Review by Bobby Blackwolf

Game Review: Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy

Game Review: Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy

I have a stock answer for a particular question that gets posed on Internet forums all the time. The question is, "What is your favorite Final Fantasy?" My stock answer is, "The one that I played when I was the closest to 12 years old." Us old people remember Final Fantasy VI as our favorite, the younger generation considers Final Fantasy X their favorite, and in about 10 years we'll hear about how Final Fantasy XIII was the best of the series.

For this game, it doesn't matter what your favorite Final Fantasy is, there's something in here you'll enjoy.

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy (officially pronounced by the producer Thee-at Rhythm, complete with hard stop after the T, if you're curious) is Square Enix's entry into the rhythm game genre. Sure, it's a shameless milking of the franchise appealing to people who just HAVE to see cute versions of emo FF characters looking all happy while swinging their swords to the tune of One Winged Angel...But, it's a FUN shameless milking of the franchise.

The Story So Far


As with any Final Fantasy game, there is a deeply involved story involving multiple plot twists, interrelations between characters, and a climactic emotional scene at the end of Disc 1 that absolutely nobody will see coming, even 15 years later.

However, that was most likely left on the cutting room floor in Theatrhythm, as it's not really story driven at all. Here's the plot: Chaos and Cosmos are in conflict, and the space between them is called "Rhythm." In this area, there is a crystal that gives birth to music. When Chaos does its thing, the crystal's power wavers, so Cosmos sends in warriors (that's you!) to replenish it by collecting "Rhythmia" to restore balance.

But really, this is the ultimate "I don't care why I fight, I just want to fight" game...So the plot doesn't matter.

How It Plays


Event Mode
Event Mode
There are obvious parallels you can make between Theatrhythm and Elite Beat Agents, but Theatrhythm does things differently enough that it will either please you or make you very angry. Me, I was very pleased with one of the main changes - you no longer play on top of the screen you're trying to watch. The bottom screen merely has a blank area (with the game logo) where you are tapping and swiping, and the top screen has the note chart. The main difference is that the position of the stylus is not important in Theatrhythm, only the taps and swipes.

You start by creating your party of four out of the protagonists from the base 13 games, which each have different stats. As you play, these characters gain XP and level up, which allow them to equip more spells and skills. This system allows you to "grind" up to harder levels, as the higher levels and more skills, spells, and items you have will allow you to make more mistakes on the harder songs before game over - but if you're adept enough at the game, a party of level 1's and a party of level 99's really don't seem to make a difference.

There are three modes of gameplay:

Battle Mode
Battle Mode
Battle Mode generally has the uptempo songs and features all four characters battling monsters by hitting, swiping, and holding notes on their line. As stated before, you don't move your stylus to the other lines, but you still have to be able to watch all four lines. At higher difficulties, this is not as easy as it sounds.

Event Mode generally has the slower songs, and plays a movie in the background while you follow (with your eyes) a circle that goes over notes that need to be tapped, swiped, and held. This mode looks most like Elite Beat Agents, except you aren't following anything with your stylus, so there's no chance of your hand getting in the way of the next note you need to handle.

Field Mode
Field Mode
Field Mode generally has the overworld songs, and features a character running across the field with a single line depicting the notes. In this mode, you DO have to move the stylus up and down to keep with the beat, but as long as you hit the dots, you'll be fine.

Each mode has a "Feature Zone" that is activated. You'll notice that, at a certain point in the song, all of the notes will turn blue. Hit all of the notes, then a Feature Zone becomes activated, giving you more points and more chances of loot being dropped. In Battle Mode, you summon a creature, in Event Mode, you get an extended ending, and in Field Mode, you get to ride a Chocobo, allowing you to travel farther in the field before the song ends. The only complaint I had about these zones is that they make all of the note types an identical color, so it was not as easy to determine if it was a tap (red) or hold (green) because they were now both yellow. (The difference is the size of the inner circle, but when you're so used to looking at the colors, it gets jarring until you get used to it.)

Chaos Shrine
Chaos Shrine
When you first start playing, you can only do Basic difficulty in Series mode - where you play through the songs in sequence based on the particular game. Once you complete the Series, then those songs are available in Challengs mode with an Expert difficulty. Clear the Expert difficulty version with an A or higher, and you'll unlock Ultimate difficulty.

Then, there's the Chaos Shrine. This contains "Dark Notes" that you collect that contain two random songs - one Field and one Battle. These contain songs that aren't normally available in Series mode (such as Mambo de Chocobo) and will drop better loot, including Crystal Shards, which are required to unlock other characters. This mode can also be played using local ad-hoc multiplayer, however that feature was untested for this review.

How It Looks


No Sweat!
No Sweat!
This is definitely a more light hearted Final Fantasy, where every character is rendered in a cute Chibi-style, even if they are supposed to be brooding and emo. (It's interesting to watch Lighting jump up and down excitedly and say "Get Lost" or "Hmph" after leveling up.) The 3D use is mostly of the "I guess we have to include it" variety - the note chart and score is on the closest 3D plane to you, and the prerendered movies are on the farthest 3D plane to you. For anything higher than Basic difficulty, I turned the 3D off. The framerate was constant, which is a necessity for a rhythm game.

Purists will like that the prerendered movies featuring the older games in the Event Mode contain the Japanese text, but those are the only ones that show gameplay - once you get to FF7, you will only see cutscenes.

How It Sounds


This is the reason that Theatrhythm was released on the 3DS rather than the DS - the sound quality. The 3DS has better sound processing than the DS, and it most likely made a huge difference here. It won't sound great on the 3DS speakers, but put on a pair of nice headphones and you'll be pleasantly surprised. I also hooked my 3DS up to my large stereo speakers, but that is overkill and you can really hear the lower sample rate when you do that. A good pair of headphones will do you just fine.

The Verdict


There are 39 songs playable at the start, with an additional 12 available as unlockables. for a total of 51 songs. There are also songs available as DLC, which is where the "Over 70 Songs" marketing speak comes from on the packaging. Currently, 8 songs are available in North America for 99 cents each, and they can be downloaded from the DLC section in the game - no combing through the eShop. In Japan, they've even released the main theme from the unreleased Final Fantasy Versus XIII, so there's more content coming. (But, nothing for Final Fantasy XIV.)

This stylus rocks
This stylus rocks
$40 may seem like a lot for 51 songs, but I think that, for those who like Final Fantasy music and rhythm games in general, they will spend enough time with this game to make every dollar worth it. If you get the game now, you could get the "preorder bonus" of a stylus and stickers - it was in my copy of Theatrhythm that I did NOT preorder, so it probably shipped with all copies in the first batch. This stylus is much longer than the default 3DS stylus, and it's actually difficult for me to want to go back to the default one because of how close my hand is to the screen when using it.

I didn't think that this would be my favorite 3DS game when I picked it up, but that's exactly what it has become. Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's just a love of the genre, but bottom line is that if you like the music of Final Fantasy, and you enjoyed rhythm games like Elite Beat Agents, then you owe it to yourself to give it a try at some point.

There is talk of Theatrhythm becoming a series of games, and I think the foundation laid here is perfect for that. Bring on Theatrhythm: Kingdom Hearts!

Price: $39.99
Acquisition Method: Purchased at retail for full price

Our Grade:
A
Your Grade: A-
(Based on 5 grades)
The Good:
  • Musical selection has something for all FF fans, and the audio quality is great (with headphones)
  • Difficulty ramps up appropriately to give newbies a chance to enjoy the song, but giving hardcore players a challenge
  • Leveling up system allows for "grinding" to give more leeway on missed notes for harder songs
The Bad:
  • $39.99 may be a steep price for only 39 initially playable songs, especially when packaging says "Over 70 Songs" - but that number includes DLC
  • 3D graphics are pretty much just there to be there
  • Equipping items, spells, and skills don't seem as important as the game leads you to believe

Bobby Blackwolf is the host of The Bobby Blackwolf Show on the VOG Network, lead developer of the website, and lead GM for VOG: The Game. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyBlackwolf

Review by - 7/8/2012 2:48 PM709 views

Your Responses

ShaneAlenko
ShaneAlenko
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B+
I've been playing it for a bit today and totally like it a lot, which I wasn't fully expecting to. I think the gameplay style I don't like would be Event Mode. I'm not a fan of slow stuff. Also, I think Squeenix was a bit lazy in that they use Japanese screens and footage for the Event Modes. I'd say it's worth buying, but I'm expecting the next rhythm game this week (Rhythm Thief) to be way better.
See 4 More Concurring Opinions
Ramaditya
Ramaditya
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: A-
As one of FF veterans I feel some what tired of it. Final Fantasy? It says final, but it keeps coming! This one is even very difficult to be spelled out. But well, it does not (and even I don't know why) stop me of enjoying this latest addition. Because I can't play it by myself (I am blind) so I have to rely on my friend to play it for me. To be honest though; I do enjoy the tracks. It brings nostalgia to my ear. Agree with Bobby; use headphone and you're ready to go!
VxJasonxV
VxJasonxV
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B+
I'll echo most of these points, I've really enjoyed the game so far, and hadn't even realized that I didn't have the same EBA/Osu screen switching problem. My only gripe is the advertising. You DO NOT get to advertise content you don't have in the box. Over 70 is great, but not when you have to pay more to get it. That alone pisses me off enough to call it a detriment to the game. The selection of characters from Final Fantasy's history is great, and the concept is thoughtful. Worth buying.
Auspher
Auspher
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: A-
I've played many games throughout the Final Fantasy franchise. I also am a major fan of rhythm games such as DDR or Beatmania IIDX. To say the least, I was psyched about this game when I first read about it, and I was not disappointed. The game has a ton of replay value with the Chaos Shrine and multiple difficulty levels, as well as the DLC("Somnus" from Final Fantasy XIII <3). My only grip about the game is that I wish there were more in-game cutscenes. Game was purchased from Gamestop.
skie
skie
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: B
Have you ever bought a coffee table book? Theatrhythm feels a bit like that for the modern era, and a must-have coffee table book for fans of Final Fantasy and Music games. For now, Theatrhythm stands as a great way for a music game fan to re-visit the franchise's best moments without spending 50 hours per game. (Please see my full review in the comments below, use "Read More" to read it all)

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Comments

skie
skie
7/8/2012 3:33 PM

4 0

Reply
Have you ever bought a coffee table book? A pretty expensive, nicely bound and printed collection of photographs and musings from your favorite musical artist, poet or painter? Theatrhythm feels a bit like that for the modern era, and a must-have coffee table book for fans of Final Fantasy and Music games.

I imagine most people already know if they will enjoy this game or not... if you are the type of person that would buy a Final Fantasy figurine, you will get definitely enjoy the collection of movies, musical interaction and of course major grindfest as you knock out the chaos stages. Although I joke about the grindfest, the inclusion of Final Fantasy elements such as leveling up and using spells and items is executed really well, although it does seem to make the limited amount of Battle Stages stand on a tier above the Field and Event stages.

There is something to be said though about that $40 price tag. For a collection of songs exclusively out of the Final Fantasy playbook, things feel a bit lacking. 39 songs with 12 unlockables in the chaos shrine, and I believe the 70 number is when you throw in the opening and closing themes of the 13 games. Sure those opening and closing credit songs are lovely to hear again, but quite frankly an absolute bore to play the game to compared to the more interesting Battle and Field stages. Good thing they are skippable, although if you want a jump on the grindfest, you are forced to dully tap thru them.

No real reason exists to play the game in 3D. Sure there are some subtle effects here and there, but I quite frankly found the event stages irritating in 3D with the movie playing on a back plane and the notes occurring on a front plane. While I am all for 3DS games existing that do not abuse the 3D party trick, I am a bit disappointed that with that $40 price tag, some of the movies unlocked in the theatre mode could not be re-rendered into some show-my-friends-what-i-unlocked 3D.

Theatrhythm succeeds best at being a great commercial to re-play the Final Fantasy games from the past. Although it's refreshing to see a music game that doesn't rely on rock classics or current pop hits to make up it's song list-- 99 cents a pop for downloads of songs recycled from game's past feels a bit opportunist... 99 cent bundles of 3 songs form a game would have been appreciated. A little strange at the complete lack of Final Fantasy X-2, XIII-2, other square powerhouses such as Kingdom Hearts & Chrono Cross, and absolutely zero mention of Final Fantasy XIV. (Okay, the last one is a bit humorous actually)

Playing the medley from Final Fantasy 8, I couldn't help but think... maybe I've been too harsh about this game on OLR, maybe I should go back and play it again. You know, when I have 50 hours available. So for now, Theatrhythm stands as a great way for a music game fan to re-visit the franchise's best moments without spending 50 hours per game.
VxJasonxV
VxJasonxV
7/8/2012 4:36 PM

1 0

Reply
Theatrhythm: Cubed (get it? Square... 3D... ok, anyways) could be an excellent sequel. The best of Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger/Cross, Super Mario RPG, Kingdom Hearts, and more.

I wonder what the state of licensing for all those things are nowadays. Surely they all came into Squeenix?
act_deft
act_deft
7/8/2012 3:08 PM

0 0

Reply
I really need to get a 3DS... so many great games I'm missing out on.

And even though I kinda hate Final Fantasy, I love the music in it so I really want to try Theatrhythm
Burr
Burr
7/8/2012 3:29 PM

0 0

Reply
I really liked Ellite Beat Agents, but I'm not an FF fanatic. Would be nice to try a demo of this. $40 is a bit steep to buy sight unseen.
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