Kingdom Hearts III Has Traveled a Fricking Weird Path

Think back to the PS2 era, coming home and playing Kingdom Hearts II for the first time. If your KH2 baptism was the PS3 remaster, then you'll have to use your imagination — and since we're discussing a partial Disney property, that's par for the course, right?

Kingdom Hearts came out in 2002. Shortly thereafter, its sequel was confirmed, developed, and shipped. Gamers had it in their (Japanese) PS2s by end of 2005, a time when the PS3 was nearly a year away from release. Heck, the PS2 still even had some juice in it, what with a new mainline Final Fantasy still in the works (XII, which came out in 2006) and Persona 4 still destined for its 2008 release.

Captain Bash.

And now just as the end credits finish rolling — or, as soon as you're done with that secret cinema — imagine someone comes along and tells you that a game called "Kingdom Hearts III" will be a late-generation game for PlayStation…4?

It would have been unfathomable. You'd have been called crazy if you said that. To suggest that the entire PS3 generation would come and go without a new installment would have been met with laughter. After all, fans would have told you right to your lying face, there's a cinema at the end of KHII which leads right into it! I mean, come on. I can already hear the counter argument: "Kingdom Hearts III is already in planning at least, production more likely. With a year to go before PS3 even releases, this is absolutely a PS3 game." Nope.

And then, it would turn out, that it didn't even just barely miss the PS3 generation; that system will have games we consider "retro" on it by the time KH3 rolls out.

We just got a 2016 stamp on another Kingdom Hearts compilation, II.8. Even if Kingdom Hearts III comes out within 2016, that's two-and-a-half, maybe three years deep into the generation. More realistically, we're looking at 2017 as the earliest KH3 release date (I say even though I just demonstrated the series' unpredictability). Four years is a long time into a console generation, especially when Sony has said that it plans to keep this one shorter than the one before it.

Before you jump in and point out that there were new Kingdom Hearts games during all this downtime, note that I am referring specifically to Kingdom Hearts III — you know, the one people were counting on, waiting for, and all but told to look forward to ever since the end of KHII. I've enjoyed some of those spinoffs (I've often expressed my love for Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance), but the point is that they're not Kingdom Hearts III. There's still this void, this giant "Yeah but…" in the hearts and minds of the Kingdom Hearts fan base.

Is it a case of milking? It might seem that way. While some of the spinoffs and side stories that have come about in the, ahem, decade since Kingdom Hearts II's release have been new content that add layers to the story, there have also been remasters, "Final Mix" re-releases, a GBA-to-PS2 remake, and a cellphone-gone-DS game that seem a little more like stalling for time — excuses to rake in a little more nostalgia cash. The dilemma, of course, is that a good portion of that content, particularly the second HD remaster, can be kind of awesome. So once again we run into the question of whether something is "milking" or giving fans what they want? (We have a podcast about this, here.)

Kingdom Hearts III can't rightly be called a very "delayed" game, because it's not like Square Enix came out and put dates on it all the way back in 2006. We all kinda knew, devs said they wanted to make it, there are quotes and stuff from interviews floating around, and it was expected by fans for what seems like forever. Still, no official reveal or date = not technically a delay. So we can't call it the most delayed game ever, but when it comes to being constantly shuffled onto the back burner to make way for side projects and prequels, KH3 sure has ridden a long and winding key-shaped road.

Just an interesting thought. Not a lot of games have a development history like that, eh?