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The Final Fantasy RPG series pretty much started it all for many fantasy loving gamers way back in the 80’s.  I may have not been the biggest FF fan when the franchise first debuted, but like thousands of other converts I’ve been hooked on the series ever since its Playstation debut with Final Fantasy 7.  To me that game changed my gamer life.  Up until then I wasn’t a fan of RPG’s in general, but after experiencing the amazing FFVII tale with those beautifully rendered cut scenes, and heart breaking musical score, I’ve never looked back.

Unfortunately the series has fallen on rough times with both FFXIII and FFXIII-2 polarizing long time Final Fantasy fans.  Most of us just want to recapture they amazing emotional experience that we encountered in earlier FF games, and especially in FFVII (you know you cried), but Square seems to have their own agenda.  Luckily their plan included Theatrrhythm Final Fantasy, because with this rhythm based game they’ve finally managed to capture some of the magic of this franchise that seems to have been lost for the past few outings.  Hardcore fans may scoff at TFF’s casual musically themed gameplay, but I can assure you that it’s well worth the price tag if you’ve been needing a little Final Fantasy nostalgia.  Let me save you some time.  If you can still hum any FF tune in your head without thinking, then you need to go buy this game for your 3DS.  Otherwise please continue on down the page for our full review.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

EB 8.5 out of 10 Buddhas

The Awesome

  • Nostalgia factor
  • Addictive gameplay
  • Replay Value

The Not so Awesome

  • Repetitive
  • Odd rhythms
  • Not enough FFVII (I’m biased)

 

The Awesome

Nostalgia Factor

Without a doubt the number one reason to buy this game is to recapture some of your fond memories of the Final Fantasy franchise, and gaming in general from your youth.  Younger gamers may not share this opinion with me, because most of them probably grew up post quality FF games, but Theatrhythm could also serve as some sort of video game music history lesson for them as well.  Each of this game’s 70+ songs will instantly bring a smile to your face as you tap your stylus in rhythm with the scrolling Guitar Hero-like prompts on the screen.  The moment I queued up the original Final Fantasy’s tracks I was instantly transported back to the 80’s in my buddy’s house watching him play the game.  I wasn’t a fan of the genre at the time, but its music always intrigued me.  There’s just something so pure in the musical scores of games from the 8 and 16-bit eras, and TFF does an immaculate job of introducing this fact to both new and old gamers alike.

FFVII still gets me nearly 15 years later

I must admit that my love for Final Fantasy 7 led me to play its particular tracks first, and that experience was worth $39.99 alone.  I know I’m not the only one who considers FFVII to be the greatest Final Fantasy game of the series, if not the greatest JRPG of all-time, so getting to see this game in action again is a priceless experience for me.  Its iconic soundtrack still holds up today, and “Aerith’s Theme” still made me feel the way I did way back in 1997 when I experienced what many consider to be the biggest tear jerker in gaming.  This 3DS game just goes to show you the power of music over human emotions, and I’m glad to report that TFF excels in taking you down memory lane in a fun, yet challenging manner.

Addictive gameplay

I’m not so sure its the actual gameplay of Theatrhythm that keeps me coming back for more, or the fact that I could listen to old school Final Fantasy music until the cows come home, but I haven’t used my 3DS this much since I first bought it.  The fact that I’ve already had to charge it twice this week should speak volumes about its staying power.  The rhythm based gameplay is definitely at the heart of this game’s allure, because it provides a unique way to experience the world of Final Fantasy.  You essentially have to keep in step with scrolling notes that consist of red circles (tap once), green circles (tap and hold), and gold directional queues that require some sort of directional swipe.  You must utilize your stylus to try and score critical hits on each note to keep the song going and your party of 4 alive.

Field music stages only have one scroll bar, but the more difficult settings will still kick your stylus tapping a*s!

When I mention your party, this game does try to transcend some of the RPG elements from a traditional FF title.  You pick a leader and 3 other characters (all famous ones from the 13 games) to be your main party. (I’m rolling Cloud for leader, Squall, Zidane, and Lightning).  After each successful run you can earn XP and items to upgrade your characters to help you better achieve your goals.  A better equipped squad means you can basically make more mistakes during each song, so there is some sort of incentive to keep buffing your party.  I personally never realized the effects of ranking up, but it is a nice way to make this game seem like its more than just Guitar Hero Final Fantasy.

This game tries to impart that classic Final Fantasy JRPG feel, especially during battle events.

The gameplay of TFF becomes even more addictive when you realize that you can unlock new music from the series by gaining more and more rhythmia.  Rhythmia is earned for completing tracks successfully with as few errors as possible.  It’s a good thing that this game relies so much on inducing nostalgia in the gamer playing it, because its formula for unlocking new content will keep you playing the same songs over and over again to reach your endgame.  I found that my rhythm improved with each attempt, which is definitely needed for the two higher difficulty modes in expert and ultimate.  If you want to max this game out you’ll be spending copious amounts of time playing its addictive formula to do so.

Replay value

For most of the reasons listed above Theatrhythm Final Fantasy offers tons of replay value.  Just to unlock the higher difficulties requires multiple playthroughs of the game’s series mode, challenge mode, and chaos mode.  This leads to playing through each mode as many times as it takes you to unlock more and more rhythmia and items.  With some of the unlocks requiring upwards of 45,000 (I’m 6 hours in and have about 8,000 and have beat the main game) rhythmia to behold, you’ll definitely be playing this game long after you’ve gone through its quasi-campaign mode and other game types. Not to mention the fact that some of the unlocks, such as new characters, just kind of randomly happen via colored crystals awarded for a stellar song performance.  Trust me, if you want to get the most out of this game you’ll easily be spending $39.99 worth of your time on it.

You’ll be seeing many chocobos on your way to unlocking all of this game’s content.

 

The Not so Awesome

Repetitive

Even with its high nostalgia factor and addictive gameplay, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy can get a little repetitive after you’ve played through the entire song catalog a few times over.  Sure there’s the appeal of beating your best previous score, but I can only play through a song so many times before I begin to yearn for a new one.  Rather than forcing gamers to keep playing the same content over and over to unlock new songs, items, and characters, I would’ve liked to have seen some performance based unlocks as well.

FF is known for its beautiful cut scenes, but they get repetitive to watch after the 10th time playing a particular song.

You know, say you nailed a perfect string (not missing a single note) for every song in a particular FF game’s library.  I would’ve like to have been rewarded with a new song from said series rather than having to play the same ones over and over to unlock more rhythmia.  I still think this game is worth every penny, but you may find yourself getting burned out on the tedious method of unlocking new content for it.

Odd rhythms

This particular TFF critique is hard to explain, but I’ll do my best.  If you’ve played any music rhythm based game before, I think you’ll feel the same way I did about a few of the odd rhythms that this game makes you tap on during its Field, Event, and Battle modes.  I for one always felt like a real rock star when I hit the colored notes in time on my fake plastic Guitar Hero guitar.  Something about those rhythms always matched up to create the illusion that you were the one actually producing the awesome music coming from your surround sound setup.  I didn’t always experience this same feeling in Theatrhythm.

At times I felt like I was just arbitrarily tapping my 3DS’ bottom screen because if I didn’t I’d miss a note.  I was tapping during sections of a song where I couldn’t really relate my taps to a beat in the music.  It felt odd, and at times it would throw off my rhythm completely causing me to sh*t on my perfect round.  This beat mismatch is most evident in each game’s opening and closing songs, which serve as playable loading screens before encountering the game’s main song levels.  You’re told to tap the screen in time with some bubble notes, but when you listen to the beat, and then look at the notes on screen, they never match up.  These instances made me feel like I was just tapping on the screen and not conducting a Final Fantasy symphony like the developers intended.

At times the notes don’t always seem to match up to a song’s beat.

The other modes (Events: CGI scenes with a randomly floating gold marker, Fields: Overworld map themes with a single scrolling music bar, Battles: Traditional FF fight mode complete with 4 scroll bars to mimic a boss fight) don’t exhibit this issue as much as the pre and post tunes, but at times you’ll be tapping when you don’t think it matches the beat you’re hearing.  I was hoping for more of a Guitar Hero-like experience, but at times the notes and musical score just don’t seem to jive in my head.

Not enough FFVII

This is just my own fanboy gripe.  It’s no secret that I consider Final Fantasy 7 to be my favorite entry in the series, so I was hoping for more of its magical soundtrack to be available in this game.  Unfortunately you either have to buy new FFVII songs, or keep playing until you unlock more to get the full FFVII musical experience.  I would’ve loved to have had the iconic battle motif from this series as one of 7’s three main songs, but it is mysteriously missing in favor of another boss tune from the game.  You can unlock it later on, but let’s be real.  FFVII fanboys just want to relive their past joys with this game, so it would’ve been nice if all of the songs were unlocked from the get go, and didn’t require many hours of repetitive gameplay to achieve.

Considering that Square will never remake this gem of a game, I wanted to relive its moments in anyway possible. Theatrhythm does provide this escape, but you have to work for it, which may turn some loyal fans off.

 

The Final Verdict

Final Fantasy fans if you’ve been needing to recapture some of the magic you experienced from this franchise all those years ago, then Theatrhythm may just be the gaming experience that you’ve been looking for.  The overwhelming sense of nostalgia that this game will bring over you is enough to plaster a Joker-sized smile on your face for the world to see.  It’s addictive gameplay, and catchy tunes, will keep you coming back for more even if it does get a little repetitive at times.  There’s enough replay value to warrant the $39.99 price tag, and if your 3DS has been feeling lonely lately this game will surely put it to good use.  I give Theatrhytm Final Fantasy an EB 8.5 out of 10 Buddhas.  If you love Final Fantasy music and rhythm games this title will keep you entertained for hours on end.  Check it out in action below.  You’ve been not wanting to admit that you love this game too…

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy – Launch Trailer

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Tags : 8-bit MusicfanboysRhythm GamesTheatrhythm Final Fantasy
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he's not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB's Star Wars Time podcast show.