Final Fantasy. The series synonymous with Japanese role-playing games. We’ve seen countless spin offs, sequels to mainstays and even a couple of MMORPGs. Now comes Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a rhythm game that has you playing to song selections from the thirteen major Final Fantasy titles. It’s not only a very addictive game, but it’s also an ode to something the series has always been well known for: its music.
Theatrhythm actually has a bit of a story to it. Two gods Cosmos and Chaos exist in a plane called Rhythm. Herein this dimension, a Music Crystal is responsible for upholding harmony. As powerful as the crystal is, it can’t fight off disruptive forces for long and begins to lose control of this harmony. The only thing to restore the balance is the Crystal of Rhythmia. In order for this to happen, a select group of heroes must gather rhythmia to give the Crystal power and return Rhythm to its harmonious balance. That’s about as far as the story goes.
Before you begin playing Theatrhythm, you have to build a party of four from a cast of thirteen heroes, each one being a lead character from a numbered Final Fantasy. Every character has their own individual stats and abilities, which will help you during gameplay. The main mode of the game is called Music Play, and there modes within Music Play: Series, Challenge and Chaos Shrine.
Series is the focus of the game, having you play through selections from Final Fantasy 1 through 13 in a structured format. When you begin a Final Fantasy, you’ll start out a prologue, tapping the touch screen in time with notes as they spiral towards a crystal’s center. You’ll then play three different stages – Battle Music Stage, Field Music Stage or Event Music Stage – and close with an epilogue that plays exactly like the prologue does.
The basic gameplay across all three stage types are the same. Notes called Triggers play across the upper screen from left to right, and you must tap them on the touch screen as they pass over a bar called your Mark. There are three types of triggers: Touch, Slide and Hold. Touch Triggers are red dots that you simply tap; Slide Triggers have arrows prompting you to swipe the screen accordingly; Hold Triggers are green bars that have you holding the stylus on the screen lifting it at the end of the bar. Sometimes these Hold Triggers will also have Slide Triggers at the end of them, requiring a swipe as you take your stylus off the screen. You earn points for each Trigger you get a Good score or higher on. If you get a Bad or a Miss, your score chain breaks, but the ultimate goal is to land a Critical on each trigger to get a perfect score.
Battle Music Stage, or BMS, spreads your party out in a classic RPG formation, and each character will have their own spot along the Mark. Notes may come to them in different times, and BMS usually has the fastest tempo of the three types. It also uses backgrounds and songs that its corresponding Final Fantasys used for their battles. Field Music Stage, or FMS, uses only one character and its major distinction is that the Slide Triggers are wavy, requiring you to slide your stylus up and down the screen. FMS uses environments and music from its Final Fantasys that you would see and hear while out in the field. Event Music Stages are very different in that you not only see your characters, but the notes and cursor play out across the screen in different patterns, not a straight line. These stages are set on backdrops of videos of key Final Fantasy moments, and usually use music from opening or ending themes.
All stages have sections called Feature Zones, and if you perform well enough during these segments, something cool will happen. In BMS, you’ll summon one of several summon creatures to unleash extra damage on your enemy. You’ll turn into a chocobo in FMS, and the background will zip past you at blistering speeds. EMS has the most important Feature Zone of them all, because it actually extends the length of the song and level. Successfully completing these Feature Zones would be the difference between a Rank S and a Rank A.
As you play, your characters earn experience points and level up, with your leader receiving a bit more. They’ll learn abilities as they level, which will help you perform better. Some of these abilities unleash powerful attacks when bosses appear in BMS, while others will heal some of your lost HP. Each character has stats that help as well, such as more strength will deliver more damage in BMS, while more agility will help you nail Criticals more often all around. Mixing and matching characters and abilities can be a great way to help you survive tough stages.
You can practice and perfect your scores in Challenge Mode, and if you do well enough, you can unlock harder difficulties for Series. You’ll also unlock a mode called Chaos Shrine, which contains Dark Notes. A Dark Note is a set of two movements – one an FMS and the other a BMS – randomly selected from the different Final Fantasys. Each Dark Note has different trigger patterns so no two are the same. Some are a lot harder than the others, and some Dark Notes will contain songs or arrangements you haven’t played in Series. With 99 Dark Notes in total, this mode will keep you busy for a very long time.
And speaking of being kept busy, the replayability in Final Fantasy Theatrhythm is astoundingly high. There is so much to unlock in the game from songs to movies to bonus challenge stages to even extra characters and trophies. You do so by collecting Rhythmia and for every 500 you collect, you get something new. For every 2500 you collect, you get something significant, such as one of many different colored shards that goes towards unlocking a new character. Even after you’ve unlocked all the game has to offer, you can purchase new songs from a very large selection of DLC. Plus, there’s always striving to get All Critical ranks across each and every stage.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy isn’t a very impressive looking game. It doesn’t really draw on the power of the 3DS nor even use the 3D in any significant way. Instead, it relies on its simple art direction to give the game a pleasing aesthetic. Characters are cute caricatures of themselves, and although they lack a little personality, they are clearly identifiable as the ones you know and love. Backgrounds are also easily recognizable, and playing Event Music Stages across montages of FMVs from post-PS Final Fantasys are really cool. There really isn’t much to say in terms of special effects, because the nature of the genre never really calls for much in this area.
Because this is a music game, the music needs to be front and center. Theatrhythm takes the music that Final Fantasy fans have adored for decades and placed it on a pedestal. With at least three different tracks from each numbered Final Fantasy, there is a lot to reminisce to and fans will surely love the inclusion of the most iconic Final Fantasy song One-Winged Angel. The music, however, may be too well preserved for some fans as the older songs are their original 8-bit MIDI versions. Those fans might have preferred the arrangements from the rereleases, but you never know. They might be hiding in Chao Shrine! The sound effects are subtle, and accent the music rather than distract from it.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a celebration of music. It is a fantastic journey through the history of the series and grips you with highly addictive gameplay. It’s a joyous rhythm game and sparks a desire to see more Theatrhythms for other game franchises. The only real drawback is that there are no Event Music Stages in both the Chaos Mode or the DLC store so if you really love these stages, you’ll be out of luck. If you’re a long-time Final Fantasy fan, just want a good rhythm game, or need something new for your 3DS, you can’t go wrong by picking up Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.
Incredible track selection | Highly addictive gameplay | Loads of stuff to unlock
Some may not appreciate the old music much in 8-bit form | No Event Music Stages in Chaos Shrine or the DLC store
Born and raised in Denver, CO in 1979, I've been playing games since I was old enough to hold a controller. I was weened on Atari, then Nintendo and Sega, and currently own just about every console and handheld made. I'm an avid hip hop fan and I love to read books. Favorite authors include Dean Koontz, Stephen Hunter, and Christopher Moore. I'm also an avid movie watcher and I try to collect as many Blu-Rays as I can.
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