Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review - Screenshot 1 of 7
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

If there’s one thing pretty much everyone can agree on, it’s that the Final Fantasy series has some incredible music. With a 35-year legacy and around 100 games bearing the Final Fantasy moniker, it’s not surprising that the music from the series is some of the most recognisable in video game history. Theatrhythm, then, is a no-brainer. A series of rhythm games that package together some of gaming's best-loved melodies, there’s no better way to celebrate this storied franchise and its vast catalogue of music.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, then, is the best yet in that respect. As the first new entry since 2016’s arcade game All-Star Carnival and the first home release since 2014’s Curtain Call, Final Bar Line is simply a delight. It’s a bonanza of musical magic, stuffed and bursting with things to do. There are more songs, more games represented, more characters, and new modes, and it never feels like too much of a good thing.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

It's mind-blowing how much is packed into Final Bar Line. In the base game, there are 385 songs to unlock, ranging from the NES' Final Fantasy all the way to 2022’s Stranger of Paradise. It’s hard to be upset with everything on offer here, even when Final Fantasy XIV’s Endwalker expansion and the Pixel Remaster arrangements are missing, and tracks like ‘Aria di Mezzo Carattere’ from Final Fantasy VI or Final Fantasy VIII’s ‘The Landing’ aren’t included. You could double the song count and you’d still have to cut some classics – the music in this series really is just that good. And this is before the Deluxe Edition or the DLC comes into play. You also might just find a new favourite track — the Mobius Final Fantasy music, for instance, shocked us.

For those who have played the 3DS games, this is still very much Theatrhythm. Touch, slide, and hold notes are all back, as is every single FF song and character from previous entries (though some returning FF songs are locked to the Deluxe Edition) along with some brand new tracks. BMS, FMS, and EMS (Battle, Field, and Event Music Stages) all return, with EMS stages limited to only a handful of songs – though this mode is much easier to play than in previous entries, with easier-to-follow notes and a lot less action on screen. And the overly cute character models, enemy animations, and general style, all feel warm and familiar.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review - Screenshot 3 of 7
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The biggest difference in Final Bar Line is the lack of touchscreen controls. The default control method involves using buttons and the analogue sticks, which can take some getting used to, but once the controls clicked for us, we felt like a maestro.

But you can also press the 'X' button on the song select screen to swap between this, a simpler one-button scheme, and a 'Pairs' mode which you can play with a friend in some really fun co-op play. We mostly played with Standard controls, which worked extremely well with both a Pro Controller and Joy-Con in handheld mode – we found that 'ZL' and 'ZR' felt the most comfortable for touch and hold notes, which freed up our thumbs to use the analogue sticks for slide notes.

The settings go beyond simply adjusting the controls, and Final Bar Line is extremely approachable as a result. You can tinker around with the button calibration in both Docked and Handheld mode, change the speed of the notes to your liking, dim the background to stop animations from distracting you, and there's even a second note option for colourblind players.

Once you're set up and ready to conduct a concerto of Final Fantasy music, you can dive into Series Quest mode to unlock characters and songs in Music Stage mode, where you can play whatever song you want to your heart’s content. In Series Quest, you pick a title and you get to play through a bite-sized musical interpretation of that Final Fantasy game (or series). Final Fantasy III, for example, starts off with 'Eternal Wind', the world map theme, before moving on to ‘Battle I’ and ‘Crystal Cave’.

This is a really lovely little nod to every individual game and series represented in Final Bar Line, and the attention to detail in the songs, the enemies, and even the additional challenges, made us chuckle. Your first Final Fantasy I BMS stage requires you to kill a certain number of Goblin enemies, while Crisis Core's 'The Price of Freedom' only throws SOLDIER enemies at you — and you have to defeat 30 of them. Let's just say we struggled with that one as we blinked through tears while hitting the notes perfectly.

While the goal is to beat multiple titles, get keys, and unlock new titles until you get a special title that unlocks the brand-new Endless Mode (another addictive option that throws song after song at us until we stumble over the stave lines), we found Series Quest to be irresistible because of this mix of nostalgia and skill. The Challenges can get tough — from beating songs on the highest difficulty to finishing a hard song without healing — and there are often stage hazards too, like faster notes and triggers that are harshly judged. It's a fantastic mode for returning fans, but you can also do every single stage on whatever difficulty you want, meaning newcomers can learn the basics by playing through their favourite games.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The additional challenges and the higher difficulties made us quickly realise something — Final Bar Line has a bit of a bite to it, and we love it. There's a brand-new difficulty in Supreme, which makes Ultimate feel like a summer breeze as the number of notes on screen at any one time can be pretty terrifying. Ultimate and Supreme give those who want a challenge, like us, something meaty to sink their teeth into. It might just take tons practice to get to that level. But you really feel progress being made as your practice the songs over and over, plus the crushing disappointment if you miss just one Critical note and fall shy of the elusive All-Critical rating. We're absolutely not talking from experience at all. No way.

However, as we unlocked more songs and jumped between Series Quest and Music Stage, something that kept nipping away at us was the number of loads. Between jumping into menus and waiting between song selections, these often-choppy load screens are far too frequent and break the flow of things just a bit too much. We're not sure if the load times affect online multiplayer — which wasn't available for us during the review period — but it slows down an otherwise snappy experience.

Beyond just perfecting your favourite Final Fantasy tunes, there are so many reasons to keep playing, and beyond simply practicing to improve, one way you can get through some of the harder songs and challenges is by composing the perfect party.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Every character can be levelled up to 99, and they all fit into one of seven classes – Physical, Magic, Defender, Support, Hunter, Summon, and Healer. While we could honestly run a party like Vivi, Balthier, Zack, and Prishe the entire time, swapping out the heavy damage-dealer Prishe for the thief Rikku allows us to get more chests and more collectibles. Or a Healer like Lenna can help you survive longer in an Ultimate song. It's also just fun to mix and match parties — from playing all of the Final Fantasy IX songs with that game's characters, to diving into another song or game series and mixing and matching. It's not an essential mechanic, but it's fun to tinker with.

There are multiple characters within each of the six classes too, meaning it's highly likely that one of your favourites will be present in each category. And, to help differentiate them a little bit more from each other, each character gets their own skillset, along with one unique move that amplifies their specialty. Aerith’s Great Gospel is an extremely powerful healing spell that only she can get, for example. If there’s one downgrade here compared to Curtain Call, it’s that characters can only equip three skills as opposed to four. This makes party composition that bit more crucial, but it also means that customisation is more compromised, and sometimes we had to sacrifice something that’s more powerful for a skill that’s easier to activate.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review - Screenshot 6 of 7
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Of course, part of the magic of Final Bar Line comes from our nostalgia for the Final Fantasy series, because it evokes memories of so many of the titles we grew up with. After all, who doesn’t remember stepping out onto the world map in Final Fantasy IV for the first time, or boarding the Highwind in Final Fantasy VII and zipping all across the skies?

And ultimately, this is a game for Final Fantasy fans. Many series-favourite summons can be used in the BMS stages, and they deal high damage to enemies while also boosting the party's attack, or give an EXP increase. There are airships from different titles to fly into FMS stages in, and you can get some adorable outfits for your Moogle companion – who doesn’t want to see a Moogle dressed up as a Tonberry, after all? The latter two don’t do anything, but as simple homages to Final Fantasy history, they made us smile.

But, even if you haven't played a Theatrhythm game before, or if your experience with Final Fantasy is limited, everything comes together to create a game that's just pure celebratory fun, even if you don't make every reference. Final Bar Line’s simplicity – from its charming paper-craft chibi art style to easy-to-understand controls – is a brilliant way of helping fans relive their favourite moments while welcoming those with a bit less experience with the series or with rhythm games in general. With plenty of rewards for players who enjoy a challenge, this is everything we hoped it would be.


Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is an utterly addictive, perfectly tuned celebration of all things Final Fantasy. It’s a deceptively simple-looking game that, once you get under the hood, you’ll discover it has teeth and demands practice and patience if you want to unlock everything. It gives back what you put into it, and we’re struggling to put it down even now. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the series’ 35th anniversary, and this makes it a must-buy for Final Fantasy fans and rhythm game enthusiasts. How other storied, sprawling game series’ haven’t followed suit with their own rhythm games is baffling when the results can be this magical.