Yesterday was a big day for Kingdom Hearts fans. The brunt of that was Sora being announced for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, natch, but the other part was big too. The whole series, via the HD collections and just the normal third game, are coming to the Nintendo Switch.
Much like many other cherished RPG games, Kingdom Hearts on the Switch has been a longtime want from fans. Unfortunately, when it finally happened, the monkey paw curled its finger for many.
Kingdom Hearts Cloud Versions on Nintendo Switch Were Unavoidable (Here’s Why)
Much like current AAA games such as Control or Hitman 3, all the Kingdom Hearts games coming to Switch are cloud-based. This means you’ll need a persistent and powerful (and probably limit-free) internet connection for these games to work and work well.
That shuts a door immediately on tons of people, and their palpable disappointment is understandable.
This one probably stings more, since as fans have already pointed out at the very least, the first collection comprises PlayStation 2 games and was originally released on the PlayStation 3, hardware the Switch has no problem matching in power.
But having Kingdom Hearts on Switch in native form was never going to happen.
YouTuber and developer MVG breaks down many of the reasons why in a recent video, although there are more issues I’ll get into later. MVG’s points are the biggest factors for sure. Despite their age, it’s easy to forget how massive those games are.
On the PlayStation 4, the first Kingdom Hearts HD collection was around 50 GB. The second collection includes content built in Kingdom Hearts III’s engine, too. And forget about Kingdom Hearts III itself running on the Switch. The consoles it launched on barely handled it.
So not only would Square Enix need to get these games running at a reasonable level of quality on the Switch, it would also have to figure out fitting them on cartridges.
Even if the first part was solved, you’re looking at bigger carts seldom used for anything else due to pure manufacturing expense (Witcher III got it, but that's Witcher III) or you’re looking at only pieces of game on each cart paired with massive downloads.
Arguably, that’s worse than the cloud stuff. Either way, those projects would be a massive resource drain compared to streaming. As MVG points out, even getting one of these collections running well on the Switch would cost millions of dollars and at least (his words) two years of development if not more.
Kingdom Hearts collections simply don’t hold the amount of value a project like that would need to be worthwhile. You can get the whole series on PS4 for less than the average cost of one game on a good day. Nobody (figurative) would show up for new $60 versions.
To add some of my own reasoning to the pile here, there’s also a big technical and legal hurdle concerning the original games. As has been widely reported on, Square Enix doesn’t have the original source code for the Kingdom Hearts series.
It simply doesn’t exist in any known capacity. The PS3 collections had to be built mostly from scratch, and we all know how notoriously difficult the PS3 was to develop for. The PS4 ports needed a lot of support early on after they launched, showing just how unwieldy these things are.
Porting the original PlayStation 2 versions to the Switch natively is therefore impossible. Square Enix would have to rely on emulation, which opens up a whole other can of worms. Imagine Square Enix charging 20 bucks or more for emulated PS2 images.
If Nintendo’s recent Mario 3D All-Stars is any indication, there’d be blood on the Traverse Town streets. Something like that, a technically new version of Kingdom Hearts, would probably also require new licensing agreements with Disney.
And as we saw this week, Nintendo had to scrub nearly all the Disney off of Sora to get him in Smash Bros. And even if by some miracle the first HD collection did wind up natively on Switch, that’s just one of the three. And these games only get bigger.
In so many words, cloud streaming versions is the only reasonable way we could have seen Kingdom Hearts on the Nintendo Switch. Well, aside from Melody of Memory. If you want Square Enix and Disney’s blockbuster anime acid trip running on a portable system, you’re gonna have to wait for the Steam Deck.
You know, assuming you have the $500+ and the knowhow to sideload the Epic Games Store. A 2017 handheld using older mobile tech? Forget about it.