Game Review

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Joe Walker

You spoony bard!

This is how you celebrate the 25th anniversary of a beloved game franchise.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a rhythm game celebrating a quarter-century of some of the most iconic music in video games, is a fantastic title. Every facet radiates care and polish, with the accessible and addictive rhythm mechanics framed by a gorgeous presentation that celebrates the first 13 instalments of the Final Fantasy series.

While the two Dissidia Final Fantasy games on PSP took heroes and villains from the mainline series and pit them against each other in a fighting game of overcomplicated and confusing design, Theatrhythm instead gives music centre stage. The result is a game that does a much better job celebrating Final Fantasy, emphasising what made the titles memorable rather than using characters as a way to sell a genre that Square Enix has little experience with.

The controls are as simple as can be: tap on the bottom screen in time with different indicators that scroll across the top screen. Red icons require a tap, green are held notes and yellow arrows indicate a swipe in the given direction. The simplicity of it all ensures that anyone can pick up Theatrhythm and learn how to play in no time flat, which is important in a game of this type. Compared to Elite Beat Agents that has markers all over the bottom screen to keep up with, Theatrhythm lets the complexity come from the songs themselves and doesn’t divert any of your attention to the bottom screen.

The main game mode, Series, takes you through the first 13 Final Fantasy games at five songs apiece. The opening and ending songs sandwich each game and feature a very straightforward tapping minigame that earns you Rhythmia, the game’s currency, used to unlock new features. The other songs are separated into three categories: Event Music Stages (EMS), Field Music Stages (FMS) and Battle Music Stages (BMS). Each one tweaks the formula slightly and highlights the songs that suit it best.

It’s not a Final Fantasy game without some kind of levelling mechanic though, and Theatrhythm is no exception. You’ll assemble a team of four series heroes, gaining experience after each completed song that will boost stats and earn new skills. While at first glance it all seems out of place in a rhythm game, it all comes together quite well; as stats increase players can traverse further in FMS stages and defeat more monsters in BMS stages, earning better items that can be used in various ways. In addition, higher HP allows for more missed notes, giving you a better chance to survive harder songs.

BMS stages are, obviously, focused on each title’s fight songs and simulate a traditional battle. BMS stages break the single note path into four, one for each character, with each note representing an attack as if in a traditional FF battle. It’s not nearly as confusing as it sounds, with the multiple note paths doing a wonderful job recreating the tension of going toe-to-toe with some of the series' most notorious enemies.

EMS stages are very straightforward, laying the notes over a montage of notable scenes from each game, usually playing a slower, more melancholy song to highlight the emotional content; Final Fantasy VII’s EMS stage featured Aerith’s Theme, of course.

Similar to the “star power” mechanic in games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, each song has a series of highlighted notes that bestow a bonus if handled correctly. FMS stages give you a chocobo, speeding you across the field and giving you a better chance of meeting a Moogle and earning a rare item, while BMS stages summon mainstays like Ifrit, Shiva and Ramuh, making short work of whatever monster is opposing your squad at the time. EMS stages simply extend the song, allowing you to keep piling into your high score.

The difficulty in Series mode is purposefully low, ensuring that players of all skill levels will be able to complete and appreciate what the game offers. Once a game has been completed the songs will be unlocked in Challenge mode, supplementing Basic difficulty with Expert. Complete a song on Expert with an A or S rank and Ultimate difficulty will become available to give your stylus hand a legendary workout.

Over time you earn Dark Notes, which are two songs of Expert and Ultimate difficulty that are playable in the Chaos Shrine. Containing an FMS and BMS stage, Dark Notes allow several bosses to be challenged who have the potential to drop some of the rarest items in the game. They won’t come easy, as defeating them can require near-flawless runs.

Multiplayer, while not the main focus of the game, certainly enhances the Chaos Shrine. Players can swap Dark Notes via StreetPass, encouraging item hunters to keep their system in tow as they go out into the real word. Local multiplayer is a surprising addition, allowing you to recruit up to three friends to tackle a Dark Note, potentially earning huge payouts.

Of course the main focus of a rhythm game is music, and Theatrhythm nails it. The song selections are phenomenal, including just about every fan favourite tune imaginable. Classics such as Eternal Wind, Battle with the Four Fiends, Battle at the Big Bridge and Terra’s Theme will evoke powerful waves of nostalgia in longtime fans of the series, with even more songs becoming available at certain Rhythmia milestones. The first 3DS game to feature paid DLC, Square Enix keeps the pricing in line with the Rock Band standard at $.99 per song. There are eight available at launch, with promises of up to 50.

If you want things to collect, Theatrhythm has them in spades. In addition to extra characters and songs, there’s a series of CollectaCards, profiling characters and monsters from the entirety of the series. These cards can be leveled up as well by earning multiple copies of the same card, adding a “holofoil” version to your in-game binder. No modern game would be complete without a trophies list, either, providing players with a little extra incentive to tackle tougher challenges.

During play your focus will be on the notes, but Square Enix did not phone in the visuals. The characters and monsters are all presented as stylised “chibi” versions of themselves that are simply adorable. Not only does it give the game a unified attractive look, it also helps make Theatrhythm a game that will remain timeless. As time goes on, 3D graphics tend to look worse. A sharp, stylish 2D design ensures that the game will remain visually distinct and striking for many years to come.

Conclusion

Theatrhythm's varying difficulties make it easy to enjoy for players of all skill levels with the RPG mechanics an extra bonus for those who desire it. It absolutely does justice to the Final Fantasy brand, presenting its characters and, most importantly, music with love and respect that makes it feel like a tribute as much as a standalone video game. There are so many songs to play, items to find and characters to level up you’ll find yourself struggling to put it down.

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User Comments (83)

BenAV

#1

BenAV said:

Nice review.
I completely agree with a 9/10 and everything you said for this game.
It's really fun and is full of content.
Been playing every chance I've gotten for the last week!

RevolverLink

#2

RevolverLink said:

I love that some of my favorite songs in this game are from the FF titles I haven't played. Elia, the Maiden of Water from FFIII and Home, Sweet Home from FFV are beautiful arrangements, FFV's Battle at the Big Bridge might be my favorite boss theme in the series and, even though they're mostly different from the catchier tunes the rest of the series is known for, I'm really enjoying the selection from FFXI.

19Robb92

#4

19Robb92 said:

Loved the demo.

I'm hoping this game will come available on the eShop when Nintendo finally launches downloadable retail games. I don't want this game on cartridge.

Bliquid

#5

Bliquid said:

Good to know it's a nice game, i enjoyed my time with the demo.
Besides that, Dissidia is an excellent game with tons of contents (on disc) as well as tons of modes and innovative ideas. Mortifying it seems like poor judgement from a professional reviewer.
Sorry, but i felt to say this.

warioswoods

#6

warioswoods said:

@19Robb92

Agreed, this is the kind of game I'm much more likely to purchase as a download, since it would then always be on my menu for a quick song. Switching out carts for games like this one is just a little more annoying than necessary.

seronja

#7

seronja said:

will get this game by the end of the month plus probably i will also buy all the DLC's for the game as well

RevolverLink

#8

RevolverLink said:

I'm just going to buy my 5-10 favorites from the DLC selection, once it gets a little wider... and once there are some songs from VI and IX available, and leave it at that.

FF has some of the best music in the business, but I'm not going to spend $50+ on DLC lol.

Bankai

#9

Bankai said:

Good review. I rated it higher, but much of a muchness.

This was the first game to make me genuinely glad to own a 3DS.

luminalace

#10

luminalace said:

Wow a 9 out of 10! The genre is not really up my alley but I am going to get Rhythm Thief this week or the next. If I really enjoy that I may need to consider this too!

cfgk24

#12

cfgk24 said:

My goodness! What would it have to do to get a 10/10? !? !? !? !? !? !? !

This arrived from Amazon on release day and I haven't been able to put it down
FANTASTIC GAME!!!!!

LadyStarstorm

#13

LadyStarstorm said:

Hands-down the best game to have been released on the 3DS yet. Blows Nintendo's thus-far-released titles out of the water. Mario Land 3D was nice but not rewarding, Zelda was great but not suitable for a handheld. This combines the pick-up-and-play that a handheld should provide, with addicting challenges and plenty of secrets to unlock that make you unable to put it down.

Taya

#14

Taya said:

This game is so fun.

I unlocked some great characters and now I'm ready to take on the ultimate difficulty.

KAI7321

#15

KAI7321 said:

Its a very fun game, however you gave it 2 or 3 points too much. Its a Nintendo site, so I don't expect much in the way of impartiality, however this is no way a terrible game. Just no way near a 9 out of 10 due to repetitive and absent musical content which your kind-of forced to wait for and purchase later via DLC.

Wheels2050

#18

Wheels2050 said:

Interesting - I wasn't really expecting this to do that well!

Do players miss out on much if they aren't familiar with a lot of FF?

ueI

#19

ueI said:

Do I have to be a Final Fantasy fan to enjoy this game? I'm ready for a good rhythm game, but I wouldn't recognize many of the songs or feel nostalgic. They DO sound nice though. Same question as Wheels2050 basically.

TysonOfTime

#20

TysonOfTime said:

No, everyone. You don't need to be a fan to enjoy this.

@LadyStarstormYour complete ignoring of Kid Icarus speaks bounds, as that is the greatest game on the system. Theatrhythm may touch the sky, but it won't soar like a Sakurai game.

RevolverLink

#21

RevolverLink said:

Well, a big part of the game's draw is nostalgia, so I'd imagine most of the many nods for Final Fantasy fans would go over the heads of non-fans, but it's still a fine rhythm game in its own right, albeit on the easier side for genre veterans, with some of the best VGM you'll ever hear. So if you want a very good rhythm game with great music, I'd recommend it.

And let's not get too carried away, everyone. We all know that Super Mario 3D Land is the best game on the system. :p

LadyStarstorm

#22

LadyStarstorm said:

@TysonQ7 Kid Icarus was an example of limitless potential ruined by shoddy controls / execution, in my (possibly unpopular) opinion. It was stylish and shiny, sure, but that doesn't speak for playability. I love Sakurai, but I have to call things like I see them. The game would have been far better suited to the Wii or Wii U.

Emaan

#28

Emaan said:

I'm really wanting this game. It looks like there's a bunch to do, and I love Final Fantasy's music. I need to pick this up sometime. :D

LittleIrves

#29

LittleIrves said:

Sweet merciful heavens I hope Theatrhythm becomes a series and other games get the treatment...

Koos

#30

Koos said:

Kid Icarus and Mario 3d land are great games. But the best game on the 3ds is Ghost Recon Shadow Wars.

SpaceKappa

#31

SpaceKappa said:

Guys guys guys. I think we're all forgetting something; I wrote this review and I say Theatrhythm is the best 3DS game so I win. Nyeh.

turtlelink

#32

turtlelink said:

Never played FF before (Except for the tower defense spin off) but it seems like a pretty awesome rhythm game that I need to try out!

FonistofCruxis

#33

FonistofCruxis said:

It looks like a fun game but I'd want to play at least most of the games represented in it before getting it.
About this debate on the best 3DS game, it seems that most of you haven't had the pleasure of experiencing the astounding Tales of the Abyss. That is easily the best game on the system as well as the best game ever!

CommanderAudio

#34

CommanderAudio said:

What a surprise.....

Would have snapped it up ASAP if it weren't for 1. Beat The Beat & 2. EVERYONE BOUGHT IT :( :( :(

BenAV

#35

BenAV said:

It's certainly the best third party 3DS game so far, but nothing compares to Kid Icarus: Uprising.
Best game on a handheld system ever, with perfect controls.
It's a shame its reputation has been a bit hampered by people who can't do it right.

But anyway, Theatrhythm shouldn't be missed by any 3DS owner.
I'm not a bit Final Fantasy fan or a big rhythm game fan but I have been addicted to this for a week so far.

FluffyNinja

#36

FluffyNinja said:

Great review and a great game it is. I still wish for another Elite Beat Agents or Osu Tatakae Ouendan. :(

Mariru

#37

Mariru said:

I'm not a Final Fantasy fan but i love this game. The songs are awesome and the gameplay is really addicting. I tried it last week and I was sad to get it back to the store (I rented it) but I know I will buy it soon! :)

pariah164

#38

pariah164 said:

To everyone not the biggest fan of KI:U, I'm right there with you.

As for this game, yay for the 9/10! So many positive reviews for this game makes me insanely happy. This game is amazing, and even though my first FF was 7, I eventually played and loved them all. There is a serious omission of You Are Not Alone, but that aside, the game is close to perfect.

chewytapeworm

#39

chewytapeworm said:

Went to get this at my local games store today, but they had been selling it for £20 and it had clean sold out :(

I had my reservations about the rough description (that came from my mind anyway) of Guitar Hero meets Final Fantasy, but the sheer fun and replayability I've had from the mere two songs on the demo alone has been enough to sway me to get this, let alone the massive amount of content the review promises. I also will probably only get nostalgia rushes from Final Fantasies 7 and 8, but if you appreciate superbly arranged music that will never leave your head in a lifetime, I'm sure there will be no end of genius to delve into.

Sabrewing

#40

Sabrewing said:

There's a couple songs I REALLY hope get added to this game. "The Landing" from FF8 is one.

Azikira

#41

Azikira said:

Nerd moment Actually Rockband's special is called "Overdrive". :P All nerdiness aside though, this has jumped up my list of must-get titles, only being overshadowed by The Last Story.

Tasuki

#42

Tasuki said:

Looks like I will be heading over to Best Buy to pick this game up and two more for their Buy 2 get one free sale. Great review I was on the fence with this one but from what I read its sounds right up my alley. You guys haven't steered me wrong once with a review.

HandheldGuru97

#43

HandheldGuru97 said:

I really want to get this, but I have only played Final Fantasy lll and IV on the DS so I am still on the fence a bit any help would be appreciated. Still it looks awesome, and they should release Theatrhythm Chrono Trigger!

Marioman64

#45

Marioman64 said:

you know why it got a 9 instead of a 10? because if you have abilities equipped you can see the feature zones and extended movies, but you can't get a SSS ranking, AND if you don't have abilities equipped you get a stoic bonus letting you obtain 9999999 points and get a SSS (which I got on cosmo canyon completely by accident :D ) , but you get no feature zones or extended movies. I get why they did it, but it's still silly.
the game's extremely well designed other than that, and the unlimited generated note charts created by the dark notes in the chaos shrine makes this literally have more replayability than any music game i've played ever, which is fantastic

Knux

#46

Knux said:

I'm still debating about getting this one or not due to the fact that the only Final Fantasy game I've beaten was Final Fantasy IV (though I have played nearly all of them, even if it wasn't that much).

Great review either way. I'm hoping there is a Theatrhythm: Kingdom Hearts down the road. Now THAT I would buy in a heartbeat. :D

Radixxs

#47

Radixxs said:

Not interested at all. And because Uprising is a common topic in here, I think it has great controls, better than Star Fox 64 3D. Maybe that's because I went into it with an open mind. Maybe that's because I don't have huge hairy man hands. Who knows.

pariah164

#48

pariah164 said:

@Radixxs Are you saying that because you actually think that, or are you just trolling? You have to admit the controls are just a tiny bit uncomfortable, and Nintendo knew it. Otherwise, they wouldn't have included a stand with the game, I did go in with an open mind and I still got hand cramps from it. Poor controls on an otherwise well-planned game. End of story.

Shotgunryugan

#49

Shotgunryugan said:

I'm definitely picking this up.
I may not be the biggest FF fan,I have only played FFIV:The After Years and FF:Crystal Horribles(Chronicles).
But something i love from the FF games is the music,so yeah i can't wait to buy it :D
Although i used all my money on a few games so...It'll have to wait :P

Lin1876

#50

Lin1876 said:

Certainly on my to-buy list. I found myself playing the demo over and over again.

Blaze

#51

Blaze said:

Completely agree with a 9, couldn't have put it better myself. This is probably my favourite game on the 3DS yet :p.

Radixxs

#52

Radixxs said:

@pariah164 I don't partake in using the term "trolling." It kinda pisses me off. But I actually did find the controls to be fairly intuitive, which is not just a marketing buzzword. I don't have to think about buttons, I just aim and shoot. I have had occasional hand cramps, but I relaxed my body and hands and that seemed to prevent further pain. Keep relaxed with your hands and you shouldn't have as many problems.

Hokori

#53

Hokori said:

Great review I agree it's the best 3r d party 3DS game. Seph, er, oth

Millenia

#54

Millenia said:

Could not agree more with the score. I have already put more hours into it than any other 3DS game I have. Also because so many people are asking, you do not have to be a Final Fantasy veteran to enjoy the game! Although it's not a a core title, I think it would actually be a great starting point if you're interested in the series since it exposes you to all of the main titles! After a while of Theatrhythm you can choose which game you're the most interested in :D

SageofShadow

#55

SageofShadow said:

This game is quite amazing and deserves all the credit. I can't put it down, I play it almost every night. I am surprised at how hooked I am. Honestly, one of the best rhythm games I have ever played.

ianmage1

#56

ianmage1 said:

@Knux
I would instantly buy a Kingdom Hearts version. It's too bad I've never played a single final fantasy game in my life... I don't know where I'd start...

H_Hunter

#59

H_Hunter said:

what's the name of the boss fight music in FF7? is it available in this game?

I won't buy it if the that song is not there

Donjwolf

#61

Donjwolf said:

Dissidia is confusing and overcomplicated? Have you played the game? It's my fave fighting game series even if not exactly traditional.

Theatrhythm is as awesome as Dissidia. Can't wait to get more FFVIII tracks on DLC.

Donjwolf

#62

Donjwolf said:

H_Hunter, "Fight on" is DLC. It's under its alternate title, "Those Who Fight Further."

Bassman_Q

#63

Bassman_Q said:

I have to agree with Bliquid (#5); Dissidia is an excellent game loaded with content and possibly my favorite game on PSP. Aside from its LOOONG loading times, it doesn't deserve the dissing it received from the review. :(

That being said, I'm glad this turned out to be such a great game. :) I will difinitely have it on my radar once I buy a 3DS.

But one quick question: Will the Series mode spoil the story for any of the Final Fantasy games? I mean, does it uncover a lot of the plot and/or plot twists? I've played through about half of the series' games, but for those I still haven't played (FFVII and FFX specifically), I'm worried it will spoil those games' stories for me.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#64

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Borrowed the cart of someone for a couple of hours. I estimate it'd be an 8 for non-FF veterans and a 9 for ppl who've played at least 3 or 4 of the FF games. It's a very good rhythm game but gets a bit repetitive at times (don't they all thou?). Personally I slightly prfered Rhythm Thief

SpaceKappa

#65

SpaceKappa said:

Dudes, I like the Dissidia games. That doesn't mean they're far more complicated than they need to be!

@Qwikman_N_Bass - It won't spoil much other than the music. EMS stages will show a video montage but you'll be paying too much attention to the notes to really notice much. Even then they did a good job keeping spoilers light. That is, except for the most famous scene from Final Fantasy VII which everyone knows already.

Araknie

#66

Araknie said:

I'm glad to hear that, i will have this game tomorrow and now i can start playing it cool.

mushroomer

#67

mushroomer said:

Just bought it and immediately found a misprint in the instructions manual.
in the Prologue on page 7, it says, "Yet the chaotic forces in the universe wax stronger, disrupting...."
WAX? so they use their buffers to wax stronger? they have shinier cars? come on Square. you need to hire new QA department in the U.S. so unprofessional of you and I hope you didn't cut corners within the game.

cc-plus

#70

cc-plus said:

This game is what I've secretly been wishing for as a rhythm fan since forever. Definitely agree with the score. :D There have been a few questions from various people in the 3DS thread about whether this game is for them, I'm just going to sum up my opinions here.

Non-FF fans: If you enjoy game music and rhythm games like Taiko or EBA this will be right up your alley. I don't think it's a deal breaker if you don't know what a chocobo or Onion Knight is. This isn't a game that requires knowledge of backstory. What's more important is the music you'll be tapping to is some of the best RPG OSTs have to offer. Some of my favourite tracks are from FFs I've never played before. There's lots of variety and lots to discover. Party customization adds an interesting spin to the rhythm formula as well.

FF fans: This game is wonderful because it reminds you of the best parts of the series while also letting you enjoy it without its shortcomings. For example, I couldn't stand FF8's junction system but aiming for a SSS rank in 'The Man With A Machine Gun' BMS made me forget that and I just had a great time. Even if you love or don't love where the series is going I think good music has remained a constant in all of the games and you'll enjoy the amount of fanservice here. It's just the right difficulty for rhythm game beginners and those looking for a challenge can aim for trophies, SSS ranks and perfect chains.

Marow

#71

Marow said:

I loved the demo. But it felt like my touch screen would get destroyed if I actually bought the whole game. Did you feel that this was an issue? This is coming from a person who doesn't use a screen-protector.

cc-plus

#72

cc-plus said:

@Marow: I don't think anything can be as damaging as EBA's spinning move but I would use a screen protector if you're worried. The harder levels require a lot of swiping and mad tapping on your screen.

RaylaxStaff

#74

Raylax said:

I didn't like the demo much. However, seeing as it's gained an enormous amount of praise from reviewers and folks-on-the-street (the metaphorical, virtual street, I mean), I think I'm going to have to give this another look.

Justaguest

#75

Justaguest said:

i wont buy this simply because I dont enjoy videogames music from games i havent played. I only played FFIV on ds

K1LLEGAL

#77

K1LLEGAL said:

Just got this today and it's amazing; playing on my 3DS XL as well. The RPG elements really help to make it a deeper experience than most other music games.

I also downloaded one song; Final Fantasy XIII's The Archylte Steppe. Whatever you think about FFXIII; the music in that game is incredible.

Now I just need a Theatrhythm: Kingdom Hearts. That would surely be a 10/10 no? KH has some of my favourite music ever composed; not just in a video game.

zezhyrule

#78

zezhyrule said:

Sorry, I couldn't read any more after you mentioned something about it being better than Dissidia/DDFF in any way. Sorry, still trying to get over that one :D

FamousQuest

#79

FamousQuest said:

Great game, I really got my money out of it.
And it also has great DLC at a reasonable price, so far bought 6 songs. :)

zipmonStaff

#80

zipmon said:

As someone who's never played a Final Fantasy game in my life, I can vouch for this being a wonderful game whether you're a FF fan or not! Seriously addictive & well done!

cfgk24

#81

cfgk24 said:

I'm still playing this daily months down the line!!! Fabulous Game.
My Dark notes are getting really Difficult now!!!!!! I'm glad the difficulty Ramps up!!!!! some of the Ultimate levels are INSANE!!

Vallu

#82

Vallu said:

I have never played any Final Fantasy title but I still love this game. I have over 110 hours in this game and I love every song in it. If someone doesn't know: If you unequip all abilities and items, you will get 2 000 000 points in the end of a song allowing you to get a SS rank or even a SSS rank (all critical (maxed)). I have perfect chained every song of the game (ultimates too) and I'm going to buy every DLC song someday (I have bought 12). The hardest song so far is definitely Force Your Way from FF VIII (a DLC song). I'd recommed everyone who wants a challenge to buy that song. :)

hopesfall

#83

hopesfall said:

I adore rhythm games, and when I saw this was coming out I got so excited. This game is such a blast to play, and as a Final Fantasy fan this game took the cake for me as far as rhythm games are concerned. Also I got lucky, and got the display cover for the game that plays music when you hit the button because I know a person very well that works at gamestop, and he was going to throw it out and I asked him could I have it!!!!

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