Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy / 19th of September 2014
The original Theatrhythm venture was something of a damp squib, for whilst it certainly wasn’t a poor game by any means, it did feel as though it was lacking in content, and given that it was derived from the longest running and most popular RPG series on the planet, that really was inexcusable. However, for reasons unknown to me, I have had my eye on this latest iteration from the moment that it was announced, excitedly awaiting its arrival, and I can now safely say that Square-Enix have managed to justify my excitement by releasing a very good game indeed. It is a game literally jam packed with content, with more than enough to keep even the most ardent Final Fantasy fans going for a very long time, and perhaps best of all, it’s also a supremely good rhythm action game.
This new Theatrhythm game includes the majority of the music that featured in the original release, yet this is not simply an expansion, as this new version adds in an additional 100 songs or so, though these are mostly derived from newer releases in the series, such as Final Fantasy XIV: A Real Reborn, Dissidia and the rather unfortunate Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. In total, that gives Curtain Call a gargantuan track list of around 220 songs, which is certainly no mean feat. The music of the Final Fantasy games has always been one its main attractions (well, any Nobuo Uematsu score anyway), and it is pleasing to see that feature singled out for the praise that it so rightly deserves.
Ultimately, the core mechanics haven’t changed very much at all, with the bottom screen on the console displaying the movements that the player has to follow with their stylus, tapping, holding and sliding on the screen as instructed (it is also possible to use the buttons too if you prefer). If the player misses any of the commands-or accidentally enters an incorrect one-they will receive damage, and when their health bar is depleted, its game over. The gameplay is relatively simple, yet it is utterly addictive, and it is the chase for high scores, ratings and unlockable content that will keep players glued to their 3DS consoles for a very long time indeed, muttering “just one more shot” until they are almost literally blue in the face. Personally, I have always enjoyed the genre, whether it was Nana On Sha’s PaRappa the Rapper and Vib Ribbon, Sonic Team’s Samba de Amigo or iNiS’ Gitaroo Man, but I never thought that it could once again reach those coveted heights, until now.
A key area where this latest Theatrhythm excels is in the way that it now incorporates some RPG systems into the fray, with rare loot drops that can be collected from enemies, whilst high scores can also yield some highly sought after treasure or even new characters. As if that wasn’t enough, characters can also be levelled up by completing songs, and there are also cards that can be utilised to boost character stats. These core RPG mechanics were ostensibly missing from the last game, and as such, I felt that it lacked authenticity, but this is something that the developer has well and truly rectified.
In terms of game modes, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call has plenty, though not all of them are a huge success. The weakest of which is undoubtedly the Versus mode, in it, two players (or one against the computer AI) contest against each other on one of the many songs. Successfully completing a chain of correct notes will see the game disrupt the progress of the other player, and it is this that causes the problem. Playing against hard AI opponents quickly becomes the stuff of nightmares as activating these troublesome moves seems to become more common, and without any real rewards to speak of, there is no reason for players to suffer through the arduous experience that this quickly descends into. Thankfully though there’s more to choose from, including Quest Medleys. This mode is a little bit more creative, stitching together a random selection of songs, whilst typically throwing a smattering of sub bosses and a final, end boss into the mix too. These generally yield some rare items to the player, encouraging repeat play, though after a while they do begin to lose their appeal as the song range appears to be rather limited for some reason, and its repetitive selection soon starts to grate.
Regardless though, Curtain Call is a truly wonderful celebration of the music of Final Fantasy, something that has been a mainstay accompaniment to the lives of many of us throughout the years, and with this, it looks likely to remain that way for a very long time to come. Whilst I may not have been overly fond of the game’s multiplayer component, it is still jam packed with enough content to provide many hours of nostalgic entertainment, but Square-Enix haven’t simply created a homage to the great games of the past, they’ve also carved out a new future for the rhythm-action genre, and I must say, it looks glorious.