Kingdom Hearts 3 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 OK, save for the usual shenanigans. It’s been six months since then. Here’s how it all went down.
- The embargo for Kingdom Hearts 3 lifts on January 24. My coworker Tim Rogers determines that Kingdom Hearts 3, 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 3 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 3 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 3’s epilogue gets added to the game in a patch after the worldwide launch. It has a pretty shocking revelation about a certain laid-back Organisation 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 3 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. Suffice 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 licence. It’s only there for one frame, but gwarsh!
- Some writers, including Beth Elderkin at our sister site Gizmodo, express disappointment in how Kairi is used (or rather, not used) in the game.
- On April 24, Kingdom Hearts 3 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 3’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 summer release.
- Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner star and the voice of the villainous Master Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts 3, passes away on July 19. 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 3 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 3 remains an emotionally evocative and pretty darn good capstone to one of the most hog-bonkers crossover ideas of all time.