Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is finally giving the soundtrack of this beloved franchise the attention and attention it deserves.
Title: Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed on PS5), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release date: November 13, 2020
âHow many Kingdom Hearts games are there, anyway,â my wife asked. I simply smiled as I rhythmically tapped the buttons on my DualSense on a song I had listened to dozens of times before on YouTube. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a greatly simplified account of the beloved yet complicated fantasy series which, by the way, is now spread across 14 games in total.
By now we all know how unnecessarily complicated the story of Kingdom Hearts has become. Memory melody don’t try to find out all the details. It’s a very watered-down recap, adding very little to the story itself except for the final segment which features a segment that will surely get fans excited for the future of the franchise.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory exists only to celebrate the franchise’s iconic soundtrack. Japanese composer Yoko Shimomura helped guide us through this nearly two-decade journey, capturing the heart and soul of Kingdom Hearts through music. And it’s time she got the recognition and the spotlight she so deserves.
Most of the gameplay exists in the World Tour campaign. You’ll travel on a map that represents the whole franchise of your Gummi ship, visiting the different worlds and playing on one or two tracks of each.
To progress on the map, you will need to collect stars by completing objectives specific to the soundtrack of each world. Each song has three objectives that require you to do things like hit a certain percentage of notes, kill a certain number of enemies, and things of that nature. While there are three difficulty levels for each song – and most can be completed on the simpler – some of the missions require you to play on a specific difficulty level (usually medium or hardest).
The good news is that you don’t have to complete all the missions. In most cases, you can unlock the next section of the world map by completing two of the three missions for each song in a world. And it’s pretty easy to do.
Besides collecting stars, you can also earn and craft items like healing potions or experience boosters. These can help you save yourself some of the more difficult songs, but, for the most part, they feel unnecessary and unnecessary. Unless you’re really into the beat, you’ll rarely need to use them.
When it comes to rhythm-based games, this one is pretty simplistic. Your three characters run along a railroad track as enemies appear. Your objective is to defeat these enemies by hitting exactly on the right beat, which matches the song itself. Obviously, it is much easier for those who already know the music of Kingdom Hearts, but I imagine it might be a bit more difficult for someone who has never heard these songs before. Either way, you don’t have to be a fan of Kingdom Hearts to appreciate the score. It is simply magnificent.
You can hit enemies using the X, L1 or R1 buttons on the PlayStation controller. You would think they would match the three individual running characters, but no. You can literally use X to hit each note and the right character will hit the enemy. In some cases, however, you will need to press two or three buttons at a time.
The flow of the track confused me at times, making it difficult to discern when exactly to press the button. Granted, I’m not the most gifted rhythm game player, but there were also times when I felt like the game didn’t register my button presses. It is possible that any kind of sync issue could be caused by playing on a PlayStation 5 and this game released on PS4. Either way, having a streak ruined because of it – especially if there was a mission related to it – was very frustrating.
Each segmented “game” ends with a boss battle. These boss fights are laid out a bit differently and require a bit more effort as you also have to use the directional buttons and sometimes hold notes, but for the most part it’s the same.
There isn’t a lot of variety in the gameplay. Even though all of the characters are available to play, there is little discernible difference between them as you progress through the songs. Their movements may differ, but the result is always the same as long as you hit the note on time. Each character trio has individual stats like strength and defense, but I didn’t notice any impact from those.
This lack of variety leads to some repetitiveness in the gameplay. But despite the fact that it can seem outdated at times, I’ve always been driven by my love for the franchise’s soundtrack. I can’t say for sure if this same nostalgia fueled experience will be true for everyone, especially if you’ve never played a Kingdom Hearts Game.
Once you’ve completed the World Tour, there are other things you can do to stay engaged in the game as well. There is a Track Select mode and a Museum mode that let you revisit special scenes. Story Theater lets you watch important parts of the story without having to play the game itself.
There is also a multiplayer component although unfortunately I was not able to experience it. There is a split-screen co-op multiplayer that looks fun, but unfortunately I don’t have anyone in my house to play with. There is also an online VS Battles mode. In this mode, the two of you are competing for the highest score on a song, but the catch is that you can use tricks, like blurring their vision or making their notes invisible, to trip them up. I tried to log into this mode several times but couldn’t find an opponent. I’m not sure if it’s because I was playing on PlayStation 5 or if everyone prefers the single player experience.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a love letter to the franchise’s soundtrack but you don’t have to be a fan of the Kingdom Hearts series to assess the package delivered. While fans will undoubtedly enjoy the game more, music fans in general should check out this soundtrack.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a watered-down trip down memory lane, fueled heavily by nostalgia and love for the franchise’s soundtrack, which is finally getting the attention and the spotlight it deserves.
A copy of this game has been provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with increments of 0.5. Click here to learn more about our review policy.