Square Enix has three big RPG giants under its belt that it continues to support year after year. Those three would be Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts. Since those last two have more ties together as Dragon Quest is kind of its own thing, we wanted to pit the two against each other.
This is not to determine the definitive Japanese RPG franchise. We just thought it would be a fun exercise to really stop and think about what each series brings to the table. Whether one agrees with our choices, or not, this is sure to incite some heated conversations.
10 Consistent Sequels: Final Fantasy
Depending on who one asks, the amount of Final Fantasy games available may be viewed as a bad thing. Since 1987 Square, and now Square Enix, has been pumping out sequels for over thirty years now. There are fifteen main installments on top of dozens upon dozens of spinoffs. The consistency rate may have slowed down recently, but the pacing and quality far outrank that of Kingdom Hearts. It took fourteen years for them to make Kingdom Hearts III for crying out loud!
9 Celebrity Talent: Kingdom Hearts
Final Fantasy X was the first game in the main series to receive voice actors. Except for a few moments, like the laughing scene, the work was pretty good and has remained good ever since. Still, there’s no beating the quality of talent Kingdom Hearts has received over the years. It’s incredible that Haley Joel Osment has been able to play Sora for about as consistent as humanly possible despite the aging. That is just one example in a sea of miraculous talent including Billy Zane, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lee, and so many others.
8 Easy To Follow Stories: Final Fantasy
Unfortunately said actors had to wade through excessive amounts of dialogue that often times went nowhere. It would take a whole article, if not several, to fully unpack the Kingdom Hearts saga. While some Final Fantasy games are as equally convoluted, like Final Fantasy XIII, for the most part, they are easier to follow. Many of the originals were classic takes on traditional RPG tropes, but with a touch of Square magic.
7 That Disney Magic: Kingdom Hearts
Speaking of magic, despite some screwy stories, there is no escaping the fact that the Disney essence present in every Kingdom Hearts game is miraculous. That is the only way to describe them because the very existence of this series is crazy. Who would have ever thought that Donald Duck and Goofy could work in a Square Enix game? Those are just two examples too. It may seem jarring at first and not all Disney worlds work, like Pirates of the Caribbean’s uncanny valley, but the consistency is pretty magical.
6 Switch Paradise: Final Fantasy
This is the third year of the Switch’s lifecycle and there are no Kingdom Hearts games on the hardware. There isn’t even a port of something. The Switch is the perfect place for RPGs and Square Enix has capitalized on that fact for many games including console exclusives like Octopath Traveler on top of many Final Fantasy remasters, including Final Fantasy VIII as the most recent example. Kingdom Hearts III probably wouldn’t run well on it, but how about all of those HD collections? Surely something has to be in the works, right?
5 Combat: Kingdom Hearts
This was a tough category to nail down since the Final Fantasy series has some of the best battle systems in all of RPGs. The Job System in particular found throughout the franchise, like in Final Fantasy Tactics, is among the best.
As much as we love them all the blend of action combat, leveling up, and platforming in the first Kingdom Hearts was eye-opening. It was like the genre was evolving before our very eyes and now it is kind of hard to go back to more traditional turn-based stuff.
4 Mini Games: Final Fantasy
Both franchises are rich in mini-games and while we love playing with Winnie the Pooh and shooting asteroids in Kingdom Hearts, the variety in the Final Fantasy games are a lot richer. The card games in both Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy VIII could be games by themselves as their mechanics are that deep. A few other favorites include Chocobo Hot and Cold in Final Fantasy IX, the motorcycle chase in Final Fantasy VII, and Blitzball in Final Fantasy X.
3 Music: Kingdom Hearts
This was another tough choice that could send this listicle into a giant flame war. Before the rage settles in, here is why we chose Kingdom Hearts. It’s not that the music is better in these games above Final Fantasy.
Square Enix has incredibly talented composers under their belt who manage to consistently create brilliant symphonies. So the reason why we went with it was that the music fits more with the action combat, thus engaging the player more. On top of that, the sweeping melodies in cutscenes helped put the heart into Kingdom Hearts.
2 Characters: Final Fantasy
Kingdom Hearts’ original characters are great, but what makes that series a triumph are its cameos from Disney to Final Fantasy. That franchise wouldn’t even exist without at least Disney so because of that Final Fantasy almost wins by default. From the pixel progenitors to the Popeye polygons all the way to the more realistic models of Final Fantasy XV, the cast in these games are some of the best in the industry’s history.
1 Heart: Kingdom Hearts
We lightly touched on this earlier, but Kingdom Hearts has a lot of heart behind its characters and stories. Amidst chaotic plot lines of taking over universes, clones, and time travel, deep down this series has always been about friendship and looking past what is right and what is wrong. The core message of Kingdom Hearts is beautiful. Sure, we cried when Aeris died and it's not like Final Fantasy hasn’t also had high points with grand messages. Kingdom Hearts pulls the emotional heartstrings more consistently.