Review by 22whiterabbit22
A Very Fun Game That Could Have Been Even Better
This game's concept sounds great initially- a rhythm/music game with music from the Final Fantasy Series? A great idea, really. After having "beaten" the game and played it for hours beyond its conclusion, I'd say that it was, all in all, well done. The game really shines at times, but it also contains some disappointments.
Before reading on, it should be noted that I happen to be both a fan of the Final Fantasy games and a music lover. This review is written with those of a similar temperament in mind.
Graphics are usually an unimportant aspect of music games, and this holds true in Theatrhythm. Almost everything is done in a chibi art style, from the characters to the enemies to the backgrounds. Everything is brightly colored, and the graphics aren't particularly distracting. There is, however, almost always something new or interesting to look at when the music itself doesn't occupy all of your attention- the game is full of little winks and nods to final fantasy fans.
Field music stages show the characters walking through environments from different Final Fantasy games. They walk through a familiar landscape... And then walk through it again and again, with the background repeating several times throughout the songs. The repetitiveness isn't really an issue, as the focus is on the music anyway, but it is slightly disappointing. It works and is kind of neat, but could have been so much cooler.
Battle music stages feature your team of four characters slicing their way through enemies to the rhythm of the music. These stages don't have the repetitiveness of the field stages, as there are plenty of enemies that show up, all of which are basically cameos that try to make (and succeed at making) Final Fantasy fans grin at the familiar faces. The only disappointment with these stages is that the attacks and abilities that you equip to your characters aren't very visually interesting. Most abilities are very difficult to see unless you are paying attention, and given that these stages include faster paced and generally more difficult music paying attention to the character animations isn't exactly easy. It's a small gripe, though, and although it would have been nice to have flashier attacks, the lack thereof does not detract from the game.
Event music stages feature cut-scenes from the games. These scenes are pretty much just cut and pasted in, forming a montage of famous scenes. Some of these work very well- Final Fantasy VII has a collection of Aerith scenes while Aerith's theme plays, and Final Fantasy VIII depicts most of the waltz scene, briefly highlighting the other main characters near the end. Some of the event stages, however, are rather boring to watch. The early Final Fantasies especially are not conducive to this idea, and end up becoming a boring progression of somewhat iconic images. Some of the stages seem like disjointed, unrelated scenes. The lack of 3D in these stages is also somewhat disappointing- turning the 3D on merely results in the music track coming forward a bit and the scenes from the games being pushed backwards, remaining completely flat. Again, wasted potential.
The event music stages are the only stages where the graphics have actually gotten in the way of the gameplay. It can sometimes be difficult to tell tap and hold icons apart on this stage. It's not a huge issue, but results in some misses unless you are paying close attention. The cut-scenes here can make these stages great due to pure nostalgia, but when that doesn't kick in these stages are generally visually disinteresting.
All in all, the graphics don't add much to the game, but they don't really take away from it either, which is by far more important.
8/10- Not bad, not too special
The gameplay in this game is great. I wasn't sure how well the tapping and sliding mechanics would work in the game, but they are fun and addictive. The controls are very responsive, and I have yet to have the game register an input incorrectly. The three types of stages all actually play almost the same way, despite having different layouts. There are three types of notes- notes that have you simply tap the screen, notes that have you slide in a particular direction, and notes that have you tap and hold for a certain time. In the field stages, the holding notes require you to slide the stylus up and down during the note, following its path on screen.
In both the battle and field stages, the notes come from the left to the right, and you are required to perform the correct input when the note reaches the bar on the right-hand side of the screen. Battle stages have four bars rather than one, but this has no impact on the rhythm gameplay at all, as only one track will have a note at any given time. Instead, it plays into the game's RPG elements. Event stages have the track meander its way around the screen. This doesn't affect how you input the notes aside from it making the timing slightly less intuitive.
What make this gameplay different from your run-of-the-mill rhythm game are the RPG elements it adds. You are prompted at the beginning to select a party from the thirteen characters initially available to you. Every character has their own stats and abilities, and they gain experience every time you complete a song. It is entirely possible to ignore this completely as the effect on the game is not at all obvious. However, leveling up your characters and equipping them with good abilities and items can make it easier to both clear the higher difficulty music and find rare items and abilities.
You start out with only series mode available to you, where you can play through five songs from each of the first 13 main Final Fantasy games. This mode presents an extremely easy difficulty, which is quite misleading. After clearing series mode, you can visit challenge mode and the Chaos Shrine. Challenge mode allows you to replay songs on higher difficulties and attempt to get better scores. While the "expert" difficulty makes the songs slightly tricky in places, "ultimate" is where the gameplay really shines. This highest difficulty makes the songs far more difficult to complete, and tends to be much more entertaining than the lower difficulties. The chaos shrine allows you to play "dark notes," sets of two random songs, in an attempt to gain items and unlock characters.
Unfortunately, the Chaos Shrine gets old quickly. It has a limited selection of songs, restricted to ten field music stages and ten battle music stages, meaning that you end up playing the same songs over and over in an attempt to get to that one song you really want to play, or to unlock a certain character. This means that unlocking things, ironically, requires grinding. If done in short bursts, it's not a problem, but spending a long time playing the same songs while trying to unlock things can become quite boring. This does, however, mean that there is quite a bit of replay value to be had.
Every song completed earns "Rhythmia," and collecting certain amounts gives you various things. Collecting extremely large amounts unlocks new songs for challenge mode. Collecting 10,000 Rhythmia allows you to play a battle song with Chaos as your adversary. This serves as a sort of final boss fight, and the credits roll afterwards. Of course, this isn't important as there is really no story worth mentioning and there is still plenty to unlock at that point about five hours in.
9/10- Very fun and engaging, plenty to do, a bit repetitive
The most important part of this game, being a music game, is its soundtrack. The Final Fantasy games have always had great music. Its really the one thing that has remained consistent in the series, as the gameplay and stories have fluctuated up and down. The music in this game is, of course, great, fits well with the gameplay, and has the nostalgia value for Final Fantasy fans.
There are, however, a few slight problems- the emphasis being on slight. The biggest disappointment is, in my opinion, that the original versions of most of the songs, the one exception being Gurgu Volcano from Final Fantasy I, were used rather than the rearranged style that was used for the Dissidia soundtrack. I understand that there are people who would rather have the original music, but I was personal hugely disappointed not to have full orchestras and whatnot playing the music from the early games.
The song that was the biggest letdown in this regard was One-Winged Angel. I happen to believe that the full orchestra version of the piece as used in Dissidia is far superior to the original version. While there are some pieces that are fine in their original forms, (JENOVA, for example) there are a number of pieces that really feel like the modern, arranged versions should have been used.
Another issue was that longer songs were cut short. This only really affected a few songs, but when it did it was both obvious and disappointing. This shortening is most noticeable in a few of the pieces from Final Fantasy XII, which fade out in the middle, and One Winged Angel, where both the intro and the end are cut. Even if the cost would have been that some extra songs were cut, not having the full songs in these instances is extremely disappointing.
Every set in series mode begins and ends with the intro and ending pieces from the Final Fantasy games. These pieces dont have the normal tapping and sliding gameplay, can be skipped, are not available in challenge mode, and were generally less interesting to play. Although the intro and ending songs in some games are standouts, (Final Fantasy XII, for example) there are many of the games that have far better songs in their soundtracks than their intro and conclusion pieces. These pieces create a sort of logical progression in series mode, but in a music game I would always prefer better music and more interesting gameplay to a logical progression.
As far as the song selection goes, it is mostly great. You have almost everything you would expect- One Winged Angel, JENOVA, a rendition of the chocobo theme, Battle on the Big Bridge, et cetera, et cetera. Theres also DLC on the way, which will add to the selection. Of course, very few Final Fantasy fans will be completely satisfied, as most will be disappointed that some song didnt make it and some other song did- for me it was with the field and battle music from XII- but it is a good group of songs all in all. There are a few surprising and strange omissions though. For example, how is it possible that Liberi Fatali didnt make it in? These major omissions, however, are few and far between.
Of course, I will note that the music itself is amazing. Disregarding how it was implemented into this game, the music of the Final Fantasy series gets a ten out of ten. However
7/10- Its impossible to hit a perfect set that satisfies everybody, so the lack of whatever songs you particularly like that didnt make the cut drops the score to nine. The lack of the modern arrangements for some of the older music drops the score to eight. The shortening of certain songs drops the score to seven.
While Theatrhythm doesnt do anything wrong per se, there are several things that it doesnt do quite right. Its a very fun game, and a must-buy for those who are both Final Fantasy fans and music lovers. Those who are not Final Fantasy fans may be turned off by the comparatively low sound quality of the music from the early games, as nostalgia will not be a factor and the sound hasnt necessarily aged well. This game offers plenty of playtime for those who are inclined to replay the songs, and given this music, I cant imagine not wanting to.
I would give this game an 8/10, which happens to be the average of the three above scores.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a great game, but it could have been better still.
Product Release: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (US, 07/03/12)
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