Sora Unlocks the Door! (Roxas as an Echo?)

Sora's chances of getting in?


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Powerman293

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Would be a bit weird considering it's Cloud form FFVII and not KH. He'd have no recollection of the events.

Even weirder because DLC don't get Palutena's Guidances.
Even weirder since Cloud doesn't have an English VA in Ultimate. It's just a hypothetical.
 

tehponycorn

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Hi everyone!

I don't know why I've never really posted here before, but recently I've been writing on different Square Enix characters that could get into Smash this pass in the Newcomer Spec Thread, including Sora. I'm a huge fan of the Kingdom Hearts series (I just got all the Playstation trophies for KH2, and I'm working on getting all the trophies KH3 + Re:Mind now), and would definitely like to be added to the supporters list! I tried to make the most comprehensive argument on Sora in Smash, and as such my essay is a rather long read (over 4,300 words), so be warned. I hope you all enjoy!

Like with most of the characters I've written on in this series, I've previously written on Sora, most prominently in my 2018 Ultimate Square Enix Character Argument. In that, I widely defended his chances like the Sora fan I am. This time around, I plan on taking a more objective look to his chances in Smash. You can refer to my previous argument for some points on the strength of the KH series at the time, as I'll mainly be taking a look at the current circumstances of the KH series. Some of this argument will be recycled from my earlier essay, however, as some of the points play a part in the argument going forward. I'll be divying this essay up into three sections, named after the topics they'll be covering.

The Status of the Kingdom Hearts Series

To put it briefly: the Kingdom Hearts series is doing better now more than ever.

To start, Kingdom Hearts 3 smashed series sales records by selling 5 million units in less than 2 weeks, and debuted on sales charts at number 1, above Capcom's much-anticipated Resident Evil (also known as Biohazard in Japan) 2 remake. To put that into perspective, by February, KH3 exceeded sales of Kingdom Hearts 2 by over 80% within the same time frame. Undoubtedly this is, in part, due to the fact that Kingdom Hearts 3 was the first game to break Kingdom Hearts' large Playstation exclusivity by also releasing on Xbox at the same time as PS4. This was followed by Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, or, without the long convoluted names: the rest of the Kingdom Hearts series up to this point.

People are being exposed to the Kingdom Hearts' now more than ever given its large accessibility on modern consoles. This is further exacerbated by the large sales games in the series have seen. Seriously. You can get the entire series for like, $60 (not counting KH3's DLC expansion, which is worth additional $30). That's the same price as Pokémon Sword or Shield plus the expansion pass. I don't know about you, but when faced with the choice between more Pokémon except it's soulless or over a decade's worth of great action RPGs (like, 7 full games), the decision's obvious. But I digress

The series recently saw two new games announced, those being Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road, a rebranding of the Kingdom Hearts mobile game, and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory, the Kingdom Hearts' series long overdue Theatrym counterpart. MoM (which is a rather cheeky abbreviation for fans up to date on the series) also marks the debut of Kingdom Hearts on the Nintendo Switch, which is simultaneously surprising and not surprising at all, given the precedent of Kingdom Hearts "spinoffs" (there are no spinoffs in this series), such as 358/2 Days, Re:Coded, and Dream Drop Distance appearing first on Nintendo consoles. Regardless, this shows that Square Enix at least acknowledges the Switch as a platform for Kingdom Hearts games going forward, assuming the Switch can handle them.

The Kingdom Hearts series was already performing relatively well, selling over 24 million units as of November 2017 (which is now 32 million units as of June 2019), but over time the series has only gained traction, to the point where it's now one Square Enix and Disney's predominant series. At the very least, it has enough reputation and notoriety to warrant inclusion in Smash.

Disney

Hoo boy, we've got a lot to cover here.

I don't think Disney needs any introduction. For better or for worse, you'd have to be living under a rock to not know what Disney is. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that for all intents and purposes, Disney owns the legal rights to all original content in the Kingdom Hearts series, Sora included. If Sora is to be included in Smash, Disney is going to play an essential role in negotiations for them.

Which throws a wrench into any sort of speculation about Sora, because no one knows how to predict Disney in this regard.

A lot of users are skeptical of negotiations succeeding, in large part due to Disney. Around 2018 both @NonSpecificGuy and @PlayerOneTyler spoke of their experiences working with Disney, and how difficult Disney's legal team is to work with. One of them spoke about how difficult obtaining Kingdom Hearts content for Disney Infinity, a game developed internally within Disney, was. If it's difficult for an internal team to gain access to Kingdom Hearts content, then Nintendo, an outside company, is going to be facing a steep uphill battle for Sora in Smash.

However, that was circa 2018. Since then, I would argue that the climate within Disney has changed favorably for Sora's chances.
I'm going to be linking a lot to this summary of popular Kingdom Hearts youtuber HMK's interview with Disney of Japan Vice President and General Manager Justin Scarpone (I've already linked to it once before this), since it's the best primary source with which to discuss how Disney might act in negotiations for Sora. This is a rather old source, however, and I'll discuss how things may or may not have changed since then.

Scarpone talks quite a bit about the process of how negotiations for Sora would go down. To condense the process, it goes as such:
  • Nintendo approaches Disney for negotiations
  • Assuming fan demand exists, approval from Normura and Square Enix would be required
  • Assuming the above conditions are met, Disney seriously considers the offer.
  • Assuming that Disney accepts the offer, they would then work alongside Nintendo to represent Sora accurately in Smash.
The first part is relatively straightforward. Nintendo approaches Disney and asks to use Sora, upon which negotiations begin. Whether Nintendo has approached Disney (or would approach Disney knowing the potential uphill battle they face) and would approach Disney again assuming negotiations have failed in the past (which I personally believe has happened) is a large question, and one that I honestly don't know the answer to.

The next part of negotiations relies on fan demand, and I would even venture to argue that the first part–Nintendo approaching Disney–also largely relies on such. This asks the question of whether or not Sora has significant fan demand, to which the answer is yes. There is significant fan demand for Sora, and there has been such dating back to Ballot era in 2016. The Kingdom Hearts community has posted Sora in Smash throughout the years. The aforementioned posts were from my previous Square Enix Character Argument, and these are taken more recently from the Kingdom Hearts subreddit. These are just the more prominent posts; I assure you that many more exist. The dedicated Kingdom Hearts community has largely rallied behind Sora in Smash, and is a significant source of fan demand for Sora.

Not to say that fan demand for Sora doesn't exist otherwise. On the contrary, significant support for Sora also exists within the dedicated Smash Community, and he consistently manages to score among the highest spots on fan polls for the most requested or anticipated Smash characters. Needless to say, there's more than enough fan demand to justify both Nintendo approaching Disney and beginning negotiations for Sora in Smash.

Next is approval from Square Enix. It's important here to note the role that Square Enix has the legal rights for Nintendo, which I believe is often understated. While Disney, for all intents and purposes, owns the rights to Kingdom Hearts original content, they're engaged in a gentleman's agreement with Square Enix and Normura wherein Disney always goes to them for approval on Kingdom Hearts appearing significantly outside of the series. This is something they've honored since the start of the series, cancelling a potential Kingdom Hearts cartoon based on the original game "so as to not jeopardize the relationship between Square Enix & Disney as they began to expand the franchise," as well as cancelling a Disney developed Kingdom Hearts mobile game, likely for similar reasons. Needless to say, this agreement is very important to Disney.

This raises the question of whether or not Square Enix would approve. The short answer: More than likely yes.

For one, Sakurai and Normura have an incredibly strong business relationship after working on Cloud in Smash, with Sakurai even personally congratulating Normura for the Kingdom Hearts series' 15th anniversary. Additionally, Square Enix executive officer and Kingdom Hearts co-creator Shinji Hashimoto supports Sora in Smash too, as evidenced by this now deleted tweet. Square Enix would very likely not be an obstacle to Sora's inclusion.

With approval from Square Enix, Disney would then seriously consider the proposal from Nintendo. Here's the most uncertain step in the grand scheme of things. The question now is whether or not Disney would approve the proposal. While I don't believe I have enough information to accurately predict as such, I'll lay out some of the factors that I believe would play into this.
Let's start with the business relationship between Nintendo and Disney.

It's actually pretty good. Disney and Nintendo's relationship dates back to the Pre-NES days in 1959, when Nintendo made playing cards and board games with using Disney properties. This actually boosted Nintendo's reputation and got them accepted into the Tokyo and Osaka Stock Exchanges, which allowed them to develop further as a business. Similar to Square Enix, Nintendo's picked up the publishing for multiple Disney licensed games throughout the years, including Mickey's Racing Adventure, Disney's Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse, and the Disney Magical World series among others. In the past Disney properties have been prominent releases on Nintendo systems, such as the Epic Mickey and Spectrobes series respectively, and a large amount of Disney licensed games are exclusive to Nintendo systems (largely due to the large install base of children, their intended audience with such titles).

Weirdly enough, Disney also created an online game and social network service for their games on the DS? I actually remember using it for a Club Penguin spinoff game, but it's definitely among one of the weirder aspects of Disney and Nintendo's history. In the past they've also worked together on televised media, such as co-developing a game show about the Nintendo Switch and having the Smash for Wii U EVO 2017 finals televised on Disney XD. More recently, Disney has released notable exclusives for the Nintendo Switch, those being Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Disney Tsum Tsum Festival. Their Switch exclusivity certainly stands out given that Disney would have had a lot more to profit to gain by making these titles multiplatform. While the two seem to have recently drifted away, with Nintendo partnering with Universal for Super Nintendo World and Disney largely focusing on their movie and streaming efforts, their long history of partnerships would likely play into negotiations.

Next, let's discuss Disney and video games. Disney has had a rather complicated relationship with video games in the past. Their in-house video game development studio, Disney Interactive Studios, shut down in 2016, after which video games relating to Disney content became sparse. Furthermore, their crossovers into other media seemed purely transactional or promotional, such as Thanos in Fortnite (which appeared in Avengers Endgame), Wreck-It Ralph in Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing (likely as a result of Sonic's appearance in Wreck-It Ralph), and Wreck-It Ralph in Fortnite (to promote Ralph Breaks The Internet).

However, following the success of licensed titles such as Kingdom Hearts 3 and Star Wars Battlefront 2 (following the drama involving lootboxes), Disney has turned to a dominant strategy of licensing out their properties for game development studios to use. This is a rather recent development, with former Disney CEO Bob Iger discussing this in a February 2019 earnings call. This sentiment was more recently echoed by senior VP for games and interactive experiences Sean Shoptaw at the February 2020 DICE Summit. To further this strategy, in July 2019 Disney hired former Playstation executive John Drake as VP of business development and licensing for games, with his focus being to "help pair amazing developers and publishers with the best IP in the world." Disney's is geared up and ready to license their properties to prominent developers, which could be a significant boost for Sora's chances.

Finally, how does Disney treat the Kingdom Hearts series?

In the past, Kingdom Hearts was the red-haired stepchild kept in Disney's basement. However, KH3's success seems to have caused an internal shift within Disney, as they've started embracing the series more. Last year Sora appeared on a D23 collectable print and character costumes of Donald and Goofy in their Kingdom Hearts attire showed up at a Disneyland Halloween party. In a stream (at around the 2 hour mark), HMK discussed the surprisingly large amount of low quality licensed Kingdom Hearts merchandise, which you can find at your local Hot Topic store. While these have been around in the past (I have an old Kingdom Hearts 2 shirt that I got in the 4th grade still fits me to this day–I wear it as a pajama shirt), the quantity of such products seems to have increased as of late. Most recently, a prominent rumor of a Kingdom Hearts TV series being in the works for Disney+ has come out and basically been confirmed by multiple reputable sources. Disney is acknowledging the Kingdom Hearts series now more than ever, and seems to be attempting to capitalize off of the recent success the series has seen as much as possible. This could certainly bode well for Sora in Smash, as Disney would surely recognize the raw promotional power Smash Ultimate would have for the Kingdom Hearts series, and would seriously consider Sora's inclusion in the game.

As a side point on Disney's treatment of the Kingdom Hearts series, I'd like to highlight a point made by Scarpone in HMK's video. In it, he says that Kingdom Hearts 3 is the major focus for Disney regarding the Kingdom Hearts series, and that anything after the game's development would be more seriously considered. This would certainly make sense, given that the interview was conducted in May 2018 during the tail-end of production for KH3. It also means that negotiations pre and post-KH3 would likely play out differently for or against Nintendo.

Ultimately, I believe any point relating to Disney's role in negotiations comes down to timing. Which is why it's so difficult to answer the question of whether or not negotiations with Disney would succeed. You have to consider when Nintendo approached Disney to negotiate for Sora, and assuming that they've tried in the past and failed, whether they would try again when circumstances are more favorable.

We know character negotiations have failed in the past as stated in Sakurai's book, and knowing how difficult Disney's legal team was to work with on video games in 2016, it's not difficult to imagine Nintendo approaching Disney based on Sora's solid support in the Smash Ballot and getting rejected. If Nintendo attempted negotiations at any point prior to KH3's release, I imagine negotiations similarly falling through due to Disney. Between February - July 2019 I give Nintendo decent chances of negotiations succeeding, as around that time Disney seemed to become more open to licensing out their properties. After July 2019 I give Nintendo about the same chances of negotiations succeeding as when they went for Dragon Quest for Fighters Pass 1–not necessarily likely, but possible.

Of course, this speculation rests on a whole lot of hypotheticals. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to lineup with when Fighters Pass 2 was finalized. At latest the fighter selection for Pass 2 was decided by November 2019 (when Sakurai recorded his Byleth presentation and announced Fighters Pass 2), but if rumors about how early Pass 1 was decided on (at least in regards to Banjo being negotiated for in May 2018, months before the base game's release) is to be believed (as a side note, while I try not to use hearsay in my speculation, I believe that this fact comes from reputable enough sources to be mentioned here), it was likely much earlier. I would personally venture to guess the selections for Pass 2 were finalized by early to mid 2019.

The bottom line is this: Nintendo likely didn't have good chances for Sora when they were negotiating for Pass 2, and I personally doubt that if they tired they would succeed. I also don't know if Nintendo would try for Sora again assuming that they tried and failed at some point earlier (which I personally believe happened. Which is why I suggest this:

Tinfoil Hat tiem

If you'll just give me a second to put this on...
ezgif.com-webp-to-png(1).png
This is a longshot in the dark, and this is not backed by any sort of evidence whatsoever. This is more so just a fun "what if" that I think could happen in 1 out of 14,000,605 futures. If there's a point to attack in this essay, this is not one of them, as this point is not serious at all, nor will I seriously advocate for it as more than a tinfoil hat theory if pressed.

Anyways, as well all know, Fighters Pass 2 has 6 fighters instead of 5. This fact was prominently introduced and discussed in Byleth's Sakurai Presents presentation. I believe that this could be due to the fact that negotiations for a character who had previously been rejected (which we know has occurred due to Sakurai's book) suddenly became available, and Nintendo jumped on it. There is precedent for such a thing occurring in the development of a Smash game, as Sonic was a late addition to Brawl, being added 2 years after the newcomer list had initially been decided. While the exact reason for this has seemingly never been stated, it's common speculation that this was due to Sega initially rejecting the request, and then walking back on it later due to the immense hype surrounding Brawl (this Source Gaming article says as such, but does not link back to a primary source which makes me hesitant to completely believe it).

I think you can see where this is going.

Sora had immense popularity during the ballot period, with the Kingdom Hearts community rallying together for Sora's inclusion. It's not hard to believe that Nintendo tried for Sora then, but negotiations fell through for one reason or another. They drop the issue until Fighters Pass 2, when Disney has done a 180 on video games following the mass success of Kingdom Hearts 3 and is looking to promote the series in the largest gaming crossover of all time. Nintendo approaches Sakurai like they did for Dragon Quest, and they go for it despite having already decided Fighters Pass 2 in its entirety. Since it's DLC, all they have to do is tack on another fighter to the pass and promote as such.

This explanation accounts for Disney's role in negotiations while also accommodating the timeline of Fighters Pass 2 being decided. In the initial deciding, Nintendo had a very thin window to negotiate with Disney if they decided to do so, probably for the second or third time. By going outside of that timeline, however, and explaining Disney's turnaround on negotiations as being due to a desire to capitalize off the success of the Kingdom Hearts series after KH3, you can justify Sora's inclusion as the special sixth fighter in Fighters Pass 2.

Of course, I completely acknowledge the sheer amount of logical leaps and mental gymnastics needed to reach such a conclusion. This certainly doesn't hold up to Occam's Razor, which would sooner accept that negotiations for Sora either haven't occurred or failed in the past, and that this Fighters Pass has 6 characters because Fighters Pass 1 was incredibly successful, Nintendo wanted to add more characters, and it just so happened to work out to 6 characters instead of 5. However, I think this theory is worth mentioning, at the very least as a fun little thought.

Counterarguments

I'd also like to acknowledge two common counterarguments. The first being that Sora would have to bring Disney content with him, which would complicate negotiations as Disney would be overprotective of their intellectual properties. This largely argument relies on either ignorance of the series or personal opinion on what Kingdom Hearts is, as there's enough original content from Kingdom Hearts to include without so much as touching Disney properties.

This is most prominently showcased in Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, a movie retelling of the significant events of Kingdom Hearts χ, which is integral to the overarching plot of the Kingdom Hearts series. Disney worlds aren't brought up at all in the story; instead it relies solely on original content to carry the story, and it works. Furthermore, the finale of Kingdom Hearts 3 (where pretty much the entire story takes place) uses no Disney content aside from the presence of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in some of the final battles. While Disney content is important to the Kingdom Hearts series, it is not a necessary requirement.

Sora's Kingdom Key, which contains the Mickey ears as a key chain, could be altered or replaced to remove the mention. The key chain could be replaced with the Smash logo, or Sakurai could even design a new Keyblade for Smash specifically (which would actually be really cool). Furthermore, instead of the Kingdom Key, Shooting Star, which was prominently featuring in KH3's marketing alongside the Kingdom Key (and shows up in story cutscenes), or Oathkeeper and/or Oblivion, fan favorite Keyblades relevant to Sora's character could be used in place of the Kingdom Key. This is supposing the Mickey ears keychain is important, which it doesn't seem to be as evidenced by it appearing in other crossovers featuring Sora, such as his appearance in World of Final Fantasy's DLC.

Spirits could draw from the Heartless, Nobodies, Unversed, the other Warriors of Light (minus Mickey), Organization XIII, characters from Kingdom Hearts χ, etc. Stages could draw from Kingdom Hearts original worlds like Traverse Town, The End of the World, Castle Oblivion, Twilight Town, The World That Never Was, The Land of Departure, or Scala ad Caelum among others. Music could take from the large variety of music that plays in these worlds, or from the bevy of boss music used throughout the series (I'd love to see them use the remixes from KH3's Limit Cut episode, all of which are amazing).

Furthermore, this argument rests on the hypothetical of Disney being stingy with all of their intellectual properties in negotiations, which may or may not be true. At this point, however, the Kingdom Hearts series has enough of a unique identity to stand on its, which it seems to be attempting going forward if the Secret Episode of Kingdom Hearts 3 is to be believed. Nintendo and Sakurai could faithfully represent the series without so much as touching other Disney properties if need be.

Second, I'd also like to address the supposed disconfirmation of Sora by former Game Informer editor Imran Khan, who is known to have insider sources. This was pure speculation on his part, and he later went on to say he personally believes Sora is a contender for the "next big Smash Ultimate Character" alongside Master Chief. His speculation isn't necessarily surprising, as even I would say it's likely that negotiations for Sora have been attempted and fell through in the past. Regardless, this is a non-point based on the kneejerk reaction people has to Khan's statement immediately preceding him saying the next big character is Sora or Master Chief.

In Closing

I genuinely have no clue how likely or unlikely Sora is. In my (Kingdom) heart of hearts I want to believe in him, but I have no clue about how Disney plays into his chances, nor do I believe I have enough information to confidently speculate as such. If negotiations for him were to occur now, I'd say feel favorably for his chances, but as Disney just seems to have turned around on video games now, I don't know if negotiations could've been successful when deciding Fighters Pass 2, which was likely negotiated for in early-mid 2019. Furthermore, there's the unanswered question of whether Nintendo would try for Sora again after negotiations for him have likely been attempted before and fell through.

Hence why I suggest my tinfoil hat theory, as it satisfies the conditions for negotiations on Sora for Fighters Pass 2 to succeed by going outside of the timeline of Fighters Pass 2 being initially decided, justifying why it'd succeed compared to before, as well as explaining why Fighters Pass 2 has 6 characters instead of 5 like Fighters Pass 1. That's a long grasp for straws, however, and I don't seriously believe nor endorse it.

Sora exists in this weird limbo state that relies on Disney, and I simply can't come to a conclusion about how they'd act. On one hand, Nintendo and Disney are solid business partners, and have been for years. On the other hand, Disney is a ruthless mega-corporation with a legal team known first for their hardheadedness, and depending on when Nintendo began negotiations their chances could range from possible at best to completely impossible, with only a thin time frame for the former to occur. As much as I want him, I can't favorably argue for his chances over a character that would be easier for Nintendo to obtain, despite the net hype that they would gain by including Sora over such a character. If this were speculation for Pass 3, I would personally give Sora favorable chances.

However, in this essay I'm discussing Pass 2, and as of right now I'm personally not getting my hopes up. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, and if Sora gets into Smash you can be sure I'll react with as much hype as I had for Joker, if not more. But for now I have entire the Kingdom Hearts series on my Playstation, and I'm more than content with that.
 
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fogbadge

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Hi everyone!

I don't know why I've never really posted here before, but recently I've been writing on different Square Enix characters that could get into Smash this pass in the Newcomer Spec Thread, including Sora. I'm a huge fan of the Kingdom Hearts series (I just got all the Playstation trophies for KH2, and I'm working on getting all the trophies KH3 + Re:Mind now), and would definitely like to be added to the supporters list! I tried to make the most comprehensive argument on Sora in Smash, and as such my essay is a rather long read (over 4,300 words), so be warned. I hope you all enjoy!

Like with most of the characters I've written on in this series, I've previously written on Sora, most prominently in my 2018 Ultimate Square Enix Character Argument. In that, I widely defended his chances like the Sora fan I am. This time around, I plan on taking a more objective look to his chances in Smash. You can refer to my previous argument for some points on the strength of the KH series at the time, as I'll mainly be taking a look at the current circumstances of the KH series. Some of this argument will be recycled from my earlier essay, however, as some of the points play a part in the argument going forward. I'll be divying this essay up into three sections, named after the topics they'll be covering.

The Status of the Kingdom Hearts Series

To put it briefly: the Kingdom Hearts series is doing better now more than ever.

To start, Kingdom Hearts 3 smashed series sales records by selling 5 million units in less than 2 weeks, and debuted on sales charts at number 1, above Capcom's much-anticipated Resident Evil (also known as Biohazard in Japan) 2 remake. To put that into perspective, by February, KH3 exceeded sales of Kingdom Hearts 2 by over 80% within the same time frame. Undoubtedly this is, in part, due to the fact that Kingdom Hearts 3 was the first game to break Kingdom Hearts' large Playstation exclusivity by also releasing on Xbox at the same time as PS4. This was followed by Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, or, without the long convoluted names: the rest of the Kingdom Hearts series up to this point.

People are being exposed to the Kingdom Hearts' now more than ever given its large accessibility on modern consoles. This is further exacerbated by the large sales games in the series have seen. Seriously. You can get the entire series for like, $60 (not counting KH3's DLC expansion, which is worth additional $30). That's the same price as Pokémon Sword or Shield plus the expansion pass. I don't know about you, but when faced with the choice between more Pokémon except it's soulless or over a decade's worth of great action RPGs (like, 7 full games), the decision's obvious. But I digress

The series recently saw two new games announced, those being Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road, a rebranding of the Kingdom Hearts mobile game, and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory, the Kingdom Hearts' series long overdue Theatrym counterpart. MoM (which is a rather cheeky abbreviation for fans up to date on the series) also marks the debut of Kingdom Hearts on the Nintendo Switch, which is simultaneously surprising and not surprising at all, given the precedent of Kingdom Hearts "spinoffs" (there are no spinoffs in this series), such as 358/2 Days, Re:Coded, and Dream Drop Distance appearing first on Nintendo consoles. Regardless, this shows that Square Enix at least acknowledges the Switch as a platform for Kingdom Hearts games going forward, assuming the Switch can handle them.

The Kingdom Hearts series was already performing relatively well, selling over 24 million units as of November 2017 (which is now 32 million units as of June 2019), but over time the series has only gained traction, to the point where it's now one Square Enix and Disney's predominant series. At the very least, it has enough reputation and notoriety to warrant inclusion in Smash.

Disney

Hoo boy, we've got a lot to cover here.

I don't think Disney needs any introduction. For better or for worse, you'd have to be living under a rock to not know what Disney is. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that for all intents and purposes, Disney owns the legal rights to all original content in the Kingdom Hearts series, Sora included. If Sora is to be included in Smash, Disney is going to play an essential role in negotiations for them.

Which throws a wrench into any sort of speculation about Sora, because no one knows how to predict Disney in this regard.

A lot of users are skeptical of negotiations succeeding, in large part due to Disney. Around 2018 both @NonSpecificGuy and @PlayerOneTyler spoke of their experiences working with Disney, and how difficult Disney's legal team is to work with. One of them spoke about how difficult obtaining Kingdom Hearts content for Disney Infinity, a game developed internally within Disney, was. If it's difficult for an internal team to gain access to Kingdom Hearts content, then Nintendo, an outside company, is going to be facing a steep uphill battle for Sora in Smash.

However, that was circa 2018. Since then, I would argue that the climate within Disney has changed favorably for Sora's chances.
I'm going to be linking a lot to this summary of popular Kingdom Hearts youtuber HMK's interview with Disney of Japan Vice President and General Manager Justin Scarpone (I've already linked to it once before this), since it's the best primary source with which to discuss how Disney might act in negotiations for Sora. This is a rather old source, however, and I'll discuss how things may or may not have changed since then.

Scarpone talks quite a bit about the process of how negotiations for Sora would go down. To condense the process, it goes as such:
  • Nintendo approaches Disney for negotiations
  • Assuming fan demand exists, approval from Normura and Square Enix would be required
  • Assuming the above conditions are met, Disney seriously considers the offer.
  • Assuming that Disney accepts the offer, they would then work alongside Nintendo to represent Sora accurately in Smash.
The first part is relatively straightforward. Nintendo approaches Disney and asks to use Sora, upon which negotiations begin. Whether Nintendo has approached Disney (or would approach Disney knowing the potential uphill battle they face) and would approach Disney again assuming negotiations have failed in the past (which I personally believe has happened) is a large question, and one that I honestly don't know the answer to.

The next part of negotiations relies on fan demand, and I would even venture to argue that the first part–Nintendo approaching Disney–also largely relies on such. This asks the question of whether or not Sora has significant fan demand, to which the answer is yes. There is significant fan demand for Sora, and there has been such dating back to Ballot era in 2016. The Kingdom Hearts community has posted Sora in Smash throughout the years. The aforementioned posts were from my previous Square Enix Character Argument, and these are taken more recently from the Kingdom Hearts subreddit. These are just the more prominent posts; I assure you that many more exist. The dedicated Kingdom Hearts community has largely rallied behind Sora in Smash, and is a significant source of fan demand for Sora.

Not to say that fan demand for Sora doesn't exist otherwise. On the contrary, significant support for Sora also exists within the dedicated Smash Community, and he consistently manages to score among the highest spots on fan polls for the most requested or anticipated Smash characters. Needless to say, there's more than enough fan demand to justify both Nintendo approaching Disney and beginning negotiations for Sora in Smash.

Next is approval from Square Enix. It's important here to note the role that Square Enix has the legal rights for Nintendo, which I believe is often understated. While Disney, for all intents and purposes, owns the rights to Kingdom Hearts original content, they're engaged in a gentleman's agreement with Square Enix and Normura wherein Disney always goes to them for approval on Kingdom Hearts appearing significantly outside of the series. This is something they've honored since the start of the series, cancelling a potential Kingdom Hearts cartoon based on the original game "so as to not jeopardize the relationship between Square Enix & Disney as they began to expand the franchise," as well as cancelling a Disney developed Kingdom Hearts mobile game, likely for similar reasons. Needless to say, this agreement is very important to Disney.

This raises the question of whether or not Square Enix would approve. The short answer: More than likely yes.

For one, Sakurai and Normura have an incredibly strong business relationship after working on Cloud in Smash, with Sakurai even personally congratulating Normura for the Kingdom Hearts series' 15th anniversary. Additionally, Square Enix executive officer and Kingdom Hearts co-creator Shinji Hashimoto supports Sora in Smash too, as evidenced by this now deleted tweet. Square Enix would very likely not be an obstacle to Sora's inclusion.

With approval from Square Enix, Disney would then seriously consider the proposal from Nintendo. Here's the most uncertain step in the grand scheme of things. The question now is whether or not Disney would approve the proposal. While I don't believe I have enough information to accurately predict as such, I'll lay out some of the factors that I believe would play into this.
Let's start with the business relationship between Nintendo and Disney.

It's actually pretty good. Disney and Nintendo's relationship dates back to the Pre-NES days in 1959, when Nintendo made playing cards and board games with using Disney properties. This actually boosted Nintendo's reputation and got them accepted into the Tokyo and Osaka Stock Exchanges, which allowed them to develop further as a business. Similar to Square Enix, Nintendo's picked up the publishing for multiple Disney licensed games throughout the years, including Mickey's Racing Adventure, Disney's Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse, and the Disney Magical World series among others. In the past Disney properties have been prominent releases on Nintendo systems, such as the Epic Mickey and Spectrobes series respectively, and a large amount of Disney licensed games are exclusive to Nintendo systems (largely due to the large install base of children, their intended audience with such titles).

Weirdly enough, Disney also created an online game and social network service for their games on the DS? I actually remember using it for a Club Penguin spinoff game, but it's definitely among one of the weirder aspects of Disney and Nintendo's history. In the past they've also worked together on televised media, such as co-developing a game show about the Nintendo Switch and having the Smash for Wii U EVO 2017 finals televised on Disney XD. More recently, Disney has released notable exclusives for the Nintendo Switch, those being Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Disney Tsum Tsum Festival. Their Switch exclusivity certainly stands out given that Disney would have had a lot more to profit to gain by making these titles multiplatform. While the two seem to have recently drifted away, with Nintendo partnering with Universal for Super Nintendo World and Disney largely focusing on their movie and streaming efforts, their long history of partnerships would likely play into negotiations.

Next, let's discuss Disney and video games. Disney has had a rather complicated relationship with video games in the past. Their in-house video game development studio, Disney Interactive Studios, shut down in 2016, after which video games relating to Disney content became sparse. Furthermore, their crossovers into other media seemed purely transactional or promotional, such as Thanos in Fortnite (which appeared in Avengers Endgame), Wreck-It Ralph in Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing (likely as a result of Sonic's appearance in Wreck-It Ralph), and Wreck-It Ralph in Fortnite (to promote Ralph Breaks The Internet).

However, following the success of licensed titles such as Kingdom Hearts 3 and Star Wars Battlefront 2 (following the drama involving lootboxes), Disney has turned to a dominant strategy of licensing out their properties for game development studios to use. This is a rather recent development, with former Disney CEO Bob Iger discussing this in a February 2019 earnings call. This sentiment was more recently echoed by senior VP for games and interactive experiences Sean Shoptaw at the February 2020 DICE Summit. To further this strategy, in July 2019 Disney hired former Playstation executive John Drake as VP of business development and licensing for games, with his focus being to "help pair amazing developers and publishers with the best IP in the world." Disney's is geared up and ready to license their properties to prominent developers, which could be a significant boost for Sora's chances.

Finally, how does Disney treat the Kingdom Hearts series?

In the past, Kingdom Hearts was the red-haired stepchild kept in Disney's basement. However, KH3's success seems to have caused an internal shift within Disney, as they've started embracing the series more. Last year Sora appeared on a D23 collectable print and character costumes of Donald and Goofy in their Kingdom Hearts attire showed up at a Disneyland Halloween party. In a stream (at around the 2 hour mark), HMK discussed the surprisingly large amount of low quality licensed Kingdom Hearts merchandise, which you can find at your local Hot Topic store. While these have been around in the past (I have an old Kingdom Hearts 2 shirt that I got in the 4th grade still fits me to this day–I wear it as a pajama shirt), the quantity of such products seems to have increased as of late. Most recently, a prominent rumor of a Kingdom Hearts TV series being in the works for Disney+ has come out and basically been confirmed by multiple reputable sources. Disney is acknowledging the Kingdom Hearts series now more than ever, and seems to be attempting to capitalize off of the recent success the series has seen as much as possible. This could certainly bode well for Sora in Smash, as Disney would surely recognize the raw promotional power Smash Ultimate would have for the Kingdom Hearts series, and would seriously consider Sora's inclusion in the game.

As a side point on Disney's treatment of the Kingdom Hearts series, I'd like to highlight a point made by Scarpone in HMK's video. In it, he says that Kingdom Hearts 3 is the major focus for Disney regarding the Kingdom Hearts series, and that anything after the game's development would be more seriously considered. This would certainly make sense, given that the interview was conducted in May 2018 during the tail-end of production for KH3. It also means that negotiations pre and post-KH3 would likely play out differently for or against Nintendo.

Ultimately, I believe any point relating to Disney's role in negotiations comes down to timing. Which is why it's so difficult to answer the question of whether or not negotiations with Disney would succeed. You have to consider when Nintendo approached Disney to negotiate for Sora, and assuming that they've tried in the past and failed, whether they would try again when circumstances are more favorable.

We know character negotiations have failed in the past as stated in Sakurai's book, and knowing how difficult Disney's legal team was to work with on video games in 2016, it's not difficult to imagine Nintendo approaching Disney based on Sora's solid support in the Smash Ballot and getting rejected. If Nintendo attempted negotiations at any point prior to KH3's release, I imagine negotiations similarly falling through due to Disney. Between February - July 2019 I give Nintendo decent chances of negotiations succeeding, as around that time Disney seemed to become more open to licensing out their properties. After July 2019 I give Nintendo about the same chances of negotiations succeeding as when they went for Dragon Quest for Fighters Pass 1–not necessarily likely, but possible.

Of course, this speculation rests on a whole lot of hypotheticals. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to lineup with when Fighters Pass 2 was finalized. At latest the fighter selection for Pass 2 was decided by November 2019 (when Sakurai recorded his Byleth presentation and announced Fighters Pass 2), but if rumors about how early Pass 1 was decided on (at least in regards to Banjo being negotiated for in May 2018, months before the base game's release) is to be believed (as a side note, while I try not to use hearsay in my speculation, I believe that this fact comes from reputable enough sources to be mentioned here), it was likely much earlier. I would personally venture to guess the selections for Pass 2 were finalized by early to mid 2019.

The bottom line is this: Nintendo likely didn't have good chances for Sora when they were negotiating for Pass 2, and I personally doubt that if they tired they would succeed. I also don't know if Nintendo would try for Sora again assuming that they tried and failed at some point earlier (which I personally believe happened. Which is why I suggest this:

Tinfoil Hat tiem

If you'll just give me a second to put this on...
This is a longshot in the dark, and this is not backed by any sort of evidence whatsoever. This is more so just a fun "what if" that I think could happen in 1 out of 14,000,605 futures. If there's a point to attack in this essay, this is not one of them, as this point is not serious at all, nor will I seriously advocate for it as more than a tinfoil hat theory if pressed.

Anyways, as well all know, Fighters Pass 2 has 6 fighters instead of 5. This fact was prominently introduced and discussed in Byleth's Sakurai Presents presentation. I believe that this could be due to the fact that negotiations for a character who had previously been rejected (which we know has occurred due to Sakurai's book) suddenly became available, and Nintendo jumped on it. There is precedent for such a thing occurring in the development of a Smash game, as Sonic was a late addition to Brawl, being added 2 years after the newcomer list had initially been decided. While the exact reason for this has seemingly never been stated, it's common speculation that this was due to Sega initially rejecting the request, and then walking back on it later due to the immense hype surrounding Brawl (this Source Gaming article says as such, but does not link back to a primary source which makes me hesitant to completely believe it).

I think you can see where this is going.

Sora had immense popularity during the ballot period, with the Kingdom Hearts community rallying together for Sora's inclusion. It's not hard to believe that Nintendo tried for Sora then, but negotiations fell through for one reason or another. They drop the issue until Fighters Pass 2, when Disney has done a 180 on video games following the mass success of Kingdom Hearts 3 and is looking to promote the series in the largest gaming crossover of all time. Nintendo approaches Sakurai like they did for Dragon Quest, and they go for it despite having already decided Fighters Pass 2 in its entirety. Since it's DLC, all they have to do is tack on another fighter to the pass and promote as such.

This explanation accounts for Disney's role in negotiations while also accommodating the timeline of Fighters Pass 2 being decided. In the initial deciding, Nintendo had a very thin window to negotiate with Disney if they decided to do so, probably for the second or third time. By going outside of that timeline, however, and explaining Disney's turnaround on negotiations as being due to a desire to capitalize off the success of the Kingdom Hearts series after KH3, you can justify Sora's inclusion as the special sixth fighter in Fighters Pass 2.

Of course, I completely acknowledge the sheer amount of logical leaps and mental gymnastics needed to reach such a conclusion. This certainly doesn't hold up to Occam's Razor, which would sooner accept that negotiations for Sora either haven't occurred or failed in the past, and that this Fighters Pass has 6 characters because Fighters Pass 1 was incredibly successful, Nintendo wanted to add more characters, and it just so happened to work out to 6 characters instead of 5. However, I think this theory is worth mentioning, at the very least as a fun little thought.

Counterarguments

I'd also like to acknowledge two common counterarguments. The first being that Sora would have to bring Disney content with him, which would complicate negotiations as Disney would be overprotective of their intellectual properties. This largely argument relies on either ignorance of the series or personal opinion on what Kingdom Hearts is, as there's enough original content from Kingdom Hearts to include without so much as touching Disney properties.

This is most prominently showcased in Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, a movie retelling of the significant events of Kingdom Hearts χ, which is integral to the overarching plot of the Kingdom Hearts series. Disney worlds aren't brought up at all in the story; instead it relies solely on original content to carry the story, and it works. Furthermore, the finale of Kingdom Hearts 3 (where pretty much the entire story takes place) uses no Disney content aside from the presence of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in some of the final battles. While Disney content is important to the Kingdom Hearts series, it is not a necessary requirement.

Sora's Kingdom Key, which contains the Mickey ears as a key chain, could be altered or replaced to remove the mention. The key chain could be replaced with the Smash logo, or Sakurai could even design a new Keyblade for Smash specifically (which would actually be really cool). Furthermore, instead of the Kingdom Key, Shooting Star, which was prominently featuring in KH3's marketing alongside the Kingdom Key (and shows up in story cutscenes), or Oathkeeper and/or Oblivion, fan favorite Keyblades relevant to Sora's character could be used in place of the Kingdom Key. This is supposing the Mickey ears keychain is important, which it doesn't seem to be as evidenced by it appearing in other crossovers featuring Sora, such as his appearance in World of Final Fantasy's DLC.

Spirits could draw from the Heartless, Nobodies, Unversed, the other Warriors of Light (minus Mickey), Organization XIII, characters from Kingdom Hearts χ, etc. Stages could draw from Kingdom Hearts original worlds like Traverse Town, The End of the World, Castle Oblivion, Twilight Town, The World That Never Was, The Land of Departure, or Scala ad Caelum among others. Music could take from the large variety of music that plays in these worlds, or from the bevy of boss music used throughout the series (I'd love to see them use the remixes from KH3's Limit Cut episode, all of which are amazing).

Furthermore, this argument rests on the hypothetical of Disney being stingy with all of their intellectual properties in negotiations, which may or may not be true. At this point, however, the Kingdom Hearts series has enough of a unique identity to stand on its, which it seems to be attempting going forward if the Secret Episode of Kingdom Hearts 3 is to be believed. Nintendo and Sakurai could faithfully represent the series without so much as touching other Disney properties if need be.

Second, I'd also like to address the supposed disconfirmation of Sora by former Game Informer editor Imran Khan, who is known to have insider sources. This was pure speculation on his part, and he later went on to say he personally believes Sora is a contender for the "next big Smash Ultimate Character" alongside Master Chief. His speculation isn't necessarily surprising, as even I would say it's likely that negotiations for Sora have been attempted and fell through in the past. Regardless, this is a non-point based on the kneejerk reaction people has to Khan's statement immediately preceding him saying the next big character is Sora or Master Chief.

In Closing

I genuinely have no clue how likely or unlikely Sora is. In my (Kingdom) heart of hearts I want to believe in him, but I have no clue about how Disney plays into his chances, nor do I believe I have enough information to confidently speculate as such. If negotiations for him were to occur now, I'd say feel favorably for his chances, but as Disney just seems to have turned around on video games now, I don't know if negotiations could've been successful when deciding Fighters Pass 2, which was likely negotiated for in early-mid 2019. Furthermore, there's the unanswered question of whether Nintendo would try for Sora again after negotiations for him have likely been attempted before and fell through.

Hence why I suggest my tinfoil hat theory, as it satisfies the conditions for negotiations on Sora for Fighters Pass 2 to succeed by going outside of the timeline of Fighters Pass 2 being initially decided, justifying why it'd succeed compared to before, as well as explaining why Fighters Pass 2 has 6 characters instead of 5 like Fighters Pass 1. That's a long grasp for straws, however, and I don't seriously believe nor endorse it.

Sora exists in this weird limbo state that relies on Disney, and I simply can't come to a conclusion about how they'd act. On one hand, Nintendo and Disney are solid business partners, and have been for years. On the other hand, Disney is a ruthless mega-corporation with a legal team known first for their hardheadedness, and depending on when Nintendo began negotiations their chances could range from possible at best to completely impossible, with only a thin time frame for the former to occur. As much as I want him, I can't favorably argue for his chances over a character that would be easier for Nintendo to obtain, despite the net hype that they would gain by including Sora over such a character. If this were speculation for Pass 3, I would personally give Sora favorable chances.

However, in this essay I'm discussing Pass 2, and as of right now I'm personally not getting my hopes up. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, and if Sora gets into Smash you can be sure I'll react with as much hype as I had for Joker, if not more. But for now I have entire the Kingdom Hearts series on my Playstation, and I'm more than content with that.
he’s not a SE character and if you are aware of that you shouldnt include him
 
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M@R!3

Smash Journeyman
Joined
Sep 5, 2019
Messages
413
Hi everyone!

I don't know why I've never really posted here before, but recently I've been writing on different Square Enix characters that could get into Smash this pass in the Newcomer Spec Thread, including Sora. I'm a huge fan of the Kingdom Hearts series (I just got all the Playstation trophies for KH2, and I'm working on getting all the trophies KH3 + Re:Mind now), and would definitely like to be added to the supporters list! I tried to make the most comprehensive argument on Sora in Smash, and as such my essay is a rather long read (over 4,300 words), so be warned. I hope you all enjoy!

Like with most of the characters I've written on in this series, I've previously written on Sora, most prominently in my 2018 Ultimate Square Enix Character Argument. In that, I widely defended his chances like the Sora fan I am. This time around, I plan on taking a more objective look to his chances in Smash. You can refer to my previous argument for some points on the strength of the KH series at the time, as I'll mainly be taking a look at the current circumstances of the KH series. Some of this argument will be recycled from my earlier essay, however, as some of the points play a part in the argument going forward. I'll be divying this essay up into three sections, named after the topics they'll be covering.

The Status of the Kingdom Hearts Series

To put it briefly: the Kingdom Hearts series is doing better now more than ever.

To start, Kingdom Hearts 3 smashed series sales records by selling 5 million units in less than 2 weeks, and debuted on sales charts at number 1, above Capcom's much-anticipated Resident Evil (also known as Biohazard in Japan) 2 remake. To put that into perspective, by February, KH3 exceeded sales of Kingdom Hearts 2 by over 80% within the same time frame. Undoubtedly this is, in part, due to the fact that Kingdom Hearts 3 was the first game to break Kingdom Hearts' large Playstation exclusivity by also releasing on Xbox at the same time as PS4. This was followed by Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, or, without the long convoluted names: the rest of the Kingdom Hearts series up to this point.

People are being exposed to the Kingdom Hearts' now more than ever given its large accessibility on modern consoles. This is further exacerbated by the large sales games in the series have seen. Seriously. You can get the entire series for like, $60 (not counting KH3's DLC expansion, which is worth additional $30). That's the same price as Pokémon Sword or Shield plus the expansion pass. I don't know about you, but when faced with the choice between more Pokémon except it's soulless or over a decade's worth of great action RPGs (like, 7 full games), the decision's obvious. But I digress

The series recently saw two new games announced, those being Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road, a rebranding of the Kingdom Hearts mobile game, and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory, the Kingdom Hearts' series long overdue Theatrym counterpart. MoM (which is a rather cheeky abbreviation for fans up to date on the series) also marks the debut of Kingdom Hearts on the Nintendo Switch, which is simultaneously surprising and not surprising at all, given the precedent of Kingdom Hearts "spinoffs" (there are no spinoffs in this series), such as 358/2 Days, Re:Coded, and Dream Drop Distance appearing first on Nintendo consoles. Regardless, this shows that Square Enix at least acknowledges the Switch as a platform for Kingdom Hearts games going forward, assuming the Switch can handle them.

The Kingdom Hearts series was already performing relatively well, selling over 24 million units as of November 2017 (which is now 32 million units as of June 2019), but over time the series has only gained traction, to the point where it's now one Square Enix and Disney's predominant series. At the very least, it has enough reputation and notoriety to warrant inclusion in Smash.

Disney

Hoo boy, we've got a lot to cover here.

I don't think Disney needs any introduction. For better or for worse, you'd have to be living under a rock to not know what Disney is. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that for all intents and purposes, Disney owns the legal rights to all original content in the Kingdom Hearts series, Sora included. If Sora is to be included in Smash, Disney is going to play an essential role in negotiations for them.

Which throws a wrench into any sort of speculation about Sora, because no one knows how to predict Disney in this regard.

A lot of users are skeptical of negotiations succeeding, in large part due to Disney. Around 2018 both @NonSpecificGuy and @PlayerOneTyler spoke of their experiences working with Disney, and how difficult Disney's legal team is to work with. One of them spoke about how difficult obtaining Kingdom Hearts content for Disney Infinity, a game developed internally within Disney, was. If it's difficult for an internal team to gain access to Kingdom Hearts content, then Nintendo, an outside company, is going to be facing a steep uphill battle for Sora in Smash.

However, that was circa 2018. Since then, I would argue that the climate within Disney has changed favorably for Sora's chances.
I'm going to be linking a lot to this summary of popular Kingdom Hearts youtuber HMK's interview with Disney of Japan Vice President and General Manager Justin Scarpone (I've already linked to it once before this), since it's the best primary source with which to discuss how Disney might act in negotiations for Sora. This is a rather old source, however, and I'll discuss how things may or may not have changed since then.

Scarpone talks quite a bit about the process of how negotiations for Sora would go down. To condense the process, it goes as such:
  • Nintendo approaches Disney for negotiations
  • Assuming fan demand exists, approval from Normura and Square Enix would be required
  • Assuming the above conditions are met, Disney seriously considers the offer.
  • Assuming that Disney accepts the offer, they would then work alongside Nintendo to represent Sora accurately in Smash.
The first part is relatively straightforward. Nintendo approaches Disney and asks to use Sora, upon which negotiations begin. Whether Nintendo has approached Disney (or would approach Disney knowing the potential uphill battle they face) and would approach Disney again assuming negotiations have failed in the past (which I personally believe has happened) is a large question, and one that I honestly don't know the answer to.

The next part of negotiations relies on fan demand, and I would even venture to argue that the first part–Nintendo approaching Disney–also largely relies on such. This asks the question of whether or not Sora has significant fan demand, to which the answer is yes. There is significant fan demand for Sora, and there has been such dating back to Ballot era in 2016. The Kingdom Hearts community has posted Sora in Smash throughout the years. The aforementioned posts were from my previous Square Enix Character Argument, and these are taken more recently from the Kingdom Hearts subreddit. These are just the more prominent posts; I assure you that many more exist. The dedicated Kingdom Hearts community has largely rallied behind Sora in Smash, and is a significant source of fan demand for Sora.

Not to say that fan demand for Sora doesn't exist otherwise. On the contrary, significant support for Sora also exists within the dedicated Smash Community, and he consistently manages to score among the highest spots on fan polls for the most requested or anticipated Smash characters. Needless to say, there's more than enough fan demand to justify both Nintendo approaching Disney and beginning negotiations for Sora in Smash.

Next is approval from Square Enix. It's important here to note the role that Square Enix has the legal rights for Nintendo, which I believe is often understated. While Disney, for all intents and purposes, owns the rights to Kingdom Hearts original content, they're engaged in a gentleman's agreement with Square Enix and Normura wherein Disney always goes to them for approval on Kingdom Hearts appearing significantly outside of the series. This is something they've honored since the start of the series, cancelling a potential Kingdom Hearts cartoon based on the original game "so as to not jeopardize the relationship between Square Enix & Disney as they began to expand the franchise," as well as cancelling a Disney developed Kingdom Hearts mobile game, likely for similar reasons. Needless to say, this agreement is very important to Disney.

This raises the question of whether or not Square Enix would approve. The short answer: More than likely yes.

For one, Sakurai and Normura have an incredibly strong business relationship after working on Cloud in Smash, with Sakurai even personally congratulating Normura for the Kingdom Hearts series' 15th anniversary. Additionally, Square Enix executive officer and Kingdom Hearts co-creator Shinji Hashimoto supports Sora in Smash too, as evidenced by this now deleted tweet. Square Enix would very likely not be an obstacle to Sora's inclusion.

With approval from Square Enix, Disney would then seriously consider the proposal from Nintendo. Here's the most uncertain step in the grand scheme of things. The question now is whether or not Disney would approve the proposal. While I don't believe I have enough information to accurately predict as such, I'll lay out some of the factors that I believe would play into this.
Let's start with the business relationship between Nintendo and Disney.

It's actually pretty good. Disney and Nintendo's relationship dates back to the Pre-NES days in 1959, when Nintendo made playing cards and board games with using Disney properties. This actually boosted Nintendo's reputation and got them accepted into the Tokyo and Osaka Stock Exchanges, which allowed them to develop further as a business. Similar to Square Enix, Nintendo's picked up the publishing for multiple Disney licensed games throughout the years, including Mickey's Racing Adventure, Disney's Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse, and the Disney Magical World series among others. In the past Disney properties have been prominent releases on Nintendo systems, such as the Epic Mickey and Spectrobes series respectively, and a large amount of Disney licensed games are exclusive to Nintendo systems (largely due to the large install base of children, their intended audience with such titles).

Weirdly enough, Disney also created an online game and social network service for their games on the DS? I actually remember using it for a Club Penguin spinoff game, but it's definitely among one of the weirder aspects of Disney and Nintendo's history. In the past they've also worked together on televised media, such as co-developing a game show about the Nintendo Switch and having the Smash for Wii U EVO 2017 finals televised on Disney XD. More recently, Disney has released notable exclusives for the Nintendo Switch, those being Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Disney Tsum Tsum Festival. Their Switch exclusivity certainly stands out given that Disney would have had a lot more to profit to gain by making these titles multiplatform. While the two seem to have recently drifted away, with Nintendo partnering with Universal for Super Nintendo World and Disney largely focusing on their movie and streaming efforts, their long history of partnerships would likely play into negotiations.

Next, let's discuss Disney and video games. Disney has had a rather complicated relationship with video games in the past. Their in-house video game development studio, Disney Interactive Studios, shut down in 2016, after which video games relating to Disney content became sparse. Furthermore, their crossovers into other media seemed purely transactional or promotional, such as Thanos in Fortnite (which appeared in Avengers Endgame), Wreck-It Ralph in Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing (likely as a result of Sonic's appearance in Wreck-It Ralph), and Wreck-It Ralph in Fortnite (to promote Ralph Breaks The Internet).

However, following the success of licensed titles such as Kingdom Hearts 3 and Star Wars Battlefront 2 (following the drama involving lootboxes), Disney has turned to a dominant strategy of licensing out their properties for game development studios to use. This is a rather recent development, with former Disney CEO Bob Iger discussing this in a February 2019 earnings call. This sentiment was more recently echoed by senior VP for games and interactive experiences Sean Shoptaw at the February 2020 DICE Summit. To further this strategy, in July 2019 Disney hired former Playstation executive John Drake as VP of business development and licensing for games, with his focus being to "help pair amazing developers and publishers with the best IP in the world." Disney's is geared up and ready to license their properties to prominent developers, which could be a significant boost for Sora's chances.

Finally, how does Disney treat the Kingdom Hearts series?

In the past, Kingdom Hearts was the red-haired stepchild kept in Disney's basement. However, KH3's success seems to have caused an internal shift within Disney, as they've started embracing the series more. Last year Sora appeared on a D23 collectable print and character costumes of Donald and Goofy in their Kingdom Hearts attire showed up at a Disneyland Halloween party. In a stream (at around the 2 hour mark), HMK discussed the surprisingly large amount of low quality licensed Kingdom Hearts merchandise, which you can find at your local Hot Topic store. While these have been around in the past (I have an old Kingdom Hearts 2 shirt that I got in the 4th grade still fits me to this day–I wear it as a pajama shirt), the quantity of such products seems to have increased as of late. Most recently, a prominent rumor of a Kingdom Hearts TV series being in the works for Disney+ has come out and basically been confirmed by multiple reputable sources. Disney is acknowledging the Kingdom Hearts series now more than ever, and seems to be attempting to capitalize off of the recent success the series has seen as much as possible. This could certainly bode well for Sora in Smash, as Disney would surely recognize the raw promotional power Smash Ultimate would have for the Kingdom Hearts series, and would seriously consider Sora's inclusion in the game.

As a side point on Disney's treatment of the Kingdom Hearts series, I'd like to highlight a point made by Scarpone in HMK's video. In it, he says that Kingdom Hearts 3 is the major focus for Disney regarding the Kingdom Hearts series, and that anything after the game's development would be more seriously considered. This would certainly make sense, given that the interview was conducted in May 2018 during the tail-end of production for KH3. It also means that negotiations pre and post-KH3 would likely play out differently for or against Nintendo.

Ultimately, I believe any point relating to Disney's role in negotiations comes down to timing. Which is why it's so difficult to answer the question of whether or not negotiations with Disney would succeed. You have to consider when Nintendo approached Disney to negotiate for Sora, and assuming that they've tried in the past and failed, whether they would try again when circumstances are more favorable.

We know character negotiations have failed in the past as stated in Sakurai's book, and knowing how difficult Disney's legal team was to work with on video games in 2016, it's not difficult to imagine Nintendo approaching Disney based on Sora's solid support in the Smash Ballot and getting rejected. If Nintendo attempted negotiations at any point prior to KH3's release, I imagine negotiations similarly falling through due to Disney. Between February - July 2019 I give Nintendo decent chances of negotiations succeeding, as around that time Disney seemed to become more open to licensing out their properties. After July 2019 I give Nintendo about the same chances of negotiations succeeding as when they went for Dragon Quest for Fighters Pass 1–not necessarily likely, but possible.

Of course, this speculation rests on a whole lot of hypotheticals. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to lineup with when Fighters Pass 2 was finalized. At latest the fighter selection for Pass 2 was decided by November 2019 (when Sakurai recorded his Byleth presentation and announced Fighters Pass 2), but if rumors about how early Pass 1 was decided on (at least in regards to Banjo being negotiated for in May 2018, months before the base game's release) is to be believed (as a side note, while I try not to use hearsay in my speculation, I believe that this fact comes from reputable enough sources to be mentioned here), it was likely much earlier. I would personally venture to guess the selections for Pass 2 were finalized by early to mid 2019.

The bottom line is this: Nintendo likely didn't have good chances for Sora when they were negotiating for Pass 2, and I personally doubt that if they tired they would succeed. I also don't know if Nintendo would try for Sora again assuming that they tried and failed at some point earlier (which I personally believe happened. Which is why I suggest this:

Tinfoil Hat tiem

If you'll just give me a second to put this on...
This is a longshot in the dark, and this is not backed by any sort of evidence whatsoever. This is more so just a fun "what if" that I think could happen in 1 out of 14,000,605 futures. If there's a point to attack in this essay, this is not one of them, as this point is not serious at all, nor will I seriously advocate for it as more than a tinfoil hat theory if pressed.

Anyways, as well all know, Fighters Pass 2 has 6 fighters instead of 5. This fact was prominently introduced and discussed in Byleth's Sakurai Presents presentation. I believe that this could be due to the fact that negotiations for a character who had previously been rejected (which we know has occurred due to Sakurai's book) suddenly became available, and Nintendo jumped on it. There is precedent for such a thing occurring in the development of a Smash game, as Sonic was a late addition to Brawl, being added 2 years after the newcomer list had initially been decided. While the exact reason for this has seemingly never been stated, it's common speculation that this was due to Sega initially rejecting the request, and then walking back on it later due to the immense hype surrounding Brawl (this Source Gaming article says as such, but does not link back to a primary source which makes me hesitant to completely believe it).

I think you can see where this is going.

Sora had immense popularity during the ballot period, with the Kingdom Hearts community rallying together for Sora's inclusion. It's not hard to believe that Nintendo tried for Sora then, but negotiations fell through for one reason or another. They drop the issue until Fighters Pass 2, when Disney has done a 180 on video games following the mass success of Kingdom Hearts 3 and is looking to promote the series in the largest gaming crossover of all time. Nintendo approaches Sakurai like they did for Dragon Quest, and they go for it despite having already decided Fighters Pass 2 in its entirety. Since it's DLC, all they have to do is tack on another fighter to the pass and promote as such.

This explanation accounts for Disney's role in negotiations while also accommodating the timeline of Fighters Pass 2 being decided. In the initial deciding, Nintendo had a very thin window to negotiate with Disney if they decided to do so, probably for the second or third time. By going outside of that timeline, however, and explaining Disney's turnaround on negotiations as being due to a desire to capitalize off the success of the Kingdom Hearts series after KH3, you can justify Sora's inclusion as the special sixth fighter in Fighters Pass 2.

Of course, I completely acknowledge the sheer amount of logical leaps and mental gymnastics needed to reach such a conclusion. This certainly doesn't hold up to Occam's Razor, which would sooner accept that negotiations for Sora either haven't occurred or failed in the past, and that this Fighters Pass has 6 characters because Fighters Pass 1 was incredibly successful, Nintendo wanted to add more characters, and it just so happened to work out to 6 characters instead of 5. However, I think this theory is worth mentioning, at the very least as a fun little thought.

Counterarguments

I'd also like to acknowledge two common counterarguments. The first being that Sora would have to bring Disney content with him, which would complicate negotiations as Disney would be overprotective of their intellectual properties. This largely argument relies on either ignorance of the series or personal opinion on what Kingdom Hearts is, as there's enough original content from Kingdom Hearts to include without so much as touching Disney properties.

This is most prominently showcased in Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, a movie retelling of the significant events of Kingdom Hearts χ, which is integral to the overarching plot of the Kingdom Hearts series. Disney worlds aren't brought up at all in the story; instead it relies solely on original content to carry the story, and it works. Furthermore, the finale of Kingdom Hearts 3 (where pretty much the entire story takes place) uses no Disney content aside from the presence of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in some of the final battles. While Disney content is important to the Kingdom Hearts series, it is not a necessary requirement.

Sora's Kingdom Key, which contains the Mickey ears as a key chain, could be altered or replaced to remove the mention. The key chain could be replaced with the Smash logo, or Sakurai could even design a new Keyblade for Smash specifically (which would actually be really cool). Furthermore, instead of the Kingdom Key, Shooting Star, which was prominently featuring in KH3's marketing alongside the Kingdom Key (and shows up in story cutscenes), or Oathkeeper and/or Oblivion, fan favorite Keyblades relevant to Sora's character could be used in place of the Kingdom Key. This is supposing the Mickey ears keychain is important, which it doesn't seem to be as evidenced by it appearing in other crossovers featuring Sora, such as his appearance in World of Final Fantasy's DLC.

Spirits could draw from the Heartless, Nobodies, Unversed, the other Warriors of Light (minus Mickey), Organization XIII, characters from Kingdom Hearts χ, etc. Stages could draw from Kingdom Hearts original worlds like Traverse Town, The End of the World, Castle Oblivion, Twilight Town, The World That Never Was, The Land of Departure, or Scala ad Caelum among others. Music could take from the large variety of music that plays in these worlds, or from the bevy of boss music used throughout the series (I'd love to see them use the remixes from KH3's Limit Cut episode, all of which are amazing).

Furthermore, this argument rests on the hypothetical of Disney being stingy with all of their intellectual properties in negotiations, which may or may not be true. At this point, however, the Kingdom Hearts series has enough of a unique identity to stand on its, which it seems to be attempting going forward if the Secret Episode of Kingdom Hearts 3 is to be believed. Nintendo and Sakurai could faithfully represent the series without so much as touching other Disney properties if need be.

Second, I'd also like to address the supposed disconfirmation of Sora by former Game Informer editor Imran Khan, who is known to have insider sources. This was pure speculation on his part, and he later went on to say he personally believes Sora is a contender for the "next big Smash Ultimate Character" alongside Master Chief. His speculation isn't necessarily surprising, as even I would say it's likely that negotiations for Sora have been attempted and fell through in the past. Regardless, this is a non-point based on the kneejerk reaction people has to Khan's statement immediately preceding him saying the next big character is Sora or Master Chief.

In Closing

I genuinely have no clue how likely or unlikely Sora is. In my (Kingdom) heart of hearts I want to believe in him, but I have no clue about how Disney plays into his chances, nor do I believe I have enough information to confidently speculate as such. If negotiations for him were to occur now, I'd say feel favorably for his chances, but as Disney just seems to have turned around on video games now, I don't know if negotiations could've been successful when deciding Fighters Pass 2, which was likely negotiated for in early-mid 2019. Furthermore, there's the unanswered question of whether Nintendo would try for Sora again after negotiations for him have likely been attempted before and fell through.

Hence why I suggest my tinfoil hat theory, as it satisfies the conditions for negotiations on Sora for Fighters Pass 2 to succeed by going outside of the timeline of Fighters Pass 2 being initially decided, justifying why it'd succeed compared to before, as well as explaining why Fighters Pass 2 has 6 characters instead of 5 like Fighters Pass 1. That's a long grasp for straws, however, and I don't seriously believe nor endorse it.

Sora exists in this weird limbo state that relies on Disney, and I simply can't come to a conclusion about how they'd act. On one hand, Nintendo and Disney are solid business partners, and have been for years. On the other hand, Disney is a ruthless mega-corporation with a legal team known first for their hardheadedness, and depending on when Nintendo began negotiations their chances could range from possible at best to completely impossible, with only a thin time frame for the former to occur. As much as I want him, I can't favorably argue for his chances over a character that would be easier for Nintendo to obtain, despite the net hype that they would gain by including Sora over such a character. If this were speculation for Pass 3, I would personally give Sora favorable chances.

However, in this essay I'm discussing Pass 2, and as of right now I'm personally not getting my hopes up. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, and if Sora gets into Smash you can be sure I'll react with as much hype as I had for Joker, if not more. But for now I have entire the Kingdom Hearts series on my Playstation, and I'm more than content with that.
That was a good read. Looks like you've got everything covered from what I can remember.
 

tehponycorn

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he’s not a SE character and if you are aware of that you shouldnt include him
While he isn't technically a Square Enix character, and we could certainly see another, dedicated Square Enix character alongside him, I believe Square Enix's involvement in negotiations is significant enough for him to warrant mention in this series.
 

fogbadge

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While he isn't technically a Square Enix character, and we could certainly see another, dedicated Square Enix character alongside him, I believe Square Enix's involvement in negotiations is significant enough for him to warrant mention in this series.
yes but ownership is what defines what sort of a character they are
 

Beth Uriel

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yes but ownership is what defines what sort of a character they are
He's right, though. SE would be involved in how to properly design the character. They won't be out of it, since there's stuff, including music, they may own. And if it's not the music, did you really think Sakurai isn't going to ask a SE representative for help on making sure they represent the character right? Same thing with any KH OC, since while Disney owns them, SE designed them and know their mannerisms way better. Ownership is only half the importance of a franchise. Who develops them is just as important.
 

fogbadge

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He's right, though. SE would be involved in how to properly design the character. They won't be out of it, since there's stuff, including music, they may own. And if it's not the music, did you really think Sakurai isn't going to ask a SE representative for help on making sure they represent the character right? Same thing with any KH OC, since while Disney owns them, SE designed them and know their mannerisms way better. Ownership is only half the importance of a franchise. Who develops them is just as important.
disney owns all the music, disney owns all kh original stuff. i never said who develops it wasnt important i said who own them defines what character they are, meaning owned by disney = disney character/owned by nintendo = nintendo character

also sakurai doesnt always care about character mannerisms look at bowser
 

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disney owns all the music, disney owns all kh original stuff. i never said who develops it wasnt important i said who own them defines what character they are, meaning owned by disney = disney character/owned by nintendo = nintendo character

also sakurai doesnt always care about character mannerisms look at bowser
...Bowser is acting pretty much like himself? That's been one of his most prominent designs. He's actually been monstrous quite a bit, and has only shown a more human side throughout the years. Literally in Super Mario 64, his first 3D debut, he was very very monstrous. Paper Bowser isn't remotely the same thing. His character has evolved, but he actually was very accurate when added. Just cause he doesn't evolve Bowser's personality with the new games doesn't mean he's actually inaccurate. He's not updated to newer stuff, but it's still based upon his canon personality. Now, if you were talking about Lucina...

However, he does massively care for 3rd parties and very often goes for their original designs too. Regardless, Sora was created by Square-Enix, so calling him "a SE character" is not remotely wrong. Nobody is calling him a "SE-owned character", which has a very different meaning in itself. He's also a Disney character. Characters are basically a sum of all their parts when describing what company they relate to. That's not referring to the ownership. Banjo, due to his origins, was a Nintendo and Rareware character too. He's also now a Microsoft character. All of these are accurate statements. And that's what people mean, just companies that are involved with a character directly. SE is still involved, so "was" is a silly point to make. He's still clearly a SE character, including the fact they outright put him on a list of 7 leakbait characters by choice. So they take the fact they're associated with Sora quite seriously enough for catching leakers too. That's a core reason why people still call him one, since they know SE sees them as a part of Sora's overall core history.

They don't need to be involved in licensing. But SE will be involved in the character process. It's extremely rare that the developers for a 3rd party character have zero involvement in a character that Sakurai is working on. There's not even a proper example of where they wouldn't be involved. Either we don't know or we know they're involved. So yeah, Sakurai's going to clearly ask for help from SE with Sora if he is able to license him. He wants the people responsible for the mannerisms, etc.
 

fogbadge

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...Bowser is acting pretty much like himself? That's been one of his most prominent designs. He's actually been monstrous quite a bit, and has only shown a more human side throughout the years. Literally in Super Mario 64, his first 3D debut, he was very very monstrous. Paper Bowser isn't remotely the same thing. His character has evolved, but he actually was very accurate when added. Just cause he doesn't evolve Bowser's personality with the new games doesn't mean he's actually inaccurate. He's not updated to newer stuff, but it's still based upon his canon personality. Now, if you were talking about Lucina...

However, he does massively care for 3rd parties and very often goes for their original designs too. Regardless, Sora was created by Square-Enix, so calling him "a SE character" is not remotely wrong. Nobody is calling him a "SE-owned character", which has a very different meaning in itself. He's also a Disney character. Characters are basically a sum of all their parts when describing what company they relate to. That's not referring to the ownership. Banjo, due to his origins, was a Nintendo and Rareware character too. He's also now a Microsoft character. All of these are accurate statements. And that's what people mean, just companies that are involved with a character directly. SE is still involved, so "was" is a silly point to make. He's still clearly a SE character, including the fact they outright put him on a list of 7 leakbait characters by choice. So they take the fact they're associated with Sora quite seriously enough for catching leakers too. That's a core reason why people still call him one, since they know SE sees them as a part of Sora's overall core history.

They don't need to be involved in licensing. But SE will be involved in the character process. It's extremely rare that the developers for a 3rd party character have zero involvement in a character that Sakurai is working on. There's not even a proper example of where they wouldn't be involved. Either we don't know or we know they're involved. So yeah, Sakurai's going to clearly ask for help from SE with Sora if he is able to license him. He wants the people responsible for the mannerisms, etc.
no bowser was never as bestial in Mario. Even back in the early days he was laughing maniacally getting worked up easily and scheming the only thing that’s really changed is he’s a bit more cartoonish and he has a caring side now he has a son but he’s the same bowser he’s always been for the last 35 years

by that logic Mario is also a SE character and link is a Capcom character
 

Beth Uriel

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no bowser was never as bestial in Mario. Even back in the early days he was laughing maniacally getting worked up easily and scheming the only thing that’s really changed is he’s a bit more cartoonish and he has a caring side now he has a son but he’s the same bowser he’s always been for the last 35 years

by that logic Mario is also a SE character and link is a Capcom character
"By that logic" is not a good argument. Especially when neither Mario or Link were created/originally developed by SE or Capcom. You probably should use a better example, if anything. It's also basically trying to put words in my mouth and really needs to be stopped being mention. I'm not making that logic. A character's original developer and owner is always going to be associated with them. "Not anymore" is used for a good reason. And some only happened to be on a system but wasn't actually owned by that system's company at any point. Not that it stops association with 'em(like Cloud with Sony). Unlike those examples, Square-Enix is the actual creator of Sora and should always be treated as a core important part of his origins company-wise. That makes sense.

That said, no, he's very very bestial in Super Mario 64. He's usually been bestial outside of rpg's. It wasn't till Sunshine he changed more. His actual mannerisms in Smash only recently has him standing up like the regular games. The actual voice grunts are from actual Mario games, the core ones, where he always sounded bestial(again, till Sunshine). The rpg's were the first time Bowser got proper characterization in any games, and weren't used for a long time in the Super Mario series proper. That's why Mario Kart in general had his voice grunts. DK even sounds like himself.
 

M@R!3

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I figured this went on forever until you won, but I didn't know just how many more attacks he had.

 

fogbadge

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That said, no, he's very very bestial in Super Mario 64. He's usually been bestial outside of rpg's. It wasn't till Sunshine he changed more. His actual mannerisms in Smash only recently has him standing up like the regular games. The actual voice grunts are from actual Mario games, the core ones, where he always sounded bestial(again, till Sunshine). The rpg's were the first time Bowser got proper characterization in any games, and weren't used for a long time in the Super Mario series proper. That's why Mario Kart in general had his voice grunts. DK even sounds like himself.
no he does not! he was never that feral and bestial. in 64 it was ominous laughter with the only roars when he got back up onto the battlefield. bowser is based on how sakurai thought he was in the original super mario bros, not how he was in 64 super mario rpg or anything else. bowser has a fictitious personality that he never had in any game and even then he was never this bestial in the games. his current characterisation comes from more than just the rpgs, it was seen in the early mario parties, in tetris attack, the sports games, even the comics and the cartoons. bowsers personality came from many different things many of which predated smash by a wide margin

"Combined Combatant", a monster made of all the enemy footsoldiers from the 1st 34 Super Sentai seasons.

weird
 
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Bowser in Super Mario 64 was this terrifying hulking figure with a spooky laugh. That's the Bowser I was first accustomed to and Smash Bowser feels fairly well evocative of that.
 

Powerman293

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I was in a discord server and heard this Donald Duck cover of Simple and Clean and oh my god I fell over laughing. This should be a nice palette cleanser for all the bad going on in the world right now.

 
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Beth Uriel

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no he does not!
Okay, I draw the line being yelled at. I am not going to participate in conversations like that. So I am done conversing with you entirely. No exceptions.

So I hope you have a nice night(or day, evening, morning, whatever is accurate). And that's the last thing I'll say.
 

fogbadge

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Okay, I draw the line being yelled at. I am not going to participate in conversations like that. So I am done conversing with you entirely. No exceptions.

So I hope you have a nice night(or day, evening, morning, whatever is accurate). And that's the last thing I'll say.
that wasnt yelling, that was emphases on a point

though stopping is a good idea as this too far off topic
 
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M@R!3

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I was in a discord server and heard this Donald Duck cover of Simple and Clean and oh my god I fell over laughing. This should be a nice palette cleanser for all the bad going on in the world right now.

This is the sort of quality content I can get behind.
 

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Just hook it to my veins.
 

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Hi everyone!

I don't know why I've never really posted here before, but recently I've been writing on different Square Enix characters that could get into Smash this pass in the Newcomer Spec Thread, including Sora. I'm a huge fan of the Kingdom Hearts series (I just got all the Playstation trophies for KH2, and I'm working on getting all the trophies KH3 + Re:Mind now), and would definitely like to be added to the supporters list! I tried to make the most comprehensive argument on Sora in Smash, and as such my essay is a rather long read (over 4,300 words), so be warned. I hope you all enjoy!

Like with most of the characters I've written on in this series, I've previously written on Sora, most prominently in my 2018 Ultimate Square Enix Character Argument. In that, I widely defended his chances like the Sora fan I am. This time around, I plan on taking a more objective look to his chances in Smash. You can refer to my previous argument for some points on the strength of the KH series at the time, as I'll mainly be taking a look at the current circumstances of the KH series. Some of this argument will be recycled from my earlier essay, however, as some of the points play a part in the argument going forward. I'll be divying this essay up into three sections, named after the topics they'll be covering.

The Status of the Kingdom Hearts Series

To put it briefly: the Kingdom Hearts series is doing better now more than ever.

To start, Kingdom Hearts 3 smashed series sales records by selling 5 million units in less than 2 weeks, and debuted on sales charts at number 1, above Capcom's much-anticipated Resident Evil (also known as Biohazard in Japan) 2 remake. To put that into perspective, by February, KH3 exceeded sales of Kingdom Hearts 2 by over 80% within the same time frame. Undoubtedly this is, in part, due to the fact that Kingdom Hearts 3 was the first game to break Kingdom Hearts' large Playstation exclusivity by also releasing on Xbox at the same time as PS4. This was followed by Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, or, without the long convoluted names: the rest of the Kingdom Hearts series up to this point.

People are being exposed to the Kingdom Hearts' now more than ever given its large accessibility on modern consoles. This is further exacerbated by the large sales games in the series have seen. Seriously. You can get the entire series for like, $60 (not counting KH3's DLC expansion, which is worth additional $30). That's the same price as Pokémon Sword or Shield plus the expansion pass. I don't know about you, but when faced with the choice between more Pokémon except it's soulless or over a decade's worth of great action RPGs (like, 7 full games), the decision's obvious. But I digress

The series recently saw two new games announced, those being Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road, a rebranding of the Kingdom Hearts mobile game, and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory, the Kingdom Hearts' series long overdue Theatrym counterpart. MoM (which is a rather cheeky abbreviation for fans up to date on the series) also marks the debut of Kingdom Hearts on the Nintendo Switch, which is simultaneously surprising and not surprising at all, given the precedent of Kingdom Hearts "spinoffs" (there are no spinoffs in this series), such as 358/2 Days, Re:Coded, and Dream Drop Distance appearing first on Nintendo consoles. Regardless, this shows that Square Enix at least acknowledges the Switch as a platform for Kingdom Hearts games going forward, assuming the Switch can handle them.

The Kingdom Hearts series was already performing relatively well, selling over 24 million units as of November 2017 (which is now 32 million units as of June 2019), but over time the series has only gained traction, to the point where it's now one Square Enix and Disney's predominant series. At the very least, it has enough reputation and notoriety to warrant inclusion in Smash.

Disney

Hoo boy, we've got a lot to cover here.

I don't think Disney needs any introduction. For better or for worse, you'd have to be living under a rock to not know what Disney is. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that for all intents and purposes, Disney owns the legal rights to all original content in the Kingdom Hearts series, Sora included. If Sora is to be included in Smash, Disney is going to play an essential role in negotiations for them.

Which throws a wrench into any sort of speculation about Sora, because no one knows how to predict Disney in this regard.

A lot of users are skeptical of negotiations succeeding, in large part due to Disney. Around 2018 both @NonSpecificGuy and @PlayerOneTyler spoke of their experiences working with Disney, and how difficult Disney's legal team is to work with. One of them spoke about how difficult obtaining Kingdom Hearts content for Disney Infinity, a game developed internally within Disney, was. If it's difficult for an internal team to gain access to Kingdom Hearts content, then Nintendo, an outside company, is going to be facing a steep uphill battle for Sora in Smash.

However, that was circa 2018. Since then, I would argue that the climate within Disney has changed favorably for Sora's chances.
I'm going to be linking a lot to this summary of popular Kingdom Hearts youtuber HMK's interview with Disney of Japan Vice President and General Manager Justin Scarpone (I've already linked to it once before this), since it's the best primary source with which to discuss how Disney might act in negotiations for Sora. This is a rather old source, however, and I'll discuss how things may or may not have changed since then.

Scarpone talks quite a bit about the process of how negotiations for Sora would go down. To condense the process, it goes as such:
  • Nintendo approaches Disney for negotiations
  • Assuming fan demand exists, approval from Normura and Square Enix would be required
  • Assuming the above conditions are met, Disney seriously considers the offer.
  • Assuming that Disney accepts the offer, they would then work alongside Nintendo to represent Sora accurately in Smash.
The first part is relatively straightforward. Nintendo approaches Disney and asks to use Sora, upon which negotiations begin. Whether Nintendo has approached Disney (or would approach Disney knowing the potential uphill battle they face) and would approach Disney again assuming negotiations have failed in the past (which I personally believe has happened) is a large question, and one that I honestly don't know the answer to.

The next part of negotiations relies on fan demand, and I would even venture to argue that the first part–Nintendo approaching Disney–also largely relies on such. This asks the question of whether or not Sora has significant fan demand, to which the answer is yes. There is significant fan demand for Sora, and there has been such dating back to Ballot era in 2016. The Kingdom Hearts community has posted Sora in Smash throughout the years. The aforementioned posts were from my previous Square Enix Character Argument, and these are taken more recently from the Kingdom Hearts subreddit. These are just the more prominent posts; I assure you that many more exist. The dedicated Kingdom Hearts community has largely rallied behind Sora in Smash, and is a significant source of fan demand for Sora.

Not to say that fan demand for Sora doesn't exist otherwise. On the contrary, significant support for Sora also exists within the dedicated Smash Community, and he consistently manages to score among the highest spots on fan polls for the most requested or anticipated Smash characters. Needless to say, there's more than enough fan demand to justify both Nintendo approaching Disney and beginning negotiations for Sora in Smash.

Next is approval from Square Enix. It's important here to note the role that Square Enix has the legal rights for Nintendo, which I believe is often understated. While Disney, for all intents and purposes, owns the rights to Kingdom Hearts original content, they're engaged in a gentleman's agreement with Square Enix and Normura wherein Disney always goes to them for approval on Kingdom Hearts appearing significantly outside of the series. This is something they've honored since the start of the series, cancelling a potential Kingdom Hearts cartoon based on the original game "so as to not jeopardize the relationship between Square Enix & Disney as they began to expand the franchise," as well as cancelling a Disney developed Kingdom Hearts mobile game, likely for similar reasons. Needless to say, this agreement is very important to Disney.

This raises the question of whether or not Square Enix would approve. The short answer: More than likely yes.

For one, Sakurai and Normura have an incredibly strong business relationship after working on Cloud in Smash, with Sakurai even personally congratulating Normura for the Kingdom Hearts series' 15th anniversary. Additionally, Square Enix executive officer and Kingdom Hearts co-creator Shinji Hashimoto supports Sora in Smash too, as evidenced by this now deleted tweet. Square Enix would very likely not be an obstacle to Sora's inclusion.

With approval from Square Enix, Disney would then seriously consider the proposal from Nintendo. Here's the most uncertain step in the grand scheme of things. The question now is whether or not Disney would approve the proposal. While I don't believe I have enough information to accurately predict as such, I'll lay out some of the factors that I believe would play into this.
Let's start with the business relationship between Nintendo and Disney.

It's actually pretty good. Disney and Nintendo's relationship dates back to the Pre-NES days in 1959, when Nintendo made playing cards and board games with using Disney properties. This actually boosted Nintendo's reputation and got them accepted into the Tokyo and Osaka Stock Exchanges, which allowed them to develop further as a business. Similar to Square Enix, Nintendo's picked up the publishing for multiple Disney licensed games throughout the years, including Mickey's Racing Adventure, Disney's Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse, and the Disney Magical World series among others. In the past Disney properties have been prominent releases on Nintendo systems, such as the Epic Mickey and Spectrobes series respectively, and a large amount of Disney licensed games are exclusive to Nintendo systems (largely due to the large install base of children, their intended audience with such titles).

Weirdly enough, Disney also created an online game and social network service for their games on the DS? I actually remember using it for a Club Penguin spinoff game, but it's definitely among one of the weirder aspects of Disney and Nintendo's history. In the past they've also worked together on televised media, such as co-developing a game show about the Nintendo Switch and having the Smash for Wii U EVO 2017 finals televised on Disney XD. More recently, Disney has released notable exclusives for the Nintendo Switch, those being Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Disney Tsum Tsum Festival. Their Switch exclusivity certainly stands out given that Disney would have had a lot more to profit to gain by making these titles multiplatform. While the two seem to have recently drifted away, with Nintendo partnering with Universal for Super Nintendo World and Disney largely focusing on their movie and streaming efforts, their long history of partnerships would likely play into negotiations.

Next, let's discuss Disney and video games. Disney has had a rather complicated relationship with video games in the past. Their in-house video game development studio, Disney Interactive Studios, shut down in 2016, after which video games relating to Disney content became sparse. Furthermore, their crossovers into other media seemed purely transactional or promotional, such as Thanos in Fortnite (which appeared in Avengers Endgame), Wreck-It Ralph in Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing (likely as a result of Sonic's appearance in Wreck-It Ralph), and Wreck-It Ralph in Fortnite (to promote Ralph Breaks The Internet).

However, following the success of licensed titles such as Kingdom Hearts 3 and Star Wars Battlefront 2 (following the drama involving lootboxes), Disney has turned to a dominant strategy of licensing out their properties for game development studios to use. This is a rather recent development, with former Disney CEO Bob Iger discussing this in a February 2019 earnings call. This sentiment was more recently echoed by senior VP for games and interactive experiences Sean Shoptaw at the February 2020 DICE Summit. To further this strategy, in July 2019 Disney hired former Playstation executive John Drake as VP of business development and licensing for games, with his focus being to "help pair amazing developers and publishers with the best IP in the world." Disney's is geared up and ready to license their properties to prominent developers, which could be a significant boost for Sora's chances.

Finally, how does Disney treat the Kingdom Hearts series?

In the past, Kingdom Hearts was the red-haired stepchild kept in Disney's basement. However, KH3's success seems to have caused an internal shift within Disney, as they've started embracing the series more. Last year Sora appeared on a D23 collectable print and character costumes of Donald and Goofy in their Kingdom Hearts attire showed up at a Disneyland Halloween party. In a stream (at around the 2 hour mark), HMK discussed the surprisingly large amount of low quality licensed Kingdom Hearts merchandise, which you can find at your local Hot Topic store. While these have been around in the past (I have an old Kingdom Hearts 2 shirt that I got in the 4th grade still fits me to this day–I wear it as a pajama shirt), the quantity of such products seems to have increased as of late. Most recently, a prominent rumor of a Kingdom Hearts TV series being in the works for Disney+ has come out and basically been confirmed by multiple reputable sources. Disney is acknowledging the Kingdom Hearts series now more than ever, and seems to be attempting to capitalize off of the recent success the series has seen as much as possible. This could certainly bode well for Sora in Smash, as Disney would surely recognize the raw promotional power Smash Ultimate would have for the Kingdom Hearts series, and would seriously consider Sora's inclusion in the game.

As a side point on Disney's treatment of the Kingdom Hearts series, I'd like to highlight a point made by Scarpone in HMK's video. In it, he says that Kingdom Hearts 3 is the major focus for Disney regarding the Kingdom Hearts series, and that anything after the game's development would be more seriously considered. This would certainly make sense, given that the interview was conducted in May 2018 during the tail-end of production for KH3. It also means that negotiations pre and post-KH3 would likely play out differently for or against Nintendo.

Ultimately, I believe any point relating to Disney's role in negotiations comes down to timing. Which is why it's so difficult to answer the question of whether or not negotiations with Disney would succeed. You have to consider when Nintendo approached Disney to negotiate for Sora, and assuming that they've tried in the past and failed, whether they would try again when circumstances are more favorable.

We know character negotiations have failed in the past as stated in Sakurai's book, and knowing how difficult Disney's legal team was to work with on video games in 2016, it's not difficult to imagine Nintendo approaching Disney based on Sora's solid support in the Smash Ballot and getting rejected. If Nintendo attempted negotiations at any point prior to KH3's release, I imagine negotiations similarly falling through due to Disney. Between February - July 2019 I give Nintendo decent chances of negotiations succeeding, as around that time Disney seemed to become more open to licensing out their properties. After July 2019 I give Nintendo about the same chances of negotiations succeeding as when they went for Dragon Quest for Fighters Pass 1–not necessarily likely, but possible.

Of course, this speculation rests on a whole lot of hypotheticals. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to lineup with when Fighters Pass 2 was finalized. At latest the fighter selection for Pass 2 was decided by November 2019 (when Sakurai recorded his Byleth presentation and announced Fighters Pass 2), but if rumors about how early Pass 1 was decided on (at least in regards to Banjo being negotiated for in May 2018, months before the base game's release) is to be believed (as a side note, while I try not to use hearsay in my speculation, I believe that this fact comes from reputable enough sources to be mentioned here), it was likely much earlier. I would personally venture to guess the selections for Pass 2 were finalized by early to mid 2019.

The bottom line is this: Nintendo likely didn't have good chances for Sora when they were negotiating for Pass 2, and I personally doubt that if they tired they would succeed. I also don't know if Nintendo would try for Sora again assuming that they tried and failed at some point earlier (which I personally believe happened. Which is why I suggest this:

Tinfoil Hat tiem

If you'll just give me a second to put this on...
This is a longshot in the dark, and this is not backed by any sort of evidence whatsoever. This is more so just a fun "what if" that I think could happen in 1 out of 14,000,605 futures. If there's a point to attack in this essay, this is not one of them, as this point is not serious at all, nor will I seriously advocate for it as more than a tinfoil hat theory if pressed.

Anyways, as well all know, Fighters Pass 2 has 6 fighters instead of 5. This fact was prominently introduced and discussed in Byleth's Sakurai Presents presentation. I believe that this could be due to the fact that negotiations for a character who had previously been rejected (which we know has occurred due to Sakurai's book) suddenly became available, and Nintendo jumped on it. There is precedent for such a thing occurring in the development of a Smash game, as Sonic was a late addition to Brawl, being added 2 years after the newcomer list had initially been decided. While the exact reason for this has seemingly never been stated, it's common speculation that this was due to Sega initially rejecting the request, and then walking back on it later due to the immense hype surrounding Brawl (this Source Gaming article says as such, but does not link back to a primary source which makes me hesitant to completely believe it).

I think you can see where this is going.

Sora had immense popularity during the ballot period, with the Kingdom Hearts community rallying together for Sora's inclusion. It's not hard to believe that Nintendo tried for Sora then, but negotiations fell through for one reason or another. They drop the issue until Fighters Pass 2, when Disney has done a 180 on video games following the mass success of Kingdom Hearts 3 and is looking to promote the series in the largest gaming crossover of all time. Nintendo approaches Sakurai like they did for Dragon Quest, and they go for it despite having already decided Fighters Pass 2 in its entirety. Since it's DLC, all they have to do is tack on another fighter to the pass and promote as such.

This explanation accounts for Disney's role in negotiations while also accommodating the timeline of Fighters Pass 2 being decided. In the initial deciding, Nintendo had a very thin window to negotiate with Disney if they decided to do so, probably for the second or third time. By going outside of that timeline, however, and explaining Disney's turnaround on negotiations as being due to a desire to capitalize off the success of the Kingdom Hearts series after KH3, you can justify Sora's inclusion as the special sixth fighter in Fighters Pass 2.

Of course, I completely acknowledge the sheer amount of logical leaps and mental gymnastics needed to reach such a conclusion. This certainly doesn't hold up to Occam's Razor, which would sooner accept that negotiations for Sora either haven't occurred or failed in the past, and that this Fighters Pass has 6 characters because Fighters Pass 1 was incredibly successful, Nintendo wanted to add more characters, and it just so happened to work out to 6 characters instead of 5. However, I think this theory is worth mentioning, at the very least as a fun little thought.

Counterarguments

I'd also like to acknowledge two common counterarguments. The first being that Sora would have to bring Disney content with him, which would complicate negotiations as Disney would be overprotective of their intellectual properties. This largely argument relies on either ignorance of the series or personal opinion on what Kingdom Hearts is, as there's enough original content from Kingdom Hearts to include without so much as touching Disney properties.

This is most prominently showcased in Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, a movie retelling of the significant events of Kingdom Hearts χ, which is integral to the overarching plot of the Kingdom Hearts series. Disney worlds aren't brought up at all in the story; instead it relies solely on original content to carry the story, and it works. Furthermore, the finale of Kingdom Hearts 3 (where pretty much the entire story takes place) uses no Disney content aside from the presence of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in some of the final battles. While Disney content is important to the Kingdom Hearts series, it is not a necessary requirement.

Sora's Kingdom Key, which contains the Mickey ears as a key chain, could be altered or replaced to remove the mention. The key chain could be replaced with the Smash logo, or Sakurai could even design a new Keyblade for Smash specifically (which would actually be really cool). Furthermore, instead of the Kingdom Key, Shooting Star, which was prominently featuring in KH3's marketing alongside the Kingdom Key (and shows up in story cutscenes), or Oathkeeper and/or Oblivion, fan favorite Keyblades relevant to Sora's character could be used in place of the Kingdom Key. This is supposing the Mickey ears keychain is important, which it doesn't seem to be as evidenced by it appearing in other crossovers featuring Sora, such as his appearance in World of Final Fantasy's DLC.

Spirits could draw from the Heartless, Nobodies, Unversed, the other Warriors of Light (minus Mickey), Organization XIII, characters from Kingdom Hearts χ, etc. Stages could draw from Kingdom Hearts original worlds like Traverse Town, The End of the World, Castle Oblivion, Twilight Town, The World That Never Was, The Land of Departure, or Scala ad Caelum among others. Music could take from the large variety of music that plays in these worlds, or from the bevy of boss music used throughout the series (I'd love to see them use the remixes from KH3's Limit Cut episode, all of which are amazing).

Furthermore, this argument rests on the hypothetical of Disney being stingy with all of their intellectual properties in negotiations, which may or may not be true. At this point, however, the Kingdom Hearts series has enough of a unique identity to stand on its, which it seems to be attempting going forward if the Secret Episode of Kingdom Hearts 3 is to be believed. Nintendo and Sakurai could faithfully represent the series without so much as touching other Disney properties if need be.

Second, I'd also like to address the supposed disconfirmation of Sora by former Game Informer editor Imran Khan, who is known to have insider sources. This was pure speculation on his part, and he later went on to say he personally believes Sora is a contender for the "next big Smash Ultimate Character" alongside Master Chief. His speculation isn't necessarily surprising, as even I would say it's likely that negotiations for Sora have been attempted and fell through in the past. Regardless, this is a non-point based on the kneejerk reaction people has to Khan's statement immediately preceding him saying the next big character is Sora or Master Chief.

In Closing

I genuinely have no clue how likely or unlikely Sora is. In my (Kingdom) heart of hearts I want to believe in him, but I have no clue about how Disney plays into his chances, nor do I believe I have enough information to confidently speculate as such. If negotiations for him were to occur now, I'd say feel favorably for his chances, but as Disney just seems to have turned around on video games now, I don't know if negotiations could've been successful when deciding Fighters Pass 2, which was likely negotiated for in early-mid 2019. Furthermore, there's the unanswered question of whether Nintendo would try for Sora again after negotiations for him have likely been attempted before and fell through.

Hence why I suggest my tinfoil hat theory, as it satisfies the conditions for negotiations on Sora for Fighters Pass 2 to succeed by going outside of the timeline of Fighters Pass 2 being initially decided, justifying why it'd succeed compared to before, as well as explaining why Fighters Pass 2 has 6 characters instead of 5 like Fighters Pass 1. That's a long grasp for straws, however, and I don't seriously believe nor endorse it.

Sora exists in this weird limbo state that relies on Disney, and I simply can't come to a conclusion about how they'd act. On one hand, Nintendo and Disney are solid business partners, and have been for years. On the other hand, Disney is a ruthless mega-corporation with a legal team known first for their hardheadedness, and depending on when Nintendo began negotiations their chances could range from possible at best to completely impossible, with only a thin time frame for the former to occur. As much as I want him, I can't favorably argue for his chances over a character that would be easier for Nintendo to obtain, despite the net hype that they would gain by including Sora over such a character. If this were speculation for Pass 3, I would personally give Sora favorable chances.

However, in this essay I'm discussing Pass 2, and as of right now I'm personally not getting my hopes up. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, and if Sora gets into Smash you can be sure I'll react with as much hype as I had for Joker, if not more. But for now I have entire the Kingdom Hearts series on my Playstation, and I'm more than content with that.


Well done... really, I truly mean it. Managed to read through the full essay and I'm very proud of how much credit you've given to Sora than how others would have. Also I really appreciate the significant counterpoints and acknowledgements of Sora's high points in terms of overall fan demand (HE MANAGED TO PLACE 1st IN TWO FAN POLLS! Like, seriously!).
 

tehponycorn

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I figured this went on forever until you won, but I didn't know just how many more attacks he had.

I actually got to the Bowling Balls part on my Pro Codes run against him. Since it was Beginner Mode, I grinded some Defense Boosts, and turned on Curaga and Elixirs I managed to get through it despite absolutely failing the execution to end it early.

Speaking of, I just got the Risk Taker trophy (Get Rank A with Pro Codes) today, and I'm writing up a guide with some personal tips. Would anyone here be interested in something seeing like that? I'll likely be posting it to the Kingdom Hearts subreddit, so maybe I'll just link it here when I'm done.


Well done... really, I truly mean it. Managed to read through the full essay and I'm very proud of how much credit you've given to Sora than how others would have. Also I really appreciate the significant counterpoints and acknowledgements of Sora's high points in terms of overall fan demand (HE MANAGED TO PLACE 1st IN TWO FAN POLLS! Like, seriously!).
Thank you! I definitely tried my best to make a fair case for Sora while also being realistic about his chances. I think a lot of people undersell him, and while there's a lot of moving parts when it comes to getting him into Smash, I think at the very least it's possible.
 
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M@R!3

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I actually got to the Bowling Balls part on my Pro Codes run against him. Since it was Beginner Mode, I grinded some Defense Boosts, and turned on Curaga and Elixirs I managed to get through it despite absolutely failing the execution to end it early.

Speaking of, I just got the Risk Taker trophy (Get Rank A with Pro Codes) today, and I'm writing up a guide with some personal tips. Would anyone here be interested in something seeing like that? I'll likely be posting it to the Kingdom Hearts subreddit, so maybe I'll just link it here when I'm done.
I've made it to the small "psy" orbs, but with my damage output a successful punish there ends the fight. Had I been aware the first spread shot volley was punishable I never would've encountered any of his "psy" attacks.

There's already a pretty good general guide. But I'm sure somebody would appreciate a more in depth approach for each boss, if that's what you're planning.
 

tehponycorn

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I've made it to the small "psy" orbs, but with my damage output a successful punish there ends the fight. Had I been aware the first spread shot volley was punishable I never would've encountered any of his "psy" attacks.

There's already a pretty good general guide. But I'm sure somebody would appreciate a more in depth approach for each boss, if that's what you're planning.
I mainly covered things like Keyblades, Armor, Accessories, and Abilities for people to reference on their own playthroughs.

I guess I could probably do an in-depth writeup of my boss fights and how I went through them, but right now there are other topics I'd rather write about first. Maybe if I have the spare time.
 

Perkilator

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Powerman293

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I assume this thread isn't popping off at the idea of a Direct tomorrow due to the Geno hype being a black hole of attention?
 

M@R!3

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I assume this thread isn't popping off at the idea of a Direct tomorrow due to the Geno hype being a black hole of attention?
Nah, I think we're just waiting on confirmation on a direct at all. It's been very back and forth.
 
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