With another E3 come and gone little information has been released for Kingdom Hearts III. There is some talk of a possible release date somewhere in 2017 but more final details won’t be announced until this winter. The third installment of the widely popular Kingdom Hearts series has been in the works for quite sometime now. The occasional rumors and eventual sets backs have resulted in fans having varying degrees of hope and disappointment. This leaves us to ask an important and bitter question: “Is Kingdom Hearts III in development hell?”
The Secret Endings
At the end of Kingdom Hearts II, a secret trailer was revealed, showcasing characters in armor wielding Keyblades in a graveyard of discarded and broken Keyblades. This ending was extended in Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix and showed the three characters in an intense battle against a mysterious man with great power and with his own armored Keyblade warrior. Surely, this was the preview for the third installment of the Kingdom Hearts franchise.
Sadly, not. This footage would turn out to be Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, a game for the PSP and served as a prequel to the actual story. Its released would come after Kingdom Hearts: Coded for mobile phones (in Japan) and Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days for the DS both of which served as side stories to the proper game. It would be followed by Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance for the 3DS which does actually take place after the events of Kingdom Hearts II but is not the official sequel. This along with the release of previous versions of titles such as Kingdom Hearts: Re:Chain of Memories for the PS2 (originally released on the Gameboy Advance) and Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded for the DS along with HD versions of the two original PS2 games (Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD) would become the standard for what to expect from the Kingdom Hearts franchise for a decade.
Where is the game?
At this point you are probably asking, “What happened to Kingdom Hearts III?” The first “official” word of development which was not rumors or comments would come from a trailer released during E3 in 2013. It showed Sora running carelessly through streets, no longer requiring a fade to black for the game to load the next scene. Fans thought there was a slim possibility the game would be released on the PS3 but now with the PS4 in full swing this chance is gone.
Right before E3 this year, a trailer was released for another game, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD Final Chapter Prologue. It revealed gameplay featuring Aqua (a character from Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep), the Foretellers (who were introduced in a mobile game called Kingdom Hearts: Unchained x), and ended with showing the Kingdom Hearts III logo and the words “Upcoming announcements this winter” below it. The game is finally coming…eventually…maybe.
What is development hell?
Though there is no specific date which qualifies a product to be in development hell, any property which has been in production at least a minimum of five years with hype sustained by rumors and conjectures usually gets this label. Kingdom Hearts III has been in development for a decade if you count the initial announcement as the starting point. Even then some properties which haven’t been in development this long have been accused of being in development hell. Just go ask those who gave to the original Kickstarter for Mighty No. 9 if they feel the property hasn’t been in this long suffering limbo.
Why hasn’t this game been put in the category of “Development Hell” sooner? Frankly, because of the negative association such a title has. Putting something in development hell means admitting the release isn’t right around the corner and won’t magically be announced within a few months. It also plays into the fear the product will never be released. This is why fans weren’t willing to admit at any point Kingdom Hearts III was in development hell.
The lesson which can be taken from this experience is Kingdom Hearts III is indeed in development hell. It has been for quite a while. Its own director, Tetsuya Nomura revealed in an interview they announced the game too early and this three years ago. Perhaps the faith fans have put into the company will be rewarded and Kingdom Hearts III will get released sometime in 2017. For now though more HD re-releases are on the horizon but for Kingdom Hearts III itself, there is still more waiting ahead.