It's not a small world, after all.
Kingdom Hearts III was officially revealed to the public at E3 2013. Despite being in development since 2006, surprisingly little has been revealed (or leaked) about one major thing every fan is wondering about: worlds. What Disney worlds will appear in Kingdom Hearts III? What characters will we team up with and what fantasy terrains will we traverse?
So far, Square Enix has confirmed the inclusion of two worlds from Disney animated films: Tangled and Hercules. Tangled was revealed in Kingdom Hearts III's latest gameplay trailer, debuting during the company's press conference at E3 2015. The footage shows Sora, Donald and Goofy fighting Heartless across the grassy green valleys surrounding Rapunzel's tower, though we never get a glimpse of the princess herself.
Hercules, meanwhile, was confirmed to GameSpot by director Tetsuya Nomura in a recent interview. Hercules' Olympus Coliseum has been an available area in every Kingdom Hearts game except for 3DS title Dream Drop Distance, and the Underworld--villain Hades' section of the world--played a major part in Kingdom Hearts II. Speaking about the new ability for keyblades to transform into other weapons, Nomura noted that the pegasus and chariot shown in the E3 trailer came from the Hercules world. Each keyblade transformation, he explained, will be collected from a different Disney world. From this, we can conclude that the other transformations we saw in trailer are abilities unlocked by still-unannounced worlds.
A closer look at the new E3 footage could provide clues to other worlds marked for inclusion in Kingdom Hearts III. For example, scenes showing the two boys--two new, unknown characters--take place in a high ceilinged brightly lit room with golden walls. Books lie on a table off to the left of the window, and the view frequently takes in the boys' finely wrought chess set and a keyblade mounted on the wall. This looks a lot like the Land of Departure, the hub world in PSP prequel title Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, where hopeful students train to become keyblade masters.
We also see Sora fighting Heartless in what looks like the back alleys of a town filled with brick buildings and sidewalks. This can only be Twilight Town, because of the dusky lighting. Remember Traverse Town--Twilight Town's counterpart--is in a perpetual nighttime state, so this can't be it. Twilight Town was first introduced in Kingdom Hearts II, and is home to a group of children used in a life simulation that kept the Nobody Roxas captive.
Looking again at those keyblade transformations, we can make a few educated guesses as to what worlds they came from. The first to show up in the trailer are a set of pistols that Sora dual wields, targeting and shooting enemies from afar. The gun barrels open when fired and spin around as Sora shoots. Their style is a bit hard to place, but they look like standard pistols. My guess is these may be taken from Toy Story's Woody, who has a gun holster but no guns. Or, it could be a riff on Han Solo's pistol from the original Star Wars trilogy. Another possibility is pistols from Pirates of Caribbean.
Pirates of the Caribbean has been used before in Kingdom Hearts II, while we've yet to see anything from Disney's line of Pixar films in a Kingdom Hearts game. And with the purchase of Lucasfilm in fall 2012, it's entirely possibly we'll see some lightsaber action in Kingdom Hearts III. However, in my opinion, these pistols can't be from Star Wars, because Square Enix is out of their minds if they don't make a lightsaber keyblade. Let's be real.
As for the rocket launcher that appears a little later in the trailer, I've got a clearer guess. Who else in Disney canon uses a rocket launcher so often? My guess is this is a take on Rocket Raccoon's weapon from Guardians of the Galaxy, another currently popular Disney franchise. I wouldn't be surprised if Sora takes a trip to see Starlord and Groot during the game.
There's still a lot left to reveal, so what worlds can we expect to see? With Twilight Town teased, it's likely we'll see the Mysterious Tower, home of the wizard Yensid and a tiny floating world adjacent to Twilight Town. Square Enix has also repeatedly stated Kingdom Hearts III will be the end of the "Dark Seeker" saga and the story of Sora's fight against Xehanort. No doubt a cataclysmic battle is on the horizon, and I can't think of a more appropriate place for it to happen than the keyblade Graveyard--site of the last keyblade War and where the haunted armor of hero Terra still resides--or the End of the World, the final level from the original Kingdom Hearts that featured the wreckage of all worlds swallowed up by darkness.
The wish list for new worlds is one I no doubt share with most Kingdom Hearts fans. Because of the film's overwhelming popularity, it's not hard to believe we'll see a world based on Frozen. That world's final boss, though? Probably Hans riding a Heartless or something, but I'm totally okay with it if it means we get to team up with Elsa and her ice powers.
Another possibility I don't think is too much of a stretch is a world based in the Star Wars universe. Other current video games, including Disney Infinity and Star Wars: Battlefront, are making great use of the original trilogy and the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoon series. It's more likely Kingdom Hearts will use Clone Wars or Rebels characters and locations in a Star Wars world, I believe, because it's the media most fresh in players' minds. It's intimidating to tinker with the story of Luke and Leia, and I think Ahsoka Tano or Sabine Wren would more likely get along with Sora and his crew.
Every Kingdom Hearts game to date has featured characters from the Final Fantasy series, but no dedicated world from a Final Fantasy game. Out of all the characters used, however, most are from Final Fantasy VII; Cloud Strife, Sephiroth, Aerith Gainsborough, Tifa Lockhart, Yuffie Kisaragi, Cid Highwind, and Zack Fair have all made appearances in the Kingdom Hearts universe, and have played significant roles within the story. Both Cloud and Sephiroth have also been boss fights. With the Final Fantasy VII remake just announced, it would be the perfect time to bring Midgar to Kingdom Hearts.
Square Enix has promised more information on Kingdom Hearts III at the upcoming D23 Disney expo in Anaheim, California next month. Perhaps we'll learn more about the worlds we'll visit then. What are you hoping to see represented in Kingdom Hearts III? Tell us in the comments!