Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory demo impressions
It’s no secret that you could put Kingdom Hearts on pretty much anything and the fans would go mad for it. Kingdom Hearts Warriors? A genuinely awesome prospect. Kingdom Hearts chess? No, I don’t know how to play, but I’m still on board.
Saying that, the one spin-off that actually makes a lot of sense for the franchise is a rhythm game. Music is incredibly important for Kingdom Hearts, and considering how highly regarded the Theatrhythm series has been, a similar game is exactly what us fans have wanted. If this demo is any indication, they’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is exactly what we’ve been asking for.
Melody of Memory has you controlling a team of three (in the case of this demo it’s Sora, Donald, and Goofy) who run automatically on a pathway. It’s up to you to press buttons to the beat to defeat the heartless, whilst also gliding along pathways and jumping over obstacles. It’s standard fare for a rhythm game, but I was surprised at how much is actually thrown at the player, and how much it can actually look like Kingdom Hearts. Even beyond just enjoying this as a fan of the series, it’s genuinely just a lot of fun to actually play.
This demo contains four single-player songs and two cooperative ones, although I was only able to try out the solo content for now. Although the four songs go by in a flash, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of content on offer here. Particularly impressive is how you get a taste of each of the difficulties and styles that’ll be in the full game, and how all of them feel like they offer just enough challenge to be interesting.
Even when playing with the “one-button” mode or on beginner difficulty I never found things too easy, as you still have to be concerned with timing and trying to hit the notes perfectly. On the other hand, Proud mode and the Performer style are incredibly engaging and require a lot of skill.I can only imagine trying to complete every song with them is going to take some serious time. I also loved that the game tracks your score for each individual variation, so your score on one song with the performer style is going to be different from your score on that same song with just the simple style. That means that each song has nine different leaderboards attached to it.
It almost seems pointless to say this considering how unanimous of an opinion it is, but the music of Kingdom Hearts is absolutely phenomenal. That is highlighted here as you follow the specific beats and really get into the heart of each track. I wasn’t expecting just how intense actually playing Melody of Memory can get, but it’s really highlighted alongside the fantastic music. I just hope that there’s a really good range of songs here, although with more than 140 I can’t really see that going wrong.
When Melody of Memory was first revealed, I’ll admit that I was a bit lukewarm over the use of the old models and worlds, as it felt a little bit lazy, especially when you’ve got the awesome looking Theatrhythm sprites right there in the art and loading screens. It was really my only bugbear, but after playing through this demo I think it actually works quite well and is pretty much essential for how Melody of Memory plays. Each song is also trying to look like a battle within the games, and the only reliable way of doing that was to stick the actual characters in there and have them move and fight like they usually would. It’s a really cool illusion and it makes a Kingdom Hearts fan like me go nuts.
I also think there’s enough done in and out of gameplay that there’s clearly been a lot of work and effort put in here. For starters, I really appreciated that each track actually takes place in the world and features enemies that you’d fight there. That’s a really cool touch, and it really helps get over my stylistic grumbles. There are also loads of high-quality art in the menus, and there seem to be plenty of unlockables that should keep me trying to collect absolutely everything. Selfishly, I do still wish the models were updated a little bit, even if I now get why it’s been done in a specific way.
There’s a very nice pickup and play vibe from Melody of Memory. Every morning for the past week, I’ve been booting the demo up to see how well I can do on proud difficulty and just to wake my brain up a little bit. Bear in mind that’s with only four songs to choose from and no bonuses to unlock or leaderboards to aim for. If Melody of Memory can carry this forward with its full list of 140+ songs then I can see it having some genuine staying power. My Christmas might be taken over is what I’m saying.
My only problem with this demo is that it doesn’t save any of the progress you make per playthrough. That’s not important, but considering I’ve booted it up most days for a straight week now, it was a shame I couldn’t reliably see my scores. Now that this demo has made me more comfortable with the use of the original models and proved to me that actually playing feels great, my only real concern left with Melody of Memory is the story that it’s going to tell. There’s a real chance here to set up the future of the series, whilst also showing what Kairi can do on her own. The fans have so many questions about what’s coming up for the franchise, and I just don’t want Melody of Memory to offer nothing of value in the story.
Beyond that worry, Melody of Memory has already got its claws in deep with me, and all this demo has done is prove that the fans were right for wanting this. November is going to be very special indeed.