Theatryhthm Final Fantasy review
Well here’s a game I never thought I’d buy, but really a pretty great idea when you think about it.
A weird mixture of RPG and Rhythm game, Theatrhythm celebrates the history and music of the Final Fantasy franchise. Is it any good?
Read on and see what I thought!
Developer: Indies Zero (hey, it’s the guys who made the Game Center CX games!)
Publisher: Square Enix
Date of Release: July 3rd 2012
Rated E10+ for everyone over 10
Well, I don’t think I need to mention that the music is great… do I? The FF franchise, through each of its major iterations (and even some not so major iterations), has always featured fantastic musical scores. Obviously music is an important element to any rhythm game, and obviously they nail it here.
Graphic-wise… I like it. The characters have a puppet-like cutsy look to them which is a bit strange at first (due to the lack of any facial animation and fairly limited animation otherwise as only the arms and legs really move at all) but frankly it works well. Each character is easily recognizable from the games (other than the FF1 warrior… why doesn’t he look like this anymore?), the enemy sprites are also very much recognizable from more “normal” enemies like Marlboro and Behemots to bosses like the 4 fiends, Kefka, Seymour and a bunch of others, though a few of them look really weird (like Sephiroth). In addition to that all the backgrounds in fight scenes or field levels are nice looking and actually taken from the various FF games, so you’ll recognize different areas and even buildings and such from the games.
Some of the songs include a cinematic from a game, showing off various scenes from that game. Those look really nice, I see no problem in how any of them look.
Overall it has amazing presentation, as long as you’re okay with the weird-looking characters.
Oh, plot? There isn’t one. Basically “gather Rhythmia by playing songs to return balance to the world”, which happens pretty early in the game.
It adds nothing to the visuals or gameplay. It works, but… that’s really all there is to say about it. You’ll probably be too busy figuring out which inputs to do to even pay attention anyways, so it’s not terribly useful to keep turned on here.
The basic gameplay is fairly simple. All the input is on the touch screen, so no buttons are required. Regardless of which “mode” you’re playing (Event Scenes, Field Scenes and Battle Scenes) the main gameplay remains the same.
The top screen will display an area where coloroedcircles (which I’ll call notes, this being a rhythm game and all) will go into, somewhat in the rhythm of the music. You have to perform certain actions on the touch screen when a note gets to that area depending on which type of note it is. Red notes require just tapping the screen. Green notes require holding the stylus on the touch screen and let go once the line ends. Yellow notes with an arrow in them require you to swipe the touch screen in the direction that the circle is pointing. Also, green notes sometimes end with an arrow that you have to swipe. You have an HP bar, which includes the HP stat of all the characters. As you miss notes, you lose HP, and you fail the song once you lose all your HP. That’s the gist of it.
The game will give you a series of things to do, and generally it follows something in the music itself… And sometimes not. Each type of level plays the same, but have some changes in how they’re presented, and very minor gameplay changes.
Field levels have the “marker” on the right side in the middle, but “hold” notes will actually require you to move the marker around to follow a wavy line (with small circles indicating where you need to move it).
Event levels has the marker moving along a line, with notes appearing on that line, so you must tap the screen (or whatever) as the marker passes over the notes.
Battle levels are pretty simple, with notes appearing in 4 “lanes”, 1 per character. Each time you press hit a note, the character will attack the enemy, as in an actual FF battle, and defeating enemies sometimes gets you item drops. No real gimmicks here beyond the fact that the notes come on multiple lanes.
Each level does have a “feature zone”. In a Field level, getting enough notes in it gives you a chocobo for a limited time, making you go faster. In Event levels, getting enough notes extends the song. In battle levels, it makes you conjure up a summon, which, at the end of its own string of notes, will unleash a strong attack which kills most enemies in one shot.
The basic rhythm gameplay is actually really fun here. Though the standard difficulty is WAY too easy, each song also has an Expert and Ultimate difficulty, and those can get tricky, especially Ultimate, with weird sequences of holds, taps and swipes. So yes, the game features good music and fun rhythm gameplay, so it succeeds on that standpoint.
You put some RPG in my rhythm game
But Theatrhythm offers more than just that, of course… sort of. I’ll say it this way… It’s one of the only rhythm games ever that’s built around level grinding. In this game you choose a party of FF characters (at the beginning only one per mainline game is available, but you can unlock more), each of which can be leveled up and can learn new abilities. Generally these abilities are pretty useless out of the battle levels, though speed boosts can be useful in the field levels. Finishing a song gives you EXP (depending on your performance) and when you get enough your characters level up, gaining stats and AP. AP is used to equipped skills, and each skill has an AP requirement.
Skills do one of 2 things: give a passive stat increase (either to the character itself or to the party) or give you spells to cast. Spells are cast when certain conditions are reached (boss monster appears, you hit a certain amount of notes of a certain type, you get hit too much, etc.) and have various effects, such as hitting enemies or avoiding damage. There are also one-use items (which you can only equip one of at a time), which will be used in specific levels. Some can heal HP, others can guarantee getting a certain summon in battle, some teach skills, etc.
So what’s the point of all this customizing? Well, stronger characters with a good set of skill will kill more enemies in battle, enabling for more item drops and EXP. In field levels faster characters can go further into the field, at which point you can get extra item drops from moogles and you can meet characters at the end of a level who will also give you items. Some of those drops will be cards… getting more of the same card levels it up and… I frankly have no clue what those cards even do beyond “being there”.
The Chaos Shrine mode is probably the most grindy thing here. Not only does it give pretty good EXP, but you also get more crystals here, to unlock more characters. Each set in the Chaos Shrine features a battle level and a field level, with the battle levels giving rarer item drops. The problem with this mode is that there are around 100 different possibilities of sets… which means there are only 20 songs total in this mode, so it can because incredibly repetitive. It does, however, feature some songs that aren’t anywhere else in the game.
So if you’re a completionist, you have around 26 characters to level to level 99 (generally it takes a song or 2 to level up, sometimes you can be lucky and level up multiple times per song), cards to level up to who knows what (whatever that does), and 999999 Rhythmia to gather (or is it 99999? Not sure since I’m not there yet), as well as high scores to get on all songs on all difficulties, there are in-game achievements here… Fun if you really like completing games to the maximum.
Theathrhythm is a surprisingly good game. There’s TONS to do if you want to get into it, the basic gameplay is fun, the addition of RPG elements is a fun quirk, the music is great and there’s a good number of tracks in the game… It’s all good. Not much more to say here.
I guess I will add that the game features DLC songs, and thankfully it’s not overly expensive, at 1$ per extra track. So far I’ve only spent 2$ here (FF4 battle song and Dancing Mad), though I’m sure others will go a lot higher and a few of the other songs I haven’t picked up are a bit tempting. The only problem here is that you can’t preview the songs from the in-game store, so you gotta Youtube them… or remember them by title.
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