Of all the games that Square-Enix had on deck to show at their booth this year, I think Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy had me the most interested. I find this odd as no other rhythm based title on a handheld like Elite Beat Agents or Rhythm Heaven had captivated my attention for long. Of course, being filled with Final Fantasy music helps, but I feel there is more to it than that.
Before choosing a song to play, you are given the option of putting together a four person party from a selection of characters across all Final Fantasy games. You may recognize the available choices as those from the popular Dissidia fighting games and aside from their new chibi look, they’ve retained their appearances. Each character has different abilities that can be augmented via skill points which I assume are earned through leveling up in battle.
Once you have a party together, there is a selection of games in which to pick your soundtrack from and you are dumped into one of three different game types. In the first, I was thrust into a battle with various enemies from the Final Fantasy universe; enemies on the left side and my party on the right. Dots would scroll across the screen and I would have to tap them in tune with the music. Some notes were simple taps, some had to be held until the note finished, and others had arrows drawn in them indicating that I needed to swipe in that direction. With each successful note, my characters would inflict damage on the enemies. It’s sort of a rhythm RPG, if you will. The battle continues until the song ends and you are awarded a score and experience upon its conclusion.
Another game type has you traversing a field with your party leader. The primary difference between this mode and the one previous is that there is only one line to pay attention to as opposed to one for each party member. However, this line has the tendency to curve during the song and to continue to hold that particular note, you must move the stylus up and down on the bottom screen in order to keep the note on the top screen moving. In other words, you can’t just tap anywhere as before, the position of your stylus matters.
The third and final game type is a reenactment of pivotal scenes of whatever game the song is pulled from. This one becomes more of a guessing game, as you can’t see the notes that are coming up all that far in advance. In addition, the notes don’t travel in a static line, they do a lot of curves and circles which tend to throw you off of your game a bit. As if what’s going on in the background wasn’t distracting enough.
As a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, particularly that of the music, this demo version was a blast to play. It was one of my most memorable experiences on the show floor, which is something I never expected from a 3DS game, much less that of a rhythm title. Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy officially launches on July 3rd.