Game Reviews

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Review

Take a journey to the past.

by Dean James
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory

The Final Fantasy franchise has long been recognized for its stellar music throughout the series, so there was no surprise when the crossover Kingdom Hearts series had their own phenomenal soundtracks. With Yoko Shimomura at the helm, the series has maintained that tradition over the years with a massive catalog of fan favorites. This led to people wishing for Kingdom Hearts songs to be added to Final Fantasy Theatrhythm back on the 3DS to no avail, but now those dreams have come to fruition with the series receiving its own rhythm game in Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory.

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory takes players on a musical journey through the greatest that the series has to offer, with the game including more than 140 songs to choose from. The game takes the basic structure of most rhythm games, where you press buttons that correspond to notes in the song, but gives it a Kingdom Hearts twist. You control Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they run along a musical score path that is surrounded by a backdrop based on the corresponding game world that song is from.

As you move down the path, the array of enemies from throughout the series will appear in front of you, with you having to press the right button at just the right time to defeat them. When you approach an enemy, a circle will appear around them and gradually close in on itself, with you wanting to press the right button at just the right time. On PlayStation 4, you can press X, L1, or R2 for this, with you needing to use all of them eventually when faced with two or three enemies on the path at the same time. Pressing multiple of them will hit that many enemies, while missing one of them will reset the chain and lower your HP.

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Some enemies require you to jump to hit them, while others require multiple hits over time that you have to time perfectly. Certain enemies will also shoot projectiles at you that you have to dodge to keep the chain going. There are also what are known as Ability Crystals scattered within most of the songs, which require you to press Triangle at the right time to either use a magic spell like Thunder or use an ability like Ars Arcanum to take down specifically placed enemies.

While most rhythm games just have some sort of indicator of failure, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory actually has the aforementioned HP bar for you to keep up with. Whenever you miss an enemy, you will be dealt damage that will eventually cause you to fail out. To prevent this, you can equip items that you earn to help you along the way, but this is something you certainly do not want to rely on.

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Beyond the music itself, the big selling point for the game is the game’s equivalent of a story mode that is known as World Tour. This mode is a trip down memory lane for fans of the series, starting with the first game and going all the way through Kingdom Hearts 3, including all of the games in-between. You control a Gummi Ship to move around this map that is split up into not only each game essentially, but also into smaller worlds as well. This world map is similar to the one found in Kingdom Hearts 2, though without the actual Gummi Ship segments thankfully.

In World Tour mode, the different worlds are split into either one or two songs, with each having three missions for you to clear. Completing these will reward you with certain types of stars corresponding to that part of the map, which are required to advance at times. Most of these can be done in one playthrough of the level, but it is a little annoying when there are ones that require you to say destroy a certain number of aerial enemies. This in turn requires multiple times playing the same song to complete due to there not being enough in one playthrough. In addition, there is at least one time where it requires you to play on Beginner to get one, when it should have been able to unlock when playing on the higher difficulties too.

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There are also a couple of other level types you’ll come across along the way as well. The first of these are the boss stages, which are handled a bit differently than the rest. Here, you only worry about a single track where you have to either press the button at just the right time, hold the button down for a period of time, move the analog stick in a specific direction, activate an Ability Crystal, or do a mix of them. You can lose health by missing commands, but it gets really dangerous when the notes become covered with a dark aura, which means you really have to do well to avoid getting hit hard when the boss does their special attack. Continue to do this and you will eventually beat the boss, with the game’s very simplistic leveling system coming into play here by increasing your health so you have a better chance against them.

In comparison to the regular style known as Field Battle Music, the other style levels are known as Memory Dives, which are really only found near the end of World Tour in the Kingdom Hearts 3 stages. Kingdom Hearts 3 overall did not have a huge presence song wise in the game, with one only song per world and some like Olympus even getting left out. The good news though is that Memory Dives play essentially like the boss battles with the types of command inputs, but this time you are flying down a single path with cutscenes from the game playing behind them. This is really cool to experience, especially with the theme songs from the series you can access in Track Selection.

As you play through World Tour, there will be occasional cutscenes pulled from past games with Kairi narrating them. The new content fans have been waiting for doesn’t come until the very end of the path though, so you’re going to have to do a lot of work to get there. Once you get there though, you will get about a 30 minute group of mostly cutscenes mixed in with probably 10 minutes of Memory Dive like segments and end credits. This takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts 3 and the disappearance of Sora, so this is definitely something very important that fans of the series will want to see, even if there isn’t a lot of it.

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For those just wanting to experience the music without the structure of the story, the game offers a Track Selection. This has the songs split into different categories, including by game, by world, by stage type, by song title, and by challenge level. You will have to unlock most of the songs through World Tour mode, so don’t expect a lot to choose from at first. Track Selection also has three styles you can choose from as well, which includes Basic, One Button, and Performer. One Button has you just worrying about Sora or whoever your lead party member is, with your teammates handling everything automatically, where only rhythm matters. Performer takes things to the next level by adding even more buttons into the mix than before for that really looking for a challenge.

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory has a number of collectibles for you to earn in the game, though most of them are pretty meaningless unless you’re a completionist. These include cards earned while playing, which you can also synthesize. The game includes its own version of the Moogle Shop, where you can synthesize not only the collectible cards, but also items to help in battle and most importantly exclusive songs for you to unlock. This includes some songs that have never even been in the series, such as “A Whole New World” and “Circle of Life.” The only disappointing thing is that they are not Memory Dives.

The game also features a multiplayer component in a few ways. You can square off against the computer or others online via VS Battles, which has you both playing through the level and filling up a meter until you can use what are known as Tricks to trip up the opponent. If you lose all health, you just lose points and can keep going, but the winner will be the one with the most points at the end.

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Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory also has co-op that lets you play traditional Field Battle Music tracks together with a friend locally. The scores are arranged specially for co-op mode as well, with more songs becoming available the more you play it. There are 21 available in total, with 11 available from the very start. The menu even tells you exactly how many more songs you need to play to unlock each of them as well, ranging from two all the way up to 20. If you lose all your HP during co-op, you will get a penalty on your score, which is totaled with your partner at the end.

There have been numerous spin-offs in the Kingdom Hearts series over the years, yet they still prove important in the overall story. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is no different with a continuation of the story arc from Kingdom Hearts 3 focused around Kairi. That is just a small piece of the experience though, as the focus is on the outstanding music from the series that is a pleasure to revisit in Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory.

The Verdict

While definitely not for everyone, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is truly a trip down memory lane full of the best songs that the series has to offer. With more than 140 tracks and a relatively minuscule new story involving Kairi thrown into the mix, the game is a must play for long time fans of the series, especially if you love rhythm games.

- This article was updated on:November 12th, 2020

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Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Square Enix
  • Developed By: Square Enix Creative Business Unit I, indieszero
  • Genre: Rhythm Action
  • US Release Date: November 13, 2020
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "While definitely not for everyone, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is truly a trip down memory lane full of the best songs that the series has to offer. With more than 140 tracks and a relatively minuscule new story involving Kairi thrown into the mix, the game is a must play for long time fans of the series, especially if you love rhythm games."
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