The very moment Theatrhythm Final Fantasy started, I was enjoying it. I hadn’t even touched a button or tapped the screen, yet I felt the rush of excitement.
Nobuo Uematsu is one of the best music composers out there, and I’m sure the majority of people agree with that statement. Why? Because every single song he has written has struck a chord with someone out there. They’re memorable, and simply hearing the tune, whether it’s the actual song or someone humming or whistling the notes, it brings you back, and it makes you want to experience those moments all over again. At its heart, that’s what Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is. But credit must also be given to the other composers who have lent their hand in the Final Fantasy series, including Hitoshi Sakamoto, Masashi Hamauzu, Kumi Tanioka, and Naoshi Mizuta. Without them and Uematsu, this game would not be possible.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy’s story is bare-bones. In the universe, there are the gods Cosmos and Chaos. There exists a space between them, and in that space is the harmonious Rhythm. However, Chaos’s influence has disrupted the Rhythm crystal, and it’s up to heroes across the entire Final Fantasy series to restore the crystal to its original state by collecting a wave called Rhythmia.
The fundamental of the game comes down to triggers that flow with the tempo of the music. Your goal is to connect these triggers with their mark by tapping on the touch screen the moment the triggers cross over them. Failing to hit a trigger at the right moment causes you to lose some HP, and should it hit zero, it’s game over for your party. There are a few types of triggers, including the basic touch trigger, the slide trigger where you must slide the stylus in the direction the trigger is pointing, and lastly the hold trigger, which requires you to tap and hold the stylus on the screen to the end of the trigger line. All of the controls respond very well, although I found myself having some very minor issues with the slide triggers now and then. The triggers work together to bring forth a well-rounded challenge that is not too simple but not too intricate. The slide triggers do present a heightened degree of complexity, especially during battle music stages on higher difficulties.
There are three different types of music stages you can play, each with its own style. Battle music stages are fast tempo battle songs where your four characters stand on the right and attack the enemy on the left. These are my favorite and accurately represent the genre of rhythm. Field music stages are usually calm and relaxing with a beautiful panorama. Your party leader travels across the land as you connect triggers, but what’s different here is that the hold trigger line can move up and down, and you must move the stylus up and down with the line to hit the midpoints between the ends of the line. Finally, event music stages are meant to evoke your emotions as a video plays in the background. Here, the mark moves instead of the triggers, but it all works the same. The problem with the field and event music stages is that you cannot actually enjoy what is going on in the background unless you’re playing on basic difficulty. The merely reserve the potential to help bring back memories of your favorite Final Fantasy games, but only if you’ve played them.
As you complete music stages, you gain Rhythmia. There are well over 70 songs that you can play, and your performance during stages affects how much you gain. The better you do, the more Rhythmia you’ll collect to help restore the crystal. Upon finishing a stage, not only do you collect Rhythmia, but your characters earn experience towards leveling up, and you can even get items. Characters attain abilities at certain levels that affect your party’s performance in both battle and field music stages. Never have I seen these basic RPG elements infused in a rhythm game. Abilities and items provide a whole new level of interaction in the game that I never conceived possible. The closest I’ve ever seen comes from Groove Coaster, where each avatar, which acts like a marker, possesses one trait that affects gameplay, and you can buy items that do the same. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy sets an entirely new precedent here that I can see other developers taking a liking to.
Furthering your characters is key when it comes to the Chaos Shrine. This is a special mode that challenges you against random field and battle music stages tied together. The rewards you can get in this mode are some you cannot get otherwise. There is some strategy involved in choosing abilities for your characters, as you want to travel as far as you can and defeat as many monsters as possible before each song ends. In addition, the Chaos Shrine allows you to play with up to three of your friends locally, sharing the HP bar and the four note lanes in the battle music stage.
It goes without saying that the music here is splendid. It’s nothing new, but it’s nothing forgotten—this is your most popular selection of Final Fantasy tracks from across the entire series! It was way too easy to guess what the tracks for many of the games would be. Some of the games had very strong selections while a few could have been better. Many of my own favorites that I thought were very popular do not make an appearance. I really wanted to hear ”Liberi Fatali.” “People of the North Pole” isn’t there. But “The Darkness of Eternity” will be available as DLC, which has me relieved. Make no mistake, however; all of the available tracks are wonderful, and I continue to enjoy them.
I can’t get enough of the character sprites. The lack of detail in the character faces but intricate equipment design and doodads in their gear reminds me of older Final Fantasy games on the Super Nintendo; they all have the same face and those little eyes, but by looking at what they are wearing, you know exactly who they are. It’s the kind of charm that fits perfectly in a game that’s more about the music than anything else. And if you ever want to see these cute sprites close up, there’s the CollectaCard binder containing cards for every sprite in the game, so long as you’ve collected them during your playthrough.
I may be so bold as to call Theatrhythm Final Fantasy an adventure game, but this is purely due to experience with every installment in the main series. The music draws forth the fondest memories of playing these beloved games. In doing so, the images in my mind send me on yet another adventure through their stories once more. I believe, though, that a person who has played only a few Final Fantasy games or none at all would not find this rhythm game any less attractive. Simply having a love for video game music, and wanting to listen to some of the best you may ever hear, will make this game very much worth experiencing. It might even be enticing enough to recruit a new fan to the quarter-century-old series. κ