Kingdom Hearts 4: release date, trailers, gameplay, and more

Sora battles a giant heartless in a modern-looking city in the trailer for Kingdom Hearts 4.
Square Enix

Fans of the Kingdom Hearts titles are used to waiting extremely long times between mainline releases.

After Kingdom Hearts 2 on the PlayStation 2, the series veered into spinoff territory, with no proper sequel for the entire PS3 generation. Finally, in 2019, we got the long-awaited conclusion to what we would learn was the Dark Seeker Saga. However, in typical Kingdom Hearts fashion, the end of the saga was by no means the end of the story for Sora, Riku, Kairi, and all their Disney and Final Fantasy friends. Both a secret ending, boss, and DLC all pointed toward a new era on the horizon. The only question was how long it would take until we saw what it would be.

For Kingdom Hearts’ 20th anniversary event, fans were treated to something most didn’t expect to see so soon: a full reveal of Kingdom Hearts 4. A lot is still hidden in darkness, but this is all the information we could shine a light on.

Release date speculation

Sora looks out over a balcony in the trailer for Kingdom Hearts 4.
Square Enix

The big downer for the reveal of Kingdom Hearts 4 is that no release date was given. There’s not even a window of what year Square Enix thinks this title might be ready. However, we can speculate a bit. In our hearts, we don’t see this game coming out before 2025. On one hand, we do see what looks to be real (though clearly early) gameplay in the trailer. On the other hand, there are reports that the game is currently using Unreal Engine 4 but is planning on switching to Unreal Engine 5. While that transfer is supposedly not too difficult, it will probably take some time and create some setbacks in the process. Either way, it wouldn’t be the first time we got a trailer way, way in advance of a Kingdom Hearts game actually coming out.

Platforms

There are no platforms announced for Kingdom Hearts 4 yet. The Kingdom Hearts series has traditionally been PlayStation only, but Kingdom Hearts 3 launched on both Xbox One and PS4 and came to Switch and PC later. Past games in the series have also recently been ported to Xbox and PC, and it seems like the point of bringing the entire series to these new platforms was to build up those audiences for a new Kingdom Hearts 4. We won’t know for sure until later, but we think this could easily come to all platforms — maybe even the Switch 2 — simultaneously or close to it.

Trailer

KINGDOM HEARTS 20th 発表トレーラー

The announcement trailer from the 20th anniversary event in Japan is, so far, all we have in terms of footage. Even so, there’s quite a bit of interesting stuff packed in this short teaser at the end of a series of trailers.

Once we get to the Kingdom Hearts 4 section, we open with the direct message of this being The Lost Master Arc. We see some breathtaking shots of the same modern-day city, heavily inspired by Tokyo, which we saw briefly in the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts 3, which we learn is named Quadratum. A voiceover, which is hard to place as familiar due to it being in Japanese, talks in typical cryptic Kingdom Hearts style. Apparently talking to Sora, the voice advises him to leave that world if he’s too full of despair. Meanwhile, a giant dark mass forms in the sky before we cut to more text stating: “The heart resides within the soul, which in turn is guided by fate to its rightful place.”

New footage of another amazingly realized forest location, with a waterfall and river, is shown. We cut to Sora for the first time, asleep on a couch, sporting a new outfit. He opens his door to a mysterious red-haired girl named Strelitzia (apparently an important character in Kingdom Hearts Union Cross) who fills him in on the fact that he’s been sleeping for a full week since he appeared in that world. She describes the world as something like an “after world” for people like them, perhaps implying that she isn’t from Quadratum either. During an interview with Famitsu, Tetsuya Nomura commented on what this new world was stating. “From Sora’s perspective, Quadratum is an underworld, a fictional world that is different from reality. But from the point of view of the inhabitants on the Quadratum side, the world of Quadratum is reality, and the world where Sora and the others are is the other side, the fictional world. I think the theme of this project will be the contrast between those who are in such different positions.” This seems to be pointing towards the fact that this world was seen in Kingdom Hearts 3 as the fictional location of a fake game inside the Toy Story world called Verum Rex.

The black mass from before returns, now forming into a more disfigured version of something like the Darkside enemy from past games, terrorizing the people on the street and lifting cars with dark powers. Sora, the hero at heart that he is, rushes in to do battle, summoning his iconic Keyblade.

As the fight comes to an end, the voiceover continues and we see two cloaked figures wearing the same black coats as Organization XIII once did. He finishes by saying that if Sora decides to leave that world, he shouldn’t expect to go back to the one he came from.

After the title drop, we get a tiny bit more footage of Donald and Goofy wandering around a pitch-black environment looking for someone only referred to as “he” that they hope can help them. A blue flame sparks behind them, catching their attention, before a voice asks where they think they’re going. The pair appear frightened already, but freak out after turning around and the blue fire erupts into a red blaze.

The final words to cap it all off are, “Magic in the Making.”

In terms of story, well, things are complicated. To start off, the name of this new arc, The Lost Master Arc, probably refers to a character known as The Master of Masters, who was a Keyblade Master from Kingdom Hearts X. He wrote something called the Book of Prophecies and only showed up in the mainline games during the ending of Kingdom Hearts III in a cloak. How this plays into, well, anything is beyond our knowledge.

Considering Kairi’s fate at the end of Kingdom Hearts 3 and Sora’s at the end of the Re:Mind DLC, it’s clear that the reason Sora is in Quadratum, at least initially, is to reunite once again with Kairi. Obviously, things won’t go to plan, though. All we can hope, for now, is that this new arc can cut down on the overly complex nature the first arc had — at least a little bit.

As for Donald and Goofy, all signs point to them either looking for, or at least accidentally encountering, Hades. The blue flame feels like a dead giveaway, despite us not being familiar with the Japanese voice. Why they would be looking for him, or looking for someone in the underworld, could be anything. Hades has shown to be tied in with the series’ biggest bad guys in a way the other Disney villains aren’t, and we’ve never thwarted him for good, so he’s a solid pick to bring back.

Nomura had more to say on what the pair are doing, plus commented on Sora’s new design as well. “Donald and Goofy are looking for clues about Sora in the original world,” he explained. “All the real worlds before the title display [in the trailer] are all Quadratum segments and Sora will look realistic, but if he can return to the original world, he will look like Donald and Goofy with shaders like Donald and Goofy.” This is all consistent with how Sora and crew’s appearances change to reflect whatever world they are in throughout the series.

Gameplay

A forest that might be Endor in the Kingdom Hearts 4 trailer.
Square Enix

A fair bit of the trailer was at least made to look like gameplay, though it can be a little hard to believe based on how good it looked. At the very least, we expect plenty of changes between this and the final product, but it’s safe to say big things are coming.

As suspected, Normura has stated that the apartment in Quadratum we find Sora resting in will be this game’s hub of sorts, at least for the beginning portion of the game. This area is not in Shibuya itself, but in another part of the city called Minami-Aoyama.

First, the slow-motion style of movement from Dream Drop Distance and Kingdom Hearts III is back, but smoother than ever. Sora leaps, spins, slides, and even uses his Keyblade as a grappling hook to seamlessly glide around the city environment. Quicktime events, or reaction commands may be, seem to be coming back. We see Sora counter the giant heartless’s punch by transforming his Keyblade into a drill, hinting that form changes will also be coming back, before launching it like a missile.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the end of the fight, but the scale and spectacle look beyond anything we’ve seen yet.

The UI is also on screen, but looks identical to the Kingdom Hearts 2 version, leading us to believe it is a placeholder for now. Unfortunately, we can’t read any of the text on the UI, so if there is anything exciting there, sorry.

Also, besides Quadratum, the only other world we see is that forest area. Eagle-eyed viewers noticed one strange detail in a shot of the river that looks a lot like the foot of an AT-AT, the mechanical walking tanks from the Star Wars series. This would be the first time the Kingdom Hearts series has crossed over with that franchise, but considering it is a Disney property, is completely possible. Again, that is pure speculation — no worlds outside Quadratum are confirmed, but it’s possible Sora might get his first lightsaber Keyblade. You can judge for yourself by looking at the top right of the above screenshot.

Preorder

Sora reaching out for his Keyblade.
Square Enix

We’re years off from Kingdom Hearts 4 gracing our screens and hearts. Though it pains us to say it, there won’t be any news on how to preorder Kingdom Hearts 4 for quite a while. Based on past games, though, you should be looking forward to any special editions that are announced. If they keep up with past special editions, there will be some awesome goodies included that any major Kingdom Hearts fan will want. Once they do show up, we’ll let you know all the preorder details here.

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