Game: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Developer: Indies zero
Publisher: Square Enix
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