Why I'm Hoping Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Will Make Music Stateside
Now and then, even the most successful and proven series need a break from their usual song and dance. Square Enix, publisher of some of the hottest RPGs on the market, has decided to give their most popular series a brand new routine. While some fans will kick and scream well into their golden years for a Final Fantasy VII remake, others can look to the future and anticipate all its victories and failures, big and small.
Let’s not fool ourselves. With a company as formidable as Square Enix, there are going to be plenty of mistakes to go around. Final Fantasy XIV Online is a prime example. Never before has Final Fantasy been so laughed at. We’re talking the kind of disaster that makes Moogles cry.
Even with its embarrassing MMO mistake, Square Enix knows the joy of victory. Every time they sell a copy of Dragon Quest, hear fan boys and girls pining for more Kingdom Hearts, or generate buzz for the reboot of Tomb Raider, that famous victory anthem plays over the loud speaker in their offices. You know which one I’m talking about. The one from Final Fantasy.
Maybe it was the realization that some themes never get old that sparked the idea for Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, an oddball in the series if there ever was one. And people complain that games like Zelda II are the black sheep of the gaming world. Under development by Tokyo-based production company Indieszero, Theatrhythm is a fresh and fun take on a long-running series. We’re talking long-running as in nearly twenty-five years, with more than a handful of games to show for it. Aside from the fourteen main installments (if you’re counting the crashed and burned FFXIV MMO), Final Fantasy has more spin-offs, movies, anime, compilations, and continuations to its name than anyone should care to count. It’s a monster franchise.
Those two strong decades, plus a few years, have also given rise to some of the best music in video games. What makes Final Fantasy such a versatile and impressive series is its resolution to always reinvent itself through new characters, worlds, and stories. The recurring elements, from summons to chocobos to Cid, are what bind the universes together, making them accessible to veteran players and drawing them in for another adventure. The constant renewal ushers in newcomers.
No matter which games you’ve played—and the nature of the series allows for any combination of them—we’ve all listened to the same music. The same themes, remixed. The same familiar notes, written by industry greats like Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and Hitoshi Sakimoto. Theatrhythm proposes an interesting tribute to those composers, all while pitching an exciting gameplay idea and giving thousands of players, who have played any number of Final Fantasy games, a reason to join the party.
Everyone can listen to soundtracks or select favorite songs from in-game jukeboxes, but it’s another thing entirely to relive them in the way Theatrhythm presents. By keeping up with the beat of field, battle, and event stages, players can relish old themes in a way that’s sure to get the songs stuck in their heads for days.
What those FFVII diehards don’t seem to understand is that as people, we often need a fresh setting and a fresh perspective to keep the memory of something alive. That holds true with anything in life. Home feels much homier when you’ve been away from it for a long time. Theatrhythm bases its entertainment on songs we already love while pressing them up against an adorable graphical style, where our favorite characters, like Cloud and the Onion Knight, are now chibis, and bosses and enemies are much cuter than we remember.
From the trailer, some challenges are even preserved in their original cinematic or past-generation forms. While I’m not as hopeful about these portions as the chibi ones, at least they’re still accomplishing the same goal: to strengthen our memories of the music and games we love through creative, independent gameplay.
Theatrhythm could act as a treasure trove of Final Fantasy games, a way to honor all those years of level-grinding and dungeon-crawling, fantastic storytelling, and breathtaking graphics. After its giant misstep with Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix needs the chance to prove its beloved series is not only timeless, but more flexible than the single-player RPG domain alone. Let’s just say they could use a good victory.