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Kingdom Hearts III Ultimania Environment Art Directors interviews


Kingdom Hearts III Ultimania, the official companion book for Kingdom Hearts III, released in Japan on February 28, 2019. The 736 page long book mainly serves as a guidebook and a detailed data book for everything in Kingdom Hearts III, but also contains concept art, character renders, and special interviews with the people who worked on the game. 

Here are some interviews from Environment Art Directors Youichi Kimura, Kiyoshi Kondo, Junichi Miyajima, Masaki Otani, and Eiji Saito.  DISCLAIMER: This is only a tentative translation. It is possible that there are mistakes. These interviews could have potential spoilers, please be advised. 

Thanks to @lunesacree for the translations.


*Interview: Youichi Kimura (Art Director: Environment) 

NOTE: He was part of the Lighting department of the Environment section.

Previously worked on: FFXIII, FFXIV

Q: What kind of work were you responsible for?
A: Editorial supervision of all the lighting, as well as adjusting image shading, brightness, and tone (note: this is written in katakana, and means subtle changes to coloring).

Q: What is the most important thing to do in order to decide the lighting?
A: Make it so that your gaze naturally drifts to the leading actor, make it look familiar to the players' eyes, and not obstruct the flow of emotions in the story.

Q: What point did you fuss over the most?
A: Since The Caribbean's source movie is a live-action movie, I held back on making it look too much like CGI and aimed for making it feel like you're watching a movie. Making adjustments to this world took a considerable amount of effort, but thanks to the staff exhibiting the very limits of their power, we were somehow able to make a finished product we were satisfied with.

Q: Please tell us which point was the biggest struggle.
A: Deciding what level of visual quality we wanted to go for using the limited time we had was a struggle. However, the promotional video that was made publicly available on the internet and so on was very well-liked by viewers, so along with encouraging me, it also made me confident that [what we were doing] was the right way to go.

Q: What parts of this production do you especially want us to see?
A: In the scene where Rapunzel is standing in front of the mirror and putting on the tiara, the same level of CGI as the movie was used, so even when compared to the original, it doesn't feel inferior. Apart from that, in terms of the event scenes in the game, there are many scenes here and there that were reproduced from the originals so well that it's to the point where it feels like we overdid it, so I think watching and comparing them might be interesting.

Q: What kind of work would you like to try next?
A: In this game I focused primarily on reproducing the atmosphere of the original movies, so for next time I'd like to try using more originality, while keeping a homage to the original works.

BONUS! "A secret about the game only you know"
Actually, in The Caribbean, the blue skies and clouds aren't actually from the Caribbean, but were shot at the Miura Peninsula (note: a part of Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, which separates part of Tokyo Bay). Additionally, the sky we shot in the Tokyo suburbs was used for a number of other worlds.

Source: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqr0r4


*Interview: Kiyoshi Kondo (Art Director: Environment) 

Previously worked on: KH Re:CoM, KH BbS, KH BbS FM, KH3D, KH 2.8, FFXI, Brave Fencer Musashi, Brave Fencer Musashi 2: Blade Master, Parasite Eve 2, Mario Sports Mix

Q: Please tell us what you paid attention to in order to recreate the backgrounds from the original movies.
A: Concerning the backgrounds, I received instructions from the team leader to give more of a cutting-edge feeling, and though at first I was opposed to it, I was able to overcome [that feeling] thinking "this is just the way it is these days...yeah". After that, everyone was careful to maintain the atmosphere of the previous works while not making it too photorealistic.

Q: Was there anything you changed from past works?
A: Olympus's original movie, Hercules, is hand-drawn, so because the backgrounds of every scene have different unique points and silhouettes, up until now the maps were intricately divided and those differences were reproduced. This time, since the map was all bundled into one large map, while still respecting the original movie, we were able to preserve the integrity of the backgrounds by adopting a very bold interpretation [of the scenes]. It was the map made by the most repeated trial and error, so it's filled with everyone's love.

Q: Which point did you struggle with the most?
A: The clouds in the Realm of the Gods in Olympus were, in many ways, a challenge. Initially, I imagined them to have a sort of cotton candy type feeling, and to make them translucent and cast a shadow, but problems occurred with the amount to process and the quality, so finding the points to drop was quite a struggle.

Q: Were there any unexpectedly included parts?
The kitchen in the restaurant in Twilight Town was set as "a place for business that Scrooge special-ordered from a female designer, while imagining the items Sora uses".

Q: Please tell us something interesting that happened during production.
A: When we were making Twilight Town, in order to give it more atmosphere we scattered some small trash and stains around. But Nomura thought we were doing too much of it and instructed us to nicely clean up [laughs].

BONUS! "A secret about this game only you know"
During a particular rail slide in the Realm of Gods in Olympus, where you slide from the top of the cloud towards the hallway, at the end of the night sky that spreads out in front of you, you can see the Hercules constellation that Zeus made at the end of the original movie shining there.

Source: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqr0mo


*Interview: Junichi Miyajima (Art Director: Environment)

Previously worked on: FFXIII, FFXIII-2, Lightning Returns: FFXIII, FFXV, The 3rd Birthday

Q: Please tell us what you paid attention to in order to recreate the backgrounds from the original movies.
A: To make the city at night in San Fransokyo especially charming, we really paid attention to the coloring during production. Concerning the distinctive colorful art [style] of the billboards and city lights, I exchanged ideas with the members of the lighting team over and over and poured all my energy into recreating the source material, in terms of things like the lightning efficiency. Apart from that, in aiming for the realism of the imagery in The Caribbean and the hand-drawn cartoony style of 100 Acre Woods, the hard work and efforts of the staff are closely tied [to that], I think.

Q: What point did you struggle with most?
A: The sheer size of everything [laughs]. Each world has completely different backgrounds, so I couldn't re-use anything, and it required a huge amount of data. Because of that, we struggled a lot dealing with all of the problems that arose with loading [of the data] and the amount.

Q: Please tell us something interesting that happened during production.
A: This is the first time I've ever worked on the KH series, so before I was a part of production, I worried like "if I watch the original movies too often, won't I end up hating them once production's over?" However, completely unexpectedly, the more I watched the movies for research, the more I got pulled into them and became a fan, so even now my room is overflowing with Disney and Pixar merch [laughs].

Q: What parts of this production do you especially want us to see?
A: The backgrounds of the original KH worlds, and of course, the backgrounds recreated for the Disney-based worlds. I watched the movies for research so many times I basically burned a hole in them, so there are so many small, intricate details shoved in [to the backgrounds] that I can't even count them all. A lot of appealing characters show up, so while you're searching for the Lucky Emblems hidden in the backgrounds, by all means, please sink yourself into the appreciation of each world.

BONUS! "A secret about the game only you know"
In The Caribbean/Settlement, the blacksmith's wood-carved figurine that Jack was hiding behind him in the movie is there.

Source: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqr0nq


*Interview: Masaki Otani (Art Director: Environment)

NOTE: He is part of the 2D Art section of the Environment department.

Previously worked on: KH3D, KH 1.5, FFX, SaGa Frontier, Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana

Q: Please tell us what you paid attention to in order to recreate the backgrounds from the original movies.
A: In order not to disappoint the fans, I really obsessed over the small details. For example, when making the ship in The Caribbean, I gathered reference data and even went to model exhibitions and museums for research.

Q: Which point did you fuss over the most?
A: I think Toy Box, which the background art team really expended a lot of their energy on, ended up being a really creative world. All of the toys and boxes on display in Galaxy Toys were designed from scratch, so in order to make them seem realistic, we visited toy stores for days and days. The original movie is set in America, so I even went to stores in America.

Q: Which point was the biggest struggle?
A: In the background, there are a lot of letters that end up forming words you can read, so checking that was really, truly difficult. [NOTE: he means for the Japanese staff who are making words in English] Especially in the case of Galaxy Toys, where there are lots of product packages, we were often helped out by people from the localization team, Legal Affairs, and people within the company from English-speaking countries.

Q: Please tell us something you won't forget about the development process.
A: When making Toy Box, when I first heard the preparations from the initial planning team, I thought "for real?!" in surprise, and on top of that, when the shocking estimated budget and schedules were submitted and then approved, I remember just shrugging my shoulders like "guess I'll just do it!" [laughs].

Q: What kind of work would you like to try next?
A: Honestly speaking, I'm not the best at action games, so I'd like to try making a game that kind of makes you feel like you're sightseeing. I'm interested in VR, as well.

BONUS! "A secret about the game only you know"
In Galaxy Toys in Toy Box, the "X" symbol, something that holds quite a lot of meaning in terms of the story, is used in various places in the background. Also, "7 & 13" were also placed into the designs here and there, for example, on the Leviathan that you can ride in The Caribbean; the stern of the ship has 7 windows, and below that there are 13 ornaments.

Source: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqr0ru


*Interview: Eiji Saito (Art Director: Environment) 

Previously worked on: KH 2.8, FFXIII, FFXIII-2, Lightning Returns: FFXIII, The 3rd Birthday

Q: What kind of work were you responsible for?
A: Art direction for all of the backgrounds, as well as management for the background team, the schedules, and being in charge of all management as a whole.

Q: Please tell us if you used any references from past works in the series, or if there was anything you thought about changing.
A: Since 13 years passed since the development of KH2, and two generations of game consoles as well, I spent quite a lot of time keeping the feel and atmosphere of previous works while at the same time working on showing the charm of how art/techniques have evolved. Twilight Town in particular has evolved very much from its past iteration, so please check it out for yourself while playing.

Q: Which point was the greatest struggle?
A: When we were starting to develop each world, using the [original] proposal as a basis, we estimated the amount of work and time needed, but because the KH series calls for worlds with distinct appearances and play styles, and it was necessary to remain loyal to the original movies, we weren't really able to re-use any of the data. Because of that, the amount of work massively increased, much more than our expectations, so every time we ended up incredibly troubled. There was no end to the struggles on the side of the developers, but from the perspective of the player, I think [they] feel there aren't so many games as extravagant as this one.

Q: Please tell us something you won't forget about the development process.
A: At the beginning of development, as part of our studies on PBR (physically based rendering) (note: this is a way of rendering that tries to simulate the natural flow of light in the real world), volunteers from the company went out to cities, mountains, sightseeing spots, observation decks, theme parks, and so on to measure data for inspection. Very quickly early in the new year we went out to the riverside, and after watching the sun rise orange, the pain of the five hours we spent shivering in the cold while measuring the illumination [of the sun] and doing photoshoots is a memory that, even now, I remember fondly.

BONUS! "A secret about the game only you know"
In Toy Box, Sora and his friends become toys, but when making their sizes smaller we ran into problems with the condition of the data, so we left the size of the characters as is and instead increased the size of the background 5-8 times larger than normal.

Source: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqqvom



Here are the other news stories that have previously come out of the Kingdom Hearts III Ultimania:

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