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Why We Won't See Kingdom Hearts III at E3 and Why I Don't Care

 

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Kingdom Hearts series (the exact date was March 28th; I am still partying) and creep ever-closer to E3, Kingdom Hearts fans and people who follow the series for the lulz are inevitably wondering, “Is this the year we finally hear some concrete Kingdom Hearts 3 news?” And I say, not only will we not hear anything new about KH3 this E3, I also really donʼt care. Blasphemy, you say? I think itʼs more pessimism mixed with appreciation for the work Square Enix has done on its handheld installments.

Letʼs start with the pessimism: Since Kingdom Hearts 2ʼs release more than six years ago (2005 in Japan, 2006 everywhere else), fans have anticipated a third console installment—thanks in part to both KH2ʼs official ending and its secret movie (which actually turned out to be an early trailer for Birth by Sleep). Since then, Square Enix has thrown scraps of information our way, assuring us that, yes, despite it not being a priority, KH3 is in some unknown stage of development.

But over the years, that rhetoric has shown itself to be misleading and forced, resulting in a fan culture of persistent, yet greatly lowered and sometimes highly cynical expectations for concrete news of commitment to KH3ʼs development. First it was that the team wanted to focus on handhelds (with Nomura initially saying that they were making handheld games only to tap into the childrenʼs handheld market and later saying something completely different). Then came the assurance that as soon as the team/Nomura (who has said in interviews that his work is so hectic, itʼs straining his marriage) finished working on Final Fantasy Versus XIII, they would focus on KH3. But the irony of this promise is great: Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been in varying stages of pseudo-development since Kingdom Hearts 2 was first released back in late 2005 and 2006, and we still donʼt have any clear idea of what the game is going to be like and when itʼs going to be released. If Final Fantasy Versus XIII is their first priority and even that doesnʼt have a real timetable yet, the prospects are grim for KH3.

Moving on to the fact that I donʼt really care if we hear news of KH3 at E3: As previously mentioned, since KH2ʼs release approximately six years ago, Square Enix has apparently been very busy making handheld Kingdom Hearts games (Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, and Birth by Sleep, just to name a few). What troubles me about this situation isnʼt that it seems that Square Enixʼs priorities are wonky, itʼs that these handhelds are seen as marginal installments—games released just to make Square Enix look busy or to tide us over until the next “real” KH game is released. This may sound silly to some, but to many fans of the PS2 games, all, or most, of the handhelds are effectively unimportant side quests. Fellow fans have told me that they hungrily await the third console game but refuse to pick up any of the post-KH2 handhelds on principle—making the wait for KH3 even more gruelingly long.

I would argue, though, that those fans are missing out on three pretty important things. The first is amazing and innovative gameplay mechanics. Though Chain of Memories wasnʼt perfect, it employed an interesting card-based battle system that, if nothing else, showed that the KH team was willing to take risks with the series (keep in mind this was only the second KH game released). And few people whoʼve played Birth by Sleep will deny its mechanics were seamless, fun, and probably foundational for future KH games (including, as we can now see, KH3D).

If you played Birth by Sleep and still don't want to have Aqua's babies, we will never agree on anything.

The second important thing about the handhelds is that they are legitimately connected stories—and not connected to just themselves, but connected to the console games as well. It boggles my mind to think that anyone can expect to enjoy KH3 having missed up to six (if you include KH3D) of the in- between games. In my opinion, the series is confusing enough as it is, even if you take all the gamesʼ individual stories into consideration with one another.

The third, and most important, thing is that having played most of the handhelds (I havenʼt yet beat Re:Coded, and KH3D isnʼt out in North America until this summer), I donʼt feel particularly desperate for KH3 news. It would be amazing as pancakes, of course (when the first KH2 trailer came out, I wept for a solid hour and then slept with a burned copy of the trailer under my pillow), but I donʼt feel like Iʼve been waiting 6+ years for a new KH game. We have been given some pretty solid experiences with Chain of Memories (Riku Replica!), 358/2 Days (Xion!), and Birth by Sleep (Aqua!), along with some admittedly sketchy ones (Re:CoM, Re:Coded).

brb, never feeling happy again

In sum, the likelihood of Square Enix having its act together enough to not only show significant development on its primary project, but KH3 as well, is almost nil. But that doesn't really matter to me, because KH3D is soon to be released in North America, and there are several other great handheld KH games currently on the market. And that is why I seriously doubt weʼll hear news of concrete KH3 developments this E3—and why I really donʼt care.

 

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