A rhythm game and RPG mushed into one? Have the gods gone mad? Yes… in a good way!
The long-running Final Fantasy series turns 25 this year. All those special events and concerts are nice an’ all, but what we need is a special game; one that would do the series proud. And developer Indies Zero did just that. Behold Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for the Nintendo 3DS.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Genre: Rhythm, RPG
Developer: Indies Zero
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Original Release Date: July 3, 2012
ESRB Rating: E 10+
Reason for Rating: Fantasy Violence; Mild Blood; Mild Language; Suggestive Themes; Use of Tobacco
The two gods, Cosmos and Chaos, govern the world, and bring balance to the scales of good and evil. And from that balance, the Music Crystal was born. But hark! The forces of evil grow stronger; dimming the Crystal’s wondrous light. Cosmos summons the brave Warriors of… er… Music, heroes who’ve proven themselves time and again, to do battle with the evil and restore light to the Music Crystal once more.
In other words… the basic plot to the old-school Final Fantasy games, staring the 13 main characters from the mainline Final Fantasy games. Seems appropriate!
Oh… They Look Soooo CUTE!!!! And sound FABULOUS!!!
The visuals of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy are just… cute. No… super cute! Every single character, from stoic Squall to fan favourite Sephiroth, have this super-deformed look that had me squealing like a delirious fan-girl. The animation reminds me of shadow puppets used in the old days. The best example I can think in recent memory would be the card battles in another Square Enix game, Chocobo Tales.
The 3D isn’t distracting, but it doesn’t really add to the experience or blow my mind any. You can turn the 3D off and you wouldn’t lose anything; the game looks awesome in either mode.
The music played during the stages are all pulled from the mainline Final Fantasy games up until (and including) Final Fantasy XIII as they were in the original games. Yes, chiptune NES goodness can be heard and it is glorious. A trip down memory lane if ever there was one.
Overall, in terms of presentation, Theatrhythm gets top marks from me.
A Toe-tapping (and screen-tapping) Adventure
The thought of having an RPG in a rhythm game seems baffling… and yet, it works well here! There are three modes available. You’ll start with Series Mode, where you’ll make a party of four and play through three songs from each of the Final Fantasy games: one Map Field, where you’ll run along the world map, one Battle Scene, where you’ll have to defeat as many enemies as you can, and one Event Scene, where you’ll watch some of that entry’s most memorable cut scenes. They’re all on a time limit, so just do the best you can until the song’s over.
As the notes fly across the screen toward your marker on the top screen, you must tap the touch screen, glide the stylus in the direction indicated, or tap and hold the note, all to the beat of the song. The more notes you hit successfully in a row, the higher your chain, which leads to a higher score and more experience points. If you’re doing well, you’ll be able to trigger “special events” in the song, like riding on a Chocobo, or get Odin to mess fools up. At the end of each song you complete successfully, you’ll be given a Letter Grade based on your performance, Experience Points for your party members, your final score, and a certain number of Rhythmia (more about what Rhythmia does later!).
Series Mode can be considered Easy Mode, as songs are simple to play through and serves as a great way to get used to the game mechanics. You’ll eventually unlock Challenge Mode, where you can play any song you want. Score well and you’ll unlock harder difficulty levels for that song (I’ll say this now: Ultimate Level is evil. Pure evil).
The final mode you unlock is the hard-as-nails Chaos Shrine. You’ll start to collect Dark Notes, a collection of songs all set on Hard Mode. The notes in these songs will come at you fast and furious, and you’ll face one of three possible bosses. Win, and you can get some rare and awesome items.
The characters in your party can make things easier depending on the song type. For example, characters with high Agility will travel farther and faster on the Map Fields and increase the chances of finding an item at the end, those with high Strength or Magic can mow foes down quicker in Battle, and so on. You can equip abilities and stat boosts to get your characters buff, and you can learn more abilities as your characters gain levels.
This is all surprisingly fun. Squealing with delight fun. Time really does fly by when you’re playing this game, especially (if you’re like me) you want to improve that score. If you’re familiar with the original tracks, you’ll have an advantage as the notes match perfectly with the beat of the songs.
I do have a couple of gripes, though. In Challenge Mode, you have access to a Practise Mode for the song. It’s awesome that you can get a chance to play through a song that’s giving you trouble (especially on the harder modes!). But there isn’t a lot you can do other than play through the song in its entirety. You’re not always going to have trouble with the WHOLE song; there might be some trouble sections that you’d like to have a go at. For example, a lot of the DDR: Dance Dance Revolution games have a training mode where you could practise your footwork on songs. In addition, you can select sections of the song to play through, and the speed at which the song plays (regular speed, in slow motion, sped up, that sort of thing). That’s the sort of thing I wish was present in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for the Practise Mode. It’s minor, but still, I wish something like that was there.
Then there’s Chaos Shrine. You can team up with other players via local multiplayer, which is awesome. Of course, finding another person playing Theatrhythm might be difficult, so I wish there was a way to play this online as well.
Continue to Toe-Tap
There are a lot of things for you to do in Theatrhythm. A LOT.
There’s the Museum where you’ll be able to listen to the songs and watch videos that appear in the game. You can also collect special trading cards that enemies drop and see your growing collection here. If you collect enough of a certain card, it’ll upgrade to a fancier version (like a Foil Card). You can also head over the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Official Website for special passwords you can enter to get even more cards. You’ll also see various stats and records (most used characters, most played song, etc.), and there’s also in-game Achievements you can earn!
Then there’s Rhythmia, the substance used the restore the Music Crystal. Collect enough Rhythmia and face the Final Boss, Chaos (oh noes!). But that’s not all Rhythmia does. It also unlocks bonus tracks to play in the Challenge mode, new songs and videos for your entertainment in the Museum, and maybe earn a Coloured Shard. Collect enough of these shards in a particular colour and you’ll get a new party member! You read right: You can have Vivi from IX, Snow from XIII, or Sephiroth from VII, among others. Some Shards are harder to come by, though.
There’s even some Street Pass functionality. You can set up a Profile that includes your game stats, create a little greeting, and attach any of the Dark Notes you collected that you would like to share (it won’t disappear from your inventory, don’t worry!). When you walk around in Street Pass mode, you can collect the Profiles and Dark Notes of other Theatrhythm players. This is handy, not only to get some of those hard-to-get Dark Notes, but for Chaos Shrine if you’re looking for other players.
Lastly, if you grow tired of the songs you have you can purchase new songs for $0.99.
Two Words: Get This
Heading says it all, yea?
Okay, okay, I’ll be more specific. This really is a love letter to all the Final Fantasy fans out there. I had a blast playing this. If you’re looking for something different, and love this series (the music in particular), I highly recommend this game.
+ Presentation is great
+ The mix of rhythm game and RPG work well
+ Plenty of things to do to keep you busy
+ DLC! You can get new songs, and get more cards for your collection
– Wishing there were more things to do in Practise Mode
– Wish we could play Chaos Shrine online rather than just local multiplayer
– If you’re not too keen on rhythm games, maybe this might not be for you