When you play rhythm games so often, you get a bit blinkered into how rhythm game designs work. When you see a chart with notes on, you expect to hit buttons related to the chart. It is the same as pressing a trigger button for accelerating in a racing game rather than pressing triangle or Y. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memories takes a lot of the standards and ignores them. It makes for a very jarring start. Stick with it though, as there is plenty to enjoy once it clicks.
The change here is that most of the 140+ tracks take place with lanes of enemies as you run down a laned road. The lanes are not important – its the number of enemies or attacks coming towards you that are. You see, there are three attack buttons to press and it doesn’t matter which you do press, but if two or three enemies are together in a line, you need to press two or three attack buttons together too. This took me quite some time to stop thinking visually and start thinking in groups. Add to that a jump icon and a magic attack icon and you’ve got a rhythm/runner hybrid. Occasionally the game changes things up with a music staff but here its more icon-driven and is closer to the standard rhythm fair.
This weird beginning really made Melody of Memory feel quite chaotic for me but after a while, things started to click and I found the game really enjoyable and the charts made more sense. Maybe if you aren’t a huge rhythm gamer, this won’t be so much of a problem though. Each of the tracks has three difficulty levels, giving you over 420 levels to conquer. The amount of content here is superb as all the franchise is represented. It doesn’t quite have every song here but an excellent selection, including the themes songs in English and Japanese too.
The main story mode focuses largely on seeing the whole Kingdom Hearts series as a retrospective of memories from Kairi’s perspective. Even though it is her story, she is largely side-lined into a narrator which felt a bit off. What this means in gameplay terms is that you’ll fly a gummi ship around a map of worlds, choosing which ones to play next. Passing goals gives you stars to unlock the next worlds and so on. It is linear but with some small choice as you go because you’ll want to unlock everything as you go to see the story completely anyway.
Outside of this, the songs are playable in solo mode, with rotating daily challenge songs too. There is even a multiplayer online battle mode where two players compete together and can trigger attacks to hinder the other persons progress. There is nothing more annoying than getting blinded so you can’t see your chart until the last minute. These attacks stack as well which can make the multiplayer mode very frantic and sometimes a bit unfair. You can practice with AI opponents which is a nice touch.
As you play, you unlock lots of items and collectables. These include cards, CG’s, behind the scenes concept art, music videos and stat boosters. Sometimes you’ll need to combine collectable ingredients to unlock these collectables so you might end up replaying some levels to get the right ingredients. It is a very forgiving system though and as there are hundreds of things to unlock, the next thing to ping after a completion screen is never more than a song or two away. As you play, your characters (you unlock 12 over the game) can be levelled up too. This only comes in useful from a health perspective as the more health you have, the more misses you can take before its game over. This also carries over to the multiplayer battle mode too so practice and grind before you go online!
I have to say, I’m impressed with the scope and polish of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory. It now makes me yearn for the Theatrhythm games to end up on the big screen consoles as they are great fun too. If anything, this is a posh version of those games and that is no bad thing. Just it a chance so you can pass its initial confusing opening and rhythm gamers should be in for an unusual treat.
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