The biggest surprise at this year's Square Enix booth was the announcement of a new Kingdom Hearts project. While it may be true that Kingdom Hearts II left some questions unanswered, Square Enix has decided to expand on the world of Kingdom Hearts with not just one or two titles, but a trio of games for the DS, PlayStation Portable, and mobile phones. What's more, all three of the titles are different games with their own settings and timelines. Tetuya Nomura is working as the director for all three titles, together with Shinji Hashimoto, who will serve as executive producer.
The first title, Kingdom Hearts Coded, is the mobile game release. The game is being codirected by Hajime Tabata and produced by Kousei Itou. No release date or carrier has been announced yet. Kingdom Hearts Coded's CG trailer started off with the words "Mysteries get solved, making the world wider." The scene changed to Jiminy Cricket flipping through the journal that he's written during his adventures with Sora. He stops at one page, which reads, "We must return to free them from their torment." Puzzled and unable to recall what that page was supposed to mean, he runs to consult the King (Mickey Mouse), who decides to search for answers by digitizing Jiminy's journal.
The player apparently takes the role of a Sora that was born inside the digitized world of Jiminy's journal. Attendees were shown a couple of clips of in-game footage, and although the graphics were mobile-phone quality, it still runs as a 3D action game and has the Kingdom Hearts atmosphere.
The second title, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, is the DS release. Unlike previous installments in Kingdom Hearts, the game focuses on the series' antagonists (known as Organization XIII), and Roxas, who was "the other main character" in Kingdom Hearts II.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days' trailer starts off from the last scene in Chain of Memories (the PlayStation 2 version), and the words "The time during the opposite side, when Sora goes to sleep" appear on the screen. The scene changes to the station and clock tower in Kingdom Hearts II, with Roxas and Axel looking over the city at the sunset. In another scene, Roxas is seen sitting in a white room together with the rest of Organization XIII, and a new, 14th member is introduced into the organization. Although the character's face was hidden by Organization XIII's traditional hooded jacket, it was apparently a female character.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is a multiplayer action game where you can fight as an Organization XIII member and attempt to complete missions cooperatively with friends. During the trailer, up to four characters fought together on the same screen against a massive boss character in a city setting. The game will also feature a single-player mode, of course. The gameplay looked similar to the combat from past KH games, though the frame rate was running a little low in the trailer footage. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is codirected by Tomohiro Hasegawa and produced by Patrick Chen. The game is being developed by h.a.n.d Inc.
Last but definitely not least of the three Kingdom Hearts games, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is a new title for the PSP. From checking out the trailers, it felt the most like a true Kingdom Hearts sequel of the three games (except that it's actually a prequel). Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep's trailer started off with the words "The distant past." And as it turns out, the game takes place before Sora's era, back in the days when there were multiple "keyblade masters" around the world. We're introduced to two characters whom we assume are the protagonists: a blond boy who looks strikingly similar to Roxas, and an older, taller, black-haired guy who looks a bit like Final Fantasy VII's Zack in baggy pants.
Audiences who have finished playing through Kingdom Hearts II were in for a surprise. As it turns out, the bonus secret movie from the game was apparently an event that took place in the past. During Birth by Sleep's trailer, we saw the same landscape and bald man with a gray goatee and yellow eyes that were featured in the KHII movie. It seems certain that he plays a key role in the game, as the trailer took time to show him trying to influence the blond-haired boy in some unknown way, and also facing off in combat against the black-haired man, who's trying to stop him. In another scene, he was seen shouting, "Use your powers to break the darkness and fix my wrongdoings!" At the end of the trailer, a figure who looked like Mickey Mouse appeared to confront the bad guy with a weapon that looked like a cross between a sword and a magic wand.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is directed by Tai Sasue and produced by Patrick Chen.