The world of Monsters Inc. is coming to Kingdom Hearts III. The announcement was made, appropriately enough, at a Tokyo Disneyland theater as part of D23 Expo Japan 2018. The latest entry in Square Enix’s surreal, hugely popular Disney-meets-Final-Fantasy crossover series remains pegged for a 2018 release on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with nothing more specific announced today.
Series director Tetsuya Nomura showed some behind-the-scenes videos that detailed the game’s production and design — for instance, you can now fly the Gummi ship through open-world, 360-degree space. A video featuring the game’s new theme song — performed by J-pop megastar Utada Hikaru, as with the original Kingdom Hearts and its sequel — was also revealed.
To describe Kingdom Hearts III as wildly anticipated would be to downplay the degree to which the fervour of the series’ fanbase has been compounded by the game’s extended period in development. Kingdom Hearts II came out in 2005 for the PlayStation 2; the series skipped an entire console generation, punctuated only with stopgap games on handheld platforms that met with a mixed reception.
Nomura had been leading the Final Fantasy Versus XIII project until it was rebooted as Final Fantasy XV, which was announced alongside Kingdom Hearts III at E3 2013. Even back then, Nomura said that III had been announced “too early” considering the state of development, and indeed since then information on the game has largely been limited to a few brief trailers. Last year’s D23 reveal showed off the Toy Story world, the first time Pixar IP has featured in the series; today’s Monsters Inc. announcement shows that isn’t going to be a one-off.
Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda has hinted that the release date for Kingdom Hearts III will come at or before the E3 conference in June, so at this point the game is likely to be a holiday 2018 title.