Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud review

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“I’ve been having these weird thoughts lately. Like is any of this for real? or not?” Twenty years ago, we met Sora, a young JRPG protagonist who traveled the worlds of Disney movies, trying to save his friends and make things right. Now, there are 13-ish entries in the Kingdom Hearts series, each with its own charm. While PlayStation platforms have been the default home for compilations of these games, Nintendo Switch has finally got its own in the form of Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud, allowing Nintendo fans to experience all of Sora’s adventures.

Bringing together almost all of the series’s strange titles, Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud collects 10 entries in the storied franchise into three packages, sold together and separately. The first contains Kingdom Hearts 1, cinematics from 358/2 Days, Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II, Birth by Sleep, and cinematics from Re:coded. The second comprises Dream Drop Distance, 0.2 Birth by Sleep A fragmentary passage, and X Back Cover. And the third contains Kingdom Hearts III along with its Re Mind DLC. The only things not contained in these collections are mobile games Union X and Dark Road and the rhythm action game Melody of Memory, which is available natively on Nintendo Switch. There’s far too much to take in here, so let’s keep to the basics.

A legacy of games

Kingdom Hearts is a series that is beloved for its deep plot, its addicting action gameplay, and its willingness to be both serious and silly. Conversely, many have criticized it for its convoluted storyline and its wild oscillations between grim-dark and goofy tones. It’s the story of a boy who’s ripped apart from his friends and subsequently dragged into a multi-generational conflict over the fate of many worlds. It’s a story about friendship, the balance between light and darkness, and the joys of sitting on various shorelines. Donald Duck and Goofy are also there.

Most of the games play similarly. There’s a basic attack button and a command menu that you can access seamlessly while playing. You also gain abilities and magic throughout the game, changing the flow of action and introducing countless customization options. Your main character travels between different Disney worlds, helping their denizens overcome problems caused usually by the villain Xehanort’s machinations. You’ll get to know dozens of characters as they join your team and contribute their abilities to the cause.

Since the series is nearly two decades old, the quality varies across Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud. The older games, such as Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts II look and play kind of rough. The original game in particular is hard to look at, and II, my favorite in the series, was more primitive than I remembered. These games would benefit from a full remaster.

On the other side of the coin, Birth by Sleep, Dream Drop Distance, and 0.2 were all wonderful experiences. They looked great, played well, and dragged the voice acting out of the early 2000s. Sadly, Square Enix couldn’t port over 358/2 Days, one of the best games on Nintendo DS, and instead provided a compilation of its cutscenes. Re:coded is in the same boat (or Gummi Ship), and Back Cover is a feature-length movie.

No matter what the entry, though, the music is fantastic. Yoko Shimomura poured her heart and soul into every single piece, expertly weaving epic orchestrations with Disney tune arrangements. The CGI intros with Hikaru Utada’s theme songs are fantastic as well, and they’re still gorgeous today.

Cloud, but not the one you fight in the Colosseum

Of course, the big question is how Kingdom Hearts performs in the cloud on Nintendo Switch. And the answer is — it’s not great. I have a pretty decent connection, especially when plugged directly into the router. Yet I had low frame rates on almost every game, (0.2 and Dream Drop Distance worked surprisingly well.) and there were some sound issues as well. There weren’t a lot of lost inputs, but they were there, an ever-present reminder of the nature of the Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud collection.

With all of these minor issues adding up, there were times when it felt like I was playing these games on someone else’s computer. I had to break out of my habit of hitting the Home button to pause as it interrupted the connection, but if I left the game on the regular pause screen for too long it would disconnect from the network anyway. Luckily, it didn’t do this when watching the Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover movie.

Ultimately, I borrowed and played a bit of the PlayStation 4 versions, and the difference was stark. It’s a shame that the non-Kingdom Hearts III games weren’t directly ported to the Switch.

Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud

Final verdict

That said, it’s still Kingdom Hearts. There’s the amazing music that’s been engraved onto my soul for all these years. The characters are charming, the story is addicting in its complexity, and there’s a sense of history here. Sora in particular is so well-loved that he wound up in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as one of the most requested characters ever. As much of a compromise as Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud is, it still brings nearly the entirety of one of the greatest RPG series of all time to Nintendo Switch, including Kingdom Hearts III, a game that fans waited 14 years for. And for that, it’s worth it.

Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud

In a way, it’s fitting that this will be my last review for Nintendo Enthusiast. Kingdom Hearts came out when I was in high school, around the time I started writing about video games. Sadly, I had stopped writing and fell off the wagon with this wonderful series long ago. But thanks to this site, I was able to come back to both and have so many other wonderful experiences besides. For those who’ve read this far, thank you.

“Though the worlds may seem far apart and out of reach, they nonetheless remain connected by invisible ties. As do our hearts.”

Release Date: February 10, 2022

No. of Players: 1 player

Category: Action RPG (plus two cutscene compilations and a movie)

Publisher: Square Enix

Developer: Square Enix

A Nintendo Switch review code for Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud was provided by the publisher.

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