Living as a console exclusive throughout the series’ history, the Kingdom Hearts series will be surprise-releasing on PC next month. With the exception of emulation, Kingdom Hearts games spent a majority of the franchise’s lifetime being PlayStation exclusive. It wasn’t until February of last year where Xbox fans finally got to “experience the magic” of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, notwithstanding the fact that Kingdom Hearts 3 released on Xbox One beforehand. Now that Kingdom Hearts finally finds its way to PC, there may be several new fans jumping into the series for the first time, but PC ports largely benefit the hardcore Kingdom Hearts fans the most.
Regardless of the fact that future Kingdom Hearts entries may end up on the platform, the most hardcore fans of the franchise benefit the most from the PC ports. Before the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 remasters released on PS4 and Xbox One, Kingdom Hearts thrived on PC via emulation, thanks to mods and overhauls. Granted the Kingdom Hearts remasters were available on PS3, that was the only way to play the Final Mix versions in the west. Whether it was graphical upgrades and revamps, additional scenarios and original content via extensive mods, playing Kingdom Hearts on PC provided extra content and capability far beyond the original release.
Of course, the biggest benefit to come from a port on PC is the improved graphical fidelity. Granted, the PS4 versions of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 already run at 60 FPS, with the PS4 Pro version also running at 4K as well. However, the PC can always take things a step further thanks to the wide variety of high-end hardware. That means upscaling, higher resolutions, greater anti-aliasing, and more. Any of these graphical improvements could come from Square Enix itself, assuming the PC port is populated with all sorts of graphical tweaks and options. Even if that’s not the case, and the Kingdom Hearts ports aren’t as feature intensive, fans can always pick up the baton.
PS2 emulator PCSX2 already has several options for tweaking how the game runs via emulation settings. Savvy PC players can up the resolution and anti-aliasing considerably, assuming they have a legal copy of Kingdom Hearts ripped on to their PC. Additionally, considering the few “HD” revamp/overhaul mods that mimic Square Enix’s remasters on the original Final Mix releases, Kingdom Hearts mods could be adapted for the official PC release in due time. However, Square Enix’s PC ports of the classic Final Fantasy games have shown they’re more than capable of bringing extensive graphics options to Kingdom Hearts on PC, so graphical upgrades are expected.
However, the more important thing that will extend the longevity of Kingdom Hearts on PC is mods and overhauls. Similar to games like Elder Scrolls or Fallout, mods for Kingdom Hearts have helped introduce new content into the original 2007 Final Mix release. One of the most popular mods recently, similar to many RPGs, was the Kingdom Hearts 2 randomizer. Randomizers have helped reintroduce variety and unpredictability into classic games like Skyrim, The Legend of Zelda, Dark Souls, and more. Kingdom Hearts 2 in particular has a very highly-developed randomizer, one which saw huge popularity among the Kingdom Hearts community last year.
Additionally, mods could also bring even more new content to the game, outside of what’s offered in the base experience. Final Fantasy 15 is the prime example of this, as the most recent entry in the franchise received several different mod tools reshaping the game on PC. There are re-texture mods, audio replacements, visual/graphical overhauls, stat changes, among other unofficial features that change how Final Fantasy 15 is played. The same treatment could be given to the Kingdom Hearts ports, even if it may be difficult to get Disney to play ball. Regardless, unofficial Kingdom Hearts mods have already existed since before the PC port, so fans will find a way.
These examples are all great reasons for existing fans of Kingdom Hearts to enjoy the PC ports, but there’s also new fans jumping into the games for the first time on PC. Kingdom Hearts, being a small part of the powerhouse universe that is Disney franchises, will almost certainly draw in new players on the platform to the strange crossover series. It’s hard to imagine there are any Final Fantasy fans on PC who haven’t played, or at least tried Kingdom Hearts once, but they are out there. A small but noteworthy amount of players may be playing Kingdom Hearts for the first time on PC, which is a huge moment in and of itself, but this port largely supports existing fans.
Mods are a huge part of the niche Kingdom Hearts community, who will undoubtedly have a field day with the PC ports in March. The Kingdom Hearts 2 randomizer in particular may see new life with the PC ports, as fans no longer have to source an English patch for the Japanese release of Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix. That’s assuming the original creator of the Kingdom Hearts 2 randomizer mod can adapt the existing randomizer to the official PC port. Regardless, even outside of mods, Kingdom Hearts on PC with higher-fidelity graphics options may be the definitive way to play the whole Kingdom Hearts series.
The Kingdom Hearts series releases on PC on March 30, 2021.