Kingdom Hearts has been a bestselling IP since it first launched over 15 years ago in 2002, and now we finally have a release date for the third installment, reports IGN. Kingdom Hearts 3 will come to current generation consoles in North America on January 29, 2019 – with Japan seeing a slightly earlier release date of January 25. This is a bit of a delay from the date expected by most gamers following the schedule, with it being heavily hinted at by developers that the game would see a release date at some point this year. Assuming the game would have dropped in December at the latest, a January 2019 release date does not push the envelope too hard. While there is certainly a sense of slight disappointment from several outlets in the gaming press (notably at Eurogamer), there is also a sense of barely contained excitement in the air in most reportage on the matter.
In 2002 RPG fanatics and devotees of the Disney film subculture were treated to a feast of grand storytelling, great gameplay, and stylish graphics that combined to produce the original Kingdom Hearts. Directed by Square Enix stalwart Tetsuya Nomura – long-time character designer but in this role, first-time game director – Kingdom Hearts was a magical romp alongside Sora, the player character, and an entire cast of legendary Disney icons and franchise fixtures from Final Fantasy. It was so exciting for gamers to finally have the opportunity to play and interact with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, as well as Cloud Strife, Squall Leonhart, and Sephiroth.
Today, Kingdom Hearts 3 has a firm release date and the expectations are wild. Blending beautiful original environments from Disney with time-honored hack and slash gameplay imbued with deep RPG elements, the game looks to press forward inventively while retaining the core gameplay that made the series so enjoyable and so popular in the first place. Sora is expected to lead a search for the Key to Return Hearts in this third tale, assisted in this effort by fast friends Riku and King Mickey – themselves contributing by seeking keyblade wielders. It is expected by followers of the franchise that Kingdom Hearts 3 will conclude the long arc of the “Dark Seeker Saga” but fully expect more Kingdom Hearts content to emerge following the end of this chapter in the story.
The fantasy element of the story, echoing so much of the provenance of both Square and Disney, is perhaps what makes the imaginative world of Kingdom Hearts soar in the hearts of millions of series devotees.
While the original iteration was a Playstation 2 exclusive, sequels such as Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance amongst others have proliferated across every available platform from 3DS to smartphones. A recent collection of both primary series titles, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, allows players that have never heard of the keyblade to pick up the adventure from the beginning.