Kingdom Hearts games always have a secret movie, a special hidden ending that teases what’s next for the series – and the one in KH3 is the most intriguing ever.
Or, at least, it’s certainly a contender for the most intriguing ending the series has ever offered. There’s something especially iconic about the Deep Dive – Another Side, Another Story video that was found in the first game, the video introducing a now-iconic piece of Kingdom Hearts music and hinting at a deeper, less specifically Disney-focused lore. It was also the ending tease least bound by layer upon layer of convoluted lore. The future for the Kingdom Hearts series was wide open, and that in itself was especially exciting.
Later teases ended up increasingly bogged down in the ever-expanding lore of the KH series, but the Kingdom Hearts 3 secret ending does much to intrigue in a similar way to that old Deep Dive video. In many senses, the future for Kingdom Hearts feels wide open – but also simultaneously inexorably linked to certain failed past endeavours of series creator Tetsuya Nomura. The former is exciting, and the latter deeply intriguing. And now KH3 has been out for a month, it’s well worth talking about.
Naturally, this article will contain spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 3’s main story (though we won’t go into detail on main story events) and will flat-out spoil the secret movie, which is largely disconnected from the events of the game. Consider yourself warned. Here’s an embedded tweet of my initial spoiler-free reaction to the KH3 secret ending movie. Scroll past it and you’re in spoiler town.
Just watched the Kingdom Hearts 3 secret ending movie pic.twitter.com/nVFvA3iAAd
— Alex Donaldson (@APZonerunner) January 31, 2019
As the embedded tweet suggests, the secret movie of Kingdom Hearts 3 is, to be honest, a bit mental. The implications of it could range from the mundane to the insane, and that’s why it’s really worth discussing. And why it gives the same feeling of a future filled with fascinating possibilities as the Deep Dive video from back in 2002.
Here’s what the movie shows, in essence: having gone missing in the ending of Kingdom Hearts 3, protagonist Sora and his best buddy Riku wake up in what appears to be at least a version of real-life Tokyo. Sora appears at the world famous Shibuya Crossing, while Riku wakes up outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – a location that has specific connotations for Square Enix fans. Sitting atop that building is a mysterious new character players will be familiar with from earlier in Kingdom Hearts 3, Yozora. Here’s the movie in full.
The movie takes its name from that new character, Yozora, suggesting the character is the focus, rather than the real-world setting. In Kingdom Hearts 3, Yozora is introduced as the star of a fake Square Enix video game that’s featured as background art in the Toy Story world.
Yozora’s video game, Verum Rex, is described by the toys of that world as the current hot toy to own, and the Toy Story level is actually introduced with a lavishly produced CG trailer for Verum Rex blasting from the TV in Andy’s room with the toys watching it.
Any fan of Square Enix, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts or KH creator Tetsuya Nomura will clearly recognize Verum Rex from the trailer. It’s fairly obviously a pastiche of Final Fantasy Versus 13, the ill-fated project Nomura helmed for years that would eventually be rebooted, handed off to a different director and reappeared as Final Fantasy 15. Here’s the Verum Rex trailer as featured in Kingdom Hearts 3.
Those who remember the initial trailers for Versus 13 will surely get a familiar look and feel from the Verum Rex trailer – it’s not really a subtle reference.
Verum Rex is Latin for True King – and FF15 protagonist Noctis is, of course, a king. Yozora itself makes it even clearer: Yozora, or 夜空, translates to Night Sky. If you translate it over to Latin you get Noctis Caelo, which is… well, it’s more or less the name of FF15’s lead. The True King moniker is interesting, also. Did Nomura really disapprove of the FF15 version of his vision that much?
So make no mistake: Verum Rex is essentially a reference to Nomura’s ‘lost’ project, Versus 13. While FF15 did eventually release, it did so as a significantly changed project, to the point where those close to the situation have suggested to VG247 that, in hindsight, Square Enix may even have been better served by officially cancelling Versus 13 and announcing FF15 as an all-new game, rather than presenting it as one contiguous project.
This brings us to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This beautiful building in Shinjuku has an iconic, recognisable blend of modern and gothic-style designs, and it was chosen by Nomura as key to Final Fantasy Versus 13. A version of the building served as the Citadel of Insomnia – the seat of power in Noctis’ nation. This element survived through to FF15, and the final stages of the game take place around and inside this building.
Thus the significance of Yozora sitting atop the building in a game helmed by Nomura becomes obvious: this is a character designed as a nod to Versus, reunited with one of that project’s most important visual cues. When the building is first shown in full, the music hints at but stops just short of playing the melody of ‘Somnus’ the main theme from Versus 13 and FF15. The implication is clearly intentional.
The question is: what does this mean for Kingdom Hearts? Fans have been wild with speculation since the movie was first revealed, and one conclusion some are drawing is that Nomura plans to revisit elements of his scrapped Versus design within the Kingdom Hearts series. It’s always appeared as though Nomura was never too happy to let that project go – and perhaps this is his way of revisiting it.
There are other implications to the video, however. For one, Yozora – a character specifically defined as a video game protagonist – has now come to life, making one wonder if other video game worlds and characters could appear going forwards in the series. Final Fantasy characters that appeared prior were simply presented as inhabitants of the Kingdom Hearts worlds – not as video game heroes. Plus, in one Kingdom Hearts spin-off Sora meets the characters from another Nomura title, The World Ends With You, who themselves live in Tokyo. At the end of the meeting, one signs off “See you in Shibuya”. Was this foreshadowing all along?
Also, Sora and Riku are also now in the real world, or some version of it. Does the Walt Disney Company and its media empire exist in this real world? How meta can this get? The Versus and Verum Rex stuff is already, let’s face it, pretty meta.
If nothing else, this secret movie stuff is interesting. With most of its core plot points and its huge cast of characters safely taken care of, much of the Kingdom Hearts story has been tied up neatly enough to leave behind. The series also faces a continuing question – with every game, the number of Disney worlds worth visiting or revisiting grows shorter, but the series’ own storylines have up to this point been so complex that it’s worked against making them widely compelling alone. From this teaser it could head in unexpected new directions or dwell on the past – but the point is, the path forward isn’t obvious, laid out by hours of boring, overwrought exposition.
For once, the series is wide open again – and that’s as exciting now as it was in 2002.