Theatrhythm Final Fantasy 3DS Review
Publisher – Square Enix – Developer – indieszero – Genre – Rhythm Action – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A
With Final Fantasy now reaching its milestone 25th year, it’s a fine time to celebrate the long history of Square Enix’s flagship RPG series. One of the key ingredients of the franchise is the often wonderful soundtracks that add so much weight to important points of narrative and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a celebration of this much appreciated aspect.
In case you hadn’t already guessed Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a Final Fantasy themed rhythm Action game, where you tap the 3DS touchscreen in time with the music. There’s red circles that you simply tap, green circles you must press and hold, and yellow circles that must be swiped in the required direction as they pass by. Precise timing and chaining will net you bigger scores and other bonuses.
It has a cute art style, steeped in personality that sees characters from throughout the history of the series all looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, no matter how fierce they look in their respective games. The likes of Cloud, Cecil, Squall, Terra and Lightning are all present and you’re able to build a party of four characters, each of which have strengths and weaknesses that are worth bearing in mind before assembling your team.
80 songs from across much of the mainline series are featured, starting with the original 1987 game and ending with Final Fantasy XIII, though it’s disappointing that none of the numerous series spin offs from over the years are represented, whilst it’s unfortunate that songs aren’t always included in their entirety and those hoping for arrangements alongside the original renditions of the songs will also be left disappointed.
Favourites such as Aeriths’s (translation error or not, she’ll however always be Aeris to me) emotional theme, the dramatic One Winged Angel final boss theme from FF7 and Terra’s haunting theme from Final Fantasy 6 are included. Considering the sheer number on offer, it’s likely that there will be something to please every fan, even though there’s probably going to be one favourite piece or another that is missing, but with plenty of DLC (a first for the 3DS) on the way, this could very well be remedied going forward.
There are three modes on offer. There’s a series mode that features four pieces from each of the soundtracks of the 13 featured games. Completing each set here will unlock them for use in challenge mode, where you’re able to play and focus on mastering each song singularly and on harder levels of difficulty. The Chaos Shrine meanwhile sees you unlocking dark notes and the mode has the advantage of featuring music that isn’t present in the series mode. Whilst success with each can earn you hefty awards and will often unlock a fresh dark note, they’re however very challenging sequences that require vast levels of concentration.
Gameplay is split into FMS (Field Music Stages), which are generally relatively slow paced overworld pieces, and sees your characters wandering the world and task you with getting as far as possible before the music reaches its conclusion, and you must trace long green lines to help your characters do so. BMS (Battle Music Stages), on the other hand, are harder battle themes that see your dinky party battling monsters, each character has a line each that represents their attacks and killing as many enemies as possible increases the chance for receiving items up on successful completion of the song. Finally there’s EMS (Event Music Stages), which are typically the least challenging type on offer and also featuring FMV and game play from the related games in the background, which will certainly make fans feel all the more nostalgic.
Each song has a Feature Drive, where if you hit enough notes, you get various bonuses. In a FMS your character will hop on the back of a Chocobo, allowing you to get further on a stage. The bonus in the EMS on the other hand will extend the song, offering the chance for larger scoring opportunities and finally BMS will result in your character summoning a monster to score devastating damage to their enemies.
Playing each mode will see you earn Rhythmia, of which with every 500 amassed, you’ll unlock something for your efforts, such as shards, which eventually grant you additional characters to slot into your team.
Further rewards come with an XP system, which, like the Dissidia series, means that, in spite of being of a different genre altogether, it still clings to RPG mechanics. In the usual fashion, amassing so much XP will see your characters advance in level, increasing their stats.
You’ll also occasionally pick up fresh skills that you’re able to equip, provided that you have enough capacity points (these will increase through leveling up) to do so. These are either activated automatically or are only triggered in certain situations. Further inspiration is taken from RPG’s with items that you’re able to find and equip to give you various bonuses that are of particular benefit on the harder difficulties. Much like a tough battle in a mainline Final Fantasy game, the right setup going into the more challenging songs can mean the difference between success and failure.
Theatrhtym Final Fantasy is a wonderful, comprehensive and worthy celebration of what has always been one of the franchises most consistent and defining qualities, but it doesn’t forget the mechanical roots of Square Enix’s enduring and legendary series either, making for an accomplished hybrid that will bring the memories flooding back to many a series fan.