As fantastic as the Kingdom Hearts series’ soundtrack is, I’m not sure it’s the best music to set a rhythm game to.
Sure, some of the tracks are bombastic and pack a decent beat, enough for you to tap in time along to. But some of the game’s more meandering melodies are rather hard to get in the groove of. Still, there’s no denying that taking control of Sora, Donald and Goofy one more time in Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, a game that doesn’t care about the franchise’s convoluted storyline, is a rewarding experience.
With the game launching on 13th November, a free-to-play demo for Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is on its way to PC and consoles. It gives players access to four tracks in single-player mode, and two further tracks in multiplayer – an EP’s worth of songs for free isn’t a bad deal at all. Of course, it’s a tiny fraction of the 140 tracks set to appear in the full release, but it’s more than enough to jump in and test the waters of what this game will offer.
It’s a… unique rhythm game, to say the least. In single-player mode, players control Sora, Donald and Goofy simultaneously. As enemies appear on the track in front of you, you need to hit a button to attack them in time with the beat. But each character doesn’t have a particular button assigned to them; you can use any of A, RB and LB as long as you’re in time with the music. And if two enemies appear together, you can press any two of those buttons together.
It takes some getting used to, but it also means you can sort-of tailor the controls to suit you. If you’d rather have one button assigned per character, you can, or if you’d rather use the shoulder buttons than the face buttons, that’s fine too. The only time you’ll need to press all of them together is when three enemies appear at once.
On top of attacking enemies, you’ll also need to jump over obstacles by pressing B. Sometimes you’ll simply need to jump; other times, you’ll need to jump followed instantly by an attack in the air. Sora can also float by holding down the jump button; you’ll guide him with the analogue stick to follow the path of a chain of notes.
In multiplayer mode, you can team up in split-screen with a local player. The mechanics change a little here; rather than controlling three characters, you’ll each control just one, so you’ll have less multiple button presses. But working together is key; you’ll need to time your presses together to hit notes and get the highest score. If one of you messes up, that’s your perfect chain gone.
Each track can be played on three difficulty levels. Medium is a good place to be for most players; there’s an adequate amount of challenge, and notes are sufficiently placed to feel like they’re in time with the music. On the easiest difficulty, they’re often so sparse that it’s hard to align yourself with the beat. The hardest difficulty – Proud – puts up a fierce challenge where you’ll really need to be co-ordinated and focused.
There are better rhythm games out there than Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory in terms of mechanics, there’s no doubt about it. There are also collections of music much more suited to being in a rhythm game. But to have one with the heart and soul of the Kingdom Hearts franchise in it? It really is a treat, and it’s a game that I’ve no doubt every Kingdom Hearts fan will revel in.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch on 13th November.