Kingdom Hearts II [E3 2004]

Square Enix Designer Tetsuya Nomura sheds some light Kingdom Hearts II, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and Ninja Mickey at E3.

Kingdom Hearts II, one of Square Enix?s biggest upcoming games, wasn?t playable on the show floor?or even demoed on the show floor?but we had a chance to see a trailer and sit down and talk to super-designer Tetsuya Nomura in a noisy room at E3. While the details are still being closely guarded (it doesn?t come out until 2005 in either the U.S. or Japan), he offered plenty of hints as to where the series was going next.

As was previously revealed, Kingdom Hearts II takes place one year after the previous game, as Donald and Goofy try to find their missing king, and Sora tries to reunite with Kairi and Riku. Nomura says that one of the game?s big themes is ?reunion,? as the group returns to many of the places they?ve visited (new ones, too) to meet up with old friends and see how things have changed in the last year. Nomura was adamant, however, that they wouldn?t simply be lifting old areas from the first game; every area is being recreated in the game?s entirely new engine, which Nomura says is four or five times more powerful than the one used in the original.

The story directly correlates to the story in the GBA game (Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories), which itself picks up directly where the original game left off. While Nomura wouldn?t tell us which specific new characters would be in the new game, we do know that Beauty, Beast, Aladdin, Hercules, and Hades all return from the Disney pantheon, as well as someone who looks suspiciously like Mickey Mouse kicking ass in a ninja outfit. Nomura said that one of the complaints levied against the original game was the Mickey?the lynchpin of the Disney universe?was barely a factor in the original game, and that he hopes to reconcile that with Kingdom Hearts II.

The Heartless from the original game also return, albeit in a modified form. Several new, mysterious figures appeared in the trailer they showed, including a red-haired villain wielding two chakram-like objects, another fellow wearing a red mask, and a hooded, robed figure in black who cast a dark shadow on the Beast?s mansion by messing with his magic rose. Also making an appearance: Auron, without glasses, looking strangely Disney-fied and potentially menacing. When asked about whether The King will also join you at some point in the game for the first time, Nomura was reluctant to tell us whether he?d be part of the party or not (Nomura asked us ?what would you like him to do???when we replied ?have him fight alongside you,? he laughed, ?I?d like that too.?)

While he wouldn?t go into too many details about the combat system, Nomura said that it was an ?evolution? and extension of the system in the original PS2 Kingdom Hearts, and definitely does not reflect the ?card system? that appears in the GBA game Chain of Memories (which he sees as ?Kingdom Hearts 1.5?). When asked whether the new system would allow players to directly control characters other than Sora, Nomura?s response was a polite ?no comment?. When asked about the return of the Gummi Ship (the method of transportation from the Kingdom Hearts), he said that it was one of the most criticized elements of the first game; but he liked it in concept and wants to have it return in some form; in fact, an entire mini-team is devoted to working on that aspect alone.

Nomura also discussed the GBA game Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, describing how the ?cards? work into the battles and?surprisingly?the story. While Sora won?t be able to fight with Goofy and Donald at his side in the GBA game, he will be able to use cards that summon them for use in battle, sort of as ?magic spells?. Since these cards reflect pieces of Sora?s memories, Sora can use them to open up new areas in the game as well.

Other fun facts: Disney approves everything the Kingdom Hearts II team does, but they don?t tell them what to put in the game; Nomura sees the ?difference? between the Square Enix style and Disney style as one of the game?s biggest strengths, citing Star Wars as an example of how the familiar and the fantastic can successfully meet; and his favorite Disney move, not surprisingly, is The Lion King.

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