trapped in revamp hell
- Nov 1, 2009
Yesterday's Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix launch event at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California was chock full of pleasant surprises for fans of all ages. Although you must have heard about the bulk of the festivities already, we hope this wrap-up detailing the entire theater panel from start to finish will prove useful for everyone, whether it's to relive the magic or indirectly experience it for themselves.
We start off with an introduction from Drew Hayashida, Employee Development Coordinator / Human Resources at the Walt Disney Company, who talked about his start with the Walt Disney Company as an ice cream scooper at the Carnation Plaza Gardens (which closed down in April 2012). He couldn't believe that he could stand before all the passionate fans and celebrate the long-awaited release of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix with everyone.
Drew first brings out Shinji Hashimoto, who we all know as the Executive Producer at Square Enix for the Kingdom Hearts series. Hashimoto greets the audience and, for the first time, introduces Emiko Yamamoto, the Executive Producer at Disney Interactive Japan for Kingdom Hearts. This is noteworthy to mention because Yamamoto was the Disney representative from the legendary elevator story that had first set the gears in motion for the series. She spoke to us about that fateful day, and joked about the rumors that Disney and Square Enix don't particularly get along, when in fact they have a strong working relationship with each other.
After meeting the two producers, we were shown footage from the North American and European Casting Call events, of the fans talking about all their favorite music in the series. Some notable mentions were L'Oscurità dell'Ignot, a powerful and also quite difficult song to pronounce, and Friends In My Heart, which always seems to play when something special and comforting happens.
When the video ended, we were immediately greeted by the soothing melody of Kairi - Andante Sostenuto, played by the very talented Livan. You may not be familiar with his name, but you're certainly familiar with his work as the Video Game Orchestra's pianist. Most recently, he worked on the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack and the Final Fantasy XV theme that debuted in the Tokyo Game Show 2014 trailer. After Kairi, Livan played Hand in Hand, 1st Mov. Sora: Allegro con brio, Finale - Working together: Allegro vivace, Missing You - Namine, and Scherzo di Notte.
We were then showed the pre-recorded interview with Yoko Shimomura that played during Square Enix Presents at E3 2014. Drew spoke afterwards about how it always sounded like she was speaking from a very harmonious place, and then announced that they had kept everyone waiting long enough and introduced none other than Yoko Shimomura herself! She and Livan then proceeded to play a duet of The Other Promise and Dearly Beloved, to which the audience gave a standing ovation.
After the brief but unforgettable performance, we went straight to a Q&A panel with Hashimoto, hosted by the North American Kingdom Hearts Brand Manager, Kaori Takasue. At first, there appeared to be a problem; there were only 3 seats set up, presumably one for Kaori, the translator, and Hashimoto. However, Kaori insisted that they needed one more for the other "guest". It was with that note that Drew finally said the words that everyone was waiting for, that Director Tetsuya Nomura was here! The room erupted into mad chaos as he took his seat next to Hashimoto.
Nomura was first asked about how he felt being in front of all the fans, to which he said that everyone was very enthusiastic, which is a rare sight to see in Japan as the fans there are much more reserved. He could feel the energy radiating directly from the audience.
The next question was, how did he get into the gaming industry? See, as Nomura was about to graduate from design school, he saw an ad in the job listings for a position at SquareSoft with Yoshitaka Amano's artwork on it. He recognized the art immediately since he greatly admires Amano and his work, and decided to apply.
Hashimoto then elaborated about the legendary elevator story. As we all know, Square Soft and Disney used to share the same office building, and it was starting around 1997 that the two companies began having talks about a collaboration, originally in the form of a movie. However, the project was not able to progress any further with so many staff coming and going over the years, until that day when he and Yamamoto discussed it in the elevator. Coincidentally at the same time, Nomura was discussing with Hironobu Sakaguchi about his desires to start a new project. When the two groups met, Nomura took the opportunity and volunteered to lead this new collaboration.
Next, Nomura was asked about what his favorite scenes from each game in HD 2.5 ReMix are. Although we've seen the topic of his favorite Disney film, character and favorite music track come up many times, we've never been able to find out what his favorite scenes are, so this was a real treat. The scenes in question were shown on the screen behind the panel for everyone to watch.
Starting with Kingdom Hearts 2, His favorite scene is actually shown during the credits sequence, of Sora walking through the secret place and discovering Kairi's added graffiti sharing a paopu fruit with him. Nomura said that since we had the original Kingdom Hearts when we saw Kairi discover the updated drawing in the ending, he had wanted to incorporate a response from Sora to Kairi that would replicate her original actions. They took special care to ensure that the movements and camera angles would be as similar as possible to recreate that feeling.
Next is Birth by Sleep. After that touching moment with Sora and Kairi, everyone in the audience expected that the next scene would be something along the same lines. Instead, we were greeted with Master Xehanort stabbing himself in glorious HD, depicting the moment before the final battle in Terra's scenario. The reason for this stems from the secret boss battle with the Lingering Will in KH2FM, which fans worldwide continue to talk about even to this day. Nomura feels that he and all the players who have faced the Lingering Will experience strong emotions resonating within them when they witness that final stand. And because he likes the scene so much, we actually had the opportunity to watch it in its entirety.
Finally is Re:coded. This is the scene when Data Roxas confronts Data Sora for the final time before granting him the final card in Castle Oblivion. In this scene, Roxas baits Sora and tries to lead him into succumbing to the intense hurt he keeps experiencing as he progresses through each floor. However, Sora stands firm and takes all the hurt, proving to Roxas that he just can do it. Above all the other scenes in the game, this was the one that Nomura wanted to see remade the most. It's rare for Roxas and Sora to communicate with each other, and with such raw emotion.
Continuing on with the questions, Nomura was asked about his motivation for creating Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix. Ultimately the goal, with both 1.5 and 2.5, was to collect all the titles in an easy to digest format and set things up for the next installment, so that new players and old would be ready to witness the end of the Dark Seeker Saga.
The next question was about the new content available in HD 2.5 ReMix. Of course there are many new additions with the Final Mixes and cinematic theater, but some noteworthy features are the Garden of Assemblage and Organization XIII data battles, as well as the Lingering Will battle for KH2FM, Secret Episode in BBSFM, and the new scenes written for Re:coded HD. He hopes the fans will look forward to them try all the new features out.
And now, probably one question that has concerned many players over the course of the last decade; the complicated story. How does Nomura feel about all the twists and turns? He has noticed that in typical RPGs, players would just start it, play through to the end, and then will probably have forgotten the entire experience a week later. He believes that it's good to provide something for players to continue debating and sharing with their friends even after finishing the game. It's a good experience to exchange opinions with each other and see how each player interprets the different characters and events.
The next question was for both Nomura and Hashimoto, asking about their experiences visiting New York and San Diego Comic Con, and about their public appearances. When Nomura is too busy with overseeing development and can't leave the office, Hashimoto will go and represent the team. On the other side, Hidemi Matzusuka, General Manager of the Square Enix Merchandising Division, kept telling Nomura that he should go out and interact with the fans more often. After SDCC, he began to consider attending more events. The two of them did notice how enthusiastic the fans at Comic Con were, and that some of them were also quite big and brawny with strong handshakes! The experience of meeting so many different people united under the same interest is one that resonates very deeply.
Disney is a big element in the Kingdom Hearts equation, and so everyone must be curious how Nomura feels to be one of the few people in the entire world to be allowed to draw Disney characters. Of course he feels pressure from all the fans worldwide to uphold the Disney legacy, and feels that it's a great honor to be able to depict characters to represent them. He's grown very familiar and comfortable with the Disney characters in the Kingdom Hearts franchise.
And no doubt everyone is wondering where he takes his inspiration for Kingdom Hearts from. The answer to that is, quite literally, everywhere. Even something like a short 10-second commercial can impact him in some way, so he likes to keep an open mind.
As for Nomura's day-to-day as a director and designer, he explained that he not only looks over the scenario written by the writing staff, but that he will also pitch ideas to the development team for gameplay elements, work with them to improve and develop the idea, and later ensure the gameplay system works. Of course, he also supervises and approves everything related to Kingdom Hearts.
Now, while his day-to-day at work is very interesting, everybody has always wondered about Nomura's private life. Laughing softly, Nomura explained that his private life is rather boring and is something of a homebody. He will go grocery shopping or stay at home browsing the internet. Recently, though, he's started to raise two Scottish Folds. A lot has happened in Nomura's life this past year and he felt that he needed something to help him recover, so he decided that raising cats might be the exact kind of healing he needed.
With the Q&A panel concluded, it was time to show Nomura and the entire audience the special trailer made for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX's launch featuring all of the fans who attended the casting calls back in September for North America and October in Europe. The video was beautifully edited, the passion & love from the fans radiated as they talked about their favorite characters & moments, and seeing the development team in Osaka respond to the fan's heartfelt emotions was just as touching to see.
Following the video, winners for a raffle were chosen with some amazing prizes including Play Arts Kai figures, Avengers: Age of Ultron posters, and even a PlayStation 3! Hashimoto and Nomura gave the prizes to the lucky fans. After the raffle, we were treated to an outtakes reel from the casting calls which was just as enjoyable to watch as the special trailer.
The special guests were called back to the stage for one last round of applause before the event ended.
However, before departing, Nomura gave Drew a strange slip of paper. It said that he'd like to leave the fans with a final parting gift, and although it's still a work-in-progress, he's excited to show everyone the progress that the development team has made. There was also a note at the bottom with an asterisk - "please no photos or video".
The audience rushed to sit back down as the lights dimmed and the words "KINGDOM HEARTS III" appeared on the screen. We were first shown some concept artwork of three different types of Heartless. The first is one that appears like a burst of fire with a core of darkness. Another was an archer Heartless that appeared quite small, but donned an oversized hat and was lugging around a bow and quiver that was obviously too big for itself. The final Heartless was very large and looked to be inspired by Greek Gladiators, complete with helm, armor, shield and sword. Models for the two final Heartless were also shown with a default waiting animation. While the models themselves looked fine, the textures were clearly a work-in-progress and appeared to just be glossy, single-colored shaders attached to different parts of the body and did not possess much detail. These models were presented in a blank white space.
The next segment was of Sora and his new Keyblade that seems to have an angel-wing theme. We saw him transform his Keyblade into the dual-guns and suddenly switch to his Valor form outfit, and then combined the guns together into a cannon while switching into his Wisdom form outfit. This demonstration was also shown in a blank white space.
We then saw concept art of a grand city built on three hills, with the one in the center being slightly taller. The city seemed to be built in tiers leading up to the top, and a tower that was curiously almost identical in shape to that of the Daybreak Town tower topped the center hill. Chains connected the top corners of the center tower to the two surrounding hills, a motif that we have seen replicated in the structure of the castle in the Land of Departure. The concept art had the letters "C.T," beneath the center tower.
The camera zoomed into the tower and made the transition into 3D, and we saw just how vast and condensed the city was. We entered the tower into a library/office and immediately noticed Master Eraqus's symbol plastered on the overhead arch, and the χ symbol written on a chalkboard in the room. An upper loft could be seen in the study that lead to a row of books. The room was bathed in such soft and glowing light as wind flowed gently in from the windows, ruffling the curtains and passing over Sora's hair and clothes. Sora began to approach the window and his shadow began to spread across the checkered tile floor. The camera zoomed into a cluster of chess pieces topped with various symbols seen throughout the series, such as the heart and crown.
The footage ended with the message "More Kingdom Hearts III news coming 2015".