Kingdom Hearts III had the biggest public presence yet a little more than a week ago at Lucca Comics & Games 2018 in Italy. The Toy Box and Olympus demos were made playable, and the whole of Villa Bottini was turned into a gigantic Kingdom Hearts hub, with each room fashioned after different Disney worlds in Kingdom Hearts III with world musical themes to accompany the visuals. Andy’s room featured a gigantic table and other furniture, Arendelle had a sled and snow, The Caribbean transported visitors to the Black Pearl via treasure chests and the ship’s wheel on a model wooden stern, and fans could take pictures while hugging big cutouts of Baymax. Visiting the Villa with a special Kingdom Hearts passport and trying the demo were also awarded with lanyards, badges, and refreshing seasalt icecream.
The icing on the cake for Italian fans and those around the world, however, was the Share the Magic panel hosted on Saturday, November 3, at the Chiesa di San Francesco, with Kingdom Hearts III’s executive producer and brand manager Shinji Hashimoto as special guest. Hashimoto-san not only delivered information on what to expect from Kingdom Hearts III, which is coming out in less than three months; his visit also brought a new Kingdom Hearts III trailer (which we were more than happy to analyze)!
I was delighted to take part in this fantastic panel as a press member for KH13, and am happy to report the full panel to you, as follows. You can also take a look at our album for the event at the end of this article.
Many thanks to other attendees, such as @omniacrystallis, @MyriamSephiroth, @ventusdream, @MABE_GlaRpF and @fioririccardo4, whose pictures and tweets have been occasionally used and shared in this report where indicated.
(photo by @omniacrystallis)
Presenter (abbreviated hereon to P): Hi everyone! Welcome to the Share the Magic Kingdom Hearts III panel. We're here to talk about one of the most awaited games of the next year, and, before we start, I want to thank you all for your participation and the enjoyment you showed during these Lucca C&G days. I know that many of you had the chance to try the demo, and during today's panel we're going to focus on the mechanics of the gameplay of KH3. The panel will be fully in English, and some image material will also be shown. Pictures are allowed; filming, however, is not. Without further delay, I'd like to join me on stage Sunil Godhania, Community Manager for Square Enix.
(photo by @omniacrystallis)
Sunil: Thank you everyone for the stage introduction! Just like you guys I'm a Kingdom Hearts fan too, I grew up playing the games, and I'm very excited, I'm very humbled to be allowed the chance by the development team to let me be here today. So please, I'd like to ask you another round of applause for the amazing development team working on Kingdom Hearts III, who give me the chance to talk you about the game!
P: You can start talking about the series.
P: Okay, but first, we're here for what everyone has been waiting for, Kingdom Hearts III. Its gameplay is even better than before and even more fun. My question would be to speak about those new introduced features. I'd like to remember that the game releases on 29 January on both Xbox One and PS4.
Sunil: Maybe we should start with the story? Tetsuya Nomura said that one of the key themes of Kingdom Hearts III is "resolution", but also the conclusion of the Dark Seeker Saga, which runs around Master Xehanort, and I think it's a point that many of you are seeking to [finish] since the start of the franchise.
(photo by @omniacrystallis)
P: For the first time ever, in Kingdom Hearts III, players will be able to visit some favorite Disney and Pixar worlds.
Sunil: Yeah that's correct, that is the very first time in the saga that the people will be able to join Disney Pixar worlds, and actually I'm not sure if anyone has had the chance to try the KH3 demo. Did you enjoy the demo?
Sunil: Did you also try seasalt icecream?
P: So, maybe we move forward to the gameplay. Starting from the Keyblade in KH3 are more fun to use and even more powerful.
Sunil: Keyblades are the main weapons in KH. It’s the main [one] Sora uses. Each has its own design. Keyblade from Disney and Pixar worlds are very creative. Dev team paid close attention to details, points of interest from each film, and used references to build Keyblades from the ground up.
P: The amount of detail is just impressive.
Sunil: Yeah that's amazing. For example, the Toy Story Keyblade can transform into Hyperhammer and it’s the first time Keyblades can transform into alternative weapons. My favorite Keyblade transformation is Stormfall.
[Brief new gameplay with Baymax was also shown on screen. Sora was riding Baymax while "racing" through the bright circles on the highway in San Fransokyo.]
P: Let's move to something new in Kingdom Hearts III, the Attractions, never seen before.
Sunil: [Explains briefly what Attractions are, and gives examples like the teacups and pirate ship.]
(photo by @ventusdream)
[According to this source, new visuals of a fight with the Fire Titan was shown.]
P: About the team-up and the chances of using other characters, for example the Link system…
Sunil: Yes, that's right, you may recognize this guy from KH 3D Dream Drop Distance! [Talked about basics of Link systems and how excited they are about Meow Wow’s return.]
P: Let's move to something very important to the old fans of the series, the Gummiship.
(In this photo by @omniacrystallis, you can see a Gummiship constellation!)
(photo by @omniacrystallis)
Sunil: Gummiship allows player to move from different worlds in KH games...Now there's a special battle mode, and all the surrounding are massive.
P: Let's go on the minigames. I understand that in KH3 we'll have a lot of minigames.
Sunil: [Talked briefly about the mini-games in Kingdom Hearts III such as snowboarding with Goofy in Arendelle and Classic Kingdom mini-games.]
P: Right now, we have a very special guest joining us all the way from Tokyo to answer some of your questions about Kingdom Hearts III. So please join me to welcome him on stage, the Executive Producer Shinji Hashimoto. Hi Hashimoto-san!
Hashimoto: Buonasera, buonasera!
Crowd: *Cheers loudly*
P: Have you enjoyed your time in Italy so far?
Hashimoto: Yeah, I absolutely love Italy, thank you guys so much for having me here.
P: Thank you very much for joining us here. First of all, what can you tell us about your role in the series?
Hashimoto: It has been about 20 years now I've been working on the series, and for the first and second game I was just a producer, but this time around, I'm the executive producer and brand manager.
P: Can you talk to us about the origins of your involvement in the Kingdom Hearts series.
Hashimoto: So, I think you guys are probably referring to the elevator story. Some people think I met the CEO of Disney or something like that, but this was all before Square and Enix companies combined. The episodes goes back to when we were set in Meguro, Tokyo, and in the same building, also Disney Interactive's section dedicated to video game production was there. I ended up in the same elevator with the woman who was in charge of the games division. This woman was named Miss Yamamoto, she was a producer of Disney videogames. And she was also the one who approached me asking, "Oh, are you from Square?" Then she said "Oh I'd really love to talk to you about videogames, but, uh, of course we can't have a meeting like that in an elevator, so we should meet up in the meeting room and discuss about this." And back then, Disney was very interested into our company, and she said they really wanted to do something with us, and that's how the Kingdom Hearts series was born. I wonder why you guys are always up to [asking about] this elevator thing. *smiles*
P: Okay now it's time for the Q&A session. We asked the community for some questions to ask to Hashimoto-san on KH3, and we selected some of them. The first one is about the story.
Question: “The story of this saga has lasted more than 10 years and has been spread over several consoles. Remake and remasters aside, will there be an official summary, to get as clear as possible all the events told so far?”
Hashimoto: So, we've actually already released these in Japan, but we made a series of 5 videos episodes to kind of summarize the story of Kingdom Hearts, and we're planning to release those around the world, so I hope you guys will keep following the story as it will get even more exciting in Kingdom Hearts III.
Question: Will post launch support happen in the short term, or do you have in mind to support the game over several years as you previously did for Final Fantasy XV?
Hashimoto: To be completely honest, I can't say too much to you guys about supporting the game post-release. However, we are considering DLCs, so wait a while, and we might reveal our plans in the future.
Question: Among the revealed worlds, what is your favourite? Which of the revealed worlds was the most difficult to achieve and why?
Hashimoto: Well I can say about a world that wasn’t included in previous games - for me personally, it’s Big Hero 6. It has such a huge map and there are airships with which you can fly to the skies, battle on the ground, there are so many ways you can play and enjoy your experience. In terms of what was difficult about the development, of course with new worlds that means there have to be a lot of new assets, backgrounds, new character designs; put all of that together and you get that it was very difficult.
Question: Thanks to a casual meeting in the elevator the project that gave birth to Kingdom Hearts was born: did you expect this great success?
Hashimoto: It has been fifteen years since now the first game came out, and honestly, in the very beginning, I didn't know what [kind of] game it was supposed to be. And of course a lot of incredible people wanted to be involved, like Mr. Tetsuya Nomura back then, and Disney has so many characters, and when I took all of them into consideration I couldn’t help but feeling something new was going to be born out of this. However, if you’re asking me if I thought it would have become such a success around the world, at the time I don’t think I would have really thought of it.
Question: Will this last chapter include dramatic moments that will bring some tears to the biggest fans of the series?
Hashimoto: So, this is something is really difficult to answer, as each person will feel very different… but I promise you there is lots of drama and lot of things you guys will surely be looking forward to.
Question: What is Hashimoto-san’s favourite memory from his many years working on the Kingdom Hearts series?
Hashimoto: So, like I keep saying, it has been 20 years since the beginning, and as the producer my job is to go around and make contracts, and to make the director and the rest of the group work on the game. Making a game is not simple, it’s actually a lot of work, and so moving on the game was done, it was produced and sold in Japan and then sold around the world. You know, when it’s your first game, the first game of a series, you’re not really sure if it’s gonna sell, but back then it didn’t even sell, it sold out, so it was mostly about re-producing and reproducing [more and more copies], and there was no digital selling option at the time. It’s kind of strange but I was very happy the game sold out, and so as a producer it was really great.
P: We’re almost over with the questions.
Question: What’s your favourite Italian dish?
Hashimoto: [He said he really appreciated having dinner with ravioli alla bolognese or alla marinara (accompanied by red wine or fizzy water) and he found them so delicious he thought those were some kind of speciality or something. He might have been talking about tordelli lucchesi?]
P: Any last messages?
Hashimoto: I just want to say thank you to all of you for being here tonight, it’s not very long now until the game comes out, so for all of you who haven’t reserved it yet make sure you do!
Hashimoto: [Asks crowd to pose for a selfie]
[After this, it was said that Nomura wanted to come to Lucca as well, but he couldn’t. However, they had a trailer to show to the fans.]
(photo by @omniacrystallis)
You can take a look at my adventure and Kingdom Hearts III promotion through Lucca and Villa Bottini in the album below, and follow our live coverage of Lucca Comics & Games 2018 here!