Review by Jerec
Have you ever caught yourself tapping your fingers on a desk to the beat of a Final Fantasy battle theme?
Say what you will about some titles in the Final Fantasy series. Just about every game is hated by some subsection of the fanbase, for reasons ranging from valid to ridiculous. Many fans will talk about convoluted stories, annoying characters, boring battle modes and over complicated ability/level up systems. But even if someone hates just about everything in a particular Final Fantasy game, theyll usually begrudgingly admit that the soundtrack was good, one or two dud tracks notwithstanding.
In over 25 years of games and spinoffs and remakes, Square-Enix has amassed quite an amazing collection of really good music. So much so, that a rhythm game was inevitable. And they made it. Theatrhythm was released on the 3DS back in 2012. I played a demo of it and I wasnt impressed, but Ive never been a fan of stylus-only controls on the DS and 3DS.
I was always fascinated with the idea of the game, though. Ever since the Guitar Hero and Rock Band craze of a few years ago, Id thought how awesome a Final Fantasy edition could be. And this year, I got my wish. With Theatrhythm: Curtain Call, Square Enix offers up the entirety of the first games content, plus a whole lot more. The first game is pretty difficult to find these days, and thats okay, because now its completely obsolete.
Curtain Call introduces button controls in addition to stylus controls (and you can even play with a hybrid if youre really dextrous). There are over 200 songs to play in this game, plus several instalments of paid DLC if youre into that sort of thing. But 200 songs are definitely more than enough to keep you busy for a while.
When you start, youre guided through the various sections of the game with helpful tutorials. Your first task is to choose four starting characters from the line-up of Final Fantasy main characters. Youll then play a few songs to get a feel for the different types of music.
The two main types of music stages are BMS for battle songs and FMS for field songs. The play style differs somewhat between these two types of tracks. In battle songs, you have a party of four on the right side of the screen while a monster or boss stands on the other side of the screen. Each successful note damages the enemy, and any notes you miss allows the enemy to damage you. In a field song, one character walks cross a landscape and the notes flow up and down. If you miss too many notes, your character falls down and your next character takes their place.
There are also a few unlockable tracks which are called EMS or event songs where the notes flow around the screen in a pattern while a full motion video clip plays in the background.
As the music plays, notes will fly at you, and you need to either press the right button or direction as the note enters the circle. Red notes require a single button press, green notes require you to press and hold the button for the length of the note, and yellow notes require you to push the analogue stick in the direction indicated. Its as simple as that. Except that your timing determines whether you achieve a critical, great, good, bad, or miss.
There are three difficulty modes Basic, Expert and Ultimate. Basic is easy and its a great way to get the hang of the game. Ultimate is basically impossible unless you have superhero hand-eye coordination. Once youre comfortable with the game, youll likely spend most of your time on Expert mode. Its challenging, but not wrist destroyingly so.
Every time you complete a song, your characters gain some experience and youll earn some Rhythmia the games overall point system. Each time you hit a milestone, youll unlock something extra songs, customisation options, or crystal shards. Collect enough crystal shards and youll be able to unlock a new character from a selection of five or six.
Theatrhythm remains addictive because rewards are never too far away. Every song you play will count for something. Every day, there are five songs that are labelled as a daily hit. If you play that song, youll earn some bonus points. If you play a song with a character from that game, youll earn some bonus points.
The next big feature is the Quest Stage where youll need to play a succession of songs, choose different paths, collect keys and unlock doors and finally defeat a boss to earn some crystal shards. Each time you complete a quest, you get another quest. These quests vary in difficulty, length and rarity. If you attach a completed quest to your streetpass profile, anyone you streetpass will be able to play it and youll be able to play the quest theyve attached.
There is also a versus mode. You can play against AI opponents or real people. Youll play battle songs and the aim is to hit as many critical notes as possible to fill up your charge meter. This sends out an attack against your opponent that can have a variety of effects speeding up the notes, making the notes bigger or smaller, making arrows rotate, making it so any score less than a critical is bad. Its kind of like the versus modes in early Guitar Hero games - fast-paced and frustrating, but ultimately satisfying when you win.
When your fingers are tired and you can see coloured circles flying across your vision when you close your eyes, you can check out the museum mode where you can view your trophies, look at a binder full of collector cards you earn, and listen to music without having to press buttons.
Theatrhythm: Curtain Call is a lovingly made celebration of Final Fantasy history with a focus on its music. With 200 tracks, they managed to get most of the obvious fan favourites, like Terras Theme or One Winged Angel, with some lesser known tracks that were surprisingly good (I had no idea Final Fantasy XI and XIV had such good music). There are a few puzzling omissions, though. But Square Enix says that this is the last Theatrhythm game, and theyll use this as a base platform to release more music and characters in the future. I hope they end up with a huge DLC catalogue where you can pick and choose the tracks you want. With the addition of Romancing Sa Ga tracks, hopefully theyll even release some music from Chrono Trigger.
But for now, theres more than enough tracks to try and master.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (AU, 09/18/14)
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