Kingdom Hearts 2.8 & 3: new worlds, release, story timeline and beyond – everything you need to know

By Alex Donaldson, Thursday, 5 January 2017 16:00 GMT

The world of the Japanese RPG and Disney’s most famous movies are set to collide once again with Kingdom Hearts 3. Here’s our guide to everything Kingdom Hearts – past, present and future.

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One of gaming’s biggest and most surprising successes of the PS2 era came in the form of a crossover that at the time seemed bizarre and almost unthinkable – the RPG world of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy and the lands of Walt Disney’s most successful animated movies.

It all worked, though – Kingdom Hearts went on to become one of Square Enix’s best-selling games ever, only truly eclipsed by the groundbreaking Final Fantasy 7. A successful sequel soon followed, but despite that Kingdom Hearts has been on the back-burner for almost a decade. One spin-off after another has released, all fairly decent in quality, none bad, but also none with the spectacle or scope of a full Kingdom Hearts release.

It’s been a long time, but at last Sora and friends are coming back – properly, and to consoles. Kingdom Hearts 3 is coming and there’s even a prequel game being released separately beforehand – so what do you need to know? Here’s everything you need to know, from story and timeline refreshers to KH3’s new gameplay features and pre-order details. Let’s do this.

Kingdom Hearts 3 release date – When is Kingdom Hearts 3 coming out?

Okay, so, bear with me a little here: as it stands right now, we don’t know exactly when Kingdom Hearts 3 is coming out. However, we do have information that we can use to narrow it down a bit. For a start, all signs point towards a 2017 release being a likely thing. We’ll update this page as soon as any further information comes to light.

Kingdom Hearts 3 was originally announced back in June 2013 at Sony’s E3 Press Conference for that year, but ideas around it had been swirling around since the completion of Kingdom Hearts 2, with the development of Final Fantasy 15 (then Final Fantasy Versus 13) delaying the launch somewhat.

Before Kingdom Hearts 3 launches, however, there’s a prologue chapter – Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (yes, that is the real name), which was announced back in September 2015. That’s coming out pretty soon. But first, er, what is it?

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What is Kingdom Hearts 2.8 for PS4? All about Dream Drop Distance HD, X Back Cover, and Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is a ludicrously-named package of games that exists to help get players ready to jump into the world of Kingdom Hearts again with Kingdom Hearts 3.

The meat of the package comes in the form of some remastered content from Kingdom Hearts spin-offs, but then there’s two all-new ‘chapters’ also included on the disc that are a direct lead-in to Kingdom Hearts 3. For some reason it’s coming exclusively to the PS4 despite the fact Kingdom Hearts 3 is coming to Xbox One as well.

    Included is:

  • Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD
    Previously known as Kingdom Hearts 3D (Dream Drop Distance, 3 Ds, get it?) on the Nintendo 3DS, this title has been remade and remastered for the PS4. Changes include touch screen driven mini-games being entirely rebuilt to use new console-friendly mechanics, a re-balancing of combat encounters and enemies, and of course vastly upgraded visuals to show the game off in HD for the first time. Notably, this game features a world based on the newer Tron movie, which to me is a bit of a selling point because who doesn’t love Tron?!
  • Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover
    Kingdom Hearts X Back cover isn’t even a game, but rather is a movie that’s around an hour in length that goes into detail on major off-screen parts of the Kingdom Hearts backstory, revealing events that help set into motion everything seen in the games. As the name suggests it’s somewhat related to Kingdom Hearts Unchained X, the mobile-based KH title.
  • Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage
    This is the part of the package that Kingdom Hearts fans are most excited for. Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is an all-new mini-episode that takes place after the events of Birth By Sleep, the Kingdom Hearts PSP title that was remastered for PS3 as part of Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix. This sees you play as Aqua from Birth By Sleep and features a world based on the classic Disney movie Cinderella. The gameplay systems of Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage are based on those you’ll see in Kingdom Hearts 3, so while this chapter is only short fans can treat it as a taster for how the full KH3 will look and play.

Once Kingdom Hearts 2.8 has been released, a few months later the complete works of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2 will be collected into a package on PS4. These rereleases previously graced PS3, but we’re now getting a rerelease of a rerelease and… oh look, I’ve gone cross-eyed. Moving on…

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 PS4 Release Date – When is Kingdom Hearts 2.8 coming out?

After a lot of waiting we know the final release date for Kingdom Hearts 2.8, and it’s close – you’ll be able to get your hands on the game on January 24. That’s a simultaneous launch for both Europe and North America, while Japanese fans will actually get it a little earlier than that.

An initial release date of December was announced at E3 2016, but there was a bit of chopping and changing of Square Enix Japan’s release schedule after Final Fantasy 15 failed to make its originally-planned September launch, slipping to November.

The game was announced back in September 2015, and its existence ties up the last of the remaining Kingdom Hearts spin-off material that was left over. Between 2.8 and Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix and 2.5 HD Remix, everything Kingdom Hearts has been dragged to an up-to-date HD format off various handhelds except for the current mobile phone only release.

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Where to Pre-Order Kingdom Hearts 2.8 for PS4

Considering we don’t even have an absolutely final release date yet, it’s a little early for Kingdom Hearts 2.8’s pre-order campaign to be in full swing – and as it stands right now, we’re not entirely sure if the game will have a range of pre-order bonuses or a special edition for launch, though Square Enix games of this size and importance usually tend to.

Right now the game can be pre-ordered from Amazon US for $59.99 ready for its launch on an as-yet-undisclosed date in December. Amazon UK have it for £38.99. We’ll update with more information and more retailers as we wing our way towards launch.

Where to Pre-Order Kingdom Hearts 3 for PS4 and Xbox One

Given that Kingdom Hearts 2.8 isn’t even out yet and indeed doesn’t even have a concrete launch day, it’s also a little bit early to be talking about Kingdom Hearts 3 pre-orders. There’ll no doubt be limited editions, special editions and pre-order bonuses, but none of those have been announced as yet.

At the minute you can pre-order the game (with a very optimistic December 30th 2016 estimated release date) from Amazon US for $59.96. Amazon Prime users get an additional saving on top. It’s available for £43.99 from Amazon UK. When Square announce more information around their plans for Kingdom Hearts 3’s launch – likely after Final Fantasy 15 is out of the way – we’ll return to and update these headings with the best deals and bonuses, so set your bookmarks!

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Kingdom Hearts Timeline: What order should you play Kingdom Hearts in?

Okay, so, here’s the thing about the Kingdom Hearts series: it’s pretty confusing. There’s a lot of different games that take place at different times, and it becomes difficult to follow everything. So, let’s tackle these two questions here and now. You want to play Kingdom Hearts 3, and possibly also Kingdom Hearts 2.8. If you want to refresh your memory, or if you’re new to the series, what order do things take place in? Well, let’s clear this up…

If you’ve already played the games and need a refresher on the often convoluted, criss-crossing story, the late GameTrailers produced a great one-hour video breaking it down into a more understandable format… or at least as close to understandable as Kingdom Hearts gets. Here it is:

Now on to the bigger question: Which Kingdom Hearts games should you play before 2.8 and 3?

What to play before playing the new Kingdom Hearts games

If you ask us, the best option is to ignore some of the spin-offs, at least initially, and focus on the main series. The best way to do that now is with Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix for PS3, which includes the original KH plus a remastered Chain of Memories and the story from KH 358/2 Days as a movie.

After that, grab Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix, which similarly includes KH2 and a remastered Birth By Sleep, plus the story from Coded as a movie. In getting these two packages you get the four KH games that truly matter, plus some extra story background.

Remember also that Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 are being collected in one package for PS4 – but you’ll have to wait until later in the Spring and until after 2.8 if you’d rather play these releases on PS4 over PS3. The main difference between the versions is that the PS4 version runs at 60fps.

If you decide you want more information after KH1 and KH2 you can play the spin-offs and watch the movies included in the 1.5 and 2.5 releases. Don’t forget Kingdom Hearts: Unchained X, either – being on mobile, it’s free and so is an easy one to recommend.

Is Kingdom Hearts 1.5 coming to PS4, Xbox One or PC? What about Kingdom Hearts 2.5 for PS4, Xbox One or PC?

If you read the above section, you’ll have come away with our recommendation that you try out Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 if you want either a refresher on the series or what to see what it has to offer for the very first time. Given that these remasters are quite recent and only released in 2013 and 2014 respectively, one question is all too common when they’re mentioned: are they coming to PS4? What about Xbox One? Or PC, for that matter?

The current answer is: No, they’re not. However, Square Enix has been making a concerted effort on PC in recent years – all-new Japanese RPG I Am Setsuna is getting a day-one Steam release, while there’s now a variety of Final Fantasy titles available on Steam. The recent PS2 to PS3 HD Remaster of Final Fantasy 10 and 10-2 took a while longer but did eventually release on PC.

The last time Kingdom Hearts 2.8 and Kingdom Hearts 3 Co-director Tai Yasue was asked about PS4 and Xbox One ports of the HD Remasters he wouldn’t rule them out, underlining that the concept is indeed on Square Enix’s radar.

We’ve got our fingers crossed that the two Kingdom Hearts remasters will follow a similar trajectory, eventually ending up on both PC and current-generation consoles before the time Kingdom Hearts 3 launches. Be prepared to dig out your PS3 if not, however – that’s currently the definitive version of those games.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 Gameplay – New Features, Magic, Keyblade Transformations, Wall Running and more

Kingdom Hearts 3 looks like it’s going to be a pretty significant leap over the previous game in the series – but that’s what you get when a game series takes a good 10+ years between full releases. The game seems to be taking many of the features and ideas explored in spin-offs like Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and expanding them while also adding some all-new features fit for a full-scale title.

This game is also the first on the Unreal Engine for the series, and it shows, with UE4 but to some serious work to create some incredibly crisp animation-style visuals. Here’s some of the game’s headline new features, and we’ll update this heading as more are announced:

  • Attraction Flow
    Having mined a lot of the Disney movie catalogue, Square Enix has now decided to look to another area of great success for Disney – theme parks. Attraction Flow allows Sora and his friends to perform impressive super-moves that are based on the rides from classic theme parks.

    The first revealed was an attack based on the classic spinning teacups park ride, but since then moves based on the Big Magic Mountain train and Pirate Ship rides have also been shown. Attraction Flow will be triggered under ‘certain battle conditions’, though it hasn’t been explained what those conditions are yet.

  • Keyblade Transformations
    This feature hasn’t been given a typical Square Enix/Nomura-ish silly name yet, but I’m sure it will – but this new feature is simple enough. Sora’s keyblades can transform into a variety of items, including a pair of (child-friendly looking) guns or a chariot.

    Keyblades are still upgraded and swapped out like any other RPG gear throughout the game, but each keyblade will now have its own unique transformation in battle.

  • Wall Running
    It’d be amazing if Square manage to give this feature a silly name as it’s remarkably simple – Sora can now run along walls, and this is generally part of an expanded and more traversal moveset for the player.
  • No More Reaction Commands
    It seems a little weird to list something the game won’t have, but Kingdom Hearts 2’s reaction commands were a tad rubbish and it’s a good thing they’re gone. Reaction commands were QTE-style moments in combat where you had to hammer on Triangle quickly. They won’t be missed.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 – Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar Worlds – Will they feature?

It’s been a long time since Kingdom Hearts 2, and one of the key fan questions around Kingdom Hearts 3 and the future of the series in general relates to a major development in the world of Disney since the last game: Disney’s 2009 acquisition of Marvel Comics and all their properties, and likewise for Disney’s $4 billion purchase of LucasFilm, the massive Hollywood stable that of course owns Star Wars.

The next question is natural: with the worlds of Iron Man, Thor, Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones all now technically part of the Disney family, what are their chances of appearing in Kingdom Hearts 3 as worlds? After all, Kingdom Hearts’ primary objective in its earliest development was to be an exciting Disney mash-up.

Beyond that, what also about Pixar? Disney actually owns the CG animation giant, but they’ve thus far been treated separately to creations from Disney Animation Studios – the two CG movies confirmed to appear in Kingdom Hearts 3 so far are based on Big Hero 6 and Tangled – both Disney, both CG, but not Pixar. Pixar’s stable includes the likes of Frozen, The Incredibles and of course Toy Story.

As it stands right now, no worlds based on any of these series’ have been announced for KH3 – but Square Enix and Disney haven’t ruled anything out, either.

“Disney’s companies are all very different,” Kingdom Hearts series boss Tetsuya Nomura said way back in 2013 when quizzed about the Marvel and LucasFilm buys. “Sometimes the answer is ‘absolutely no,’ and sometimes the answer is, ‘…hmm, we don’t know…’”

Later that year Nomura went on the record with a Final Fantasy fan site to say that it’d be ‘great’ to have Star Wars or Marvel worlds in Kingdom Hearts, but he again reiterated the difficulty in how Disney properties are managed and obtaining the correct permissions.

Come December 2014 Kingdom Hearts 3 Co-Director Tai Yasue poured fuel on the fire by again hinting there might be some movement on the issue of properties like Star Wars, Marvel and Frozen. “I can’t go into specifics,” he said, “but there’s a lot of new Disney stuff and we have our plates full.”

“Nothing’s off-limits, we’re considering all of the worlds,” he added.

Fingers crossed. We’ll update this section as and when anything inside the belly of the beast that Mickey Mouse built stirs.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 Worlds – What Disney Classics are in the game?

A big part of the appeal of Kingdom Hearts is its Disney mash-up nature, something personified in the rather loud fan cries to see now-Disney properties from Marvel, LucasFilm and Pixar folded into the game. However, looking past those exciting new potential additions, what other worlds are going to appear in Kingdom Hearts 3?

We don’t know everything yet, but we do have some confirmations – both of the return of familiar favourites and some exciting all-new additions. Here they are:

  • Twilight Town
    Perhaps unsurprisingly the Kingdom Hearts series’ iconic all-original town location is to make a return in the third entry. One of the first trailers for the game showed off this new incarnation of it, with Sora battling Heartless there as he did in the original KH game all those years ago.
  • Mt. Olympus
    Revealed in brief clips in Kingdom Hearts 3’s E3 2015 trailer, series staple Mount Olympus is also set to return. This world is based off the Hercules animated Disney feature, of course. The trailer showed Sora, Donald and Goofy battling Heartless in the Olympus Coliseum, which has become a regular KH location.
  • Kingdom of Corona
    Also revealed in the Kingdom Hearts 3 E3 2015 trailer, Kingdom of Corona is an all-new world for the Kingdom Hearts series and is based on the Disney Animation Studios CG feature Tangled. In the trailer there’s a glimpse at Sora battling new plant-themed Heartless outside what is recognisably Rapunzel’s tower from the movie. It’s been confirmed that, of course, Rapunzel herself will play a major role in the world.
  • Big Hero 6 World
    This world has been announced via a special announcement video, but aside from a piece of cool-looking concept art we’re yet to see it in action. This is the second new world based on a CG Disney Feature, and is of course based on the movie Big Hero 6. The much-loved Baymax from that movie will make an appearance, of course, and concept art shows Sora riding him.
  • Land of Departure
    Another world glimpsed in the E3 2015 trailer, series regulars Master Xehanort and Master Eraqus are seen playing chess in what is visibly the Land of Departure, the hub world from Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. What isn’t clear is if this location will merely be for story sequences or if it’ll feature playable gameplay too – whatever the case, it will be in the game in some form.
  • Real of Darkness
    The Realm of Darkness won’t feature in Kingdom Hearts 3, but is the primary focus of the short side story A Fragmentary Passage, which is included as one of the new additions in Kingdom Hearts 2.8. The section of the Realm of Darkness where Aqua finds herself in that game features a shattered fragment of the world of Disney’s Cinderella animated feature.

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Trailers and Gameplay Videos

Square Enix has released a few videos showcasing Kingdom Hearts 2.8, showing not only what the remastered version of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance looks like but also showing off the all-new chapters added to the game to help fill in story gaps before Kingdom Hearts 3.

First up, here’s the announcement trailer for the game which first debuted at Tokyo Game Show 2015.

A few short months later Square Enix revealed another new trailer for the game, this time at Jump Festa 2015. This trailer offers up a whopping five minutes of footage of the package.

It was months until Square Enix released another video, but when they did it was a big one, as part of their E3 2016 showcase. This video was the first Kingdom Hearts 2.8 trailer to focus on the all-new chapter of the game where players take control of Aqua.

After this the trailers pretty much came thick and fast. First up there was Tokyo Game Show 2016:

Then arguably the most interesting of the trailers – a single trailer that’s dedicated to the all-new story sequences featured in A Fragmentary Passage, the new prequel story that prepares players for Kingdom Hearts 3.

Finally another trailer was released set to a remix of Utada Hikaru’s ‘Simple & Clean’, the iconic song that has become known as the Kingdom Hearts series’ main theme tune.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Trailers and Gameplay Videos

When Kingdom Hearts 3 was announced, it came as something of a surprise – with Square Enix so focused on Final Fantasy Versus 13, which that year would become Final Fantasy 15, Kingdom Hearts was about the last thing anybody expected… but it arrived.

There’s been a variety of trailers since then, and we’ll feature the best and most important ones here – but let’s start with that first surprising announcement trailer from E3 2013.

It was a couple of years before Kingdom Hearts 3 surfaced again, and when it did it emerged with an all-new gameplay video showing off the very first in-game footage of Sora running and and battling familiar enemies.

This video, the first of a fea, features Disney reps proudly confirming the first all-new world for Kingdom Hearts 3 – a world based off the Disney CG classic Tangled.

This 2015 trailer reveals another new world for Kingdom Hearts 3, and was first shown at the D23 Expo 2015. This is another Disney CG title being added to the world of Kingdom Hearts – the world of Big Hero 6.

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 and Kingdom Hearts 3 News Updates

Kingdom Hearts news always seems to come out at a slightly different rate to news of other games, perhaps because Square Enix and Disney collaborate on when new information on the series gets released. We’re covering all the big news here on VG247, and we’ll update this list with a continuing round-up of the biggest Kingdom Hearts 2.8 and Kingdom Hearts 3 news.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Official Website, Twitter, YouTube and More

The Kingdom Hearts fanbase is absolutely rabid, and Square Enix is doing its best to leverage that with a strong web presence for the game. First thing’s first – if you want the latest Kingdom Hearts 2.8 and Kingdom Hearts 3 news, definitely consider bookmarking this page, as it will be constantly updated with the latest news as and when it comes.

For a more official touch consider visiting the official Kingdom Hearts website. That website also has a portal dedicated to just Kingdom Hearts 3, too.

If social media is more your speed, you can follow Kingdom Hearts on twitter @KINGDOMHEARTS and also subscribe to their official YouTube presence. There is, of course, an official Facebook page as well.

If the unofficial speaks to you more, there’s a thriving community there, with a great number of welcoming Kingdom Hearts and Square Enix fan sites and communities online. Nova Crystallis, KHInsider, Mognet Central and KH Union are all fine places to start for that.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

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