Like I said earlier in our “how to” guide, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory feels like the next step after Square Enix’s Theatrhythm series. And sure enough. Square Enix’s development partner, Indieszero, is on this project as well.
While there are a ton of differences, while playing the recently-released demo I could feel the connection in a lot of ways. Connective tissue aside, Melody of Memory is a different kind of rhythm game, compared to its older siblings.
Where Theatrhythm only needed to match up with turn-based JRPG combat, Melody of Memory is based on a much more actiony sort of experience. Judging from the title screen alone, I can already tell that when this game releases in full, it’s going to have a canonical connection to the ongoing Kingdom Hearts story.
That rules, because while Kingdom Hearts has explored other genres before (Chain of Memories being a handheld card game that introduced nearly every plot element for Kingdom Hearts 2), a music game is just not a place you’d expect lore expansion. Yes I’m aware Persona did a similar gimmick before, but not on a level Kingdom Hearts is capable of.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Demo Impressions | Gawrsh!
But that’s all speculation, as this demo is basically just a gameplay introduction. It even starts with a skippable tutorial, because the developers know this system isn’t terribly user-friendly.
And even though I have had fun so far, it definitely isn’t user-friendly. But neither is the core Kingdom Hearts series. This is an action RPG, which itself had its own complexities, transmogrified into a music game.
You’ll be running down hordes of enemies as the Sora/Donald/Goofy crew, swinging weapons, casting spells, jumping, flying, and combinations thereof.
All of these actions are associated with musical prompts, but the game is clearly running on some chunk of the Kingdom Hearts HD software and the controls react accordingly. Jumping in Melody of Memory feels like jumping in Kingdom Hearts!
As the songs get more difficult, your clusters of music prompts get more intense.
As I explored the demo’s small track list it progressed from bopping enemies one at a time, to figuring out the timing on close groups of three or more, attacking in-between spells, and flying as Sora while Goofy and Donald fought enemies on the ground at the same time. It gets to be a lot to keep up with, and since you’re making physical actions with your party rather than tapping on prompts there’s an extra sense of weight and preparation for your actions.
One thing I noticed that was a little off-putting, was that the note charting didn’t always feel like it matched up with what was happening in the song, or the notes were attached to a quieter background instrument or something. That made moments, with groups of three enemies especially, harder to get right than many of the other prompts.
It could also be a side effect of Kingdom Hearts’ big boy orchestra-like score compared to say, Final Fantasy’s more tune-heavy music. There’s also an extra visual element to the prompts that feels at odds with following the music, where getting the timing right gives you “Excellent” with solid yellow font, and getting it super right makes the text rainbow.
Unless you’re actually keying in on the animation rather than feeling the music, it feels like you won’t be playing for an ideal high score. But that could just be a byproduct of this being a demo, so with the limited content and motivation to keep playing this could change after I’m more used to the final game.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is an intriguing game for several reasons. It’s intriguing from the Kingdom Hearts perspective, as I’m super interested in where the game’s story goes. It’s also intriguing from a music rhythm game angle, as its action-based mechanics feel like a twist on the usual button prompt music game formula.
I definitely want to dive in more, see what songs are included and arranged, and how they translate to the gameplay systems. So when Melody of Memory launches on November 13, I’ll definitely want to play more.
How do you feel about Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory? Did you enjoy the demo, or have you been hesitating to try it out? Let us know what you think over at the Prima Games Facebook and Twitter channels!