Kingdom Hearts is a game series that holds a special place in my soul. The characters are memorable, and the storylines are emotional. They create a mix of child-like joy and melancholic sadness. The series’ soundtracks, composed by Yoko Shimomura, capture these moods perfectly. It’s exciting that we now have Melody of Memory, a game which is an all-out celebration of not only the series but Shimomura’s music in particular. The game makes for an enjoyable journey down memory lane, but it, unfortunately, falters when it comes to providing an incentive to continue playing beyond unlocking more songs and collectibles. That is, it doesn’t have much of a story so far.
I find it odd that the game simply begins with a tutorial before kicking you into the main gameplay loop. There’s no intro cutscene and no plot established. There is no reason given for why you’re going through Kairi’s memories or journeying through different worlds. Thank goodness those worlds are fun to play through!
Most of the gameplay takes place during Field Battles. Sora, Donald, and Goofy (you can unlock other trios later on) run down a musical staff in a specific Kingdom Hearts world, encountering different kinds of enemies from the series. When a baddie approaches, a circle hones in on it, telling you when to attack it for the best result. You can press one of three buttons to attack. When more than one enemy shows up at the same time, you press two of these buttons, and when three enemies show up, you hit all three. Attacking these enemies at the right time matches the beat of the specific song that you’re playing. You’ll also need to press a button to glide to collect notes and jump over enemy projectiles. If you get hit too many times, you run out of HP, and the level ends.
There are three difficulty modes you can choose from: beginner, standard, and proud. I’ve been running through the game on standard mode, and I’ve found it to be a perfect balance of difficulty. The game also provides options for adjusting the game even further with particular styles. The “one-button” style allows all actions to be performed by pressing one button, while the more difficult, “performer” style adds extra triggers on the track that make songs even more of a challenge.
Completing certain tasks on each track earns you stars, which unlock the gates that lead to new levels. Eventually, you’ll beat all the worlds of a specific Kingdom Hearts game, and that’s when you’ll encounter a boss battle. Boss battles are different from field battles, in that notes flow towards you and you have to hit or hold a button when they reach the end of the line. How well you do with matching notes determines if your characters on screen can dodge the attacks the bosses throw at you. I’ve only encountered one boss battle so far (Ansem from KH1), but I enjoyed its more simplistic style.
Finally, there are the Memory Dives. These are music video style levels that have your trio of choice soaring through the air as they approach different notes. I played through “Simple and Clean” and found it extremely challenging on standard difficulty. This wasn’t helped by the fact that notes sometimes got lost in the background, blending in with the images of the video. Nevertheless, I still had a good time with it.
Co-op mode is a feature as well. If you have an extra PS4 controller you can join a friend in a field battle. I played through it a few times and enjoyed it, but it doesn’t differ greatly from solo battles. There is also a versus mode, where you can play against the system or online opponents. I wasn’t able to play online, but I did play a bit against the computer. Your opponent is able to throw obstacles at you called “tricks.” I found these tricks cumbersome, but you can turn them off for a clean battle.
If you’re looking for a nostalgic rush, Melody of Memory delivers. It’s a blast to hear all the songs from past games while you’re playing through challenging levels. You even unlock various goodies like cards and collectibles to look at! But the story is non-existent so far, and I’ve heard that it only pops up during the last couple of missions of the game. I also know that the campaign is supposedly only around 10 hours long.
That’s pretty short for a $60 game. The cutscenes are online on Youtube, so if you’re not a rhythm game fan, save yourself the money and watch them there. If you enjoy music-based games, though, you’ll have fun playing through Melody of Memory.