Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] Ultimania, the official guidebook for Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], released last week in Japan. This guidebook contains interviews with Tetsuya Nomura, the director of the Kingdom Hearts series, where he discusses both Kingdom Hearts 3D and the future of the Kingdom Hearts series. sqexgal and goldpanner have translated both Nomura interviews from the book, and you can read these below. Enjoy!
Director interview: The full version of the interview contains strong spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 3D, and can be read here. For a spoiler-free version, keep reading. Make sure to read the end, where he refers to future titles!
Nomura: Probably during the production of Birth by Sleep. At the time there weren’t plans to start another Kingdom Hearts title, but when I looked at the 3DS hardware, the idea came to me.
— It seems that every entry into the Kingdom Hearts series aims to utilize the features of its platforms, so what elements of the 3DS were you looking into?
Nomura: I thought that the Flowmotion ability was something I wanted to do in the next Kingdom Hearts, so why not do it now with this title? I thought of the Dive Mode function afterwards when I saw the 3DS in action. It’s similar to the Gummi Ship mini game that appeared in KH1 and KH2, but this time rather than ride a vehicle I wanted the characters to drop directly into their destination world. Since the Dive Mode appears first, it feels like the game’s system is established from there.
— What sparked the idea to introduce the Flowmotion ability?
Nomura: I’ve been working on a few action RPGs outside of Kingdom Hearts like Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, so the first thought I had was I wanted it to clearly stand out from the others. I planned on showing that this is the direction the Kingdom Hearts series is headed. When I thought of the elements that really defined the Kingdom Hearts series, I thought of the bold sort of action that realistic characters can’t express. My idea was that with Flowmotion, you’d be able to jump to impossible heights in comparison to how you could jump in the previous titles.
— It seemed that the Flowmotion system might dishevel the game’s balance, but there was a lot of attention put towards regulating it.
Nomura: Well, the staff really didn’t like it. (Laughs.) If the character could make a huge jump freely, then there is no telling where he’d go. Since you had to deal with every action the player made, the opinion coming forth in the beginning was that it was difficult. But since I explained to the staff that this was the sort of direction Kingdom Hearts was going, we did it anyways.
— In the games prior to this one, there were treasure chests you couldn’t reach until you had obtained High Jump, but this time it seems you can take just about all the treasure using Flowmotion.
Nomura: It makes things interesting, doesn’t it? Flowmotion is designed to take over the movement if you don’t control it, but if you’re able to use it well, you can obtain the treasure chests without needing the High Jump ability. It’s a different style compared to the regular Kingdom Hearts games, which I think is one of the system’s charms. I thought it’d be better this way rather than making it boring with restricted actions.
— For the title KH3D, we thought it was very clever how the ’3D’ doesn’t just stand for ‘three-dimensional’, but also for the first letter of each of the three words in the subtitle.
Nomura: I thought of making it ’3D’ with three D’s early on. However, while I was able to settle on ‘Dream’ and ‘Drop’ smoothly, the last one just wouldn’t come to me. When we were at the point where we had a scenario, ‘Distance’ occurred to me from the distance between Sora and Riku, on the verge of meeting but unable to. There’s one more unsaid meaning behind deciding on ‘Distance’, and that is the distance between ’3D’ and the number 3 itself.
— When you included ‘Dream’ and ‘Drop’ in the title, were you assuming from that point in time that there would be a Drop System?
Nomura: Yes, I suppose so. We have made KH titles before in which the story is divided between characters, but because some people were of the opinion that each story felt like a short-story, this time we decided to think of the plot as one string from the beginning. For it to be like that, we had to consider many things regarding how to best handle switching back and forth between which character the player is controlling. We considered whether we should let people choose when to switch, but we wanted some sort of thrill. Throughout the series so far there’s always been that thrill of danger when HP is running out, but that becomes less of a threat as the player levels up. I thought, I want to put in something else on top of that, and it took the shape of forcibly switching the character being controlled with Drop. Also, if we had made the switching completely optional there would be people who only went along playing either Sora or Riku, and one of the characters could get too much stronger than the other, so it’s also a means of controlling that.
— With more than fifty breeds of Spirits you can make friends with, the Spirit growth system is also a factor that makes this game worth more than a speedrun, isn’t it?
Nomura: Well it was like, if I were to make a system where you get an enemy character onto your team and develop them, this is how I’d want it to be. I wouldn’t want players to get enemies on their team by defeating them, I would want to have people experience the process of raising them from birth until they got strong, and have them feel attached to the target of their raising. To bring that system into reality, it would have been weird setup-wise to make friends with Heartless and Nobodies, so we went with creating a new type of being called Dream Eaters. In the beginning there were less breeds, but I thought it was lacking variation, and I told the staff they’d probably need to make more than fifty. We had to show they were cooperating with Sora and Riku to fight enemies, so riding on their backs and the like with link attacks was necessary too, which made our workload incredible.
— Which Dream Eaters did you design yourself?
Nomura: The only one I drew myself is Meow Wow. I drew it basically all in one go, and didn’t edit it at all. As for the other Spirits, I showed Meow Wow to the staff and requested that they ‘please give them a design that is strange, charming without being too cute’. They drew for me in high spirits, and came out with one interesting design after another.
— Many worlds in this title are appearing for the first time in the series. How did you choose them?
Nomura: Basically, from the Osaka Development Team’s proposals. Worlds they wanted to have appear, what they wanted to do there–I received proposals for both those things, and I chose from among them. You know, in the beginning there was even the idea to divide ‘Fantasia’ and ‘Fantasia 2000′ between Sora and Riku in Symphony of Sorcery.
— Did the characters from The World Ends With You appear in Traverse Town due to the Osaka Development Team’s proposal, too?
Nomura: No, in the first scenario they planned to have Leon and Cid and the others like always. However, it would have been weird for them to be in the Traverse Town in this title, and maybe it’s time to give the “arrive in Traverse-Town, Cid says ‘Hey kid’ routine” a rest. So, when I thought about who’d feel fresh to put in, I thought it might be interesting to depict teenagers from a city like Shibuya coming into contact with country kids like Sora, thus I decided to put in the characters from TWEWY. Also, another reason was that in this title, Traverse Town is a world in which many things must be explained, and Joshua is just right for the role of explainer.
— Being able to view flashback scenes whenever we wanted with the Memento feature was new.
Nomura: Production-wise, we were trying to make the story as deep and layered as possible, but then we’d have to show many explanatory cutscenes. I’d always thought there was no way to progress the story other than to increase the number of cutscenes, but I think we found a way after all with the Memento feature. It’s like, people who want to enjoy the story can watch it whenever, and people who want to hurry and advance through the game can fly through and perhaps watch it while taking a break.
— We thought it was very refreshing being able to read summaries of all the past titles with the Chronicles feature too.
Nomura: Those were originally written by Oka (Mr. Masaru Oka: Scenario and Cutscene Director) with revisions by me. If we’d had time I would have wanted to do them in pictures, but we couldn’t go that far this time. It is, of course, so people who hadn’t played a title could follow along, but the text is written to be so clear that it even includes parts that weren’t asserted definitively in each game, so if people who already know the story read along to see if they had things right, they may discover new things. I think pictures would have been a good way to do it too, but text does have the advantage of allowing people to reexamine the necessary parts straight away.
— Now we would like to ask a few questions about the future of the KH series. First of all, if you get the letters ‘Secret Message Unlocked’ in the credits for this title you can read a message in the Keyword Glossary. The English letters there surely mean we can hope for KH3 next?
Nomura: I will leave that to your imaginations. Well, you’ll know the answer soon, I suppose.
— At the end of the credits, when Sora and Riku go into the light, the shape of the light looks like a III…
Nomura: I can’t go into detail, but you could think of it as a secret message from me.
— Now, is there a possibility you will make a KH3D Final Mix title?
Nomura: I don’t know what might happen in the years to come, but as of now there are no plans. Osaka Development Team have several titles on their hands, it’s not the right time for that.
— At the end of the secret movie for KHBBSFM, an interesting message that said ‘Birth by Sleep -Volume Two’ appeared. Is there a chance that a KHBBS2 will be appearing?
Nomura: It seems that many people thought that, but during that movie there were the words ‘A fragmentary passage’, weren’t there? That means a ‘bits and pieces of something whole’. In short, a story for ‘Volume Two’ exists that ought to be told, but the story cuts off with those scenes. Because of that, I won’t say there is absolutely no chance that we will produce a title to follow KHBBS , but there are no plans as of now.
— In an interview in the KH Days Ultimania, you said ‘I’m thinking of a mystery KH that made the producer go “what??”‘. Was that KH3D?
Nomura: No, it wasn’t. I originally planned to make that after KHBBS, but we ended up making KH3D and the project was stopped. It’s a shame, but we won’t be starting that project again.
— Are there any Disney titles you’d like to see appear in the future of the series?
Nomura: I wish and wish, but I’ve wanted for a long time to have Pixar titles appear in the series. I’m already working on many ideas, but I can’t say whether they will become a reality or not.
— Pixar has many wonderful titles, and we’d love to see them appear. Finally, when will next play a new Kingdom Hearts game?
Nomura: I still can’t say when, but various developments have already started regarding a new title in the Kingdom Hearts series.
— More than one?!
Nomura: I am sure we’ll be able to make some kind of announcement when the time is right, so in the meantime I’d like you to keep playing KH3D. There’s a high degree of freedom in the play style and the story is full of mysteries, so I would be very pleased if you tried playing on a high level of difficulty and investigating the plot. Also, the mini game ‘Flick Rush’ is pretty exciting, so please give it a try.
Scenario mysteries: We can't show this interview without giving strong spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 3D, so please click here to read it.