I’ll never forget when I saw Kingdom Hearts for the first time. The game featured Haley Joel Osment in the role of Sora, a child who lives on Destiny Islands and finds himself ripped away into the ultimate battle of good vs. evil when his world is invaded by creatures known as the Heartless. Along the way, he crosses paths with Donald Duck and Goofy, two faithful servants of the great King Mickey, and thus their journey begins. Over the course of the game, the trio travel to a variety of worlds with most being inspired by innumerable Disney films. The goal in each game is simple: defeat the Heartless and lock the keyhole of the world.
The game was a resounding success and spawned a variety of sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, though there’s one game that fans of the series have been discussing quite a bit lately: Kingdom Hearts 3. Naturally, at E3 2013, when it was confirmed that Kingdom Hearts 3 was officially in development, the fans went wild. What made the announcement even better was that the game would be the first main installment of the series to be released on both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Despite rumors that the Xbox version of the game was being canceled, Square Enix still maintains that the game will release on both systems, but should it?
A Complicated Lore
Originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2002, Kingdom Hearts has always been thought of as a Sony franchise. Both mainline titles in the series were released exclusively on the PlayStation 2, while the majority of the spin-off games have been on Nintendo handhelds, save for Birth By Sleep, which was a PSP exclusive. The important thing to remember about all these games is that they take place at various points throughout the timeline of the series and things have gotten a little complicated, to say the least.
Games in the series are released outside of chronological order and the lore contained within them is extensive. Unfortunately, to be able to get the most out of the next game in the series, it helps to have played all of the series’ previous installments. While this hasn’t been explicitly stated, it has been implied by Square Enix in several interviews. Multiple times, the company has stated that the remix collections of the games have been to give players who may have missed the previous installments the chance to play them before playing Kingdom Hearts 3.
Xbox Gamers Need Love Too!
Square Enix has been dedicated to re-releasing all of the existing games in the Kingdom Hearts series since 2013 when they released Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix for the PlayStation 3. This collection saw Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories released in HD with trophy support, as well as a cinematic remake of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, which was released for the Nintendo DS in 2009.
The following year, Square Enix released a follow-up collection, entitled Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix. This collection saw fully playable versions of Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and a cinematic recreation of Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded. Rounding out the re-releases were a double hitter for the PlayStation 4: a single-disc collection featuring both 1.5 and 2.5 HD as well as a third and final collection, entitled Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. This collection featured a full HD remake of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, originally released on the Nintendo 3DS in 2012, Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover (a cinematic based on the game Kingdom Hearts χ), and finally Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, which follows the character of Aqua and gives a different perspective of events before and after several games in the series.
It’s safe to say that PlayStation players have plenty of stories to catch up on before Kingdom Hearts 3 is released, but up to this point, it has been said that Xbox One players will not be receiving the HD collections that PlayStation owners have. While no one at Square Enix has explicitly come out and said it, it’s believed that the reason for this is due to licensing with Sony on the games that were released on their platforms. That very well could be the case, but then it leaves a person to wonder who Kingdom Hearts 3 on the Xbox One is for.
Looking back at the various games of the series, it’s easy to see who the Kingdom Hearts series is aimed at: children. From the bright and colorful worlds to the inclusion of classic Disney characters, these games have been, and always will be, aimed at children first. Over the last fifteen years, there’s been a slight shift that gives longtime players of the series a priority is as well, but Square Enix has to be banking on the appeal that Kingdom Hearts 3 will have on youngsters of all ages.
Some may argue that children don’t care about the story and just care about an engaging experience, and that may be true, but as someone who had the opportunity to have the series presented to me piece by piece, I can attest to how important the story is for the full Kingdom Hearts experience. If Square Enix is going to stick to the official position that the re-release collections are going to be exclusive only to PlayStation players, maybe it’s time for them to decide just how important Xbox gamer’s money is to them.
Earlier I asked if Kingdom Hearts 3 should be a cross-platform release and the answer is no. As someone who values the series as one of the most important in their personal history of gaming, I can safely say that I wouldn’t want someone new to the series to get a butchered and incomplete experience.
I hate console exclusivity as it is something that divides the gaming community down the middle with non-stop arguments over which system has the better games. Much like PlayStation players will probably never get to experience the joys of games like Gears of War or Forza Motorsport, maybe it’s best that Kingdom Hearts stays on a platform where it is revered by the users and not just presented to them as a quick cash grab. My position on this can always change, but until Square Enix can decide that they respect Xbox gamers enough to let them fully experience Kingdom Hearts, maybe it’s best that they are left out of this party altogether for the time being.
What do you think? Should Square Enix put Kingdom Hearts 3 on the Xbox One or leave the main games as PlayStation exclusives? Join in the discussion in the comments below!