He is Sora. Walking into the meeting with a baseball cap pulled securely over his face and shorts with multiple belt buckles that stretch down to the middle of his shins, Tetsuya Nomura is a nearly a real-life reflection of the hero in both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. It’s not surprising, really. Out of all the characters Nomura has designed in his career at Square (which includes well-known faces from Final Fantasy VII to Final Fantasy X), the cheery keyblade-bearing youngster is at the top of his list. “Sora is my favorite character,” Nomura says. “[Kingdom Hearts] was the first game I directed, so I could give all the characters a fresh look even though there were some superiors involved [in the design process].”
Clearly, Nomura is excited about continuing directing duties for Kingdom Hearts II because it gives an opportunity to fix some of the problems with the previous game, as well as integrate features that originally didn’t make the cut. “The engine has been redeveloped,” Nomura explains. “I’m really proud of the enhanced battle system and that all of the characters have a serious role this time around.” Even the infamous Gummi Ship portion of Kingdom Hearts has been retooled for the sequel. “It was a good concept,” Nomura says, “but it’s completely new in Kingdom Hearts II. It’s more like an attraction or a ride.”
Nomura knows this experience is crucial to his career, but he relishes the opportunity to learn more about directing before moving on to other projects. But there’s a bittersweet side to his involvement with Kingdom Hearts II. “I love Sora, but it’s with a broken heart.” Nomura mutters out from underneath his hat.
Indeed, not unlike a parent giving a child up for adoption, Nomura has no control over Sora or any other original characters appearing in Kingdom Hearts. The contract between Square Enix and Disney gives almost full control of the Kingdom Hearts property over to Disney. If you happen to see Sora appearing outside of a game in a something like a cartoon, there’s very little chance Nomura is involved, but that doesn’t affect his excitement (or ours) for Kingdom Hearts II.