Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally out after years of waiting. In similar fashion, Final Fantasy 15 released a decade after it was first revealed as Final Fantasy Versus 13. If you’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts 3, you’ve almost undoubtedly noticed the blatant Final Fantasy references in the Toy Story world. Well, there’s more to those Kingdom Hearts 3 Final Fantasy references than meets the eye.
In Kingdom Hearts 3, Sora, Donald, and Goofy travel to Andy’s room from Pixar’s Toy Story. Before seeing the Kingdom Hearts crew, a cutscene reveals an ad for the in-universe game “Verum Rex.” Verum Rex bears more than a striking resemblance to Final Fantasy 15, but more specifically Final Fantasy Versus 13. From the fake game’s main character, Yozora, to small references throughout the cutscene it’s obviously a riff on the scrubbed Versus 13.
Youtuber The Night Sky Prince gave a long rundown of all the references in the Kingdom Hearts 3 Verum Rex commercial.
As pointed out in The Night Sky Prince’s video, the references go beyond just the single in-game commercial. Rex and Hamm reference Bahamut, a popular summon from the Final Fantasy games. Verum Rex itself means “True King” in Latin, which reads like a dig at FF15 from director Tetsuya Nomura.
Nomura had originally been the director of Final Fantasy Versus 13, which was announced alongside FF13 in 2006. It took more than three years for FF13 to release, and Versus 13 development appeared to be moving slowly. The game was rebooted as FF15 in 2012 when Hajime Tabata was brought in to take over directing duties. According to Tabata, the game was maybe 25 percent complete, and that it never took shape. Tabata reworked much of the game’s narrative, cutting and reworking characters and plotlines to feasibly produce the game.
This Kingdom Hearts 3 Final Fantasy reference is more than just Nomura recreating Versus 13 or something like it. It suggests that Nomura was never happy with having the game taken away from him, and the direction it went in was not what he had intended. It probably doesn’t matter to Square Enix, as Final Fantasy XV has sold over 8 million copies and spin-off games continue to generate revenue for the company.