The February 2010 issue of Famitsu PSP+PS3 magazine has featured an article on the upcoming Kingdom Hearts title for the PlayStation Portable, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. This article, which was scanned by HEARTSTATION.ORG, is high quality, reviewing everything we know about the game, as well as containing an interview with the series' director, Tetsuya Nomura. Kingdom Hearts Insider have translated the interview, which you can read below. Also, the article can be viewed below, in our gallery.
-- So how is development going?
Nomura: We’re putting on the last finishing touches. Right now we are fixing the text a bit. The story this time has a lot of things that might be difficult to understand, so we’re trying to make it flow better. We want to make it easier to understand for people who have never played another game in the series. But, when this interview comes out we’ll be finished with it.
-- So who is responsible for the scenario writing?
Nomura: Myself, as well as Watanabe (Daisuke) who worked on “Chain of Memories”, and Oka (Masaru) who helped with the scenario for KHII. “Kingdom Hearts” is always worked on by several people.
-- There is a lot of underplot going on in the story, but can people who have never played any other game in the series really understand what is going on?
Nomura: That question was asked quite a lot with “358/2 Days”. but I feel that if you play it from the view of the main character, you can play the game separate of all the others. But for some people, if they don’t know the whole story they will feel as though they are the only ones who don’t know something, and they will become doubtful and suspicious. In other words, they won’t be able to follow the small details. Those details are meant for the people who have played the rest of the series, but that doesn’t mean that new players won’t be able to have fun with the underplot. For example, this will be Ven’s first meeting with Lea and Isa. New players will be able to meet them along with him, and so long as they think “These are special characters” then that’s fine. I’d be happy then, if those people who start wondering about those tiny plot details and went back and played the previous games in the series. I think there are things that are interesting because you’ve played through the series, and things that are interesting because you haven’t played through the series.
-- I see, so there are different ways the plot can be interesting.
Nomura: Well, the “Kingdom Hearts” series has become a series where people have fun imagining what could be. Whether you’ve played the series or not, that doesn’t mean you know everything. Though people with a good head on their shoulders probably know what is going to happen.
-- There are three different main characters this time, what order do you recommend playing their stories?
Nomura: For the story I recommend Terra, Ven and Aqua, but I think it can be fun played from any character. For the gameplay, Ven is the easiest to use. Aqua has strong [?] and Terra’s movements feel very heavy, so I think Ven is probably the easiest to play with.
The best and most exciting battles in the series.
-- So how is work going on the action part of the game?
Nomura: Well, we think that beginners won’t have to worry so much when they play the game. We’re finished now, so they are going through debugging, and it sounds like they are having a lot of fun. They say it’s a nice change of pace. Though right now they are getting exciting beside the programmers, I’m a little worried (laugh) [I honestly couldn’t understand what he was talking about in the last sentence. Anyone?]
-- Even just playing the demo I could tell how exciting the battles were. I felt they were the best in the series.
Nomura: Everyone is saying that. Even the debug staff have been saying that the battle system is the most interesting and fun in the series. Of course I think it’s fun thinking for yourself and choosing your own set of Commands. It started in “Chain of Memories” with the Card Deck system, then it was improved in “The World Ends With You”, and now we feel we’ve perfected it with the Deck Command system.
-- Can people who aren’t very good at action games complete the game?
Nomura: Yes they can. I think they’ll be okay just on Standard, but for people who lack confidence there is always Beginner. Then if they don’t feel that is difficult enough they can switch and start again from Standard. With the battles this time, just hitting the buttons in sequence will allow you to naturally change your attack, and the three main characters fight with superhuman fighting skills, so even with just that I think you can have fun.
-- How many Deck Commands are there?
Nomura: Since you can put items in your Deck as well, it runs to over 100.
-- With that many things to choose from, I would think it would be difficult figuring out what to put in your deck.
Nomura: Once you’ve found Commands that you like, you can just keep using it. There is no need to use them all. In the end, you can just use what you like. There are a lot of different things to use as well as Deck Commands, like Shoot Locks and D-LINKs, but you can just fight using only Deck Commands if you wish. So you don’t have to think about it too much.
-- With the D-LINK system, you can use King Mickey’s power, right?
Nomura: He has the same Holy attacks and abilities that Minnie had in KHII.
-- There seems to be many different types of Shoot Locks...
Nomura: Yes, and each one has different levels, and depending on the ability there are different amounts of levels, and there are unique Shoot Locks for each character.
-- In a previous interview you said that the main characters were too strong, but how did it balance out in the final product?
Nomura: Of course we were able to balance it, but the difficulty level will change quite a lot depending on what Deck Commands you used. Just like I said before, you can use whatever abilities and attacks you like, but to get the best results you need to choose your Deck carefully. Also, there is a hidden boss like “Lingering Sentiment” in KHIIFM. Since the response to “Lingering Sentiment” was so good, we put an extremely strong boss in the game. But some say that “Lingering Sentiment” is more difficult. But that is because the difficulty really changes depending on the Deck you use. It was quite a lot of trouble fine tuning the boss exactly.
-- Do you think you’ll be able to finish the game at a low level?
Nomura: Yes I think you can. There were people on our Osaka staff who tried to finish the game at level 5. How you get through the battles and what Commands you use is all up to the player.
-- What other elements are there?
Nomura: There is the wireless. Normally you play Arena Mode with a few friends, but you can play by yourself as well. But if you play by yourself, the enemies will be extremely strong and it will be difficult. Possibly even stronger than the hidden boss I was just speaking of.
-- I was very surprised to hear that in VS Arena Mode you could play with six other people.
Nomura: We wanted to make it so that as many people could play together as possible, but in the end we could only do six. By the way, in the KHIIFM secret movie you can see Terra in his armor with a cape, but we took off the cape in this game. It was to make processing easier when you’re playing with six people. Processing of moving fabric can be slow, so the speed it runs at is completely different if he has a cape or not.
-- Attacking each other and stealing each others Commands is quite unique.
Nomura: We were thinking of Marluxia’s attack in “RE: Chain of Memories” when he scatters your Deck. If you get attacked a lot, the only Command you’ll have left is “Attack” (laugh) But the reason we thought of the rule was so that it doesn’t become a brutal fight against each other.
-- It’s been announced that you can use each other as D-LINKs in the game.
Nomura: The D-LINK system was originally designed for this. In the game the main themes are “bonds” and “connections”, so it is something we thought of as you don’t have any party members usually. But it was so much fun, we decided to use Disneycharacters as Links as well.
Sea Salt ice cream in the Ice Cream Shop is...
-- Disney Town makes it’s first appearance in this game, and it’s the same world as Disney Castle, right?
Nomura: Yes it is. We wanted to make a lively, exciting world, so when it came time to think of where that should be, we decided on the city surrounding Disney Castle. The image we had in mind for it is something like Toon Town in Tokyo Disneyland.
-- Do the residents really not know who Captain Justice and Captain Dark are?
Nomura: No, they know quite well who it is (laugh.) I think you’ll get to know what sort of things Pete was up to before he got involved with Maleficent.
-- In this game do we see Maleficent start working on the plans she put forth in the first game?
Nomura: You’ll get to see how she started on the path to what she was doing in KH. What we want you to focus on is whether the enemy is Master Xehanort or Vanitas.
-- What is Master Xehanort’s aim?
Nomura: I think you’ll get to know that by playing the game.
-- “Winnie the Pooh” appears this time as a Command Board, right?
Nomura: Yes, this time the world of “Winnie the Pooh” appears only as a board.
-- There are some dialog that makes us think that Yen Sid might be a Keyblade Master.
Nomura: That is something that will be revealed in the game. I think then you’ll know where he stands.
-- So there a shop where you can make your own ice cream?
Nomura: This was the development team’s idea. You can change your Style instantly by eating ice cream. Also, the visuals for the ice cream are excellent and you should watch out for them. There are three different visuals for each ice cream. When you have to choose one of them they are so good that it feels like you’re wasting the rest.
-- What about sea salt ice cream?
Nomura: Unfortunately you can’t make sea salt ice cream (laugh)
-- So is the Command Charge in this game like synthesis in the previous games?
Nomura: Yes, it is just like it is in the previous games just with Commands.
-- Are there enemies like the XIII Mushrooms in KHIIFM for gathering matierals?
Nomura: There are no mushrooms this time, since there aren’t even any Heartless.
-- Is Jiminy’s Journal in the game?
Nomura: No Jiminy’s Journal, but there are Reports that have the same function.
The secret events bring the story together.
-- The main visual image that you drew (printed on page 42) has been shown. What is the concept you had for it?
Nomura: I wanted to make a lively image, something where they were all jumping. I wanted it to feel like they were all moving forward, but the places they are going are different.
-- Since the King is shown, does that mean he shows up quite a lot?
Nomura: Well, he does show up quite a bit, but it’s nothing in comparison to the three main characters. Of course there are lots of events where he is involved with them.
-- We’ve seen some scenes from the opening movie, what is the song that will be playing this time?
Nomura: The same song we’ve been using, Hikaru Utada’s “Hikari”. Setting that alongside the movie, we put in scenes that echo the secret movie from KHIIFM, with scenes of their training, and scenes with them holding their charms.
-- Why are the charms shining like that?
Nomura: The charms are a symbol of their bond, and acts as something that can sustain them through difficult times. In the story, we see them look at the charms and gain strength and courage from them many times.
-- In the pictures we’ve seen, we see King Mickey holding something called a “star fragment”, which was also shining.
Nomura: The star fragments act as something that allows the King to go to other worlds. He has a different way of moving between worlds than the three main characters, and that is what he uses the star fragment for. At this time they call it a star fragment, but by the time of the first game they are called Gummi Blocks, which are used in Gummi Ships.
-- We see the King come into contact with the heroine from the first game, Kairi.
Nomura: Kairi’s story from before the first game isn’t something that can be ignored. But she won’t show up very much this time, and we won’t get to know much about how she ends up on Destiny Island.
-- By the way, how many years before the first game is this game set?
Nomura: About 9 to 10 years before.
-- And we also get to see Organization XIII as humans...
Nomura: Since we know from the previous games that Xigbar has met keyblade wielders before, we had to have him as well as other Organization members appear. But only up to number VIII, Axel, will be appearing.
-- Braig looks quite a bit younger than Xigbar does.
Nomura: That’s just your eyes playing tricks on you (laugh.) If you play, you’ll find he’s just the same.
-- Braig has tied up Master Xehanort [?? what are they talking about here?] but was Xigbar ever after the power of the keyblade?
Nomura: He has his own plans that he is acting out, but the details won’t be explained this time. It’s separate from the main thread of the series, so I didn’t feel it was important right now.
-- So not only the members up to number VI were living in Radiant Garden, but Lea and Isa as well?
Nomura: Yes that’s right. But at this time they were just two innocent boys who liked to play with a frisbee.
-- Do all three of them get to meet up with Kairi and the Organization members?
Nomura: You’ll have to play the game and see.
-- We’ve seen scenes of events from the heart of the story, but I want to know if we’ll be fighting Master Xehanort or Vanitas?
Nomura: You’ll have to wait and see (laugh) By the way, each of the three of them have a different final boss. It will be interesting to see who fights against who.
-- So who is the voice actor for Master Eraqus?
Nomura: It’s Makio Inoue. We all know him from “Lupin the 3rd” as Goemon Ishikawa. I’ve been wanting to ask him for a lon time, and finally my wish was granted.
-- Zack from FFVII appears as a guest character this time, but why did you choose him?
Nomura: Since the story is set much further in the past than the series has gone before, we wanted a character that appeared in the past in an FF game, so we chose Zack. We remade him in the image of a 2nd Class Soldier, and he doesn’t use the Buster Sword. He is in his teens, but a little older than Ven. He wants to be a hero, so he has come to Olympus Colosseum to ask Phil to take him on as an apprentice.
-- Will any other FF characters be appearing?
Nomura: No, only Zack. We thought about talking about Cloud and Leon’s past, but we felt the story would become too complicated if we put in too many characters.
-- So apparently there is going to be a secret event this time...?
Nomura: I think the effect of the story will change depending on if you’ve seen not just the ending, but the secret event as well. How it will play out in the end I can’t say, but the secret event won’t only just connect to the next game, but will tie the story together.
-- What sort of requirements will there be for watching the secret event?
Nomura: Like always there are many different requirements. You can choose from three different difficulty levels, but the highest level has the easiest requirements. At the easiest level you won’t be able to see it at all. I hope you’ll play through the game, and be able to watch it for yourself.
Tetsuya Nomura’s new games in 2010?
-- I want to ask you questions about the videos you showed at the event at the end of the year. The mobile game “Kingdom Hearts coded” will soon be releasing it’s last episode, right?
Nomura: “coded” has finally reached it’s climax. “coded” and “Birth by Sleep” have deep connections, and they both connect to the story after KHII.
-- You mean they connect to KHIII?
Nomura: Perhaps. But since we’ve had so much story up 'til now, I’m thinking it might be best to set it all out in a way that it can be easily understood first. Though I can’t say how that is going to turn out just yet.
-- So, last of all, please give a message to all the fans waiting for “Birth by Sleep”.
Nomura: I feel we’ve made an extremely exciting game, so I think you could even use it as a stress reliever (laugh.) I think people who like RPGs but aren’t good at action games can have fun switching and playing around with their Deck Commands, so I hope everyone tries it. If you’re interested, please pre-order the game.