Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Review
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is the latest entry in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and it simultaneously takes the series to places it’s never been and everywhere it’s been. Instead of following the events of the story through Sora’s eyes, hacking and slashing their way through the countless heartless in their path, players will see things through Kairi’s eyes. Acting as a direct sequel, much of Melody of Memory takes players through the events of previous games as Kairi’s memories, giving the oft-underused character a more important role that has long been desired by fans to see him.
Aside from this narrative difference, the biggest difference between Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory and other games in the franchise is the gameplay. Melody of Memory is first and foremost a rhythm game, meaning it not only has to stack up against other Kingdom Hearts games, but also notable entries from the rhythm game genre. in total. Surprisingly, it does so well, managing to encapsulate everything that makes Kingdom Hearts what it is and wrapping it all up in what ends up being a really enjoyable rhythm game experience.
One of the main benefits of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is its low barrier to entry. Since the game doesn’t advance the story of the franchise too much and instead focuses on retelling the events of the previous games, it’s perfect for newcomers. At the same time, longtime Kingdom Hearts veterans are given something to hold on to at the end of the story, with Kairi taking a more frontline role for once and giving hints about what future of the franchise. For a series known for being so complex and confusing at times, it would do wonders for players to have a place to show the whole picture for them.
Of course, if all players are looking for is a recap of the Kingdom Hearts story, there are probably better ways to do that. Fortunately, Melody of Memory hits its weight as a really enjoyable and also original take on the rhythm game genre.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a compilation of more than 140 songs from every game in the franchise, and players will block and strike their enemies at the speed of the music. There are three separate attack buttons, and pressing more than one at a time will cause two or three characters to attack at once instead of just one. There are also ability crystals that allow the party leader to cast spells or activate abilities, and players can also jump to hit aerial enemies or dodge ranged attacks. The controls are very simple, but the game’s many difficulty settings allow it to be challenging regardless of the player’s skill level.
Like almost every Kingdom Hearts game before it, players can choose whether they want to play on Beginner, Standard, or Proud difficulty. Instead of selecting it at the start of the game, however, each song has these difficulty levels as an option, and players can change the difficulty between songs. This creates an experience that will never be too difficult to stop the player from progressing, but it can always be more difficult for those who want more of a challenge.
The difficulty is further expanded by Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory with three different styles. The standard style plays as described above, where players track five buttons (at most) per song, but to make things simpler for players who might struggle with this, there is also a mode of button. This makes any of the buttons work for any action, allowing players to focus on the rhythm alone. On the other hand, there’s also the performer style, which adds all the other buttons to the mix but allows players to get higher scores on tracks as a result. Finally, boss battles take things to a whole new level, providing gameplay changes that can really blow players away.
The controls aren’t necessarily anything groundbreaking, but where Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory truly shines is, unsurprisingly, its music. These songs may not be as recognizable as the songs from Guitar Hero or as futuristic sounding as the Beat Saber catalog, but they are musical masterpieces in their own right. Furthermore, there are few other rhythm games that draw the player into the song as this game does, and by the end of each track, players will find themselves feeling the music more than ever while playing on the game where they come from.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory also includes multiplayer modes. Players can traverse these tracks with a friend in couch co-op, and there’s also competitive online play where they’ll find themselves sabotaging their opponents and dealing with unexpected obstacles. This kind of above and beyond integration is what fans have come to expect from the Kingdom Hearts franchise and Square Enix in general, and should help provide more replayability after completing the game’s main story.
Of course, this does not mean that Melody of Memory is without its flaws, as there are many things that the game could improve. For one, although it tries its best, it doesn’t really seem possible to make Kingdom Hearts’ convoluted story make complete sense to a newcomer through a few cutscenes. Kairi’s recap of the story so far is accurate in every sense, but there are some gaps that could be filled in to give players a better picture of what’s going on. To be fair, this isn’t the fault of the game itself and rather points to some issues with where the franchise is at right now.
There’s also an issue with the way the game represents its four main playable trios. Each set has its own levels and stats similar to other games, but really, this is an aesthetic choice and doesn’t affect anything else in the game. While this isn’t really an issue, it would be nice if it were laid out more clearly. Some players are probably unsure about moving to a lower level team thanks to the stat differences, but in reality, those stats don’t affect the gameplay. Finally, despite taking a major role in this story, some players may feel like Kairi is still being used to advance the plot for Sora and Riku.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a fantastic take on the rhythm game genre, bringing the expertly crafted music of the Kingdom Hearts series. Longtime fans of the series will find themselves drenched in nostalgia as they play through levels like Roxas’ theme song or Simple and Clean. Meanwhile, newcomers can discover the story and characters through the lens of great music and gameplay.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is available now on PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Today Technology was provided with a PS4 code for this review.