I’ve translated the interview out of Famitsu Weekly magazine with Kingdom Hearts series director Tetsuya Nomura, no more summaries. Scans of the article are in the prior post. Please re-read this version!
Interview with Tetsuya Nomura – Part 1
– From the survey, most fans like Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix the most.
Tetsuya Nomura: Since I often hear that fans usually like one title in particular, it was a little unexpected to see that Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix was the top and that Kingdom Hearts II ranked second. Birth by Sleep is a subtitle, but since it’s a part of the main series, I’m happy to see that it ranked highly.
– The results of the survey show that the part people like most about the series is the story. You are the one who writes out the plot for all the titles of the series, so when writing up the story what do you focus on above all else?
Nomura: Making it “surprising.” While I’m writing out the plot, if things seem that you can predict the outcome on your own, then I think of a different, unexpected development.
– You really can’t predict the ending of every title. Do you discuss and make decisions on the final outcome of the story with the staff?
Nomura: I don’t. I ask the staff to flesh out things for the scenarios, even with that I make the final supervisions. Since I’m the only one who knows the whole story and the developments that take place afterward, I have a hard time figuring out how much to tell the staff about. (Smiling wryly)
– Are there modifications to the story to suit overseas fans?
Nomura: I believe that if the story is interesting, it will be well received; so it isn’t regulated only for specific regions. Though those at Disney said it has a very Japanese sense about it, I guess you could call it ‘Eastern thinking.’ (Laughs) Still, I had been thinking that I would make the story more clear and simpler. But while I was developing the first Kingdom Hearts, I received a single piece of advice from Sakaguchi-san*. That was, “If you don’t make it more complex like with Final Fantasy, you won’t be able to compete.” So accordingly, I decided to develop the story in a way that fans could imagine on their own the remaining story how they like.
*Hironobu Sakaguchi is a former developer who had worked on the Final Fantasy series for Square.
– Is the story of Kingdom Hearts 3D mysterious too?
Nomura: It’s fairly complicated. Right now I’m telling Disney about the scenarios, but it’s hard for them to understand it all at once. I’m explaining the reason and the established connections for each mystery one by one. It’s difficult since their approval is necessary to move forward with localization, but there are many people in Disney who love the Kingdom Hearts series as well. They want to create the game accurately too, so somehow they’re following along with me.
– Along those lines, looking at the age group of those who responded to the survey including the overseas fans, it seems the series appeals the most to a young generation.
Nomura: There’s a sense that Kingdom Hearts appeals to wider age range of fans compared to Final Fantasy. Also that ratio wise, it seems more fans are female. I’m especially happy to see that there is strong support for the series from fans in foreign countries too.
– Sora was the top ranked favorite character.
Nomura: It must be because he’s an uncomplicated guy. (Laughs) For the promotional trailers, we look for scenes with particularly good lines to highlight. But he gives us trouble finding lines that are suitable for the trailers; since Sora is a simple guy who doesn’t think too deeply about things, he doesn’t really say lines we can use. (Smiles wryly)
– Roxas ranked second, his heartrending destiny seemed to influence the top rated favorite scene.
Nomura: Roxas is someone the fans think a lot about, they say he’s like a Final Fantasy type character. Along with his friendship with Axel, they’re an impressive set, huh?
– What scenes left an impression on you?
Nomura: The most impressionable scenes for me were the endings of KH1 and KH2, after that the scene in KH2 when Roxas’ summer vacation ends left a deep impression on me.
– Next are the results concerning the favorite abilities. Glide and Dodge Roll were popular.
Nomura: I’m not surprised those two abilities were the most popular. They have a reinvigorating feel to them, I like them too. Even in Final Fantasy Versus XIII we’re including a one-handed rotation ability similar to Dodge Roll too.
– Continuing, what about your favorite Keyblade?
Nomura: Oathkeeper carries a deep meaning with the story and the design of it is clean, so it’s the one that I’m most pleased with.
– About the worlds, Twilight Town was the most popular. A lot of people said they liked the music.
Nomura: We really fussed over embodying the image of coming from school as the sunsets; it’s a world that left a deep impression on me too. As for the song, I gave Shimomura-san* a lot of trouble and pushed her to improve it. We had an image derived around another artist’s song, but it really worked out well, the result was a song with a completely different sort of anguish.
* Yoko Shimomura is the series music composer.
– On the flip side, the most unpopular world was Atlantica.
Nomura: It’s difficult to move around there, huh? Sorry about that. When you are in the water, you are not just swimming, but fighting enemies, we had trouble adjusting the character’s movement to do both simultaneously.
– The top ranked favorite enemy was the very familiar Shadow Heartless. Out of those appearing in the ranking, which ones did you design?
Nomura: The Shadows, Neo Shadows, White Mushrooms, Dusks and so on; I drew them myself. The enemies dictate the overall design aspects of the series, so I work them out with the staff afterwards.
– Oppositely, the Dancer Nobody was the least popular.
Nomura: It was formidable enemy, so of course it wasn’t popular huh.
– Well, let’s move on to the topic of mysteries people are interested in. There is a lot of interest about Organization XIII’s past.
Nomura: Most of it isn’t related to the main story of the series, so I haven’t paid too much attention to it. (Wry laughter)
– Many fans brought up the “data concealed within Sora.”
Nomura: That’s what Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance deals with. The other mysteries will be something to deal with another time.
– Alright, last question on the topic. There are an overwhelming number of people who want Kingdom Hearts 3 to be released.
Nomura: The answer for them has been prepared in KH3D.
– Many fans want the series to keep continuing afterwards as well.
Nomura: The series that has developed so far as “the Xehanort saga” should end once and for all in KH3. However, I’ve outlined a tentative plot that takes place afterward, so we could continue onto a new chapter. Sora would remain the main character; that wouldn’t change.
– By the way, the 10th anniversary of the series is next year. The number of titles in the series has really increased since it started. Some have said they want to play HD remakes of the past titles…
Nomura: Whether we release one or not is a different story; we’re concerned with the HD technical limits of the past titles.
– As for the current developments, how is KH3D coming along?
Nomura: I’d say the development status of KH3D is about 40%-50%? We’ll start recording the voices soon. The theme this time was “bold action”, but we also wanted to stress the importance of the story’s tempo. Though the story is important to fans as shown by the results of the survey, it won’t be drawn-out.
– Does that mean you’ll be decreasing the number of cutscenes?
Nomura: Not meaning that we’ve decreased the number of cutscenes, but having each one explained one by one reduces the tempo of the game, so we’re introducing a new system to make up for it. It’s a directionally different system like what’s being introduced in Final Fantasy Versus XIII which won’t have cutscenes; it’ll be a sort of integration where you can play during the event scene. Along with that, Sora will fight alongside different friends. There’s also a secret movie being prepared, so please look forward to it.
– It’ll be a while until our next follow up report, huh. Well then, what’s the last message to all the fans.
Nomura: I’ve had your support for almost 10 years. Thanks to you guys, Kingdom Hearts has become a long series. To everyone who gave their opinions, I’ll read them very carefully. Thank you so much. Also, from this summer to next spring, we’ll continue releasing information and sales dates for KH among other titles from the first development department, so please look forward to it.