What's that old Al Pacino quote? "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." There's been news scattered across the past couple of years that Kingdom Hearts 3 isn't anywhere near ready for release, with a NeoGAF post going so far as to spell out that the game won't be out until the 2018 fiscal year at the earliest. So with Kingdom Hearts taking longer to get from "2" to "3" than any game not published by Valve, it was easy to give up on the series.
Then came the new trailer, a surprise for those that attended the Kingdom Hearts live orchestra performance in Los Angeles on Saturday evening. Square Enix quickly posted the Japanese trailer, with English subtitles, in full on YouTube and it's easily the heaviest trailer to date. So without any further delay, let's break down the key takeaways from this newest tease.
1. Sora and crew return to Olympus to finally become "Heroes"
This is a plot point that goes all the way back to the first Kingdom Hearts. When Sora and company first visited Hercules and the land of Olympus, curmudgeonly Phil would staunchy refuse to recognize them as heroes. They started out as "junior heroes" and it's a label that's stuck with them even after Kingdom Hearts II, where they took the fight directly to Hades in his domain.
As one might have guessed, Kingdom Hearts III will return to Olympus one last time. Square looks to have saved the biggest trip for last, because it appears that Hades is launching an onslaught on Olympus. Sora will have to contend with the Heartless that are spawning in larger numbers, which includes a new armored Heartless type. He'll also be facing off against Lythos the Rock Titan, a massive behemoth that will take up a large chunk of the screen. He's so big that Sora will have to climb up crumbling mountains to even be able to reach him with his Keyblade.
2. Sora's Second Form looks insanely powerful
Olympus in this trailer also serves as a showcase for Sora's new abilities. Sora's new forms allow him to lock onto and fire at multiple Heartless, clear out foes with an area of effect blast, and perform tandem attacks with his partners. The one on display here saw him launch off Goofy's shield and then chuck him at enemies below.
Sora's Second Form stands out as impressively powerful. This will look to operate similarly to the Drive Forms from Kingdom Hearts II, in that they'll allow Sora to glide across the ground, hit multiple foes at once, and finish with a massive attack. His magic spells will also be powered up exponentially, with the trailer demonstrating powerful Firaga, Aeroga, and Thundara spells that took out dozens of enemies simultaneously.
It'll be interesting to see if Second Form can be leveled up in the same way that Drive Form was and how much more powerful this version of Sora can get over the course of the game.
3. Maleficent and Pete are also looking for a "black box"
There may be some light spoilers for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, but I'll make sure to tread lightly here. Without spoiling Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover, let's just say there's a mysterious black box of interest presented at one point during the story. This box contains something extremely powerful, so much so that it may affect the entire story. Is it the all-powerful χ-blade? Is it a heart of pure darkness or light? Is it Xehanort's horcruxes? Who knows? The big takeaway here is that whatever's in that box is hugely important.
It looks like Maleficent and Pete have come to realize this and they are also on the hunt for this box. Given that Back Cover takes place well before the events of the first game, the box could be anywhere and its location will likely be one of the key plot points of Kingdom Hearts 3. Maleficent and Pete got a big win at the end of Kingdom Hearts II by claiming the Nobodies' castle for themselves, but have largely come across as bumbling fools in the spin-offs that have released since. Regardless, they still present a big threat and it looks like Sora will have to deal with them before they can recover the black box... and whatever's inside of it.
4. The Mystery Behind Roxas
The most eye-opening story point of this trailer was Sora's nonviolent confrontation with Xemnas and Ansem, the two lead antagonists of the first two Kingdom Hearts games. The shocker is Xemnas addressing Sora and a goal to restore Roxas. Roxas is Sora's Nobody, who was reabsorbed back into Sora at the start of Kingdom Hearts II. But a funny thing started happening over the course of the KH spinoffs, specifically Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. While Organization XIII has been wiped out, their human forms have been coming back to life. This includes Lea, the former Axel.
What does any of this have to do with Roxas? That's the magic of the Kingdom Hearts storyline. The answer could very well be "absolutely nothing." It could also tie into Axel's unbreakable friendship with Roxas, established in KH2 and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. But whatever the reason, Sora is looking to restore his former Nobody and give him a chance at existence.
The cliffhanger at the end of the trailer suggests that Sora will have to tap into the darkness to make this happen. That makes sense, given that Sora momentarily becoming a Heartless in the first game is what created Roxas in the first place. The question is whether Sora is willing to take this risk and whether it's even worth it.
5. A New Land is Being Revealed in July
The trailer ended with the reveal that a new land will be unveiled at the biennial D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA on July 15. Square Enix has been extremely quiet about new lands, so far only showing off Olympus from "Hercules," bits and pieces of a world from "Tangled," and San Fransokyo from "Big Hero 6."
Speculation will run rampant on what piece of Disney lore the new level will pull from and is sure to reignite the rumors (and wishes) of the Kingdom Hearts series visiting worlds from Pixar, Marvel, or Star Wars. There's not much else to do right now, except refresh those wish lists and wait for D23 in July.