I feel I’ve lastly realized why I can’t cease enjoying Kingdom Hearts video games, even when, at this level, I can’t stand them.
Right here’s how I figured it out. One time I requested my dad, a kind of cultured white guys who loves jazz and museums, why he’s so obsessive about watching the inventory market. Folks comprise multitudes, however an curiosity in The Superb Arts and The Man don’t often go collectively.
“I like watching the numbers go up,” he stated. He likes watching the numbers go up a lot that he’s prepared to miss that capitalism is evil, cash is faux, and Huge Tech is making an attempt to kill us.
I, too, like watching the numbers go up. I don’t perceive cash and have none of it, so my numbers recreation is the online game. Give me expertise factors, give me level-ups, give me massive combos, give me increasingly more and extra collect-’em-alls to gather all of. I starvation for them. I crave them! The simpler these numbers are to develop, the higher.
That stated, I’m a bit more durable to please than Mr. Frank is. As a lot as I like a very good quantity, I additionally love a very good story, a very good artwork type, and good music. The veneer round my upward-moving numbers issues a complete lot to me. Which is why a sequence like Kingdom Hearts — and significantly its newest recreation, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Reminiscence — is a lot enjoyable and but so completely, painfully infuriating.
Kingdom Hearts, at its finest, is an motion RPG the place you get to press the identical button time and again to beat up a Disney villain or revive your bestie Donald Duck. Most Kingdom Hearts video games exterior of the mainline tales — that’s to say, most Kingdom Hearts video games — take that pure sugar and add means, far more to it. They’ve overly sophisticated battle methods, just like the collectible card game-inspired Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Reminiscences. Or they’ve been bogged means down with story particulars that make a easy “Boy needs to save lots of the Disneyfied world” story into one thing metaphysical and asinine: possessions, digital realms, time journey.
I say this with all the love on the earth; I’ve spent a decade of my life and hundreds of phrases defending Kingdom Hearts from individuals who suppose it’s “silly” or “nonsense” or “unhealthy.” I can name this stupidly nonsensical/unhealthy franchise all of these issues, as a result of I find it irresistible, truly. Finish of dialogue.
I play all of those video games regardless of how convoluted the storytelling is. I play them as a result of I like hitting a button to beat up the evil creatures that populate the Kingdom Hearts universe, for more and more imprecise causes, and watch my expertise factors or assault chains enhance. As quickly as a cutscene rolls round, I sigh so dramatically as to make my throat harm a bit. I may skip via them, in fact, however that is an RPG, and I really feel that I owe Sq. Enix the courtesy of sitting via its nonsense story. Plus, it’s humorous to observe Mickey Mouse obsess over Riku, or to see Woody from Toy Story try to sacrifice himself for Sora.
Melody of Reminiscence arrives as the primary recreation within the sequence to happen after the tepid storyline-ender Kingdom Hearts 3. And, hey, excellent news! Melody of Reminiscence is perhaps the least aggravating Kingdom Hearts facet recreation I’ve ever performed, going all-in on the button-pressing and principally placing the story stuff to the facet. It’s a rhythm recreation the place Sora and buddies run alongside a shifting piece of sheet music, every notice represented by a monster in entrance of them. You both have to carry down a notice to assault monsters, or shortly press a notice, or perhaps soar over the notice completely. Really, it’s a rhythm recreation; in the event you’ve performed one, what you’re moving into. Simply swap out sentient drums or male cheerleaders or rock bands with Kingdom Hearts characters.
I like rhythm video games, and this one’s principally a blast. Kingdom Hearts has nice music, even when the overwhelming majority of its music is both reiterative of itself or derived from Disney. Melody of Reminiscence is gentle on the Disney fare, which is a bummer, as a result of I wished to beat some Heartless as much as the tune of “Circle of Life.” (There’s a degree the place you play alongside to all of “Let It Go,” which is virtually an obligation for any Disney-related property at this level.) The battle music from Kingdom Hearts is charming and by no means too lengthy, repetitive in probably the most endearing means. Actually, it’s just like the sequence itself, at its finest.
I obsessively tapped buttons on my Change controller to the rhythm of a number of remixes of a battle theme, eyes glazing over till all I noticed was Sora, and all I knew have been notes. I watched myself chain notes, an nearly delirious out-of-body expertise. There was one time I solely missed one notice and obtained a sequence of 154 notes in a row, and I can’t bear in mind the final time I felt so happy. Kingdom Hearts simply has a knack for making a shortly pressed button come throughout as an achievement; the priority isn’t that the assault is robust sufficient, however as an alternative that you just attacked shortly sufficient. The identical is true right here in Melody of Reminiscence, in probably the most reductive and interesting means.
So, sure, I cherished all that. I even replayed ranges a number of instances to finish all of the sub-missions, that are duties that can assist you earn further stars (which you typically want with a purpose to progress). I used to be all-in on these ranges, baybee. They have been principally sort of ugly, scrolling sheets of music with some minor set dressing impressed by the in-game degree they’re primarily based on, however I couldn’t get sufficient of ‘em.
Generally, although, the degrees ended, and as an alternative of shifting to the following degree, Melody of Reminiscence shoved a rattling story into my face. And this wasn’t a brand new or distinctive story: No, it was a recap of just about your entire Kingdom Hearts franchise to this point. Nearly each single recreation (even minor-minor-minor ones like Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Beginning By Sleep — A Fragmentary Passage) get represented right here, with a few of their music getting reproduced as ranges in alternate for his or her cutscenes edited down and included on this recreation. It’s horrendously boring and obnoxious. One second I’m bopping alongside to the surprisingly baller electronica from Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, a recreation whose story was so mind-numbingly pointless that I needed to skip it. Then, increase, degree’s over, and hey! Keep in mind Re:Coded? No? Nicely, right here’s a 30-second cutscene story recap. After which one other one! Don’t you like listening to Kairi (our narrator) say “digital realm” time and again?
No, Melody of Reminiscence. No, I don’t.
When Kingdom Hearts is edited down on this means, into brisk scenes and synopses, it turns into unbearably complicated. I’ve taken the time to make sense of the overarching plot, in all probability greater than most individuals have. Alongside the way in which, I’ve realized to understand Kingdom Hearts’ audacious density, even when I’m additionally a judgmental human being who can’t let a nasty script get off simple. That audacious density works even lower than normal when it’s compacted right into a 10-hour recreation overlaying practically 100 hours’ value of storytelling. There’s no good method to condense a protracted, winding Kingdom Hearts story down, particularly not when it’s in between ranges of a rhythm recreation the place you simply wish to hit some notes to the tune of “Easy and Clear” once more, already.
Should you’re a Kingdom Hearts lover who can’t get sufficient of the story, that is in all probability nonetheless not going to give you the results you want, as a result of pay attention: These are previous cutscenes, repurposed, dubbed over with lackluster narration, damaged down a lot as to nearly be unintelligible. There’s no time to clarify who Xehanort is or the place a No person comes from in these transient movies, however you guess Melody of Reminiscence is gonna preserve carrying on about them anyway. It’s ridiculous and I would like my music and nothing else, please.
There are a number of new story particulars right here, however barely. There’s principally three minutes of post-Kingdom Hearts 3 content material for a devoted fan to expertise in the primary storyline. Have enjoyable going via 10 hours of jaunty rhythm recreation ranges and buzzkilling cutscenes simply to search out out nearly nothing new. That’s, if that’s actually what you’re right here for.
I needed to admit, I type of was, as a result of I’m a glutton for punishment. Principally, although, I used to be right here to press some numbers in time to some music and watch the numbers go up. It’s laborious to go incorrect there, and Melody of Reminiscence didn’t. The inanity of the story beats nearly stored me from ending the sport, and but I couldn’t cease enjoying. It was a wonderfully enjoyable method to then bear in mind simply how annoying Kingdom Hearts may be.