Kingdom Hearts III had plenty of drama before launch thanks to a massive leak of physical copies that led director Tetsuya Nomura to ask fans not to share spoilers. Square Enix also delayed the game’s epilogue until after the game’s release. When release day finally came, Sora and his pals mostly ended up okay, save for the usual shenanigans. It’s been six months since then. Here’s how it all went down.
- The embargo for Kingdom Hearts III lifts on January 23rd. My coworker Tim Rogers determines that Kingdom Hearts III, as a super-packed and almost-a-decade-in-the-making conclusion to a popular franchise’s first major story arc, might be an unreviewable game. It’s a titan, a powerhouse of context and goofs. Little does Tim know that he will actually have to review Kingdom Hearts III for Kotaku.
- The day before release, fans notice a strange warning on the title screen indicating that streamers should be cautious showing the game, especially if they just want to share the music. Streaming needed to be “non-commercial,” a term that Square Enix never really clarified.
- Kingdom Hearts III officially releases, and reviews of the game, while positive, are not necessarily glowing. Kotaku’s Tim Rogers battles his inner Goofy and Donald to conclude that it’s a fun game with a great battle system that “kinda sucks and that’s why I love it.”
- Kingdom Hearts III’s epilogue gets added to the game in a patch after the world-wide launch. It has a pretty shocking revelation about a certain laid-back Organization XIII member, but we’re not gonna tell you what it is.
- Players start to craft a plethora of amusing gummi ships ranging from cool planes and spaceships to intergalactic Hatsune Mikus and giant dicks. Truly, these are the height of human creations.
- By early February, Kingdom Hearts III sets a new sales record for the series as download sales and shipped copies cross over five million units.
- Speculation runs wild as players unlock the game’s hidden ending, which we will not spoil too much here. Needless to say, it’s incredibly meta, connected to a throwaway joke, and might hint at the inclusion of more The World Ends With You characters.
- Internet sleuths determine that there is a watermark visible during a musical sequence in the Frozen world, indicating the scene was rendered in a copy of Maya with a lapsed license. It’s only there for one frame, but gwarsh!
- Some writers, including Beth Elderkin at our sister site io9, express disappointment in how Kairi is used (or rather, not used) in the game.
- On April 23rd, Kingdom Hearts III is finally updated to include the “Critical Mode” difficulty. Many fans had previously felt that the game was too easy, and the mode provided a welcome challenge for fans eager for something a bit more intense.
- Kingdom Hearts III’s Re:Mind DLC is announced and teased at E3 2019. Footage shows off the ability to play as Riku, Roxas and other beloved characters. It currently set for a Winter release.
- Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner star and the voice of the villainous Master Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts III, passes away on July 24th. The 75-year-old actor had taken over the role following the death of Leonard Nimoy in 2015.
And that’s where things are at. Kingdom Hearts III marks the culmination of years of hard work from game makers and investment from fans. It wasn’t perfect but still held much of the charm that drew in players to begin with. Following release, there has been a shifting tide of fan speculation, production goofs, new difficulty modes, and even the tragic loss of a beloved actor. But it’s here and it’s real. After so much time, seeing the first major portion of Sora’s story wrap up was emotional. And no matter where the series goes next or whatever else might follow in the wake of this game’s release, Kingdom Hearts III remains an emotionally evocative and pretty darn good capstone to one of the most hog-bonkers crossover ideas of all time.