Preview | Theatrhythm Final Fantasy grants us an encore
The Final Fantasy series, even after a few hurdles here and there, is and remains to be a historic franchise in the industry. It’s easily set several foundations in the RPG genre and has dozens of stories told over what has almost been three decades. Now, one such feature that could always be argued to be beloved from any iteration of the series, would be the music. Many of the memorable tracks have a story to tell, and many of them take their place in our memories, resonating fond moments of our favorite titles of the franchise. Theatrhythm celebrates this concept, and puts several iconic songs into one rhythm game package. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is a sort of sequel, but also contains the majority of the content from the original game that released on 3DS in 2012, so in a way, it’s more like a Theatrhythm “Complete Edition”. Regardless, it was a welcome addition to the show at E3, and I was happy to give it a whirl.
Now I heavily enjoyed the first game, containing three tracks from the thirteen main games of the series, as well as several downloadable songs. This new package contains an astonishing 221 songs from the franchise, adding in music from various other titles like Final Fantasy Tactics, the Final Fantasy XIII sequels, and even the Gamecube’s little gem, Crystal Chronicles. It even has music from the movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Comparing this to the 77 songs in the original title, it’s a wonder that Square-Enix was able to fit so much content on a 3DS game card.
Now the game isn’t just about the music. It has a cute little visual style that takes many of the iconic characters like Cloud, Squall, or the Warrior of Light, and makes them into a sort of “chibi” appearance. Curtain Call adds several new characters like Final Fantasy VII’s Barret, or even Final Fantasy XIII-2’s Noel. It even includes the characters that were previously exclusive to the iOS version of the game, like Auron from Final Fantasy X. In total, the game has about 60 characters, each with their own special skills and animations. The game does have downloadable content on the way, so you can increase these rather large numbers even more if you so choose, but just coming from the first game, I’m already excited to experience nearly three times the content of the first one.
Now the gameplay of Theatrhythm is typically the same, using the touch screen to follow the on screen cues to the beat of the music. It has a unique challenge of its own and being tuned to the rhythm of the song definitely does help your timing. The three game types of the original return her, with Field stages, where one character of your choice runs endlessly across a field to pick up treasure, usually to a more peaceful or serene song like the “Blue Fields” theme from Final Fantasy VIII. In these stages, you use the touch screen to follow the cues on the top screen, every once in a while moving a cursor up or down on the screen or in the direction of arrow cues. The second would be the Event stages, which have a FMV sequence running in the background, usually having you follow the cursor on the line and following the cues to the more eventful music. New to the game is Advent Children’s rendition of “One Winged Angel”, which includes the fight scene between Cloud and Sephiroth from the movie, among other scenes.
The last mode, the Battle Stage, is probably where your character choices most come into play, as it takes a team of four heroes into battle among several enemies and bosses, typically to battle themes like Final Fantasy VI’s “Decisive Battle”. Each cue you hit equals an attack from your team, and each miss results in you getting hit and a character losing health. Pull off special abilities by doing well and gain critical hits, which now there is a Critical Hit Trigger, which will be added to all modes, granting special rewards for pulling it off correctly.
Now I only had a limited selection of the enormous amount of content in this demo, so I went with a favorite of mine and did Final Fantasy Tactic’s “Antipyretic”, which was a Battle stage. I have to admit, I was a little rusty, as I was having trouble keeping track of the rhythm of the song with this one, but I managed to beat the song and even pulled off the critical trigger. I have to say it was great seeing Final Fantasy Tactics represented in this game, as it’s easily one of my favorite games of all time, and the music had a huge part in that.
Even though I didn’t do that well on my first song, I decided to up the ante anyway and do Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children’s Event stage, “One Winged Angel”, on Ultimate Score. Surprisingly, I did very well, keeping up with the iconic theme, watching the beautiful FMV sequence as it looked great in both 2D and 3D. I managed to get an S Rank with a perfect chain, though it had appeared that my score was only the second highest. Unfortunately, I was only given time with these two songs, but I was left wanting to play more. It even got me playing my original game, fueling my hype train for more glorious music from the series.
Even though it wasn’t playable at the show floor at E3, Curtain Call adds another new feature with a Versus Battle Mode, which is a competitive mode where players play through the same song, trying to beat the other’s score. Playing well can mean trouble for your opponent as you can send them various status effects that will impede their ability to play, but of course they have the same options as well. It sounds interesting, as the first game had a cooperative mode for its multiplayer, which felt more or less the same as playing by yourself. Either way, I really look forward to spending more time with the game, and I’m marking it on my calendar for September 16th this year, as it will easily take a lot of my free time when it releases.