What’s next for Kingdom Hearts? We ask director Tetsuya Nomura about his new game on the Nintendo DS and what’s in store for the series.
With the release date of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded right around the corner, we were able to conduct an e-mail interview Square Enix director and designer Tetsuya Nomura about how it all came to be. Now, we know the popular question is “Where is Kingdom Hearts III?” and even though that still remains a mystery, we did ask. This remake of a mobile series is specifically tailored for the Nintendo DS. For more information on Kingdom Hearts Re:coded and its gameplay and story, please read our previous coverage here and look for our full review when the game comes out on January 11.
GameSpot: What was the decision behind making the original Kingdom Hearts:coded for a mobile platform?
Tetsuya Nomura: The initial reason we created Kingdom Hearts for mobile phones was to reach a broader audience. There seemed to be strong growth of mobile games and the smartphone market. I then decided to proceed with developing a Kingdom Hearts game for mobile phones to reach an audience who has an interest in the series but may not be willing to buy a gaming console. This way they could easily experience Kingdom Hearts on their phone.
GS: Why did you decide to expand on the original and create a new version for the DS?
TM: Although it received positive reviews, we found that the number of people who had smartphones was limited. We completely revamped the game [rather than make a straight port of the mobile version] for the DS platform because I wanted even more people to be able to play Kingdom Hearts. This was especially true for fans of the series overseas that never had access to the original Japanese version.
GS: How did the story idea of jumping into a datascape come about?
TM: Actually, Sora doesn’t jump from the real world to the datascape. In order to explore Jiminy’s strange glitches in the journal, a digital facsimile of Sora is enlisted to fight within that realm. As Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is based in a digital world, I created gameplay elements to reflect this.
GS: What made you decide to go with the gameplay variety (bonus stages) that is featured in Re:coded?
TM: Because the original was developed for mobile phones, it was created with simplified controls. For the DS we definitely believed the gameplay needed to be expanded. I added the bonus stages for those looking for more of a challenge. While challenging, the controls are intuitive, and the variation of gameplay styles are distinctive. Players can experience battle styles that include side-scrolling, shooting, and a classic RPG command-based system.
GS: Now that it’s on the Nintendo DS, what changes have been made to accommodate the system?
TM: The original mobile version was episodic, and chapters were released monthly. Although as a mobile app there was extensive content, due to the platform there was not much content to each world. To create a cohesive gaming experience, we knew how important it was that the content from the mobile version and the new sections of the DS were incorporated seamlessly.
In addition, the system had to be completely revamped to include character growth, which is obviously an essential part of RPGs. As a result, we added in the visually appealing stat matrix. By installing chips into a CPU-like board, the player can increase Sora’s levels and abilities.
GS: In addition to the DS-specific changes, are there any other differences between the Japanese version and the North American one?
TM: Aside from the voice-over and subtitles, there are no other notable differences. The mobile version was not available in North America, so this is a brand-new game for Kingdom Hearts fans there. There was a priority placed on not only making the game fun but to distribute it as early as we could after the Japanese release.
GS: Will we see another Kingdom Hearts soon? More specifically, Kingdom Hearts III?
TM: In Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, if a player collects 20 of the 30 available trophies, there is an exclusive secret movie with a hint that links to the next game, Kingdom Hearts 3D (working title), which will be available on the Nintendo 3DS. The Kingdom Hearts series is always evolving, and players can have high expectations for new and exciting gameplay that will be highlighted by the capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS.
GS: This franchise has evolved over the course of several games and platforms. What have been the challenges for each? Do you have a favorite platform?
TM: Each platform has its own features and characteristics that make it unique. With each game, I would seek the best possible capabilities for the platform and to create features never before seen. I will continue to do this and hope to improve on the series even more in the future.
GS: Thank you for your time.