Is Theatrhythm Final Fantasy as big a pain to play as it is to say?
Final Fantasy is one of the longest running franchises in console gaming and is a veritable power house when it comes to fantastic and memorable music. Hoping to leverage that power, Indies Zero has created a rhythm game that embraces that long running heritage with a heaping helping of fan service. If you love Final Fantasy or rhythm games then you are in for a treat and, if you like both, oh boy do I have the game for you.
The basis of the game is a simple one; you’ll play through 5 songs on every main title in the series from Final Fantasy I to Final Fantasy XIII. Within that set up you’ll have an opening and ending theme, a battle theme, a traveling theme and an event scene. Your job is a familiar one to any rhythm gamers as you match up prompts on screen with swipes in different directions, a tap on the touch screen, or holding for a specified time. Each song type will play out a little differently though and has a distinct graphical presentation that goes along with it. When in battle you’ll see a familiar turn based line up of your party that you’ve chosen from a variety of characters from the thirteen different games. Prompts will scroll towards different characters on the screen and you’ll tap them as they reach the character resulting in attacks, magic and even summons that do a lot of damage. The more precise you are the more baddies you’ll kill and the better you will score.
Travel themes work a little differently as your lead character walks on a field through a stylized representation of that entries world. Added in to the typical mix is a meter where you will hold and have to follow the flow up and down whilst you do. Doing well will move you further and faster on the map and net you more treasures. Lastly we have event scenes where various scenes will play out from the different games on the top screen while you follow the prompts around the action.
After clearing each stage you’ll be rewarded Rhythmia which in turn unlocks more and more stuff as your overall quantity of the currency rises. This gives you a strong incentive to master the songs over and over as you unlock characters, movies, songs, various new options and Dark Notes. These Dark Notes are much harder layouts of random songs throughout the game that can be played solo or in co-op play. Co-op though is a thoroughly missed opportunity here as there really is no sense of playing the game together. You and your friend will play through the song at the same time on each of your systems, but other than sharing a life bar and the loot there isn’t anything else here. It feels, honestly, like just something thrown in at the last minute and isn’t on par with the rest of the high quality presentation.
Rhythm is just one piece of the puzzle as Theatrhythm also fuses RPG elements to the typical flow of gameplay as your different characters will level up and unlock new abilities that can be equipped that do different things to get you through songs. For instance one ability might give you a bonus every time you hit 30 notes in a row or cure you if you hit critical levels on your health just before you fail. Also you’ll be able to equip your party with different of the items earned while playing which provide similar boosts. You won’t really notice these changes at lower levels, but when you reach higher levels with more powerful abilities you will certainly see a difference in the battle type. Switching out for a level one character, while not changing some things, will lower how fast you unlock certain trophies and content by decreasing the amount of enemies you can defeat.
The greatest draw to Final Fantasy Theatrhythm is, without a doubt, the overwhelming amount of content here and the amount of fan service that you’ll see. It also directly affects the amount of enjoyment you’ll get from the game. If you enjoy playing through songs over and over trying to master your score in an attempt to unlock new content then you’ll be happy as that’s mostly where the longevity of the game comes from. Just playing through the single player series mode will take you around four hours or so, but really it’s just the beginning if you enjoy the above. Playing through Series mode is fun, but you’ll find the bulk of play in Challenge mode trying to complete a song at the ultimate difficulty level (no small feat I assure you) and from mastering Dark Notes in the Chaos Shrine. There is also the nice addition of using StreetPass to trade Dark Notes along with a neat little customizable profile card. It’s nothing earth shaking, but is a welcome, if trivial, addition.
My biggest, and really only, gripe with Theatrhythm is the lackluster and pointless co-op mode. Honestly though that’s a small drop in the hat compared to the epic experience I’ve had as I’ve steamrolled through well over 23 hours put into this game, and I’m really only just getting started. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy or rhythm games you’ll find yourself as utterly addicted as I am and even if you aren’t this is easily one of the best titles to grace the 3DS to date.