Kingdom Hearts 3 Gameplay Analysis Essay

Kingdom Hearts III[a] is an upcoming action role-playingvideo game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is the twelfth installment in the Kingdom Hearts series, a sequel to Kingdom Hearts II, and the final chapter in the Dark Seeker saga. Set after the events of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, returning protagonist Sora is joined by Donald Duck, Goofy, King Mickey and Riku in their search for the seven Guardians of Light and the "Key to Return Hearts" as they attempt to thwart Master Xehanort's plan to bring about a second Keyblade War. Their journey has them cross paths with characters and visit worlds based on different Disney properties and Square Enix's Final Fantasy franchise.

Concepts for the game began as early as 2006 after the release of Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix in Japan, with the game not confirmed to be in development until E3 2013 after years of rumors and speculation. Kingdom Hearts III sees many returning gameplay features from the series, while introducing new "Attraction Flow" attacks that incorporate various Disney Parks attractions. The game was built using Unreal Engine 4, and is scheduled for release in 2018.


Gameplay in Kingdom Hearts III is similar to its predecessors, with director Tetsuya Nomura stating that the combat would be along the lines of the system seen in Kingdom Hearts II, with an evolution similar to what was seen from Kingdom Hearts to Kingdom Hearts II, and closely tied to the gameplay in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.[1][2][3] He also revealed that the handheld games of the series were where he could experiment with the combat, and that some of the well-received additions may appear in Kingdom Hearts III.[1][2] Nomura noted that new gameplay elements are the "skeleton" of the game, saying, "When creating a Kingdom Hearts game, we start with a gameplay system that I think would be a fun element, and once we have an idea of what kind of gameplay or system we want in place, we flesh out the story around it, surrounding the basic concept of what kind of fun we're going to have with this new installment."[4] Additionally, the development team "always want to try something new", taking previously introduced mechanics and making small "tweak[s]" to them so they are customized for Kingdom Hearts III.[5]

Sora returns as the main playable character, once again joined in the party by Donald Duck and Goofy,[6] with the ability to have two additional characters join the party for a total of five-player parties. This is an increase from previous main entries in the series, where players were limited to two additional party members at any given time along with Sora.[7] Another main playable character will be available in the game,[7] with King Mickey and multiplayer elements being considered.[1][2] Describing the gameplay, Nomura called the action "pretty frantic", as well as "really flashy and exciting. The enemy AI is a lot more intricate, too, and I think the gameplay will reflect that new dynamic balance."[8] Sora can perform magic, with a new, powerful tier of each spell available to him, similar to what Aqua has available to her in Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage.[9] Shotlocks also return,[10][11] first introduced in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, and uses a focus meter that can target and lock on to individual enemies.[12][13]

New gameplay elements include new enemy types, traversal elements such as wall running and jumping, summons, Keyblade transformations, and team-up attacks, which combine Sora, Donald, and Goofy into one attack.[14][15][16] Sora faces Heartless, Nobodies, and the Unversed in the game,[17][18] while Dream Eaters also make an appearance.[19][20] In addition to these traditional "smaller" enemies, the player will face giant bosses, which give "Sora greater freedom of movement and room to experiment with attacks—including the new theme-park-ride summon attacks,"[4] known as "Attraction Flow",[21] such as "Mad Tea Party",[15] "Big Magic Mountain", "Pirate Ship",[22][23] and "Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters".[17] Sora also has the ability to jump on certain enemies, such as ones shaped like a vehicle,[8] and mechs, which are called Gigas.[24] Regarding traversal, Nomura noted the new mechanic, called "Athletic Flow" in Japanese, was refined from the Flowmotion mechanic from Dream Drop Distance, which players felt was "a little too free... and it was kind of hard to control on their end."[25] "Athletic Flow" allows the player to utilize the environment to access previously unreachable areas.[26]

Situation Commands return from previous entries,[10] which can trigger the Keyblade transformations. Nomura revealed that Keyblade transformations were conceived as early as the development of Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix and would be similar to Aqua's ability in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, saying, "Each Keyblade transformation is unlocked by clearing all missions in one of [the game's] worlds, and each individual world offers its own unique Keyblade transformation."[4][27] He further elaborated stating there were two forms each Keyblade can take, with "multiple layers in terms of transforming" starting with one transformation and achieving the second after "successfully connect[ing] your combos".[26] One of the available forms, the default weapon's "Second Form", changes Sora's battle skills rather than transform the Keyblade.[28] The Keyblade transformations have also been referred to as "Drive Forms", a term which was used for a similar mechanic in Kingdom Hearts II.[29]

The Gummi Ship also returns as a means of travel between the different worlds of the game.[5] The mechanic has been split into two phases: exploration and combat. Exploration has been likened to being more open-world, while the combat has increased its scale from previous games, with more enemies present.[30]



Most of the worlds featured in the game based on Disney properties are new to the series,[16][31] such as the Tangled-themed Kingdom of Corona,[14] the Big Hero 6-themed San Fransokyo,[33][34] and worlds based on Pixar films Toy Story and Monsters, Inc..[35][30] Returning worlds also appear,[31] such as the Hercules-themed Olympus,[34] Yen Sid's Mysterious Tower,[36] and the realm of darkness.[37] Twilight Town, which also returns,[38] serves as a tutorial stage at the beginning of the game.[28]

Nomura revealed the Tangled world was the first determined to be in the game, as the development team wanted to include Rapunzel due to her strong personality and her hair, saying, "she is able to utilize her hair in such a way where she's whipping it around. She can even use it for attacks, and that was just so appealing, and we thought it would make for such great gameplay".[21] The Big Hero 6 and Toy Story worlds feature an original story, with the former set after the events of the film,[39][33] and the latter set between the events of Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. This is different from previous worlds, which loosely follow plot lines from the films on which they are based.[24] Members of Pixar Animation Studios assisted with the Toy Story world's creation.[24][35] On the amount of worlds featured in the game, Nomura noted the development team focused on creating "rich gameplay in an individual world... designed so players can take their time and enjoy the gameplay that's available" opposed to having "multiple different little worlds".[24] The game will not feature any worlds based on Final Fantasy.[40]

Since the release of Kingdom Hearts II in 2005, The Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar, Marvel Entertainment, and Lucasfilm. When asked if any of these properties would appear in Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura said he contacts Disney after he hears of an acquisition, though he noted that "Disney's pretty honest [on the possibility of an inclusion]. If the situation is really difficult, they'll say, it's really difficult. If it's impossible, they'll say it's impossible."[41] He later stated that even though the Disney Company had acquired these properties, Disney Interactive Studios may not necessarily have the ability to license the content due to existing deals, such as Disney's deal with Electronic Arts for Star Wars games.[42] Co-director Tai Yasue added that they were "looking at all of Disney, the new ones as well" when choosing worlds for the game, including worlds based on Marvel Comics and Star Wars. He expanded, saying, "We have to come up with a world that has a lot of originality. We want variety... so we don't want too many of one sort of world, that would look the same. For each world there has to be some meaning for it, in the plot... Also, gameplay-wise, is that world something that would make gameplay fun?"[43] In July 2015, at D23 Expo 2015, the Marvel world based on Big Hero 6 was revealed.[33] Two years later, at D23 Expo 2017, the Toy Story world was revealed to be part of the game.[35] Nomura had hoped to include a Toy Story world in the franchise since Kingdom Hearts II, saying he felt "Sora really fit in and matched well with that world" and being "able to execute that into the game is something I'm really excited for."[24] The second Pixar world in the game, based on Monsters, Inc., was revealed at D23 Expo Japan 2018.[30]


Sora returns as the protagonist of the game, while supporting characters Riku,[31]Kairi,[25]Donald Duck, Goofy, King Mickey,[31]Master Eraqus,[21] and Lea also return.[25] Returning antagonists include Master Xehanort[31] and his various forms—his Heartless, Ansem; his Nobody, Xemnas;[44] and his youthful incarnation, Young Xehanort—[45]Marluxia, Vanitas,[30] and Disney characters Maleficent and Pete.[6] Disney characters who serve as members of Sora's party include the returning Hercules,[6] and new to the series, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider,[46]Woody and Buzz Lightyear,[35] and Sulley and Mike Wazowski.[30] Characters that appear as summons for Sora include Ariel from The Little Mermaid.[46]

Additional Disney character appearances include Hades,[6] with new characters Baymax,[33]Hamm, Rex,[35]Sarge and the Bucket O' Soldiers,[34]the Squeeze Toy Aliens,[47] and Boo joining.[30]


Continuing from Dream Drop Distance,[8] Sora, Donald, and Goofy attempt to search for seven guardians of light and the "Key to Return Hearts", while King Mickey and Riku search for previous Keyblade wielders, in an attempt to stop Master Xehanort's plan to balance the light and darkness,[31] which may ultimately lead to the final showdown between Sora and Master Xehanort.[27] By the start of the game, Sora has completed his Mark of Mastery, which he was attempting to do at the end of Dream Drop Distance.[4]

Kingdom Hearts III will serve as the final chapter of the "Dark Seeker/Xehanort" saga,[8][48] with Nomura revealing that the plot of the game will pick up "immediately after the events of Dream Drop Distance." He also added that the plot will examine the seven lights and thirteen darknesses coming together for the final battle, but that everyone that is expected to fulfill these roles may not.[23]


After Square Enix finished development of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Tetsuya Nomura was approached by Disney, who expressed interest in a sequel. In regard to a possible release of Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura said "We have various ideas, but we're not at the point where we can say that." He added that due to the development of Final Fantasy XV—titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII at the time—"it's physically impossible at the present. I feel that it's not the right time to talk about the future of Kingdom Hearts."[49] In response to questions about the secret film in Final Mix, Nomura noted that it was of a "new series" in Kingdom Hearts rather than Kingdom Hearts III. When asked about Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura noted that fans and partners alike were interested in its release, and would work to "realize it" as soon as possible.[50] In the Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Ultimania guide book, Nomura announced three upcoming titles, one of which was Kingdom Hearts III. However, Final Fantasy XV was still his primary focus, preventing him from starting production on Kingdom Hearts III.[51] He later noted that Kingdom Hearts III would not see a release until after 2012, due to his continuing work on Final Fantasy XV, regardless of the 10th anniversary of the series occurring in that year.[52] The Nintendo 3DS video game Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance was announced to connect to Kingdom Hearts III, both in terms of gameplay system and story.[53]

Sony announced Kingdom Hearts III for the PlayStation 4 with a teaser trailer at its E3 2013 event in June 2013.[54] Square Enix later confirmed the game's cross-platform release for the Xbox One as a port of the PlayStation 4 version.[55][56] Unlike Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, which were developed by Square Enix's Product Development Division 1 team, Kingdom Hearts III was developed by Square Enix's 1st Production Department, who developed Birth by Sleep, Dream Drop Distance, and worked on the HD 1.5 Remix collection and Square Enix's Business Division 3.[57][58] Rie Nishi serves as the game's producer.[59] Directly after E3 2013, Nomura claimed that Kingdom Hearts III was announced "too early", based on where the game stood in development. He continued by saying, "Many fans were feeling impatient due to our continuous releases of spin-off titles, so we decided to announce it at the same time as Final Fantasy XV".[60]Kingdom Hearts III is not intended to be the final game in the series.[48]

Series producer Shinji Hashimoto stated in September 2013 that as both Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV are directed by Nomura, it is expected that there would be a significant gap between the release of the two, "as [they] want each game to be perfect in terms of quality." Hashimoto also reiterated Nomura's statements about the game's announcement at E3 2013, as "the company thought it was about time it addressed speculation about the long-awaited conclusion to the trilogy."[61] In early 2014, Haley Joel Osment, the English voice of Sora in the series, stated he had been in talks with the development team after the announcement and, assuming he would be back. He added that since dialogue was one of the last parts of the process, he believed he would not begin until mid-2014 at the earliest.[62]

A short teaser for the game appeared at the end of the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix trailer at E3 2014. Yasue revealed that the sequence seen in the teaser was the opening scene for the game. He added that it was created by Nomura, who had "a real clear picture of [what] the starting sequence" should be, and that the text seen and heard was going to "be a real integral part of the story".[63] In September 2014, it was announced that Nomura would no longer be the director of Final Fantasy XV, focusing his attention on other projects, including Kingdom Hearts III. Nomura had been the director of Final Fantasy XV since the game was announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII in 2006.[64] The following month, Nomura revealed that the game had switched to using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4, due to a "variety of reasons". He also added that the development team had the full support of Epic, and the change would not hinder the game's development.[65] According to Kotaku and IGN, it was noted that it had been assumed that Square Enix had been using its in-house Luminous Studio engine to develop the game.[65][66]

Bill Farmer, the English voice actor for Goofy, stated in January 2015 that he had completed his voice acting for the game.[67] Also in the month, Yasue revealed that working on HD 2.5 Remix simultaneously allowed the developers to learn all the best qualities from the series to aid in creating III, saying "For III we want to evolve it in a new direction, but at the same time we don't want to change what is fundamental about Kingdom Hearts." Additionally, he stated the Kingdom Hearts team was sharing knowledge with the Final Fantasy XV team to expand the game and get the most out of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.[68] In June 2015, Nomura revealed that development was on track and that secret films were being considered. He also stated that the team had an internal release window they were trying to hit.[16] In November 2015, new footage was shown at D23 Expo Japan 2015,[17] footage which was cut from the E3 2015 trailer for time.[21]

A gameplay trailer was released during the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour in Los Angeles in mid-June 2017.[6][44] The next month, it was announced at D23 2017 that the game would release in 2018.[35] Nomura also stated that a Nintendo Switch version of the game might be created, but wanted to focus on the development and promise of completing the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions before exploring other platform possibilities.[69] Commenting on the long development process, Nomura noted it was not due to problems with development or any choices made by the development team, but rather internal Square Enix corporate decisions, such as changing to the Unreal Engine 4 about a year into the game's development, which lead to "extensive delays" and "a bit of time that needed to be rewinded and started over", and "certain timing and resources challenges within Square Enix", despite submitting and getting approved a plan for when more personal resources would be needed on the project. Regarding downloadable content for the game, Nomura stated that "nothing is set in stone" regarding it, but he told the development team to "be prepared to be able to accommodate for something like that. We can't suddenly develop a system where we're accommodating for downloadable content. So it's not confirming or denying either way, but just so that the development team will be prepared".[70]

At D23 Japan 2018, Square Enix revealed the game was being developed in three sections, with approximately three worlds in each section. At that time, the worlds in the first section were said to be 90 percent complete and development of the middle section at around 60 percent. No update was given on the final section of the game, though Nomura stated its contents were "something he's always wanted to do and put into Kingdom Hearts, ever since the days of working on Final Fantasy... It is bound to surprise everyone."[30]


In June 2013, Nomura discussed the updated visuals, saying that the development team tried to return the character's texture to the original "paintbrush art from Disney productions". The resulting visuals were referred to as the Kingdom Shader. Nomura continued, "It may look like a pretty drastic change, but I see it as a rich evolution of everything we've shown you up to now."[8] Nomura also revealed that Sora is the same proportions as in previous games; however, they "muted the volume on his hair—it's not as wild." Regarding updating Sora's look from his Kingdom Hearts II design, Nomura noted that outfit's popularity, but felt "the desire to change it" since the game is the first numbered sequel since II's release. He added that the basis for the resulting design is a mix between Sora's costumes for Kingdom Hearts II and Dream Drop Distance, one that is "a lot more sleek and sporty" since "Sora does a lot more... acrobatic [and]... action-oriented movements".[21] Riku and King Mickey also receive updated outfits.[37] Speaking on the designs of the worlds, Nomura said the updated graphical capabilities allowed the development team "to depict the world[s] of the original film[s] as close to [their] original form as possible" after previously creating worlds to be "a stylized Kingdom Hearts world".[71]


Main article: Music of Kingdom Hearts

Series composer Yoko Shimomura returns to compose the music.[59]Takeharu Ishimoto and Tsuyoshi Sekito are also contributing music to the game.[72] In October 2013, Teruzane Utada, father of singer Hikaru Utada, stated that Hikaru would once again be involved in the theme song for Kingdom Hearts III, as she did with Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.[73] In February 2018, Hikaru's theme for the game was revealed, titled "Chikai" in Japanese and "Don't Think Twice" in English.[74]


Kingdom Hearts III is scheduled to be released in 2018 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.[35]



  1. ^ abcSplechta, Mike (June 26, 2013). "Tetsuya Nomura discusses Kingdom Hearts 1.5, Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy 15". GameZone. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  2. ^ abcSquare Enix (June 25, 2013). Square Enix Presents E3 2013 - Day1 [#03] - KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 ReMIX Interview. YouTube. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  3. ^Martens, Todd (July 26, 2013). "Tetsuya Nomura is ready – at last – for 'Kingdom Hearts 3" to progress". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 28, 2013. 
  4. ^ abcdCorriea, Alexa Ray (June 16, 2015). "Kingdom Hearts III Shows Sora at His Most Powerful". GameSpot. Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  5. ^ abWallace, Kimberly (July 15, 2017). "Gummi Ship Confirmed For Kingdom Hearts III". Game Informer. GameStop. Retrieved July 16, 2017. 
  6. ^ abcdeYin-Poole, Wesley (June 11, 2017). "New Kingdom Hearts 3 gameplay trailer shows off Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy". Eurogamer. Retrieved June 11, 2017. 
  7. ^ abDornbush, Jonathon; Schwartz, Terri (July 15, 2017). "Kingdom Hearts 3 Director Hints at Second Playable Character". IGN. Retrieved July 16, 2017. 
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  9. ^Osborn, Alex (July 16, 2017). "Kingdom Hearts 3 Director Confirms Gummi Ship Will Return, New Magic Ability Tiers". IGN. Retrieved July 17, 2017. 
  10. ^ abPramath (January 15, 2017). "Kingdom Hearts 3 To Have Situation Commands". Gaming Bolt. Retrieved July 17, 2017. 
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  12. ^Lopa, Vanessa (June 23, 2015). "Kingdom Hearts 3 New Screenshots Hint at Shotlock". Gameranx. Retrieved February 11, 2018. 
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  18. ^Wood, Chandler (February 10, 2018). "Kingdom Hearts 3 Monsters Inc. World Confirmed in New Trailer, Lots of Gameplay Footage". Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  19. ^Anderton, Joe (February 10, 2018). "Kingdom Hearts III reveals a Monsters, Inc. world in two brand-new trailers". Digital Spy. Retrieved February 10, 2018. 
  20. ^Foster, George (February 10, 2018). "Kingdom Hearts 3: 10 Major Reveals From D23 2018 - 6. Dream Eaters Return". What Culture. Retrieved February 10, 2018. 
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  23. ^ abWallace, Kimberley (January 2014). "Taking Disney attractions for a joyride". Game Informer. GameStop. 24 (249): 73. 
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  26. ^ abWallace, Kimberly (July 16, 2017). "Nomura Reveals More on Kingdom Hearts III's Keyblade Transformations And Summons". Game Informer. GameStop. Retrieved July 17, 2017. 
  27. ^ abNakamura, Toshi (June 20, 2013). "Here Are Some Things To Expect in Kingdom Hearts 3". Kotaku. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
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Kingdom Hearts III features an updated look for Sora, as well as an "Attraction Flow" attack that utilizes Disney Parks attractions.


The Kingdom Hearts 3 release date to be announced soon?

For those who have been waiting for news on the Kingdom Hearts 3 release date, it’s been quite a long road.

Fans have had 12 years between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3, with the first title launching back in 2002 for the PS2.

But having first been announced in 2013, it appears KH3 will finally arrive on PS4 and Xbox One in 2018.

According to an online source, the popular Square Enix franchise will be launched in the fiscal third-quarter of this year.

This still provides a pretty wide range of dates to choose from, meaning that the game could launch as soon as July, or as late as September.

The same rumours also suggest that Square Enix will officially announce the new Kingdom Hearts 3 release date in February.

Something similar happened with the launch of Final Fantasy 15, although that was eventually delayed and pushed back to another month.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Toy Story gameplay screenshots

Wed, July 12, 2017

KINGDOM Hearts 3 will have a 2018 release date on PS4 and Xbox One, as Disney unveils the new Toy Story world.


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Kingdom Hearts 3 Toy Story gameplay screenshots

This new information does not come from an official source and should therefore be taken with a big pinch of salt.

There are also rumours surrounding some of the new game worlds which will be included in Kingdom Hearts 3.

New excerpts from the PlayStation Official Magazine Australia appear to confirm that characters like Riku will be playable in the game.

This will include perspectives being split between Riku and Sora, who will apparently be exploring worlds based on Tangled and Fantasia.

“The latest game in the Disney-meets-Final-Fantasy mash up series is split between the perspectives of best buds Sora and Riku,” the Official Magazine excerpt reportedly explains.

“You will meet a host of new characters whose help you’ll need to stop the evil Keyblade war. 

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“Familiar faces and places return but there are new worlds to visit inspired by Toy Story, Fantasia and Tangled.”

Talking about different gameplay elements, the blurb continues: “The flow of the action too will be recognisable for fans but there are a few tweaks

“For example, Drove Forms return with new weapons, and combat movement has also been improved; you’re now able to wall-run and even climb larger enemies.”

There have also been reports of leaked images appearing on Discord, showing off a new world in the game.

These reportedly show the game dropping in on the Monsters Inc. characters, with Mike and Sully seen in the background.

It’s unclear if these new images are the real deal but if they are, it would mean some interesting new information for fans who have been left waiting for a new update.

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