Geschrieben von Marco Kropp am 07.09.2020
We had the pleasure to interview Masanobu Suzui, co-director of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory. He is not only the founder of the game developer company Indieszero, but was also the director for Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. Together with producer Ichiro Hazama from Square Enix and Kingdom Hearts series creator and director Tetsuya Nomura, they developed the first Kingdom Hearts rhythm action game, which will be released on November 13th, including music composed by Yoko Shimomura.
In past Kingdom Hearts games, there were different music minigames and music is also a big part of Disney movies. When and how have you come up with the idea of a full Kingdom Hearts rhythm action game?
I mean, I am also personally a Kingdom Hearts fan. And I have always played the Kingdom Hearts games. So I would agree with you that the minigames and the music in all of these games are amazing. The music in Kingdom Hearts has always been really fantastic.
So for this particular project: About five years ago we thought of having a Theatrhythm: Kingdom Hearts and Hazama-san and myself actually pitched that to Nomura-san. Unfortunately because of the way things where at this time, we didn't get the go-ahead for that, but that eventually connected.
And so the specific start for this project was then – because we made that proposal, everyone kind of remembered it and thought about it and then a few years later, Disney asked Nomura-san: "So what happened to that music game about Kingdom Hearts? Where is that going?“ And after that Nomura-san thought "Well ok, let's see what we can do...“
How shall I imagine the storytelling? Is the story connected to other games from the Kingdom Hearts series or will the story of past games be simply retold?
This game actually has both of those elements in it. For example, in the main mode of the game, which is the world trip mode, you will be traveling through the past worlds, right back from Kingdom Hearts 1. And you will experience the atmosphere through the music and that kind of adventure there. There will even be cut-scenes and past story movies involved in that but this time shown from Kairi's perspective. And so it is a game that lets you explore the past as well as the present.
I can't really go into too much more detail, otherwise it will end up as being a bit of a spoiler as Nomura-san is always telling me. But I think it's something that the fans should be able to really enjoy. And it's, you know – the new parts that will be added are not a particularly big part of the story, it's not a huge, major installment in terms of new content. But I think it is, you know, quite a nice small little episode that people would be able to enjoy. And in terms of when it is placed, in terms of the timeline, it will be sort of continuing slightly after the end of the Re:Mind-Part-DLC for Kingdom Hearts III.
In terms of the gameplay, is it like Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy?
As you can see from the title of this game, it is the melody of memory rather than the Theatrhythm. So it's a wholly new Kingdom Hearts rhythm action game rather than a Theatrhythm installment.
Obviously, as you know, Theatrhythm is a 2D-perspective-game and the sequel released in Japan, the Theatrhythm: Dragon Quest, also had some sort of an overview where you fought with the enemy, etc.. But as you know Kingdom Hearts is a 3D-game. So this will also be a 3D rhythm action game. We wanted to get that sort of stylish action game feeling from the Kingdom Hearts series and we sort of had to think about how we can get that into a rhythm action game. And that was one of the points Nomura-san really wanted to focus on.
And incidentally there was a 15th-anniversary memorial jukebox website for the Kingdom Hearts series that already existed. And it showed Sora running across the top of a musical score. And I saw this and thought: “Oh maybe we can use this. Maybe it is some kind of thing that I can use as a starting point.” And so from there, we've sort of build up the idea. So we're taking the ideas and taking the know-how, the technical skills we've got from Theatrhythm, and we are putting that in use as a completely new challenge and therefore a new Kingdom Hearts action game and as something completely new.
What was the process of selecting the different songs and the different worlds for the game like?
As you know there are lots of songs and lots of worlds so we really had a tough time deciding which to put in. So as you know as well, Kingdom Hearts actually has concerts that are being performed all over the world, so we've taken over the setlist from that as a bit of the queue as well as the popularity among fans and the votes we've had there. But also an important part of this game is looking back on the past and telling the story in the past games, so we had to obviously include songs, worlds, boss fights that were important to that story, important to that mission. Hopefully, there should be a lot of songs that fans have really fond memories of, strong memories there. I think everyone should be able to enjoy the mix that we've got.
As seen in the first trailer, we get to choose our next destination from a world map. How can I imagine a world in Melody of Memory?
Obviously I can't tell you how many worlds there are at the moment. But it will start from Kingdom Hearts 1 where Sora and everyone else´s adventure starts from Destiny Islands and then it will sort of follow the story as you progress: You will get to the world, you play that song, that track there, you clear the mission, get some stars and the gate will open and you will be able to move on to the next set of worlds, Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts III, etc.. So hopefully, it should be sort of a format that is really exciting and fun for people to play through.
I saw a Gummi Ship in the trailer. Will there be Gummi Ship levels again or won't we see Gummi Ship levels?
Unfortunately, we haven't managed to put that much in the game.
Other Disney characters like Hercules also appear in their own worlds, to fight alongside you.
© Disney / Pixar
From the 140 songs in the game: will there be entirely new songs or new remixes?
So obviously because the idea of the game is to look back over the past series, to look back over the past music, we will be using the original sounds, the original tracks from the original games there. Some will include past remixes, but that is only a very very small amount and those will, as I said, be past remixes and not new for the game. However, for the intro and ending there will be new songs composed by Shimomura-san. So I think that is something that everyone can really look forward to.
Let's talk about Sora and the other characters. In the initial trailer, Sora and companions wore the outfits from the first Kingdom Hearts game. Can I change the outfits and appearance of the different characters?
As I've been saying, obviously the worlds are sort of worlds of memory and it is just a recalling what it was like in that time. So unfortunately, there won't be the ability to customize the characters or change the outfits like that. But it's not just obliviously Sora and the main party there. Particularly in the Disney worlds, there will also be Disney characters that appear and take the part of one of the other party members to join in. So I think that should be something I hope everyone will enjoy.
So can I say for example Hercules will take the place of Donald Duck or how should I imagine the party building?
Yes, that's exactly right.
Will there be different keyblades with different stats or only one keyblade?
The keyblade that the party leader will equip, will be the same and he will be using the same keyblade there. But the other past keyblades that have been included in other games in the series, up to and including Kingdom Hearts III, will be included as collection cards which you can then collect and enjoy those past keyblades in that way.
And to touch on your previous question about the different outfits as well: Those different outfits and different appearances that Sora and the others take on in different worlds will be included in those collection cards. And I think there are about 800 cards included in the total. So it should be able to be a long game. A game you can play for a very long time to collect everything there. And we think that it should also help players to look back and enjoy the past games like that.
So, how long will the game be? Are we talking about a long playtime for collecting all?
So, I think first of all people are going to focus on the World Trip and looking back over the story and that main plot there. To clear that, if you play straight through, I would imagine, it would be about ten to twelve hours of content. But this game also has an online versus-mode as well as a double-playing mode for cooperative play with friends. And obviously, there are people who want to get the best high score including different playstyles, we've got the performer style, the one-button style, etc.. So it is really difficult for me to put a number on it and say this is how long you will be able to play.
For Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy – Curtain Call, I think there are some people, who had played 900 hours I've been told and they are still playing it years and years after it had been released. So I really like it if this is a game as well that people could keep playing for years to come, I think that would be great.
I've heard about different game modes. I know there were four in total and you've already mentioned World Trip and Online Multiplayer, what are the other two?
The first of the remaining two modes is the music select mode and that is obviously where you can go through and replay tracks that you've already cleared once in the World Trip mode. This is obviously for people who want to go through and get a new high score, to really focus and play as much as possible. And I think one of the aims would be to fill up everything as well with the critical hit result there.
And then apart from that, we have the double-play mode. So we've mentioned the online versus mode. The versus-mode can be played online or on the Nintendo Switch it can be played locally as well. But the double-play is not a versus mode, it's a co-op mode where one player will play as Sora and one player will play as Riku. This takes place on the same TV, sort of local co-op. So it can be done by two people or even by one person with two controllers.
And so for the Nintendo Switch-version as well, there is a little extra mode in versus mode which is the friend Battle Royale in which two to eight players can play versus over local co-op. And we are thinking that hopefully, this should be a really nice opportunity for people to get together at fan meetings, concerts or bring their Nintendo Switch consoles and be able to play together right there and then.
Is there a specific reason, why this game is coming to the Nintendo Switch?
First of all, the Nintendo Switch is just a really nice console and Nomura-san as well is very interested in the Nintendo Switch as a console. It is also a really popular console worldwide at the moment and so it is really loved by a lot of people. So we were thinking that we really wanted to include it as a platform from the very beginning of development. And because obviously, it's got such a wide base; that's one of the reasons why we thought about including this friend battle royale mode. And since it is obviously a new console for us, we wanted to try and bring the music of Disney and Shimomura-san to as many people as possible and to those new people out there as well. So we really hope it will reach them.
Is there anything you want to tell our readers about Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory?
So, we've been talking about how it is the first Kingdom Hearts game to come to the Nintendo Switch but talking more genuinely about Melody of Memory as a game: It's a game where you can experience the story, the world, the atmosphere – everything about the Kingdom Hearts series as you look back over the past installments.
For the old fans: We've really spent a lot of time paying attention to detail and putting in a lot of love into how we've portrayed the Kingdom Hearts worlds. So I really think that they should be able to appreciate all of that.
And for the new fans: I hope that they will be able to enjoy playing the Disney songs, the songs they have known and loved and have it as an introduction to the music of the Kingdom Hearts world, which is just so fantastic as well. And because it is an overview of the story it should be a nice introduction for those new fans who also want to get into the Kingdom Hearts series. The story itself is explained in a nice, easy way to understand. So if you play this game you will be able to understand everything about Kingdom Hearts. I really hope everyone enjoys playing it.
Thank you very much for the interview and stay safe and healthy!