When I heard that Square Enix was putting a Rhythm Game twist on their best-selling franchise, I was excited but also bewildered. Many of my friends from PMS clan’s now retired Rhythm Games Division seemed to echo my feelings. On the one hand, we were incredibly eager to combine two genres that we loved. On the other, we weren’t exactly sure how well it would actually work.
The final results turns out to be something like Elite Beat Agents with Final Fantasy music and visuals. The premise is similar to Dissidia Final Fantasy; the gods Cosmos and Chaos are at odds. Chaos has disrupted the music crystal that exists in the space called Rhythm, so Cosmos calls upon 13 warriors -- representing the various Final Fantasy games -- to restore the crystal and bring music back to the universe. After filling your party with four Final Fantasy protagonists, choose from any of the 13 main series games to play three songs from the selected game. The gameplay is separated into three types of music stages.
In Field Music stages, the screen side-scrolls right to left and you must tap, swipe, or hold following the notes on the screen.
In Battle Music stages, notes travel across four lanes towards each of the characters in your party. Hitting the notes successfully deals damage to enemy creatures. Do well enough and you’ll eventually encounter a boss.
Event Music stages play a collection of memorable scenes from the game while an orb travels around the screen towards the different notes you must hit. These songs are typically the most emotional themes of each game.
On my initial playthrough I enjoyed the music but, being a seasoned rhythm gamer, I found the gameplay unchallenging. Fortunately, I unlocked increasingly higher difficulty levels by completing songs and found that challenge in the Expert and Ultimate levels.
There’s also an RPG element to the game, your party gains XP and levels up based on how well you perform. Your characters’ stats influence the items they can equip, magic and abilities they can use, and chance of getting more items. I didn’t fully comprehend the depth of this system until I found my first “Dark Note,” which opened up the Chaos Shrine.
In the Chaos Shrine, each Dark Note consists of 2 mystery songs at a difficulty scaled to the level your party was at when you found it. The better you perform and the higher your Agility in the first song, the tougher the bosses you’ll encounter in the second song. Defeating the more challenging bosses rewards you with rare item drops, or crystals which are needed to unlock more characters that you can place in your party.
I completed the storyline of the game quickly but, thanks to higher difficulty levels and the Chaos Shrine, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was much more game to play. The more Dark Notes I played, the more Dark Notes I got and the more characters I unlocked. Unfortunately, this is where the game's repetition starts to hurt it. The Chaos Shrine has a limited selection of songs and I had to play combinations of the same 5-10 songs over and over. This sort of grinding will be familiar to RPG and rhythm game veterans alike, but even if you enjoy the music it can get tedious when playing for longer periods. Chaos Shrine at least has the local multiplayer, but sadly no online play. You can also exchange Dark Notes via StreetPass, which allows you to collect them more quickly. If you’re a completionist, you’ll probably need to play all of them -- some multiple times -- to obtain everything the game offers.
When I play Theatrhythm, I see it as commemorating a franchise that has produced many great games over the past 25 years. It has decent rhythm gameplay and a fantastic soundtrack, but its appeal is fairly niche. Devotees of Final Fantasy and its music will enjoy it as a trip down memory lane. Rhythm gamers interested in Final Fantasy will relish the more challenging modes, but may be disappointed that the gameplay isn’t as innovative as it may have sounded. I’ve logged and enjoyed over 20 hours on Theatrhythm, but in the end, I would only recommend this game to more diehard Final Fantasy or rhythm game fans.
All images from giantbomb.com.
Written by PMS Lammy, member of the PMS|H2O Editorial Team. You can follow her on Twitter!