Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call Review

Rhythm-based gaming hit a fever pitch about 5 years ago, which eventually collapsed on itself with the over-saturation of Guitar Heroes and Rock Bands. To me, the appeal of rhythm and music games died when the amount of plastic peripherals overflowed my gaming area; did I really need DJ Hero turntables? – Probably not. That said, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is the kind of game I’ve been avoiding for some time now. Although I hadn’t played the previous installment, I did have certain expectations for this sequel to 2012’s hit having played Elite Beat Agents and Guitar Hero on Nintendo’s handhelds before. I’m glad to say Curtain Call squashed those expectations.

In its most basic form, a rhythm-based game plays a track and you have to act according to the music all while being judged on accuracy. Curtain Call has that and builds on it to offer a richer and deeper experience. Your performance after a track isn’t just scored and forgotten about – your characters are leveling up and building up experience points just like the RPG-style gameplay Curtain Call‘s source material. There are three different types of gameplay and they include Battle, Field and Event. Field and Event styles of play are largely similar in that they play the same with slight tweaks in the visuals. Personally, I like playing in the Field just to see Chocobos.

When playing a Battle, what’s happening on-screen is reacting to how well you’re hitting notes and inputting the right commands. When a boss enemy appears, the game does a great job at getting you pumped up to hit all your notes. Leveling up will help build up abilities, including Thundara to deal magic damage after chaining a certain amount of notes or Counter to dish out physical damage after missing a few notes. Multiplayer modes are available too and offers fun for those looking for bragging rights. Can you hit notes better than your friend? You can find out both off and online.

There are multiple control methods to play Curtain Call and they can be changed on the fly during any given song. The ways you can play is through touch-screen, buttons only or one-handed. My preferred way to play was with the touch-screen via stylus, but there were times when I felt that the feedback of pressing buttons felt more comfortable – what can I say? I’m fickle. The one-handed controls I never got into, but I can definitely see the practicality of it during a train ride home during rush hour where I had to use one hand to hold on to something. There were moments where the circle pad didn’t recognize my directional input as much as I would have liked and that can be annoying for a accuracy based game no matter how few times it happened.

Curtain Call is a fan service game more than anything. All the main and side characters represented here are easily recognizable by even the most casual Final Fantasy fan. Curtain Call‘s style is cutesy and miniaturized versions of lots of characters from Final Fantasy lore. Think of all the characters you love, such as Cloud, Titus and Lightning in Funko Pop! Vinyl form. The music chosen is not just from the main Final Fantasy series as Tactics, Dissidia and even the movie, Advent Children finds a place in this game. The tracks are as they were in their original form and discovering new tracks I’ve never heard before was delightful as well. This is truly a treat to your ears, so make sure you invest in some high quality earphones, because the 3DS audio output is unfortunately not the best or the loudest.

Whether you’re here to hear Final Fantasy II music or Final Fantasy XII music, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is an amazing retrospective for any kind of fan. Even if you’ve never played Final Fantasy before or don’t particularly like it to begin with, it’s still a great rhythm-based game with great music in its own right. The possibility of having your Final Fantasy dream team is completely realized here and it’s cool to see Square Enix celebrate its history of lovable and iconic characters into one title. The next and most logical step for the series’ future would be the inclusion of other beloved Square Enix characters like Sora and Chrono.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
Genre: Rhythm
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Department
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Rating: 8 / 10

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII – The many outfits of Nova Chrysalia’s Dead Dunes

If you’re like me, you probably hated the first Final Fantasy XIII, then found yourself oddly loving the sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2.

Unfortunately, the heroes we met in the first game were no longer playable characters in the sequel – which was a good thing in the case of Hope and his bane Snow. But the first game’s lead hero, Lightning, was only around in cut scenes.

Now, in its third installment, dubbed Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, the franchise hero is indeed back as the name suggests – and she’s got a “swag” load of new outfits.

The latest screens show Lightning fighting and haggling her way through the Dead Dunes, a new desert area in Nova Chrysalia.

She also appears to be fighting one of the many varieties of Bahamut. In one of the night scenes, which feels very graveyard-y, we get a taste of her dialogue as well. She says, “I’m used to fighting my destiny.” Holy crap, step back everyone. Lightning hasn’t lost her attitude.

Nor has she lost her sense of style. Pink hair isn’t the only thing cosplayers will be looking to replicate at Comic Con this year. They’ll also have a myriad of Lightning accessories to choose from. Perhaps Lightning made a trip to Sakks Fifth Ave for her comeback.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is now available for Preorder:

Check out the full gallery below:

Spotted: Massive Gun Worthy of the ‘Final Fantasy’ Merch Collector

If you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game, you’ll always remember the unique weaponry. For instance, everyone remembers Sephiroth’s giant Masamune sword from Final Fantasy VII (and if you’re a hardcore FF fan, the Masamune dates back to the first FF – just check the Chaos Shrine). Then of course, there is the notorious Gunblade, designed by Tetsuya Nomura and introduced in Final Fantasy VIII.

We’re always on the lookout for cool Final Fantasy inspired merch for CosPlay as well as the collector’s case, and we found one that – while not specifically Final Fantasy designed – will catch the eye of any FF lover.

We found this massive, double-barreled gun (one barrel on top of the another) at Mantiques Modern in New York City. Typically, FF collector’s items are not always sold at full-scale size. When they are, you can always tell by its weight and design that it’s most definitely just for show. This gun is more than just for show.

This giant weapon stands at nearly seven-feet in length and is sturdily crafted. It’s a workout just to lift it, but that’s what makes it so damn cool. The gun may not actually work, but it’s designed as if it were a real weapon.

When I saw it, I immediately thought of the longer Gunblades used by the Garlean Empire centurions in Final Fantasy XIV. Sure, the blade isn’t there, but it’s freaking HUGE and the detail is phenomenal.

Several collectables at Mantiques Modern cost a few thousand dollars. The store also has a WWII Browning Automatic giant training model that’s 7 foot 9 inches, which costs $8,500.

Mantiques Modern is located at 146 West 22nd St. in New York City. If you’re in NYC looking for some awesome new items to add authenticity and value to your collection, definitely stop by this shop.

PS3 Review: ‘Final Fantasy XIII-2′ is a Game Worth Beating

Final Fantasy XIII-2 corrects the major flaws of its predecessor and will restore your faith in the Final Fantasy franchise.

final fantasy xiii-2

Final Fantasy is one of the most recognized RPG franchises in gaming history. It solidified its position with Final Fantasy VII, one of the Playstation’s defining titles. Gorgeous summoning spells, an amazing battle system with limit breaks and a captivating plot with memorable characters made it a legendary title. Games VIII and IX on Playstation were good, but not as groundbreaking as VII. Then came Final Fantasy X on the PS2. Once again, Squaresoft (prior to the merger of Square with the Enix Corporation) showed the gaming community just how great its RPGs were. The company decided that the game was so good; it would be spun off into a X-2. Unfortunately, the spinoff paled in comparison to the original. Three games later, Square-Enix has made a similar move with Final Fantasy XIII, except there is one difference. Final Fantasy XIII suffered from ill-conceived level design that forced gamers into linear gameplay – a definite “no, no” in RPG land. Now, with Final Fantasy XIII-2, Square-Enix has corrected the fatal flaw of the original title. The biggest difference is this: Final Fantasy XIII-2 isn’t just a game worth playing; it’s a game worth beating. You just couldn’t say the same about the original.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 starts off with Lightning, the familiar face and lead badass character from the original game. She’s saying a prayer to the goddess Etros. In the opening cinematics, you also meet a man dressed in purple, named Caius, with one “helluva” sword. He stands on the beach, hovering over the body of a woman. After saying some parting words, he attacks Lightning. Right away, you are thrust into what feels like a major battle. It’s almost impossible to lose, but it quickly gets you fully invested in this new RPG. You want to know what Lightning is praying for and why this man is attacking her. By the way, who is that woman who just died and why does Caius seem to blame Lightning for her death?

Lightning is already powered up. You have Odin by your side and a few powerful spells. But don’t get attached to Lightning; she’s not really involved in the gameplay. The action is superficially intense because it’s really just a warm up for the actual story. After a few battles with Caius, complete with cinematic actions (QuickTime events), a man named Noel falls from the sky. Now, the story can begin. Lightning commands Noel to head through a space-time portal to save her younger sister Serah. She sends along Mog, a Moogle who can find items and transform into a weapon, with Noel to serve as Serah’s weapon.

It’s a long exposition, but in this case it is worth it. The XIII-2 story feels like a completely fresh game even though it’s a part two. Noel lands in the past just as a meteor is crashing down into Serah’s home village on Pulse. If you don’t know what Pulse is, or haven’t played the original game, you won’t be at too much of a loss. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is easier to follow than its predecessor. You don’t dwell too much on the differences between the l’Cie and the fal’Cie or the difference between the people who live on Cocoon and those that live on Pulse (Cocoon is the floating world, safe from monsters, that sits above Pulse like a moon hangs over a planet). Those concepts are still present for back-story and a few key events. However, XIII-2 is more about saving the world. You don’t have to worry about whose focus is what and why and why does everyone hate them for it.

final fantasy xiii-2

Now, let me warn you. XIII-2 isn’t without its moments of confusing story telling. This is a time travel story. There are anomalies that you have to resolve, which come in the form of mini-puzzles. You can’t have a time travel story without some confusion, but the overarching story will keep you invested. Noel and Serah also take some time to warm to. Unlike Lightning or Snow, Noel and Serah start off as more soppy characters. They almost feel like a throwback to Hope. Serah let her fiancé Snow go off to find her sister after she disappeared at the end of XIII. He’s been gone for three years and in that time she never went after Snow. After he spent all of game XIII hunting for her, it just feels like she’s a little apathetic. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Noel’s back-story, but it takes a while to figure him out and why you should be following him. His character does not have the same appeal as Cloud had in VII.

The gameplay brings you back to a fully opened-up experience. You’re not just traveling along a linear route for the whole game. Instead of a world map, you have a time map called the History Crux. Once you unlock a new area in time, you can travel backwards and forwards through history. There are also alternate histories to explore. This really brings you back to how Final Fantasy should be. You can go anywhere you like, and you have great reasons for doing so.

In XIII-2, you have to collect artifacts, which help you to open up portals to travel through time or allow you to unlock special abilities. The latter is accomplished by bringing your artifacts to a casino, called Serendipity, which exists outside of the timeline. In Serendipity, you can also play a number of gambling games to raise money. As always, there is a Chocobo race. In XIII-2, you not only race Chocobos, but also you can have them fight along side you.

Instead of having three characters in your party, you only have Noel and Serah. However, throughout the game you can catch monster crystals, which allow you to use Monsters as the third member of your team. They can be powered up by gathering various monster materials. Monsters denoted “early peakers” can be powered up quickly and are welcome additions to your team in a hard spot. However, they max out at Level 20. Those denoted “late bloomers” take a long time to develop but will be key assets later on in the game. Similar to XIII, Monsters use the Crystarium System, where you trade Crystogen Points for levels. However, unlike Noel and Serah who can switch between roles like Synergist, Medic, and Commando on a whim, Monsters can only have one default role. You can also infuse one monster with the passive and role abilities of another monster. The ability to switch between party paradigms feels more engaging and strategic in XIII-2 over its predecessor, but that could just be because this game is more engaging overall.

The addition of Monsters to the gameplay makes the battle system more engaging. Your Monsters will be able to perform their own super moves, much like the Limit breaks of FF VII. Although gamers can’t runway from a fight once they’re in it, the game restarts you from right before the fight if you die. Players also don’t lose any of their supplies. The save system allows you to save at any point in the game. If you power off your game, you will return to the History Crux and from there can travel to any place in time.

final fantasy xiii-2

Lightning isn’t the only character that pops back up into this quest. Hope also appears as a grown up. He’s less weepy than he was in XIII and it’s great to see him finally grown up. He also helps to shift the shift the story into more understandable territory. Thanks to Hope, who heads a group called the Academy, the people are moving away from relying on the fal’Cie and are shifting towards technology. It also gave the designers a chance to really blur the visual designs between fantasy setting and city landscapes, filled with technology. There are a lot of beautiful areas to explore and even more varieties of monsters. There is also a traveling saleswoman called Chocolina, who is a hybrid of a woman and a Chocobo. She looks like someone who escaped from a Brazilian carnival and forgot to take off her costume.

Regarding the mini-puzzles, they are not too prevalent in the game, but they do show up at key paradox points. In one puzzle, you have to make it across to the next portal without backtracking, while collecting crystals. It gets fairly difficult later on in the game. Another puzzle is setup like a two-hand clock, with numbers ranging from one through six spread around its face. If you touch the number one, the hands will clear that number and then move one space in opposite directions. Depending on where the two hands land next, you will have to choose one of the next two numbers to move next. If you choose the six (as just an example), it will move six spaces. The goal is to clear the entire board. This was probably the trickiest puzzle to get used to. Once you complete a puzzle, the game says that you have corrected the anomaly.

There are a few gripes with the game. Traveling with your Mog means that you have to hear it say “Kupo” all the time. It gets annoying. However, you get your revenge later on in the game when you can throw Mog in the middle of any area. It struggles by screaming, “Kupo, Kupo, Kupoooo.” It’s great. There are some frame rate issues when you travel through time and in a few of the cinematic animations. Also, I’m a little upset with the inability to summon. Summoning has been a great part of the franchise since VII so it was difficult to see it vanish. I also would have liked to see more interaction with some of the characters from the previous game; they had more depth and dimension. If not for Caius, Noel and Serah’s story would not have been nearly as interesting. The two just needed some more personality.

Overall, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a surprisingly good game and the conclusion is worth the hours of level grinding you invested. There is one caveat to the conclusion, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Final Fantasy XIII-2
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Genre: RPG
Platform: PS3 (Also available on Xbox 360)
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Square-Enix
Release Date: January 31, 2012

Rating:

8.2 / 10

More Awesome Animation from Final Fantasy XIII-2 – Valhalla Trailer

Square Enix has just released a new trailer for the “Battle of Valhalla” in Final Fantasy XIII-2, coming to Xbox 360 and PS3 in Jan 31, 2012.

Although this video shows off more of the epic animated sequences in the new Final Fantasy game, gamers are still more interested in the actual story and gameplay.

Check out the trailer above and let us know your thoughts on the next iteration of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Were you a fan of the first game and if so will you be picking up this latest version on launch?

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Preview: Hope, Slots, Academia and Pokemon

While it’s hard to draw a bead on whether or not Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be a significant upgrade from its predecessor, the visuals continue to impress. Square-Enix has released three new images from the game showing off Hope with a Moogle (has anyone ever been curious about the relation between Moogles and Harry Potter‘s Muggles?), some flashy set decor in Academia and a slot machine action in the Casino.

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Final Fantasy XIII-2 will add on more quicktime events and give gamers live triggers, which present four choices for more additional information.

Although the story remains somewhat linear, how you choose to defeat villains like Atlas (by using a special “device” or fighting him head on) will effect certain aspects of the game. It’s all very unclear at this point even after several previews. However, Square-Enix has stated that the game will “open up” by Chapter 2 and players will have “two path options” by Chapter 3. NPC soldiers will also have side missions so that you can gain additional XP.

The real new addition to the game is that gamers can collect up to 150 monsters to be used in their battle party. It’s kind of Final Fantasy with Pokemon “gotta catch ‘em all” fever. Gamers can name monsters and customize their monsters with items or accessories. If you want to outfit your monster with a funky watermelon hat, you can.

There are also puzzle sections, where gamers must walk along platforms to collect crystals. When you do, the platform that you just walked over will disintegrate. So the lack of backtracking does present some modest difficulty if you choose the wrong path.

One more modification is the weather effects system. Weather is more closely tied to key moments in the story. So that sandstorms and rain will effect gameplay.

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be available on PS3 and Xbox 360 in early 2012. It is expected to launch on Jan 31.

Preorder Final Fantasy XIII-2 on PS3:

Preorder Final Fantasy XIII-2 on Xbox 360:

Square Enix Hypes up Final Fantasy XIII-2 Release with Bonus Content

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is getting a few added bonuses for preorder shoppers. Square-Enix has just announced different incentive programs for gamers who shop at Gamestop, Amazon.com and Best Buy. In a rare occasion, Amazon.com actually has what looks to be a better bonus than GameStop. There’s actually a unique added bonus boss battle that will most likely be available as DLC at a future date.

Check out the bonuses below:

Final Fantasy XIII-2

GameStop
Receive an exclusive in-game item by preordering at GameStop e/retailers
– Alternate costume for Serah, visible throughout the game

Amazon
Omega Boss Battle
– Unique coliseum battle against boss enemy “Omega,” who joins the player’s party afterward

Best Buy
Collectible Hardcover Book
– FINAL FANTASY XIII –Episode i– novella, an original story that ties together the events of FINAL FANTASY XIII and FINAL FANTASY XIII-2

These preorder bonuses will be available exclusively in North America.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be available for PS3 and Xbox 360 on January 31, 2012. Which platform are you checking it out on?

Square-Enix Aims to Fix Final Fantasy XIII Tragedy with Final Fantasy XIII-2 Sequel

What the &#*%?

Square-Enix has just announced a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, called Final Fantasy XIII-2. If you’re familiar with the original game, you’ll recall that gamers were infuriated with the lack of open world exploration in the game. Unlike prior Final Fantasy titles XIII didn’t allow for much flexibility in the game; it was more like an action-adventure game with a real-time and turn-based battle system and a leveling system that forced everyone to level-up the same way.

According to Square-Enix:

Production on FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 is underway, and builds upon the best aspects of FINAL FANTASY XIII. In particular, a brand new story and evolved battle system promise to stand out markedly against the standard for high-quality content established by the previous title.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is scheduled for release Next Winter for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

What do you think? Is it worth checking out after last year’s failed attempt at RPG gaming? Can Square-Enix rekindle the livelihood of Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy X in this sequel or should they start from the drawing board and jump right to Final Fantasy XX?

Toy Fair 2010

Toy Fair 2010 featured some of the hottest new toys and collectables for children, young and old. Licensed properties from Bakugan, Marvel Comics, Showtime, Anime, Final Fantasy XIII, Nintendo, Gears of War and many more made a strong showing this year. Over the next week, we’ll be reporting on some of the hot items to check out if you’re a TV, Gaming or Comic Enthusiast. As always, George Lucas was everywhere with Star Wars merchandise galore. There were even lightsaber chopsticks (from Kotobukiya). Oh yes, kids can get their Jedi training on while eating Sushi.

We’ll be showing off several photos we took from the event, as well as report on the best items to check out for 2010. Trust us, they’re pretty awesome. If you’re a collector, get ready to ante up because this year will have several must own pieces. A few of the hot new items were only available in prototype form, but we’ll give you the details on what to expect come Quarter 3.

toyfair2010_opens

Game Preview: Final Fantasy XIII – Meet the Creators and New Box Art

We’ve got new box art for the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII game from Square-Enix. Also, if you missed the announce trailer, here it is. The video will introduce you to the creative minds behind Final Fantasy. You’ll get a taste of Paradigm Shift mode, which gives real time impact to the players strategies. This is the major gameplay upgrade that Square-Enix will be pushing with this new release.

John Yamamoto, President of Square Enix, discusses the choice to use “My Hands” from Leona Lewis’ upcoming album Echo as the Final Fantasy XIII theme song.

[flashvideo filename=”videos/FFXIII_Announce_Trailer.flv” width=”490″ height=”275″ /]

Final Fantasy XIII is scheduled to be released March 9, 2010.

Buy Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3:

ffxiii-box-art_ps3
Buy Final Fantasy XIII for the Xbox 360:

ffxiii-box-art_xbox360