Kingdom Hearts III is, in essence, a sequel to the second game, the 12th instalment in the Kingdom Hearts series, and the overall finale to Square's Dark Seeker saga.
Sounds simple, right? Think again.
Something about a Keyblade War?
In all seriousness, Kingdom Hearts III tells the story of Sora and his allies as they seek to bring about an end to the darkness. If that all sounds a little confusing, KHIII ships with a three-hour story recap. Thank the heavens.
Per Square Enix, Kingdom Hearts III "tells the story of the power of friendship as Sora and his friends embark on a perilous adventure. Set in a vast array of Disney and Pixar worlds, KINGDOM HEARTS follows the journey of Sora, a young boy and unknowing heir to a spectacular power. Sora is joined by Donald Duck and Goofy to stop an evil force known as the Heartless from invading and overtaking the universe.
"Through the power of friendship, Sora, Donald and Goofy unite with iconic Disney-Pixar characters old and new to overcome tremendous challenges and persevere against the darkness threatening their worlds."
Like any other third-person action RPG, really. Combat in Kingdom Hearts III is said to be much more fluid and dynamic than previous incarnations, so we're excited to get to grips with what Square has in store.
It's no secret that Kingdom Hearts III has spent years gestating in development. Turns out there's a very good reason for the lengthy delay.
Said Co-Director Tai Yasue:
"One of the main factors was the decision to switch the game engine to develop the game. Our current engine is great in terms of developing a high end AAA title, but because there was a change in technology and work flows, it took some time for the team to adapt and adjust."
Speaking of which, Kingdom Hearts III changed gears mid-way through development, opting for Unreal Engine 4 over its old game engine.
Here's what series mainstay Tetsuya Nomura had to share:
"We had our own company reasons, essentially. It wasn’t something that we had anything to do with, it was decided higher up. It was a whole year that we had to kind of rewind and restart. As a dev tool, Unreal Engine 4 is kind of an all-in-one – it’s got all of the stuff that is needed in it, it’s used around the world, and we also got really great support from Epic Games. They were very helpful through the entire process.
"It would have been a different story if the team making Luminous had been members of the Kingdom Hearts team. But they were a different team, so that did make things a bit more difficult."
Early estimates peg Kingdom Hearts III at 40 hours in length, though that figure will likely ebb and flow as we inch closer to release day.
We hope you weren't expecting to stumble upon any surprise Disney worlds; according to Yasue-san, Kingdom Hearts III ain't got 'em.
Remember when Avengers: Infinity War raised serious question marks over the fate of every character? It turns out Kingdom Hearts III may do the same, according to Nomura-san.
"Although I do feel a little sad when I think some characters will probably never appear ever again. Once I think about that, it makes me a little sad."
The official Kingdom Hearts III opening movie is now available for your viewing pleasure. And it even features a small sample of Skrillex and Hikaru Utada's soundtrack.
Here's a fun tidbit: when Kingdom Hearts II hit store shelves 14 years ago (!), Disney had just shelled out $7.4 billion to purchase Pixar, the crown jewel of Hollywood's animation scene.
Fast forward to 2019, and Kingdom Hearts III simply would not be possible if it weren't for Pixar. Or so says Game Director Tetsuya Nomura:
"After we were done with Kingdom Hearts II and were starting to consider III, we started talks with Disney, I remember saying, ‘If we can’t use Pixar, then we can’t have a third game.' The whole world loves Toy Story–everybody feels the appeal of that story and those characters."
Back when PlayStation LifeStyle was dishing out its year-end awards for 2018, Kingdom Hearts III nabbed the shiny Platinum trophy for 2019's Most Anticipated Game, beating out the likes of Dreams, Anthem, and Devil May Cry 5.
Game Director Tetsuya Nomura is well aware that, much like the Final Fantasy VII remake, Kingdom Hearts III was announced far too early.
"I understand why some companies wait as long as possible, and I definitely think it’s a good thing for them. But in our case, we receive pressure from the fans even when we do not announce anything. They’re always asking us ‘are you working on this?’ or ‘why don’t you make a sequel for that?’ Even after the announcement, the situation does not change, because then they’ll move onto asking us 'when will it release?' or 'when will you show a new trailer?'"
TGS 2018 was perhaps Square's final chance to showcase KHIII on the world stage prior to its 2019 release. And sure enough, the publisher pulled out all the stops, detailing the Sora vs. Aqua boss battle and plenty of new gameplay mechanics.
Standard Edition. Deluxe Edition. A life-size replica of Sora's Keyblade, but which is the best preorder package for you? Allow us to point you in the right direction.
The Kingdom Hearts III soundtrack features a touch of Skrillex, who collaborated with Hikaru Utada to produce "Face My Fears."
You can catch a sneak preview here, while the EP itself will feature both an English and Japanese version of the game’s opening theme, “Face My Fears.” Additionally, it will have “Don’t Think Twice” and “Chikai,” making the EP four tracks in total for $3.99.
Curious to know more about all the merch available for Kingdom Hearts III? We've got you covered.
Eager to take a peek at Kingdom Hearts III in action? Feast thy eyes.
The Kingdom Hearts III opening theme is real, it's beautiful and it can be downloaded right now.
The core Kingdom Hearts III file weighs in at approximately 38GB, meaning you'll need to free up around 40GB to imitate the download.
Still, in an era of hefty patches and 100GB file sizes *cough* RDR2 *cough* 40GB is a breeze.
Yes, you read that right: pre-loading is now live on PlayStation 4.
What are you waiting for?
Our own Paulmichael Contreras had a chance to go up close and personal with Kingdom Hearts III during E3 2018.
His impressions are as follows:
"Kingdom Hearts III appears to be everything fans have been waiting for. It’s a melding of worlds, a mixture of video game genres, an audiovisual treat. Familiar mechanics mix with new combat options, including a larger party, to give players more options."
The official Kingdom Hearts III trophy list has been revealed ahead of launch, but fair warning: here lies spoilers.
Following its Japanese debut on January 25, Kingdom Hearts III will be with us on Tuesday, January 29. And the official PSLS review will be live just prior to the big day. Don't miss it.