When is a sequel not a sequel? Why, when it’s Final Fantasy, of course. At some point that joke worked, honestly, but the point I’m already labouring to make is that there’s really not much difference in the core gameplay between the original Theatrhythm game, and Curtain Call.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Theatrhythm was a very good game, and a love letter to fans of Final Fantasy’s music. Curtain Call ratchets that love up to eleven by throwing an interesting new mode at us, as well as a ridiculous number of songs – a few of which appeared in the previous title.
So, the core gameplay returns, and Curtain Call is still a music game that has bizarre, probably over-complicated mechanics attached in an attempt to retain the Final Fantasy elements. You still pick four playable characters to level up and equip items to, and they still level up a rate of knots. In the opening hours you’re still bombarded with unlocks, tutorial messages, and all manner of high pitched audio stings to tell you what is going on, and it’s still gloriously absurd, yet enjoyable.
At the risk of repeating much of what I said in 2012, there are three types of song, backed with either an emotionally driven backing scene, a battle scene, or a adventuring theme, and the music plays out as you tap, slide, hold, and move the stylus on the touch screen. You can play without the touch screen in Curtain Call, using the buttons and Circle Pad, but while options are nice, the stylus is the best method.
Depending on which difficulty you attempt your chosen song on, you’ll gain Rythmia accordingly. As you collect more and more of this, you’ll unlock new things, be it a new character, song, mode, or even just an option in the menus. They come thick and fast, and before you know it you’ll have all the main modes unlocked, and your favourite characters will be set.
The star new addition, however, is Quest Medley Mode. While the actual method of playing doesn’t change, this wraps everything up in an old school map that you traverse, picking your route and completing challenges, collecting keys, and eventually facing a boss stage to earn Crystal Shards, which are the currency that unlock yet more of the sixty characters. This is where you’ll eventually spend most of your time, because otherwise you’ll probably just keep playing your favourite songs over and over again.
But that’s not to suggest the tracklisting is bad, in fact, it’s brilliant. The attempt to not only bring back the favourites, but add more games, is worthy of credit. Final Fantasy XIII is represented by all three titles, and every core game is here as well, but A Realm Reborn has a nine song set, too, which is interesting. What is far more surprising, however, is the inclusion of a few Mystic Quest tracks, four songs from Tactics, five from Crystal Chronicles, five from Dissidia, and even four from anime Advent Children, and under-rated PSP title, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. There’s even more that I won’t spoil here.
Rounding off the package is Versus Battle Mode, which is exactly what it sounds like, and a few smaller changes that only hardcore players will notice. A featured daily track rewards you with more XP for playing it, but once you’ve played a few of them, once again you’ll revert to Quest Medleys.
Difficulty wise, a little more challenge wouldn’t have gone amiss, as the hardest difficulties still won’t trouble music game experts, but that does mean all fans will find something to enjoy, even in a genre they may not be overly familiar with.
VERDICT: Some won’t like the piecemeal unlocking method that Curtain Call employs, but if you’re a fan of Final Fantasy (and why would you buy this if you weren’t?) you’ll be used to slow openings, as the game rewards your loyalty and time. The biggest question is whether you’ll want to revisit the Theatrhythm world to get the larger song-list, and new Quest mode, and that makes it a tough sell, despite its pick up and play nature.
The RPG elements are still too confusing and convoluted, too, but much like in 2012, Theatrhythm is a fun, heart-warming piece of fan service that offers better value for money than before, while giving fans plenty of museum-based goodies to explore and reminisce over. This is nostalgia that truly proves some things were better way back when, even if it perhaps wants to be a deeper experience than it actually is.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.