Madonna may have summed this game up years before its release when she said that “music makes the people come together.” Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy (henceforth known as just Theatrhythm for sanity purposes) brings 25 years of characters and music together on the Nintendo 3DS from the core 13 Final Fantasy games (with DLC that includes the spinoffs). It’s a whimsical trek through some of the greatest gaming music composed up to this point in time.
The gameplay of Theatrhythm is simple to grasp, yet difficult to master. As cliché as that may sound, trust me when I say that One-Winged Angel at its highest level will leave many crying. All of the action takes place on the top screen. The bottom screen is used to tap along to each melody. Different icons represent different actions. There are simple taps, tap and holds, and directional slides. The responsiveness was very impressive. The game is not fooled when you slide straight right on an angled right icon. Basically, if you screw up, it’s your own fault.
When the game first starts, the player is only allowed to select the Series option. From there, the game expands to the Challenge mode and the Chaos Shrine. In Series mode, the player chooses which Final Fantasy game they want to play songs from. There are five stages to each Final Fantasy. The opening and ending stages are more like bonus stages to build up Rhythmia (the force used to restore the light of the music crystal, or points, more or less). The middle three stages are where the fun is. There is a stage that has you following a circle around the screen while a video of that particular Final Fantasy plays in the background. Another stage has your character(s) walking along a field while different locations appear in the background. The music prompts are on a horizontal bar set above your character that scrolls. Then, there is the battle stage. This stage has your team of four fighting in traditional Final Fantasy fashion: enemy on the left, team on the right, and the music prompts come in four lines.
For a rhythm game, Theatrhythm is not short on extras. Aside from the 3 different modes of play, there is a great deal of unlockable content. Each song has three difficulty levels, the Ultimate level requiring that the player get a rank of “A” or higher on both the Basic and Extreme levels. There is a theater mode to watch the videos without having to tap along. There is also a music mode, cards to collect, achievements to be earned.
If I have to fault this game for anything, it would be the lack of a real story and the superfluous leveling system. The story revolves around the music crystal, which needsRrhythmia to grow strong enough to help keep the forces of Chaos at bay. That’s it. There’s not much else to it. But, I guess, if you take it as going through the story of each of the games, then it kind of works. Still, for a Final Fantasy game, I wish it had a little more story. The leveling system seems to just exist because this is a Final Fantasy game. Each successfully completed track gives your party EXP, but it doesn’t have much bearing on the actual gameplay. That’s okay, though. I love leveling up.
Much like the Dissidia games before it, Theatrhythm caters to fans of the Final Fantasy series by bombarding them with everything the series’ universe has to offer. There’s great music, adorable character models of everyone’s favorite heroes and enemies (Ultros!), and more unlockables than you can shake a Moogle at. Couple that with the promise of a steady flow of DLC, and Theatrhythm is a worthwhile game to have on your 3DS.
• 25 years worth of awesome Final Fantasy music
• Tons of extra content
• Easy to pick up and play
• Good for both short bursts of gaming and long stretches
• No real story
• Superfluous leveling system