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Three Reasons to be Excited for the Worlds of Kingdom Hearts 3

With the recent string of announcements from D23 2017 and D23 Expo Japan 2018, Kingdom Hearts fans have a lot to be excited about. New trailers confirming the inclusion of Pixar properties, interviews with the development team and a tentative release window has continued to build fan anticipation for this long-awaited title. The biggest of which is not only the inclusion of beloved Pixar properties but how Tetsuya Nomura and his team will alter their approach to the creation of these interactive set pieces.

For those who have always been curious about this strange cross-over series, now is the best time to jump onboard with the subsequent release of the entire series on one console. Though Kingdom Hearts is not the most cohesive story ever told, it has always hit its audience right in the feels and inspired loyal fans the world over, from almost any demographic.

A huge part of this is due to not the overall story, but how the games take advantage of its Disney licenses to created individual worlds inspired by the studio's classic animated tales (and a few live action properties as well). However, plenty of the game's fans will admit that not every KH world has hit that nostalgia sweet spot. The worst of which fail to not only tie back to the game's overall story but come off as a shallow recreation of the films they are based on.

Even with only a few trailers released, it is clear Kingdom Hearts 3 will not have that same problem.

How do we know? Let's break down some 3 key elements revealed in the latest trailers, specifically the D23 Japanese Expo trailers.

Keep in mind, the following is my personal speculation based on official interviews, trailers and promotional material for Kingdom Hearts 3Be advised for Kingdom Hearts spoilers are inevitable here.

You have been warned!

1) Each world will have an original story 

Though I may be reaching with this one, it does seem that a vast majority of the Disney/Pixar worlds seem to be taking place either after or in the middle of the film narratives. When Big Hero 6 was announced as a world it was stated right of the bat that this will be directly after the movie, with original Baymax body (lost to a dimensional rift) will be returning as a possible Heartless boss fight.

Official concept art (released in 2015) reveals the early stages of a thrilling duel in the skies of San Fransokyo.

Toy Story
has also been confirmed by developers along with Pixar staff that the Toy Story world will take place between Toy Story 2 and 3. This goes even further with Monsters Inc, though it isn't explicitly stated, seems to be set post-film as well (as Scarefloor contains the balloons and the “Think Fun!” sign that can be seen at the end of the film). The mere thought of seeing these events as a pseudo-prequel/sequel to some of these stories is definitely appealing just as long characters are a given room to breathe and be themselves. With Pixar staff members acting as both story and design consultants for these worlds, I don't imagine that will be an issue.

2) Antagonists that match the world theme 

Kingdom Hearts has had tons of iconic baddies over the years, including classic Disney villains and 13 original villains that have garnered quite a large fan following. KH 3 will see the new and improved Organization XIII start to make their move against Sora and company to ensure their own goals are met before the final clash of good vs. evil (light and darkness). This, of course, means they will be traveling to worlds and causing trouble. Though only 5 of the 13 have been revealed thus far, their placement in the various world seems to be very promising.

When Toy Story world was revealed at D23 2017, Young Xehanort was shown at the end of the trailer, confirming his involvement with this particular world. Though many found this reveal to be out of left field, I found this choice to be appropriate given the setting. The theme of growing up has always shaped the Toy Story world. It should be ideal then that the Organization member causing trouble, is the one that will eventually grow up to be the KH saga's primary antagonist.

Marluxia, revealed in the very beginning of the 2018 D23 Japanese Expo trailer, is an old hat at kidnapping young blonde ladies with magical powers and trapping them in a tower/castle (see Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories) so it is fitting that he is confirmed to appear in the world of Tangled. Though it is hard to say if his involvement in this world will mean we will not be seeing Mother Gothel (unless this is also supposed to be post-film, to which her absence would be understandable) it will be fun to see Sora and Rapunzel team up to take on this eccentric adversary.

Vanitas issues a cryptic threat to Sora in the World of Monsters Inc.

But by far the most intriguing and potentially emotionally satisfying set up revealed thus far is the world of Monster Inc, who has been matched up with one of the most infamous baddies of KH narrative, Vanitas. A monster born of darkness that feeds off negative emotions to create monsters of his own, the Unversed. Considering Pixar's monster worlds previous use of fear as a power source, this works as a fantastic jumping off point from the original film. Though Vanitas motivations here are still under wraps, the amount of damage he can cause on his own is enough for fans to be concerned. Add the character's personal connection to Sora and you have a story that has the potential to be one of the best in the series.

3) The Animation

Though many have been split on Kingdom Hearts 3's new look, I feel the new Unreal 4 Engine has done wonders for Kingdom Hearts visual style. Allowing both Disney characters and Square Enix characters to inhabit the same space and not feel entirely out of place.

This seems to have even improved over the course of trailer releases as scenes shown in previous trailers seem to have been given a great deal of visual polish. Part of what makes Kingdom Hearts so fascinating from an animation standpoint is just how the series blends these contrasting art styles. Staying true to the original design of the film characters and allowing the new cast to blend in with the environment (with varying degrees of success).

Many have given praise to the animation of the Toy Story world and how close it comes to matching the original film.
From what we have seen, the animators for Kingdom Hearts 3 have taken a great deal of time studying the animations from each film to make sure the game animation matches up. One of the most impressive feats seems to be the animation of Disney's Rapunzel from Tangled. Whose hair, according to reports, took extra time to animate so it could interact with the environment of the world. Even small touches that can be gleaned from the trailers, such as Rapunzel's swinging hair animation (which is seen in the trailer as an attack) is taken straight from the film. The same goes for Pixar worlds, particularly Toy Story which has received tons of praise for its design and animation quality that rivals the films. A large part of this comes down Pixar's involvement and that several members of the staff are also Kingdom Hearts fans. 

There is still a great deal of information that has yet to come out for this game, and whether or not Kingdom Hearts 3 lives up to the 12 years of anticipation remains to be seen. However, from what has been presented so far, the time will be well worth the wait for both loyal Kingdom Hearts fans and quite possibly, Disney fans as well.

Interviews referenced in this article can be found on Kingdom Hearts Insider