Theatrhythm Final Fantasy – A Refreshing, Musical Rendition on a Tried Formula
The DS/3DS, to me, is a portable console which does not outright challenges it’s competitive peers with power or specs, but rather, it’s creativity. The innovative use of two screens had created a new form of gameplay, and even storytelling; I remembered some games like Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, really utilized the DS’s dual screen function well, as a result, telling a more powerful and emotional story.
Because the DS family strives on creativity, most of the games to me, are “concept” games. And out of all these concept games, I had recently been obsessed with Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. I got into the bandwagon slightly late. During the first Theatrhythm game, it wasn’t released in the eshop, and since I get all of my games digitally, I was only able to enter the Theatrhythm party during the recent America release of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, it’s sequel.
To those unfamiliar, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a rhythm game by Square Enix, which features, you guessed it, Final Fantasy tracks for you to play. The best part about Curtain Call is that it had a music library twice as large as it’s prequel; it contains music from all possible, existing titles which include all the way from Final Fantasy I to Lightning Returns; and also various other spin-offs such as Mystic Quest, Tactics, Crystal Chronicles; and even the CG film, Advent Children was included. Perhaps it has the advantage that it was working with a series which had been going strong for decades – allowing it to have a whopping 200+ tracks at it’s disposal, an amount unheard of for a rhythm game as far as I’m concerned.
Earlier, I mentioned how the DS strives on creativity and how it’s appealing point of the games is it’s “concept”. What makes Theatrhythm unique from typical rhythm games is that it is a sort of rhythm/RPG adventure hybrid. Instead of just integrating hundreds of music and allowing players to play them, the gameplay blended elements of RPG, the genre we all come and love from the Final Fantasy series, into the “rhythm-button mashing”. There are different types of songs; namely BMS (Battle Music Stage), FMS (Field Music Stage) and EMS (Emotional Music Stage), each of them with a different play style.
BMS is interestingly designed in a way that it is pretty much Final Fantasy classic battle encounters in rhythm game form. In contrast though, I’m actually more fond of FMS, which are pretty much “traveling” songs. When you’re playing a particular FMS song, the background will also feature the same scenery from the very song itself. For example, if I were to play “Gold Saucer” (from FF VII), then I will see my characters literally traveling with a Gold Saucer backdrop. Especially with the way the FMS is designed, it’s just as if you’re revisiting all the areas you had went through in the past when you were playing the original titles, all the time while playing the nostalgic music. Additionally, you can also get items from treasure chests from both BMS and FMS.
Another interesting to take note of, is the character customizations. Just like any other RPGs, your characters start from Level 1 and can level up. You get improved stats and skills which will make you traveling faster in FMS, or defeating more monsters in BMS (or rather, survive longer with the higher HP in Ultimate difficulty). You can even set up abilities for the characters to equip with just before each song; from magic like Aero and Fira, to physical abilities like Armor Break, to even character-specific abilities like the Omnislash. All these gameplay mechanisms make it look like as if you are really playing a genuine RPG. What’s even more convincing however, is “Quest Medley”.
Quest Medley features maps for you to traverse from one point to another, with random songs picked out by the game for you for respective points. This gives a strong sense that one is traveling around the World Map, and fighting monsters from battle encounters, just like what veteran players of the series had been doing from original Final Fantasy titles. It’s from here where players of Theatrhythm can feel like they are really on an adventure, and give them much more “purpose” rather than just picking out a specific song themselves to play.
While Final Fantasy’s gameplay is, arguably, a rehash of ideas, Theatrhythm was able to keep things fresh by taking a break from the main series, and shifting the focus on past, existing titles via music. Indeed, Theatrhythm is a refreshing, musical take on a tried formula; and evokes one’s nostalgia and adventurous mood of past Final Fantasy titles like no other.