Believe it or not, Kingdom Hearts III is a game 13 years in the making. Yes, it’s actually been that long since fans of Square Enix’s gloriously weird Final Fantasy-Disney crossover series finally got a proper new entry in the saga.

In the interim, Square Enix has released a 1.5 Remix and 2.5 Remix, 358/2 Days, 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and even a 3D — but no III. Speaking as a fan of these games, I can’t offer you anything close to a reasonable explanation as to why this has happened.

At its core, Kingdom Hearts is a unique fantasy series that began as a mashup of Final Fantasy and Disney characters. There’s also a core plot involving a young boy with a magical key-shaped sword trying to prevent Darkness from consuming the many worlds in his universe that no one really understands. (If someone tells you they understand the plot, they’re lying.)

What’s important about Kingdom Hearts is that it mixes Square Enix’s well-crafted role-playing games with Disney’s massive library of instantly recognizable characters.

Now, with an apparent conclusion to the long-running series finally on the horizon, here’s what you need to know.

When Is the Kingdom Hearts III Release Date?

Kingdom Hearts III will be released January 25, 2019.

Sora teams up with Rapunzel from 'Tangled'.

What Is the Latest Kingdom Hearts III Trailer?

Gameplay demos and trailers for Kingdom Hearts III have been trickling out for years. The latest, released on November 3 at Lucca Comics and Games, focuses entirely on the Kingdom of Corona from Disney’s Tangled. Sora, Donald, and Goofy encounter Rapunzel just as she’s freed from her tower. Flynn Ryder is also there, so Kingdom Hearts III interrupts the standard plot for yet another Disney film.

The trailer recreates several iconic moments from the film, like when Rapunzel uses her hair to swing around a tree and screams “Best. Day. Ever!” It also appears like she and Flynn can join Sora’s party for combat, as Rapunzel wields her hair like a wicked whip at one point during the trailer. Her hair is also resource that allows her and Sora to swing from trees to cross chasms and other gaps.

'Kingdom Hearts III' cover art.
Series director Tetsuya Nomura created the 'Kingdom Hearts III' cover art.

What does the Kingdom Hearts III Box Art Look Like?

Kingdom Hearts series director Tetsuya Nomura designed the cover art for Kingdom Hearts III, first revealed on September 18, 2018 via Twitter.

Much has been said in Kingdom Hearts lore about 13 Seekers of Darkness, yet here we have 13 Warriors of Light. It’s an odd choice considering around half of these characters don’t fully exist anymore.

Who’s in the Kingdom Hearts III Voice Cast?

So far, much of the core voice cast on Kingdom Hearts III has been confirmed. Haley Joel Osment returns as the voice of Sora with Bill Farmer and Tony Anselmo backing him up as Goofy and Donald Duck, respectively.

On November 7, the three-year anniversary of Big Hero 6 hitting theaters, Square-Enix confirmed that most the film’s primary voice cast reprises their roles for Kingdom Hearts III.

That’s Ryan Potter as Hiro Hamada, Scott Adist as Baymax, Genesis Rodriguez as Honey Lemon, Jamie Chung as Go Go Tomago. Khary Payton replaced Damon Wayans Jr. as Wasabi No-Ginger.

On September 26, The Hollywood Reporter reported confirmation of many Kingdom Hearts III voices actors.

Zachary Levi lends his voice as Flynn Rider from Tangled, but Rapunzel voice actor Mandy Moore has yet to be confirmed (even if it sounds like her in the trailers). Donna Murphy returns as the voice of Mother Gothel.

From the world of Frozen, there’s Kristen Bell as Anna, Idina Menzel as Elsa, Josh Gad as Olaf, and Jonathan Groff as Kristoff.

Over in the world of the Toy Story trilogy, John Ratzenberger voices Hamm and Wallace Shawn voices as Rex. It’s unclear whether or not any other big actors from Toy Story lend their voices to Kingdom Hearts III, including Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.

Tate Donovan does lend his voice to Hercules, and Kevin R. McNally from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies voices Gibbs. The Captain Jack Sparrow in the game is almost 100 percent not Johnny Depp.

So far, this leaves some considerable gaps. Who is voicing Riku, Kairi, Aqua, etc.? We might not know until release.

Will There Be a Public Kingdom Hearts III Demo?

Square-Enix hasn’t announced anything about a potential public demo. The closest game to Kingdom Hearts III by comparison is probably Final Fantasy XV, which had a demo that came out about 8 months prior to release. Because we’re already less than 4 months away from release, chances seem high that there won’t be a public demo for this game.

What Consoles Will Kingdom Hearts III Be Available For?

Kingdom Hearts III will be available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but like every other Kingdom Hearts game, it’s likely to make its way onto other consoles eventually.

'Kingdom Hearts III' in a world based on 'Toy Story'
When Sora goes to a specific world, his attire or form sometimes change. Here he is as a toy in the world of 'Toy Story'.

What Is the plot of Kingdom Hearts III?

The closest thing to a legitimate plot summary comes from the official Kingdom Hearts website, which offers a generic story description that could literally apply to about half of the previous games in the franchise:

Kingdom Hearts III tells the story of the power of friendship as Sora and his friends embark on a perilous adventure. Set in a vast array of Disney and Pixar worlds, Kingdom Hearts follows the journey of Sora, a young boy and unknowing heir to a spectacular power. Sora is joined by Donald Duck and Goofy to stop an evil force known as the Heartless from invading and overtaking the universe.

Through the power of friendship, Sora, Donald and Goofy unite with iconic Disney-Pixar characters old and new to overcome tremendous challenges and persevere against the darkness threatening their worlds.

None of this is particularly new or interesting. What’s important to know is that after being captured by the evil Master Xehanort during the events of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Sora lost almost all of his power and sets out to visit Hercules at Olympus Coliseum for help getting it back. That’s roughly where Kingdom Hearts III begins.

In the bigger picture, a new Keyblade War is on the horizon, and it’s one that could forge an apocalyptic weapon called the χ-blade that would give the user control over Kingdom Hearts, the heart of all worlds. To do this, seven pieces of pure light must unite with 13 pieces of pure darkness.

Confused but also delighted? Welcome to Kingdom Hearts.

How did Kingdom Hearts even happen to begin with?

Video game producer Shinji Hashimoto from Square Enix wanted to create an open-world game akin to Super Mario 64, but realized with Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi that they needed a well-established character like Mario to make it happen. One fateful day, Hashimoto pitched the idea to a Disney executive that worked in the same building.

What’s the Kingdom Hearts III opening theme song?

The Kingdom Hearts franchise is beloved (at least by this author) in large part due to its excellent music. Utada Hikaru, who sang “Simple and Clean” from the first Kingdom Hearts and “Santuary” from the second, is collaborating with Skrillex for the KHIII opener.

The opening theme song, called “Face My Fears,” will be released on January 18, 2019 — just a week before the game comes out.

What Disney and Pixar Worlds are in Kingdom Hearts III?

Most Kingdom Hearts games follow one or more characters as they journey to various worlds from Disney or Pixar movies and go through familiar plot beats with unique twists. Here’s what’s new and returning for the third main entry in the franchise:

  • The Kingdom of Arendelle from Frozen
  • Port Royal from Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Kingdom of Corona from Tangled
  • Monstropolis from Monsters, Inc.
  • San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6
  • Olympus Coliseum From Hercules
  • Twilight Town from Kingdom Hearts II

So far, these are all the worlds that have been confirmed or have appeared in some kind of KHIII at one point or another. But Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II both featured Aladin’s Agrabah, The Little Mermaid’s Atlantica, Disney Castle / Disney Town, and The Nightmare Before Christmas’s Halloween Town. So those all seem likely for inclusion too.

100 Acre Wood has appeared in almost every Kingdom Hearts game in some fashion, so it’s due for a return as a book-based mini-game. And Destiny Island, Sora’s homeworld, will probably also appear in the new game. Beyond those listed here, there are plenty of other worlds that KHIII could explore, including those from newer films like Coco and Moana.

What even is “Kingdom Hearts”?

Kingdom Hearts is a game series featuring a young boy who wields a key-shaped sword called the Keyblade as he travels to different worlds with Donald Duck and Goofy trying to prevent the spread of Darkness.

'Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix'
The heart-shaped moon in the sky here is Kingdom Hearts.

No, what is “Kingdom Hearts”?

The titular “Kingdom Hearts” in the world of Kingdom Hearts refers to the heart of all worlds, a source of great power and wisdom that all the villains want a piece of.

E3 2018 'Kingdom Hearts III' trailer focusing on the Pirates of the Carribean world.

Who or what are “The Unversed” in Kingdom Hearts III?

One trailer released at E3 2018 shows a character from Birth By Sleep named Vanitas talking about “The Unversed” collecting the screams and sadness of children. Much like the Heartless from previous games, the Unversed are a fairly new type of enemy at the focus of Kingdom Hearts III. To oversimplify it, they grow from negative emotions.

Ansem and Xemnas in 'Kingdom Hearts III'.
The two principal villains from the first two main Kingdom Hearts games are back in 'III'.

How are Ansem and Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts III?

The principal antagonists of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II return in Kingdom Hearts III, and this will make zero sense for anyone who only played those two games.

Must Read: “These Are the Two Games You Need to Play Before ‘Kingdom Hearts III’”

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance reveals that the original Organization XIII’s purpose was to have the 13 members serve as hosts to the pieces of Master Xehanort’s heart. (Master Xehanort is the real villain of the entire franchise, as revealed in the Birth By Sleep prequel.) Dream Drop Distance involved time-travel so that Xehanort could pull various villains of himself from throughout time.

So he literally traveled back to the events of the first two games to pluck his own Heartless (Ansem) and Nobody (Xemnas) to fight for him. They supposedly returned to their proper time periods by the end of DDD, but more time travel shenanigans are happening if these characters are back for Kingdom Hearts III.

And they’re not the only seemingly dead characters returning.

'Kingdom Hearts III'
Isn't he supposed to be dead?

How Are Dead Members Organization XIII Alive Again in Kingdom Hearts III?

Kingdom Hearts II had Sora & co. battle the members of Organization XIII, a group of Nobodies created when their original Hearts became Emblem Heartless. (Think of Emblem Heartless as corrupted Hearts that get separated from their bodies and soul, both of which become a Nobody.) In theory, if their Heartless was destroyed with the Keyblade and their Nobody also died, then their bodies would naturally rejoin into their original, human form. This explain why plenty of “dead” Organization members from previous games are in Kingdom Hearts III.

Luxord, whom players might remember from Kingdom Hearts II as the Nobody who manipulated time and fought with playing cards, confronts Sora and Captain Jack on a pirate ship in the Kingdom Hearts III E3 2018 trailer. Players first encountered him in Port Royal, so it makes sense that he would reappear there yet again.

There’s also the eye-patched Xigbar and the ninja-like female member Larxene that pop up. The Nobody forms of these characters from previous games are dead, so they’ve all probably also been plucked from somewhere in the past.

Pay attention to their eyes: They’re all the same shade of yellow, which indicates they’ve been possessed in some fashion by Master Xehanort.

'Kingdom Hearts III' Aqua
Aqua finally returns in 'Kingdom Hearts III' after being stranded at the end of 'Birth By Sleep'.

Where Is Aqua in Kingdom Hearts III?

Aqua, a Keyblade Master prominently featured in Birth By Sleep, found herself stranded in the Realm of Darkness at the end of that game. In Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-, the wizard Yen Sid commands Riku and Mickey to embark on a mission to rescue her. In some Kingdom Hearts III trailers, her eyes are yellow, implying that she’s either succumbed to Darkness or been taken over by Xehanort.

From the looks of it, Aqua fights Mickey and Riku in the Realm of Darkness and wins, but it’s unclear what might happen to her after.


Here's one of the earliest and best 'Kingdom Hearts III' trailers.
Photos via Square-Enix, Square Enix