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Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory Famitsu interview with Tetsuya Nomura, Ichiro Hazama and Masanobu Suzui; development struggles, game length, 10 languages and more

Famitsu has recently released an interview they conducted with series director Tetsuya Nomura, Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory co-director Masanobu Suzui, and series executive producer Ichiro Hazama!

You can read translated excerpts relevant to Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory below, thanks to our team's Ryuji!


Interviewer: Thank you for joining us. For the first question: Does Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory take inspiration from the Theatrhythm series?

Ichiro: When the project started out 5 years ago, it was called internally as "Project: Kingdom Hearts Theatrhythm".

Interviewer: You sound like that was going to be the name from the start.

Ichiro: Well, you see, Akira (Nomura) pitched the idea to me a few years back, and we decided to tackle the idea.

Interviewer: Unlike Theatrhythm, which features alternative sprites of the characters involved, Melody of Memory appears to use the actual 3D sprites of the characters. Is there a reason for that?

Suzui: The little characters you see on the loading screen were actually planned to be what you would see in the game itself. But then we also realised pretty quickly that it would look weird to rig these the way we wanted. So we decided to go with the 3D models to allow us for a more "immersive experience.

Interviewer: From the trailers, it seems the game will focus greatly on Kairi. Is she perhaps...the protagonist of this tale?

Nomura: You're correct. She is going to be the protagonist. This is also why the illustration cover shows her in a throne, like Sora. The image also shows multiple frames. Directing your attention to the Sora ones...those are the Kingdom Hearts 1, 2 and 3 endings, from Kairi's perspective, or PoV (point of view) so to speak.

Interviewer: I see!

Nomura: Though, if I'm going to be honest, this illustration was finished barely before the deadline expired. (laughs)

Suzui: Nomura's right. Since I helped supervise the project. Nomura would sketch out the draft and we would ask for the development team's opinion and input on how it can be improved or if it's to their liking. I remember placing hundreds of calls to many members so I could get their input, and eventually, we settled on a design...very close to the deadline.

Interviewer: It looks like you had a tough job delivering the illustration then.

Nomura: One of the primary reasons was that, this time, it's not just one character. It's multiple. The previous artwork I did for Kingdom Hearts III did not have anything etched in his frames, so it was much simpler.

Interviewer: What was the idea behind the graphics for the rhythm game itself?

Suzui: You see, there's a thin line between "many effects" and "little effects." If you put too many effects at once, the player could get dizzy [as if you were drunk!] and possibly have a headache from all those colours and effects,and if you add too little effects, the game will look unimpressive and boring. We wanted the player to have fun playing through the songs, while not bombarding them with effects.

Interviewer: I see. So you went with that design.

Ichiro: In the first early builds of the game, we noticed we got quite...dizzy [imagine a drunk Ichiro. You're welcome.] with how the camera moved and how the effects were laid out. It took many sessions of "Ah, maybe tweak the camera movement to be like this" and "Maybe we added TOO many effects on that part" until we got to a good result.

Interviewer: So it was a fight against dizziness [read: hangover], I take.

Suzui: Correct. We wanted the game to have the Kingdom Hearts games' dynamic while keeping a consistent speed and pace with the effects, so that players could enjoy playing through the songs without being overwhelmed.

Nomura: It took quite a while to nail the right balance.

Interviewer: How was development regarding the rhythm part of the game?

Suzui: It wasn't easy, I'll give you that. (laughs). Timing each enemy hit to the music, while not trying to overwhelm the player with inputs that would make them go "This song looks too scary for me to do...I am not gonna do it..." We wanted players to feel very balanced. So that even beginners to a rhythm game can feel that they can do it, that they can enjoy it. We experimented a lot. I mean, we raised and lowered the speed down more times than I can count! (laughs)

Interviewer: According to commercials, the game will feature over 140 songs. Will there be any arrangements? Or will they be 100% original?

Suzui: 100% original. There won't be any "Melody of Memory MIX" or any of the sort.

Interviewer: Is DLC planned for the game?

Suzui: We have no plans to add any songs via DLC, no.

Ichiro: Yes. We wish to deliver just a single package of songs, instead of just delivering a smaller amount and then having players purchase more/download more via downloadable content.

Interviewer: How were the songs picked? [NOTE: This kinda merges two questions into one, for a shorter answer.]

Suzui: Most songs were handpicked by me, Nomura and Ichiro. We prioritised mostly popular songs (basing ourselves on CD sales of said songs) and songs that just touch deeply into the fans' hearts. But...it was Yoko Shimomura who picked and arranged herself the song that you will listen as the title menu's Dearly Beloved, as well as the credits song.

Interviewer: Was Shimomura-san thrilled in composing the songs?

Ichiro: She sure was. Having played the Thearhythm games herself, she even pitched the idea to us: "Why can't we do this with Kingdom Hearts as well?"

Suzui: I once met Shimomura-san during Hanami [cherry-blossom viewing--commonly held in parks where people can see the beautiful cherry blossoms and have picnics under the trees]. She was listening to one of the Kingdom Hearts soundtracks, and just faced me and said "You know the rest, don't you?" with a big grin on her face (laughs).

About the Game

Interviewer: How long is the game?

Suzui: Hmm...if I had to estimate it...assuming the player just advances straight to the ending and views the entire story, I'd estimate about 10 hours or so.

Interviewer: How many worlds does the game have?

Suzui: Around...47 or so. Out of the 47, 16 are original KH worlds and the rest [31] are Disney worlds.

Interviewer: It's honestly quite amazing that there will be 10 available languages to choose from the get-go.

Ichiro: We wanted to tackle the challenge that is releasing a multi-language game. Since this game is supposed to be fun for everyone, we also want it to be inclusive, even to non-Japanese [English] speakers.

Interviewer: Did the current Coronavirus outbreak affect development negatively in any way?

Suzui: Well, we did double the security around the SQUARE ENIX building, to ensure our workers managed to work safely, and even switched to remote development. But remote development...had its limitations. Creating assets remotely can be a bit complicated.

Nomura: Voice acting was pretty tough, especially the overseas voice acting, because the risk level of the virus fluctuates a lot from country to country, and not all voice actors are available [due to the rules of quarantine on said country.]

Ichiro: The same can be said with motion capture and acting. We had to crunch a lot of time to make sure we weren't disturbing our actors' time while also keeping within Coronavirus regulations.

What are your thoughts on this enlightening interview involving some of the integral development staff behind Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory? Let us know in the comments below!

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