STAFF REVIEW of KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory (Xbox One)

Friday, December 11, 2020.
by Heather Webster

KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory Box art KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory, the new game from Square Enix and indieszero, starts you out in the World Tour mode, but there is a reason for this. This introduction to the game consists of music stages that summarize the the past tales of Kingdom Hearts up to this current point. I found this feature interesting as I have not previously played any of the Kingdom Hearts games, so to get a story summary in this nature was quite nice.

In the main menu you have the options of playing World tour, which is the mode you need to play in order to unlock characters, items, materials, songs, etc that will increase the overall gameplay experience. There is also a museum that opens once you visit the track/freeplay area. In the museum you will find all the in-game content that you have unlocked, like the cut-scenes from the story, which enables you the ability to watch them again, should you wish, at your leisure.

The Track selection mode is a Free Play mode. It is best explained as a mode where after you find a song that you just really love to play, or one that you want to be able to go back and get a better score on, you are able to practice as much as you like. In this mode you can make a favorites list, you can sort the songs into categories, or you can play a song at random. I will admit that I was thoroughly excited when I discovered that I could playsome actual Disney songs, like "This is Halloween" from Nightmare Before Christmas, one of my favourite movies of all time!

As you progress along in the World Tour mode you unlock movies, videos and storylines from all the previous Kingdom Hearts games. Given that I don't have a very robust knowledge of Kingdom Hearts up to this point, I really appreciated the inclusion of this content as I had never played any of the prior games and had no real background information or storyline prior to taking on this review. It's a great way to allow newbies to the franchise to play the game and not feel left out of the long history of the narrative of past KINGDOM HEARTS games.

When you play through the first world during the World Tour mode you will discover that it is pretty much a tutorial of sorts. It's here that you will learn what buttons do what actions and how to control the various in-game characters. You start with a team of Sora, Donald, and Goofy, just like in Kingdom Hearts proper.

The gameplay is very simple in its function, but you can tell that a lot of time, care and energy went into the development of the music and the gameplay design in order to keep with the previous games, which helps to bring you, as a player, into the history of Kingdom Hearts. One of my favourite maneuvers was staying in flight for a long stretch of notes and having to control the flight direction in order to maintain a nice streak. In some of the music stages there may be a fourth guest character will show up and help you in some magical way to complete the song. There is also an ability to use a summoning star to get King Mickey to show up and be your fourth teammate, which I thought was a pretty cool addition.

The combat actions are simple enough to understand and get used too, and if you are like me, and have played a few rhythm action games before then you shouldn't have any issue at all. I did find that the game did not register the inputs when I thought I had the timing close to or right on the beat, but quite often I was told it was a miss. My frustration aside, as I played the game more and got some practice in, I did notice a slight change in the accuracy a bit; however, I still found that this issue still occurred. Thankfully, in the options you're able to calibrate the audio and video synchronization as most musical based games have.

Using the Team menu as you play, you will find the option to view your inventory and use Moogle's recipes to synthesize items with materials you obtain through game play. You can help the Moogle earn experience and gain levels as you synthesize more items. If you need to synthesize a specific item you can press 'Y' to find out how to obtain the needed materials and jump right to those music stages. You can also change your team as you unlock new characters in the World Tour mode.

There is also a Co-op mode and a Versus Battle mode. Versus Battle is self explanatory. In Co-op mode, you and a friend play some local couch co-op (same console) to keep on the beat and tempo of the tracks to defeat the enemies on the musical road. Working together is your best way to get the highest combined score. Scores and streaks are totaled at the end of each song and the average score is awarded. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the co-op songs with my wife as a way to get us both involved in something together rather than just zoning out on our phones and not paying attention to anything else really going on.

While I found the general gameplay and layout of Melody of Memory is enjoyable, my favourite gameplay experience has been with my wife and seeing how immersed she got into the gameplay experience. Our time playing the game provided us not only with some very fun times together, but we also got to see our progress working together as we completed each song, unlocked more tracks and then going back and trying to better our scores from the last time we played. I didn't run a timer, but I'm pretty sure we lost more than a few hours together on the couch. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but when you both work full time hours and don't have the same days off, and you find yourself too tired to want to leave the house, this game is a great way to spend time together to have some fun.

Whether your are a longtime Kingdom Hearts fan looking to enjoy the iconic music interactively or you just enjoy rhythm action games as a whole, this game will be for you. On the other side of the coin, if you are someone who wants to see what all the KINGDOM HEARTS fuss is about as someone new to the series, like myself, I can't help but say go ahead and give KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory a try, as you won't be disappointed.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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