Kingdom Hearts 3 was certainly one of the most anticipated releases of all time. While there may be some who wonder if it met high expectations, there was no doubt the soundtrack was another fine piece to the very broad and adored universe, built almost twenty years ago. Was that really a surprise, though? This franchise is known for its music, which mixes classic Disney and Square tunes with its own original tracks that give players audio bliss, time and time again. Capitalizing on all of those tunes brings us to yet another quest for Sora, with another rhythm action recap. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory brings together over 100 songs from the entire franchise, throwing them all into a format with a nice, new challenge. Is it on key, or is this one bit of fan service that comes up short? Let’s find out.
Yes, there is a story here, but it just isn’t a whole lot in terms of “new”. Kairi basically is in her deep sleep, and retelling the events of the first three games, as well as recapping the side titles such as Birth by Sleep, Dream Drop Distance, and so on. While there isn’t a whole lot new other than a “simply for progression plot that doesn’t mean a lot as a whole, I suppose it is all in how you take it. I personally forgot a lot of things from all the games, especially the side titles, and was more than happy to get a refresher course. There is also a lot of retelling, not just simply text reminders, and I did appreciate the efforts of editing in past scenes – even if they were not completely redesigned for each section.
The gameplay within Melody of Memory reminds me of a blend between the 3DS’ Theatrhythm titles and Rock Band Blitz. Players will see a road of Heartless and other enemies, representing music notes, and must select timed inputs in order to defeat each foe, which stays on key with the song. Tempo and difficulty can add enemies, creating a greater challenge as you progress. The main character, who is usually represented by Sora or Roxas, can also perform special attacks based on input selection, which add an extra bit of attack or clear far away enemies who may be shooting projectiles. A life bar is also assigned and once drained equates in the game being over.
It is a simple formula that was executed with a lot of polish and finesse, making for one of the most addictive rhythm action titles to hit consoles this generation. This is also due to the stars within the game, which each track having three requirements (such as don’t miss this type of note throughout the song, or clear a specific section without taking damage) that must be performed in order to be acquired. Players can also get special techniques, like the ability to have King Mickey join and pick up notes you may have missed. All in all, a well-rounded set of mechanics that work and add enough depth to take even experienced players of the genre to course with the wide array of unlockables included.
An experience system is also in play, but doesn’t feel fully realized until much later in the game, when hitting attacks perfectly may matter more, as enemies do more damage. This makes boss battles more important, and allows for a bit of grinding to be done to ensure a cleaner victory. Along with the well-tuned gameplay, we also have a nice co-op mode (featuring Riku), as well as enough challenge modes to keep players busy for hours and hours after the main story is completed.
Visuals & Audio
Well, there isn’t a whole lot to go into detail about here. Since you go through all the Kingdom Hearts titles, your visuals will match the games you are playing for the most part. This means for everything outside of Kingdom Hearts 3, you will see about the game designs from the remastered collections, with the cleaner models coming into play for original cutscenes or 3 in general. That is fine enough, but I do think pure consistency with these art designs would have definitely been suited if this is truly made to feel stand-alone, rather than the optional accessory it comes off as.
I mean, do you like the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack? Sure, there are plenty of full Disney songs to play and over 140 songs in the game, but most tunes are battle music, map tunes, and even well forgotten tracks from the series. Its best explained like this. Sure, you may like the theme song to Pokemon, but would you actively go out and want to play the Virdian Forest theme in a game, possibly over and over? Well say yes to everything and make it Kingdom Hearts. The audio design is phenomenal, but if you are just playing for a bit of Disney, you will more than likely not find what you are looking for here.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory may be just fan service of sorts, but it is also one of the most enjoyable rhythm action titles to come along in years. With so much attention to detail when it comes to the songs, the worlds, and characters, this game proves itself as a fantastic recap that could easily be a blueprint for other franchises wanting to pull in a few more dollars on consoles, and for Square to capture this outside of the Theatrhythm line, I think that feat is rather impressive. Fans of Sora, Goofy, Donald, and so on can yet again jump right into Simple and Clean or head Under the Sea in what they are sure to find to be a memorable and satisfying journey into the backbeat of a beautiful series of games.