Kingdom Hearts 3 made a big splash at D23 last weekend. Director Tetsuya Nomura even took the stage to unveil a brand new trailer, along with a 2018 release window. One of the reasons why the release year was a surprise was due to the fact that Kingdom Hearts 3 suffered multiple delays. Now, in a new interview, Nomura goes into some detail about why Kingdom Hearts 3 was pushed back, including a sudden change in the game's engine.
Talking to GameSpot, Nomura explained that part of what caused the delay was the order from Square Enix top brass to switch development over to Unreal Engine 4. Kingdom Hearts 3 was previously running on Square Enix's in-house Luminous engine. "There was a decision made to change to an external [engine]... Unreal Engine 4," Nomura said in the interview. "So we switched over to that. Unfortunately there was a bit of time that needed to be rewinded and started over. So there was a bit of a setback there, but it was a decision that the company had to make, so it was inevitable."
Interestingly enough, the switch from Luminous to Unreal Engine 4 was reported previously back in 2014, but co-director Tai Yasue told Eurogamer that the change wasn't particularly damaging. "It was easy to shift to," said Yasue at the time. "But at the same time though, there was a lot of stuff specific to Kingdom Hearts that we could really do on Unreal 4 at first. So we had a lot co-operation from Epic[.]"
It's unknown at this time if the Epic customizations is what Nomura is referring to when he says there was a need to rewind and start over, but Yasue's words seems to imply that the transition was practically smooth.
Nomura also cites timing and personnel shortages as a reason for the delay. "[I]ntertnal personnel is very limited, and there are various different projects that happen within our company, so unfortunately timing did not work out."
Nomura stresses that the delays were all in part due to timing and the way the company managed the project, and not necessarily a result of problems with development. Still, it's interesting to see Nomura cite the engine switch, when it was previously reported to be a largely non-issue.
Kingdom Hearts has been in development for nearly five years, and while Square Enix previously wouldn't discuss a launch window for the title, it seems that the project has finally come together to come out in 2018. That is unless another unexpected delay happens.