RPGs are loved for the rich stories, strong character progression, level grinding and – of course – the loot. For Final Fantasy gamers, RPGs have one more element that cannot be overlooked – the music. Whether you’re trapped in a thirty-minute boss battle, traveling across a world map or watching an exquisite cinematic sequence, the music is always there to serve as a guiding hand. Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy on the 3DS captures everything that’s beloved about the rich roster of Final Fantasy music. Outside of the rhythm play, there is not be much RPG depth to the game for the traditionalist. The cute chibi characters serve as nothing more than a frame of reference for the famed music library. However, it’s precisely the music and the throwback videos during event sequences, which make this one game any FF gamer can cherish.
At its core, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy is a rhythm-based game. Utilizing your stylus, you match on screen prompts. Gamers are rewarded for precision and timing. Varying levels difficulty change the rhythm gameplay from a relaxing session of taps and swipes to a fast and frantic gaming session. If you have played any rhythm game, or Rock Band, you know this means icon prompts flying across the screen at the speed of light.
Theatrhythm features songs dating back to 1987 – Final Fantasy on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – right through Final Fantasy XIII. Although you may not have owned an NES, you probably have had the chance to play the legendary game on any number of consoles it was ported to afterwards.
Gamers can assemble a team of four characters, selected from the leading characters in each of the FF titles. Don’t get too excited, the player you choose will have little effect on the outcome of the game. Theatrhythm offers up the illusion of an RPG experience, but you can beat the entire game just by being a great rhythm gamer.
There are three types of music from each of the thirteen FF games to play through: battle, field and event. The Battle scene music features four note lines, one for each character in your party. Red, green and yellow buttons move from left to right, serving as your stroke guide. Red circles you tap, green circles you press and hold and yellow circles you swipe. Enemies appearing at the left side of the screen serve as little more than a distraction to your rhythm play.
As you tap, you’ll see anything from standard enemies to key bosses appear. There’s no real difference in difficult or gameplay when new enemy types show up, it’s all about the music score you’re playing along to. You’ll also get the chance to see a myriad of summons, depending on which FF game you’re playing. Gamers will accumulate items and gain abilities as they progress through the game. Potions can come in handy if you make a few too many mistakes, however you’ll be rewarded for not using them. Abilities like the weapon break become available, but are not essential to gameplay.
The field music scenes feature one note line. Your characters switch in as you run from right to left. Eventually, you even get to see a Chocobo show up. It’s all good fun, if you’re a fan of the franchise. The notes in the field scenes tend to drift up and down, usually while you’re holding down one of the green circles. It gives you the feel of being an orchestral conductor.
The event music scenes are the best scenes to play through. Instead of seeing your chibi characters, you get to see memorable moments from the FF series. This is an utter joy. The only problem is the language. It’s a bit of a let down to play the English release of a game, but see Japanese characters on screen. I’m sure that most USA players, like myself, would have preferred to see the translated text. It’s just a reminder that this game isn’t about the gameplay and all about the rhythm. The command notes move more freely around the screen often in overlapping loops.
Theatrhythm has a Challenge mode that unlocks songs for replay after you complete them in the main game. This allows you to go back in and earn a higher rank. The real fun comes in the Chaos Shrine. Gamers are given two randomly selected songs to complete. There are also songs that can be unlocked, which are not in the main game. Hopefully, more songs become available through DLC.
Overall, Theatrhythm is a delightful game, especially for old-time gamers wanting to savor the glory days of Square RPG gaming.