Note: For more details on the games in this cloud version package, check out our individual reviews for Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and Kingdom Hearts III + Re:Mind. For an overview of the Integrum Masterpiece collection of all those games, read on...
We begged for this, you know. We begged on our damn, dirty knees for Kingdom Hearts to come to Switch. Not Melody of Memory, that's a half-measure. We wanted the full shebang, the entire The Story So Far package. And now we've got it... in the most cursed form possible, a Cloud Version.
Don't worry, we're not going to spend the whole review complaining about this means of delivery, though we probably could. Let's just take the drawbacks as read; an unstable or weaker internet connection will hamper performance (stuttering, hitching and freezing), introduce significant input lag or, worst of all, simply kick you back to the menu, potentially losing extensive progress. This is far from an ideal way to play Kingdom Hearts, and in truth, we don't understand why most of these games couldn't simply have been ported to the Switch.
The 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix portion of this Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece package crams in six games' worth of material. You've got Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts re:Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts re:coded all represented here, comprising the entire story to date in one handy package.
Note that we said story. The Nintendo DS games 358/2 Days and re:Coded are here as a compilation of cutscenes, rather than ports of the games proper. The fact is, the cutscenes in 358/2 and re:Coded don't stand up as enjoyable "movies"; they're a collection of cutscenes, directed as cutscenes and intended to supplement games that are no longer present.
Thankfully, the actual playable portions of the package remain as good as ever. Kingdom Hearts, its sequel and PSP prequel are all presented here in their expanded, content-rich "Final Mix" forms and offer at least 150 hours of action-RPG fun for all. Opinions vary on which game in the series is best, but we'd give the crown to Kingdom Hearts 2; despite a very, very long tutorial/prologue, we feel that it offers the most enjoyable set of worlds, setpieces and fantastic combat of the whole lot. Many favour Birth by Sleep, but we think it's too limited in its scope and reliant on repetition; while revisiting worlds is part and parcel with the Kingdom Hearts series, going to the same not-that-interesting Disney worlds three times minimum per character is a big ask.
Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, offers an accomplished remake of the 3DS title Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD. This game adds a good deal of new mechanics to the proceedings, not least the new “FlowMotion” combat that allows you to spring off walls, spin around poles and generally make an athletic nuisance of yourself, running rings around enemies.
You’re also able to play as Riku for the first time since re:Chain of Memories, thanks to the polarising “Dive” feature. Essentially, Sora is on a time limit as the on-screen Drop metre fills – when it reaches the top, you’ll switch over to Riku and play from his perspective. It’s a somewhat unnecessary-seeming addition that really just gets in the way a lot of the time. Thankfully, you can use consumables to stave off the Drop. It's not the most player-friendly idea, especially given if you Drop during a boss battle, said boss will regain all its HP.
The ludicrous nomenclature of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep 0.2 A Fragmentary Passage obscures what is ultimately an enjoyable little microdose of Kingdom Hearts action, following up on Aqua's story. At the time of release it was something of a teaser for Kingdom Hearts III, with its beautifully rich visuals and enhanced combat, but nowadays remains an enjoyable little curio.
Bringing up the rear is Kingdom Hearts 3, where combat is more dynamic than ever and exponentially more flashy. Mobs of Heartless are bigger, but so is your arsenal. FlowMotion combat is now augmented with the ability to run on (certain) walls, taking the fight to the air effortlessly. It feels floaty, but in a way that’s liberating, empowering. You’re enormously strong in Kingdom Hearts 3, but the enemies rise to the challenge. It’s a fitting escalation and the game's environments and exploration have been greatly expanded. It’s a good game, approaching great, but of course here on the Switch it’s heavily compromised by its Cloud-based nature
And there's the rub with this enormous, ephemeral package. It's a sickener of a thing that we have to experience this fantastic series in such a substandard form on Switch. Any kind of connection issues can result in input lag, stuttering, out of sync music, freezing or outright crashing out of the game, costing you progress. We have a strong, stable connection and it was still 50/50 on a full reset if we put the system into sleep mode. The connection would be even more stable if you only played on the TV using an Ethernet cable straight into your Switch dock, but if you're going to do that you'd do better to investigate versions of these games running natively on other platforms.
Ultimately, there are a ton of potential issues you may or may not run into, and seemingly no real advantages to running Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece on Switch — unless you simply have no other choice but to play these games on this console. As a fan, and as a player who just wants a consistent gameplay experience, it's incredibly disappointing. If you can buy this package for another system we'd earnestly implore you to do so — it may not be handheld, but at least it would be yours to keep and it would run reliably and consistently. As it stands, Kingdom Hearts on Nintendo Switch is defined by compromise.