It has been eleven years since the release of Kingdom Hearts II, and since then, fans have been anticipating the release of Kingdom Hearts III despite its announcement only arriving a few years ago. With that in mind, I was hoping to get a bit more on Kingdom Hearts III among other Square Enix games at E3 this year. You can find my E3 wishlist here.
While not directly related to E3, we did get a new trailer for Kingdom Hearts III which gave us a taste of the music and more gameplay. It was recently announced that a second trailer would be released during an upcoming D23 event, so I took the time to take a closer look at the trailer we just got. As the saying goes "the devil is in the details" for this trailer. Before I start, take a look at the trailer again and see what stands out to you. If I missed something, let me know in the comments below!
A Mix Of Gameplay Elements
This screenshot gives a massive hint at what kind of combat system we'll be getting for Kingdom Hearts III. What I'm seeing here is that the combat will be based on a fluid combination of elements from Kingdom Hearts II, Birth By Sleep, and Dream Drop Distance. We'll get into this in a second. I'm also noticing an interesting aspect to combat: the way temporary party members are handled. It's important to note Hercules's icon above that of Donald and Goofy - indicating that he is part of the party. It's likely that this gauge just shows the status of party members that are not currently in play, but I'd like to think this is an indication that you can have all four party members fighting with you at once. With this in mind, that opens the possibility for more dynamic fights along with bigger limit possibilities. I don't know that limits will be returning, but I feel that it's likely.
In terms of the nuanced combat system, I would take a look at the Command Menu along with Sora's icon. The bar above his head looks identical to that of the Shotlock bar from Birth By Sleep. A "Link" command is also listed in the Command Menu which likely marks the return of Dimension Links from Birth By Sleep. A D-Link bar may crowd the icon too much, so it's likely D-Links will use the MP bar as Summons once did.
The Drive Gauge does not make an appearance around Sora's icon, which begs the question: How do drive forms work in this game? I believe drive forms do exist in this game given Sora's costume change and massive attack pictured above. I doubt that the Shotlock bar will be used for Drive Forms, but having some moves lead to costume changes like this feels out of place for the game. Either way, the gameplay will definitely become more varied with Shotlocks, Drive Forms, and Dimension Links being made available. The last aspect of combat found in the trailer is the more smoothly integrated Flowmotion which can be found during the Rock Titan fight.
While combat is seeing vast improvements, I'm greatly invested in the stories that games offer. The trailer hints at more of the story than we've seen since the game's announcement.
Potential Subplots Beyond The Xehanort Saga
It has been announced that Kingdom Hearts III will be the final game in the "Xehanort Saga" which means that we have a lot of ground to cover before we step into a new chapter of Kingdom Hearts. As part of these loose ends, it's clear that Maleficent will be making her rounds in an attempt at one last try to control the Heartless. Sora also appears to be trying to revive Roxas which involves confronting Xemnas and Ansem - both of whom are supposed to no longer exist. What is yet to be seen is any references to the keyblade wielders from Birth By Sleep or Master Xehanort. How they fit into this is pure speculation at this point despite Xehanort supposedly being the main antagonist of the game. After the next trailer, I'll be sure to write up an article speculating the nature of the ever illusive story.
How Does This Fit Together?
What conclusions can we draw from this trailer when compared to that of the previous ones? For starters, we know that the music will be just as spectacular as it has always been. We also know that the combat, both large scale and small scale, has been updated greatly. New elements have already been introduced with the roller coaster attacks, and we've seen elements from previous games make a return in a big way.
The worlds we enter will be expansive - huge environments where sky diving between areas of the world will be more than just a beautiful visual experience. Most importantly, pieces of the plot have begun to fall into place as we learn some of the smaller aspects of what will likely be the largest narrative in the Kingdom Hearts series to date. I'll be back to deciphering what all this narrative entails at a later date.
For now, the most we can do is await the D23 trailer in a few weeks and hope for new surprises and maybe even a more concrete release date. The D23 event will be held on July 15th during which Disney will be presenting various information regarding their video game projects.