It goes without saying that Kingdom Hearts III is one of the biggest releases of 2019. The combat system has been praised, as well as the new worlds, such as Toy Story and Frozen. One aspect that surprised fans was the absence of Final Fantasy characters. The Final Fantasy series has had a presence in the Kingdom Hearts franchise since the first game. However, they are nowhere to be found in Kingdom Hearts III. Now, we know why.
In an interview with Game Informer at GDC, Kingdom Hearts III Co-Director, Tai Yasue, said why the team decided not to include Final Fantasy characters in the core story.
Tai Yasue: "We had a lot of original characters. It's the conclusion of the Xehanort saga and we really wanted to concentrate on the main storyline of Kingdom Hearts, such as Sora and Roxas, for the example. They're having all these stories in other games and we wanted them to conclude."
Yasue's reasoning makes sense. The storyline of Kingdom Hearts is complicated, full of characters and developments. From Riku's descent into darkness, to Maleficent working with other Disney antagonists, there was a lot going on in the games. While it was fun seeing Final Fantasy in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, they arguably had no place in the recent title. The introduction of Organization XIII in Chain of Memories, and then Roxas in the sequel, made things epically complex. You'll be hard-pressed to find someone capable of fully summarizing the story within a few minutes. Kingdom Hearts III was about bringing all the plot developments to a close, and finishing the fight against Xehanort. At that point, Kingdom Hearts was well past being known simply as a Disney crossover with Final Fantasy guest stars.
Final Fantasy featured prominently in the first Kingdom Hearts. Fans will never forget facing Cloud at Mt. Olympus, or befriending Cid and Yuffie. Of course, Leon's role was memorable as well. In Kingdom Hearts II, fans were treated to a brief duel between Cloud and Sephiroth. Tifa also appeared, along with Aerith, making it a Final Fantasy VII reunion (Where's Barret?). At Olympus, Hades resurrected Auron from Final Fantasy X, which led to a fun team up with Sora and the gang. Kingdom Hearts II was full of Final Fantasy appearances. Seeing these characters was definitely a treat in the early games.