Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Hands-On Preview -- An Earful of Final Fantasy Fan LoveBy Leah Jackson - Posted May 31, 2012
Even though most Final Fantasy fans can’t agree on which game is the best in the series, one thing that’s universally believed among FF fans is how great the music is from each game. There’s even a whole concert series dedicated to the music from Final Fantasy called Distant Worlds.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (pronounced Theater Rhythm) is Square Enix’s response to their fans’ love for all of the beautiful soundtracks featured throughout the numerous games. It’s primarily a rhythm game packed with music from the first Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy XIII, but when we got some hands-on time with the game during Square Enix's pre-E3 session, we discovered that there are a ton of RPG elements involved in the game as well.
Before you even jump into the game and start rocking out to the music, it’s important to set up your four-character party. You can choose characters from every Final Fantasy game, but only a few main characters from each one are featured. The character art in Theatrhythm is very cartoony and unlike anything seen in any Final Fantasy game.
Every character kind of looks like Quina from Final Fantasy 9, which some gamers may not like, but I think it adds personality to the more serious characters. Plus, since the game is rather light and fun itself it makes everyone fit in. Realistically you can choose your favorite characters and be done with it, but for those who want a more in-depth experience, Theatrhythm delivers.
Each character has four base stats: agility, strength, magic, and luck, and these stats all come into play when you’re going through every playing field, or song. As you complete fields, your characters will level up and their stats will increase a bit. As for the stats themselves, Agility is how fast your character runs through the fields, strength and magic is how much damage they’ll deal to enemies, and luck increases the chance of finding treasure chests.
You can also equip your little characters with abilities and items. There are two types of abilities in Theatrhythm: Proactive and Reactive. Proactive abilities are ones that your characters use at the beginning of a stage and they’re generally passive and last throughout the whole song. Vivi’s Bluff proactive ability allows him to multiply his damage for 1.5 for the entire stage.
Reactive abilities on the other hand are things like Yuna’s Cura ability which allows her to heal if the party’s hit points drop below 10 percent. Each character has a certain amount of abilities they can equip, but as they gain levels and get stronger, they can equip more.
Once your party is all set up, you’re ready to jump into the rhythm portion of the game. Each Final Fantasy game has three “stages” of iconic songs for you to play through and they’re broken down into three of types: field stages, battle stages, and event stages.
Regardless of which type of stage you choose, the gameplay in Theatrhythm is reminiscent of what you’d find in Elite Beat Agents. You use your stylus to tap, hold, spin, and slash different types of markers to the rhythm of each song. As you increase the difficulty in the game there are more notes to hit, and more complex patterns that you have to nail in order to keep your hit points high.
Field Stages generally feature overworld music, or field music. In these stages, your characters will run through the zone as you hit notes correctly. If you stumble, so will they. The more notes you hit, the faster your character will run through the zone, and the faster they run, the better chance you have of finding awesome treasure. Therefore, in Field Stages it’s important to use characters with higher agility, because as you land notes your character will begin to run faster through the frame.
Battle Stages are really great for nostalgic FF fans. Your four characters line up on the right side of the screen like in an old-school FF game and the enemies appear on the other side of the screen. As you defeat enemies, more and more will show up until finally a boss appears. To defeat the enemies, you’ll have to use your stylus to tap, hold, zigzag, and slash to the rhythm of each note in the song.
Every time you successfully pull off the move associated with the note on screen you’ll damage the boss, but if you mess up then they’ll damage your party instead. If you can manage to get to the final boss in the level, you’ll get rewarded with treasure. During Battle Stages, if you can land every silver note that comes up on screen you’ll even get to summon a powerful beast like Ifrit to help fight with you for a short period of time.
Event Mode is a more relaxed mode, where you go through a song from the FF game you chose, but instead of being pressured with a battle or running through a field, you get to watch an iconic cutscene playing in the background. This mode seems to be the fanservice mode, but really, the whole game is just one big “I love you” to Final Fantasy fans.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy blends one of the best aspects of the entire FF series together with a fast-paced, fun, and deep rhythm game. The game’s surprisingly addictive, and is shaping up to be a great on-the-go title. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy comes out this summer, right in time for Final Fantasy’s 25th anniversary.