Kingdom Hearts as a franchise is a favorite of mine. Even being incredibly disappointed by Kingdom Hearts III, I still get excited when a new game is announced. However, and probably because of my disappointment with Kingdom Hearts III, I was frustrated at this game’s announcement. A Kingdom Hearts rhythm game sounded stupid. Now after playing it, I think it’s quite fun. It is a bit unfortunate however that almost none of the things I had hoped for are in this game.
The Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory demo can be played on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
Not much story to be found here
There isn’t any story in this demo. If you were looking to get a glimpse of the new plot, you might be disappointed. I know I was, but I suppose that wasn’t the point with this demo. From what the directors have said though, there wont be a ton in the game to begin with. So I shouldn’t have expected any in the first place.
Gameplay – This is what the demo was meant to show off
It does just that, and quite efficiently to boot. You open with a tutorial on how to play the game. The tutorial does an excellent job of introducing you to the rhythm aspects, and teaching you the controls. It holds your hand for a little bit as you learn, but once they’ve taught you the controls, you finish the tutorial on your own. No more hand holding necessary.
You play as Sora, Donald, and Goofy in what the game refers to as Field Battle Music Stages. In these stages you fight enemies while running on a musical staff to reach the end of the song. When you reach the end of the song, you’ve cleared the stage. 3 different buttons act as your attack – X, R1, and L1 are what the PS4 uses, which is the version I played.
As you run on the staff, you time your attacks to the music, and to the timing guides that show up. There’s an inner and outer circle, and the outer circle shrinks in on the inner circle. You want to aim for when they line up. The closer you get, the more points you get. You can kind of use the attack buttons in a few different ways. You can try and match it up with which character lines up most. So Donald is L1, Sora is X, and Goofy is R1. Or you can use just one of the buttons for all of them. In the standard mode, there are times when you have to hit two or all three attack buttons at the same time to successfully defeat the enemy.
You also will come across blue crystals, which represent magic. For that, instead of using one of your attack buttons, you use the Triangle button. There are times when the game requires you to jump and to glide. You jump by pressing the circle button, and glide by pressing and holding it down. The game requires you to jump in order to doge enemy attacks, or to hit foes that are airborne. Dodging is indicated by red arrows pointing up, and jump attacks are indicated by blue. Gliding is needed to hit green notes in the air. You can use the left stick to move Sora in the pattern of the green notes.
Some enemies require more than one hit. The number of hits they take will be located by them, so you don’t have to do any guess work. If you mistime your hits and fail, you take damage. Sora has a life bar, located at the bottom of the screen. When that is depleted you have failed the stage.
After the tutorial
The main menu of the demo only lets you access track selection, co-op – which I didn’t get a chance to test out – and config, which is your settings. Track selection provides you with 4 songs to choose from. Two from the first Kingdom Hearts, one from Birth by Sleep, and the other from 0.2 Birth By Sleep -A fragmentary passage-. The two from the First game are pretty easy. The song from Birth by Sleep is kind of a medium difficulty, and 0.2‘s song is definitely the most difficult.
Aside from the inherent difficulty of the songs, you can also choose between difficulty settings. Beginner, Standard, and Proud are your options. The difficulty scales by setting, and inherent difficulty. So Wave of Darkness I from 0.2 is going to still be harder than Welcome to Wonderland from KH1. No matter what difficulty setting you choose.
There are also different styles of play to choose from. So far I’ve been referring to Basic style, which is the standard way to play, but there is also One Button, and Performer style. One Button is just what it sounds like – you use only one button. Focusing more on the rhythm aspects of the song than having to juggle the different buttons. In the more challenging songs it’s fun, but for the easy stuff it’s kind of boring. Then there is Performer style, which adds more difficulty by adding more buttons presses to the mix. I wasn’t a big fan of this mode. It felt like it cluttered the screen more than anything, and I found the extra stuff difficult to execute. The extra commands function differently to normal attacks as well.
The actual rhythm part of the game
It’s surprisingly good. I didn’t expect much from it, but the team actually put effort into it and it shows. They teamed up with the team behind the Final Fantasy Theatrhythm games, so I think that had greatly affected the quality of the game. If done right, every move you do lines up to the music excellently. When you get off-rhythm, you can really feel it. Initially I was worried. The last time they tried to make a rhythm game of sorts was the Little Mermaid world in Kingdom Hearts II, with Sebastian’s song mini-games. While those were kind of fun, they wouldn’t have made for a good full game.
Luckily, Melody of Memory doesn’t feel like that at all. It feels like it fits in the genre perfectly. Definitely closer to the other anime rhythm games, other than, say, a Guitar Hero. It’s similar but different, to say for sure. So if your only experience with these types of games involves plastic instruments, it might feel a little weird at first. You get used to it quickly, though.
I’ll admit, I don’t play a ton of these types of games. So while going through this demo, there were times when I wasn’t sure if mistakes were due to bad game design, lag from my TV, me being bad, or a combination of all of it. I’m more inclined to lean toward it being a mixture of TV lag and me being bad. In the config option they do give you a slider to help adjust for TV lag, but I didn’t mess with it much.
From Perfectly Passable to Perfect
The game looks fine. I wouldn’t say it’s anything super spectacular, but it’s more than passable. The music selection in the demo is a little disappointing. I don’t have a problem with them limiting songs for the demo, but I do wish the selection had been a bit more broad. I would have liked to see a song from Kingdom Hearts II replace one of the ones from the first game. However, sound quality wise I think its great. The songs are well mixed, and it’s interesting to see the different parts of the rhythm they have you follow depending on the difficulty settings.
All in all, I was satisfied with the Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory demo. It served its purpose in making me want to buy and play the full game. The gameplay is fun and a little bit addicting. It’s a wonderful tribute to both the Kingdom Hearts franchise and the amazing music that graces the games. Yoko Shimomura, the composer for the series, created some of the best music in gaming history. Being able to experience it in this fantastic rhythm game was so much better than I ever could have imagined.
The Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory demo was played on PS4.