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“On that land shall darkness prevail and light expire. The future... it's already been written.”
“Believing light and darkness must remain in balance, Master Xehanort seeks to spark war against the 'tyranny of light' to restore equilibrium.
In an effort to undermine Xehanort's plot, Sora, Donald, and Goofy search for seven guardians of light and the "Key to Return Hearts", while King Mickey and Riku search for previous Keyblade wielders.”
―Kingdom Hearts III press release
After setting off on his new journey in Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage-, Sora, Donald, and Goofy will attempt to search for seven guardians of light and the "Key to Return Hearts", as well as find a way to restore those in Organization XIII connected to Sora (Roxas, Xion, and Namine). Meanwhile, King Mickey and Riku search for other previous Keyblade wielders (Ventus, Terra, and Aqua), in an attempt to stop Master Xehanort's plan to "balance" the light and darkness, which will ultimately lead to the final showdown between Sora and Master Xehanort. Following the start of the game, Sora seeks out Hercules and through training regains his lost powers after what happened with Xehanort in Dream Drop Distance, completing his Mark of Mastery and becoming a Keyblade Master.
Kingdom Hearts III will serve as the final chapter of the "Dark Seeker" saga, with Nomura revealing that the plot of the game will pick up "immediately after the events of 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A Fragmentary Passage-." He also added that the plot will examine the seven lights and thirteen darknesses coming together for the final battle, but that everyone that is expected to fulfill these roles may not.
After Square Enix finished development of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+, Kingdom Hearts producer Tetsuya Nomura was approached by Disney who expressed interest in a sequel. In regard to a possible release of a Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura said "We have various ideas, but we're not at the point where we can say that." He added that due to the development of Final Fantasy XV (which at the time was Final Fantasy Versus XIII), "it's physically impossible at the present. I feel that it's not the right time to talk about the future of Kingdom Hearts." In response to questions as to the secret movie in Final Mix+, Nomura noted that it was of a "new series" in Kingdom Hearts rather than Kingdom Hearts III. When asked about Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura noted that fans and partners alike were interested in its release, and would work to "realize it" as soon as possible. In the Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Ultimania guide book, Nomura announced three upcoming titles, one of which was Kingdom Hearts III. However, Final Fantasy XV was still his primary focus, preventing him from starting production on Kingdom Hearts III. He later noted that Kingdom Hearts III would not see a release until after 2012, due to his pressing on Final Fantasy XV, regardless of the 10th anniversary of the series occurring in that year. The Nintendo 3DS video game Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance was announced to connect to Kingdom Hearts III, both in terms of gameplay system and story, similar to the connection between Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II. It has been confirmed by Tetsuya Nomura that the game will conclude the "Xehanort Saga" but will not be the final game in the series.
On June 10, 2013, Kingdom Hearts III was announced with a teaser at Sony's E3 event, to release on the PlayStation 4. In a conference the day after, Square Enix confirmed that the game would also be released on the Xbox One. Unlike Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II which were developed by Square Enix's Product Development Division 1 team, Kingdom Hearts III will be developed by Square Enix's 1st Production Department, who developed Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance, and worked on the HD 1.5 Remix collection.
Directly after E3 2013, Tetsuya Nomura claimed that Kingdom Hearts III was announced "too early", based on where the game currently stands in development. He continued by saying, "Many fans were feeling impatient due to our continuous releases of spin-off titles, so we decided to announce it at the same time as Final Fantasy XV". In an interview with Famitsu in June 2013, Nomura discussed the updated visuals seen in the teaser trailer as well as the gameplay. On the visuals, he said that they tried to remember that these "Kingdom Hearts characters were originally paintbrush art from Disney productions, a texture that was one of our original aims, and that it was time to return to that. So [chief creative director Takeshi] Nozue went through a series of tests, and the results are the visuals that we refer to in the team as the Kingdom Shader. It may look like a pretty drastic change, but I see it as a rich evolution of everything we've shown you up to now."
Series producer Shinji Hashimoto stated in a September 2013 interview with IGN that as both Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV are directed by Nomura, it is expected that there will be significant gap between the release of the two, "as [they] want each game to be perfect in terms of quality." Hashimoto also reiterated Nomura's statements about the game's announced at E3 2013, as "the company thought it was about time it addressed speculation about the long-awaited conclusion to the trilogy." In October 2013, Teruzane Utada, father of singer Hikaru Utada, stated on Twitter that Hikaru would once again be involved in the theme song for Kingdom Hearts III, as she did with Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. He later clarified, however, that it is still undecided on their involvement.
In an interview in the January 2014 issue of Game Informer, Nomura stated that the plot of the game will pick up "immediately after the events of Dream Drop Distance." He also added that the plot will examine the seven lights and thirteen darknesses coming together for the final battle, but that everyone that is expected to fulfill these roles may not. On the new gameplay seen in the D23 trailer, Nomura revealed that all keyblades transform, each in different ways, and confirmed that the attractions seen in the trailer, such as "Big Magic Mountain", are not tied to the keyblade abilities, but the enemy you are up against. Also in January, Sora's English voice actor, Haley Joel Osment, stated he had been in talk with the development team after the announcement and, assuming he would be back, expressed his belief that he would not begin voice recording until mid-2014 at the earliest.
In June 2014, a short teaser was released at the end of the E3 2014 trailer for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX. Co-director Tai Yasue revealed that the sequence seen in the teaser was the opening scene for the game. He added that it was created by Nomura who had "a real clear picture of [what] the starting sequence" should be and that the text seen and heard was going to "be a real integral part of the story".
In September 2014, it was announced that Nomura would be leaving Final Fantasy XV development team as director, so he can focus his attention on other projects, including Kingdom Hearts III.
On October 6, 2014, it was announced that the game would be developed using Epic Games's Unreal Engine 4, instead of Square's Luminous Engine as previously announced.
In April 2015, Nomura stated there would be "news [and] new announcements" about the game in November 2015 at the Japan D23 expo.
In June 2015, Nomura revealed that development was on track and that as secret films were being considered. He also stated that the team has an internal release window they are trying to hit. On August 17, 2015 during the D23 Expo, Kingdom Hearts producer Shinji Hashimoto announced that a world based on Big Hero 6 will be featured in Kingdom Hearts III. In November 2015, new footage was shown at the Japan D23 expo, footage which was cut from the E3 2015 trailer for time.
A gameplay trailer was released during the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour in Los Angeles in mid-June 2017. At D23 2017, a world based on Toy Story was revealed and it was announced that the game would release in 2018.
On February 10, 2018, it was confirmed a world based on Monsters, Inc. will be included in the game.
Another new trailer was revealed revealing Utada Hikaru doing KH3's theme song, "Don't Think Twice".
Also, they talked about the development. The development is split into three parts. Part 1 is 90% complete, part 2 is 60 to 70% percent and part 3 haven't been given a percentage, but Tetsuya Nomura is planning something for the final world.
On May 19, 2018, the Kingdom Hearts III Premiere Event began, allowing invited guests to play through a small demo of Kingdom Hearts III. A few weeks later on June 9, it was announced that the game would be pushed back to 2019.
At the E3 2018 Sony Press Conference, a new trailer was released, confirming a world based on Disney's Frozen.
Unlike Kingdom Hearts II, Sora, Donald, and Goofy are redesigned with pirate outfits and their models are slightly more realistic and detailed (ex. Donald has noticeable feathers, Goofy has noticeable fur).