Square Enix is best known for the RPG series Final Fantasy. These games, while great for the most part, generally follow the same routine – character goes on quest to save world, meets people who help him/her, same old, same old… However, a new installment in the Final Fantasy series changes things up, while celebrating the series’ 25th anniversary. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, released on July 3rd, is essentially a rhythm game with some RPG elements mixed in.
When you first start the game, you must choose a four person team. At first, only a few characters are available, though more can be unlocked as you progress in the game. After some tutorials on the various stages and team management, you are limited to playing series mode. In series mode, you choose from one of 13 Final Fantasy games (from Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy XIII). You then proceed to play through at least 3 (and at most 5) songs from that particular game. Each game in series mode begins and ends with the opening and closing themes from that respective game. A simple tapping game is paired with these songs in which you simply tap the screen when the note crosses the diamond on the top screen. Both the opening theme and ending theme can be skipped with no penalty, with the exception of missing out on the opportunity to gain more Rhythmia (more on this later). After the opening theme, three stages occur in various orders. One type, the Battle Music stage (BMS) features your team facing off against various monsters. The notes are split into 4 streams (one per character). The better you do, the more damage you do, thus leading to even more monsters.
The second type, the Field Music stage (FMS), highlights your character running through some environment as notes scroll across the top screen. The better you do, the farther your character gets, and thus the more likely you are to receive better items. The main difference in this mode from the BMS is that on the hold notes, you must also follow the path as shown on the screen. Finally, there is the Event Music stage (EMS). This involves playing either a gameplay video or cutscene from the game while notes appear on screen in an Elite Beat Agents-esque fashion. Within each stage, one section is designated for a special purpose. These notes (indicated by their silver appearance), when accurately hit, provide a bonus within the game. This bonus changes with the stage type. In the BMS, the streams converge into one line and a special monster is summoned. By hitting the next section correct, the monster will unleash a powerful summon attack. In the FMS, your character hops on a chocobo and speeds ahead in the stage. Finally, in an EMS, the song is extended for a bit longer, giving you a chance to earn more points. If failed, the game continues on as normal (except in an EMS, where the song ends).
The game also features Challenge mode, in which any song you have played in Series mode is unlocked for play. Here you can try these songs on a harder difficulty level. If all songs in a game are beaten on this harder difficulty, the harder difficulty becomes available for that game in Series mode. One other game type is Chaos Shrine. In here, you can take on Dark Notes, which consist of a Field Music stage and Battle Music stage. The interesting part of these Dark Notes, is that the song in the FMS can be from a different game than the BMS. You actually don’t even know the song until it starts playing! Chaos Shrine can also be attempted in multiplayer mode through local wireless communications.
As you progress through these stages, you earn Rhythmia which helps you unlock new modes and features. Rhythmia unlocks things from crystal shards (unlocking characters), new clips in the theater mode, or more songs in the music player. Your team also gains experience and levels up as you complete more of the game. As you level up, your stats increase which in turn help in the various stages. You can also equip new items and powers to help you in the stages as well. These are but a few of the things you can do and unlock within the game.
The game’s main focus is on the music. The sound quality is great and the songs included are some of the best Final Fantasy has to offer. The gameplay itself is very simplistic in concept. However, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy takes this concept and does some creative things with it. While these new elements do not prevent the game from becoming repetitive, they do extend the amount of time required to feel that way. The game also includes purchasable DLC to add even more songs to the game, thus extending replay value of the game. Speaking of replay value, if you want to unlock everything in this game, you will be playing it a lot. That being said, I don’t mind doing so. For what it is, the game is great. The game is supposed to provide a fun, casual experience while highlighting 25 years of one of the most well-known gaming series in history. The game also does a great job mixing the rhythm genre with the RPG genre, though many players may find it unnecessary or even too time-consuming and not mess with it at all. If you have a 3DS and are a Final Fantasy fan, or just want a casual experience, this title is certainly worth checking out. The fact that the game only contains Final Fantasy music may turn others off from buying it however.