This summer has been a boon for those of us following the breadcrumb trail of Kingdom Hearts 3 news. We got Utada Hikaru back, more gameplay footage in new worlds (Toy Story, Tangled, Monsters, Inc, Frozen), and quite a few polished trailers over the summer. And while the delayed release date of January 29th took the wind out of my sails for a bit, the latest trailer from the Tokyo Game Show this morning has me back aboard the HYPE TRAINNNN! TOOT TOOT!
Like Axel, I cried literal tears watching the trailer. I was just so happy to see both Roxas and Aqua again. Even if both characters appear worse off than ever before, I have to believe that Sora’s light is gonna pull them through. Yeah, I’m a sap. Don’t judge—just watch the trailer!
Coupled with the trailer, the absolutely beautiful artwork by Tetsuya Nomura was also released. As you’re looking at the artwork below, let me know if you come up with any theories about who that mysterious hooded figure below Sora might be…is it just a gargoyle? Sora’s Heartless, maybe? And what’s the significance of the star?
SPOILERS FOR BIRTH BY SLEEP AND DREAM DROP DISTANCE ARE BELOW.
(By the way, I highly recommend you play these before KH3 comes out!)
LIGHT VS DARK
As with the prior trailers, this one opens with a young Master Eraqus and Master Xehanort playing chess. The visual has been a continued metaphor for their battling philosophies on light and darkness. The black pieces (note Vanitas’ gear insignia on one) surround Sora and/or Kingdom Hearts, as signified by the white King piece. As expected, Master Eraqus isn’t ready to give up the game. This is what the KH3 is about! It’s the light’s last stand against Master Xehanort.
A NEW WORLD: SAN FRANSOKYO
Next up, Sora and friends ready for battle, now joined by Big Hero 6! This is the first time we have seen San Fransokyo included in our world lineup, and I couldn’t be happier to see Sora flying around on Baymax’s shoulders, wreaking havoc with trigger commands! In this world, he is sporting a Keyblade resembling a combination of Baymax’s armor and Hiro’s original battle robot. It’s pretty dang precious. The Golden Gate Bridge is breathtakingly beautiful, and it’s here that Utada’s music ushers us into a more somber mood. We get glimpses of how well Sora can understand Hiro, especially after Hiro learned how to treasure his deceased loved one in his heart.
Here is where the feels train starts up, at least for me…
RIKU & KAIRI, TOO
While Sora connects with the source of his inner strength, Riku talks about his own internal resolve to face his darkness with King Mickey. Presumably, this means rescuing Aqua. Mickey comments that he probably has that resolve because he’s found something worth protecting…hmm, friendship? I’m starting to pick up the theme here! Riku, or another version of him, appears to challenge Sora later, donning the black Organization jacket. Based on the scene we just witnessed (and his old haircut), we can safely assume this is a trick by the Organization. Maybe it’s another Riku clone from Castle Oblivion?
The trailer later features Kairi, who will be taking the Mark of Mastery Exam with Axel. This makes me suspect that we’ll get to play a portion of the game through the eyes of the “original” Kingdom Hearts Trio (Sora, Riku, Kairi). It would make sense given their goal to save the previous Keyblade wielders, who each of them is connected to. I hope this will be the case, but the fact that Namine is included on the new box art pretty much confirms that Kairi is due for some significant screen time.
We’re finally given more context on one of the earlier trailer’s scenes where Sora is shown holding the Master’s Defender on Destiny Islands (Master Eraqus’ and most recently, Aqua’s Keyblade). Goofy repeats KH3’s tagline: “May your heart be your guiding key.” From this, I infer that Sora’s discovery of Master’s Defender will somehow lead him to Aqua. Or perhaps it is a clue to unlocking Roxas in Sora’s heart, which the next scene seems to allude to by showing “another” Twilight Town.
There are some impressively animated flashes from worlds we’ve already seen, like Frozen, Tangled, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Some mildly amusing gameplay footage also included Sora taking a selfie with one of his opponents, which will be a new feature for the franchise.
WHERE IS NUMBER XIII, ROXAS?
The number 13 continues to play a prominent role in both the trailer and the box art. Note that 13 characters are part of the artwork (each in their trio, except for Namine), and in the background, you can clearly see the clocktower with 13 strokes. Remember, 13 is also the Organization’s number for Roxas.
In the trailer, Sora teases Larxene about the Organization not getting their 13th member, the vessel to complete Master Xehanort. This is because Sora, after the events of Dream Drop Distance, believes he has already thwarted Master Xehanort’s plot at getting his vessel. However, as Sora races to save Ventus, Larxene claims that the vessel is indeed within their grasp.
What’s clear later in the trailer is that Sora looking for Ventus is clearly part of the Organization’s plans. We don’t know how much more Master Xehanort has plotted out at this point, but if he’s looking for Sora alternates as backup vessels, there are plenty of potential characters in the series (maybe even Xion).
In the final frames of the trailer, we see Sora, apparently on his way to awaken Ventus, a flashback of Kairi and Sora sitting together, Axel’s tears *MY HEART*, and finally, a shot of Roxas in his Organization XIII jacket, wielding Oblivion. It’s not clear whether that last image is just Axel reminiscing, but one thing this new trailer tells me is that this final game intends to feature Roxas prominently. And that makes my fangirl heart flutter. Note that Axel, Roxas, and Xion all appear on the cover artwork as well!
As for Aqua, her role in this final installment of the Keyblade Wars still isn’t clear. What happened to her after the events of Fragmentary Passage? Did she give in to Phantom Aqua? In this trailer, we can see that her skin on her arms is darkly shaded as if she is turning into a Heartless. Something tells me Vanitas is involved.
From the looks of things, though, whoever faces her next may have a big fight on their hands. It’s a good thing King Mickey will be backing up our boy Riku if he has to be the one to bring Aqua back to her senses.
There’s a lot I didn’t cover here, but those were the biggest takeaways I got from this release. The trailer pretty well sets the stage for the plot, with Sora, Donald, and Goofy rescuing Ventus/Roxas, Riku and Mikey bringing Aqua out of the Realm of Darkness, and Kairi becoming the next Keyblade Master with Axel.
Again, let me know if you have any theories of your own in the comments, particularly about the artwork! We’ll probably get one or two more trailers around Christmas, so stay tuned for more reactions by subscribing!