This past week has easily been among the busiest periods of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Between the 20th Anniversary Event releasing a lengthy 7-minute trailer, to the waves of information that came out afterward, fans have had an immense amount of news to parse; perhaps overwhelmingly so.
This article aims to compile all of the news we have received and will receive, with various hyperlinks to merchandise and more detailed avenues of coverage. Essentially, this article can be seen as a convenient hub for all of the 20th Anniversary information. I'll also be providing light speculations and breakdowns (though not quite Bio-Roxas level.)
Kingdom Hearts Dark Road
Kingdom Hearts Dark Road has been delayed yet again, this time to August 2022. This is the most detailed release window we've received since the previous September 2022 window, so hopefully that's indicative of the title being finalized at that time. The new trailer showcased a slew of new story scenes, primarily highlighting Xehanort's upperclassmen. We do not know any of their names, but there is one character who looks strikingly similar to Baldr, likely implying that she's the sister he has been searching for.
Additionally, Odin's actions and words are somewhat suspicous. He tells one of the new characters to prioritize studying the darkness, and perhaps more damning, is him approaching Young Xehanort and Young Eraqus with what appears to be a cognizant Darkness entity behind him. These beings made themselves known near the end of Kingdom Hearts Union χ's finale and are pivotal to the overarching narrative going forward, so seeing at least 1 present here is already cause for concern.
A common theory going around is that Odin is potentially Luxu, which is definitley probable. Master Xehanort is shown at the trailer's start in the Dwarf Woodlands, specifically in the Queen's chamber where the Magic Mirror resides. One has to wonder how long this experience will be if we'll be viewing the life of Xehanort in both his youthful and elderly days.
Those aforementioned points are the entirety of the Dark Road updates we received. The title's full offline release state will have no microtransactions, though its state of playability is still up in the air. Regardless, we'll assuredly learn more as we approach August.
Check out the Anniversary trailer's portion on Kingdom Hearts Dark Road. Moreover, new screenshots of this upcoming final Dark Road update were provided, viewable via our gallery below:
UPDATE 8/26/2022: The remainder of Kingdom Hearts Dark Road has launched worldwide. Additionally, a Q&A was conducted with Tetsuya Nomura. You can view our translations below, courtesy of our team's Ryuji.
However, note that this interview contains spoilers for pivotal Dark Road plot points.
Question 1: In past titles, we saw a different-looking Young Xehanort than the one in the Destiny Islands [cutscenes] (seen in Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance)…is there an explanation for that?
Nomura: Dark Road shows the correct model. At the time of the production of [Birth by Sleep], the appearance of a young man was prepared, but the appearance of a boy was not because of budgetary constraints when it came to 3D modeling.
Question 2: Are there going to be any further patches to Dark Road after this?
Nomura: Yes. We’ve identified instances where the incorrect background is shown during combat. Furthermore, we’ve also identified where the Player with Xehanort’s cutscene will not display as they should during some unique circumstances. I apologize for these bugs, and we will be releasing a Version 5.0.1 patch in the future to address those.
Question 3: The “Why did Xehanort become bald” reason was…honestly unexpected.
Nomura: Yes, it was not a matter of great importance. I just wanted to clarify that he had “shaved” because I noticed that it had been misunderstood as a common theory that he had just lost his hair. Otherwise, it is not a big problem that the Queen of Hearts did not remember Xehanort. That’s just the way she is.
Question 4: In Dark Road, several of the Emblem Heartless make an appearance. But we thought that they would only appear later in the series.
Nomura: The reason for their appearance in these past worlds will be explained in Missing-Link.
Question 5: Who was the blue-robed figure seen in the epilogue of Dark Road?
Nomura: It’s the Player. Or, to be more specific, it’s the vessel where the Player’s heart has started its “second lifetime” on. Therefore, whenever someone disappears, it’s not that they’re entirely gone. Rather, their heart has melted into another person.
Question 6: Is the Scala ad Caelum in Dark Road and the one in Missing-Link one and the same?
Nomura: Correct. The reason why there is such a difference in atmosphere is due to the fact that Scala ad Caelum is positioned as a multi-layered city, with a new city being built on top of the old one.
Question 7: Xehanort’s full descent into darkness wasn’t fully explained, was it?
Nomura: There might’ve been some missing spots, but I believe I managed to depict the beginning of his entrance into the path of darkness really well.
Question 8: “Ooh, I really liked this classmate/upper classmate! Will he or she be in future stories?”
Nomura: Regrettably, while I wish I could’ve further explored their character development, I was unable to do so, or the story would get insanely extensive. Most of the characters will probably not appear in future stories, but if the opportunity arises, I would love to depict them in other forms of media.
Question 9: Could you explain more about the “Destiny is so cruel…” line by Master Odin?
Nomura: Naturally, Master Odin also had a master to mentor him. Said master entrusted Odin with a mission, which actually ties in with the identity of the blue-robed individual.
Question 10: Xehanort appears with a figure who we assume to be his mother. Is that…Skuld?
Nomura: That is incorrect. However, she is related to Skuld in some way. The next title, Missing-Link, will have “bloodlines” as one of the story’s main points.
Question 11: Dark Road reveals details about Xehanort’s lineage and bloodline, with some mentions about the “First Master’s Bloodline,” but what about Eraqus? Are the two of them related by blood?
Nomura: My apologies. I cannot answer that, as it will be explained in Missing-Link.
Question 12: Speaking of Missing-Link, could you share any further information about that?
Nomura: We are currently in the preparation of the closed beta test. Unfortunately, I am still unable to give a more precise time as to “when” it will happen, but there are plans to rename the Kingdom Hearts Union Cross [social media] accounts into Missing-Link accounts, so I urge you to follow them.
Question 13. Lastly, will Xehanort appear in future titles?
Nomura: Just because the “Dark Seeker’s Saga” is now concluded does not necessarily mean Xehanort will never appear again in future titles. If the opportunity arises, then…
Kingdom Hearts Missing - Link
Kingdom Hearts Missing - Link is the new upcoming mobile entry, taking place between the finale of Kingdom Hearts Union χ and the start of Dark Road. It utilizes Pokémon Go-esque systems with AR technology, but the specifics of how combat will work have not been specified yet. At the very least, it can be highly assumed that gacha elements will be returning in the form of amiibo-looking statues that will replace the medals seen in Union χ.
General information about this game's systems were provided by Nomura at the 20th Anniversary event Q&A, and those points are viewable below (via our team's Ryuji) :
- Smartphone game, to be released for Android and iOS
- Promises to have action elements to be as faithful as possible to the main series
- Max of 6 players can play together.
- Screen orientation can be switched between portrait or landscape.
- The story, chronologically speaking, is between Union χ's finale and before Dark Road's start.
- "All of the mysteries we've had so far will be explained."
- Keywords: Scala Ad Caleum, Founding Father Ephemer, Keyblade Wielders of a Secret Society
- Closed Beta Test is scheduled for Fall of this year (Details on how to enter are still unknown, however)
- Two systems: A story mode where you progress through quests, and a mode where you walk around (Comparable to Pokémon Go, but with ways to play it even without having to walk around in real life)
- In this walking mode, you'll collect pieces and strengthen your Keyblades.
As a minor note, the custom player character seems to be receiving orders from an earpiece in the trailer, possibly implying that they are part of the same organization that Sigurd reveals himself to be a part of in the Union χ finale. He also contacts other individuals via an earpiece when first meeting Brain.
The following statement was provided via a press release:
Fans can also look forward to KINGDOM HEARTS Missing-Link, an all-new game for iOS and Android devices, which allows players to embark on adventures from the realm of Scala ad Caelum into the real world. Players will be able to engage in exhilarating battles against the Heartless and discover a new, original story. A closed beta test is planned for 2022.
Those aforementioned points are all we currently know about Missing - Link, but considering how there's a planned Closed Beta Test this Fall, more news will undoubtedly arise soon. The game's Japanese website recently launched.
Check out Missing - Link's specific 20th Anniversary trailer portion. Additionally, official screenshots and the logo were provided, viewable via our gallery below:
Kingdom Hearts IV
Kingdom Hearts IV was officially announced in the Anniversary trailer's final portion. After brief panning shots of a city-like landscape and a forest, the camera revealed Sora sleeping in an apartment. He looks dramatically different due to his presence in this new reality. Then, after being awoken by a doorbell and seeing the visitor to be Strelitzia from Kingdom Hearts Union χ, she reveals that Sora has been asleep since he arrived in this city 1 week ago; here in Quadratum.
This world, as stated by Strelitzia, can be perceived as an "afterworld" for both her and Sora, following their passings in their previous lives. Still, Sora committed a nature taboo, while Strelitzia's circumstances are more questionable when the final scenes of Union χ are taken into account. So, the ways in which denizens of the Kingdom Hearts reality enter Quadratum may differ rather than solely committing nature taboos.
A gargantuan monster appears in the city's center, awfully akin to a Darkside except far more terrifying in visage. After some scripted combat sequences where Sora's keychain is highlighted to have a grappling hook, two black-robed figures are shown observing the batttle on top of a nearby building. The general consensus is that the right figure is the Master of Masters, though the one on the left is more up in the air. The most frequent predictions identify the left figure as Luxu/Xigbar, or perhaps Luxord.
There are also theories going around about Star Wars being potentially incldued, which we discussed in a separate article, but aside from that, we'll have to look forward to more information. The game's Japanese website recently launched.
Check out the Anniversary trailer's specific portion announcing Kingdom Hearts IV, and official screenshots and the logo are viewable via our gallery below:
Tetsuya Nomura's 20-Head Anniversary Message Cipher
At the Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary event venue, there was a displayed message by Tetsuya Nomura, which we translated. However, there was a secret hidden within the message that several fans figured out. Essentially, the cipher read that "The voice's identity is Sigurd. Pay close attention." Sigurd, a character introduced in the finale of Kingdom Hearts Union χ, is the narrator of the Kingdom Hearts Missing - Link and Kingdom Hearts IV trailers.
The methodology of how this secret was uncovered can be viewed via our Twitter thread below:
Tetsuya Nomura Interview with Famitsu
Famitsu conducted an interview with series director Tetsuya Nomura about Kingdom Hearts IV, Kingdom Hearts Missing - Link, and Kingdom Hearts Dark Road.
The entire interview has been translated by our team's Ryuji and is viewable below. Further, a franchise canon timeline was included in this Weekly Famitsu issue and has been translated by our team's Corfidbizna, also below:
Pages 8 and 9 (Full Famitsu Interview) - Ryuji
Interviewer: First of all, congratulations on the 20th year anniversary.
Nomura: Thank you very much.
Interviewer: How does it feel to have been with these series for 20 years?
Nomura: It’s still a hard fact to grasp, to tell you the truth. I have nothing but lots of gratitude to everyone who’ve supported the series.
Interviewer: And it has been three whole years since KH3, huh?
Nomura: Indeed, and inside those three years, we released tons of big things such as Melody of Memory, the PC ports and even the Nintendo Switch cloud ports.
Interviewer: According to our staff who was at the event, they said they could feel the passion of the fanbase inside the event.
Nomura: Yes. I’m so glad that the series has inspired both young and old people alike, given that this was a collaboration project with Disney.
[The Interviewer and Nomura then discuss his secret message. This is where we get that comment from Nomura previously where he said that “none of the staff” have figured it out.]
Interviewer: We have heard that KH3 is being developed using Unreal Engine 5, and that the trailer was in Unreal Engine 4. Even though that was an older version, it still looks stunning.
Nomura: Yes, we are carrying on with development using Unreal Engine 5. By the next time* you see Kingdom Hearts 4, it will most likely be already completely into the new engine.
*: “By the next time” = not in the near future, in this case. Famitsu hammers the point that we won’t see anything past E3’s period, which we’ve known previously.
Interviewer: Why did you want to hold the Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Event at Shibuya Hikarie?
Nomura: Shibuya is such a worldwide landmark, and I felt that it would be an easy choice for the event.
Interviewer: Regarding Shibuya, we know that characters from The World Ends With You appear in KH DDD, so is there any connection to that?
Nomura: No. I’ve noticed that some fans have speculated that the Shibuya in The World Ends With You or that the world that Jack's friends come from in Stranger of Paradise have some connection to Quadratum, but I’m that one person that can tell you that “no, there is no connection to those at all”.
Interviewer: Is the room where Sora wakes up also in Shibuya?
Nomura: That is Minami-Aoyama in terms of location. However, the original location is different from the view from the balcony, so we will have the Osaka staff go there for location scouting later to make adjustments for the later revisions of the game.
Interviewer: So it is set up to that extent?
Nomura: Yes, that's right. We have also specified the layout of the rooms, but the furniture, etc., has not been specified yet, so the interior will be changed. That room will be your base of operations in the early stages of the game.
Interviewer: What kind of world is Quadratum? In "KH Melody of Memory," it was described as the "other side of reality known as unreality, a fictional world." Does that mean it does not belong to the world of light, the world of darkness, or the world in between?
Nomura: That is correct.
Interviewer: In "KH Melody of Memory," someone who knew Quadratum appeared. Will she appear in "KHIV"?
Nomura: That is still a secret, I’m afraid. As I said at the event, there was a time when I was not sure whether I would choose to name this title “KINGDOM HEARTS IV” or "VERUM REX". But she is originally a character from VERUM REX, I’ll say that much.
Interviewer: I see, I see!
Nomura: To be frank with you, I was worried that Yozora wouldn't be well received, given that [Japanese fans] didn't sound very welcoming to his appearance in Kingdom Hearts III, but I'm glad they've proved me wrong. The hype for Verum Rex is certainly high. (bitter laugh)
[Next, they talk about the narrator in the trailers, and tie back on how it was a “character we’ve known” and how the voice actor did two tones, and such.]
Interviewer: I noticed the logo got changed, huh?
Nomura: To signal that we have started a new saga, we decided to change the logo. The font and logo design do look simplistic compared to the previous, but although it is simple, I made sure that it would still capture the essence of Kingdom Hearts.
Interviewer: In the trailer, the narrator talks about the Society of the Heirs (継ぐ者の結社) and the Society of the Non-Heirs (継がざる者の結社). Could you explain more about that?
Nomura: Kingdom Hearts Missing Link is a story that takes place about four generations after Ephemer was alive. The main family that carries his bloodline is known as the Society of the Heirs (継ぐ者の結社) while the society of those who do not carry his bloodline are known as the Society of the Non-Heirs (継がざる者の結社).
Interviewer: Donald and Goofy are seen at the end of the trailer. How will the story develop if we know that Sora is in the real world (Quadratum)?
Nomura: As you could tell, they are currently looking for clues regarding Sora’s whereabouts. Sora looks more realistic because he is in Quadratum, and since Donald and Goofy aren’t, they’ve retained their cartoony style.
Interviewer: What’s the identity of the two black coats we see on the KH4 trailer?
Nomura: Sorry, but that’s still a secret. (laughs). However, what I can tell you is that alongside me, Akiko Ishibashi and Oka Masaru will be helping write the scenario for Kingdom Hearts IV.
Interviewer: Please tell us more about Kingdom Hearts Missing - Link, the game that was announced for smartphones alongside Kingdom Hearts IV’s “Lost Masters Saga”.
Nomura: The Kingdom Hearts series currently spans three sagas/arcs in total. You have the Seekers of Darkness Saga that goes until the end of Limit Cut of Kingdom Hearts III and the Lost Masters Saga that will be Kingdom Hearts IV. The third saga is the "χ (chi)" saga, which encompasses Kingdom Hearts chi (* browser game), Kingdom Hearts Union Cross, and finally, Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road. Kingdom Hearts Missing - Link is a title that fills in the blanks and it will function as a bridge-like work, connecting two games together. (Translator note: He reiterates how Missing Link is between Union Cross’s finale and the beginning of Dark Road.)
Interviewer: In the trailer, we can see that Brain appears. Will he be the main character?
Nomura: No, he won’t. The main character will be yourself. Much like Union Cross, the protagonist will be a custom player avatar created by yourself.
Interviewer: Missing - Link seems to be centered on action-packed battles that can also be enjoyed in multiplayer, with the addition of so-called location-based game elements that utilize augmented reality technology. You say that you can move around without actually going out, but in that case, do you perhaps mean that you can move around while moving your character in the game?
Nomura: Yes. It works similar to Google Street View, where you can tap on the arrows to go forward or back in a street. However, I’ve chosen to make it feel more faithful to the series. (He means as in, you won’t “tap arrows to go forward and back”, like Street View does)
Interviewer: So you can even walk around Okinawa, if you wanted to!
Nomura: Yes, but if you want to go far, far away, it will take a certain amount of time (laughs), but you can also use points to teleport right to where you want to go.
Interviewer: So if you do not want to walk, you can spend points and teleport wherever you’d like, or you can simply choose not to and walk around yourself. It’s all up to who plays it.
Interviewer: If the game is linked to the real world, does that mean that there will be no Disney worlds?
Nomura: We are experimenting with a variety of things, but depending on the timing, the terrain and atmosphere will be partially based on the Disney worlds motifs. In the early stages of development, we covered the entire map with a texture change, but it seemed like overkill, so we are trying to make it more consistent.
Interviewer: Collecting figure-like pieces sounds interesting, and the multiplayer action battles look fun.
Nomura: We are trying to develop some new things that wouldn’t be normally possible in the main series of games. I hope you look forward to testing those out on the Closed Beta, as it is scheduled for Fall of this year.
Interviewer: You have mentioned that for the Dark Road finale, you have added more scenarios than you originally planned. Could you elaborate more on that?
Nomura: Originally, I wanted to focus more on Xehanort’s classmates and seniors, but due to some last-minute changes in the plan, we couldn’t focus on them as much, since I was told to prioritize Xehanort’s character development. However, I felt really unsatisfied that I had to cut that, so I decided to have the finale give them the required focus. You will also understand the reason as to why Xehanort became the way he is [talking about his old self being completely bald].
Interviewer: Ohhh! I look forward to that! (laughs). Last question: Do you have any further plans for this year’s 20th anniversary?
Nomura: The two Flash animators for the now-disbanded Dark Road team are hard at work in making sure the finale ends things on a high note. We also have the Missing Link closed beta coming this fall. While I can’t disclose any other plans than that, I urge you to keep an eye out on the official social media accounts, just in case.
Page 3 Timeline Translation - Corfidbizna
Union Cross: Age of Fairy Tales
- The Master of Masters (henceforth “the Master”), writes the Book of Prophecies.
- The Master vanishes.
- After the five pupils are given copies of the Book of Prophecies and assigned roles, the Master vanishes. The sixth apprentice Luxu isn’t given a copy of the Book of Prophecies and is instead given a Keyblade bearing the Master’s eye and a mysterious black box.
- There is a traitor amongst the apprentices. Doubts begin to strain their relationships.
- The Book of Prophecies told of the road to the Keyblade War that was to take place.
- “Dandelions” are selected from the Keyblade wielders. They escape the Keyblade War into a data world where they continue their training.
- Five of the Dandelions are selected to guide the Unions.
- At the height of the battle, the countdown to collapse begins. The Union leaders all depart in lifeboats, setting off to various eras, various worlds.
- One of the Union leaders, Brain, arrives at Scala ad Caelum.
Between Union Cross & Dark Road
- This blank era will be portrayed in Missing - Link, see p. 20.
Dark Road: Beginning of the Dark Seeker Saga
- In the former Keyblade capital of Scala ad Caelum, young Xehanort spends his days studying the use of the Keyblade with his friends.
- Communications with their upperclassmen outside of Scala ad Caelum cut off. Xehanort takes his first steps toward darkness.
Birth by Sleep: Xehanort Goes Dark
- Master Eraqus trains aspiring youths in the use of the Keyblade. Terra, Aqua, and Ventus depart to fight the monsters called Unversed that have appeared throughout the world.
- At the end of their fight, Master Xehanort steals Terra’s body. Aqua is left behind in the Realm of Darkness, and Ventus’ heart is wounded and falls into a deep sleep.
- Master Xehanort goes missing.
KHI: Sora, Riku, and Kairi Start Their Adventure
- Sora becomes able to use the Keyblade.
- Sora, alongside Donald and Goofy, sets out on a journey to find Riku and Kairi.
- Sora briefly becomes a Heartless.
- Dark Seeker Ansem is defeated. Riku and Kairi help out Sora, but Riku and the king are shut away beyond the Door to the Realm of Darkness.
Chain of Memories: Sora, his companions, and Riku go to Castle Oblivion
- While looking for Sora and the others, Riku and the king arrive at “Castle Oblivion”.
- In Castle Oblivion, Sora’s memories of Kairi are replaced with memories of Naminé.
- In order for Naminé to restore Sora’s memories, he goes into a long slumber.
358/2 Days: The Story of Those Born from Sora
- Roxas, a Nobody born from Sora, is recruited by Xemnas. He becomes Organization XIII’s thirteenth member (No. 13). *This happens shortly after Sora became a Heartless.
- Roxas leaves Organization XIII and fights Riku, then is captured by DiZ.
KHII: Fighting Xemnas’ Organization XIII
- Roxas returns (is absorbed by) Sora, who wakes up.
- While Sora looks for Riku and Kairi, Organization XIII rises to meet him.
- In Organization XIII’s stronghold, Sora reunites with Riku and Kairi.
- With Xemnas’ defeat, Organization XIII’s plans are halted.
Coded: Adventure in the Data World
- Data-Sora sets off in the Datascape to investigate the Datascape’s bugs, and to heal the hurt of the ones connected to Sora.
KH3D: Preparing to Take On Master Xehanort
- To prepare for Master Xehanort’s revival, Yen Sid has Sora and Riku take the Mark of Mastery exam.
- During Sora’s travels to close sleeping keyholes, Xehanort directs him into the abyss of sleep.
- In honor of waking Sora back up, Riku is named Keyblade Master and passes the Mark of Mastery exam.
KHIII: Xehanort’s Ambitions are Crushed, Sora Disappears
- Sora uses the power of waking to restore those trapped in sleep. Riku goes on a journey to recover Aqua, who is overtaken by darkness.
- In Master Xehanort’s final battle, his ambitions are crushed.
- Sora misuses the Power of Waking and disappears from the world as a result.
Melody of Memory: Searching for Clues About Sora
- One year after KHIII, a clue about the missing Sora is found.
IV: To be Continued
Tetsuya Nomura Interview with Game Informer
Game Informer recently interviewed Tetsuya Nomura regarding Kingdom Hearts IV, the series' future, and other related aspects.
Firstly, Nomura states how some of his favorite fan reactions are to the original Kingdom Hearts' ending, primarily due to how players at the time weren't sure if the story would continue beyond the first entry. The Luxu reveal reactions in Kingdom Hearts III are another of his collective favorites simply because of its severe implications.
Regarding Kingdom Hearts IV, Nomura states that the story is focused more on Sora's disappearance and that there's uncertainty about whether the team will be able to include more of the original cast, notably the Birth by Sleep and Days crews. Still, he desires to explore them more at later points.
Interestingly, Nomura states how he was the one being picky about Sora's recent inclusion into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, not Disney. The latter party was actually quite eager, while Nomura thought it would clash with the "established lore in Kingdom Hearts and the Disney worlds." The end result ended up being qualitative, though.
Moving on to antagonists, Nomura says he's quite happy with their handling of Xehanort's character, citing it as a slow burn that tackled each facet of his character with genuine depth. So now, the Foretellers will be the following antagonists, and Back Cover has already shown the types of characters they are. Moreover, "there will be more new characters as well," though specifics have not been mentioned yet.
Sora is reiterated as the only possible main character for the franchise, to the extent that the numbered entries would conclude if he were to stop being the protagonist. Moreover, there will be a "few Disney worlds," so fans won't have to worry about them potentially being absent, even if their inclusion has "slightly" differed from previous entries.
Reaction Commands' return was reiterated due to fan demand after their removal in Kingdom Hearts III. They were initially taken out because Nomura didn't find the mechanic's debut reception in Kingdom Hearts II particularly positive.
Quadratum is reiterated as the game's initial base, with players returning there as the narrative progresses. Sora's daily life will be approached more, such as seeing him go in and out of his room. Realism is a challenging factor the team has been pursuing to see just how far they can take it.
Final Fantasy characters' lacking presence was discussed next, with Nomura stating that their inclusion is not at the core of Kingdom Hearts' identity. Their presence in the first game was a collective device for players to get to know the at-the-time limited original cast. Now, it's difficult to continually include Final Fantasy characters because of how vast the original cast is. There is no word on how Final Fantasy balance incorporation will work in Kingdom Hearts IV.
Finally, Kingdom Hearts Missing-Link is brought up as an entry fans should look forward to, as it sheds light on several mysteries throughout the series. It will even have hints and new information pertaining to Kingdom Hearts IV.
UPDATE: Notable quotes from Nomura; "As far as the graphic qualities ... since with each new title, the specs have been really increasing and there's so much more we can do in terms of graphics, it kind of limits the number of worlds that we can create in a sense."
"Also, some figures that appear in Missing-Link are tied to Kingdom Hearts IV."
Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Event Proper
Square Enix has stated that they intend on releasing a recording of the stage event, but if you want peeks at how the venue itself looked like, check out our dedicated event coverage where several attendees shared photos of the location.
Dengeki shared exclusive photos from their event coverage, viewable via our gallery below:
During the stage event, a mini-concert was held, where five songs were selected from the series' many masterpieces, and were performed live in an arrangement for the 20th anniversary event (via Famitsu) :
- Dearly Beloved
- Sora's Theme
- Vector to the Heavens
- Link to All
After the performance, Risa Uchida, the Japanese voice actress of Kairi and Xion started hosting the event as the MC, and Yoko Shimomura, composer of the Kingdom Hearts series, took the stage. Regarding the live performance, Shimomura said that since this was a commemorative event for the 20th anniversary of the series, she personally took on the challenge of arranging chamber music (jargon for a small ensemble of musicians) for the first time.
"For the songs chosen, I made sure that they were not only popular songs, but also that there was no bias toward any particular work." she stated. One of the main reasons "Nachtflügel" was chosen was that because it was a newer song that had never been performed live.
Looking back on 20 years of Kingdom Hearts, Yoko said she had many memories of her times with songwriting and concerts. "There are many ideas that I still have in my mind, and I hope to have another concert sometime in the future." she stated.
Further, Yoko Shimomura provided a new comment regarding these recent announcements, viewable below with a translation:
"Thank you to everyone who came to the Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Event! As you saw, a new arrangement of "Dearly Beloved", as well as new songs for Kingdom Hearts IV were all shown: Composed by yours truly! Please check the PV if you haven't yet!"
Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Merchandise
A vast variety of celebratory anniversary merchandise was announced, which we intricately covered. Links to our coverage of all of the merchandise announced following the event's conclusion are listed below. Store pages and officially provided images can be accessed via these avenues.
- SuperGroups announced 45 incoming Kingdom Hearts-themed accessories
- Sora, Kairi, and Riku Play Arts Kai figures
- Kingdom Hearts II Naminé & Roxas Plushes
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary T-shirts & Hoodie
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Plate Collection Blind Boxes
- Kingdom Hearts Light-up Keyblade
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary glass sets, tea cups & bowl
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary jewelry and watches
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary bath towel & face towel
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Die-Cut Memo Pad Set
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Metal Keychain & Pin Badge
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Postcard Set
- Kingdom Hearts Art Can Badges
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Pin Badge Set
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Amnibus Hoodies
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Tetsuya Nomura Postcard Sets
- Kingdom Hearts Mini Glass Set
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Soba Set
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Chopsticks & Chopstick Rest
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Bean Plate Set
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Pin Boxes Vol. 1 & 2
- Kingdom Hearts II King Mickey 20th Anniversary Plush
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Animate Fair
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Walkman & Earbuds
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Samantha Thavasa Luxury Fashion Merchandise
- Japan 7-Elevens Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Postcards
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Folding Umbrella
- Ichiban Kuji lottery prize images revealed
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary U-Treasure Watches
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary 7-Eleven Merch Collab
- Roxas, Xion & Axel Room Fragrance Mists (not shippable outside of Japan)
- Super Groupies x Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Apparel Lineup; Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Sony Japan Wearable Headphone Speakers
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Mickey, Donald & Goofy nuiMO Plushes
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Caribbean, Timeless River & Halloween Town Tsum Tsum Plush Sets
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary 1000-Piece Puzzles
The following merchandise was announced prior to the event, but they still celebrate 20th Anniversary:
- Sony Japan announces Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary walkman
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Tamagotchi
- Kingdom Hearts Organization XIII Necklaces
- Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary glasses, cases & cloths
Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Event Q&A
A Q&A session was held during the Anniversary event, with our translations of specific questions and responses being viewable below:
Q1. Does the finale of Dark Road imply that the Player's heart is now inside Xehanort's?
A1: Play Dark Road and you will find out.
Q2. This is the first time in KH that there is a story branch (the Yozora battle). What is the meaning behind this?
A2: Since Yozora is so strong, I thought it would be better to put something in the game "if he loses".
Q3. Was Ephemer aware of the player's true intentions in Union Cross' finale?
A3: It was a pretty sad farewell, but there's more to Ephemer than meets the eye. A "Missing Link", if you will. All of the questions will be answered once you play Missing Link.
Q4: When did Naminé and Ansem first meet?
A4: In Castle Oblivion.
Q5: Riku's hair was cut in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance. Who cut it for him?
A5: Well, you all wanted his hair to be cut, so I answered your prayers...
Q6: Please tell us about the return of Roxas and Xion.
A6: There were some doubts on whether to bring them back or not, but everyone had such strong feelings for them, so we decided to bring them back.
Audrey of Aitai Kuji has provided translations for information we did not personally cover, viewable below. This information is sourced from the coverage of Japanese publication, Gamer.
—Is the Nobody symbol already there when a Nobody is born? Or does Organization XIII mark them? Do the humanoid Nobody also have marks?
Nomura: The Nobody symbol is already there when a Nobody is born; however, humanoid Nobodies do not have them. You can consider the human Nobody to be akin to a pure-blooded heartless of sorts.
—Do you get new inspiration from Utada Hikaru’s songs?
Nomura: I think about the opening movie after she gives us her songs. In that sense, yes, I do receive inspiration from her music. It’s a necessary piece to our puzzle.
—In KHUx, the Player ends up in Xehanort’s heart, so does that mean that they’re still there?
Nomura: You will find your answer if you play Dark Road and get to the ending. You’re going to play right into my hand (laughs).
—In KH2, Riku handed a keyblade to Kairi, but where did he get that keyblade? Do you plan to write some backstory about that?
Nomura: If I say yes then…if I don’t follow up, it’ll probably be brushed aside so yes, we do intent to follow up with this.
—In KHUx, when Ephemer and Skuld were alone and escaped from the data world, why did a bunch of noise flow through the sky?
Nomura: Since you had already escaped from the data world, there’s not much we had planned that impacted the story regarding that. Since we showed that the data world and the real world were heading to ruin, it was just an effect of that.
—Did someone give Isa the scar on his face? Why does it seem like a mark of a heretic?
Nomura: There is a story regarding Lea, Isa, and the girl they tried to save…Since there is a backstory there, we are thinking of expanding on it. We hope you can look forward to it.
—During the Keyblade War, Master Xehanort could see what lies before him and took over Terra’s body in preparation. However, Young Xehanort should also have that power too. Why was he not able to use that power when he was younger?
Nomura: He just didn’t have the power or rather, he didn’t have enough power yet. In regards to Xehanort, I highly recommend playing Dark Road to see what happens to him. The secret to his hairstyle will also be revealed…
—What’s the difference between Riku and Aqua falling into the darkness versus when others become heartless (and form a Nobody)?
Nomura: There is a difference between falling into the darkness versus losing your heart. Even if your heart falls into darkness, you still are able to retain your heart. However, if you become a heartless, you lose your heart, and that’s the difference.
—It seems that Maleficent had glimpsed what was inside the black box, and I thought the reason would be shown in KHUx, but do you plan to finally reveal this plot point?
Nomura: In the scene with the darkness and Maleficent, instead of making it very clear what was happening, the portrayal was more along the lines of “oh, is it this?” It might be hard to tell for the player, but I think next time we might have her explain why she reacted in that way.
—In KH3, when Xemnas crushes Lea’s keyblade, he said that the keyblade was lost, yet Lea was still able to use a keyblade after that.
Nomura: We had a lot of these kind of running gags. It’s not like it was lost forever, but that the keyblade was just destroyed at that specific location. The meaning we wanted to convey was that even if Axel tried to bring back his keyblade, it would just get destroyed again in that moment with the nuance being it’s futile for him to use it at that time. Xemnas doesn’t have the power to actually permanently destroy keyblades.
Other Notable Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary News
A Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary cafe was held in select locations throughout Japan. We provided translations for the menus. Merchandise was also on sale in the cafes', though they have also been made available for pre-order via digital storefronts which we listed 2 sections prior.
Additionally, official images of the cafes' dishes can be viewed via our gallery below:
The official Final Fantasy VII Remake Twitter account shared celebratory artwork for Kingdom Hearts' 20th Anniversary, viewable via our gallery below:
While not specifically tied to the Anniversary event, Sora's English voice actor, Haley Joel Osment, was interviewed by Deadline in which he reflected on his time voicing the iconic protagonist.
Further, these three following points are not tied to the Anniversary event, but they're remarkably coincidental.
- One of Mickey's Keyblades, Kingdom Key D, received a cameo in a recent Mickey Mouse short on Disney+.
- Sora's Dive to the Heart and Destiny Islands received highly detailed cameos in The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder
- The Kingdom Key appeared in the official trailer for Chip N' Dale: Rescue Rangers.
- Sora's hair appeared in Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers
- Sora was mentioned in a Taco Bell Mexican Pizza Rap Advertisement (Our Interview with the Rapper)
- The D23 Gold Member Poster depicts the Kingdom Key
Tetsuya Nomura shared a gorgeous Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary illustration. Further, the official Kingdom Hearts media accounts have shared this new artwork in clean, high-quality, viewable via our gallery below:
The opening theme for Kingdom Hearts III, "Face My Fears," has been added to Netflix via "Hikaru Utada Live Sessions from Air Studios." Additionally, the Japanese version of the song has been added to several audio services!
Former Kingdom Hearts series Producer, Shinji Hashimoto, has retired from Square Enix, and has now become a Senior Advisor at Sony Music Entertainment & Board Member at Forward Works.
Kingdom Hearts series Brand Manager, Ichiro Hazama provided the following statement regarding the announcements of Kingdom Hearts Missing - Link and Kingdom Hearts IV, viewable below:
"We’re thrilled to celebrate the series’ 20th anniversary with the announcement of two new KINGDOM HEARTS titles. We’d like to thank the fans for all of their support over the years, and we can’t wait for them to experience all that’s to come for Sora."
Walt Disney Games Director, Nana Gadd, provided the following statement regarding the collective anniversary event, viewable below:
“Sora is an original Disney video game hero like no other, beloved by our team, and fans across the world. We’ve been honored to work with Tetsuya Nomura and his team for two decades to introduce these original stories of discovery, courage, and friendship. This glimpse into Sora’s next adventure is just the beginning – we can’t wait to show more when the time is right."
Lastly, the Kingdom Hearts Memory Locker website launched, containing 15 quotes from several crucial members of the series staff. Unfortunately, the website's messages went offline following the Anniversary event's conclusion. They will be made viewable again at an unspecified date.
However, we have provided translations for each Memory Locker message, accessible via our dedicated coverage.
These translated messages have been transcribed by us and are viewable below:
Kingdom Hearts Series Director - Tetsuya Nomura
Looking back over the past, I've always poured my all into KINGDOM HEARTS.
Perhaps that's why I feel so drained and empty every time a work is completed - but, I've always rejuvenated my heart with the thought of how I want KINGDOM HEARTS to make everyone happy.
And I've infused the story of KINGDOM HEARTS - a story about hearts - with the belief that people's hearts are always together, even if they may be far apart.
I am so grateful for your support over these past 20 years, and I hope you'll continue to lend your support in the future.
Former Kingdom Hearts Brand Manager - Shinji Hashimoto
It’s already been 20 years - how time flies!
Before I even realised, I’d arrived at retirement and found myself handing the reigns over to the next generation of staff. It came as a shock, even to myself!
And yet, as an individual producer, I am happy to have been involved with such a long running title to this day. I have nothing but thanks and gratitude for the entire team, including the director, Tetsuya Nomura!
And I am truly happy to have met and shared the emotional journey with the KINGDOM HEARTS fans, all over the world - you are the greatest treasure of all.
Although I will be stepping away from more direct involvement myself, I hope everyone around the world will continue to look after and support the KINGDOM HEARTS series.
Composer - Yoko Shimomura
Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary of KINGDOM HEARTS!!
I can’t believe it’s been 20 years already... I’m in shock to think that so much time has passed. KINGDOM HEARTS has always been deeply, intricately connected to my life. It contains so many memories for me that each song takes me right back to how I was feeling at the time when I composed it.
Music has always been there for me, in difficult times and times of joy. I hope that, in the same way, the music of KINGDOM HEARTS will always stay in the hearts of the fans.
Sora & Vanitas JP Voice Actor - Miyu Irino
Memories...I have far too many to mention here!
Because KINGDOM HEARTS is a part of my life - it’s an absolutely essential part of my own story.
But what I can say for sure is that over the past twenty years, I’ve met so many people, overcome many struggles and grown as a person, just like Sora, thanks to KINGDOM HEARTS. I’m so grateful for the miracle of being given the opportunity to be a part of something so beloved regardless of generation, that's more than just a game.
I hope to keep travelling to all kinds of worlds, together with all the different kinds of people who make KINGDOM HEARTS such a vibrant place.
My friends are our power!
Thank you for all your support - now, and into the future.
Riku JP Voice Actor - Mamoru Miyano
Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary of KINGDOM HEARTS!
I had the opportunity to work on KINGDOM HEARTS right when I was starting out as a voice actor, so it’s the work that I’ve been personally involved with for the longest. I’m really, really grateful and so happy.
At the time, I was inexperienced - but since I was able to record together with Miyu and Risa, I enjoyed myself (eating dango together, for example) at the same time as growing and improving, step-by-step. I’m grateful beyond words.
To this day, I’m delighted to be able to walk alongside Riku. I hope to be able to grow even more as an actor, and stay by his side forever!
I love KINGDOM HEARTS!!
Kairi & Xion JP Voice Actor - Risa Uchida
Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary.
I’m so happy to be able to connect with everyone through KINGDOM HEARTS, and with everyone reading this message now.
I simply can’t count the number of memories I have about KINGDOM HEARTS. One memory that made a particularly strong impression on me was when I got to visit the site of development. It made me realize again how many people have really poured their hearts and souls into working on it.
I hope that lots and lots of hearts become connected in the future, through the KINGDOM HEARTS!
Roxas & Ventus JP Voice Actor - Koki Uchiyama
Congratulations on the 20th anniversary.
The first time I was involved with the series was KINGDOM HEARTS II, released in 2005.
At the time of recording, I was in my second year of middle school. Back then, I had no idea that I would grow up to become a voice actor.
Since then, I've also had the good fortune to be involved with several other works in the series. It’s left a record of my journey into adulthood. I can’t think of anything that would make me happier.
Terra & Setzer JP Voice Actor - Ryotaro Okiayu
Congratulations on the 20th anniversary.
The first time I got to join the fray in earnest was as Terra in Birth By Sleep. I made multiple trips to the studio with my heart full of feelings for Ven and Aqua. I was constantly thinking about the two of them.
And yet, when I met Koki, who played Ven, after recording had finished, he came across as really matter-of-fact. It immediately brought to mind memories of the lonely journey (lol).
In the brass orchestra concert, when we still didn’t know how things would turn out, I remembered those unrealized emotions and that journey alone - and performed as Terra in front of everyone.
That meeting with Naminé had a somewhat mystical atmosphere, and it’s a truly wonderful memory.
And I haven’t forgotten Setzer either (lol).
Aqua JP Voice Actor - Megumi Toyoguchi
In these games, plenty of time is spent on each and every line, and they’re all recorded with great care.
There were quite a lot of takes of Aqua’s final line in Birth By Sleep, “There’s always a way.”
At the time, I felt so drained - but simultaneously, this feeling came welling up: a sense of how enjoyable it had all been. It was a real honor to have been involved with such a meaningful and fulfilling project.
Cloud JP Voice Actor - Takahiro Sakurai
I’m Takahiro Sakurai, and I play Cloud Strife.
Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary of KINGDOM HEARTS.
I first met Cloud and KINGDOM HEARTS at the same time. It was like a dream - in that moment, it felt like I was under a spell.
With a combination of nerves and excitement, the recording felt like it was over in an instant. It didn’t feel real until the game actually came out.
In the twenty years since then, the world of KINGDOM HEARTS has grown ever more expansive.
I hope it continues to work new magic in the future.
Sephiroth JP Voice Actor - Toshiyuki Morikawa
I’ve worked as a voice actor for a long time, but I really think that Sephiroth is the most iconic character that I play.
FINAL FANTASY is known and loved by many people, all around the world. To me personally, I think that FINAL FANTASY and Sephiroth are the most representative parts of Japanese sub-culture. His presence looms extremely large in my mind. I was very surprised to learn that he would be entering the fray in KINGDOM HEARTS!
The world and the atmosphere the characters have is are entirely different, so at first I had my doubts, haha.
Recording the ad-lib breathing for fights during combat scenes and the ad-libs for taking damage left a great impression on me - that is to say, it was difficult. I hadn’t ever recorded those kinds of ad-libs for the super-human Sephiroth, so it was quite hard to visualize.
Donald Duck, Beast, Genie, Stitch, and More JP Voice Actor - Koichi Yamadera
Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary of the KINGDOM HEARTS series!
I’m absolutely delighted to have had the chance to play many characters thanks to the game - not only Donald Duck, a regular character, but all kinds of characters from other films as well.
What a delight it is for different characters I voice to converse with each other!
From the bottom of my heart, I hope that KINGDOM HEARTS will continue to be loved by fans the world over!
Manga Arist - Shiro Amano
Something that left an impression on me was how Organization XIII, which first appeared in II, suddenly felt much more familiar after 358/2 Days - they were no longer just enemies.
Honestly, I thought, “Isn’t thirteen people too many? Drawing this as a manga will be so difficult...!” But, that wasn’t the case at all. Each and every member was wonderful, with their own charm. When Roxas, Axel and Xion reunited in III, I genuinely sobbed.
Novelist/Scenario Writer - Tomoko Kanemaki
Not only was my direct request to Mr Tetsuya Nomura in a development meeting adopted (“I want to see a black-haired girl drawn by Mr. Nomura!”), I even named her Xion.
“Xion” is a combination of an imaginary number (No. i) and X. It can also be read in Japanese as “the sound of the tide”, in contrast to the alternate reading of Naminé, “the sound of waves”. Finally, Xion is pronounced the same as the Japanese name for Aster tataricus, a purple flower which means “I won’t forget you” in the language of flowers
Did we miss anything from the Kingdom Hearts Anniversary event? Inform us!
What were your favorite parts of the Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary celebration, be it merchandise, game announcements, or more? Let us know in the comments below!
Personally, I can't wait to see what the future of Kingdom Hearts has in store, and I'm sure the rest of the KH13 staff agrees. We have some incredible content to look forward to, so let's wait for the future and hype responsibly!