Nomura stated that Kingdom Hearts III (along with Final Fantasy VII Remake, which he is also working on) still has "a ways to go", with some worlds that remain untouched so far, and other unannounced worlds advancing in production. The relevant excerpt from the interview can be seen below, originally provided by Hachima and translated by Siliconera.
The quote appears to imply that Kingdom Hearts III will definitely not be releasing in 2017, although, Nomura aims to show some of the game's progress off sometime this year.
--What’s the development status on Kingdom Hearts III?
Nomura: “The production process is different than what we’ve had up until now, so I can’t just give you a general idea, but I can say that there are worlds that still remain untouched. We’ve advanced on the production of worlds that have yet to be announced, so we can’t show them for now. As far as development status goes, there’s still a ways to go.”
--What’s the development status on Final Fantasy VII Remake?
Nomura: “We’re making steady progress on its production. While we are indeed working on it, I think we’ll have you guys wait a little longer for both Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy VII Remake.
I do apologize for that, but we’ll make up for it by making it into something that will meet expectations.
We didn’t share much information on either of the two titles last year, but I hope to show its progress at some event this year.
The release of these titles will still be a while. However, we have many titles releasing this year, and we hope you look forward to any ‘surprises’.”
Translations of the full interview can be found under the cut thanks to Catherine Mueller (firstname.lastname@example.org). Be warned that there are spoilers for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 HD Final Chapter Prologue!
An Interview with the [KH] series' director, Tetsuya Nomura
We held an interview with Director Tetsuya Nomura about [KH2.8]. Mostly, we asked him about the truths that have been made clear in [KH0.2] and [KHX BC]. Spoilers are included, so please read after playing/watching. There's talk of the approaching [KH] series' 15th anniversary, as well as the [FFVII] remake!
The all-new [KH0.2] doesn't lose any of its likeness to [KH] in the details
--First, could you please tell us again the placement of [KH2.8], as well as what kind of product it is?
N: Story-wise, one might call it a prologue to [KHIII] in its placement. These are the stories you should know before playing [KHIII]. It's so close to [KHIII] that it might be stepping into its boundaries, perhaps?
--In [KH0.2], there's a scene where Sora and the others appear. Is that an example of the “overstepping”?
N: That scene might be entered into [KHIII] as part of a digest, but the only time you'll see the details is in [KH0.2]. If you check the chapter names in the Theater, I think you'll understand our aim.
--It's something to check out, then. Also, in [KH0.2], we saw a scene with the King and Riku wearing new outfits. It seems like the outfit design for [KHIII] is also done.
N: The designs are already done, and the card illustrations for [KHX] show a little bit of the prototype. Riku's hair is different, too, so I hope you all look forward to the details coming out.
--Having heard that [KH0.2] was just a short episode, I was surprised at the volume. There are challenges and so on...
N: The challenges and decorations are parts we didn't plan on having in the beginning, so the staff worked incredibly hard to include them at the last minute.
--Were the cats ears and other decorations the choices of the staff members?
N: That's right. That's how it was planned anyway, but the staff made all of the choices, and they only cut out the bad pieces and created everything else. (TN: Does he mean bad, like inappropriate? Or bad, as in, not programmable? I wonder.)
--Will there be decorations like this in [KHIII]?
N: We still don't know. Since [KH0.2] was a short game, we had the plan to add as much content as we would. There is a lot of other content in [KHIII], so I think it's really up to how work progresses.
--I see. Regarding how playing [KH0.2] feels, compared to the trial version earlier, I felt the impression that it was easier to get used to. The graphics also became even prettier.
N: We took all of the feedback we received from the trial version into consideration, and we upped the graphics as well. The graphics' screen is especially big, and the lighting has been adjusted, and I think that Aqua has become even cuter. (laughs) We brushed up [KH0.2] as much as we could with the time limit, but we will of course improve even more with [KHIII].
--With what concept in mind were the battles made?
N: In [KH3D], which was made right before this in the series, we wanted to put as much action into battles as possible, so we used Free Flow Action, etc. [KH3D] was an important next step in the [KH] series, so we dug into that and used its incredibly dynamic and almost too vivid action as a concept.
--You talked about that in an earlier interview, too, right?
N: [KH0.2] went through that, and then became the first [KH] game to appear on this console. [KH] in the future is, as is in the meaning [KH0.2], something completely different from before. We also can't use the CG models from anything earlier than [KH0.2], and the frames (the axes of the CG models, the parts that support the skeletal structure) also changed, so the action is all brand-new. On top of that, you'll experience incredibly vivid action that doesn't damage the feel of [KH] thus far--that's what we aimed for this time.
[KH2.8] is so close to [KHIII] that it might be stepping into its boundaries?
[KH] in the future is, from [KH0.2] on, something completely different from before.
--Certainly, there's no odd feeling that it's too new, but I could still feel the progress. Especially with the magic could I feel the novelty of it.
N: In regards to magic, the fact that we changed the spells to not just connect with the enemy and end, but to instead change the surroundings and enemies' features, is something we decided a long time ago.
--With the new system, you can change the derivative of the Situation Command, which is something we were really waiting on.
N: There are countless tasks, and you can choose whatever you like, but there is a time limit. We didn't want to make it a partially forced QTE (quick-time event), so this came from wanting to prevent that. It's actually a system we first thought of for [KHIII], so we put the conditions of [KHBbS] into it, and we arranged it for use in [KH0.2].
--So, [KHIII] will continue with the Situation Commands?
N: Yes. In [KHIII]'s battles, there are a lot of choices, and they are all things the player can actively change. That means you can see part of it in [KH0.2].
--Are you saying the Shoot Lock we see in [KH0.2] will also be one of those choices?
N: We showed it once in the [KHIII] PV, but there will be several other variations. Sora can fly toward groups of enemies he's locked on to and fight them all in one type of Shoot Lock, and so on--there are a lot of really cool ones.
--In [KH0.2], it's interesting how you can explore the worlds and unlock mysteries. Outside of that preliminary city below the castle, the map really wasn't that big, I think, but even in that small of a space there's a dense choice of things to do.
N: The [KH] team in Osaka is extremely talented, especially when it comes to making maps. Certainly, when you look at a mini map, you don't feel it's very large, but you can explore more than that, and the balance with the puzzles is very well done. It's something I trust them with, so I didn't say much about that part (laughs).
--On the other hand, what were you “noisy” about? (TN: i.e. complaints, etc.)
N: Since I'm picky about battle direction, it was probably that. The battles had a strict concept from the beginning, so I won't say it was over that, but in [KH0.2], there was a transition point involving part of the Situation Command. At first, when the gauge filled, there was a little message that appeared above the gauge to let you know it filled. Because it was so hard to understand, we showed it once during a PV, but it changed to the triangle button appearing in the center of the screen. However, since it seemed like it was too strong to me, I called it out as a fault. With that, in the end, we decided on having the message “STANDING BY” to appear on screen.
--That kind of detailed forethought is what improves the quality of [KH], I think. And, the presentation of the enemies was the highlight. It was also fun to see enemies that appeared in the [KHIII] PV.
N: Since we had to entirely remake the enemies too, in order to make each one's appearance look like it belongs to [KH], we did some tests in advance over and over again. I think the results of that accumulation of tests came out.
--I especially felt novelty with the boss, Devil's Wave. I'm also really looking forward to the strategy guide.
N: That enemy's appearance and patterns might seem different when it first comes out from when it last appears, but the name is also different, and the first one is called “Devil's Tower.” The last one is called “Devil's Wave.” The Osaka team also worked on this enemy, and at the time we hit a data lock in which we could not tamper with the contents any further, the artists in charge held tightly onto his hope until the end and edited what is now the Devil's Wave. The production development time was short for [KH0.2], and because the staff was also working on lining up things for [KHIII], there was not much time we could waste, but I think we did what we could in that time.
A hard fight all on her own! Aqua's decision adds worries to a troubling end...
--The story in [KH0.2] is very deep. Aqua continues to fight alone, and I felt relieved at the scene when she met King Mickey again.
N: Writing it was tiring.
--What do you mean by that?
N: Because Aqua was all by herself, I could only use what she said when she talked to herself, or what she was thinking, as dialogue. In result, Aqua talks to herself a lot more (laughs). When she meets Mickey along the way, there's finally someone for her to talk to, and I also felt relieved (laughs).
--I see (laughs). The conversation with Terra was also a very important scene.
N: At last year's [KH] concert, there was a reading for Terra and Namine, but when Namine said, “She'll come soon, guide her,” to Terra--it was connected to that scene.
--That's right, isn't it! By the way, in [KH0.2], Aqua is using the glowing chains that Master Eraqus and others used in the past, but what exactly are those?
N: Those shining chains are something that followers of Eraqus can use. Aqua inherited Eraqus' Keyblade, the “Master Giver,” and became a Master, so she can use them now.
--There were a lot of mysteries that were solved, but when King Mickey appeared in [KH], he was not wearing anything on his upper half, and I didn't think that you'd keep that detail (laughs).
N: That scene was something I assigned myself, and, well, when I saw the visual, it seemed a bit overbearing (bitter laugh). I had the image of making him look like he went through a lot of damage, but, well, he's the King.
--At the end, Aqua's decision really moved me.
N: I worried about that until the very end. Whether to have her say it while crying, or to end it in the image of a fog. At the beginning, after Mickey left and she was all alone, she originally said, “I want to go home, and it became too much of a plot point. But, after that I worried and worried, and in the end I decided on a closing that better suited Aqua.
What about the whereabouts of the Master and Luxu? Will that box be opened in [KHIII]?!
--In both [KH0.2] and [KHXBC], the words “a heart guided by the key” are used. What's the meaning behind these words?
N: That is something that Oka (Mataru, the Scenario Director) added. For recent scenes, I would always tell Oka the plot, then Oka would add more to it while keeping the level design in mind and create it, after which I would look at it again and write the final product, and Oka would check the final product--we proceed in this layer-like order. This time, Oka was the one to add these words, and we just decided to do it. In [KH0.2], these are “old words,” which hints at the age of [KHX].
--That's one way we can feel the connections in the series. In [KHXBC], we were able to catch a glimpse of the humanity of the Foretellers that we didn't know in [KHX] and [KHUX], which was a fresh experience.
N: This was the first time to add voices to the main characters appearing in [KHXBC], so for the people who have not played [KHX] or [KHUX], they'll be characters they're meeting for the first time. It's just under an hour, but in that time you'll learn about all of the characters, get attached to them, and be moved by them, so we were very careful giving them each personalities. [KHXBC] is, after all, the happenings of the backside of things, and since it is the “story of the Foretellers,” the main part of the story that has the Keyblade War as the key is something you can only experience in [KHX] and [KHUX]--that's how we divided the projects.
--By the way... The Master is really strange. Why that kind of personality? (laughs)
N: Isn't every truly great person that way? (laughs) He doesn't worry about anything, I guess you could say. He doesn't really care, nor is he agitated by it. And when he's strict, he's strict.
--I think it must have been a difficult role to play, but Tomokazu Sugita's performance was excellent.
N: We worried a lot about who could play the part for us. There are parts where he's silly and parts where he's cool, and his pacing in conversation is special, too, so it's quite difficult. I thought Sugita might be the person who could play this role we imagined.
--One more character's role, Luxu, was played by Kenjiro Tsuda, so what were the circumstances of that choice?
N: Including [KH], the person who has always been in charge of sound for all of the projects I've directed, Youji Shimizu, is the person I talked about Luxu's secrets with, so when I advised that I was searching for someone peculiar, he recommended Tsuda. Tsuda had just dubbed the role of Kylo Ren in Star Wars, and Shimizu was taking part in that same production.
--When Luxu is speaking with the Master, there's an unsophisticated atmosphere, and in the last scene you can feel some kind of hidden meaning.
N: The Master and Luxu are both written to be characters that you can never tell what they're thinking. Luxu is a somewhat philosophical type, and if I had to say it, he's “the Master without the amusing side.” (laughs)
--A Master who isn't interesting. (laughs) He's a powerful person, though, right?
N: Because he has been given the most important mission. The Master said that, right? Because he succeeded with his mission, he knows the future.
--The keyblade that the Master used is telling of that world.
N: Well, we don't know if that's true or not. Because it's the Master, he might just say, “Nah, not necessarily.” (laughs)
--Huh!? So, what you're saying is that, that keyblade is the same one that Master Xehanort will come to use, then?
N: It's the same. Luxu inherits it, and a long time passes before it connects to Master Xehanort. As the traditional successor, Master Xehanort receives the keyblade, and it happens that Master Eraqus inherits the world's beginning.
--The Master is a very important character, but will we know why he disappeared in [KHIII]?
N: Elements of [KHXBC] will be touched on in some way in [KHIII]. The Master won't appear but...there's a surprise.
--Is it the “surpriiiise” box that the Master gave to Luxu along with the Keyblade? There was something written on it.
N: Fans with good intuition will probably notice it, but that's still a secret. In [KHIII], someone is searching for that box.
--So we'll know the contents in [KHIII]. By the way, what about the location of the “x blade” put in the time of this “fairytale world”?
N: The Master knows of its existence. He's making a Keyblade himself that is modeled after the “x blade.” Well, even if I say he's “making” it, he's not a blacksmith or anything--it's closer to say that he's trying to draw it out from his heart.
--The result of the Keyblade War in [KHX] was the creation of the Keyblade Graveyard, but when a wielder disappears from this world, does that mean the Keyblade is left behind?
N: That's right. It's left behind like any other object.
“The Master and Luxu are both written to be characters that you can never tell what they're thinking.”
We ask about the exact progress of the 2017 titles Nomura is involved in
--This year is [KH]'s 15th anniversary, [FFVII]'s 20th anniversary, and [FF]'s 30th anniversary. Can we ask you about the development of each of these?
N: First we'll release [KH2.8] in January, in February there will be a [FFVII] snow sculpture exhibition at the Sapporo Snow Festival, in March we'll release [KH 1.5+2.5], and the 15thanniversary concert, “Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour,” will begin. There's also the Disney event D23, so we might do something at that. There's also the start of [KHUX]'s season two.
“We hope to show you the progress of [KHIII] and the [FFVII Remake] sometime this year.”
--I'm really curious to see what kind of developments will happen in [KHUX]'s season two.
N: Right now it's called “season two,” but what it means is, [KHUX] will be reborn at that time. There will be a large-scale change in components, and there will also be a lot of new parts. The story will also head toward a big turning point. Actually, the hint with the character gripping the key is on the [KHUX] Twitter. There's Ephemer, Skuld, Ventus, and then two others... we're not showing their faces, but there are five characters holding the key.
--Five characters--that's quite interesting. By the way, in [KHX], [KHUX], and [KHXBC], the Dream Eaters that appeared in [KH3D] are connected to the story, and you touched on their origins. Will you explain further details on Dream Eaters?
N: Dream Eaters, Spirits, and Nightmares will be talked about in season two of [KHUX]. Also, there will be a part related to them in [KHIII].
--I'm also looking forward to the March release of [KH 1.5+2.5]. Are there any changes from the PS3 version?
N: On the PS4 version, the playable portions run at a frame rate of 60fps. Just as [KHDDD] was with [KH2.8], when played at 60fps, you move rather smoothly, so I think it'll really change the sensation.
--Is there any plan to release a package that includes [KH 1.5+2.5] and [KH2.8]?
N: Since the timing is delicate, this time we won't release a complete package. However, we're planning a box set, like there often is with DVDs. It'll be a box with both [KH 1.5+2.5] and [KH2.8]. I think it'll be a special on the Square Enix e-STORE. Also, this just depends on the numbers, but we're planning a second campaign to receive the special acrylic stands from [KH2.8].
--That makes me happy! The concert will start soon, too. Will there be readings and what not like before?
N: Since we can use a monitor at each concert location, we're thinking of making movies. We're also planning concert goods right now.
--Please let us hear more about the development progress with [KHIII].
N: Since the production process has been different up until now for [KHIII], it just depends--there are some words that are pretty much done, while on the other hand, there are some that are untouched. The worlds we plan to show off are progressing nicely, but they're still not ready to show. Just as I said before, for the current console, we had to remake all of the models for characters and so on, so it's still in development. It will definitely be high-quality, so please wait until the next time we can show you. We've started preparing.
--Understood. The 20th anniversary of [FFVII] is coming up, so will you make a logo like you did for the 10th anniversary, and what kinds of plans do you have in development?
N: Yeah, that's right. I have to make a logo. Kitase (Yoshinori, the [FFVII Remake] Producer) told me to. Whether there's any progress is up to Kitase.
--Speaking of that, on January 31st, there's going to be a [FF] 30th anniversary ceremony.
N: I don't plan to attend. Since we have the unveiling of the [FFVII] snow sculpture at the Sapporo Winter Festival in February, if there was an opening in my schedule, I'd like to go, but...
--That's right, isn't it? So, how is the development status of the [FFVII] remake?
N: Development is steadily progressing, and there's also a video I have for you to check today...
--Ah, is this the area of the opening scene? Wow (watches for a while)...Amazing! Even just walking around the ground, there's already a really great atmosphere being shown!
N: That's how we're making it, but it seems like you'll have to wait a little more on [KHIII] and the [FFVII] remake. We're sorry for the time it's taking, but we're trying to make both live up to everyone's expectations.
--If you can manage to make it all like that ground, then I'll wait years (laughs). By the way, Nomura, you'll be holding an exhibition at MAGIC (Monaco Anime Game International Conferences). What will you present there?
N: I was invited to present. I was requested not for a presentation of any particular title, but to present the history of what I've worked on this far. This is the first time for me to do this kind of presentation, and I haven't decided what I'll do yet, but I'll be preparing for that soon.
--2017 looks to be a busy year again.
N: In June we have E3, in September there's Tokyo Game Show, and in December there's Jump Festa, which are events we present at every year; we also have plans for the [KH] concert and other events, along with season two of [KHUX] and [Dissidia FF], and countless other operations, so it looks to be a year full of work. We didn't really give much information on [KHIII] and [FFVII] last year, but this year we want to be able to show you something at some sort of related event. The titles' actual releases are yet to be determined, so I must apologize for that, but there are also a lot of titles we will release this year, and I'd like you all to wait for the “surprise.”
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