Many can agree that one of the most enjoyable experiences in video games is the musical backdrop. The Kingdom Hearts series, known for its endearing crossover of Disney and Square Enix universes, boasts some of the most beautiful musical scores in gaming, from composer Yoko Shimomura’s Dearly Beloved to Utada Hikaru’s Simple and Clean. In the 18-year long journey of Kingdom Hearts, a rhythm game was a must for this fan-favorite.
Following the release of Kingdom Hearts III in late January 2019, Square Enix announced the next installment of the series, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, a rhythm action game set for release in November 2020. The setting of the game takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts III and its DLC expansion Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind, however it also acts as a recap for the story of the series so far. As someone whose collection of music is 80% video game soundtracks, I was over the moon when a Kingdom Hearts rhythm game was announced. There’s no feeling like the nostalgia from listening to a familiar game track, whether to remind you of brilliant locations or hours spent power-leveling in battle. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory does just this. While the demo features only a piece of what is to come, the presentation and gameplay feel like a heavy tribute to the series.
Upon just starting the demo, I had to linger on the title screen for a good several minutes just to listen to the gorgeous swing rendition of Dearly Beloved, one of the main themes of the series. The demo starts off with a tutorial taking place in a familiar location known as “Dive to the World”, which most fans will recognize as the very first stage in the original Kingdom Hearts. This is fitting as it brings players back to the place where it all started. Players will take control of a team of characters, in the demo’s case, the classic team of Sora, Donald and Goofy. The game plays as most rhythm games would, requiring the player to press designated buttons at the correct time within the song.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory puts an innovative twist on the gameplay in which it features a reminiscent presentation of the active battle system seen in the vast majority of the series. Sora and friends run across a musical staff in familiar game locations and battle heartless throughout each track, alluding to the gameplay experienced in previous titles. Throughout the course of the song, players will travel across the location in which the track was originally featured. For example, playing through the Hand in Hand battle track, players will find their team cruising through Traverse Town and fighting the respective heartless that were traditionally located in this stage throughout the series.
My experience playing through the demo was one of pure delight and nostalgia. While the Kingdom Hearts series has given us a diverse selection of games throughout its 18-year (And counting!) run, a rhythm game feels just right as it essentially commemorates its rich history and gives a fun recap to the story so far. The musical selections, while beautiful on their own, draw individuals back to memorable moments from previous titles. Playing through The Rustling Forest track certainly brought me back to joyful days when I first played through the Sleeping Beauty stage in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep as a high school student. Music in video games capture our emotions during the various scenarios we face, whether it be the thrill of a boss battle or the awe we feel in the vast expanse of an exquisite location. The Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory demo was just a taste of this sentimental experience to come. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is set to release in Japan on November 11th, 2020 and worldwide on November 13th, 2020.