Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Review
Game: Theatrhythmn: Final Fantasy
Available on: Nintendo 3DS Only
Don’t call it a come back, but as mad as it sounds, it seems we have a brand new rhythm game in our midst. Moreover, it’s one so specific that it’s hard to see too many people being interested unless they love the source material. So it’s lucky then, that the source material is the wonderful world of Final Fantasy, ranging from humble beginnings right up to present day.
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front, this is pure, unadulterated fan-service, but oh boy does it feel good.
You see, there’s a generation of people who won’t have played some of the earlier games, yet despite what must have been incredible temptation, Square-Enix have decided against revamping or remixing classic tracks from games released before high-definition audio was available, instead sticking to the original scores from the very games we all played during a misspent youth…playing video games. Suffice to say, at numerous times I caught myself with the most ridiculous grin on my face whilst playing Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, because the music evokes such incredible memories of sublime gaming experiences.
When Theatrhythm hits that mark, it does something on-par with the very best games of the genre. You are in the zone and the music you’ve heard before is lovingly filling your headspace, like the very best moments of pure hedonism, you are transcended momentarily to a place of utter bliss.
Every Final Fantasy game has a moment, one that people remember forever. I’m not going to tell you what they are, because you already know and have personal memories that will relate to periods in your life. The important thing here, is that the music alone does enough to evoke these memories, yet Theatrhythm goes further than you’d expect a music game to go, adding brand new unique cartoon-style visuals that recreate moments from every individual game in the series.
On top of that, there’s a bizarre RPG element to the game. You get to pick four characters to add to your party – which you can change when you feel the need – who level up depending on your performance during the songs. You can even equip items, and each character has a different skill set which changes how the music sections play. It’s crazy, but somehow it feels absolutely right for a Final Fantasy Rhythm game to have these mechanics.
But what of the gameplay? Each Final Fantasy title has three tracks to begin with, one will be a event musical stage that will play out over the top of multiple intertwining cut-scenes from the original source material. The battle music stage plays out over a scene that could actually be taken from any number of Final Fantasy titles and the final music type is the field music stage, which is underscored with visuals of the areas from whichever Final Fantasy you have chosen to enjoy.
Each type of music has a slight variation on gameplay, but mostly you’ll be tapping the screen, sliding the stylus from left to right, up and down or holding the stylus to the screen whilst music plays out. It’s very Elite Beat Agents, which is no bad thing.
Throughout your playtime, you’ll be collecting Rhythmia which, in turn, unlocks yet more content in Theatrhythm. You can even add to your count by watching the intro or ending of each Final Fantasy, collecting yet more Rhythmia without the pesky scoring system distracting you. Ultimately though, better score equates to unlocking more things at a faster pace.
As you’d expect, you can listen to music on its own once unlocked, or watch cut-scenes from the games, but you can also take on Challenge mode for each song too, trying to beat the basic, expert or hidden score.
Chaos Shrine allows you to play particularly tricky combinations of songs by using your Dark Notes. These are gathered either by trading with others through the StreetPass system, or by clearing the Dark Notes you already have. You can also play local multiplayer in the Chaos Shrine too, if you and a friend want to see who is best.
Whatever you end up doing, there’s plenty to play and a reasonable challenge as you progress past the early skill levels. There is more fun to be had from the eShop too, as new tracks are already available to purchase. Ultimately though, how much fun you’ll have with Theatrhythm is directly related to the amount of love you have for the franchise, or more specifically the music from the franchise.
VERDICT: A commendable effort has been made to make sure Theatrhythm isn’t just another music game. This is possibly the ultimate fan-service for Final Fantasy lovers, but also a unique take on a tired genre. If Square-Enix were to use the Theatrhythm moniker for other franchises, iterating upon the ideas they’ve come up with here, well that’d be just swell.