Also, we talk about the secret sauce of the series
I’m fairly predictable when it comes to Square Enix rhythm games: I see one, I play it. I even have a Japanese 3DS that I primarily use to play Theatrhythm Dragon Quest. But when Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory came along, it spoke to me in a way that few other rhythm offerings have from the publisher.
Recently, I sat down with Ichiro Hazama (producer), Tetsuya Nomura (director) and Masanobu Suzui (co-director) to have a quick chat about the upcoming project.
Destructoid: With the Kingdom Hearts series now at 14 entries thanks to Melody of Memory, what would you say the secret sauce of the series is? How is it that Square Enix is able to keep Disney interested in continuously investing in this franchise with the license?
Hazama: A single director leads the production for all titles related to Kingdom Hearts, and because of this, we’re able to ensure consistency across all stories in the series. Of course, the latest title Melody of Memory is also a part of this. Perhaps the “secret sauce” is this commitment to consistency that now spans over 20 long years.
Kingdom Hearts is designed/produced to ensure that it can be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences and it does not limit Disney content as something for just children or families. Kingdom Hearts is a rare case, both worldwide and historically, and I believe this has only been made possible because of the partnership between Disney and Square Enix.
I see that Kairi is going to be a big focus here in Melody of Memory. What led to that decision? I know fans wanted to see more of her in Kingdom Hearts III before the DLC arrived.
Nomura: At first, development started off for a new Theatrhythm title, and not really a Kingdom Hearts series title. With Theatrhythm having a few titles under its belt, though, I felt it already established its final form in its own right, and it might’ve been difficult to bring about a major change to the game. Having been involved with the development of both Kingdom Hearts and Theatrhythm, I wanted to explore creating gameplay that merged these two, and so I thought about what a Kingdom Hearts game, with its roots being in Theatrhythm, would look like.
A Kingdom Hearts series title would obviously not be a Kingdom Hearts title without world building and story, but at the time of development, I was already in the process of thinking about the next phase in the Kingdom Hearts series, and it would’ve been difficult to incorporate new story elements from a timing perspective; plus the characters that could be mobilized after the finale in Kingdom Hearts III were very limited. Meanwhile, due to the nature of this game, I realized there needed to be a character who can act as a storyteller. That’s when the puzzle piece in my mind fit perfectly – to choose Kairi for this role.
Her past was still shrouded in mystery, too, so I felt Kairi was the best choice to be the star of this new type of Kingdom Hearts, as she will be narrating while we revisit the past.
Can you tell us a bit about any story elements of Melody of Memory? How will the game feel for a completely solo offline player?
Suzui and Hazama: Players can get the full experience of the story that unfolds in Melody of Memory from offline and single player modes. This game’s story progresses in a way where it follows the story from the first installment in the Kingdom Hearts series up to the most recent title, Kingdom Hearts III, and goes slightly beyond that.
In this game’s main World Tour mode, players will select each world and song; as they complete missions, they will gather stars that will open new doors. The worlds are arranged in series order so that they can be experienced again chronologically alongside the stories and music from the KH series. For those who have played the past series titles, these stages will bring back memories of your days adventuring with Sora and friends.
It’s also designed to help you encounter the wonderful songs and understand the story from the series titles you may have not played yet. As you play through the World Tour to the end, you’ll discover that this is also Kairi’s story, who is depicted on the game’s packaging.
Is Square Enix considering doing more spinoffs for Kingdom Hearts to ease the long waits between mainline entries?
Tetsuya Nomura: “We’ve never done a spinoff because the wait between the mainline entries are long; in fact, it’s more accurate to say I wanted to make the spinoffs first before getting started on the next numbered title.
There is a lot of preparation that goes behind doing a numbered title in the series; and especially due to the nature of this game utilizing IP outside of Square Enix, it takes much longer to prepare than any typical series. These hurdles need to be overcome even during the middle of development, so that might be one of the reasons why people get the impression that it takes a long time to develop a Kingdom Hearts series title.
After overcoming all obstacles and releasing a numbered title, we have to recharge our energy to be able to overcome that hurdle once again. Right now, we are in the process of discussing our future plans within Square Enix and with Disney and nothing has been set in stone, but I do have some concepts percolating in my head.”
Can I just say I appreciate that Nomura used the phrase “final form” and still has tons of Kingdom Hearts ideas after all this time? I hope this series lives forever.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is out on November 13 worldwide on PS4, Switch and Xbox One.