The Kingdom Hearts series is loved by many, and for various reasons. Some adore the Disney meets Final Fantasy collision, others the wild stories, or maybe it’s the music. If the latter is your thing, then Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is just for you.
Before it was announced we’d never thought, “Hmm, a Kingdom Hearts rhythm game could be cool”. But, especially when considering Yoko Shimomura’s incredible musical works for the series over the years, as well as some of the seriously classic Disney tunes that the series has used, it makes perfect sense. Well, as much sense as anything Kingdom Hearts ever can.
If you’re not a fan of the series, but you adore rhythm games. there’s plenty to love, but if you are a hardcore KH or Disney acolyte then you’ll be in franchise heaven. Beyond progress unlocking all manner of collectible cards and other assorted bits and bobs as you travel through the game, a story that follows events of Kingdom Hearts III is told for those who conquer the World Tour, while the trip there delivers flashback story visuals from right through the KH series.
It’s all done in classic rhythm game style. Sora, Donald and Goofy trundle along a highway, with various assailants heading towards them. The player is mainly in control of Sora, but also whacks enemies for his Disney pals. There are three whack buttons, which need to be timed as well as possible as a target diminishes on them. You’ll usually get away with off timing, but get a multicoloured “excellent” and your craving for high scores will thank you.
Using either left and right shoulder button and X, you may whack oncoming foes individually, in pairs or in trios, pressing all three buttons simultaneously. Triangle timed right will attend to non-whackable types, while Sora also has the ability to jump oncoming missiles, leap up to thwack airborne miscreants and also to float along collecting special musical notes. It likely sounds more complicated than it actually is.
Everything comes locked from the get-go, so ploughing through the extensive World Tour story campaign is needed to get other modes opened and songs – so, so, so many wonderful songs – freed up for individual play. The worlds that are visited feature so many Disney classics that we’d run out of internet listing them all, but pick a fave and it’s likely here. Sometimes characters even sub in for Goofy or Donald, such as Aladdin, Beast and Ariel.
Each level has a selection of sub-challenges – don’t get hit, whack all of X etc – and there are also craftable “items” that you’re basically chastised for actually using. Erm…
Every so often there’s a boss battle, which changes up the requirements slightly. The player’s hand is held all the way through when new things are introduced, so there’s never need to stress.
That’s the key to why Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is just so, so good – unlike many rhythm games it isn’t super-stressful. In many ways it reminds us of the magnificent Deemo -Reborn-, just without the full-on puzzle elements. Sure, just like any such game, if you miss too many hits then you’ll bomb out, but the soothing music combined with the relatively chilled visuals keep the frustration at bay, and there’s strong pull to return and better your previous scores. As a bloke in a hat once mumbled, do yourself a favour.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is available now on PS4 and Switch.