Update 3: We now have a full translation that you can read below.
— Please tell us where you began with the conception of this title, ‘Dream Drop Distance’.
Nomura: With KH3D, first of all, I was getting colour imagery. I thought, black and pink.
— It’s surprising that colours were what you imagined first.
Nomura: We do decide on a thematic colour every time, but it was quite rare for it to have happened the way it did this time.
— How did things develop from there?
Nomura: We revealed that we were going to depict the Mark of Mastery Exam in ‘Re:Coded’, and we had decided roughly on the contents of the story, but at that point we were worrying over where to set it. We thought about what Sora would have to do now, and about how ‘sleep’ was a key word in the second last title in the series, KH Birth by Sleep. ‘Sleep’ and the ‘dreams’ that follow replaced ‘black and pink’ as our inspiration broadened, and then we thought of the keyword ‘drop’, as in how you ‘fall into dreams’. (Translator note: Or ‘drop off to sleep’.)
— In this title, the way we see flashback scenes (regarding things like the journey and the residents of those worlds) when alternating playing as Sora and Riku is incorporating a directing style we haven’t had up until now, isn’t it.
Nomura: People who want to forge into the game can choose to skip those and watch them later. That’s an influence from the drastic change to non-interactive cutscenes we are including in ‘FF Verses XIII’, which we’ve been developing side by side. It’s a result of us keeping tempo in mind, and trying to make as much as we can interactive. Although, in the end the game finishes with the longest cutscene in the series (dry laugh).
— It would need to be that long, to explain so many mysteries (laughs). With things such as the introduction to the story beginning with a sudden battle, the plot felt like it moved pretty fast.
Nomura: As for that introduction section, I thought it would be best to enter the exam from the start. It would have been tiresome to make Yen Sid give a long explanation summing everything up right at the start, so we wanted to try breaking it up into flashbacks (laughs).
— The ‘memoirs’ feature, where we can check flashback scenes and the series summary, is so thoughtful.
Nomura: It’s a feature we wanted to have for a long time, but couldn’t do for various reasons, and it’s not much, but we finally introduced it. The number of titles in the series has increased too, and there are parts that new players wouldn’t really understand. I’m sure this will help the understanding of anyone who is worried whether they can play the newest game without playing all the others up until now.
PART 2 (Page 167)
— Please tell us the reason for implementing the “drop” mechanism which causes the character you are playing as to switch out suddenly.
Nomura: It’s difficult to balance, but it’d have been uninteresting for the players if the game was too generalized. For example, in the job system of FFV, you could only choose one ability set. You were restricted to make choices where you would toss out something in order to gain something, how you made these decisions was an important factor. Above all else, what sort of game will I make? That’s always on my mind. In Chain of Memories and Birth by Sleep the playable characters were switched up as well, however people said that having the character’s scenarios split made the games feel like short stories and they wanted to play one whole story in one game. So I made the system where you can switch between Sora and Riku’s story in one work, where the only thing restricting your play is the “drop” device.
— Now the concept for KH3D was “bold action”, can you tell us about the process for this?
Nomura: If from here on out, I were to leave the operation systems of the series titles as is, then I wanted to make a distinction from FF Versus XIII which I am currently developing. I think we spoke about it previously, but from the very beginning Final Fantasy Reishiki Type-0, Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Kingdom Hearts are each action based RPGs, and working on them simultaneously, I wanted each of their differences to be clear. To indicate in what way KH was different, I came up with the “bold action” concept.
— The coop play with the Dream Eaters is very showy and “bold” indeed. I was surprised at how Riku’s fighting style turned out.
Nomura: You could play as Riku in Chain of Memories, but since this is the first time you can do your actions freely, the link styles are each fairly distinct. I thought of showing his personality different from Sora’s and I think it turned out interesting.
— Sora cooperates with the Dream Eaters directly, but Riku combines with them and fights as an individual. Why is that?
Nomura: The difference between them was something I decided on from the very beginning, but how the styles would be; I knew it’d have to be clearly defined. From the start, I wanted the system and the story to link, so their difference too has meaning and a reason for it regarding the story. The last scene will have a lot of impact. Various connections are developed upon and it ends just in prelude to the final battle.
— I can’t wait! Lastly, a message for the fans?
Nomura: Finally, the plot that has been in the works throughout the whole series is being developed, so for people who are experiencing the series since the beginning or for those who haven’t touched it before, I think that you’ll be happy to get your hands on it. It may be a title for a portable gaming device, but it isn’t at all inferior to the titles before it. So please by all means enjoy it.
Journey to the Dreaming Worlds left Asleep
First, let's check out the Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (from here referred to as KH3D) story and key terms and figures. This time, the journey begins when Yen Sid summons Sora and Riku, and announces that they are to undertake the "Mark of Mastery Exam". The two set off in order to face the trial and become masters.
Dreams are all connected... and if one drops into a dream, through that dream one connects to the "Sleep-bound Realm".
In their first journey, they restored the worlds that had been swallowed by darkness. However, among those there were worlds that were not completely restored, and even now remain asleep. No gates lead to them, and none are able to trespass there, not even the Heartless who make up the vast majority of darkness of the Realms.
Therefore, a different darkness exists in this sleep-bound Realm.
They are the creatures that devour dreams, Dream Eaters.
It is said that there are two kinds of Dream Eaters: the Nightmares, who devour dreams and sow nightmares, and the good-natured Spirits, who only eat bad dreams.
[YMX: You're still afraid of the dark, aren't you.]
----The First Journey: In the journey of 'Kingdom Hearts', Sora faced a being that went by the name 'Ansem', and saved countless worlds that had been swallowed by darkness. However, that did not mean every world was returned to the light; some worlds still lie in sleep. Those sleep-bound worlds serve as the setting for this title. It's a special place, very different from the worlds of Sora and his friends.
----Heartless: Heartless are creatures formed from the darkness of hearts. Although they are beings born from hearts they don't have them, which is why they are called Heartless. These existences of darkness lurk in every world, however, it seems they are unable to penetrate the 'Sleep-bound Realm' that serves as the setting for this title.
----Dream Eaters: Dream Eaters are mysterious creatures residing in the 'Sleep-bound Realm' which are divided into two types: Nightmares, and the good-natured 'Spirits'. Nightmares and Spirits will have different body and eye colours even within the same species.
-----Master Xehanort: He was a brilliant Keyblade Master, but his thoughts leaned towards the value of the darkness, and he tried to begin a war that would engulf the Realm.
There’s a reason Yen Sid is setting a trial for Sora and Riku: he has judged that the two must become stronger in order to face the coming threat he has foreseen. That threat is Master Xehanort, who no-one has heard anything about recently, but once brought about a calamity in the Realm. He has said he has several schemes circulating…
[Yen Sid: I am afraid that soon, a new threat will come about.]
SORA AND RIKU
----Riku: A Keyblade Wielder who harbours darkness in his heart, and Sora’s best friend. He has a cool personality, but there are passionate feelings locked inside him.
----Sora: The protagonist of the series. A Keyblade Wielder like Riku. He has a bright and optimistic personality, and cares deeply for his friends.
Sora and Riku are heroes who have been chosen by the key-shaped weapons called ‘Keyblades’. However, unlike Sora who walks the path of light, Riku carries darkness in his heart. Taking the Mark of Mastery exam is part of proving to himself that he has the right to wield the Keyblade. Seeing this in his best friend, Sora’s resolve to take the exam strengthens, too.
It is necessary to prepare to face the coming threat. For that purpose, Sora and Riku are to undertake the Keyblade Master Mark of Mastery Exam together.
By opening the Keyhole of Sleep, it is supposed that new power will be gained, and the worlds bound by sleep will be freed. By freeing ‘Seven’ Keyholes of Sleep, equal to the number of pure lights, and returning them to this plane once more, they will be marked as Masters.
----Aqua: (Scan too blurry! Sorry!)
Appearing in this series are seven princesses who have hearts of pure light. In the first title, dark influences were pulling strings behind the scenes to gather those princesses and use them to open the ‘keyhole’ connecting to the centre of the realm, and conquer all the worlds. There are also seven of the ‘Keyholes of Sleep’ that appear in KH3D. Could there perhaps be a connection?
Well-versed in the art of the Keyblade, and protectors of the Realm of Light. Those are the Keyblade Masters. Once there were many of them, like Master Eraqus and Aqua from KHBBS. However at the present time, the only one in all the worlds who holds that right is King Mickey.
The Worlds Waiting for Sora and Riku to Release Them
Let’s check out the characters that appear on the stage of Sora and Riku’s adventures! There are many worlds appearing for the first time in the series, and, even in worlds that already appeared in past titles, you can visit new areas!
In past titles, characters from the Final Fantasy series such as Leon, Aeris and Cid lived in Traverse Town. Sora and Riku visit this town shortly after beginning their Mark of Mastery Exam. In KH3D, Neku and the others from ‘The World Ends With You’ for the Nintendo DS appear, and you can visit never-before-seen areas such as ‘4th District’, ‘5th District’, and ‘the botanical gardens’.
The journey starts at Traverse Town, the mystery-filled town where those with no place to go gather.
----Shiki: A bright girl who lives in the now. ‘Mr Mew’, a plush toy, is her special friend.
----Neku: A boy who doesn’t really have much to do with other people. Will he be bewildered by the boisterous Sora!?
----Joshua: It seems he has some sort of information on the worlds bound by sleep.
----Rhyme: Beat’s partner. Despite losing her memories she is bright and positive.
----Beat: Good at skateboarding and bad at losing. He’s looking for Rhyme, who has become separated from him.
This world also appears: Radiant Garden
[Lea: I see. So I’m human again.]
[???: Dilan, Eleus, Even, Ienzo…]
In cutscenes, you can get a glimpse of happenings in Radiant Garden, a place that appeared in earlier titles. The humanoid members of the group ‘Organisation XIII’ have been reborn as humans, and are seen doing something new. However, there are some members who haven’t been seen…
---Lea: A young man who was known as Axel in Organisation XIII. He sets off on a journey, searching for something.
La Cité des Cloches
The motif for the world of La Cité des Cloches is ‘the bells of Notre Dame’. You can adventure through the great church and the streets of the city appearing in this title. Sora and Riku end up searching for the reason why the Nightmares that appeared all of a sudden in this town, as they fight their way through them. Here, the two of them meet a young man who was banned from leaving the great church, Quasimodo. How will his love for the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda turn out?
Waiting in La Cité des Cloches is the faint premonition of love and the preacher with the warped sense of justice.
[Quasimodo: Is this okay? Let’s go.]
For the terminology, the creators looked back to one of the previous games, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and took one of the keywords to that game to formulate the stage for their newest story. "In Birth by Sleep, ‘sleep' was one of the keywords we focused on, and we talked about what the main character Sora must do. We took the word ‘sleep' and moved beyond it to the realm of ‘dreams.'" Nomura explained.
One new feature of the game Nomura focused on was the ability to skip cutscenes and to view them later (a feature not seen in very many Square Enix games). "This was due both to a change we made with the non-interactive cutscenes in Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and because we wanted to maintain a tempo of the game where the player could limit the amount of time where they weren't in direct control."
The game also features a memoir function where players can see the overall plot of the entire Kingdom Hearts series, a feature Nomura expressed he had wanted for a long time. "With so many games in the series, a lot of unfamiliar players can get confused. This way, newer players who might be nervous about starting from the latest game can jump right in."
Update 1: High quality, complete scans have been uploaded to 2ch. Thanks to aibo_ac7 for the find, you can see all of these below, in our gallery. (Remember to click for larger images!)
Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] has appeared with an article in the March 22, 2012 issue of Famitsu Weekly. While we do not yet have any scans or the Tetsuya Nomura interview, we do have this small piece of information from sqexgal: "Famitsu rates KH3D 10/9/10/9". This, of course, gives Kingdom Hearts 3D a rating of 38/40 from the magazine.