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Aquaberry

Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory: Demo impressions from rhythm game lovers

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The Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory playable demo is now available to play worlwide!

Releasing on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on November 11 in Japan and November 13 worldwide, MoM (as the fans affectionally call it) is the very first rhythm action game in the series, featuring over 140 tracks from its exceptional soundtrack. Our expectations of the demo were high, being fans of the rhythm game genre and the highly esteemed series composer Yoko Shimomura, and knowing the game has been developed in collaboration with the same studio behind the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy series and Theatrhythm Dragon Quest. The idea for a "Theatrhythm Kingdom Hearts" was first proposed in 2012, and has finally come to fruition under a different name.

Quote

"Obviously, at the end of Kingdom Hearts III we've kind of reached the end of a particular story arc within the Kingdom Hearts series, so I think it's a really good opportunity for fans and people who've already played the games to look back over that period, or for new players to really come in and pick that up as a good overview."

–Masanobu Suzui, co-director of MoM

The Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory playable demo wasted no time in meeting our expectations of a high quality musical experience with unforgettable tracks to tickle our nostalgia. It was an extremely enlightening and engaging experience that made us discard any doubts we had for purchasing the full game, which has set itself up to be more fun than it looks.

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory has a Nintendo Switch exclusive mode – My  Nintendo News

The MoM demo contains 4 single-player songs and 2 co-op songs, with 3 difficulties (Beginner, Standard, and Proud) and 3 gameplay styles (Basic, One Button, and Performer), giving players plenty to sink their teeth into. It also contains zero spoilers of the series story-wise, so it's safe to play if you still haven't caught up with the more recent entries!

This title is certainly different from normal rhythm games in its gameplay, but easily one of the most satisfying games of the genre that we've played. With our previous experiences with Theatrhythm and a handful of other games such as Guitar Hero, Muse Dash, Groove Coaster, Ride Zero, and Cytus, we were interested to see how our beloved Kingdom Hearts music would translate into a game like this. Kingdom Hearts has always been known for amazing music, especially those boss themes that get your heart racing and complement the difficulty of battle and tension rising. But it can be difficult to imagine these pieces getting justice in a rhythm game, especially world and field themes, which aren't the most fast paced and may deny your metal fingers a chance to go blazing when craving an exigent level.

And so came the demo and, boy oh boy, this game is more fun than it appears. It melds Kingdom Hearts-style combat and rhythmic timing amazingly well, and only by playing it will you understand how masterfully this combination works. As demonstrated in the announcement trailer, you get to play as Sora, Donald and Goofy, or a combination of other main and Disney characters, as they run along a path through different worlds, with different lanes resembling sheet music. The tracks available in the demo are Welcome to Wonderland, Hand in Hand, The Rustling Forest (from The Enchanted Dominion world) and Wave of Darkness I; you are able to filter tracks based on which game they appear in, challenge level, and even by marking your favorite ones. As the game beings and the track plays, the party of characters come across different enemies they have to attack according to the rhythm of the song, and crystals that they have to use to execute a special skill or magic. It takes a while to get used to the controls; the game was made in a way that gives the feeling of playing one of the RPG titles (Circle to jump, Cross to attack, Triangle for special attacks, hold Circle for gliding, and so on). The sound effects also blend efficiently with the track without being an annoyance and instead encouraging the player if they have timed their reactions just right. (And in case they do annoy you, you are able to adjust SFX and Voice Volume in the game's settings.)

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Fans of rhythm games can rejoice in knowing that the game will provide a fun, challenging experience – at least, according to the demo. The game seemed fairly difficult even on Beginner and Standard difficulties, especially when it requires you to execute combo moves. The enemies are not static; they have a range of movements that may confuse you into reacting too slow or too fast, or taking too much of your attention that you don't notice the next enemies sneaking up on you! MoM is a rhythm game at its core, but it wonderfully incorporates the RPG elements we are already familiar with, such as a variety of incoming enemies (Heartless, Unversed, people...), who have their own range of dynamic movements, that you have to react with by attacking, casting spells, gliding, changing direction, jumping, evading, and employing a combination of these, all the while keeping to the rhythm and timing of the song. We grew to like the system overall, as you do when scoring well on a song; the satisfaction of seeing the Full Chain icon show up and that Excellent Bar filling up is incredibly rewarding and can add hours to your day, making you wonder where the time went... Which is exactly what happened to us this past week!

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The co-op mode brings another layer of fun and challenge to the game. The tracks on the demo for co-op are the very playful All for One and the elegant battle theme Sinister Shadows. It's a fun way to spend time playing with your friends, whether they are Kingdom Hearts fans or not, and can also present a level of challenge as you will have to coordinate your actions with someone else's.

We recommend for all players, of any skill level, to take some time training with the easier songs to get used to the flow of the songs (double taps, triple taps, multi-taps and directional changes, with a single or multiple fingers, based on timing). We also recommend to definitely try the demo out first – while we found the demo extremely enjoyable, it did fall short for some of our staff for whom the rhythm game genre was not their cup of tea. For those players, the One Button mode might be a good place to start. If you really fancy yourself a challenge, however, we dare you to try the Performer mode, which requires you to react with pressing some more, extra buttons than in Standard mode. We've tried it, and... let's just say MoM seems to cater to a range of difficulties, inviting novices as well as experts who can dish out some absurd coordinated ninja moves!

Graphically, this title is modest and not impressive for modern hardware; it is almost a time capsule back to the PlayStation 2 days. This can be a turn-off for prospective players, but we find the lack of focus on graphical fidelity to be a strength. This makes the performance of the title nearly faultless, and the game's mechanics aren't held back by lavish visuals. These visuals are also quite nostalgic for longtime Kingdom Hearts fans and add to the thematic intention of the title.

We became aware of some issues, which have also been reported by many fans. There is an odd input buffer; when mashing X, you'll notice that there is a noticeable delay between each input and output action. In a rhythm game, this can spell disappointment as it will force players to miss more notes than intended, at no fault of the player's timing. In a song like Wave of Darkness I or others with lots of notes, you may end up missing out on 3–5 notes because the input hasn't finished buffering yet. Additionally, in the heat of the moment, you won't think of pressing L1/R1 to hit notes alongside X. One missed or badly timed note can really throw you off getting the subsequent notes, which can be quite frustrating if you're aiming for a Full Chain or playing on Proud. You are able to configure the music timing in Music Stage Settings to account for lag, but it doesn't seem to solve the issue entirely.

Secondly, the overall timing for some notes is a bit odd. Thankfully, enemies have a circle that closes in to let you execute the perfect timing, but the way the enemies' positions transition (such as during the last section of Wave of Darkness I) prevents you from seeing exactly in what order the notes are coming in. You might read ahead and see 2 Shadow Heartless in a row, only for a random flying double tap to come in instead. Of course, this element of challenge pushes you to learn the track and get better scores the second, third, fourth time around.

Finally, the jumps. They don't have a circle to indicate timing, but rather the arrows move upwards to indicate a jump. This means different songs might have different timings on when to jump given how fast they go, and oftentimes you can find yourself reacting to a jump signal visually as you would in an RPG, and not to the rhythm of the song. Again, it's a matter of learning the moves and their timings with practice, especially as you aim for Full Chains or All Excellent.

Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory has a lot going for it, and we have no doubt it is rich of content justifying its price. With the full version offering over 140 tracks, we can easily see ourselves and many others dedicating hours to this game, learning and mastering its mechanics while reminiscing the memories in the melodies. 140 songs, multiple attempts to Full Chain, All Excellent, or both, at least 3 different modes, online VS and multiplayer, 20+ playable characters, scoring and leveling up, completing missions in the World Tour... All this on top of the story and collectibles that we've seen so far in the trailers? We are impatient to get our hands on the full experience.

<3<3<3

This review was written by Orpheus JoshuaGoldenDrummer73PowerJusho_KH13, and Aquaberry. Orpheus Joshua played the demo on PlayStation 4, while the others experienced it on the Nintendo Switch.

<3<3<3


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