E3 2012: Kingdom Hearts 3D developer interview
With Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance soon set to grace the Nintendo 3DS across Europe and North America, we sat down with co-director Tai Yasue to discuss the title.
Nintendo Insider: With Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, how did the decision come about to make this game for Nintendo 3DS?
Tai Yasue: There was a lot of demonstrations in Osaka and Tokyo, with the [Nintendo] 3DS and we really liked the hardware first, and, I guess in a way, with the 10th Anniversary of Kingdom Hearts we wanted to refresh everyone’s memory and sort of bridge the gap to the future of Kingdom Hearts.
Those are the two reasons we’re excited about the handheld, and also because we wanted to bridge the past and future of Kingdom Hearts using this title.
NI: Do you have an over-arching narrative with Sora and Riku’s story, in terms of knowing where the franchise is going next?
TY: I think that franchise-wise, it’s all in Nomura’s head. We hear it from him, so it’s always surprising. I guess for Kingdom Hearts 3D he had the plot and scenario in place, and we came up with the gameplay ideas in Osaka from that.
NI: As in the past, will there be any changes and/or additions between the Japanese and English versions of the game?
TY: Not really this time, there’ll be no major changes between versions.
NI: Do you feel that Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance will be a good entry point for newcomers to the franchise?
TY: For Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, we have a Mementos system and it refreshes your knowledge of Kingdom Hearts. After cutscenes, you collect them and open them in the campaign which then tell the story of Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II, and Birth By Sleep, using graphics and text.
In a way, by playing this you can refresh your memory or, if you don’t know anything about Kingdom Hearts, you can learn about it in a way that makes it really interesting. Obviously, if you’re not that interested you can just play the game itself and each Disney world has its own story, so you can enjoy that as well.
NI: When Kingdom Hearts first started it was on the PlayStation 2, and since moved across to PSP, Nintendo DS and, now, Nintendo 3DS. Could you explain the reasons for the change in platform?
TY: When we make each Kingdom Hearts game, we have new ideas for each of them and we make it fit for the hardware. So, I guess it depends on the direction. For Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, the Nintendo 3DS was the best for us, and with Birth By Sleep we made it for the PSP, as that was the best fit.
With Nintendo 3DS, we wanted to use the lower touch screen for the map in a unique way, which I believe we achieved through Reality Shifts.
With each world, you get this ability and, for example, in The Three Musketeers you can activate comic books that help you kill enemies. With Fantasia, you can play music using the touch screen. So, we’re really excited about that.
NI: What were the thoughts behind the combat enhancements, such as Dream Eaters and the Flow Motion system?
TY: For Flow Motion, we really wanted to take Kingdom Hearts to the next level. We wanted to make it for the handheld, but it was as if we wanted to make it for [home] consoles in a way. We wanted it to be more dynamic and speed-based – you can kick walls, slide down ramps and everything.
I think that Kingdom Hearts from now on will follow in that sort of direction – more dynamic, with maps that are wider, taller and larger, and searchable with lots of hidden Treasure Boxes for players to find.
With Dream Eaters, we’d never really had gameplay where you could have your own pet. We wanted players to really feel attached to your own spirit creature, and so we let the player create their own creature. You can then pet it using the touch screen, or give it food, and we wanted to introduce that sort of gameplay.
NI: With downloadable content now being made available for Nintendo 3DS software, are there any plans for Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance to utilise this?
TY: No, we’re not planning anything just yet.
NI: As the game’s developed in partnership with Disney themselves, do they have any input on aspects such as the new worlds that have been added this time?
TY: Well, actually, we come up with our own ideas first. What we do is come up with a concept paper, and decide what we would really want to do with each world. There’s a reason for each world coming into the game, such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame where there’s a lot of user input – a lot of players wanted that Disney world incorporated so we put it in because of that.
For Fantasia we wanted a musical stage, and for Tron Legacy we wanted to challenge the [Nintendo] 3DS to do something more related to consoles in terms of realistic characters. Each world has its own meaning and characteristics, the gameplay is really varied, and each environment is different, so hopefully players will find that interesting.
NI: Are there any Disney worlds that haven’t yet been included that you’d like to use?
TY: Personally, and this isn’t an announcement, but I really want to make a Disney Pixar world like Toy Story. I think a lot of users really share that feeling, and they would have plenty of fun ideas. I would love to work with Pixar in coming up with a new world.
NI: The World Ends With You characters have been introduced into Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, what was the reasoning behind that decision?
TY: Well, Nomura came up with the idea and wanted it incorporated. I think a lot of the characters have their own characteristics and we thought that would be interesting to mix them with Traverse Town. This time we changed a lot of the features of Traverse Town and it sort of resembles Shibuya – on a lot of the buildings, there’s graffiti. Mixing Traverse Town with The World Ends With You is something new, and I think you’ll find it really fresh when you play it.
NI: Do you have any further plans to commemorate Kingdom Hearts’ 10th Anniversary?
TY: Well, I guess Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance itself marks the 10th Anniversary. But, there’s nothing else.
NI: Nomura-san recently shared his desire for the series to return to consoles. Could you comment on that, at all?
TY: No, I really can’t [laughs]. What I can say though, is that Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is directly connected to Kingdom Hearts III. So, if you play it through you’ll get a rough glimpse of the future in the secret movie, for example. A lot of the gameplay, as I mentioned earlier, will be taken into those future games as well.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is now available worldwide, exclusive to Nintendo 3DS. You can read our review through this link.
[Interview conducted in collaboration with RPGSite]