Monday, August 06, 2012

The Great Gaymathon Review #58: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS)

Game: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Genre: Music/Rhythm
Developer: Indies zero
Publisher: Square Enix
System: 3DS
Release date: 2012

Although I can't quite remember my reaction to hearing that the folks at Square Enix were working on a Final Fantasy-based rhythm game, I have a feeling it involved scrunched eyebrows and a puckered mouth. Well, after playing the finished product for more than 30 hours, I can say without hesitation that my initial skepticism was unwarranted. That's because Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is one of the most enjoyable--and most polished--rhythm games I've played in a long time.

As for why that is: First, there's the art style. I know some hate it, but I see it as a welcome evolution of the style that was used on the packaging produced for Final Fantasy IV and V. Second, there's the music, which includes 70 (or so) songs that were gleaned from the 13 "mainline" Final Fantasy titles. (If you're anything like me, some of the tracks featured here will push you to play the Final Fantasy releases you've thus far avoided.) Third, there's the gameplay, which loosely--and rather addictively, I should add--apes the mechanics used in Nintendo's Elite Beat Agents. (Basically, you tap, slide or hold the stylus against the 3DS' touchscreen in time with the above-mentioned tunes.) Fourth, there are the many modes and stages that wrap around the gameplay and provide Theatrhythm with a much-needed sense of cohesion. (The "Chaos Shrine" mode is where this cart truly shines, by the way, and where it shows the prowess of its designers and developers. Some of the rhythm patterns highlighted here are confounding at first, but stick with them and they'll not only "click" but blow you away with how well they, er, harmonize with the songs in question.)

Like pretty much any game, this one features a few missteps--although in this case, they're fairly small ones. For starters, the opening and ending theme segments of the "Series" mode are a bit pointless. Also, that mode's "Event" stages--which task players with tapping to music while Final Fantasy FMV scenes run in the background--don't quite gel, if you will, with the "Battle" and "Field" stages. (That said, I consider the "Waltz for the Moon" event sequence to be a stand-out.) Finally, it has to be said that things are sure to become at least a tad (if not more so) repetitive after about the seven-hour mark, since that's when you start spending the bulk of your time in Theatrhythm's "Chaos Shrine" (in order to bolster the abilities and stats of your existing characters as well as to unlock a handful of "hidden" ones).

I can't say I've minded playing certain tracks over and over again (in fact, in most instances it's the opposite), but I'm guessing that won't be true for everyone. As long as you go into it knowing that--and as long as you have at least a passing interest in the Final Fantasy series--you should get a lot of enjoyment out of this melodious 3DS title.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts


Yéti said...

A masterpiece, no doubt. I'm really, really, really, enjoying it.

Unknown said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Bryan! I have to admit that I wasn't wholly satisfied with the song selection, but it's a tough call when they have to pick and choose only a couple songs for each title. The unlockable songs add some enjoyment, but I do remember feeling a tad disappointed that none of my favorite FFVII and FFIX songs made it in to the series mode when I first loaded up the game.

One quick suggestion for your reviews - have you ever considered breaking the text into paragraphs? With longer walls of text like these it's a bit easier to read if you add a line break in here and there... Again, just a suggestion, still a lovely review :D

diaglyph said...

It has been fun, but now I feel I want to wait for the XL haha
Also the next difficulty level is too much for me LOL
The Chaos Shrine - my god this is super hard! I find it hard to keep track of the triggers, some of them move by too quickly and I just can't seem to react quickly to the triggers :(

Also I find it difficult to get into the other FF music for games I haven't played before, like 1 & 2. 3 I've played a bit in the DS remake. 4 on DS I kinda started but didn't get much into it. 5 never played, 6 never played. 7 got 3/4 into it I think then got bored. 8 never played. 9 briefly played but never got back. X (and by extension X-2) I played and finished and loved. 11 annoyed the heck out of me as I felt it was a horrible MMO. 12 I think I got half way thru but the game bored me :( 13 I think 3/4 still need to finish. 14 - another MMO, once bitten twice shy.
So yea I find it difficult to get into the music from those other FF games since I haven't played them

Viewtiful_Justin said...

It's nice to know you liked it so much! Your recommendation means a lot to me, for sure. I'm still planning on getting this one eventually, but there are a lot of other games that are coming first.

Hey, I think we've talked about this before, but are you on Steam? I'm playing a game called Breath of Death VII on there, and it's a sendup of 8-bit RPGs that I thought you'd enjoy. There's also one I bought but have not played called Cthulu Saves the World that's made by the same people. It looks to be the same kind of sendup, but of 16-bit RPGs.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Yéti: Good to hear it! I'm really, really enjoying it myself. That said, I think I'm nearing the point when I'll move on to something else. The only 'secret' character left to unlock (well, the only one I care about) is Cosmos, and once I've got her I'm not sure how much I'll play anymore, as I'm getting to the point where I can't beat the Dark Notes anymore, and I'm unlikely to get any through StreetPass. That's OK, though, as I've spent about 40 hours with the game so far. Can't ask much more of a game these days, can you?

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Anne!

I have a feeling I may have felt similarly to you in regards to the song selection if I had played a Final Fantasy other than The 4 Heroes of Light in the last few years. As it stands, my memory's actually kind of bad when it comes to which song appeared in which Final Fantasy, you know?

Thanks for your suggestion, by the way. Honestly, I've been hemming and hawing about this for ages. I'm not sure why I've stuck with this "giant block of text" format as long as I have, really. I used it at first because the reviews were supposed to be short -- as in, just 10 or maybe 15 lines long (at most). Since then, they've gotten longer and longer.

Maybe what I'll do is leave the really short ones as is and put breaks in the longer ones. It'll drive me nuts in a way (I can be a bit OCD when it comes to such things), but if it'll make the reviews more enjoyable and readable for you guys/gals it would be worth it.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Igor: Oh, I can understand waiting for an XL! I'd do the same if I were planning to get an XL anytime soon. I think it would be so nice to see all of this on a bigger screen, for some reason.

As for the Chaos Shrine being difficult: I agree, although in my specific experience I've generally found that sticking with new Dark Notes for a bit allows me to 'get' the rhythm and not only complete the Dark Note but master it after a while.

This has worked until just yesterday, when I received a high-level Dark Note that I'm not sure I'll ever be able to beat. It's so fast it makes my head spin! Still, I'll stick with it and try to 'beat' it sooner or later.

In regards to your comment about finding it difficult to get into the music from FFs you've never played: Well, that's going to be different for every person, I think. For me, I was amazed at how much I liked the music from some of the FFs I've never played (such as VIII and IX). In fact, I liked some of their tunes so much that now I'm determined to play the games they came from.

That said, some folks are sure to have your experience -- where they're just not interested in music from FFs they've yet to play.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Justin: I'll be interested to hear what you think of this one after you finally get and play it. I *think* you'll really like it, but it's really hard to say with a game like this.

As for me being on Steam: Nope! Not yet, at least. Mainly because I *hate* playing games on our PC, which is in the basement :|

That said, I know all about Breath of Death VII. Not only that, but it's on XBLA, too. I've considered getting it, actually, but for some reason I haven't yet.

A similar game that you may be interested in is Penny Arcade's Rain-Slick 3. I'm not at all sure it's on Steam yet (or if it'll ever be), but I have a feeling it will be at some point.

Anyway, it looks a lot like Final Fantasy VI, and word of mouth on it is pretty great. I'll definitely be picking it up soon, although when I'll get around to playing it is anyone's guess :P

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Actually, I have Rain Slick 1 and 2 on my PS3. I started playing #1, and I'm not sure I love it. I might go back to playing it, though.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Do the other Rain Slick games look like Final Fantasy VI, Justin? I didn't think so, but I honestly didn't pay attention to this series until I read about the third release a few weeks ago. Anyway, I'm planning to pick up part 3 shortly, so I'll be sure to let you know what I think about it :)

Matt S. said...

Great review for a great game.

I really doubt any 3DS game is going to top this one for me. A real love letter for those of us who have been playing Final Fantasy games for 15 (or more) years.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Thanks, Matt! I'm kind of amazed that you think this will end up your favorite 3DS game, though. I'm not entirely sure why I'm saying that, though, as it's currently my favorite 3DS game, too. Maybe it's because we're still so early in the 3DS "generation," and I'm sure other games will be released in the coming years that give it a run for its money -- or at least I hope that's the case. Anyway, for the time being, Theatrhythm is my favorite :)

Unknown said...

Hey Bryan, noticed you broke up the paragraphs! I definitely think it's easier on the eyes for the longer pieces. I think you should be fine leaving the shorter ones as one big paragraph... But hey, if you don't like this format, don't listen to me! ;)

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey, Anne! Yep, I definitely took your advice. Like I said earlier, I've been thinking/worrying about this for a while, so your comment pushed me to action. (And, really, I'm sure that if the mammoth block of text was bugging you, it was bugging at least a few others, too.)

Anonymous said...

I treied the from nintendo e-shop downloadable demo-version and I love it!
But new games are always sooo expensive and I have to save my money for the Borderlands Ultimate Loot Edition, the Dead or Alive 5 CE and the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 We are Tekken edition :(
But FF Thearythm and Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance are on top of my list!
Greetings from Germany.
Yours Melody

Bryan Ochalla said...

Glad to hear you tried the demo, Melody! It is a fun game, isn't it? I can understand having too many games on your 'to buy'/wish list, by the way. No worries -- I'm sure this game will still be available for sale after you've gotten those other ones :)