Review by corran450

Reviewed: 10/13/14

Corran450's Review Series Vol. 20: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

The Final Fantasy Series has been arguably the most popular series of Role Playing Games in the history of gaming. Part of that success is due to their engrossing storylines. Part is due to their generally uncompromising quality. And part is due to the almost universally adored soundtracks present in the series. The music of Final Fantasy has been acclaimed far and wide, leading to best-selling soundtracks, #1 hit singles in Asia, sold-out full orchestral concerts worldwide, and now, a new series of rhythm games on Nintendo’s unique handheld, the 3DS. Featuring over 200 songs from over 20 different games in the Final Fantasy series, with simple gameplay, and over 60 different character avatars to use, the newly released Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call represents a step forward in almost every way over it’s predecessor.

I’ll be perfectly honest. When I bought the first one, my first thought was, “Who in the world, besides me, could possibly want this game?” I, of course, loved it… the nostalgia, the soundtrack, the gameplay. But I was sure that it would never go anywhere, especially in the US. However, I have been pleasantly surprised to hear of the success of the original Theatrhythm, to the point where Square-Enix made a sequel. Well, perhaps sequel is too strong a word. This is more a Special Edition, expanded in scope, but simplified in all the ways that improve on the original to create the definitive version of Theatrhythm.

Gameplay
The basic gameplay of Theatrhythm is largely unchanged from the first game. This is a musical rhythm game. Using characters from Final Fantasy history as avatars in three different stage styles, you use the stylus on the touch screen to hit targets in time with the music. In Battle Music Stages, the four characters in your party are arrayed on the right, attacking enemies on the left. The efficacy of your attacks is based on your skill at keeping the rhythm. In Field Music Stages, your characters traverse over familiar climes, with speed and success based on your rhythm. Lastly, Event Music Stages feature an FMV behind your targets. Your success on these stages affects whether you see the whole video.

The characters you choose affects your success as well, since each of the 60+ characters has their own level and stats. They also each have abilities that can affect the battle or field success. Items are earned after battle that can also affect your progress. As you make your way through the song lists, you earn Rhythmia, a sort of score that unlocks more stages, more characters, and other customization options for your Street Pass avatar.

In addition to playing songs from the song list one at a time, you can unlock or trade Quest Medleys. Similar to the Dark Notes from the first game, these medleys feature multiple songs along branching paths that lead to final showdown against a powerful foe. Beating these Quest Medleys earns you crystal shards which are used to unlock characters, in addition to the items, EXP, and Rhythmia you earn by playing the songs. There is also a new Versus mode, where your success is measured against an opponent (AI or friends from your Friend List), featuring ‘status ailments’ you can inflict upon your enemy, making their chart more difficult.

The gameplay isn’t super complicated, but if it were, it wouldn’t be as much fun! The reason rhythm games succeed is because they are simple to control, even if they’re not necessarily easy to play. Anything more complicated would break this game. That’s why I love it. They knew what they had in the first game and said “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And with three difficulty levels for each song, anyone can enjoy this game.

Story
The ‘story’, such as it is, is very simple. The world’s rhythmic balance has been upset by Chaos for… reasons? And the heroes (and sometimes villains) of Final Fantasy have to earn Rhythmia to restore the balance between Chaos and Cosmos, and restore the light of music to the world.

Whatever. Normally I would say that story is of utmost importance, but if you need story in your rhythm game, maybe you just don’t like rhythm games. The whole point is the music, and no flimsy pretext is really needed, but I suppose Square-Enix felt like it needed something, even if they probably gave some intern 30 minutes to come up with it.

Graphics
The character models are simple, but unique. Each character you know and love from the Final Fantasy series is instantly recognizable. Various enemies from the series are recreated for the Battle Music Stages. The Field Music Stages feature, in the background, locales from their respective games. All of this is done in the same child-like, whimsical style of the first game. The targets are easily distinguished and simple to evaluate, so you can’t blame the game for missing them.

The 3D effects are… well… they exist. It clearly wasn’t a priority for the developers, although in my opinion, extensive use of the 3D elements would be distracting and make the game more difficult. As with everything else in the game, the simplicity is perfectly appropriate, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sound
The most crucial element of a rhythm game is, obviously, the music. Fortunately, Curtain Call doesn’t disappoint. Featuring over 200 songs from over 20 games from the past 25 years, this compendium of Final Fantasy music is unparalleled and comprehensive. Each numbered Final Fantasy game is well represented with at least 6 songs from each title. Also included are sequels (Crisis Core, Final Fantasy X-2), spin-offs (Dissidia, Crystal Chronicles), and rarities (Mystic Quest, Chocobo’s Dungeon). Some songs are in their original 8- or 16-bit sound, while others have been orchestrated and remastered. All your favorites are here.

The menus feature rearranged songs from the series played over your selections. The soundtrack to this game is, itself, a wonder. Some songs have been arranged/created specifically for this game, as bonus stages.

I cannot say enough good things about the music. Obviously, I love the Final Fantasy series, and the music is a big part of that. From Nobuo Uematsu’s classic scores in the earlier series, to the more modern selections from more recent entries, all of these songs are beautiful and interesting. Strangely, this game inspires me to seek out those entries I haven’t played and give them a shot. Maybe that’s part of Square-Enix’s strategy!

Play Time/ Replayability
Seriously, the replayability of this game is nearly infinite. Maybe infinite is too strong a word, but I’ve been playing this game for 30+ hours and I’ve barely played half the songs in the game. There’s so much to unlock, so much to earn. Throw in the randomized Quest Medleys, and Versus mode with friends, and you’ve got a seriously entertaining game for a good long time.

If something is missing, fret not, because many songs are available for purchase in the store. This actually annoys me a bit, because I’m from the old school, so to speak. I don’t take well to paying more for expanded content in a game I already paid full price for. But I understand that’s the way the wind is blowing these days. My original opinion remains: there’s enough content here already to keep you entertained for the foreseeable future.

Final Recommendation
Rent or buy? It’s simple. Let me ask you: Do you like good music? Do you like rhythm games? Do you love the Final Fantasy series? Do you like fun? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should pick up Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. If you played the first game, you know what to expect here. Incidentally, if you own the first game, you can probably trade it in for this and not miss it much. Nearly everything from the original is intact in this game. This special edition, as I call it, is more complete, with more songs and characters, with the same fun gameplay. Every bit a spectacular improvement over an already fun game.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (US, 09/16/14)

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