Kingdom Hearts Series review for PC (Steam)

Platform: PC (Steam)
Also On: PC (Epic Game Store), PlayStation, Xbox
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

After nearly half a decade of Square Enix forgetting about Steam players and leaving Kingdom Hearts on the Epic Games Store, fans of the franchise can finally play the games they love on a platform they actually use! Unfortunately, this may not be the celebration that fans of Kingdom Hearts were looking forward to or expecting. We’ll get into that in better detail below, as not all of the games are unplayable/irredeemable.

To start, let’s begin with KINGDOM HEARTS -HD 1.5+2.5 ReMIX-. These are the classic PS2 games that you grew up with, including games like Re:coded (which is basically just a cutscene collection or a movie), Re:Chain of Memories, the deck-builder version of Kingdom Hearts, and the movie/cutscene collection of the DS game 358/2 Days. For anybody looking forward to playing these games at 4K resolution and 120fps, I wouldn’t even bother. These games are a technical nightmare, and I’m not really sure if these are the same games on the Epic Store or not, but I sure hope not.

I tested various resolutions and frame rate caps, and to my surprise, these games do not enjoy that. Running the games in full screen at 1440p and higher resolutions causes horrific lag issues in menus and cutscenes. If you want to watch your cutscenes at 33% of the speed, be my guest, but I sure know I don’t want to watch my story cutscenes at a nice crisp 11 frames per second. The only solution to this was to play in 1080p and in windowed mode, and I could not figure out why. Secondly, frame rates above 60 cause really bad speed-up problems. I’m assuming the game physics are tied to framerate, so I’m not sure why Square Enix gave us an option to go up to an uncapped framerate. Running at 120 frames per second, I was darting around like I was playing Sonic the Hedgehog instead of Kingdom Hearts. These performance issues will be consistent in all of the PS2 engine games, even if they weren’t originally PS2 games.

Next up is Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. To expand on what I meant by games in the PS2 engine, I am including the remake/port of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance from the 3DS. I noticed immediately that the aforementioned cutscene and menu lag persisted even into this game. Unsure if this was the entire collection or just Dream Drop Distance, I decided to test out Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Fragmentary Passage immediately and see if the issues remain. Luckily, Aqua’s follow-up adventure from Birth by Sleep and prequel to Kingdom Hearts 3 runs just fine regardless of frame rate or resolution. I can’t possibly understand what is causing issues specifically on the games running with the PS2 assets/engine, but I could not get it to fix consistently without capping my resolution and framerate to the values I mentioned above. It’s a real shame, too, because Kingdom Hearts is such a beloved franchise that you’d think Square Enix would put their all into bringing these titles to Steam, especially after them having been on PC via Epic for years now.

With Kingdom Hearts III being a newer generation title from the PS4, it seems to lack any of the issues I’ve had with other games, similar to Fragmentary Passage. After playing this for a while and noticing I wasn’t running into the same problems, I’ve come to the realization that there is just some fundamental problem with the older games that will hopefully be addressed by Square and maybe a patch will be released to fix them. All that aside, Kingdom Hearts III runs great on PC, and I can’t imagine most PCs nowadays will have issues running it. Granted, the same goes for the other games in the collection assuming you don’t mind messing with settings to make the games run properly. A big plus is that it comes with the Re-Mind DLC as well, but I think most versions of KH3 have come with that for a while now.

I do have some issues with how the settings for the PC port are handled as well. Once you are in a game, you cannot change your graphical settings. If you want to play at 60fps to fix the previous “complications”, make sure you make your changes before booting into one of your games, because you will not be able to change it later without returning back to the title menu. This leads me to another issue, which is that the “title” screen is just a glorified launcher. Every time you select a game to play, it will just close the menu and load up the game in a new window. You can see this happen on your taskbar, too. You’ll see the Visual Studio logo for programs as it closes the title menu and loads up the next game, and I genuinely don’t know how that got pushed to a release version of a game that’s not only this popular, but a game that has been out on PC for YEARS by this point.

I’m incredibly disappointed in the state that these games were released in, and I’m sure many fans of this beloved franchise will feel the same way. When the games run well, they play exactly like you’d want them to, but the fact that it has to be under such specific conditions and you can’t make use of your hardware is pitiful for a 2024 PC (well, Steam this time) release.

I can’t in good faith recommend KINGDOM HEARTS -HD 1.5+2.5 ReMIX- for a full price purchase given how they perform, even if you’re a fan. I played the Kingdom Hearts franchise on PS4, so I was ecstatic to be able to play them on my preferred platform, but other than the third entry and Fragmentary Passage, it just doesn’t seem to be easily done. I’d highly recommend a sale and having some patience if you want to dive into them, because they’re not for the faint of heart. It’s a damn shame, but I guess not every port’s gonna be a good one.

Note: Square Enix provided us with a KINGDOM HEARTS INTEGRUM MASTERPIECE code for review purposes.

Score: 5