Kingdom Hearts III is set to arrive 17 years after the first game in the series launched, but the franchise has enjoyed a long and healthy life outside of its main installments. More than a dozen spinoff titles have expanded its world, sometimes with befuddling titles or convoluted plotlines while also jumping around in time. It’s enough to confuse anyone but the most die-hard fans.
Director and creator Tetsuya Nomura says that while he has a firm grip on where the game’s story is heading, sometimes the whole thing gets a bit chaotic for him as well. “I do have a general storyline in my head,” he tells The Verge. “What is the most confusing is that, because there are so many characters in this storyline now, it’s hard to keep track of who actually met who already,” he says. “I’m always like, 'Okay, so who knows who in this situation, and who’s meeting this person for the first time?’ And that always gets really confusing.”
Although the game has previously introduced Final Fantasy characters from across the franchise, fans shouldn’t expect to see them get involved with Sora and his friends. “It’s a little bit difficult to add in Final Fantasy characters into the main storyline for this title,” Nomura says when asked about the possibilities of Final Fantasy XV’s characters making an appearance. “Because most of the original Kingdom Hearts characters are going to appear in Kingdom Hearts III, that’s just already too many characters to begin with. When I was writing the scenarios, I started to be confused with it as well myself. It is kind of complicated in that sense. It’s just been difficult for me to create a storyline that doesn’t involve those characters.”
“I actually don’t sympathize or empathize with Sora at all.”
Kingdom Hearts III is poised to answer questions that have been brewing among fans for more than a decade, but it is still Sora’s story. Nomura views it as his journey, even though he doesn’t particularly relate to his own hero. “I actually don’t sympathize or empathize with Sora at all,” Nomura says. Instead, he relates to the game’s mysterious villains, Xehanort or likely Ansem, anyone who’s fallen prey to their dark natures. “I think I’m closer to those characters, so Sora is like my enemy,” he says. “How I always think of him is I would unleash my attacks on him, and then I draw him in a way that I think he will be able to make a comeback at me. In that sense, I really think that Sora is just like an opposite personality character to who I am.”
The game’s launch is still more than six months away, thanks to another delay into 2019. It’s been more than a decade since the release of Kingdom Hearts II, and fans have been waiting for the third installment since its announcement in 2013. Nomura says that while he’s normally the stress-free type who doesn’t get bogged down by pressure, this particular project has rocked his boat just a little. “The fan expectations and excitement towards Kingdom Hearts III was much more than I had expected,” he says. “I actually did feel a little pressurized for the first time pretty much in my life. But the best way to get rid of feeling pressurized is to just have confidence in yourself, that what you’re making is good.”
Right now, he says he feels pretty good about where the game is headed. “I really have confidence in Kingdom Hearts III, that it is a good game,” he says. “I was really able to get rid of that pressure that I was feeling.”