Review by wilowns1
A Musically Nostalgic Fantasy!
When some of you first see this game you might be thinking that it's just another spin-off of Final Fantasy from Square Enix to drum up some sales. I'll admit when I first saw this game in stores I was a bit speculative, as much as I adore the Final Fantasy series, I didn't even buy it when it first came out. After waiting about a week, without any prior research, I decided I owed it to myself and my favorite series to go out and buy the game, I mean I do love Final Fantasy music and hey, it should prove to be a little entertaining right? Here I am a week later and I'm absolutely addicted to it, putting all my other games and books on hold.
The game starts with some familiar Final Fantasy X music and it introduces you to what you're going to expect playing it, giving you some practice and few a tips. Afterwards the Series option opens up and right there are the first thirteen Final Fantasies and all their glory. You can pick from four of the thirteen protagonists, each with unique stats and abilities to aid you in conquering the songs ahead of you, and I must say, they are almost as cute as the little moogles or cactuars you are no doubt familiar with. You can also equip each of them with an item which, when the criteria is met, will aid you during the song in a various number of ways. Series starts you off with just the basic score of each of the songs, the easiest difficulty. For each Final Fantasy there is the Intro song and the Ending song, which you can tap along optionally with the notes for some extra Rhythmia, which I'll discuss later. Then there's the three songs in between which are the heart of the gameplay. Each of the songs features three different notes... well I suppose four. The basic Red note, that you just tap, the golden arrow note, that you slide in the direction it points, and the green note which you hold until the green line concludes. A small twist is that at some of the ends of the green notes you must stroke the stylus in the direction of an arrow note. First, there is the BMS, or the Battle Music Stage. In the BMS your four party members are in a row, similar to the traditional four person party found in many of the earlier Final Fantasies. On the opposite side you have monsters, generally memorable ones, such as the cactuar or the behemoth, or just bosses from the previous games, who you must defeat by tapping and holding the notes at the correct time. The better you follow the music, the more enemies you will defeat and the more experience you will obtain. At a point about 3/4 of the way through the song, provided you followed along well enough, a summoned eidolon will appear and if you can tap the notes accurately than they will use their signature attack and instantly kill whatever enemy you are facing. Characters with high Strength and Magic are your most valuable asset when it comes to the Battle Music Sequence. Next comes the FMS, or the Field Music Stage, which is a bit more calm and slow paced than the BMS. The FMS, features the particular games' World Map theme and shows your current party leader running along through fields and forests that correlate with the game. Some familiar locations will pop up in the background, like Baron Castle, The Meteorite, Figaro Castle, Midgar, Balamb Garden.... you get the idea. Much like BMS, about 3/4 of the way through, provided you played the song well beforehand, you will suddenly jump on a chocobo and dash through the field gaining much more distance. Also, and this can be augmented by some characters abilites, you can meet the moogle along the way and he will happily grant you a treasure chest with an item inside. Characters with high Agility and Luck are your best bet for this mode. Finally comes the EMS, or the Event Music Stage, which guides you on a little musical path while compiling some of the most memorable or crucial points during that particular Final Fantasy, some will make you smile, some will make you tear up (*sob* Aerith's Theme *sob*), some will fill you with motivation and bravery. I personally call these the Emotional Music Stage's because they conjure up the most nostalgic feelings and show what really made that game special. Again, like the other two at about 3/4 of the way through the song, if you had done well before and do well for the short Featured Segment, the song will get extended for a bit a longer. Well, it's called "extended", but really if you don't play the extended bit than you aren't really experiencing the full song itself. I encourage you to do your very best during these songs so you can view the conclusion, you wouldn't walk out on a movie at the climax would you?
Once you complete a basic Series all of the songs within become playable in Challenge mode, with their Basic Score, and the newly unlocked Expert Score. Challenge mode is where you can go and just play individual songs at your behest, but there is a reason it's called Challenge mode because you're going to have to spend some time in here if you want unlock more scores. To obtain the Expert series in Series mode, you must clear the Expert Score for each song in the particular Final Fantasy. Expert level is where the game becomes very enjoyable and it really starts to follow along with the music and rhythm. It isn't too difficult, but also requires you to focus and follow along closely with the music. It'll trip you up sometimes by putting a bunch of red taps quickly followed by a couple strokes or some short green notes. It gets quite addicting, especially trying to get S-rank for each song. Now, if you can obtain an A-rank grade or higher on Expert Score than you will unlock the songs' Ultimate Score. These will really test your reflexes, patience, and knowledge of the rhythm of the song. You will be hard pressed even just completing the song, so unless you press pause and hit retry every time (You little cheater, you) expect to see many F-rank grades. Although, what good is a Final Fantasy or even a good RPG-based game without a little challenge every once in a while huh?
There is also one last mode you can play in which acts as both the multiplayer aspect and also a fun solo game mode. It's pretty strange, but fun and mysterious at the same time. The Chaos Shrine features the Dark Note, which includes two songs randomly chosen and will not be revealed until you play them. Each Dark Note features three Bosses that have three items that can drop from them. Boss #1 always appears and if you progress quickly through the FMS of the Dark Note you will either fight Boss #2 or Boss #3. Boss #2 will appear if you have less than 75% of your health or Boss #3 will appear if you have more than 75% of your health. Each of the bosses has a chance of dropping a crystal shard. There are many different colored crystal shards and if you collect eight of one specific color you will unlock a new hidden character that you can add to your party of four. It might just be one of your favorite Final Fantasy characters are unlock-able still, so collect those shards! At the crux of all this musical action is Rhythmia. Rhythmia is obtained at the end of every song you play and you can get it from many things, like using a party of the same gender, or performing the song very well, or displaying good "tactics". Rhythmia is all based on accumulated points and every 500 Rhythmia you collect you receive a set prize, it could be a crystal shard, a piece for your personal museum, or maybe something special you didn't even expect.
If you want to sit back and reflect on what you accomplished or soak in even more nostalgia, there is one more feature this game offers. The Museum reviews all of your past records of the game, your play time, character usage, song play choice, etc. By each of these four empty stars are displayed, the more filled stars you have the more impressive your record is of that particular item. Also, there is a trophy section which are like this games own achievements. At first all of them are completely hidden but once you meet the criteria for one more and more hints begin popping up as to how you can obtain the next trophy. It's a nice little addition that gives the player more ambition to keep going. Then there's the Music Player and the Theater and they are just that. In the Music Player you can just sit back and listen to the tracks without playing any game along with it and in the Theater you can view the videos that play during the EMS tracks. Lastly there is the Collection, which features all the CollectaCards you have accumulated over the course of playing songs. These cards are obtained as items after completing songs throughout the game. They feature a familiar character or enemy redone in the little cutesy cartoon form. On the back of the card is a short description giving the player more insight on the details of the character on the front. If you receive multiple numbers of the same card it will turn into a rare foil form of the card allowing you to also view the character depicted in full view while playing some familiar music that goes along with the character. I personally really enjoy this section because it plays a version of Beatrix's Theme, which I think is one of the most beautiful Final Fantasy tracks. Also you can customize your own little personal ProfiCard available for others to see via Streetpass. You can pick a background, a favorite character, a little tagline, and a personal message for any other players to see in The Chaos Shrine. I have Cecil as my "Proudly devoted Paladin."
That about covers most of what Final Fantasy Theatrhythm has to offer. If you are a lifelong Final Fantasy fan and you own a 3DS then go out and buy this game immediately! The nostalgia is just too delicious to pass up and they included many great and memorable songs that should please any decent Final Fantasy fan, because us Final Fantasy fans know that it is where it is today because our beloved Nobuo. As an added bonus they are releasing more songs via DLC so you can add even more to play for your collection. They even had the decency to include two save file slots so if your friend wants to borrow it or you want to to start a new file than you can do it while safely keeping your main file. If you aren't a Final Fantasy fan, play it first before you buy it because I can't promise you will get the same enjoyment out of it that the Final Fantasy fans will. However, I let my friend play it who has never played a Final Fantasy in his life and he was hooked on it and had a hard time giving it back to me. I'd say the only flaw is that the EMS could give away some slight spoilers to someone who had never played that particular game before, but it isn't too bad. Whether you are looking for a good rhythm game, or a collection of wonderful music, than this game will surely sate your desires. So come all and rejoice and embrace that which is the magic and wonder of the music of Final Fantasy!
Product Release: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (US, 07/03/12)
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