The latest game in the Kingdom Hearts franchise is not one you would expect, but one that fans of the series may want to check out. Entitled Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, the game is tagged as a theater rhythm type game, where you play through over 140 Kingdom Hearts tracks, tapping to the beat while taking on the Heartless.
Rhythm games are certainly reserved for a niche group, but when you pair it along with a storied franchise like Kingdom Hearts and include well loved songs from the whole breadth of the KH universe, you’re bound to get some looks from a wider audience.
Ahead of the launch on November 13, we’ve been given a chance to play an early demo of the title (which should have launched in some areas by the time this is published) and see how Kingdom Hearts fares as a rhythm game.
In the demo, gameplay is limited to a short tutorial session that takes you through the paces of the game with limited tracks. Controls are fairly straightforward, where you have to time your button press to the beat or else you lose HP. Losing all your HP means you’ve got to repeat the whole track again.
The rules and mechanics are pretty standard for a rhythm game, but it gets quite complicated when you factor in your 2 other party members along with casting spells or abilities. It was mentioned in an interview with Producer Ichiro Hazama and Co-Director Masanobu Suzui that touch controls won’t be implemented for the Switch, and we can definitely see why.
Each song in the list can be played in one of three difficulty settings and on top of that, there are various modes of play available to the player. Rookie players who just want to enjoy the tunes should go for One Button mode, where all actions are simplified into one button, allowing you to concentrate on enjoying the song. The Basic mode is your default setting, which assigns actions to different buttons like Triangle to cast a spell and X to jump. Lastly, Performer mode utilizes all buttons in the controller, making for some pretty challenging tracks that will need intense concentration and dexterity.
As you start a song, you’ll be controlling all 3 characters at once. For purposes of the demo, you’re locked to Sora, Goofy, and Donald but more will be available in the final retail version of the game. Normal attacks can be activated by Circle, L1, or R1 and how many of these buttons to be pressed will depend on how many enemies there are. 1 enemy to defeat = 1 button. 3 enemies = all 3 buttons at the same time. There will be sequences where enemies are airborne, so you’ll have to jump and attack to beat them. You can also glide through certain sections of the stage where you’ll need to move around while following the tune, think of it as the “hold button” sequence in other rhythm games.
It all sounds pretty easy and simple (and clean), but it takes a bit of getting used to during the game itself. The most common mistakes we’ve encountered were forgetting to press multiple attack buttons for when your party members attack at the same time and attacking airborne enemies, wherein we simply jump instead of jump and then attack. It’ll take a few runs to get used to mechanics of the game, especially during the more hectic stages where your eye and hand coordination will be put to the test.
A nice addition is the Demo feature, where the AI will run through the stage for you and you can simply watch and observe how it is done. Whether you’re figuring out how to hit all the notes in the stage or just want to listen to good music, we figure you’ll be using this mode quite a lot.
The demo features 4 tracks that will be familiar to fans of the series. Even if you’re new to Kingdom Hearts, the tunes are pleasant enough and are actually quite good listening material. Kingdom Hearts, as a whole, has conceived many memorable tracks throughout the years and since it is deeply tied to Disney properties, you can expect songs like “Let it go”, “Under the sea”, “Arabian Nights”, and much more.
The final version of the game will also include a story mode called World Tour (locked for the demo) and numerous unlockables that can be uncovered by the player, so there’s actually a full game filled with a lot of content to go through.
I’m personally not a huge fan of rhythm games myself, although I do fancy some nice tunes and Melody of Memory does have enough to hold you in for a bit. Things tend to get too hectic too quickly for my own good, and I’m left to stay away from Performer mode due to its difficulty spike. I realize that others may find this inviting, so it would definitely appeal to fans of the genre who want a challenge.
Melody of Memory should be a great entry point for newcomers to the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and we wish that a few missions of the World Tour mode was made available during the demo since the game acts as a story refresher from Kairi’s point of view. Nonetheless, the demo serves as a good look at what to expect for the game.
Overall, Melody of Memory has its moment and fans of the genre could find something special here. In between its vibrant stages and catchy tunes is a rhythm game with a semblance of depth that will challenge even seasoned veterans. While fans of more action oriented titles may look past this release, rhythm game fans will surely have a good time playing through the whole song list. While we’re here, can we also get Final Fantasy Theatrhythm on the big screened consoles, please?
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is scheduled for a November 13 release for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch.