Square Enix held a special Kingdom Hearts event today for the series’ 20th anniversary. The event celebrated the history and legacy of the Kingdom Hearts franchise while offering new looks at what’s in store for the future. Specifically, two new games were revealed during this presentation. First, we got a glimpse of Kingdom Hearts: Missing Link, a mobile game in development for iOS and Android devices. But, then, Square Enix surprised everyone by announcing Kingdom Hearts 4, set in a very different world.
The 7-minute video attached above includes the trailers for both Missing Link and Kingdom Hearts 4; the compilation video was released online after the trailers were shown to the physical attendees at the event in Japan. Before the Kingdom Hearts 4 trailer, which begins at the 4-minute mark, the video actually includes the trailer for Kingdom Hearts: Missing Link. The mobile game is set to go into early beta testing stages later this year, with no release window announced as of yet.
Kingdom Hearts 4 is coming
The fourth entry in the series is supposed to be a lot different than what we’re accustomed to when it comes to Kingdom Hearts. For one, instead of setting the game in fantastical worlds that are bright and colorful, and make you want to explore the unknown, Kingdom Hearts 4 is set in real-life Japan with no apparent change to the location to make it stand out.
In the trailer, we see Sora in the new world of “Quadratum“, a location that Square Enix describes as “a large, expansive city set in a gorgeous, realistic world unlike anything ever seen before in the Kingdom Hearts series”. So even though Quadratum is still a city inside Japan, it at least is a fictional one with huge monsters and imminent threats lurking around to strike at any time.
Sora can be seen running up skyscrapers while trying to fight a massive boss enemy towering over the city. Sora looks much older, or at least a lot more realistic than he ever has. His older look can be attributed to the choice of a more realistic design than the previously-seen stylized ones. Nevertheless, the gameplay looks exciting and presents a natural evolution of the RPG mechanics we’ve come to expect from Kingdom Hearts.
If this more serious approach to Kingdom Hearts made you believe that Square Enix is developing this game without Disney, don’t worry as somehow iconic Disney characters will still factor into this story. At the tail end of the trailer, Goofy and Donald are teased. They are worriedly looking for Sora walking through what looks like a dark cave of sorts when they see someone in the shadows say “Hey! Just where do you think you’re going” and scream in absolute shock.
Fans will be excited to see the return of Sora’s well-known companions Donald and Goofy, in addition to the first appearance of Strelitzia, a mysterious new character who appears before Sora in this strange new setting. – Square Enix
Despite that quote mentioning a new character, Strelitzia is actually a familiar name as she is one of the characters in the mobile-game Kingdom Hearts Union χ, though her role in this game would likely be much more involved. Moreover, we don’t know if Kingdom Hearts 4 will introduce new Disney properties or not, akin to how Kingdom Hearts 3 was the first game in the series to include Pixar worlds.
A new beginning
According to Square Enix, Kingdom Hearts 4 will mark the start of an “epic new storyline” entitled the “Lost Master Arc“. All three previous Kingdom Hearts games have been focused around the villain Master Xehanort who is reponsible for causing all dangerous events in the games over the years. It remains to be seen if Kingdom Hearts 4 will incorporate him or his legacy in the game or if we’ll (most likely) see a new series antagonist.
As you saw in the trailer above, Kingdom Hearts 4 is taking the more photorealistic route than its predecessors. Even though the game still retains its cartoonish art style that is especially apparent in the gameplay, it now has a much more realistic look in general which is a first for the series. Part of the charm of Kingdom Hearts was just how bat-shit crazy it was to the point where it was ironically hilarious to see Square Enix try to tie up the multitudes of plot lines in the series and give closure to the games as a whole in Kingdom Hearts 3.
Perhaps, Square Enix learned its lesson and wants to make a much more focused story that can be scaled up or down depending on the needs. Speaking of which, the games is currently in “early development” so it’s not coming out any time soon. That’s why the company didn’t give us any release window. We also didn’t get word on which platforms the game would release on, but given the visuals and the few years it will take for this game to materialize, I think it’s safe to say that current-gen consoles and PC is likely the target.
We’d like to thank the fans for all of their support over the years, and we can’t wait for them to experience all that’s to come for Sora. – Ichiro Hazama, series brand manager.