Is Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Good?

MOM Cover
A very standard Kingdom Hearts cover image

I had finished all the Kingdom Hearts (barring mobile) except this one, the rhythm game spinoff. The KH series has been largely consistent in its quality, surely this wouldn’t be one of the exceptions right? Well…. It's complicated. In this review, I’ll try to explain why this particular Kingdom Hearts game stands out as an anomaly in the series. 


10. Graphics

This one stood out, of course its Atlantica 

But let’s get the simple stuff out of the way first. Graphically, Melody of Memory is pretty much the same as the rest of the series, just a bit more polished in certain areas. And the cutscenes (the new ones at least) use 3’s engine, meaning they are very pretty.

But overall it's just more of the same. Definitely not bad, just don’t expect a revolution in visuals here. 


9. Gameplay

The Birth by Sleep trio smacking Maleificient in a boss song

The core gameplay is a bit different to KH fans but should be very familiar to people who’ve played rhythm games. Despite having visual differences, the three modes of standard songs, event songs, and boss battle songs all play pretty much the same.

And that is just hitting notes to the rhythm. There’s presses, holds, and flicks, and they all have multiple buttons that can work for each. Pretty standard rhythm game fare that might be new to some KH fans but isn’t breaking new ground at all.

Well, the crates and boxes are kind of new, but they just amount to more presses that simply match the game’s world. The simultaneous actions can involve these too, and with the forward momentum visuals of standard songs, the timing on some can be tricky. Aside from that, nothing more to add really. 


8. Story

Kairi (and the player most likely) is confused

Now is where it starts to get complicated. The story is always a lot in Kingdom Hearts, and Melody of Memory is no different. Although in this case there’s kind of two separate types. 

Firstly there’s the recap scenes featured after clearing certain songs or during others. These are simply the events of the series up to this point retold by Kairi and offer little new aside from slight bits of Kairi’s personality. Not much to see here.

Then there’s the new story. There isn’t much of it, only about a half hour of scenes. But what is here is…. Even more out there than the usual KH fare. Just when you thought all the hearts living in other people was confusing, this game brings in unreality or fictional worlds. Yeah, I don’t exactly get that either.

But it is the start of a new story, and starts can be confusing. So I won’t judge it too harshly right now. If it ends up being just as confusing once we know more I might change my tune though. 


7. The Unlocking

Good luck unlocking these three

 For the first half of the game, new songs unlock pretty quickly and to such an extent you’re unlikely to give it much thought. That does not last, unfortunately. 

The final three games of songs forgo the initial unlocking method and make you realize it's there in the first place. Each song in the game has special missions that involve doing specific things while clearing it, and doing each gives you a star.

Prior to this, these stars were simply all one cumulative total, no matter where you get them from. The last three? You have to get them from songs from that specific game. This means you will be forced to clear a large portion of the missions within these songs just to progress, and that can get annoying.

If you’re just trying to beat the game that’s all you have to do. But what if you want to unlock all the songs? Well…..

The final three overworld songs are unlocked by gaining 280 stars in total. There’s around 340 total stars in the game. Yeah, that gives you some room to work, but it's really not much. Especially when some require Proud Mode, which is intense for all but those who are great at rhythm games. 

Oh, and there’s also the fusion songs gained from crafting, but if you gain enough stars to unlock the final songs you’ll likely have what you need to get them. If not the game itself will tell you where the materials you need are. 


6. Fun Factor

The fun is around here somewhere 

But is the game fun to play? Aside from the bits of repetitiveness needed to unlock some songs, yeah, it's solid rhythm gameplay. Of course, you’d have to like rhythm games and the Kingdom Hearts series, but if you meet one or both of those conditions there’s enjoyment to be had here.

The game is broken into the “story mode” of World Tour, two modes where you can play unlocked songs either by yourself or against someone (some songs can only be played here), and a museum to view unlocked art and music and all that.

The core gameplay is the same throughout all of this, never really changing much. It does take some getting used to, and from my experience was a bit wonky at first before I really got into the groove. So that may be a factor for others as well. 


5. The Difficulties

Whoever cleared this is way too good at rhythm games

Melody of Memory features three difficulty modes, about the standard for rhythm games. Beginner, Standard, and Proud take their names from the core Kingdom Hearts games, and the experience is about what you’d expect.

Those with little to no experience with rhythm games would be advised to start on Beginner, but you should quickly warm up to Standard. I didn’t find either level particularly challenging aside from a specific few songs, but experiences may vary.

Then there is Proud. Do not touch this until you are very comfortable with the game. The amount of notes this will throw at you is insane, and it will take very fast reflexes to not immediately fail. This holds true for any rhythm game’s higher difficulties of course, but with this game’s slight differences, it might throw off even experienced players. 


4. The Music Part 1: The Good

There’s a lot of good music here

And as for the actual songs… well there’s 143 in total. Definitely a lot and much of the KH original music is here. Honestly, aside from a few not-too-important omissions, I think all the original songs are here. 

And the Disney content? Most of it is here, with several worlds even featuring the main character as a guest party member (pretty much just a visual change). But it's about what you’d expect, so neutral here. The handful of actual vocals Disney songs is cool though.

So the music that is here is done pretty well, with some slight complaints but nothing too severe. The problem arises when…..


3. The Music Part 2: The Bad

…. But a lot is missing 

Yeah, this was bound to happen. It's unclear whether it was copyright issues or… laziness I guess? But a lot of songs are missing from this game.

Starting with the most obvious, Kingdom Hearts III’s content is a joke. Most worlds only have a single song, meaning a lot of good music is left out here. It's somewhat understandable due to the overlapping schedules, but still disappointing. 

Then there’s the older stuff. Pirates of the Caribbean and Tarzan, among others, are completely absent, meaning none of their music is in the game. And while Nightmare Before Christmas is here, only the world and songs are. The characters don’t show up, even in cutscenes. 

You’d think all the KH original music would be here, but nope. Most of it is, but there’s definitely some omissions. Granted most are from the aforementioned KH3, but not all of them, and it's weird to see them not here.

But overall the music here is pretty good. 143 songs is still a lot, despite some being alternate versions. And while I would have liked more, that alone took quite some time to play through. 


2. Important to the Series

Welcome to Kingdom Hearts, where even the rhythm spinoff continues the story

But going back to the story I mentioned? Yep, it's not a lot, but it is 100% canon to the series going forward. In a rhythm game “spinoff”. Welcome to Kingdom Hearts, everyone.

Here we got some answers on what happened to Sora after 3, and the start of Kairi’s journey to help him. There’s even a weird I want to say dream Xehanort?... Kingdom Hearts is weird. But fans are likely used to the weird by now, and will be curious to see where the series is going after 3 brought the first major saga to an end.

So for long-time fans, the new story here is very essential. But there’s a catch here: the fact there’s only about 30 minutes of new story. Which you can easily watch on Youtube. 

So basically what I’m saying is unless you really like the music or rhythm games and only want to see the story, just watch it elsewhere. It takes quite some time to play through all the songs just to get a bit of new story, and if the gameplay isn’t for you that could really be a drag. 


1. The References

Longtime fans will recognize a lot here

But for the fans who do stick with it, Melody of Memory is a treasure trove of nostalgia. It's not just the songs, there’s the characters in their old costumes, the cutscenes from previous games looking better than ever, and so much more. 

This is a trip down memory lane, something that should feel familiar to longtime fans. All these throwbacks can seem a bit shallow, but they’re also neat callbacks that the fans surely enjoy seeing. Especially the alternate character teams, they may be mostly visual but seeing the Days squad together again is very heartwarming.

But overall, this all makes Melody of Memory feel like little more than a vessel for nostalgia and sprinklings of new story. This doesn’t make it bad by any means, but it's not particularly good either. But as long as you know what you’re getting into, this journey may be worth taking.


Score: 7.5/10


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Gamer Since: 2002
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, Deathloop, Final Fantasy IV, God of War (2018)
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