I remember when Kingdom Hearts was first announced. The makers of Final Fantasy, Xenogears and Chrono Cross making an RPG with Disney?! Some scoffed, some cheered…Me? I was just curious on how it’d turn out. Not once though would I bet that years later I would be playing a music rhythm game based on the series…which is what Melody of Memory is.
With hundreds of music tracks across a multitude of games, the series certainly has the ammo it needs to make something of this nature.
Still…the fact that you can make something doesn’t necessarily mean it should be made in the first place.
Does Melody of Memory fall into that category?
Read on to find out.
What is Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory?
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a rhythm action game where you need to do specific actions in tune with the music that’s playing. Sometimes it’s as simple as pressing a button at the right time, other times you’ll need to hold a button, move the analog stick a direction or a combination of them all. It all depends on the icon that appears on-screen really.
The game is developed by Square Enix, with publishing duties in Asia done by Bandai Namco. It’s available for the Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The awesome people at Bandai Namco are the ones who provided us with the review code. Thanks guys!
As a rhythm action game, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory has little in common with the other games in the series. In fact, it has much more similarities with another of Square Enix’s beloved property; Theatrhythm.
Both are rhythm action games based on famous RPG series, both feature songs from their respective series (though Theatrhythm also has songs from other Square Enix games) and both have light RPG elements embedded into the gameplay.
Playing the Game.
Gameplay is pretty much standard for the genre, though in line with the Kingdom Hearts theme, you’re always in a group of three. Actions you need to do are highlighted on the board beforehand, in the form of enemies or objects.
Most of the time you’ll just be hitting buttons in time with the on-screen cue; a shrinking triangle that goes smaller as the enemies approach. Pressing the appropriate button at the right time gives you a better rating and more points. Flub and you’ll get hit, depleting your HP. Run out of HP and it’s game over for that song.
The game doesn’t really penalize you for hitting a button without any enemies present. Hell, it doesn’t even penalize you for hitting every button when you only need to hit one. That’s good because sometimes enemies will need you to hit one or two or even three buttons in alternation. Instead of remembering the timing, it’s much easier to mash everything.
There’s is a weird quirk to that though, sometimes it won’t register your button press, even if you’re in time with the prompt.
It usually happens to me when there are a ton of enemies coming or if it’d press a button too early and realized that I still had time to correctly press it for the upcoming enemy. I’d usually chalk it up to me just screwing up, but it’s happened to me during times when I’m on the ball, so it’s definitely not just human error at work here.
There are a couple of different types of stages; Field Battle, Memory Dive and Boss Fights. Field battles comprise most of the stages you’ll play. Sora and company run on a track that goes through the world you’re in.
If you’re in Beast’s Castle for example, you’ll run through iconic locations like the Rose Chamber, the ballroom and the castle exterior. The tracks don’t just go in a straight line, as they also curve and dip. While it does add variety, sometimes the curving or dips are an issue too, as they’ll throw off your timing.
Memory Dives are a bit different, in that they’re special FMV stages with longer songs. You also have to use the analog stick for some prompts, as well as hold buttons too. They’re not particularly difficult though.
Boss Fights are the rarest stages and also the most annoying. The notes come at you spiral, with the marker on where you need to hit the notes to get an ‘Excellent’ a barely visible blue line. It makes things way harder than they have to be.
Character animations (especially guest characters like Beast) can also get in the way of seeing upcoming button presses. Sometimes they’ll just block the view ahead, requiring you to either memorize the upcoming enemy or just get plain lucky.
Finding out whether you’d like (and love) Melody of Memory is easy. Do you like the music from the Kingdom Hearts games? If you do, then you’ll love Melody of Memory. If you’ve never played the games or hate the music, then Melody of Memory isn’t for you.
The song selection’s pretty decent, with over 150 songs to unlock. Most of them are forgettable, though there are doubtless some that will strike a chord with you. I particularly love the Disney songs (Circle of Life, Beauty and the Beast, A Whole New World and Let It Go) but really wish there were more of them. The Little Mermaid’s Under The Sea doesn’t even get the vocal version!
One other thing to note; the Disney vocal songs are the movie versions. That means that it’s Mrs Potts instead of Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson doing the voices. Same goes for A Whole New World.
The bottom line is that while Kingdom Hearts’ tunes may be numerous, they don’t have the sentimental value that Final Fantasy tunes have. Hell, I’d be hard pressed to name more than one memorable song from the games!
Melody of Memory comes with a multiple modes.
World Tour is the main mode, comprising of a ton of stages you visit with the Gummy Ship to get stars (from completing objectives for each song) to progress. It’s kind of boring to be honest, with the FMV summaries for the Kingdom Hearts games being totally useless. They barely touch the surface of the plot in the games they’re supposed to cover. It’s like reading a summary of Lord of the Rings, but with only 50 words to cover the trilogy.
Track Selection lets you play any of the game’s unlocked tracks to your heart’s content. You’ll also be able to play some special tracks here that are unavailable in the game’s World Tour mode.
VS Battles is pretty straightforward. It’s here that you duke it out online vs others or fight the CPU to go up in rank. VS Battles are similar to the game’s Field Stages, with the same rules.
The only difference is there’s a Trick Meter that builds up as you score points. When filled, it’ll unleash a random trick on your opponent that with a bunch of different effects.
It’s fun for awhile but you’ll realize that these make the battles more frustrating than you’d like, especially when going up against the CPU. You have no control of when you execute the tricks or what tricks are deployed, which cuts out the strategy element entirely. It’s also entirely random on what you might get hit with too, which means all your hard work might be for nothing if your opponent gets lucky.
Finally, Coop is self explanatory. You team up with another player and tackle the stages. At the end, your scores are combined. Fun if you have a buddy to play with but nothing really worth buying the game for.
The Bottom Line.
Kingdoms Hearts: Melody of Memory is a decent rhythm action game…but it falters when compared to the Theatrhythm series. Too focused on the series, it doesn’t quite manage to infuse its chosen genre with fun gameplay.
While Melody of Memory has a ton of stuff to unlock, the song list will only appeal to diehards of the series. The Disney connection is almost an afterthought with most of the Disney properties’ themes missing.
Multiplayer is fun but also frustrating, due to the random nature of skills that you get or are used against you. Sadly, there’s no way to turn them off and have a pure battle of skills.
There is a good game underneath it all though, you just have to be really into the Kingdom Hearts series to fall in love with it. If you are, then awesome! If you aren’t, get yourself a copy of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy on the Nintendo 3DS instead.
Decent music (but not enough Disney tunes) with flawed gameplay.
- Tons of content to unlock.
- Lots of Kingdom Hearts songs.
- Multiplayer is fun at times.
- Not enough Disney tunes.
- World Tour is boring.
- Gameplay could use some tweaking, especially in Multiplayer.