While celebrating the Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory release, series director Tetsuya Nomura wrote, “I believe music and memories are closely tied.” Therein lies the plot and charm of the game which serves to narratively search for meaning through its character’s memories while taking the player through an endearing nostalgia trip.
Many Kingdom Hearts players have been fiercely dedicated to following this series since the launch of the original game in 2001, celebrating its highs, lows, and confusing points alike. Melody of Memory is a celebration of those moments built up for almost two decades, causing the player to reflect on all the fond memories over the years. Kairi recounts the events of the series thus far, but it’s the gameplay that delivers the most nostalgia-driven segments. It’s hard to play through the game and not remember the first time you ran through Traverse Town or heard the unmistakable soothing melodies of Twilight Town’s theme.
Yoko Shimomura’s work on the series thus far has been outstanding, providing what is undoubtedly some of the best music ever put to video games. His ability to capture the spirit of both Kingdom Hearts and the Disney movies in question are unparalleled. While playing the game on my family TV, even my mother, who has never touched a Kingdom Hearts game in her life, heard “Monochrome Dreams” and remarked that it reminded her of Disney World. It’s a testament to Shimomura’s ability that his music can not only mimic the Disney brand so well while being completely original, but that it can also elicit fond memories out of those who have never played the game.
The gameplay itself is among the best rhythm games have to offer, which is a genre of gaming that has notably died down since the heyday of Guitar Hero. Playing Melody of Memory is fun in a relaxing sort of way, rather than being caught up in story beats and boss fights. It’s casual gaming for the fan who has dunked way too many hours into a franchise that is anything but casual.
The World Tour segment of the game itself is robust enough to provide hours upon hours of enjoyment and nostalgia-ridden fun, comprising a whopping 47 worlds. By the time the player has unlocked every song in the game, there are a staggering 150 tunes to play through. As far as rhythm games go, this one is packed to the brim, leaving no stone unturned. Future rhythm games would do well to take a page from Melody of Memory‘s book in this regard, as it’s hard to play through the game and wish there was more music.
The game doesn’t just include the original orchestral pieces from the Kingdom Hearts games over the years either. It also includes piano arrangements, Utada Hikaru’s astounding opening cinematic music, and even a few Disney tracks like “Circle of Life” to round it out. In fact, Hikaru’s “Face My Fears” from Kingdom Hearts III might be the only song from the entirety of the franchise missing from this game, making it a wholly fulfilling experience.
There are many different modes to explore, ensuring that players don’t experience burnout from the same gameplay. Memory Dive, Boss Battles, and Field Battles each are fun in their own right and provide their own perks of play. The CoM battles also provide a fair bit of challenge, encouraging players to work their way up to Proud Mode as they face off against opponents. There is no shortage of things to do in Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory.
For the most part, the game is a relaxing, casual experience for mega-fans and those who were interested in finally getting into the oft-intimidating series. However, the new content the game provides is enough to excite fans of the series for future installments. The details of how Kairi came to arrive on Destiny Islands in the first place is a mind-blowing but welcome surprise. The tidbits about where Sora is post-Kingdom Hearts III paint an exciting picture for where the series is headed, sure to excite any fan of the series thus far.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a unique installment in the long-running franchise, but for fans of the series or fans of rhythm games in general, it’s well worth the price. Melody of Memory is a nostalgia ridden adventure and celebration of everything that is Kingdom Hearts.
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