Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Price: $39.99 – Available Here
Between making large scaled RPGs in the main, numbered, Final Fantasy series, Square Enix has made plenty of different games which happen to be spin-offs of the franchise. Some of these spin-offs still held true to the game’s RPG origins, only modifying the formula slightly, while others took the Final Fantasy name and did something completely unexpected with it.
Now Square Enix has released what can only be seen as one of the strangest turns for the series yet, a rhythm based music game that has taken songs from the main Final Fantasy series and compiled them into a game called Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Does a music oriented Final Fantasy title have plenty to offer on a portable gaming device?
Interestingly enough, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy does contain a bit of a story to set up the events of the game. The story follows the events of Chaos and Cosmos and a crystal which has been created in a space known as Rhythm. Chaos has caused the crystal to become disrupted and now characters from Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy XIII have been summoned by Cosmos and they must work to restore the crystal with “rhythmia.”
Anyone familiar with the Dissidia Final Fantasy series will likely recognize the name Chaos and Cosmos as these were the two factions the Final Fantasy characters were divided into. As it stands in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, the storyline simply offers a base and that only springs up again once the player gathers enough rhythmia to face off against Chaos in a simple battle. It is nice to see that Square Enix did try to include some semblance of a story into a rhythm based game such as Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, albeit one that is rather lackluster.
The main visual style for Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is quite unique as every character and enemy that the player will be seeing on-screen has been drawn in a chibi-like art style with characters better resembling little dolls than their usual selves. This art style is actually quite charming and many of the characters are still very detailed despite their more cartoonish appearance.
During Event music scenes players will also be shown cutscenes or segments of gameplay from the game the music is from. Obviously the quality of these displays are dependent on when each game was made of course, though it is worth noting that their visual representation is impressive on the 3DS’ screen, even modern cutscenes like those presented in FFXIII.
As for the 3DS’ 3D function… it would probably be best if anyone playing the game would simply shut it off. At first the 3D provides a nice bit of depth to the game’s scrolling notes, separating it from the events in the background, but throughout my experience it became more of a hassle than it was worth. Meaning that despite the game’s admirable 3D attempt, it would probably be best to simply be played in 2D only.
Those concerned about Theatrhythm Final Fantasy’s music quality have absolutely nothing to be concerned about as each and every song that has been placed into the game sounds the same as fans will remember them, this includes the high quality songs from the later Final Fantasy titles as well as the MIDI sounding songs from earlier titles.
As for the songs that have been selected and placed into the game, this will obviously be purely subjective due to which songs are your favorites of course, but there are a wide range of songs taken from each game in the series, such as the opening and ending themes, a battle theme, field theme and character/event song from each game with a few other miscellaneous songs hidden within, more on these momentarily.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is at its core a rather simple offering, where players will need to make use of the 3DS’ touch screen to tap, swipe and press to the music. There are three types of triggers which have to be activated to successfully make it through a song with a missed trigger causing damage to the party’s total HP. Red triggers simply involve the player tapping the screen, green triggers have to be pressed and held until the end and finally the yellow triggers involve the player swiping the stylus in the direction of the arrow. Unfortunately sometimes these directional swipes can be mis-read by the system, often causing a break in your trigger chain.
Before players begin the game they will be told to create a party of four characters which are the protagonists from each of the Final Fantasy games so far, though more secondary characters can be unlocked over time. These party members will level up over time as players gain experience for every song they complete.
Interestingly enough, despite the fact that Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a music title, players will want to manage their team and equip them with adequate skills and items that will assist them in finishing some of the more complex songs. You see, there are three different modes of gameplay in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, which are the Series, Challenge and Chaos Shrine mode.
In Series mode players will be able to select one of the Final Fantasy games and play through three consecutive songs from the selected game with an optional opening and ending theme. Challenge mode is more of a free play mode, allowing the player to select any songs they have already completed on Series mode and take them on with increasingly harder difficulties, making the aforementioned character managing crucial for high scores and sometimes even completion.
The Chaos Shrine on the other hand is probably the most unique out of the three, as it places the players against “Dark Notes” which are two song challenges which are randomly generated. These songs are quite difficult but it is worth noting that some of the songs in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy can only be found in the Chaos Shrine. These difficult challenges can be unlocked either through game play and defeating already unlocked Dark Notes or via StreetPass.
So now we know what modes you will be playing the game in, but how exactly does the game itself play? Well there are three different song types held within the title; Field, Battle and Event. Field music has a party member walking a straight path which contains hidden items that can be encountered when the player successfully hits enough notes. On these maps players will also be presented with special triggers which can transform their character temporarily into a chocobo, making them run faster.
The battle music features the entire party fighting against a set of monsters. These monsters are dealt damage every time the player successfully hits a trigger. It is worth noting that these battles do not punish the player if they are unable to kill a boss character, nor do there always seem to be bosses present. The final music piece is the Event music, which plays a cutscene from a game in the background while the player taps and swipes triggers along a constantly moving line.
Now it is worth noting that Theatrhythm Final Fantasy can unfortunately be quite short and while playing the game itself is very enjoyable and a great walk down memory lane, nostalgia can only take you so far. Once the player finishes the Series’ song sets, nearly everything else in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy becomes repetitive. While it is great to see that players can indeed continue to challenge themselves through the Challenge mode and the Chaos Shrine does spice things up, far too often are Dark Notes presented with songs the player has already conquered once.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy gives players a chance to look back at some of their favorite memories from past Final Fantasy games. Even more recent fans will enjoy Theatrhythm Final Fantasy’s inclusions and may even convince them to give older games in the series a chance. While things may end up getting repetitive quickly, there are plenty of things to unlock and difficult challenges to tackle for those looking for a long-term experience full of some of the best music you can find in the video game industry.