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Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Review

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory

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Release: //11/11/2020
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: ReviewsSwitch ReviewsXBox One Reviews
PEGI: 12+
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7.0 - Video
          
 
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Kingdom Hearts is a mess of mixed genres, overlapping storylines and convoluted writing, and yet we still love it. Its cheesy optimism and tight gameplay – not to mention the much-loved cameos – makes it a must-play for anybody with a heart (sorry, Nobodies). Melody of Memory takes all of that and basically just dumps it in the bin, replacing the best of the franchise with a self-indulgent Theatrhythm clone.

And that’s not to say it’s bad. There are things about it that are easy to love. The music can be and usually is fantastic, especially if there’s any nostalgia in there for you. The visuals are good enough too. And, actually, the entire gameplay loop is pretty enjoyable.

But its lack of story, its lack of structure, its repetitive nature, all make it feel easy to skip. This is an okay but irrelevant game in a franchise where even the cash-grab spin-offs usually are necessary playing to find out what the hell is going on.

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Ironically, it would serve as a good introduction to the franchise. It sums up the story of each game quite nicely using newly edited cutscenes. And yet nostalgia is such an important part of it, that it won’t even work on that level.

So who’s it for? Kingdom Hearts fans like me, with more money than sense.

My Music is My Power!

The gameplay loop is extraordinarily simple. Using a good Gummi Ship replica from the original game, you pick your world and then which song from the world you wish to play. Usually there’s two – a walking song and a fighting song.

Like Theatrhythm, your characters then walk along a pathway and you must tap the right button at the right time to maintain your health and continue the song.

There are levels where this feels absolutely epic and there are others that feel a little dull. Mileage will vary depending on what songs you like and which are your favourite worlds. Having platinumed the original game twice, as well as playing it multiple times as a kid, having to get through the music from Agrabah or Wonderland felt like a chore. Revisiting Traverse Town felt like putting on a warm jumper. That’s such a personal thing, but so is music full stop. It’s built into the game by default.

The tapping is made ever so slightly more complicated by slower or faster sections, needing to jump at certain moments, and having multiple buttons to press at once. There is a real degree of challenge to this, especially since – on the lower difficulties – the music isn’t always massively well-represented.

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There are also occasional boss battles, which are effectively the same thing with a different video playing behind it.

If all of this sounds a bit meh, it’s because it is. Fun, but repetitive. It’s a nice distraction. It’s could easily be a mobile game.

Of course, there are hundreds of songs on offer and how much you care about this game depends on how much you care about those songs. I love all of the main games and know them pretty well. I had a good time.

Returning to Kingdom Hearts

It’s that love of the main games that will propel you forwards. There’s no real story to speak of, and what there is could be skipped. Instead, you travel along roughly the same journey as you would if you played the full titles. World-by-world, level-by-level, you rediscover everything from the original games. There are a few that weren’t represented – I don’t recall seeing Tarzan’s world for instance (presumably for rights reasons).

As you progress, you level up, gaining more health or picking up items that will boost certain parts of your game. These are a nice attempt at depth, but in reality do little to shake up things for the average player.

Graphically, it’s nice enough. It’s sharp enough, and it’s quite nice to see these locations in a slightly different way. Although, on that point, you’ll often be so busy actually playing the game that the backgrounds whizz by largely unnoticed.

The sound is excellent. Melody of Memory is a real celebration of Kingdom Hearts and its music, and in that way it works very well.

But it still leaves me questioning just who this game is aimed at, and how the developers envisioned it being played…

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Review – Conclusion

Above I called this game self-indulgent, and I think that’s because it’s the only explanation I can find for why this game exists, and why it was released as a full-price PS4/Xbox One game. Someone somewhere said “Don’t worry, the fans will buy it” and the rest came together from there.

It’s a hodgepodge retread of all the other games without adding anything new. It’s a decent rhythm game that starts to feel a bit tired if you play it in any detail. It is a celebration of the music of Kingdom Hearts, but without the feeling of majesty that it deserves.

The end result is a game that does exactly what it says on the tin, and nothing more. Like those Singstar games that used to get released every three months focussing on a new artist, this feels less of a Kingdom Hearts game and more of a music game with a Kingdom Hearts expansion pack.

That’s not to say it’s bad or that you’ll have a bad time. Some people will enjoy it very much. But that’s not enough to recommend it on. Instead, you’d have more fun loading up your favourite tracks on a Spotify playlist and just chilling out to them alone.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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