Kingdom Hearts is perfectly at home on Steam Deck

It feels kind of wild that it's been over 3 years since I first took a look at Kingdom Hearts III's excellent PC port, and a lot has changed for the PC market in the time since. Most notably - the Steam Deck has popularized the handheld gaming PC, and expanded a need for companies to at least test their games for Linux compatibility with Proton. Since any modern PC will be capable of running any of the PS2 or 3DS Kingdom Hearts games, I figured it made far more sense to focus on how these updated ports are handled on Steam Deck.

Part of this is because the older, Epic Games Store versions of these games had notoriously mixed results running on a Steam Deck, even discounting the hoops one would have to jump through to even get them on the device. Thankfully, Square Enix hired a 3rd party to help them smooth out any major problems before finally dropping the games on Steam. The results? Discounting a few remaining small issues, these will likely be my new preferred ways of playing the games.

First things first; HD 1.5 + 2.5. These were the real problem children when it came to Steam Deck compatibility in the past, with a load of compatibility quirks even on Windows-based PCs. In the interest of time - and in search of one specific potential issue - I opted to boot up Re: Chain of Memories through the collection. Immediately the FMV cutscene at the beginning of the game played without any issues, and without requiring any tweaks. Performance once properly in-game was also flawless, with over 5 hours of battery life at your disposal on a Deck OLED while running the game at a 90 FPS target. If you've ever tried to get the games running on a Steam Deck prior to these new ports, you'll understand exactly how big of a deal this is.

The same can be said for Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, though it's worth noting that in any of these games you might run into cutscenes that run at 30 FPS regardless of your settings. Additionally, despite there being an option to set the game resolution to 800p, none of the games I tested could actually make use of that full screen real estate, and will simply run internally at 720p without stretching the output to fit the full display. This is better than the alternative, but it is at least a bit of a shame that native 16:10 support wasn't added alongside the more crucial Steam Deck compatibility fixes.

This is where I hopped into Kingdom Hearts III, and as expected players will have to make sacrifices depending on their preferred play experience when it comes to their chosen graphical settings and internal resolution. I pointed out that the lack of fine control over the port's internal resolution was probably my one main complaint back in the day, and that goes double for Steam Deck performance - where 60 FPS would probably be just as obtainable with an 85% resolution scale as it is with a 75% one. To be clear; the game still runs quite well, regardless.

On the medium preset and at a 100% resolution scale, players can expect a near-locked 45 FPS - only saying "near-locked" due to the nature of playing games pre-release on Deck introducing the issue of shader compilation stutter. At a 75% resolution scale you'll be good for 60 FPS - and for both options I would say to expect about a 3 hour playtime on a Deck OLED. Expect closer to 2 hours for an original model; and of course you can increase the battery life by playing at 30 FPS, even if I personally would never do so. Our time was limited before embargo and as such I wasn't able to test it as much as I would've liked, but I would assume similar if not slightly better performance in 0.2: Birth by Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage.

One issue that most players likely won't care about is that currently Kingdom Hearts III does not let the player enable HDR on Deck OLED. Personally I've found the HDR implementation for the game to be quite good in the past, so hopefully this issue can be ironed out without too much delay after launch; I assume it will. Other than that, however, I don't really have any complaints with the state of the games on Steam Deck.

It might have taken entirely too long for us to get here, but there's finally a handheld solution for playing the entirety of the Kingdom Hearts series that doesn't require you to be tethered to an internet connection. For many RPG fans, this is probably a dream come true - and I can't blame them. Kingdom Hearts is well worth playing on Steam Deck; whether it might be your first time experiencing Sora's journey, or your tenth.

Code was provided to RPG Site for the purposes of this coverage.