GameInformer recently had the chance to speak to KINGDOM HEARTS series producer Ichiro Hazama, KINGDOM HEARTS series director Tetsuya Nomura, and KINGDOM HEARTS Melody of Memory co-director Masanobu Suzui about how the upcoming rhythm action game came to be, why Melody of Memory is part of the main franchise and not a Theathrythm spin-off, and what Kairi's role is in Melody of Memory's story.
Five year ago, Hazama and Suzui discussed making a Theathrythm Kingdom Hearts game and had started developing planning documents to present, but they found that there were difficulties in bringing it to life. A few years ago, Nomura and Disney were in their own disucssions about a rhythm game and the decision on how to do the project fell onto Hazama and Suzui.
When it comes to how they decided to approach melding the game mechanics of KINGDOM HEARTS and the long-running story to a rhythm game, this is what Suzui had to say:
Suzui: [...] We [wanted to] incorporate those fun elements of play and make sure that we are leveraging the game mechanics of the original game, as well as bringing in Kingdom Hearts’ stylish action and incorporating the rich story behind it, especially the world settings that we've established in our series titles. We asked, “How do we leverage and keep the integrity of that?” That was our foundation for our approach.
From there, we thought, ‘Okay, so we're going to build this from the ground up and we're going to bring this as a brand new title.’ That's why we decided we're going to change up the name and we weren't going to carry over the Theatrhythm title. We thought it would be appropriate and proper to have that Kingdom Hearts name. That's how we moved along with the development of it. We all had the same understanding amongst our team members that this is not a Theatrhythm game. Nomura-san also [felt] that way, so he came up with a really nice name for this title and a really nice key art as well, and we kind of expanded from there.
Melody of Memory does not feature any new music or remixes—instead, the game boasts a large library of iconic and beloved songs throughout the franchise. They could not put in tons of music from later titles like KINGDOM HEARTS 3 because of the sheer amount of songs, but they believe they have chosen the best songs that represent the series to its fullest.
There is a leveling system which increases the player's HP and attack power, making game overs less likely as you progress through the game. Online battles feature "tricks", a mechanic where you trigger skills and various surprises that can trip up the other player while in online battles.
When asked about Kairi's role in Melody of Memory's story, Nomura discussed how Kairi serves as the narrator as she reflects on the the past of KINGDOM HEARTS.
Nomura: So Kairi is going to be our storyteller so to speak – what she is doing is reflecting upon the previous iteration and the history of the narrative. She is going to be talking about all of what happens within Kingdom Hearts and she's going to be bringing you through this story. And so her positioning... I'm afraid we can't delve too far into details, because it will be quite a bit of a spoiler and she is relevant to a very big part of the plot. But what she does tell through her recollection is not just the experiences that she went through, but it's all the experiences that her allies and the party members had experienced throughout the story as well. And once we go through the story of recollection and beyond that, we start to see a timeline that will connect to the future.
This game's story is not as long as a regular KINGDOM HEARTS game's story, and Nomura is quick to emphasize that even though there is new story in this game, this game will not significantly move the plot forward. Fans will be given a chance to see things from Kairi's point of view after KINGDOM HEARTS 3 Re Mind and give a glimpse into her past.