Kingdom Hearts’ Steam Versions Are Simple And Clean Ports Worth Experiencing Again

It's Steamboat Willie, not Epic Games Storeboat Willie, after all.

I’m not sure how many more times one person could replay the Kingdom Hearts games, but if there’s a record I’m sure I’m coming into view of it by now. From the original PS2 versions of Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, to Chain of Memories, Dream Drop Distance, Birth by Sleep and eventually Kingdom Hearts 3 I’ve experienced these stories multiple times across multiple systems and yet still I routinely have no bloody clue what’s going on in the overarching story. Did picking them up once again on PC via the freshly-minted Steam release help that? No. Is it still worth it? Absolutely.

In case you missed it, you can get the “Dark Seeker Saga” catalogue of Kingdom Hearts games on Steam now, some three years after they were released on PC via the Epic Games Store (with the rhythm spin-off Melody of Memories conspicuously missing). While it’s not a series of titles that’s technically new to PC, the arrival on a digital platform that’s far more widely-used and feature-rich is good news for PC players. There are also some minor new wrinkles, some of which will also apply to the EGS version in an update, but nothing that makes this a dramatically different release.

Still, it feels exciting somehow. Booting up Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 ReMIX, the awkwardly-titled collection of the “Final Mix” versions of the first two mainline games and a bunch of spin-offs both cinematic and playable, something I’d yet to do at a PC, felt like being handed the keys to the absolute very best versions of games that I adored as a teen. And sure, once I was in there and playing it became more clear that the experience isn’t all that different from the PS4 version of the same collection, but it’s special nonetheless.

That’s not to say things are a lock for the older releases of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 ReMIX though, even the EGS one, because Square Enix has gone in and spruced up the joint a bit. There’ve been some environmental texture updates across the collection that, while not game-changing in any way, do give it a bit of a lift. It’s more a case of sharper, upscaled versions of the original texture work more than anything new or different, but given these early games used a lot of 2D art to make up for simple geometry, any uplift in clarity is pretty noticeable and beneficial. There are definitely still a heap of noticeably lower-res background elements, and I wish the UI had been given a similar treatment, but it’s something.

Thankfully, the texture updates are available for Epic players via an update, too.

Those new textures also apply to Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD, the port of the 3DS entry that’s included in the middle title in this three-piece PC feed, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (say that five times fast). This package also includes Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep, which works as a more modern-looking and playing lead-in to the third game, so it’s an interesting bridge between the more “retro” titles and the most recent one.

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Moving on to Kingdom Hearts III, here bundled with its ReMind DLC expansion, and the last of these three new titles is the most PC-centric, which is unsurprising given the game was originally a PS4 title and runs in Unreal Engine 4. Like the EGS version, this means you’ve got a lot more control over the visual experience, and there’s a lot more benefit to playing on a higher-end rig where you can absolutely get a nicer presentation than what PlayStation and Xbox players have access to. Performance-wise, even on my modest rig, it feels like a very decent PC port as well with little to complain about.

In fact, after hearing some mixed things about the PC versions of all of the Kingdom Hearts games I’ve been pretty pleased with how it’s gone so far in the Steam versions. I unfortunately never played the Epic equivalents to compare it to, and I’ve still got plenty of hours left to pump into the Steam games, but I’m yet to have any crashes or noticeable framerate/responsiveness issues. Some added boons include full Japanese voice audio across all of the main games, Steam achievements, cloud saves, and although I don’t have one to test – presumably at least workable Steam Deck support. That’s a big deal in itself, if it works.

If there are complaints to level at the whole thing, they’d mostly be around the monetary and storage costs involved in picking up the full suite. At full whack, these feel exorbitantly-priced, especially when the PlayStation versions are routinely around $60 for the entire collection. I get that these are technically new products, and Square Enix has taken the time to run some textures through an upscaling process and fine tune, while also prepping everything to work with the Steam ecosystem, but it’s hard not to feel turned off by the cost of entry – the entire collection is down to around $100 for the next couple of weeks on Steam though, which is a bit friendlier.

Similarly, having all of the games installed will eat up a good 150GB+ of storage, which may not be equal to just one modern Call of Duty title, but is still a lot for 1.2 Unreal Engine 4 games and a bunch of classics. It took me forever to download them all on my bang-average connection and so I would’ve loved the option to pick and choose which titles in each collection I actually wanted to install to save time and space.

At the end of the day though, the Kingdom Hearts games being on Steam is a big deal not because they’re very moderately updated or because it’s at all new to be able to play them on PC, but because it’s a huge portion of the PC audience that can finally play them via their distribution platform of choice. And, in the amount of time I’ve been playing the Steam versions prior to launch, everything looks great and works as intended, which is wonderful news.