After completing Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Square Enix’s Osaka studio refined the Deck Command system again for Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]. Flowmotion was a major addition, which lets Sora and Riku utilize the environment to do special attacks. You can swing on lamp posts or dive into enemies after sliding on a grind rail.
Instead of letting players switch between Sora and Riku at save points, the Drop mechanic automatically changes characters when time runs out. Tai Yasue, director of Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], talked about these changes and the growing series mythology during an interview with Siliconera.
Kingdom Hearts 3D’s combat is fun, but what drove me crazy at first was the “Drop” mechanic. In the middle of the first boss fight in Traverse Town I got “dropped,” so I tried to switch back really quickly and the boss’ health regenerated.
Tai Yasue, Director: [Laughs] Nomura wanted it to be a bit thrilling in a way, so we added a time limit. It’s a little bit different in the North American version. We tweaked it, it’s not a big difference, but Sora and Riku’s HP will become full at the beginning of the boss battle, so if you’re dying, you can start over, too.
We didn’t really want to lose the character of the game. It’s one of the parts that’s sometimes stressful. When you’re successful, when you beat the boss at the last few seconds it feels really good.
I got the hang of it later on and how you can use it to boost your character. That’s when I felt it worked, but at the beginning when someone doesn’t know what’s going on, it’s like, “Awww…”
[Laughs] As you go along, you earn a lot of drop bonuses, so we wanted the characters cooperating. A feel for cooperation, and we did that using the Drop system, I think.
While Kingdom Hearts 3D uses the deck command system, I found myself using more Flowmotion attacks. They seemed to overpower everything. You can bounce back and forth between enemies, and it negates almost all of your commands.
At the start of the game, the Flow-Motion may feel powerful, but as you progress, at the later stages, the Deck Commands are really powerful. Flowmotion is used more when you want to escape, so there’s a difference in meaning and strategy. At the very beginning, really, we wanted to introduce Flowmotion, so the Deck Commands are a little weaker, but as you progress, that balance changes.
I see what you mean because in the beginning I used Flowmotion a lot. One of the most interesting thing in Traverse Town, when you go underground, there’s all of those grind rails. I know you can ride those and find the correct path to the top, but I just jumped all the way, by doing an infinite wall-jump using Flowmotion. Did you plan for that?
Oh, we did. We planned for that. Kingdom Hearts isn’t a game where you have to do one single thing to clear it. We wanted options–you can go this way or that way. It’s not just one route, you can go up the wall, you can slide down a ramp. You don’t need only need to use the Deck Commands, you can use Flowmotion or you can use Reality Shift. We just wanted to provide a wider range of options and really wanted users to pick which strategy they use.
In some places, though, like Prankster’s Paradise, I feel like it almost “breaks” the level. Like when you flip the world upside-down. All the really good treasure chests are at the top, but you can avoid doing all the platforming by horizontal wall-jumping across.
I guess, but if you want the treasure chests, you have to actually switch it over. One of the concepts for Flowmotion is a lot of freedom. And when we say “freedom,” we wanted the player to feel free to do what they want to do. You could use a lot of map gimmicks, but if you don’t want to you can use Flowmotion too.
What other tweaks did you make to the North American version, other than to the Drop mechanic?
I think that’s just the major change; we haven’t changed that much. We wanted the Japanese version and North American version to be pretty similar. I think there’s a Drop bonus that was added. I think it’s called “Drop Speed Down” in Japanese, but I don’t know what the English name is. We added the drop bonus and that’s about it. Not a lot of major changes.
Going back to Prankster’s Paradise when you’re playing as Riku, all the time, there’s this wall of text that tries to explain Chain of Memories. Kingdom Hearts started with a very simple mythology that’s gotten more complicated over time. What’s your view on how to make the mythology more accessible?
I really think it depends on the player. Some really want to know everything. For [Kingdom Hearts] 3D, you’ve got the Mementos, and you don’t have to see them if you don’t want to. You can skip it. At the same time, if you want to read it, you can go in and see it.
We developed the game so that hardcore players who want to understand it can do that, and people that just want to play lightly—who play all the Disney worlds, experience the Disney story–they don’t really have to see all the deep stuff.
There have been 10 years of Kingdom Hearts and kids who started playing the series when they were 10 are 20 now. Since we’re still focusing on the same characters, how are you going to make the Kingdom Hearts story follow an audience growing up with the franchise.
In 3D, we introduced the Memento system to cover that. In future titles, we’re going to really have to think about that.
I think for Kingdom Hearts you can really enjoy the lighter aspects. It’s about coming to terms with Riku’s darkness. It’s about friends. There are a lot of easy themes too and when you go to a Disney world each one has a story that is really accessible. If you want to understand everything it might be a little complex, but if you want to play lightly I think that’s possible too. Obviously, we want new players to access the game in a way so we’re going to have to think about that. I can’t really talk about our new titles yet, but for 3D we tried to do that with the Memento system.
Do you have any other plans for the 10th anniversary?
Not at the moment, no. [Kingdom Hearts] 3D is definitely our 10th anniversary title.
Without spoiling it, can we talk about the ending a bit?
I would just like to say that, this time the game is more centered on Riku and how he comes to terms with the darkness. Kingdom Hearts 3D really connects to the next Kingdom Hearts—Kingdom Hearts 3. And in a way, I think you’ll be able to see a glimpse of the future by playing Kingdom Hearts 3D.