Rhythm games are a somewhat endangered breed these days. Gone are the days when we had cultural phenomenons like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and even Dance Dance Revolution dominating the market. Not to say the genre is completely gone, as there are still examples that pop up from time to time, like Dance Central, Harmoknight, and even KickBeat. One such example comes from Square-Enix, who developed the fantastic Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for the 3DS two years ago. The concept of taking iconic music from the classic Final Fantasy series and incorporating it into a rhythm game style was a perfect match. Giving it a simplistic storyline, favorite characters of the series could be used to gather rhythmia and awaken the rhythm crystal. Dozens of songs from the series would be played through various modes, including Field Music, Battle Music, and Event Music sequences, allowing you to experience the varied musical history of the series. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, while not quite a sequel, takes most of the content of the original title, and adds to it with nearly four times the amount, and it delivers it in a way that still feels somewhat fresh, especially two years after the original game.
Now like I said, “most” of the content is still in the game. Event Music Sequences have a pre-rendered FMV playing in the background, and though we have a nice selection of new ones, all the old ones from the previous game were converted to Battle Music or Field Music, most likely to save on space. There’s also the introduction and ending songs that were in the previous game’s Series Mode, which had a different gameplay type, and had songs that were not on the standard selection, including Final Fantasy VIII’s “Eyes On Me”. Most of these songs have been removed, with the exception of some becoming Battle Music or Field Music sequences. It’s a small sacrifice to make, but overall, there is content to last quite some time in this title. The three difficulty settings from the first game, “Basic”, “Expert”, and “Ultimate”, all return, and should give most players some flexibility on challenge. To extend the challenge further, you can try not to miss a single note, getting a “perfect chain”, or even getting all notes on a “critical hit”, meaning every note was hit perfectly, and maximizing your score to 9,999,999. Having played both games, I should say that the second title felt a bit easier with responsiveness, making perfect scores easier to do, which is great because I would always get frustrated in the original game when I would get all critical hits through a song, only to get a bad response on a note towards the very end and ruining my score.
New to the gameplay is the critical note, a randomly chosen set of notes that will glow in each of the music sequences. Hitting it with a critical hit will activate a bonus, whether it is extra damage in a battle sequence, or a nice boost to gain more distance in the field sequences. It’s a nice little addition to make sequences more eventful, and gives a short term incentive in each song, allowing more possible items to gain from them. We’re also given a new quest mode, which replaces the Chaos Shrine from the original game, giving players more freedom in their quests. Paths now branch and allow for a little replayability, as well as special bonuses like bonus experience, or special keys to open doors to minibosses or other challenges. It definitely adds to the presentation and makes the game a lot more like an actual adventure. We’re also given a new multiplayer mode that can be played locally, or even online for the first time. It’s very similar to how guitar duels worked in Guitar Hero, as both players will play the same song, gaining little attacks, or EX Bursts, to send to the other player to make things more challenging. This could range from changing the speed of the notes, either at a set speed, or random speeds, all the way to making directional notes spin around. While challenging, the songs are still completely possible to do well in, regardless of the EX Burst used. If you have a good sense of rhythm, and a good attention span, you could still manage to get a perfect chain or even all critical hits, making skill a vital part of winning or losing. It’s actually pretty fun and a nice change of pace, and adds to the replay value of the game overall. Another new feature is the Airship sequences, as it’s a new take on the Field Music Sequence, making better use of the 3D capabilities of the system, with notes that come from the distance and move towards you rather than the standard left to right like the rest of the sequences. It’s a nice little addition, though it is hardly used unfortunately.
Now this is a rhythm game, and at its core, it’s all about the music. The soundtrack consists of over 220 songs, giving a nice selection of songs from all the main entries of the Final Fantasy series, as well as the various spin-offs and sequels. This means not only will we have “One-Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII, but we’ll also have the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children version as well (used as an Event Music Sequence). Notable games added would be Final Fantasy Tactics (a game I myself cherish deeply), Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, the Dissidia Final Fantasy games, and even Final Fantasy Type-0, which has not been released in the US yet. While we are given many games from the franchise, there are still some notable ones missing as well. There is no Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, or any of the other Crystal Chronicles games aside from the original. Even Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and its sequel go ignored, yet somehow we still got unlockable songs from Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon. It’s a bit unfortunate to have various entries in the franchise left out, but overall, it’s still a good selection of games, especially when given the original thirteen numbered entries already, now fourteen given that we also have selections from A Realm Reborn.
The game is pretty light on story, which honestly, it’s not like anyone really played Guitar Hero for its story, so this is no exception. I will say that however light the story is, the game still has a lot of charm and humor throughout the presentation. Seeing the characters reference various things from their respective games is great, though a part of me misses the randomly spewed lines that the characters would say before each music sequence in the original game. It’s a slightly different presentation, but there’s more than enough content here to enjoy until the credits roll, and plenty after that even. The game is going to be supported with releases of DLC, some free, some paid, so even if you burn out the 220+ songs, there will be more to purchase, and there are plenty of characters to collect and level up throughout the game. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy and you enjoy hearing the iconic victory fanfare, then Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is well worth picking up.
Final Score: 8 out of 10