When Square Enix originally announced that they would be releasing a Final Fantasy themed rhythm game for the 3DS a number of game critics were surprised to say the least.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy features an exaggerated cartoony art style and music taken from the original Final Fantasy all the way through to Final Fantasy XIII. It may not be the portable Final Fantasy game that 3DS owners were praying for but it is shaping up to be a worthwhile addition to the franchise.
The demo that we have been able to play only contained one track, the Battle Music from Final Fantasy VI, but it could be played on three difficulties. If you have ever played a rhythm game, such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band, then the concept should be fairly easy to grasp; on-screen commands appear on the 3DS’ top screen and you must perform the commands in time to the music.
There are three main types of icon, each requiring different actions. The red icon simply requires that you tap, ideally with the 3DS stylus, on the touch panel. Long green icons require you to tap the touch panel and release at a specific time, while the yellow icons demand that you swipe in set directions. Fairly standard stuff so far.
Where this game differs from other music games is in the way that the rhythm action is married with lite RPG elements. As you correctly match the symbols you deal our damage to a string of enemies. Conversely if you get the timing wrong, or flat out miss, then you take damage. There is a health bar in the top right corner and once it is depleted you must start the song again from the beginning.
At set points in each stage the icons turn blue which, much like Guitar Hero and Rock Band’s star power, awards you with a special bonus if you hit every note. In this case hitting all blue notes performs a powerful summon, allowing you to earn more points and therefore level up quicker. A timeline at the bottom of the screen not only lets you keep track of how far along in each stage your are, but also gives you a heads up as to when the summon icons will be coming.
Upon completing a stage your performance is analyised, giving you a letter grade. This grade also determines how much experience you earn. As you level up your health bar increases, meaning that, should you find yourself incapable of completing a certain stage, you can return to older stages to gain more experience.
Theatrhythm features levels based on each of the main Final Fantasy games, with every level broken up in to three main categories with their own distinctive gameplay. The three categories are Field, Battle, and Event. We were only able to play Final Fantasy VI’s Battle stage, but from what we have seen the Field and Event stages will offer slightly less conventional takes on the rhythm game.
There are three difficulties to choose from, with the default difficulty being quite simple, making it fairly casual friendly. After pretty much mastering the default difficulty on our second attempt, we were given the chance to play on the next difficulty up. Immediately things were far more challenging; the pace at which the icons moved across the screen is doubled, and several of the green icons require you to perform a well timed swipe at the end of the move. After taking a solid pounding on the middle difficulty we declined the offer to try the game’s highest difficulty.
Although we were only able to play the one song we still felt that we were able to get a good grasp of what to expect from the game. By including a leveling up system the game’s developers have potentially managed to inceintivise replaying previous levels, significantly increasing replayability.
Unfortunately for us Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is currently only scheduled to be released in Japan, with no Western release planned. Unlike the DS the 3DS is region locked and therefore the only way fans of the series will be able to play it is if they own a Japanese 3DS.
If the situation changes we’ll be among the first to let you know.
- Luke Mears