Given that support for it has all but dried up at this point, you’d think that my Nintendo 3DS would have been packed neatly away by now. You’d be wrong though, and that’s strictly down to one 3DS-exclusive game that I simply can’t stop playing – Final Fantasy Theatrhythm. That game (and it’s sequel) has been single-handedly keeping my 3DS alive simply because there’s nothing like it. The music of Final Fantasy is something special, and so a rhythm game made up entirely of it is a beautiful thing.
Kingdom Hearts may not have the same following as Final Fantasy, but it definitely has the goods in the music department, so it’s only right that it should get its own rhythm game in the same vein as Theatrhythm. Now that I’ve had the chance to sit down and check out the upcoming public demo of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, I think I might finally be able to retire that 3DS.
Helmed by Theatrhythm developer Indieszero, Melody of Memory follows quite closely in that game’s footsteps. It aims to take players on a journey back through the Kingdom Hearts saga through the eyes of Kairi while also telling a smaller, post-ReMind story. While the demo that everyone will have access to this week doesn’t feature any of the main story content, it does allow fans to dive into six of its 140+ tracks to get a taste of how the team has adapted its established rhythm action gameplay to a 3D format.
All six of the tracks featured in the Melody of Memory demo are of the ‘Field Battle’ variety, that see the player party (in this case Sora, Donald and Goofy) running down a musical highway and dispatching enemies to the rhythm of the chosen track. As an enemy approaches, an icon winds down above it to signify the exact moment to press any of the three default attack buttons, likewise for prompts to jump, glide or use special abilities. Each piece of music in the game has its own stage themed on the game it’s originally from, with almost 50 world themes promised for the full game along with other stage types like boss battles and ‘Memory Dives’ that take place over classic Kingdom Hearts cutscenes.
The skill to succeed in Melody of Memory comes from reacting quickly to which buttons to press while also getting them exactly in time with the music – if you’ve played a rhythm before, that much is obvious. It’s a lot trickier than it sounds though, especially when enemies on multiple lanes start coming in simultaneously, requiring the use of multiple attack buttons at once.
I’ve certainly dabbled in rhythm games in the past, especially with the aforementioned fondness for the Final Fantasy kind, so I went straight into the available demo tracks on the highest (Proud) difficulty and did okay enough. Like similar games, Melody of Memory rates its stages with their own individual levels of challenge and so they climb in difficulty naturally, but choosing a difficulty level further augments that by increasing or decreasing the rating. The stages in the demo from a rating of 2 through to a top of 15. I’ll admit, at the high end of the scale I started to sweat a little, so I’m very keen to see how this ramps up further in the full game.
Available tracks in the Melody of Memory demo:
Single player –
Welcome to Wonderland (Wonderland, Kingdom Hearts)
Hand in Hand (Traverse Town, Kingdom Hearts)
The Rustling Forest (Enchanted Dominion, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep)
Wave of Darkness I (Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage)
Sinister Shadows (Kingdom Hearts II)
All for One (Country of the Musketeers, Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance)
Of course, the studio knows that a significant portion of those planning on picking up Melody of Memory are doing so because they’re Kingdom Hearts fans and not necessarily because of an interest in rhythm games. So to that end, there’s also a special ‘One Button’ mode available to make things even simpler. And to counter that for the rhythm-devout is a ‘Performer’ mode that adds more button prompts and absolutely melted my brain every time I tried to tackle it. It’s good to see that the game is going to accommodate players of all skill levels nicely across every stage and challenge.
Co-op is also a good way for Kingdom Hearts fans to get involved in the rhythm action, putting two players on just two lanes each and letting them work together to rack up a combined high score without worrying about a fail state. There will be competitive options in the full game as well, but co-op definitely seems like a fun, more chill way to celebrate the music of Kingdom Hearts with friends. Plus, two of the demo tracks are exclusive to this mode so if you’re going to check it out you should definitely rope a mate into joining in.
Though it’s a tiny taste in comparison to what the full game promises, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory demo and can’t wait to get stuck into it on November 13 when it releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and (in a first for the franchise) Nintendo Switch.