Theatrhythm Final Fantasy review
It's been 25 years since the birth of Final Fantasy. Since 1987 (or 1990 for the US) gamers took it upon themselves to rescue princesses, ride airships, collect crystals, wield towering swords, defeat many evils and save the world. Square Enix saw it fit to celebrate this occasion with a compilation. Sadly, not a compilation of every single Final Fantasy game in one convenient package, but rather through the amazing musical compositions that the series is equally known for. Theatrhythm takes all 13 core Final Fantasy titles and presents them to fans in a brilliant rhythm game package that is absolutely overflowing with nostalgia.
Cosmos and Chaos are at it again, and have once again summoned every main hero and a myriad of side characters to the fray in order to restore balance to the Rhythmia crystal, which is now teeming with darkness. The only way to do this is to travel the lands, battle enemies and reminisce through musical pieces that feed the Rhythmia crystal. It's a silly premise, but given that the game revolves around music, it works.
There is more to Theatrhythm than meets the eye. On the surface, you have a seemingly uncomplicated rhythm game that relies on taps, slides and holds. Even a generally non-rhythm centric gamer can easily get through the basic difficulty of songs. Digging deeper and further unlocking harder difficulties or taking on the Dark Notes, which I'll cover later, proves that you not only have to have rhythm, but you also need to have great hand-eye coordination.
You're given the choice to build up a dream team of four characters comprised of any main hero from the 13 games, or eventually unlockable characters as well. These characters then level up, gain abilities, equip items, raise their stats and more. An RPG system in my rhythm game you say? It actually ends up working beautifully in conjunction with the overall gameplay, which I'll get into next.
The game's Series mode allows you to select any of the 13 games in the series, and then break them up into five separate sections. The beginning and ending songs are mostly there to provide backstory and conclusion, although you can tap along to the song whenever music notes fly over the crystal in the middle of the screen for some extra Rhythmia points.
The crux of the experience is in the three event stages. The Field stage (FMS) is a walking stage where your leader character walks along a field while you play along to the given field music. While your character's level isn't dependent on you completing the level, it does factor in how far they can walk, and therefore what items they can acquire. For example the main stat point that's important for Field stages is agility. The higher the agility, the further they'll go, simple as that. Having high Luck also helps with finding rare items.
Event stages (EMS) are stages that are the most nostalgia evoking. They are comprised of popular cutscenes or gameplay from each title which plays in the background, while you tap, slide and hold to the beat on the foreground. I can't tell you how excited some of these made me. I remember having a save file specifically right before the Waltz for the Moon segment in Final Fantasy VIII that I wanted to be able to rewatch whenever I wanted. It's great that this cutscene, along with many others, are included in the game.
Lastly, Battle stages (BMS) are battles which pit your four heroes against an onslaught of enemies one after another. The governing attributes are Strength and Magic, since it helps you defeat monsters more easily. The more of them you kill, the better the rewards. Battle stages are definitely the most frantic of the three, since they always are comprised of up-beat, popular battle themes. These on Ultimate difficulty are quite hard to master.
Sprinkled between each of these stages are Feature Zones. In FMS, they'll turn your character into a fast walking Chocobo if successful. In BMS they'll call forth a random summon to do massive damage. Lastly, in EMS they'll extend the last 20% of the song to give you the chance to score more points.