The volume of content increases compared to the original mobile phone version!
First off, please tell us what inspired you to remake the mobile phone game Kingdom Hearts Coded for the Nintendo DS?
Nomura: The biggest reason was because there were many people who were unable to play the game due to the limited platform it was released on. There are many fans of the Kingdom Hearts series overseas as well, and the original platform Coded was released for is completely unavailable for them. Therefore, I figured if it was released for the Nintendo DS, then more people would be able to play it.
358/2 Days, Birth by Sleep, and Coded were all made for handheld gaming devices and seemed to be three side stories. How is Coded placed among them?
Nomura: Since it had communication components, I wanted to make it a title that was fluid on its own. It was linked with the Kingdom Hearts mobile service called Avatar Kingdom as well, so there were various developments in its design to include those elements. If the mobile phone’s internal hardware was improved more, we planned to make it so it could be played online.
So why did you choose to port it to the Nintendo DS?
Nomura: The main reason was because it’s the most popular handheld gaming device. When the project was beginning, we considered releasing the episodes for download via WiiWare; however, we wanted to make it accessible to as many people as possible. Internationally the Nintendo DS has sold the most units, so we chose it. But once we decided the platform would be the DS, we were still planning on porting Coded as it was. When we considered where we should request help with the development, naturally the company h.a.n.d. that helped before with 358/2 Days came to mind. The question then became, “If we ask h.a.n.d., since they already have the know-how of making a 3D Kingdom Hearts game, would it be better to make a full 3D remake?”
So it was after deciding to work with h.a.n.d. that it became a 3D remake?
Nomura: Yes. I think if it had been with another company the thought wouldn’t have crossed our minds, but we knew that h.a.n.d. was highly capable since working with them on 358/2 Days.?When we first asked, we said,“Remake it roughly as it is.” After that, the volume wasn’t full yet so we changed to say, “Do it in full 3D and put in the panel system arrangement from Days”. Despite this, taking away the time it took to actually produce the remake, the development period took about a year to complete. The developers from h.a.n.d. said it was nearly impossible, but they gave it their best.
In the process of producing the game, the scale of the game got bigger then.
Nomura: When I first wrote out the proposal, it summarized the changes that brought Coded to Re:Coded. Ideas steadily came to me as I itemized the things I wanted to include like the panel system and the full 3D aspects. I was thinking, “Maybe we can do this, too” and “Maybe we should try this”. In addition, when the interesting plans came together, the feeling overall from our two co. directors Jun Katou and Hiroyuki Itou, as well as our planning supervisor Tai Yasue from the Osaka production team was “Well, let’s do that, too”. As a result, the volume increased quite a bit.
The Osaka team also participated in production?
Nomura: The Osaka team took care of the electronic communication aspects. Since there were so many plans, h.a.n.d. weren’t the only ones who had a hand in production, but the Birth by Sleep team from Osaka joined as well. We advanced by cooperating together.
What kind of meaning was put into the title of Coded?
Mr.Nomura, every title in the Kingdom Hearts has a strong meaning, what kind of meaning does “Coded” entail?
Nomura: If we compared them all the time, then they don’t hold a clear meaning to any extent. Overall, the title comes from the word “code” meaning something to be deciphered, indicating that the mystery of the message left by Namine in Jiminy’s Journal leads to a journey. Additionally, unlike the titles up until now, the developments aren’t as dramatic with strong ups and downs. Instead they were distributed in short periodic episodes, each one designed to leave an impression with a mysterious keyword. Also since the Data World is the setting, I wanted the title to be associated with a very digital atmosphere.
The initials of the 3 titles Birth by Sleep, Coded, and Days in short lined up are BCD. Was this intentional?
Nomura: I didn’t think of that at all; afterwards I was surprised when it was mentioned. With the Final Fantasy VII Compilation works it was done intentionally, however this time it was really done by accident. When I heard that if you considered Avatar Kingdom, it becomes ABCD, I had really surprised even myself! (Laughs)
Speaking of an adventure taking place in the Data World, there are many terms relating to computers as a characteristic of this title.
Nomura: Since the time Coded was becoming Re:Coded, I was very conscious of putting in computer terminology. At first I worried, “Won’t this give a difficult impression?” But since this was my only opportunity to put these sorts of vocabulary into Kingdom Hearts, I decided to go through with it.
As the director, what sort of story did you intend Coded to be?
Nomura: I had decided I wanted to make a compact story, not something extravagant like the other titles in the series so far. In addition to that, I wanted a story that stayed within the Data World. Furthermore, the last objective with the scenarios was that I wanted the stories to flow with the other two titles Birth by Sleep and 358/2 Days.
What was the reason for making Data Sora the main character?
Nomura: One reason was because I wanted to use Sora’s Kingdom Hearts I design. Another reason was so that those who were playing the series for the first time could familiarize with the main character, even though it might wrack the avid fans brains a bit. For the players who don’t know the back story, making Sora start at Level 1 was necessary so they’d be in the same position as the hero. If the real Sora was the main character, then the conditions dealing with the way Kingdom Hearts II’s adventure had ended would be heavy content, thus instead Data Sora was introduced.
Different then in 358/2 Days, in Re:Coded the cutscenes are shown using still images to convey conversations, what was the reason for this?
Nomura: At first we were going to use the same polygons like in 358/2 Days to express the conversations. However, besides the labor it took, the player’s reactions weren’t satisfactory. Dealing with the DS’s capabilities, no matter what we did the displayed images, there was a limit to how much their facial expressions could be expressed. That being the case, being able to see the characters nicely took priority, so we went ahead and used 2D pre-renders (a HD image made beforehand) that displayed their expressions better. Which way is better, it’s up for the players to decide. There was the opinion though that we should try using the opposite approach of 358/2 Days and try 2D styles in Re:Coded.
Battle system with elements taken from 358/2 Days and Birth by Sleep!
The battles this time had an increasing number of fun actions to enjoy.
Nomura: At the time that 358/2 Days went on sale, since most games were intended for the mainstream light players of the DS, I wanted to throw a stone into that tendency and make a game that had backbone. However 358/2 Days seemed to have had more backbone than expected; many people thought it was too hard. Therefore this time we tried something intended for those light players. (Laughs) Especially since the crosspad buttons of the DS are difficult to operate, we avoided technical fights as much as possible.
As for the direction we took the battle systems, we increased the number of selectable in-battle abilities that from our experience making Birth by Sleep we knew would be enjoyable. The more the better! Also, Yasue who was in charge of the Birth by Sleep battles was supervising Re:Coded’s battles, so in that way Re:Coded inherited Birth by Sleep’s blood. The base parts were from Coded and the panel system of 358/2 Days was brought back. So in that way, you could say that the battle system of Re:Coded is a combination of 3 titles.
The Status Matrix plays the central role in the growth system of Re:Coded, how did you come up with this concept?
Nomura: Original I had planned to do a renewed version of the panel system from 358/2 Days, but Yasue had the idea to use electrical blocks (electric toy made of small blocks connecting in a circuit) which I liked better. When I read the proposed design I thought the system looked very difficult, but then when I saw the illustrated image that the designer from the Osaka team had come up with I thought that the atmosphere was very fun and decided to use that. It’s very important for the things you customize and play with to be visually appealing too! You can change the numerical value on the Cheat Tuner, as well as twist the dials and switches. Seeing the touchable screen, I thought that players would enjoy it.
Being able to modify the game’s balance at anytime with the Cheat Tuner was a unique idea.
Nomura: In The World Ends With You (2007 RPG developed for the DS) players were able to adjust the game level of difficulty whenever they wanted, it was developed to model that. Co. director Itou was originally the main producer for The World Ends With You, so you could also say that the blood from that game also flowed into Re:Coded.
Re:Coded also features a new element called the System Area, how did you come up with that?
Nomura: The System Area feature was something I wanted to do in Coded but was one thing that could not be implemented into the project. When it comes to mobile phone games, to me there’s the feeling that even if you play it once for a short period, you could play the same game for a long period of time. In that vein, we prepared the System Area feature. It doesn’t take long to clear them; however you could enjoy playing them a countless number of times. In particular, I really wanted to try to do 100 levels in the Avatar System Area during cross-player communication. When I first asked the staff to make 100 levels, they responded with astonishment. (Laughs)
The cross-player communication function can connect with other players with the game, and even when we don’t really connect, it seems the device will still send a message.
Nomura: The way it connects and sends a message without really connecting was the same feature used in The World Ends With You. Since it was quite a popular feature in that game, we adopted it into this title for people who don’t often get the chance to connect with other people with the game. The co. director Itou said, “We can cross-connect with whatever!” (Laughs) But really you can only cross-connect with other players holding the cartridge in their DS. We wanted the cross-communication circumstances to be active because the DS perceives various radio waves, so it’s constructed to send a message.
The new developments in the Secret Movie reveal the beginning of Kingdom Hearts III!
In Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, as expected, a Secret Movie was recorded.
Nomura: This time the volume of Event Scenes in the original version was big, so when it came time to put in the Secret Movie, there was hardly any room left. Since there wasn’t going to be enough room to show something shocking, I thought, “let’s make the topic of their conversation shocking instead”. And so their conversation played out the way you see it.
We were surprised when Yen Sid said, “Supposing Xehanort isn’t alone?”
Nomura: If you look back in the past titles, weren’t you always fighting some form of Xehanort? As Ansem, as Xemnas, and as Master Xehanort, his form is different in each time and there is a reason why he appears differently each time. Don’t you suppose that it’s going to influence the future?
After this, it seems Sora and Riku will be taking their Mark of Mastery Exams. Does this have a direct relation to curing the “pain” of those connected to Sora?
Nomura: No, those are two separate stories. I’m thinking Kingdom Hearts III will be about going to cure their “pain”. I plan on drawing out the story of those two’s Mark of Mastery Exams in another title.
Perhaps that’s the recently announced title for Nintendo 3DS tentatively known as Kingdom Hearts 3D?
Nomura: Yeah, it’s related to that.
Seems that a demo trailer was premiered at the American game show E3…
Nomura: In the trailer Sora and Riku are on Destiny Islands, and then in Traverse Town many Soras are shown falling from the sky. Those weren’t real cutscenes from the game; the trailer merely portrayed the overall feeling of the game. At the moment, we are selecting the worlds that will appear; the Disney worlds used in previous titles will likely be changed out for the most part. We’re considering using the Disney films I’ve thought about using someday as well as relatively newer films. The system components are also progressing, and development in each section has already begun.
About when will we be able to play it?
Nomura: I’d like it to be available as soon as possible, but… It was premiered at E3 in the 3DS line up in order to get a reaction and to take those reactions into consideration. I strongly feel that it must live up to those expectations.
When we were discussing in the Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Ultimania, you mentioned that there were 2 new Kingdom Hearts titles other than Kingdom Hearts III coming up. One coming out in 2010, and one more being announced in 2011. It seems the title releasing in 2010 was Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, but what about the other one? Were you referring to Kingdom Hearts 3D or Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix?
Nomura: No, at the time of that interview I intended to hint toward a different project. However, focusing my energy on Kingdom Hearts 3D and Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix comes first. Since a new Secret Episode is revealed in the Birth By Sleep Final Mix, I definitely want it to be seen. I think when you see it you’ll be excited for future developments.
Moreover 2012 will be the 10th anniversary for Kingdom Hearts, it seems that you are planning something.
Nomura: Yeah. Actually, the real reason I went to E3 this year was to speak with the chairman of Disney Interactive Studios. The things we discussed are confidential, but our discussion had everyone’s interests in mind. From within that conversation, I’m considering whether there was something about the 10th Anniversary that I could announce.
For the 10th anniversary there is talk of remaking the original Kingdom Hearts, what do you say to that?
Nomura: I recently had a some interest in making an HD remake, but right now there simply isn’t time to make it. Although, before Kingdom Hearts III releases, I do have to consider the notion that the series has become too long and that it’s difficult for any new players to enter it in the middle of the story.
Finally, please share a message with the players.
Nomura: We made Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded a game with as bright an atmosphere as possible. The story is a bit painful yet hopeful as opposed to the sadness of recent titles. The gaming system is fun and incorporates a variety of rich aspects. There are also elements that make the game play time long, so please continue playing little by little, and also look forward to the new developments revealed in the Secret Movie.
Originally posted on Heartstation.org (now defunct). Translated by Olivia/SQEXGAL.
Data Sora had a heart, didn’t he?
Nomura: Theoretically he doesn’t, but I entrust the answer to the imaginations of those who’ve seen the ending.
In the Secret Movie, it’s said they seem to know the location of Ven’s heart, leaving only Terra left. If we may assume, those two know that Aqua is located in the World of Darkness.
Nomura: That is what’s being hinted at.
Is it possible that the King met with her in the World of Darkness during Kingdom Hearts I?
Nomura: About that, I can’t yet say.
Yen Sid asks what if the revived Xehanort isn’t alone. What is the meaning behind that?
Nomura: Its meaning is literal. What would you do if there was more than just Xehanort? I get a bad feeling just thinking about it. (Laughs.)
So it’s possible that other members of Organization XIII can be revived?
Nomura: If their Heartless has been defeated then it’s possible.
At what point were Ansem and Xemnas separated from Xehanort? When did they lose their memories?
Nomura: Sometime between Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts I. It happened during the events in the Ansem Reports from Kingdom Hearts I. Was it really memory loss? In the Birth by Sleep Secret Movie, Braig doubted it.
Additionally, there is only one master right now, and that’s the King. When did the King become a master?
Nomura: During Birth by Sleep, the King is in the middle of his Mark of Mastery exam. Therefore, by the time of Kingdom Hearts, he has become a Keyblade Master. Yen Sid is a retired master and he can proctor the Mark of Mastery exam. Thus, this time, he will administer the test to Sora and Riku.
So the letter Sora receives in the ending has to do with the Mark of Mastery?
Nomura: Well, how about that. Incidentally, even though Kairi can wield a Keyblade, she won’t be a testing candidate.
So will Kingdom Hearts 3D be the telling of their Mark of Mastery exam?
Nomura: Kingdom Hearts 3D will be the platform for it. We’ve completed the axis for the system, right now we are testing how things are implemented, continuing in the trial and error process. In 3D you will be able to play as Sora and Riku, but we are considering making their main operation systems different. In Chain of Memories they both used cards but they used them differently. We’re thinking about having two types of play styles like that.
Data Sora can newly obtain a legitimate Keyblade during his adventure, but are there changes to the real Keyblade when that happens?
Nomura: No, it’s a data version the entire time. However like with the first Keyblade, it wasn’t created by someone else. It comes from the heart’s connections with the data, hinting towards the story theme, “Can a heart be born in an existence made of data?”
During Re:Coded, Namine seems to have explained the reason for the “pain” mentioned in the journal to Sora and company, but why does she take the roundabout method of accessing the data in the Jiminy Journal and adding to it?
Nomura: At the point of time when Namine explained Sora’s secret in the real world, she already knew that by the time Sora and company woke up she would be gone. She thought she wouldn’t be able to speak to them directly. Thus she left a note in Jiminy’s Journal, however she didn’t presume what sort of form the meaning of the message would take when presented to Sora and company. Therefore Jiminy’s Journal was made into data according to the King and co.’s assumptions.
Was the message presented in Jiminy’s Journal prepared entirely by Namine herself?
Nomura: The very first message, “We must return to free them from their torment,” was the only one by Namine, however the messages “Their torment has been lessened” etc. were transmitted by the data itself when Sora eliminated the bugs, implying that restoring the data would bring him closer to understanding the mystery of the message.
As for the outbreak of bugs in Jiminy’s Journal, did they accidentally appear as a result of Namine adding data? Or did Namine intentionally devise the bugs in order to make Sora triumph over the “pain”?
Nomura: That occurring wasn’t part of Namine’s intentions. She couldn’t predict that Sora Heartless would take charge and bring about a crisis like that.
I see… Roxas appears dressed in the black coat in Castle Oblivion among other worlds too. Was that something else that Namine had not added intentionally?
Nomura: Right. Since Roxas and Sora together make up one existence, if there is a Sora made of Kingdom Hearts I data, then data of Roxas must exist too. Roxas says, “It’s my personal duty to check whether or not Sora is ready to take the pain.” However that role was not assigned by Namine, Roxas personally decided that goal and acted upon it accordingly.
Who was the person taken from the data of Jiminy’s Journal that took the form of Riku in the data world?
Nomura: That wasn’t someone from the real world’s data, more like that was the data itself taking on the body of Riku in order to avoid being eroded by the bugs.
When each world is completely debugged, a scene is shown that was not seen in Kingdom Hearts I. Did those scenes occur at the same point in time as Kingdom Hearts I?
Nomura: Yes, they were memories deep in the data of the worlds recorded in Jiminy’s Journal, however as a result of Data Riku searching after the worlds were debugged, they were tangible to the King and company.
In the final chapter of Hollow Bastion, it happens in the story that if the Jiminy Journal is completely debugged, then the existence recorded in the data will be erased. Then why is it even if Data Sora doesn’t remember, Data Riku’s memories remain?
Nomura: Data Sora became an existence whose purpose was to go about debugging, so at the point in time when he had completely debugged the data his memories were gone. In Data Riku’s case, it existed in the main data even without the Jiminy Journal itself being erased, and since its purpose was to solve the mystery first written in the journal, it couldn’t fulfill it until the debugging was complete. Once the mystery was solved, it too would lose its memories.
Throughout playing the lines “Restoration Rate X%” appears a few times, when it reaches 100% Sora Heartless begins to run amok. Does that number represent the growth condition of Sora Heartless?
Nomura: In Kingdom Hearts II, Sora’s memory restoration rate was expressed that way. In this case it’s basically showing how much of the data world was restored thanks to Sora. However it’s also like an indicator of Sora Heartless’ growth since it grew at the same time as Sora exterminated the bugs.
After debugging Traverse Town, the King says to Sora, “That day, your travels began here. Also on that day, I was here too.” Does that mean that the King was in the same place at the same time as Sora adventured into Traverse Town in Kingdom Hearts I?
Nomura: Seems so. What he was actually doing becomes the previously mentioned “blank time period”, but in this title, it’s implying that the two crossed paths in the same place.
As for the story, the curtain has closed on Sora finally saying “thank you” to Namine. In your Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix Ultimania interview, you mentioned that Sora not having yet thanked Namine was foreshadowing the future. Is that matter considered settled now?
Nomura: Although it can’t really be said that it’s completely settled since they haven’t exchanged words in the real world, there’s naturally that implication. This time it’s the data of Sora from before Chain of Memories saying thanks, however it shows there was a special connection beyond the passage of time between Sora and Namine. Additionally, it gives a contradictory answer to the implication that data existences don’t have hearts shown in the story.
I’m going to ask about the Secret Movie now. Yen Sid tells, “With Ansem and Xemnas defeated, it means Master Xehanort will be revived.” When Yen Sid explained about Organization XIII in Kingdom Hearts II, did he know this at that point in time?
Nomura: He knew, but it couldn’t be avoided. At that time Xemnas existed as the main threat, so nothing could be done until he was defeated.
“If you release the heart of the Heartless and annihilate the body of the Nobody, then the real form will be revived.” If those conditions are met, can others outside of Xehanort be revived too?
Nomura: It can be considered a possibility. Although it’s what-if speaking, I think that if the members of Organization XIII were restored, they would become there true form.
Though he’s a member of Organization XIII, Axel is shown in the end of Re:Coded in the memories of “pain”…
Nomura: Since healing the necessary “pain” of Axel’s is different than with other people, if he is revived he will take a form like Xehanort’s. In the end of the story, Namine says, “Those whose memories are sleeping inside Sora need relief.” In the Birth by Sleep secret cutscene “Blank Points”, certain characters call out to Sora, however in that scene Axel is the only one who appears and doesn’t say Sora’s name out loud.
Speaking of the Birth by Sleep secret cutscene, Ansem the Wise says that he hid his research results in Sora. This complies with what happens in Re:Coded when Namine says DiZ (Ansem the Wise) has hid something inside Sora. Is that mystery remaining unsolved?
Nomura: Yes. Namine added data to the Jiminy Journal in order to convey that the “pain” of those connected to Sora must be healed, but at the point in time Ansem hid the research results inside Sora, he didn’t know that. Accordingly, Ansem’s research results will become the key to healing the “pain” in the future of the story.
So even though Namine and Ansem acted independently, as a result of what the two did, it leads to one thing. And speaking of those details…
Nomura: Since that will likely become the story for Kingdom Hearts III, please look forward to that until then.