Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory
Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Another game in the popular Kingdoms Hearts franchise and one that has garnered quite a bit of controversy due to its nature of being a musical rhythm-based game rather than the standard RPG style common in the series. I can understand the frustration – fans waited many years for the release of Kingdom Hearts 3 and this game comes quickly on its heels. Rather than being a story-based game though, this is more of a celebration of the music of the series, with very little new story content.
This also marks the first time the franchise has made an appearance on the Nintendo Switch, a console which honestly is the perfect place for a rhythm game – the gameplay is very smooth and it matches well with the portability not offered by the PS4. Despite this being marketed as a game centering around Kairi, this, unfortunately, doesn’t end up really being the case however – throughout the game, we presumably travel through Kairi’s memories as she narrates the events of the series up to the end of Kingdom Hearts III. To do so, you take control of various teams (the default Sora, Donald, Goofy combo, the Days team consisting of Roxas, Axel, and Xion, the trio from Birth by Sleep, and finally Riku and two of the Dream creatures from Dream Drop Distance). Strangely enough, there isn’t a team for the main trio from the very beginning of the series – Sora, Riku, and Kairi herself. It’s a shame really and seems something of a missed opportunity.
I appreciate they picked songs from ALL of the games even the spin-offs like Aqua’s short game from 2.8. A few key tracks do feel like they’re missing though unfortunately and the bosses are rather few and far between so more of those might have been nice. Most of the game itself follows a fairly standard form of gameplay, which is actually quite challenging particularly in the Standard and Proud mode. Where the game really shines I thought though was in the vs and co-op mode, with extra things being added to these to complicate the gameplay further such as with the use of ‘tricks.’ It’s a nice touch and something that would have worked well in the actual game songs itself to liven it up a little. Once you unlock the Kingdom Hearts III specific worlds, they shake things up a bit too, changing it to more movie style backdrops to the songs. It’s a nice touch but feels a little odd after the rest of the game following the same idea.
Working through the game, unlocking new worlds and songs is very satisfying rather than having it all unlocked from the get-go and it motivates you to complete the goals to reach your favourite piece of music. Ultimately the actual new story content was rather lacking and ultimately in terms of Kairi’s development herself… disappointing. It points towards a future path the Kingdom Hearts story might take but ultimately this feels more like a skippable game. It’s a shame as the gameplay itself is very fun and addictive. I wasn’t a huge fan of the summaries given by Kairi throughout the game, as they felt overly simplified and glossed over important details, sometimes outright not being correct (an example, being where she mentions how all three of the protagonists from Birth by Sleep tested to be Masters, but actually only two of them did).
My advice is don’t go into this game expecting any groundbreaking new story reveals – see this as what it’s meant for – a game celebrating the beautiful music and extensive history of the series. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of the gameplay either but it’s a nice game to while away a few hours with.
An addictive and fun rhythm game celebrating the music and story of the Kingdom Hearts series - don't expect much in terms of story, but do expect a lot of fun, particularly in the vs and co-op mode.