Back to the Old Nostalgic Grind
Even though the quality of Final Fantasy has declined in my opinion over the years, the one constant that keeps me coming back are the sensational soundtracks that accompany each game. Even with the departure of the incomparable Nobuo Uematsu as series composer, the consistent quality of music for each game remains unrivaled. What better way to celebrate the music and the 25th anniversary of the Final Fantasy franchise than a rhythm game? This is uncharted waters for the series, but it seems like the perfect pairing. Has Theatrhythm Final Fantasy given us a competent rhythm game bearing the Final Fantasy name, or are those hopes just a fantasy?
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy's main gameplay has players tapping, sliding, and holding their stylus down with terrific timing to the notes that horizontally scrawl on the upper screen. I'll refer to these notes as Triggers from now on. The aim of the game is to perform the appropriate action as the Triggers cross the mark on the right side of the screen. Some request that you simply tap or touch the bottom screen while others have you holding the stylus down or quickly sliding the stylus in the specified direction (left, right, up, down, diagonally, etc.), though the latter can be infrequently read incorrectly by the game. Depending on your timing, you earn more points. If you are perfect with your timing on a given note, you receive a Critical rating. If you are somewhat fast or somewhat slow in your movement, then you receive a Great or even Good rating. Being off or doing the wrong action in the wrong direction gives you a Bad rating. Finally, letting a Trigger pass by without doing anything results in a Miss. Both Bad and Miss ratings end any kind of chain of completed Triggers you had going. Chains are important because they increase your point total as you successfully hit more Triggers in a sequence.
|Basic is essentially Theatrhythm for dummies.|
(I still had some problems early on, though!)
There are three main modes to playing Theatrhythm: Series, Challenge, and Chaos Shrine. Series is a mode where you play through music from each of the thirteen mainline Final Fantasy games. The downside of this mode is that only the Basic difficulty is available at first, and it's really easy for rhythm game pros. Nonetheless, you need not play the Final Fantasy entries in order. Each title has five songs that you play through in a successive fashion. The start and ending of each game, Demo Music Stages (DMS), play the same - a crystal rests in the center of the touch screen, and as music notes reach its center, you tap the screen. Unlike the other types of rhythm romps in Theatrhythm, these types of stages cannot be failed, and they also can be skipped at any time.
|The years shown are from the Japanese|
releases of each Final Fantasy entry.
Let's start off with the most challenging of stage types, the Battle Music variety. Here, there are four tracks, each designated to one of your four party members. As Triggers move from left to right across the top screen, you must perform the necessary touch screen input as they pass over each character's mark. When I originally saw this setup in a trailer, I was worried on whether or not the player would have to touch a specific part of the touch screen depending on which tracks the Triggers were on. Thankfully, this doesn't matter. You can touch anywhere on the bottom screen to satisfy the game. As you fortuitously tap, slide, and hold on Triggers, you give damage to the enemy on the other side of the screen. The goal here is to defeat as many enemies as you can. The more enemies you defeat, the more experience you earn and the better chance you have of coming across an item or other collectible. If you are perfect when a series of silver Triggers arrive (which results in what the game calls a Feature Drive), you can unleash an astonishingly powerful summon like Ifrit, Shiva, or Odin to take out your foe. Having characters that have high Attack and/or Magic is paramount if you wish to take out an abundance of enemies in one stage. Having high HP and a high level also gives you more wiggle room if you miss a myriad of Triggers that would otherwise make you get a Game Over.
|Show that Behemoth who's boss.|
|As the band Toto once sang, "Hold the Line."|
|Relive your favorite Final Fantasy |
moments in these event stages.
As you complete songs you earn Rhythmia, the stuff with which you unlock in-game content such as Encore songs and Music Player and Movie Player content. New stuff constantly unlocks at increments of 500, so in essence you always have something to bait you into playing more. You can receive Rhythmia bonuses at the end of songs for having a high chain of Triggers in a given song, beating a song for the first time, having an all male or all female party, using the lead character of the series you are currently playing (e.g. using Squall for a Final Fantasy VIII song), and other notable accomplishments.
That said, as my tagline of this review suggests, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy can be an extremely long grind. Building up characters to worthwhile levels, earning new songs and unlockables through gaining more Rhythmia, fighting the same bosses over and over again in hopes that they drop the items you want, etc. It gets exhausting after a while and sort of overwhelming if you try to do it all at once instead of piecemeal.
|From leveling up to stocking up on items,|
the grind is definitely on in Theatrhythm.
The final part of the trio of music mode options for Theatrhythm is the Chaos Shrine. By earning Dark Notes, you can participate in these two movement games: one field and one battle. The higher the Dark Note number, the more difficult the Dark Note. And did I mention that the Triggers are absolutely positively randomized each time you play a specific Dark Note? There is a good reason to play Dark Notes, though. If you succeed in getting far in the field stage, you face a boss during the battle stage which can drop sensationally valuable crystal shards. These come in multiple colors, and collecting all eight of a given color unlocks a new character to play as. From FFVII's Aeris to FFVI's Locke, there's plenty of crystal shards you'll want to grind (there's that word again) for to unlock your favorite Final Fantasy all-stars.
Outside of the main musical modes, there is a bevy of options. You can listen to unlocked songs and watch unlocked movies in their respective players. You can collect and read up on CollectaCards, earned through playing battle, field, and event stages as well as through special passwords. There's even something for stat hounds that records and stores how long you've played, what characters you've used the most, what songs you've played the most, how many critical hits you've gotten, how many perfect chains you've nailed, and the encyclopedic list goes on. In addition to all that, there is StreetPass functionality where you can trade profile cards and Dark Notes with a passerby and Multi Play with a local friend who owns their own 3DS and game card. You have a profusion of activities to occupy yourself with in Theatrhythm, possibly more than in any other rhythm game to date.
Theatrhythm has an exceptionally cute chibi art style that perfectly creates a uniform look for all Final Fantasy characters and monsters. Even ol' Safer Sephiroth doesn't look all that intimidating when he's in chibi form! The game is just a vibrant delight, and the 3D effect actually helps push the various Triggers out to the forefront to make them simpler to see. As for the music, you may or may not like the selection of songs provided. It's all subjective anyway, but a lot of great ones are there like Aerith's Theme (FFVII), One-Winged Angel (FFVII), Dancing Mad (FFVI), Blinded By Light (FFXIII), Saber's Edge (FFXIII), Theme of Love (FFIV), Behind the Door (FFIX), Waltz of the Moon (FFVIII), Blue Fields (FFVIII), and as I said, more downloadable songs to come. Even the arranged tracks that occur during menus are exceptional. And by the way, yes, you CAN turn off or lower the volume of the chimes that occur when you respond to each gameplay Trigger to make your musical and rhythmic experience less of a bother if you so choose.
|Can you obtain the elusive Perfect Critical Chain?|
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]