Two years ago, Final Fantasy fans were treated to a musical celebration with Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. A rhythm game first and foremost, it tasked players to relive past Final Fantasy moments through key songs found in core titles, ranging from Final Fantasy I, all the way to Final Fantasy XIII. Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call is a more updated version of the first game, rebalancing the gameplay, adding new modes, and most importantly, giving players over 200 songs to play. Let's just say, if you've enjoyed the first, you're in for quite a treat with Curtain Call.
After choosing your initial party, which also subsequently unlocks the albums for games those characters appear in, you'll have the option to pick any song at will; that allows you to continually collect more Rhythmia. This currency governs the myriad of unlockables in the game, whether it's new songs, new sound chimes, new artwork for your Player ID card, etc. Every time you complete a song and watch the Rhythmia total add up, and you see you're just a few points away from the next unlock, you'll want to dive back in and play another song. Then once you do unlock something, you'll get a sense of accomplishment and want to keep that feeling going, so you play another song. It's a really great system that constantly reminds you that a reward is just a song or two away.
The game is still split into three separate rhythm game categories: BMS (Battle), FMS (Field) and EMS (Emotional). The first two are the most prominent, as each Final Fantasy game will have multiple of each of those, while the EMS for a few games have to be unlocked with Rhythmia. The BMS will have you tapping and swiping to battle themes while your chosen party attacks constantly changing monsters. You'll want to level up your party to increase their strength, allowing them to defeat more monsters, thus also allowing you to get more items.
The FMS songs are more mellow and less frantic, usually requiring you to just tap and slide your stylus to the song. Here the objective is to travel as far as you can, netting you sweet rewards from Chocobos you meet along the way. Lastly, the EMS are sequences which showcase some spliced-together cutscenes from major Final Fantasy titles. These are certainly less of a focus now, as I'm sure Square had to make sure that there was enough space on the 3DS cartridge to hold the crazy amount of songs.
One new addition to Curtain Call, which I personally appreciated, were the new control schemes. I always felt like I was never fully accurate with tapping and sliding with my stylus, and Curtain Call allowed me to use the face buttons and analog nub instead. The face buttons controlled the taps, while the analog nub controlled swipes or directional holds. It's a surprisingly elegant solution that works wonders, even on the game's hardest difficulty. There is also a control scheme which allows the game to be played with just the left hand, as well as a hybrid mode, where the player can use the stylus and analog nub in conjunction.
There is certainly a bigger emphasis on character growth this time around, as characters will learn new skills and gain attributes to make them more effective in various situations. They can also be further strengthened by fusing them with the collectible cards picked up during various songs. Once a character reaches level 99, they can be 'prestiged,' which will drop their stats back to one, but they will have a higher ability point cost, allowing them to equip more powerful skills simultaneously.
This character development perfectly lines up with the new Quest Medley Mode. Here, players can journey on Short, Medium and Long quests that take place on a Map screen, allowing the player to select their own routes, and reap the rewards from fallen Boss monsters. This mode feels the most like a game and has some crazy high replay value. Since you'll never be able to see every point on a map per quest, you're often encouraged to go back and replay a quest to unlock every single location and item on your way.
Also new to Curtain Call is the Duel Mode, which allows players to either take on the CPU or other players in a head-to-head match. The single-player portion actually has progression built in, as well; you'll have to take down enemy teams and climb the ranks from Bronze to Gold. What makes Duel Mode interesting, however, is that both players (or the CPU) are playing the same song, but are able to cast various spells at one another. This makes the game much harder with handicaps, such as making each note highway a different speed, making the notes disappear, or even making the judgment of each note harder, requiring the player to get a Perfect hit, or the note won't count. It's quite intense, especially once you start facing off against Gold opponents. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to play against another player, as we only had one copy available.
Lastly, I have to touch on the absolutely fantastic selection of music, which consists of over 200 songs. No longer is it tied down to just the core Final Fantasy titles, but now all the spin-offs are included as well, meaning you'll get songs from games like Dissidia, Crystal Chronicles, Advent Children, Crisis Core and more. As a huge fan of Final Fantasy soundtracks, I can say with confidence that the songs chosen for each game are absolutely perfect, with most titles having an average of about 9 – 10 songs.
If you've played and enjoyed Theatrhythm, I can, without a single doubt, highly recommend this stellar follow-up. With such a huge selection of music, a large list of unlockables, and a fun selection of modes, Curtain Call is well worth the encore it's getting on the 3DS.