differences between developing for handhelds versus consoles. Nomura said that the difference between them is growing smaller. The only real challenge is with storage capacity; Kingdom Hearts games require a lot of voice acting and CG. He cannot put as much in handheld games as he’d like just because there is not enough room on the disc or cart.
The next question involved Re:Coded. Would players be introduced to any new characters or mechanics? Nomura replied that since the digital world of Re:Coded is based on the events of Kingdom Hearts, players would not be introduced to any new characters. There would, however, be some new mechanics. Specifically, he mentioned something called “Bug Blocks” that the digital Sora would be dealing with as he traversed the many worlds of Re:Coded.
Another person asked if first-time players would be able to enjoy games like Birth By Sleep or Re:Coded. Nomura said that they should be enjoyable by just about anyone. He did point out that Re:Coded takes place between the events of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, placing it just after the events of Chain of Memories.
The next question asked about the battle system. What sorts of improvements can players look forward to? Nomura said that with the PSP, he implemented two new systems. The first is called the Shoot Lock system, and it allows players to do special moves after finishing chains. He said that players will get a good feeling from it. He also said there is a new Command Style system that unlocks entirely new moves and commands after certain conditions are met.
With the interview drawing to a close, Nomura was asked if he is looking to bring Kingdom Hearts back to consoles. Recently, he’s been focusing on handhelds. He said he would very much like to bring Kingdom Hearts to a more powerful system, but now is not the right time. The team that finished Birth by Sleep is now working on Kingdom Hearts 3DS, and his other team is currently finishing up Final Fantasy Versus XIII. When he gets a chance, he will take advantage of the ideas he has been thinking about.
As a followup to this last question, I quickly got a confirmation that Kingdom Hearts 3DS is not, in fact, Kingdom Hearts 3. Nomura said that it certainly sounds like it could have been, but the 3 in the title only refers to the 3DS system. Kingdom Hearts 3 is yet to come.
John and I would like to thank Nomura-san and all of Square Enix for giving us a chance to sit down in this interview.