The Future of Kingdom Hearts on Nintendo Switch
In November 2020, Square Enix released a Kingdom Hearts game on the Nintendo Switch for the first time. If you didn’t already know which title actually released, you might think it was one of the many collections that have made rounds over the years. You might even think, being the knowledgeable Kingdom Hearts historian that you are, that this title was a Nintendo system exclusive entry. However, none of the above is true. Instead, the first Kingdom Hearts release on the Nintendo Switch was a game called Melody of Memory.
To be clear, I’m not taking anything away from the game. It’s a rhythm game, and since that genre is not my cup of tea, I’m not going to pass judgment on its quality whatsoever. It could be incredible–I’ll just never personally know. (For the record, it scored decently on metacritic.) But at the end of the day, for a series which has a history of releasing on Nintendo systems–exclusively, at that–I’m more than a little surprised we have not seen more Kingdom Hearts representation on the Switch.
If you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan, and you’d love to play this beloved franchise in the unique docked/on-the-go format that Nintendo has given us, strap in. Let’s take a look at the chances we receive ports of previous collections and the chances we’ll receive an exclusive title. Grab your choice keyblade and oversized pair of shoes, and let’s dive to the heart of this, shall we?
Current Status of Collection Ports
Our first stop on this journey is looking into the most recent facts surrounding the chances of future Kingdom Hearts releases on Switch. I’ll be honest with you, those facts are grim. Back in September 2020, John Friscia of Nintendo Enthusiast published a brief break-out of an interview with Square Enix developers, including Kingdom Hearts creator, Tetsuya Nomura. According to this piece, Nomura has confirmed that “there are currently no specific plans for more Kingdom Hearts games on Switch.” This appears to include both future exclusives as well as ports. In fact, he specifically mentioned ports of previous games, calling that process “technologically difficult.”
Are these architectural difficulties with porting the games? Or hardware limitations? Considering the original round of collection remasters released on PlayStation 3, I’d be surprised if the Switch’s hardware was holding performance back. Therefore, returning focus to architectural problems for a moment, I think about the many successful ports of older games which have popped up on the Switch over its entire life, and I have a hard time seeing it as an impossible task. But there could always be huge internal challenges I don’t see, considering I’m just simpleton writing a think-piece.
Chances of a New Game
If history means anything, it would seem almost a done deal to receive an exclusive Kingdom Hearts Switch game. Remember that just two years after the original Kingdom Hearts game, Chain of Memories released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004. Four years after Kingdom Hearts II, 358/2 Days released on the Nintendo DS in 2009. And seven years before Kingdom Hearts III, Dream Drop Distance released on the Nintendo 3DS. These three titles were exclusive to Nintendo platforms until their eventual inclusion in the I.5 and II.5 collections.
So why not Switch? It’s not like Kingdom Hearts III released in the midst of the Wii U era. By 2019 when it landed on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One X, the Nintendo Switch had established itself as a major player in the industry, units-wise. It feels an oversight not to immediately kick around ideas for the next side Kingdom Hearts game for Switch. The playerbase is arguably there more today than ever before. And as the Kingdom Hearts fanbase have been accustomed to traveling across systems, even if a portion of them did not have a Switch, I feel sure an exclusive Switch title would push units.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that perhaps the lack of Switch exclusive has more to do with something completely out of our control: terrible timing. One of the major differences between now and previous Nintendo entries is where the series stands. Kingdom Hearts III was intended to see the end of the original story arc for the series which had spanned all the previous entries–both main series and handhelds. That story is, for all intents and purposes, wrapped. Even though there’ve been many teases as to what’s coming from the Kingdom Hearts franchise, nothing is definitive. And that may be exactly what’s stopping a Switch game.
For a series that’s primarily been a PlayStation product, maybe it doesn’t make business sense to release the first Kingdom Hearts game in this “new era” exclusively on a platform which won’t be the “home console.”
Another aspect in all this is that Nomura’s claim of no Nintendo Switch game is not exclusive to the Nintendo Switch. He confirmed there are no current plans to release new Kingdom Hearts games on either PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Either that’s PR speak for “We’re just not ready to show anything,” or the next Kingdom Hearts entry is really seven or eight years down the road. And if the latter is the case, it does seem like an issue of poor timing when it comes to Switch support. The platform would be perfect for Kingdom Hearts, but maybe the series just isn’t in the right place to take the leap.
My completely unfounded predictions which lean toward total hope at this point is that, with the Kingdom Hearts franchise 20th Anniversary arriving next year, we’ll receive a surprise something that they simply don’t want to talk about yet. I’m not feeling too crazy or anything–I will not get my hopes up for a brand new exclusive title.
Instead, I just don’t see why they wouldn’t bring the I.5 and II.5 collections over. Who knows? If the increasing rumors of a more powerful Switch model comes true, maybe that improves the chances significantly and even makes it possible to bring the entire series, including Kingdom Hearts III. You can call this a dream if you want–I’ll be the first to admit it as such. But in the end, crazier things have happened, so I’m sticking to my guns that we’ll see the series make its way to Nintendo Switch next year. Got it memorized?