Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (Nintendo 3DS)

Theatrhythm is a real dream come true. An absolute joy to play, Square Enix’s love letter to fans is simple but taps right into one of the most valuable commodities that Square Enix has with its flagship series – the music.

Thirteen main, numbered, games in, Final Fantasy has amassed a huge library of truly classic music. From the opening theme song, to the bittersweet pop music used in cut scenes like the pool scene of Final Fantasy X, there is a wide range of tone and history found through the library. And Square Enix doesn’t skimp here. There’s 77-odd songs immediately available on the game. 50 or so more will be available for DLC purchase. It will end up being expensive, but collectors will have over 120 songs in the end, and it’s worth the investment.

Music is split into three categories – battle music, field music and event music. Each category of music has its own play style, so there are, broadly speaking, three different kinds of rhythm games in Theatrhythm. Each song has its own patterns of taps and swipes to memorise, and three levels of difficulty. The easiest level of difficulty is a cake walk and the most casual of gamers will get ‘S’ rankings with no difficulty. The hardest difficulty will test most people.

But at all times this is a game that is easy to play. It’s entirely touch-screen driven, but the controls are worked so that you don’t need to be looking at what you’re doing. Square Enix is aware of why people are playing this game – they’re likely to be fans of Final Fantasy – so Square Enix would rather players enjoy the chibi-themed characters, Chocobos and Moogles than focus on something so gamey as tapping on a touch screen.

It’s a gorgeous system, and it works so, so well. The movements emulate the musical theme and background scenes so, so well – it feels like you’re dancing with Rinoa during the waltz scene. It feels like a gritty combat scene when the music for Sepiroth is playing. Square Enix have done a brilliant job in providing a music game that allows fans to focus on the Final Fantasy lore.

There’s a mass of content in here. There’s three different ways to play; a medley of music from each Final Fantasy game, a single-song mode, and a challenge mode where you don’t know which songs you’ll be playing before they start. That latter mode links in to the excellent StreetPass, which allows players to trade challenges and info cards.

There’s also a mass of collectibles. There’s a collectible card album to fill up, and all 77 songs can also be unlocked for playback through the music room. That will function with the 3DS closed, so you’re essentially getting a ‘best of’ Final Fantasy MP3 player as well.

As I mentioned at the start, everything about this game is a gift to Final Fantasy fans. I can’t necessarily see people who haven’t been playing these games for 15+ years getting into it, because this is a game that tugs on the nostalgia heart strings rather than engage on the kinds of metrics that “good” games tend to be judged by today’s standards, but the presentation is impeccable, the quality of music on offer is undeniable, and the raw content is almost unimaginable.

This is the game that has made me glad to own a 3DS. Finally.

- Matt S

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