News has been light on the Kingdom Hearts front since Square Enix revealed several new projects, including the confirmation and first look at Kingdom Hearts IV earlier this year, with only tidbits of details being shared here or there. However, series director Tetsuya Nomura has given fans a deep look into certain areas of the newest game’s development, including where the story will focus and even some additional background on Sora’s appearance in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
In his interview with Game Informer, Nomura mentioned the legacy of Kingdom Hearts is the central theme being heart and that Sora will stay at the core of the franchise’s story for the time being as they look to tell the “story of the heart in different ways.”
With that idea at the core, Kingdom Hearts IV will focus on the disappearance of Sora in a way, and Nomura even notes other characters that are popular from previous games might not have deep stories because of that decision.
“The story for Kingdom Hearts IV is focused more on Sora’s disappearance,” Nomura said to GI. “I’m not quite sure if there will be room to really explore the other characters’ stories as much, but I’m aware and the team is aware these characters are very popular and people want to see more of them. So, if possible, it would be great to include more of them or continue to share their story in future opportunities.”
Delving deeper into this decision, Nomura revealed he thinks Sora is the only character that can be the focus of a mainline Kingdom Hearts title, noting that, if Sora isn’t the focal point, it would “indicate the end to the numbered titles” because of his popularity and importance.
In that same line of thought, Nomura also confirmed Disney worlds will make a return in the newest game, though he wouldn’t speak on how many or their importance to the story and overall experience.
“With regards to Kingdom Hearts IV, players are definitely going to see a few Disney worlds in there. I just want to mention that they don’t need to worry so much about this aspect of the game,” Nomura said to IG. “It might feel slightly different from previous Kingdom Hearts titles, but once players have had a chance to play the game, I’m sure they’ll be relieved to find that it is definitely a Kingdom Hearts title. It’s the game series that they’ve come to know and love.”
Even so, Kingdom Hearts IV does look like it will significantly change some elements that have been established in the previous core titles, including the number of worlds that can be created due to the increased production value in areas like graphics.
This will see increased importance placed on Quadratum, the world shown in the trailer, which will act as the starting area and hub players return through across their time with the game. Nomura describes this as spending time in the “actual real world” where players will spend time seeing day-to-day routines for Sora.
Finally, Nomura also talked about Final Fantasy characters and their continued decrease in use as Kingdom Hearts continued to develop new games, to which he noted that they were originally used as ways to get players to know the original Kingdom Hearts characters better.
“When we released the first title, we had only a few original Kingdom Hearts characters,” Nomura said to GI. “When they were interacting with really well-known, beloved Disney characters, I felt nobody really knew these new characters, so it was harder for them to stand their ground just yet. And so, we had a lot of Final Fantasy characters involved to lend a hand for everyone to get to know these [original Kingdom Hearts] characters better.”
Nomura would not confirm anything about Kingdom Hearts IV in this regard, but based on several other answers in the interview, the focus will likely remain on characters from Kingdom Hearts and Disney for the most part.
On top of the details for Kingdom Hearts IV, Nomura also revealed that he was the one Sakurai referenced as being very insistent about details when it came to Sora’s final design in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Initially, everyone thought Disney was being more controlling from the company side of things to ensure Sora matched an expectation when being presented in a third-party format, but Nomura revealed the media giant was all for the idea.
“Behind the scenes, I was actually the one being very picky about his appearance in Smash Bros. Disney was the one that was like, ‘Go ahead! This is a great opportunity,’” Nomura said to GI. “I thought it would be tough to pull off because it might clash with the established lore in Kingdom Hearts and the Disney worlds, so it was an opportunity I had to consider very carefully. After seeing how happy everybody was in welcoming Sora to Smash Bros, I feel like the end result was really great.”
This debunks a lot of fan theories about the business behind Smash’s roster construction, specifically when dealing with Sora’s inclusion.
More news about Kingdom Hearts IV will be released over time as Square Enix continues its work on the project, but until then, you can read the full interview on Game Informer for more details about specific character inclusions and more.