May your heart be your guiding key.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fans are gearing up for a big reveal on October 5 when franchise director Masahiro Sakurai will show off the game’s final DLC fighter. Among the many possible candidates, Sora from Kingdom Hearts seems to be getting the most attention leading up to the announcement. Below, we outline fight reasons why the flagship keyblade-wielder may be the final addition to the roster — and three why he isn’t.
Shortly before the Nintendo Direct in which the Smash reveal livestream was announced, Sakurai tweeted this picture that features Sepiroth and Shulk doing some sky gazing. Sora is the Japanese word for sky, which meant this tweet was just cryptic enough to start the “Sora in Smash” conversation. We’re not sure this tweet means anything, but it definitely has some Kingdom Hearts vibes.
Mashahiro Sakurai has expressed love for the Kingdom Hearts series in the past, which has helped put Sora at the top of fan request lists for years. In 2017, Sakurai congratulated series director Tetsuya Nomura on the franchise’s success and said he “looks forward to another entry.” That’s not exactly a ton of information to go on, but it’s just enough to kick the tires on “Sora in Smash” speculation. After all, if Sakurai likes the characters, wouldn’t he lobby for them to be in his game at some point? It’s a possibility.
In 2005, Sakurai left his previous post at HAL Laboratories to start a company called Sora Ltd. While technically not a game development studio in its own right, it’s a company through which Sakurai contracts his directorial services to existing games. He’s been operating under the Sora Ltd. moniker for Smash since Brawl was released in 2008, so fans are familiar with seeing the Sora name every single time they roll credits for individual characters.
It’s not entirely clear if Sora Ltd. was actually named after the Kingdom Hearts character or “sora” as the Japanese word for sky, (sky’s the limit) but fans have been associating Sora with Super Smash Bros. ever since. In a way, adding Sora as the last Smash character would be a poetic way for Sakurai to insert a small bit of himself, and his company, in the very last pick. Given all the work he’s done to make the series what it is today, the shout-out is more than warranted.
Without delving too far into Kingdom Hearts 3 lore spoilers, it’s worth noting that Sora coming to Smash might even make narrative sense in the series’ timeline. In short, Sora is currently in a place where he’s taken on the task of exploring new worlds on his own, without help from the likes of Donald and Goofy.
As a result, this might be the perfect time for Sora to find himself tied to a solo appearance in Smash Ultimate. Would it not be the most Nomura-like concept to actually tie a Smash cameo into the tangled web that is the Kingdom Hearts narrative? Might the Smash “world” be just another stop on his one-man quest? Excluding his iconic cartoon partners would make licensing less of a headache, and it would be relevant to the current story in a way that diehard Kingdom Hearts fans would greatly appreciate.
In case you’ve been out of the loop lately, the main reason why Smash fans have Sora at the top of their mind is because of a July 4chan post that recently resurfaced over the past few weeks. On July 30, several months before the character reveal livestream would be officially announced, an anonymous poster said, “I work for Disney music, [and] Nintendo called last week to request rights to several tracks from Kingdom Hearts to use in a ‘digital event’ on October 5.”
October 5, as it turns out, happens to be the exact day the final Smash Ultimate character is set to be revealed, and, because this poster provided that precise date so far in advance, the general assumption is that the information they’re providing is genuine. In short, Nintendo requested the license for these Kingdom Hearts tracks because they’ll be played during the livestream and likely associated with Sora’s potential stage as well. Music has become a major faucet of Smash over the years, so it’d make sense to request “several tracks for any new character.
In a 2020 Famitsu column Sakurai revealed he has no hand in picking upcoming DLC characters and instead has left that responsibility to Nintendo. As a result, any of the director’s fandom for Kingdom Hearts or the name of his company may not play as much of a role in the character selection as one might think. It’s still possible the corporate overlords see value in Sora as a character choice, but Nintendo having the final say might invalidate some of those other points.
Even if the above-listed 4chan rumor might seem like a slam dunk in terms of its accuracy, let’s not forget there are other reasons why Nintendo might want to license Kingdom Hearts music for a Smash event. Namely, there’s a distinct possibility Sora could be added as a Mii Swordfighter costume instead of as a bespoke fighter in his own right.
After all, Sakurai and Nintendo have recently leveraged Miis as a means to fan service to include character models for the likes of Cuphead, Skyrim, and Undertale to get their own Smash rep, and Sora seems like someone who might fit that bill as a fan-service character. Just put some spiky hair, lots of zippers, and big shoes on a Mii skeleton, and you could come out with a half-decent Sora.
Fans aren’t the only ones interested in getting Sora in Smash, as reports suggest Nintendo once requested use of the character as well. In a 2020 episode of Kinda Funny Games Daily, Fanbyte News Editor Imran Khan claimed that Nintendo tried to talk to Disney about that possibility, but it was Disney Japan who seemed most resistant to the idea. As a result, those discussions reportedly crumbled.
If those talks already happened and came to a halt, that could be the best indicator we have that Sora may not be part of the October 5 Smash Ultimate reveal. That being said, it’s equally possible that dialogue continued and the two parties were able to reach an agreement as well. However, whether or not you’d like to weaponize this evidence is up to you, but we’re putting it in the negative column for now.