Tetsuya Nomura has answered questions about the Kingdom Hearts title for Nintendo DS, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. These questions, submitted on the Square Enix Members website by fans, were answered over a period of months and have now appeared online. They discuss the development of the title, and can now be read below.
Q. What was the most challenging part of using the Nintendo DS hardware while trying to stay close to the traditional feel of the battle sequences in the traditional KINGDOM HEARTS series on the PlayStation 2? (XxAcGXx)
Nomura: The hardest thing we had to overcome was recreating the fully 3D controls from previous KINGDOM HEARTS titles given the restrictions placed on us by the hardware specs of the DS. Other challenges included incorporating features that took advantage of the DS's unique capabilities, such as a leveling up system that utilizes the tactility of the touch screen, and hassle-free wireless play.
Q. What made you decide to include some of the new functions like the panel system? (dragonboy)
Nomura: Like I said before, the DS hardware allows us to play with the idea of tactile feedback thanks to its touch screen, so we decided to add a system in which players fill in panels by trial and error to customize their character's abilities.
Q. As an art college student studying pre-visualization artwork for animation and video games, I'm curious to know the process of creating characters and environments for this game. Iâm sure most of the character and environment designs were established within previous KINGDOM HEARTS installments, but what was it like trying to fit all this onto a DS console? Did you just lower the resolution of the environments so that they'd fit on a DS cartridge, or did you re-model the environments? (Xack)
Nomura: All characters that you control in real-time were created specifically for the DS, but everything you see in the game's cut scenes and events are from the original models. Of course, we had to compress these movies fairly heavily to conserve space so the resolution of the movies will reflect that.
Q. Why did you decided to make Roxas the protagonist? (dragonboy)
Nomura: The entire KINGDOM HEARTS series takes place on a single timeline. With that in mind, we decided to use the mysterious Roxas as the main character for two reasons. First, we felt that having a new main character would make it easier for the player to get into the game world on a new hardware platform. Second, we wanted to use the distinctive Organization XIII in the game's multiplayer mode, so in our minds, this made Roxas the best choice for the main character.
Q. Where did the initial concept for the character Xion come from? Was she perceived before the completion for KINGDOM HEARTS 2? (gorpee)
Nomura: The name Xion and her background story was thought of and constructed during the production of this title, but we actually had the concept for a girl character like Xion drawn up since Roxas's defection from Organization XIII. Therefore during the production of this title, we just worked on expanding on the ideas we had for that girl character and wrote Xion's story around that concept.
Q. What was the most difficult thing in developing the game? (GhostInTheShell)
Nomura: I would have to say that the multiplayer part of the game gave us the most trouble due to the sheer amount of restrictions we ran into during development. Recreating the KINGDOM HEARTS world in such a way that four players can play together on the DS was an extremely high hurdle for us to try and overcome.
Q. Was there anything you wanted to do in the game, but couldn't due to time, system constraints, etc.? (Zeta3)
Nomura: This goes back to the multiplayer mode I was talking about earlier, but during development we tested a lot of different things, such as the infrastructure, the maximum number of players that could play together, the ability for every player to move to different maps independently of each other, and many other things, but we were unable to squeeze these features into the final product.
Q. Can you tell us a little about Pinocchio's world that was originally intended to be in the game but was taken out? What was it going to be like? (monkeymonkey, Twilight_Bloom, Cloud174, Xilvers)
Nomura: Set in a circus and playing off the story of Pinocchio, a puppet with a heart, and the Nobodies who possess no heart, we planned for a sad episode with Roxas and Xion looking for hope for themselves.
Q. How do you decide which Disney worlds would be included in the game? Is it based on preference or efficiency or relativity? (Mallow-chan, edster, PurestHeart)
Nomura: When we consider which Disney worlds will be included, the primary factors in our decision making process are the variety of stages and how well the worlds fit within the scope of the story.
Q. Which world was the hardest to design? (Narnia-Keyblade)
Nomura: Due to the hardware specifications of the DS, the most difficult stages to design were those that were very open, such as Twilight Town. It was a challenge to recreate these kinds of areas in such a way that did not detract from the player's experience. Of course, one of the main benefits of a 3D game is the ability to run around freely in an expansive field, so Twilight Town is actually one of my favorite worlds in this game. It is also a very memorable location in terms of the story as well.
Q. How do you develop something as deep as the relationship of Heartless and Nobodies? (Dragonfolk2000)
Nomura: Because each title in the KINGDOM HEARTS series takes place on the same timeline, it is possible for us to deepen the story and the relationships between the characters with each titleâsomething that is impossible to accomplish with the usual, single-episode RPG. The story itself is very complex and full of mysteries yet to be solved, so a major part of our story building goes into thinking of ways to keep the player engaged through interesting plot twists and other such story elements.
Q. Which Organization XIII weapon was the most enjoyable to design? Was it fun designing the different new weapons for them? (Automaton)
Nomura: We had one person in charge of designing the weapons for all members of Organization XIII, but in spite of the large amount of work and redesigns involved, I think the designer had a lot of fun creating the comical designs you see in these new weapons.
Q. How old would you say the Organization XIII members are? (vainya)
Nomura: For some characters we have set a specific age, while for others it is not so clear. At the oldest we have characters in their forties and thirties, while at the lower end of the spectrum there are characters in their twenties, with Roxas the youngest at 15 years old.
Q. Why do the Moogles wear Organization XIII robes if they are not in the organization and how did they get them? (Cheaken)
Nomura: There are also other characters such as Riku and King Mickey who wear that coat, but are not members of the Organization. That is to say, it is not a requirement to be a member of the Organization to wear the coat, and if the Moogle is within the castle walls, he is permitted to be there, so the coat is most likely issued by the Organization.
Q. Who is your favorite Organization XIII member? (J-Anime)
Nomura: Every member of the Organization is so unique and I like every one of them, and of course I like the protagonist Roxas, but as far as playable characters go, I like the gun-wielding Xigbar, while from a story perspective I'd have to pick the overburdened Axel. As for Days in particular, I'd say that Xion plays a very important role in this title.
Q. This may seem like a weird question, but does sea salt ice cream actually exist? (Axel-Flame13)
Nomura: While it looks a bit different, the idea came from the very delicious sea salt flavored ice cream sold at Tokyo Disney Sea.
Q. Slowly, throughout the development of the KINGDOM HEARTS series, you've been making the characters and story more and more complex and deep. This game appears to keep going in that direction, taking the game in a darker territory. Should we expect the games to be a little more mature from here on out? (Zekien)
Nomura: From its conception, KINGDOM HEARTS never had a particular target age group in mind. Ever since the first title, we never had the idea that a simple story would equate to being more enjoyable for a younger audience, and so I think that is also a major reason for the series' success thus far.
So with that said, I do not think we will be changing that philosophy in the future either. If anything, I believe we consider age groups more when working on the game system rather than the story.
Q. Roxas is the main character of this game, so we will get to see his story, but will we get to see any back story on other Organization XIII members, like how they became nobodies or just how they were found by the organization? (darkside)
Nomura: I doubt we will look into any character's past with the same detail as we have with Roxas, but we may give a few glimpses into the past in other titles. We actually have a few scenes like that in Birth by Sleep.
Q. Will there be any connection between the storylines of 358/2 Days and Birth by Sleep? (Aphelion)
Nomura: Of course.
Anyone who plays through Days should definitely notice several connections in Birth by Sleep. I hope everyone will enjoy playing through Days in preparation for Birth by Sleep.
Q. Now that you have finished the development of this game in Japan, are there any plans in place for the development of unrevealed KINGDOM HEARTS games? (Ikkin)
Nomura: I can't really give many details, but we do have several titles being planned and some in preparation for development, so I hope you'll look forward to those in the future..