Square Enix's highly anticipated entry to rhythm games has finally arrived for the Nintendo 3DS. Pushing the already fully charged hype train is one of the most beloved of franchises, the Final Fantasy series. The series has always been lauded for its amazing music score, isn't it about time the music was able to come to center stage?
Theatrhythm is probably most recognized for its super cute take on the series's most beloved characters and its hard to remember for to write name. I swear I looked at the box every time I had to write the name down. How did the series handle our favorite heroes, take the world into 3D, and most importantly, present the music. Hit the jump to find out what's been bumping in my headphones over the past couple weeks.
Final Fantasy Theatrhythm (Nintendo 3DS)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: July 3, 2012
As soon as you take a look at the charming art work on the packaging the intended wave of nostalgia hits you.Once you start the game you pick out your party from some of the series's favorite heroes. Me? I decided to go team superstar. With Cloud, Tidus, Shantotto, and Lightning ready to mash up some beats.I really love the character designs they used, but if you stare at them too long, they do kind of look like zombies. Cute zombies!
Your characters can be leveled up and assigned different techniques and attacks via the usual SP system. At this time you can also equip the party with items that can be used automatically during gameplay, and often give you the leg up. During the gameplay and boss battles the damage you do to enemies will be treaty effected by the level and special techniques your characters have. I'm still relatively low level so I haven't quite seen the fruit of my labors here.
The game is basically decided into 3 parts. Series, Challenge, ad Chaos Shrine. Series is the main part of the game, where you take your party headlong into music battle! Once your party is assembled and tweaked, you have the choice of your favorite Final Fantasy game. Yes, they are all here in glorious 3D. You first take some taps at the opening theme to the series, which unfortunately is one of the weaker things in the game, which I'll get to later. After you build your Rhythmia there, you the move on to the Field Music Mode. Your party walks horizontally across the map and encounters various inputs.
You tap, slide, and flick your stylus on the bottom screen depending on the command on the upper screen. The inputs are tied with the music. Anyone familiar with any rhythm games will feel at home here. Think Elite Beat Agents meets Gitaroo-man. In eerie mode this is actually very easy for a novice rhythm game player to pick up, and may be a bit too simple for veterans of the titles I mentioned above.
You then enter into Event Music, and Battle Music mode. Event music mode is a bit more challenging, as it tends to throw some complex patterns at you, and requires quick stylus movement. Battle Music mode is where you will the fruits of being a high level character pay off. Towards the end of the encounter you will come face to face with the bosses of the series. If you are low level, even if you hit critical hits each time, you won't even see their ugly mugs.
Depending and your timing, and stylus drag accuracy, you will be scored. Get too many bars or misses and your party will fall on the battlefield. So keep on time, or come packing plenty of Pheonix Down! The first time I picked up the game I didn't die once. In series mode you pretty much have to be totally not paying attention for death to come knocking.
As you play through the series mode you will begin to unlock various songs in Challenge and Chaos Shrine Mode. Challenge mode is pretty self explanatory. You can do a practice or expert battle on a particular song, with the difference in difficulty being quite large. Going expert on any song can be a challenge. Now Chaos Shrine mode is where the meat of the game is. You are given a random group of songs, but the difficulty is on a different level. It's face paced, and gives you plenty of rewards for mastering the system. Items are dropped and various fun goodies for later viewing are unlocked. As well as secret songs. It takes a while to unlock the different games in Chaos Shrine Mode, but it is worth it.
I have to mention how great the game looks. The various scene playing in the background as your tap away are so nostalgic, you often find yourself forgetting what you are doing in the grips of nostalgia. When Suteki Da Ne came on I almost froze. That song just gets me in the gut every time! The 3D in the game is subtle, but effective. Most importantly all the songs sound fantastic. The simple control scheme is accurate, with the timing being fair. I had initially wondered why this game wasn't just an Android or iOS title, but the 2 screens are necessary. Having whole bottom screen there for input is a must, and covering up any on screen items would probably lead to a lot of headaches.
Now to the bad. It's a short list, but there are some things that keep this game from being a super A+++ title, especially as far as being a rhythm game is concerned. My biggest gripe is the sounds that are made when the timing is hit. They are little clashing sound that don't effect the music. In these kind of games, there is a lot of satisfaction when you are actually playing part of the song, when you get to hit that note or pattern in that song you love. Instead, you are clanging on top of it. Maybe if you made a cowbell sound it would be cool?
I also wish that the introduction songs could actually be played through. In many games the title tracks are my favorites. You probably end up hearing them the most, and not being able to engage them directly is a bit of a bummer. Eyes on You is an unfortunate victim of this, which totally bummed me out. Lastly, I wish there was a sliver of story. I get that your are just reliving stories you ave already been through, but some kind of dialog or funny story between the characters that are coming in out of canon could be pretty funny. Seeing Cloud hanging out with a Tarutaru has a lot of comedy potential.
All-in-all I really do like the game. It has a lot of quick play, fun portability factor, and I would rank it as one of the best 3DS games to date. However, as a rhythm game junky I was looking for a fix that hasn't been sated in quite a while. If you look at games like Gitaroo-man and Parapa the Rapper, there was so much intercity and innovation going on with those titles. Some kind of Theatrhythm and Gitaroo-man hybrid was kind of what I was hoping for. Don't let my crazy video game orgy dreams detract you however. If you are a Final Fantasy fan you will really enjoy it. If you love the music in the series you will go nuts over the game.
If you are approaching the game purely as a rhythm game junky, it may be slightly too simple for you. If you don't already, make sure to be packing some good headphones when you play, as the music should be really taken in and enjoyed. Excuse me while I go play Suteki Da Ne for the 100th time.
[8.0 A great Final Fantasy game, sure to satisfy music lovers. Hardcore rhythm game junkies may find it a bit too simple.]