Warning: This article contains spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 2.8
I've been writing a lot about Kingdom Hearts III lately and for good reason. From expressing the dark story of my connection with the franchise, to developing the foundation of a fan theory, and ending with a mix of both with an analysis of the D23 trailer. Now, it's time to take everything I've learned from the Orchestra trailer, the D23 trailer, and my recent time with Kingdom Hearts 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue to build the fully fleshed out fan theory.
At the very least, you'll walk away knowing a bit about how Kingdom Hearts III will feel even if the story doesn't turn out exactly as I predict.
New And Old Gameplay Mechanics
As seen in this screenshot, Kingdom Hearts III intends to hybridize gameplay mechanics rather than creating an entirely new combat system. The combat system will take elements from Birth By Sleep, Dream Drop Distance, and the combat basics of Kingdom Hearts to form this new combined system. This idea was introduced in Kingdom Hearts 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage. The combat will feel something like this:
Forms have been replaced by combat styles akin to those found in Birth By Sleep. Completing certain attacks and combos will unlock new command styles and powerful finishing moves that are available for about 30 seconds each. It is also possible to unlock multiple finishing commands allowing you to essentially make combos out of finishing moves rather than losing a command style upon completing a finisher. Shotlocks have also returned from Birth By Sleep with an updated reticle that fills the screen and makes it possible to target enemies faster.
Another category that seems to have returned from Birth By Sleep is the "link" command. This feature has not yet been exhibited, but it likely works in a way similar to D-Link or Summon commands from Kingdom Hearts. These link attacks may also simply take the place of limit commands. In addition to this, we have an updated version of flowmotion introduced in Dream Drop Distance. Rather than making a variety of acrobatic attacks, the flowmotion of Kingdom Hearts III seems more focused on making climbing and moving around the world easier. On top of all of this, basic magic commands will still be making a return with finishing commands enhancing their power. To get a real-time view of the combat system, check out the Kingdom Hearts III Orchestra Trailer below!
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 offered a new game mechanic in the form of aesthetic customization. This system is based on completing tasks specific to the various worlds you traverse and completing these tasks unlocks more items. These items do not actually improve your stats or performance in the game, but they can add a bit of personality to your character's design. These pieces can include anything from patterns and colors to new headgear or shoulder guards. While the changes won't improve your stats, Square Enix is at least taking advantage of Unreal Engine 4 by exhibiting an attention to detail like this.
World Development And Exploration
World-building and exploration are key elements of any RPG. Players should be able to immerse themselves in their environments, especially ones in which you're expected to grind for hours on end. With this game, we'll see worlds expanding before us like never before. The scale of these levels are such that it's possible to sky dive from one section of the map to another just by jumping. The sheer size of these worlds is unlike anything we've seen before and allows for a new variety of aerial attacks while preparing for the next fight as you fall to a new zone. Larger battlefields make for more dynamic world exploration.
In terms of the actual worlds, only a few have been announced. As of now, the list of worlds includes the following: Olympus Coliseum, Twilight Town, a Big Hero Six world, a Tangled world, and a Toy Story world. It's almost certain that the Keyblade Graveyard will be making an appearance, though how playable it will be is yet to be determined. The World That Never Was and Castle Oblivion / Land of Departure may also make a final appearance along with the Destiny Islands. It's likely that Square Enix is working to get new worlds added in to lessen the repetition. As of now, I don't see much of a pattern with these revealed worlds in terms of the theme that they are trying to convey. If you've got any ideas on what kind of patterns can be determined or what worlds will likely appear, let me know in the comments! My best guess for a world appearance would be Treasure Planet, though Port Royal may have covered all there is to say in that kind of world back in Kingdom Hearts II.
The (Tentative) Story
Easily the most important aspect of any RPG, especially a Square Enix JRPG, is the story. Kingdom Hearts has established itself with a rich story continually built and fleshed out with each new entry in the series. As we know, this game will be the final game in the Xehanort / "Darkseeker" Saga which started with the original Kingdom Hearts. With that in mind, it's crucial that we get as many loose ends tied as possible. So without further ado, here's an idea of how the game's core story will go with attention to subplots where possible:
Sora will begin his adventure by visiting Olympus Coliseum to learn how to regain the power of Flowmotion along with the power he was supposed to earn during the Mark of Mastery Exam. From there, Sora will continue on to various worlds to try to cut off Organization XIII from finding more vessels for Xehanort. There is also a plan to revive Terra, awaken Ventus, and find Aqua. Riku and King Mickey will be in the midst of finding Aqua in the Realm of Darkness and she'll be able to help awaken Ventus. Freeing Terra from Xehanort's control will be difficult given the uncertainty of how Xehanort took control of Terra. It's not as simple as making Xehanort give up his control over Terra's heart, though I don't know that it will be possible to free Terra's heart without defeating Xehanort.
Sora will also be trying to save Ventus, albeit in a misguided way as he tries to save Roxas by freeing the part of his heart that is linked to Ventus. If he actually can separate his nobody from himself, Roxas will be manipulated by Organization XIII and Ventus will never be able to heal. It's likely that Aqua will be around to explain everything, though it will probably be after Sora "saves" Roxas. In the event that Terra cannot be revived, it will fall to Lea and Kairi to learn to wield their Keyblades and stand with the other "guardians of the light." Kairi, being a Princess of Heart, will definitely make her role as a guardian all the more important.
Do I believe a new Keyblade War will happen? Yes, I believe that a second Keyblade War and the summoning of the X-Blade is inevitable. The difference here is that it will be a battle to preserve light instead of a war spawned from greed and deception. This will be an attempt to summon Kingdom Hearts and create a balance between light and darkness. I'm honestly in favor of this idea, though the balance Xehanort wants comes across as too picturesque to truly be possible. I do, however, believe that whatever is in the black box Maleficent is searching for can change the tide of the battle. It hasn't been revealed what that box contains and as far as anyone knows, its last known location was the Keyblade Graveyard. Xehanort possesses the Keyblade with foresight, yet that does not mean he knows about the box or its location. Maleficent probably just sees the box as another means of controlling Darkness, yet whether her goals will align with Xehanort's or not is anyone's guess.
And with that, we finalize our Kingdom Hearts III fan theory. While the story may be the only part of this that needs tweaking, I hope that you walk away with a better idea of how the game is gonna look and feel. With a release date of 2018, it's likely we won't be seeing anything new about this title for at least a few months. Rest assured that when we do I'll be back with more to write about!
Are you excited to play Kingdom Hearts III?