Next Tuesday, the Kingdom Hearts series makes the leap to the PC for the first time via the Epic Games Store, and that means the franchise will be more available to more players than ever before. As such, you may find yourself considering finally taking the opportunity to see for yourself what this is all about:
Except, even if you’re extremely curious to dive in or want to return to your childhood memories of playing the first game, the Kingdom Hearts franchise is like a black hole of lore. Each game feeds into the larger narrative of the series, but they are not all created equal, even if they are all canon. Don’t worry about any of that, today you’ll learn the best way to consume Kingdom Hearts: just play Kingdom Hearts III.
The Best Place To Start Is The End
Pointing this out will certainly earn the ire of longtime Kingdom Hearts fans, but Kingdom Hearts III is the only game you should be picking up on the EGS when the games go live. When The Young Folks ranked their favorite games of 2019, we gave Kingdom Hearts III the second place spot for “deciding to make a pretty fun game instead of worrying too much about explaining its elaborate lore” and that statement is still true. KH3 is the most polished version of its mainline series, meaning that while it still does have a lot of ends to tie up in regards to the decades-old narrative, you’re going to have a good time actually playing the game while it does that. The Disney worlds you visit look so true to form you’d believe their respective studios actually did the work for Square Enix. The game is a good time, even for non-fans.
Plus, as the capstone to the long running main narrative, KH3 gets to prioritize this gameplay since it doesn’t have to drag out any more of the story. Instead, the in between moments allow for character interactions and seeds of new stories to be planted. These are what you actually want to key in on as a new player to both determine if you actually are interested in the series and to know whether or not you’ll care about what happens from here. Plenty of these moments are also pay-offs for things set up back in the PS2 titles, so this applies to lapsed fans just as much as it does newcomers. There is literally no reason for new players to start from the beginning aside from having all the canon marked down in chronology, and at this point, it’s not really necessary. By the time you play through every one of them, you’d be hundreds of hours in and still feel confused.
Beyond Kingdom Hearts III
The EGS version of Kingdom Hearts III also includes the game’s DLC, called Re:Mind. Re:Mind marks a kind of turning point in the way Kingdom Hearts tells its story – which is to say we immediately start getting answers to the questions lined up in the main KH3 climax. No need to get into spoilers here, but despite the use of a lot of existing assets, Re:Mind manages to recontextualize a lot of the back end of the main game in interesting ways that both help resolve questions and tee up interesting developments for the future only teased in KH3. If you’re a bit of a hardcore gamer, the DLC also contains some of the most difficult battles the franchise has ever delivered, with the juiciest hints to the future hidden behind them.
From there, if you’re still engaged, you’re probably decently onboard. You could move on to Melody of Memory, a rhythm game follow up that both continues the storyline and spends a lot of time looking back. You can get a solid look at the lore of the series while taking in some of its great music, but frankly speaking, don’t. Moving to a rhythm game after a major AAA entry is a bizarre but bold move that makes Kingdom Hearts enduring to long time fans but it’s not exactly inviting to a new audience. You’d be better served by working backwards through the HD collections that are closer to playstyle to Kingdom Hearts III, but that brings up the other important consideration when talking about the Kingdom Hearts series on PC.
Square Enix Wants How Much?
When the Kingdom Hearts franchise drops on EGS, they’re going to drop like brand new games. At first that doesn’t sound so bad, because you could buy for yourself both of the original HD collections and net yourself six games and all the lore filling from the games they didn’t want to upscale for $49.99. Things get trickier – and pricier – from there. The next chronological release contains only one game: the remaster of the 3DS title Dream Drop Distance. It also includes a short preview of Kingdom Hearts 3’s mechanics and more upscaled cutscenes, but it’s only one full game. Dream Drop Distance is pretty good, but the EGS price is ten dollars more than the other HD collections as a full package. That’s nearly a hundred dollars dropped just to catch up to the games written about above. Speaking of those games, that’ll be another $59.99 each to complete the series. All of that totals $229.96 before tax!
To put that in perspective, at the time of this writing Amazon and Best Buy both have nearly the entire series on PS4 (minus Melody of Memory and the Re:Mind DLC since those predate the release) for $29.99. Melody of Memory, released less than a year ago, is already down to $39.99 at those retailers. Sure, you’d still have to shell out for Re:Mind, but even then to get the full series you’d be paying just shy of $100 depending on the sales you can take advantage of. All of that is before mentioning that all but Melody of Memory and Re:Mind are also playable on any modern Xbox console via Xbox Game Pass for only its base subscription.
Of course, none of those discounts help if you’re only playing on PC, but it does put into stark contrast the high price ceiling placed on trying to dive into this long running series on PC. Square Enix can price its games however it wants, and it’s very likely the EGS exclusivity comes from the fact that they’ll pocket more of that higher price than on Steam. None of that also precludes eventual EGS sales either, but again, it really does feel like a particular racket.
You Deserve The Best
Originally, this piece was pitched as a guide into the franchise by calling out the most important games in the series. Truthfully, if money and time were no object, the recommendation would be to play the whole series. There’s a lot of reasons fans love Kingdom Hearts and it’s not just because of the silly dialogue. However, it’s also a lot of games to play; time and money are factors.
If you’re even going to give Kingdom Hearts a chance and spend some of your hard earned money on it, then you should play the franchise’s best offering yet. Kingdom Hearts III is an ending but is just as much a beginning, plays like how fans pretend the PS2 titles did, and it is polished like a shining gem. This game is the best bang for your buck and time, and after that, you can consider diving into the older games – $50 for six pretty fun but older games isn’t too bad either.