Square-Enix certainly isn’t new to musical experiments performed on their most famous brands. Just think of the three Theatrhythm titles, dedicated to Final Fantasy (two titles, both released on Nintendo 3DS) and Dragon Quest (only one title released for Nintendo 3DS in Japan). Indeed, the third famous RPG-series Kingdom Hearts could not be left behind, and thus Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory was born.
The events narrated in Melody of Memory begin after the end of the final chapter of the main series, Kingdom Hearts III, particularly after the events of the Re Mind DLC. We don’t want to spoil you if you still need to play the aforementioned title or its DLC (which we recommend that you do before purchasing Melody of Memory), so we’re not going to tell you what happens at the beginning of the game. Suffice to say that in reality it is mainly a pretext to enable Kairi, one of the series’ female protagonists, to embark on a journey to memories that will lead her to rediscover the main events of the story.
Essentially, from a narrative point of view, Memory of Melody is an extremely comprehensive summary of what has happened so far; the new story elements promised by Nomura cover only a small part of the game, the last. Unsurprisingly, also given Nomura’s statements, the series’ story is not progressing much in this game, and you will be disappointed if you plan to buy Melody of Memory to find out what happens after Kingdom Hearts III.
What Melody of Memory is for is a celebration of what it used to be, with a (small) expectation of what is yet to come. And this celebration, we must say, is meant for those who already know the series. In fact, while the game summarizes (almost) all of the previous chapters, the story is told in a rather fragmentary manner, making it difficult for a novice to understand when first experiencing the series. By approaching the game with the right expectations, you can enjoy this journey full of nostalgia for what it is, without expecting big news that would have been inappropriate for this game.
Another element in which Melody of Memory does not represent a step forward for the series is on a technical or graphical level. The game has been developed for PS4, Xbox One and Switch, so the game must also focus on the weakest member of the three. However, you obviously do not buy these games to fall back on the image quality, but for the beautiful music that has been incorporated into perfection.
Now that we’ve told you what to expect from the Memory of Melody story, let’s move on to the actual game. Let’s start with the main mode called World Tour. Here you will find in chronological order the events related so far in the Kingdom Hearts saga, in the form of musical levels to be completed, of course.
There are three types of levels: Field, Memory Dive and Boss fight. The first type is the predominant type that you will encounter most often during your adventure. In these levels, our team of three heroes (initially we only have Sora, Donald and Goofy available) will move along a track on rails, encountering numerous enemies and obstacles along the way to be defeated in tempo.
Our goal will be to get to the end of the journey without your health reaching zero. The controls are quite simple: L1, R1 and A (X on Playstation) are the keys dedicated to attack and they are completely interchangeable with each other. In the event that two or three enemies appear at the same height, you will have to press two or three keys, making two or three of our heroes attack simultaneously, depending on the need.
Some special items require you to press the Y button to activate; Finally, the B button allows us to jump over obstacles and reach flying enemies, and by holding down the button we can fly to grab rows of musical notes that earn us bonus points. In short, they are the foundation of a rhythm game, even though the visual presentation almost makes it seem like we’re in a normal action RPG from Kingdom Hearts. However, some RPG elements remained.
First of all, during gameplay we will unlock three other teams of heroes, each with its own specifics. At the end of each level you will receive experience points with which you can level up and increase your attack, hp and defense. Higher difficulty levels ensure that enemies come faster and sometimes hit harder, so sometimes leveling up before trying a more difficult level is certainly not superfluous.
Besides normal levels you also have Memory Dives and boss fights. The Memory Dives let you move freely instead of trapping you on a rail, but it’s still forward like endless runners. While there is a movie in the background that tells the story of the character in question. The boss fights represent, as the name suggests, the most epic battles seen in the series; in this case, we’ll see the characters fighting in the center of the screen, while the button combinations to press scroll down. Years of experience have allowed the Square-Enix team to create an excellent rhythm game, fun and satisfying, thanks in part to the excellent quality of the songs used.
The small flaw that we have to address is that background movement can sometimes appear disturbing. A continuously playing movie at Memory Dives or the action in a boss fight can sometimes take your attention away from the notes, making it easier for you to miss and take damage as a result.
Now let’s move on to the numerous side modes that are present, starting with the Song Collection mode. This is a fairly classic mode for this genre, which allows us to select and replay one of the songs already unlocked in story mode. In this case, the aim is of course to get the best possible final score in the three levels of difficulty available. You can also activate some additional modes to make the game easier (and accessible) or more difficult; in particular the Uno solo mode will allow us to use a single button to perform any action (making everything much easier), while the Artist mode will make the game more complex thanks to some obstacles attached to the level have been added, which will, however, provide greater compensation in final score.
There are also two multiplayer modes, one competitive and one cooperative. In competitive mode, we can challenge friends online (or only locally on Nintendo Switch) or the CPU in challenges where the winner is determined by the final score. This is a welcome variation on the theme, which could give the game even more vitality. The same can be said of the cooperative mode. This allows us to complete the game tracks locally in the company of a friend. In this case, one player will control Sora and the other Riku, and cooperation is key to getting the best score possible.
To conclude the collection of available modes, there is also a Museum. This is not a real mode, but a map that contains everything we unlocked during the adventure. And there are so many collectibles to unlock: from movies to artwork, from bonus tracks to character cards. The game takes about ten hours to complete, but if you get addicted enough to pick up each collectible, play time can easily double. That is no small achievement, since a long playing time is often a disadvantage for games of this genre.
In summary, Melody of Memory has positively surprised us. While not a true continuation of the series, the game amused and surprised us thanks to a ton of content that we really didn’t expect. If you love Kingdom Hearts and rhythm games this one is definitely worth checking out. On the other hand, if you are only interested in discovering the new events narrated in the game, our advice is to wait, as the game has little to offer from that standpoint.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory stunned us with simple yet incredibly engaging and fun gameplay, combined with an amount of content that far exceeded our expectations. Despite some shortcomings, we would like to recommend the purchase of the game to all fans of Kingdom Hearts and rhythm games, with one caveat: don’t expect the series’ story to progress significantly.