For this Kingdom Hearts fan, the holidays came early. Disney / Pixar / Square Enix kindly granted me access to an early version of the demo for upcoming rhythm game Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory. It is but a tease of the full version to come, but what’s here right now is already super promising. Only four of the expected 140+ musical tracks are available in the demo, but those tracks come with three different playstyles, each with three different difficulty options. That makes for quite the variety while trying to experience, enjoy, and/or master the starter tracks.
The official description paints Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory as “a rhythm-action adventure game, where players will experience the magic of classic Kingdom Hearts music from the franchise by traveling through worlds packed with challenges as they collect and master over 140 songs from the Kingdom Hearts series.” That’s a nice tease, but there is so, so much more to do in this game.
Before we jump into the review of the early access demo, check out the previously released trailer here for some musical teases:
Now is your chance to experience the musical magic of KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory!
Click here to pre-order today: https://sqex.link/x5er
Do you know what it was that instantly endeared me to Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory during my demo playthrough? The loading screen, featuring the famous trio of Sora, Donald, and Goofy as chibi characters marching along with various cute expressions. They’re adorable. And little touches like that can be found throughout the game.
The basic premise of the rhythm game is this: Time your attacks, jumps, dodges, and specials to survive each musical round, all to the beat of the track sampled from the vast Kingdom Hearts franchise. Attack with one button for solo hits, or two or three buttons at the same time to do team attacks; use the triangle for special skills and magic attacks; jump and dodge with circle and also to jump-attack flying enemies; and hold circle to glide and direct Sora with joystick to grab easy score multipliers. You get to try all this out in the somewhat spooky tutorial level, “Dive into the Heart of Despair.”
Having played my share of rhythm games, the mechanics of KHMoM feel good but take a little getting used to, especially in Performance mode (more on that in a bit.) If you miss a beat or take a hit — with some enemies requiring multiple hits, designated by a number over their sprite — your HP meter depletes. Hit zero and it’s game over. (Items will be available in the game, but they weren’t in the demo; we’re assuming you can use these to refill your heart meter among other buffs.) But this game offers you plenty of ways to polish up your performance and / or show off your rhythmic skills.
Right now, in the demo, the main menu is a nice nod to Traverse Town. It features options like World Tour, Track Selection*, VS Battles, Museum, Co-Op*, and Config / Settings* ; (*available in demo). In co-op, you can play Field Battle Music Stages together with a friend on a single PS4 system (local couch co-op). These specially designed stages decrease your overall score as HP drains; both players’ scores are added together for the final tally. Looks like Sora and Riku are the runners in the tutorial menu, but there are 20+ characters available to choose from throughout the game — like Hercules, Ariel, etc. — and we’re assuming they’ll be unlocked as you complete their signature levels.
And you’ll have plenty of ways to take on those levels! As far as difficulty goes, you’ve got the option of Beginner, Standard, or Proud, increasing in difficulty as you go. But there are also three playstyles: Basic (standard), One Button (simplified approach with teammate auto-attacks during glide sections), and Performer (advanced; hit additional attacks with corresponding buttons). Mix and match as you go to find your preferred style, though the harder tracks should probably be tried out on Beginner One-Button mode to get a feel for it before trying to impress your friends with a Proud Performer mode.
Available tracks in the demo include:
- Welcome to Wonderland (Kingdom Hearts – Wonderland)
- Hand in Hand (Kingdom Hearts – Traverse Town)
- The Rustling Forest (Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep – Enchanted Dominion)
- Wave of Darkness I (Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage)
Eventually you’ll be able to sort all tracks by Series, Song Title, and/or Challenge Level, a good thing, too, because there will be over 140 of them to choose from!
As for the tracks themselves, be sure to play each level a couple of times to get the tune down but also take in the surroundings; the One-Button approach is a good way to enjoy the game-inspired scenes that plays out around you. Interestingly, your playable characters have stats, so they may be able to be healed and buffed by items. They also level up, but it’s auto-leveling; you get more HP, Strength, and Defense as you go, but it’s automatically applied.
The Rustling Forest is quite fun in the early going, but I barely made it to the end of Wave of Darkness I intact on Beginner the first time I tried it. Run this one on Proud Performer if you want to be an absolute rhythm boss.
At the end of each track, there’s a cool end screen with an interface looks kind of like a scoreboard + jukebox selection screen. The score keeps track of how many EXCELLENT, Excellent, Good, and Miss beats you have; there’s also an “Excellent Bar” letting you know where your strong and weak points are along the track. Failing grants you an “F” score and no experience; you’ll be prompted to try again.
I will say that Performer mode didn’t seem to be triggering correctly for me, even on Beginner – the extra button prompts seem like they’re ignored; clearly my timing is off or there’s still some bugs to be worked out within the game itself. Once I see someone get a Perfect Proud Performer run on Wave of Darkness I, I’ll concede that, yeah, I’m just not very good at rhythm games.
All in all, Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory promises to be a game that will keep franchise fans busy for a while, especially since it’ll likely offer some new content alongside a ton of nostalgic revisits. This demo is a great start. You can pre-order the game now before it arrives on November 13th.