It’s hard to believe that in amongst all these AAA games coming out – not to mention shiny new consoles – there is a brand-new Kingdom Hearts title as well. Melody of Memory isn’t your standard Kingdom Hearts title; instead it is a celebration of all the music in the series so far in a rhythm-based action title. After some time with the demo, here is what players can expect.

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Straight off the bat, the title music once again completely drew me in. It is once again ‘Dearly Beloved’, but this time a much more upbeat and jazzed up version. Not going to lie, I’m a fan of this new arrangement from Yoko Shimomura. If ever there was a statement that Melody of Memory is a celebration of the music from the franchise, hitting players with an upbeat ‘Dearly Beloved’ is the best possible statement.

The loading screen then features chibi styles of Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy, strolling along the bottom of the screen. This style of character instantly reminds me of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a title that did something very similar by celebrating the music of Final Fantasy on the Nintendo 3DS. This was followed by a sequel for the Final Fantasy series, as well as one after that for Dragon Quest. When Melody of Memory was announced it came as a surprise that this wasn’t then called Theatrhythm Kingdom Hearts, but judging by recent naming conventions for Kingdom Hearts, Melody of Memory is certainly one of the easier ones to remember.

In the demo, we then have a tutorial to outline the various buttons to press. In keeping with series tradition, this is played through to the tune of ‘Dive into the Heart -Destati-‘. Basic attacks can be done by pressing either the A, LB or RB button; when faced with multiple enemies a combination of two or three of these buttons is required to despatch them all.

Dotted throughout the course are ability crystals that can be activated with the Y button. These allow a special skill or magic ability to be performed and can reach enemies that would otherwise be out of your path.

Some enemies will also be floating. The B button will allow you to jump to reach them with a standard attack, but you can also jump to avoid their attacks. Similarly, holding down the B button will allow you to glide. Use this to hit glide targets, which will also award points. Larger enemies will also require more hits on them, so watch out for the numbers on bigger guys to see how many more hits are required.

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As your characters auto-run through stages, missing attacks will cause your HP to deplete. Lose all of it before the end of the stage and you fail it. Even the tiniest sliver remaining as you finish a level will still count as a completion and allow you to progress.

The main menu music is Traverse Town; a piece that feels as homely now as it did in 2002. Whether you can configure this or not in the main game is unknown but for me, leave it as is. In the main menu we see options for World Tour, Track Selection, VS Battles, Museum, Co-op and Config. For the demo though, only Track Selection or Co-op is available.

There are a choice of four tracks to choose from:

  • Welcome to Wonderland (Kingdom Hearts)
  • Hand in Hand (Kingdom Hearts
  • The Rustling Forest (Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
  • Wave of Darkness I (Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A fragmentary passage -)

It looks like a busy menu at first, but everything is designed so that you can find the track you want to play as quickly as possible. You can sort the songs by A-Z, game or even difficulty. You can then choose which style to play them as – whether that be the standard way or a simplified style – but on top of that is a difficulty mode, with series standard Proud mode being the most difficult.

Still struggling to find what you need? Then a press of RT will throw you into any track at random.

Getting into a track will have your chosen trio – additional characters are available in the main game including Aqua, Roxas, Riku and returning Disney characters – put through instantly familiar areas. These look like they have been plucked straight from the recent remasters featured in Kingdom Hearts 1.5, 2.5 and 2.8 which does retain the charm, but in return does mean that they start to look a bit dated. Even the first release of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is now more than seven years in age.

As for the main game, it seems to have come along quickly since its initial announcement back in June. Maybe fans aren’t used to seeing Kingdom Hearts games released so soon after being announced? As a result, we do not know all that much.

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However, we do know that there are over 140 songs featured in the final version, from nearly 50 worlds sprinkled throughout the series. There’s a good chance then that one of your favourites will be included. There will be over 20 playable characters too; whether they can be mixed and matched together and spread across different games is unknown yet, but it would be cool to see mashups between characters and worlds.

And perhaps, most importantly, there will be a new story in Melody of Memory. It will be focussing mainly on a huge recap of the events so far for the franchise, narrated by Kairi, but it will go beyond the Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind DLC which, to this point, is the latest in the franchise chronologically.

This might then mean that fans finally have a nice digestible format on the Kingdom Hearts chronology. For a franchise I have loved and grown up with, it doesn’t do itself any favours with the telling of the plot, as for the longest time crucial plot elements were littered on a variety of consoles.

And, we don’t have long to wait, as Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory launches on 13th November for Xbox One. If only there wasn’t anything else happening that week for Xbox fans! It’ll also be releasing on PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

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