Just when we thought Kingdom Hearts was fresh out of surprises, Square Enix went and announced Melody of Memory, a rhythm action game. At first blush it seems like a bizarre melding of genres though it’s one that absolutely fits, allowing Square to showcase one of the best collected soundtracks there is while retooling an archive of accompanying assets.
With the full game out on 13th November, a demo is available today, and we’ve been playing it a little early.
How exactly does Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory play? Well, like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and many other rhythm action games, it essentially boils down to a series of well-timed button presses. Each song will have you journeying down a path and reacting as enemies and objects come into proximity, attacking, jumping, casting spells, and performing other actions as if you were brawling Heartless and Nobodies in a mainline Kingdom Hearts game.
The way developer indieszero has gone about translating the RPG series’ gameplay into something which can be musically mapped is clever yet straightforward. As in earlier Kingdom Hearts games you’ll control one of several protagonist characters accompanied by sidekicks such as Donald, Goofy, Terra, and Aqua among others.
When an enemy or object enters the target zone, you need to attack or interact with it in time, the on-screen visuals syncing up with the music playing in the background. By dialling up the difficulty you will introduce more varied enemy wave patterns as well as sequences which require quicker simultaneous button combinations. For example, you may need to glide with Sora by holding the jump button, while also swatting enemies in the left and right lanes with Donald and Goofy. Sloppy hits will result in lower scores while missing notes will gradually eat into your hit points and result in failure.
The four stages we played during the demo were short, but with more than 140 songs available in the full game, we wouldn’t call Melody of Memory a meagre offering for the series. Those who stick with it will find that there’s more to it than playing World Tour in single player. You can beat this mode in co-op and even compete in versus duels with friends and other fans online.
World Tour is where many are likely to spend most of their time though, surfing through yet another retelling of the Kingdom Hearts saga, this time from Kairi’s perspective. Thankfully, this newest rendition doesn’t seem to get as bogged down, streamlining the major plot points as you slide between stages on your musical score-chasing odyssey.
Of course, with this being Kingdom Hearts, you’ll need to play (or at least watch) Melody of Memory to get the latest on what’s happening in the series storyline. Square have stated that this won’t be a major new chapter in the franchise though they have confirmed it picks up from Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind while also presenting clues as to where things will go next, presumably teasing Kingdom Hearts IV.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory isn’t the carelessly cobbled together spinoff concerned fans may have been expecting. There’s depth to this rhythm action adventure and plenty of fan service to go around, especially if you find yourself occasionally hunting for Kingdom Hearts playlists whenever working, studying, or looking to unwind.