We were slightly disappointed to learn prior to this year's E3 that Kingdom Hearts III - publicly revealed at E3 2013 - would not make an appearance. The reason given was that Square Enix wanted to keep focus on Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix that's due out on PlayStation 3 this year. But who could blame us if we probed Tai Yusue, co-director on both games, about the long awaited sequel.
"When we first came up with the idea for Kingdom Hearts III we wanted to bring back a lot of our older players and introduce new players to the Kingdom Hearts series. So that's why we made Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 at this time," explains Yusue.
The storyline of the Kingdom Hearts series is a fairly complex one that spans multiple side-stories and the idea with these HD releases is to present the series as a cohesive whole to fans who may have missed some of the portable entries.
"We really wanted to compile everything on the PS3, so I guess that a lot of users in Europe and North America weren't able to play on the DS or the PSP so we really wanted it all to come on the PS3," says Yusue.
"Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is the origin story I guess," says Yusue. "That's where it all started. You play episode zero which is Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and then there's Kingdom Hearts II which is the story about Sora going on his adventure. In Re:Coded you also play Sora, and after you play [Kingdom Hearts] 2, Re:Coded takes place and in that adventure you have data Sora adventure in the computer world and you sort of find the missing link between Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. There's sort of like a secret message that you try and find. And Sora doesn't really know about the three characters from Birth by Sleep in Kingdom Hearts II, but by playing Re:Coded he learns about the three former Keyblade users in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep."
"So that sort of links everything. It also links the story to Kingdom Hearts III. Sort of giving a hint of what's coming up next in a way."
When asked about the work that has gone into making Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix accessible to newcomers this is what Yusue offered:
"For Kingdom Hearts 2.5, the graphics, we made them really very gorgeous. And the sound is really beautiful for the PS3 users. So you can really enjoy it on a big TV, big screen. I think it will be far more accessible. You don't have to have a handheld for example. And in the original version there was also a lot of stuff that really supported the story. You had the Jiminy memo and it really showed how the story went out. What kind of characters you've met and you've interacted [with] and I think that will be helpful as well."
Apart from cosmetic updates there was also some tweaks made to mechanics, specifically in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep - where you can now alter the camera more easily using the right stick.
"One of our main things that we were thinking about is that we really didn't want to change what was good about Kingdom Hearts II and Birth by Sleep. The game mechanics and the game systems and the game balance were really actually well received. So those are some of the things we didn't want to touch too much."
Yusue went on to name his favourite location in Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix - the Cinderella stage from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Next the conversation centred on the importance of revisiting your previous work as the game developer, and perhaps even more so for team members who have previously worked on the franchise.
"It is important to learn anew what was good and what fans really liked about Kingdom Hearts and I think will transport that knowledge to the Kingdom Hearts III development. Which is moving simultaneously. Especially for younger guys that just hasn't made that many Kingdom Hearts it's important to know what the fanbase wants, and so in a way I think that was really a good learning experience for them."
We then asked Yusue about whether any of the new Disney properties that have popped up in recent years would be a fit for Kingdom Hearts III.
"I really like the classical ones," says Yusue. "But I also like the new ones as well. I think we really like to incorporate new worlds that haven't been played before, that's important to us. Personally I watched Frozen with my daughter. I really liked that. We haven't decided which worlds to put in Kingdom Hearts III yet, but I really, as a Disney fan I guess, I really enjoyed Frozen."
When asked about the development of Kingdom Hearts III this is what Yusue had to say: "The development [of Kingdom Hearts III] is running very smoothly. We're doing a lot of experimentation. We're doing a lot of exciting things."
"Creatively it's going in bounds and leaps I guess. There's a lot of new stuff. There will be a lot of stuff that's, I guess, similar to previous Kingdom Hearts titles, but there is a lot of stuff that is totally new. And I'm very excited. I'm bursting to tell you, but I can't really say much about it though. I'm sorry."
Yusue jokes that the marketing team would tie him up and send him back to Japan if he was to say anything more, and just in case he wan't joking, we left it there...