Review: Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory – Here we are again: a new spin-off of the Kingdom Hearts franchise is among us. Tetsuya Nomura has proven in the past that he cannot count straight to three, as between Kingdom Hearts I and Kingdom Hearts III there is a whole range of other games with the most confusing titles ever. Now that Kingdom Hearts III has completed the ‘Dark Seeker Saga’, it remains to be seen which direction the series will take now. In anticipation of the next saga full of confusing storylines, we can first take a musical outing with Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory. A shameless cash grab or a valuable addition to the franchise? The answer to that question will depend heavily on you.
Music Maestro Mickey
The concept of Melody of Memory is actually simple: you go through the different storylines from all ‘Dark Seeker’ games again, but this time using the game’s soundtrack. Almost every (Disney) world you have visited in the past games can be found here again, and each world serves up one or two songs from the extensive catalog of songs from the franchise’s soundtrack. The story is told through short cut scenes that you unlock by completing certain worlds. However, these scenes are very short and only give you the gist of some specific events. If you want you can even skip certain worlds, because the game gives you a lot of freedom in where you go.
The story was difficult to follow in advance, but if you would never have played a Kingdom Hearts game, then it seems an impossible task to us to put the story together based on these scenes. However, this does not have to be a disadvantage, because Melody of Memory does not focus in the least on the story of the franchise. The music really plays a central role, which sounds just as majestic as before. Entering worlds and reliving the atmosphere on the basis of the specific music from those worlds: that’s what this game is all about. This is one reason why newcomers better ignore this title.
Simple and Clean
Going through worlds through music: how does that actually work? Well, Melody of Memory is essentially a rhythm game. That is to say, the gameplay consists of correctly performing certain maneuvers to the beat of the music. However, do not expect breakneck movements here, because for a rhythm game Melody of Memory is very accessible. You have a limited number of moves at your disposal: a normal attack that you can perform with three different buttons, a heavy attack that you have to activate at times with the triangle and finally you can also jump and float with the circle button. Sometimes you have to press several buttons at the same time, but the design of the levels is generally ‘Simple and Clean’.
Most of the levels are built according to that pattern, but sometimes you also unlock ‘Dive levels’. Again, you have to press buttons to the rhythm of the music, but the combinations here are slightly different. These levels also have buttons that you have to hold for a longer time and also buttons where you have to push your stick in a certain direction. Finally, there are also a few boss fights, which share the same concept with the ‘Dive levels’, but are centered around one particular villain. The music is always nicely synchronized, although in some cases some strange rhythms are chosen. This can sometimes be frustrating, especially if you want to play for a high score.
However, if the frustrations get a bit too much for you, you can always play on a lower difficulty setting, or you can use items. Items such as health potions, XP multipliers and even King Mickey’s assistance are part of your arsenal. You can earn those items by completing levels, but there is also a Moogle shop where you can exchange them for resources. In that shop you can also obtain new songs and collectables. However, we did notice that these items became a bit redundant over time, especially since the gameplay is not very difficult. Also the level system, which ensures that you take less damage, is not exactly a useful addition. It’s nice to see numbers rise, but that’s about it.
The nostalgia factor
The beginning of the Kingdom Hearts franchise dates back to 2002 when the first game appeared on the PlayStation 2. In the years that followed, we were treated to tons of new games, each with their own soundtrack and each with their own identity. Imagine for a moment that in 2020 you will be hearing certain pieces of music that you first heard years ago. Music that brings back memories of times long ago, music that makes you long for earlier (and maybe better) times. Now that we think about it for a moment, isn’t that why many adults today still watch Disney movies (myself included)?
Almost every song actually floods you with a wave of nostalgia. This is first and foremost thanks to the music, but also the environments you are going through are literally from the previous games. The graphic style of those games has also been adopted, making the nostalgic picture complete. In addition, you also unlock heaps of collectables, which take the form of still scenes from all kinds of games or collectible cards with pictures of enemies or keyblades. Feel free to browse through your catalog and you will feel the nostalgia again. Another reason why this game is not for newcomers: you will most likely not experience this nostalgic aspect.
A symphony of several players
Melody of Memory has several modes. The standard ‘World Tour’ mode, which presents the story to you based on the different worlds, is just one of them. In addition, you also have a free mode in which you can easily find and replay every unlocked song. A nice addition, however, is the multiplayer mode. You have the option to play local co-op and you can also compete online against other players or an AI-controlled player. These competitive battles have so-called ‘tricks’ that you can activate to make it more difficult for your opponent. Think for example of enemies that become invisible for a few seconds or enemies that suddenly become very small. It is not groundbreaking, but it is certainly amusing!
Melody of Memory has a lot to offer, but switching between all the different modes and menus is a bit inconvenient. For example, almost every part of the game has a separate menu and it takes a while before you realize where you can find something. Add to that a short loading screen that you get every time you change menus and you understand our slight frustration. It doesn’t necessarily make the game worse, but it is a bit annoying.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory – Conclusion
Whether you like Kingdom Hearts: Melody or Memory will depend on several personal factors. If you want to take your first step in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, this is certainly not an optimal starting point. The great strength of the game lies in the enormous nostalgia factor, which you simply will not get if you have no knowledge of the franchise. The way in which the story is told is also intended more as a kind of refreshment of the story. However, does the franchise have a special place in your heart and do you want to relive those times with the beautiful soundtrack? Then Melody or Memory can certainly appeal to you. The game is very accessible and gives you a lot of freedom to discover different modes. The level system that has been implemented, however, is a bit redundant and switching between all menus in the game is a bit clumsy. Nevertheless, Melody of Memory guarantees a very unique experience in the universe. Recommended for fans of the franchise who want to experience the magical worlds of Kingdom Hearts in a different way.
Positives of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory
- The Kingdom Hearts soundtrack remains formidable
- Tremendous feeling of nostalgia
- Different modes and collectables
- Freedom in how you play
- The music is nicely synchronized …
Negatives of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory
- … But sometimes has some strange rhythms
- Switching between menus is a bit inconvenient
- Leveling system and items are somewhat redundant
- Not suitable for newcomers