To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Final Fantasy franchise, Square Enix has released Theatrhythm Final Fantasy- which hopefully I’ll remember how to spell by the end of this review.
Odd name aside however, this game is actually a lot of fun and I’ve had trouble putting it down regardless of the issues I had with it.
Read on for the full review and share your thoughts on TRFF in our forums!
TRFF is a music rhythm game featuring characters and tracks from Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy XIII. The game play is rather simple: use the stylus on the touch screen to input commands as they scroll across the screen. Think Guitar Hero, but with a little more variety… and a little more “cute”. The game features a cute chibi art style for both the characters and the monsters that helps blend the different art styles from each entry in the series together.
Before you jump into the game, you get to select a party made up of four members from various Final Fantasy titles. At the start, there’s only one character per game. However, as you play TRFF you can find different colored shards that will help unlock additional characters. From there you can equip your party members with various abilities that are useful for different levels. For example, “Dash” will activate one time in a Field Music level when you hit GOOD or better on 50 different triggers in that level. When this activates, your character will increase their pace. At the higher levels, characters will unlock their limit break abilities like Lion Heart, which activates automatically in Battle when a boss appears. You can also equip a single item to your party such as potions which are useful for healing any HP you lose from missed triggers. After your party is set up and equipped, the fun starts!
There are three different types of stages in TRFF: Battle, Field, and Event Music. Each one retains the same basic game play formula while giving you a change of scenery and changing the way the triggers appear on screen.
Battle Music Stages take your party of four heroes from the franchise and puts them up against various monsters while you rock out to songs like Fight with Seymour (FFX), Battle at the Big Bridge (FFV), or One-Winged Angel (FFVII). The triggers move from left to right and you have to time your stylus presses or strokes with them in order to earn points and defeat the enemies that appear. In another mode of the game, defeating these bosses will yield items such as the different colored shards that are used to unlock additional characters.
In Field Music Stages, you get to reminisce over some of the more mellowed tracks from the series such as Blue Fields (FFVIII), Ronfaure (FFXI), and Terra’s Theme (FFVI). You character walks from the right side of the screen to the left, with you poking and sliding away with your stylus.
Last but not least are Event Music Stages. This mode has you following the triggers as they move across the screen on top of a video that’s slapping you in the face with nostalgia as you play through tracks like Aerith’s Theme (FFVII), Waltz for the Moon (FFVIII), and SUTEKI DA NE (FFX). One of the triggers requires you to slide your stylus along a line in order to hit the midpoints to rack up your score. In this mode, there is also a chance for you to run into a Moogle, who will throw an item your way.
In each stage, there are silver triggers that will appear in the tracks “Feature Zone”. If you’re able to hit enough of these, a special feature will activate such as an extended scene, hoping a ride via chocobo, or summoning one of the mighty avatars to aid you in battling your foes.
After successful completion of a track, the game will award your party members with experience points as well as give you Rhythmia. Rhythmia is used to unlock bonuses such as movies, music tracks for the music player, and new music stages for you to play through. The monsters you defeat also have a chance of dropping items, with boss monsters dropping more rare items. Cards can also drop which get added into your collection. The cards are of various characters and monsters featured in TRFF and there are even different levels of rarity for them. A password feature on the card screen will allow you to enter a code for special cards but as of right now, it doesn’t seem that any of those have been released, so make sure to keep an eye on the Internet for some. Each game in the series has one Battle, Field and Event track for you to play through. After you complete a stage in the Series mode, you can then play them in a higher difficulty in Challenge mode. There are three levels of difficulty: Basic, Expert and Ultimate. As you may have guessed, “Ultimate” is the hardest difficulty the game offers and it’s definitely a challenge on some of the more fast-paced tracks such as One Winged Angel or Dancing Mad (which you have to unlock). There’s something about this game that makes you want to replay your favorite tracks until you can perfect your score on the harder difficulties.
If you’re looking for something to do outside of the Series and Challenge modes, the Chaos Shrine offers you… well it’s just another part where you play the same tracks that you have already played, except this time they’re called “Dark Notes”. A Field and Battle track are paired up and you play through each one. Your performance in the Field track can help determine the boss you’ll face in the Battle Stage and as a result of that, determine the potential rewards you can receive. This is where you can earn those colored crystals that are used for unlocking extra characters.
A neat StreetPass feature that the game has is the ability to not simply make profile cards that get sent to other systems, but to also attach your favorite Dark Note. That way players can view them and play through them. Otherwise you can just unlock a new Dark Note after completing one.
Yes, this game is on the Nintendo 3DS, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t have paid DLC. DLC comes in the form of Field and Battle Stages that you can pick up for $0.99 each. The first wave of DLC arrived with the game’s launch and includes tracks like Cosmo Canyon (FFVII), A Fleeting Dream (FFX) and Fighters of the Crystal (FFXI). Japan has seen several batches of stages already so it’s safe to assume that we’ll see plenty more music to download.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a fun game. I actually had to force myself to take a break to write up this review. However I couldn’t help but feel that there weren’t enough tracks included with the game. The downside of having favorite tracks from the series’ 25 year history is that they take away from the others included in the game. Sure, Eternal Wind from FF3 is a great track, but it’s definitely not one of my favorites, so I probably won’t find myself going back to play it as often as something like Blue Fields or The Sunleth Waterscape. This leads me to my biggest problem with TRFF.
You can unlock new tracks to mix things up a bit by earning Rhythmia (which is earned after completing a stage). The problem with this is the amount needed to unlock those tracks. You unlock your first track at 10,000rm which is roughly the amount you’ll get from completing the entire Series Mode and also spending a good chunk of time in Challenge Mode and Chaos Shrine. There’s actually a grind in this game in order to unlock new tracks. Unlocking things is fine, but when you have to do work that’s the equivalent of beating the game three to four times in order to unlock everything, that’s taking things a bit too far. Luckily you can grab new tracks via DLC so you aren’t stuck playing the same few favorites over and over again.
My last gripe? There’s no FFXIV. Sure, FFXIV didn’t start out as the super amazing next gen MMO we wanted it to be, but that’s no reason to exclude it from a game that’s celebrating 25 years of the entire franchise- which, last I checked, includes Final Fantasy XIV. Maybe we’ll see some Twilight over Thanalan as DLC one day.
Those things aside, TRFF is a fun game, and it really does hit you with a level of nostalgia that I haven’t experienced with any other game. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy you owe it to yourself to buy this game. I’d even go as far to say that if music games in general interest you, you won’t find anything better on a handheld than Theatrhythm Final Fantasy for the Nintendo 3DS. This one’s a keeper.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is available now for the Nintendo 3DS.