Kingdom Hearts Melody Of Memory

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Nov. 13, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 12, 2020 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

Featuring over 140 musical tracks and 20 characters from throughout the series, Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory is a rhythm-action game that provides fans with an unmissable opportunity to relive their favorite moments like never before.

Poor Kairi might be the most put-upon character in all of Kingdom Hearts. In each of the three mainline games, she ends up kidnapped no matter how much training she does or how much she tries to avoid it. It's nice that she finally gets her own game — but she's still overshadowed by Sora, since Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory once again focuses on the franchise's beloved spiky-haired hero.

Melody of Memory is set after the events of Kingdom Hearts III. At the end of that game, series protagonist Sora went missing, and his friends are trying to figure out where he might have gone. Kairi, Sora's often-kidnapped girlfriend, is going into her own memories in the hopes of finding a clue that may lead them to his whereabouts. Of course, this is mostly done by revisiting memories of earlier Kingdom Hearts games with the occasional intrusion by malicious forces.

The plot is terribly thin. A tremendous chunk of the game consists of narrated summaries of events in the prior games. This would be kind of weak if we didn't already have games like Chain of Memories and Re:Coded, which were also rehashes of a previous game. More to the point, despite the title starring Kairi, it isn't really about Kairi. She gets one or two moments, but her story inevitably boils down to an advertisement for Kingdom Hearts 4, including once again getting sidelined for Riku and Sora. It might be nice for fans who are desperate to learn more about what lies in the future of Kingdom Hearts, but that is about it.

As for the gameplay, you have a Gummi Ship that you drive around various levels that are based on Disney and Kingdom Hearts areas. When you choose a level, you can select a difficulty mode and a list of challenges. To advance in the game, you need to complete songs under specific conditions (such as "never miss" or "reach a certain score") to earn stars that unlock further areas. Some stars can only be from certain areas, while others are accepted from anywhere, and there are branching paths to explore.

The actual gameplay in Melody of Memory is pretty straightforward. You have a team of three characters who automatically advance. Enemies and obstacles will appear in time with the music, and you need to press the correct button to beat them. There are all of the usual rhythm game accoutrements, including holding buttons, multiple buttons needing to be tapped at the same time, and so on. Successfully complete tasks to beat enemies, but your character takes damage if you fail.

There are three kind of segments in Melody of Memory, but they are all functionally very similar. Field Battles are those mentioned above. Memory Dives are similar but play over cut scenes from other Kingdom Hearts games, and you need to time your button presses correctly and move Sora around at the same time. Boss Battles are fights against bosses, who play out similarly except they sometimes will perform special attacks, and a missed note during this time does significantly more damage to your health bar.

There are multiple playable teams in Melody of Memory based on the various Kingdom Hearts games, such as Donald, Sora and Goofy from Kingdom Hearts; Aqua, Terra and Ventus from Birth By Sleep; and Axel, Roxas and Xion from 358/2 Days. They are largely cosmetic differences. Each team levels up on its own, but I had a tough time telling how relevant the levels were. Defense makes you take a little less damage if you mess up, which is nice but not critical. You can basically use the characters that you like the most and do just fine, with the exception of required characters in a few areas.

Aside from completing stages to unlock more stages, you can unlock materials to craft various collectibles, such as new songs, still images, and a model or two. Collecting these not only gives you neat little things but also boosts the power of your characters, so it's worth your time. You can also craft items to give you boosts, such as restoring health if you get low or increasing your score. I tended to avoid these items because many stages have challenges that require you to not use them, but they are available if you need the boost or want to level up a different party.

Melody of Memory is pretty darn bare-bones. You're getting a package of rhythm game levels draped over the thinnest plot. This doesn't break the game or diminish the fun, but it certainly feels disappointing compared to something like Theatrythm. There are multiple challenges, the ability to replay tracks at any time, and so on, but your enjoyment of Melody of Memory depends entirely on how much you'd enjoy a relatively fun rhythm game with not much else to it.

Fortunately, Melody of Memory has an absolute banger of a music list. The Kingdom Hearts franchise contains a mix of amazingly well done music from the masterful Yoko Shimomura combined with a who's-who of remixes of classic Disney songs. There are some noticeable absences, such as Tarzan keeping its ongoing streak of not appearing, but the majority of the songs you'd enjoy from the franchise are here. The actual graphics are OK, but the focus is on the music. The character animation is pretty weightless, and all of the attacks and animations look less impressive than their counterparts from the games.

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a perfectly competent Kingdom Hearts rhythm game and not a lot else. Despite being canon to the series, its bare-bones plot is barely relevant, and the thin story is mostly a reason for more music. Thankfully, the core rhythm gameplay is fun if not particularly new or exciting. If you like Kingdom Hearts music and rhythm games, Melody of Memory will scratch the itch, but don't expect much more.

Score: 8.0/10

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