What’s so good about KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory?An incredible rhythm-action game, and a love letter to KINGDOM HEARTS as a whole - we take a close look at the game and what makes it special.
KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory is out now for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch - news that will be music to your ears if you’re a fan of the series or rhythm action games in general.
But we think a lot of people may be surprised by this title, because it’s so much more than a music game. It’s a jam-packed love letter to KINGDOM HEARTS that throws open the doors of the series to new fans and swaddles existing ones in a warm blanket of glorious nostalgia.
Here are just some things that make it special:
It’s a joyous celebration of everything KINGDOM HEARTS
One feeling bursts forth from KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory more than any other: love.
There’s an infectious level of affection for all aspects of the series - not just the music, but also the characters, the worlds, the creatures and even the gameplay systems.
For example, you’ll notice that the enemies you face on Field Battle stages are also taken from the world that Sora and chums originally encountered them in. So when you’re pallin’ around with Peter Pan, you’ll face off against peg-legged pirate Heartless, or when engaging in Ariel combat with the Little Mermaid, your enemies will be aquatically antagonistic.
That attention to detail is something that really mattered to the developers. Masanobu Suzui, Co-Director, indieszero, also worked on the THEATRHYTHM series on Nintendo 3DS, and explains it best:
“The core concept underlining the THEATRHYTHM series - reminiscing about past gameplay experiences through countless wonderful songs - is something we wanted to maintain when developing KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory.
“Just like the THEATRHYTHM series cherishes and strives to do so, we ensured details that spark a sense of nostalgia - things that people who truly love KH will appreciate - are sprinkled across every corner of the game.”
It makes a difference - you get the impression that the devs love this series just as much as the fans do!
There’s more depth here than you might expect
One way that love comes through is recognizable mechanics that add a further depth to the game.
For example, just as in the original games, you can collect resources to synthesize new items, such as potions to restore HP mid-stage, experience boosters and more. These items can make or break some of the harder tracks - you’ll definitely want a stock on hand for such situations.
Even more excitingly, you can even synthesize entirely new songs! Getting A+ rank on a stage is exciting already, but getting enough Lucid Shards to unlock A Whole New World from Disney’s Aladdin? Now that’s satisfying.
It’s a BIG game
When you start World Tour - the main campaign mode in KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory - you’ll probably be struck by the same thing I was - it’s massive. So massive, even Monstro would struggle to swallow it.
Although not every stage is open at the start, a quick fly around the World Tour map in the Gummi Ship reveals dozens of worlds, each with multiple stages to play through. Then there are individual stages to find too - there’s a ton of content to discover here.
But it’s also a little deceptive, because there are also numerous tracks that aren’t on the map. Some must be synthesized, others must be found or collected by other means, but when all’s said and done, there are more than 140 tracks to play though, each with multiple difficulties and layouts.
And all that’s just the World Tour mode…
VS Battles and co-op modes are deep and addicting
There’s so much to do beyond the World Tour, and even the Stage Select modes. The multiplayer options in KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory are more comprehensive than you might expect.
The Co-op mode is a lot of fun, and sees Sora and Riku racing side by side through the game’s many tracks. Feeling in sync with a song is good, but being in sync with your friend is even better - and very true to the themes of KINGDOM HEARTS.
VS Battles mode is another thing entirely. Playable both online or against the computer (which even has a ranking system), these online battles are fraught and frenetic. They’re enhanced by tricks that you can send over to your opponent to disrupt their flow. It’s hard not to smirk when you see them make miss after miss because you made their enemies turn invisible. Heh.
It’s an ideal entry point for the series
When a series like KINGDOM HEARTS has been going for so long, it can be difficult for new players to know where they should start.
For example, should you head right to the beginning or just jump into the most recent entry, KINGDOM HEARTS III?
It’s a question that fans will argue about endlessly, although as far as we’re concerned all the games are designed to be accessible for new players. That said, KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory feels like a really good place to start.
Tetsuya Nomura, Director of KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory explains:
“The reason we took the series to the musical genre has to do with fate – the fact that this rhythm-action project kicked off at a time when I felt it would be good to create an album-like title that essentially serves as a recap for the series, as we had just closed a chapter in the series with KINGDOM HEARTS III.”
The game works as an audio-visual tour of the entire saga so far, not only introducing the characters, worlds and songs that fans have taken into their hearts, but also recapping major story beats and lore in a way that new players will instantly understand.
Of course, if you’re a fan of the series, then it’s a laser-targeted barrage of nostalgia - and we mean that in a good way. For us, a few bars of music from the Destiny Islands is all it took for a broad Sora-esque smile to spread across our faces.
“Since the beginning of the KINGDOM HEARTS series, music has always been a key element,” says Ichiro Hazama, Producer of KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory.
“In the latest installment, KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory, we finally get to celebrate the music in an interactive way while revisiting the many twists and turns the story has taken.
“I hope by playing the game you’re able to experience a flurry of nostalgia and emotions as you experience some of the series’ most beloved songs in a brand-new way.”
Mission more than accomplished, we’d say.
It’s a rhythm game that everyone can enjoy
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a true musical maestro or simply scraped by at school playing the triangle, you’ll find plenty of fun in KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory.
The game goes overboard to ensure that players of all ages and ability levels can enjoy the game. For example, there are multiple difficulty levels that let you tailor the challenge to your skill level, from Beginner up to Proud.
You can also choose different ways to play. For example, if you find the multiple button prompts overwhelming, you can switch to One Button mode that lets you manage everything with a single input. That way, you can focus entirely on the rhythm, rather than the controls.
On the other end of the scale…
Rhythm game afficionados will find a true challenge
Even if you’re someone with fingers that can dance a fandango on command, you’ll find plenty to push you here.
Playing on Proud difficulty will likely test you, particularly on the fastest tracks, but if you want the ultimate challenge, you should switch on Performer Mode too.
This alternate playstyle complicates things by adding extra button prompts into mix. Suddenly you don’t just have to worry about hitting the Heartless, you also have to do it with style. Think extra inputs, extra beats and even extra buttons that aren’t used in the standard play style.
It’s difficult and I’m not afraid to say it absolutely savaged me on my first few attempts. But when you nail a song on Performer mode, it’s a high like few others.
It has new story elements
Okay, we have to be a little careful here, as to intentionally give away spoilers would to be as malicious as Maleficent. But KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory does feature new story scenes that are set following the events of KINGDOM HEARTS III.
Aaaaand that’s all we really have to say about that because we don’t want to ruin anybody’s fun. But if you’re a fan of the saga, you won’t want to miss it.
KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory is available now for PS4, Xbox One and Switch. Download the playable demo here:
You can buy the full game now on the Square Enix Store:
We hope you enjoy the game - the team worked extremely hard on it and it should be clear what a labor of love it is. So jump into some memories and start setting some scores - and don’t forget to share your best with us on social media!