Some of the best ideas are things that, in retrospect, make total and complete sense. Kingdom Hearts, much like Final Fantasy, is a franchise that is well known for its music, so it makes sense that we would eventually see a rhythm game centered around it like Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory. Square Enix took this concept and instead of applying the same logic we’ve seen in the past, made it feel like the action RPG we love. With over 140 songs, countless friends, and an interesting concept, is it a must for fans or is it a sad attempt at cashing in on existing content?
This adventure is centered around Kairi, the third and often sidelined of the main trio. It starts by looking at her thoughts and feelings in regards to the first game and snowballs from there. It’s the type of thing fans and newcomers alike can enjoy, though you’ll lose a bit if you’re a newcomer. Still, there is plenty to see and experience as there is a good amount of content covered in this adventure, assuming you have the skills to progress.
Progression is rather simple in Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory. You need various different stars to unlock the next area, which is unlocked by completing challenges during each song. Difficulty varies from song to song, but they’re usually things like achieving a certain score or better, don’t use items, or clear with a certain amount of health or more. They’re designed so anyone could realistically complete the game, though it takes a more skilled hand to unlock them all.
Naturally, the gameplay is surprisingly simple. There are three attack buttons, one jump, and input for magic. Each stage is on rails, with enemies, obstacles, and more preventing you from reaching the end. The idea is to watch time your moves and complete the corresponding task to make it to the end. Sometimes multiple inputs will be required, though it isn’t overly difficult from a design standpoint. The challenge is, like most things, timing.
Similar to Hatsune Miku, the idea is to watch the ring around the input and time it just right. Too early is a miss as is too late, meaning you need to be in that sweet spot. Faster songs are easier than slower ones, with some songs actually being easier on higher difficulties just because the timing is simpler, though it’s the type of thing you can practice and get right. Often times the trick is knowing where to look or just getting a feel for each level.
Those who struggle also have items that reduce the difficulty. So you can heal through a tricky stage or simply use resources to overcome a wide variety of limitations. Over time these should be pointless but it’s good to have for tricky stages, to prevent someone from being stuck or allow anyone to, if nothing else, limp across a challenging stages finish line.
Completed levels can be freely played via a selection screen, with a battle and co-op mode for anyone looking to get a bit more competitive. One nice thing about selection is that it tells you where the song originated from and more details about it. It also presents scores and other details so you can chase after perfection or simply beat your best.
In addition to timing being a bit of a learning curve, Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory struggles with length. It’s hard to pinpoint just where this incomplete feeling stems from, but a good number of songs don’t feel complete. Even more familiar ones like One Winged Angel clocks in at about 2 minutes, far shorter than most versions of it. This is likely due to songs largely being melodies over lyrical, though it causes an odd sensation upon finishing a song.
Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory Review – Verdict
Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory is honestly a very straightforward experience. Regardless of what Sora, Goofy, Donald, or whomever you decide to play as are doing, it’s a game that comes down to pushing specific buttons at exact times. Cute visuals and an interesting idea, along with good music, make it easy to get into and enjoy. Toss in a couple of difficulties, some items to make things easier and it is a cute game that is fun to play both in short and long durations.
[Editor’s Note: Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory was reviewed on PlayStation 5 platform and was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]