Back in 2012, Square-Enix decided to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Final Fantasy, the long-running videogame series that’s the focus of this month’s themed gaming. As part of this anniversary celebration they created the game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, which was a rhythm game with music tracks spanning the videogame saga and containing hours of entertainment, playing along to fondly remembered themes with the iconic characters of the series. Upon its release, I picked up the original Theatrhythm game and thoroughly enjoyed it, but like many others I felt it was hamstrung somewhat by a relatively small song selection (with additional songs locked behind a DLC paywall) and a limited set of game modes with which to play. A few years later in September 2014, Square-Enix decided to release a sequel, which also acts an updated edition of the game, in the form of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. This new game in the series contains over two hundred quality tracks from Final Fantasy, *loads* of unlockable characters to play as, and multiple game modes that offer hours and hours of entertainment; and has effectively made the original game completely obsolete in the process.
There really isn’t a lot of plot in Theatrythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, or any sort of narrative past “evil Chaos has corrupted the Crystal and you need to fix it by earning Rhythmia”, but it really doesn’t matter as the things driving progress forward are gameplay and the steady unlocking of characters and songs. To begin with, you will select just four starting characters (who are all the central protagonists from core Final Fantasy titles) to make up your party, and this also gives you your starting pool of available songs; which are from the games relating to said characters. Playing through songs and completing them earns your characters experience points, levelling them up and unlocking new abilities helping you get through more challenging stages, and the aforementioned ‘Rhythmia’, which is a resource used to slowly unlock more characters, song selections, game modes, options, etc. It is a *genius* system that takes the place of a lengthy tutorial, and the pace the game opens up and gives you new things to play with is perfect, even for players returning from the original Theatrhythm it won’t feel laborious or ‘grindy’. The goal of the game, although this is not apparent from the start, is to earn over 20,000 ‘rhythmia’, which unlocks the final battle against Chaos and “finishes” the game (i.e. plays the credit sequence); but to be honest the game is a pick-up-and-play affair that you can dip in and out of without any real commitment and is perfectly suited to the Nintendo 3DS platform and the idea of gaming on the go.
Song selection this time ‘round is extensive and whatever your favourite Final Fantasy game is, there is sure to be at least a few songs from it here, although annoyingly some of my personal favourites (such as “Vamo Alla Flamenco” from Final Fantasy IX) are still kept back as DLC, which is a bit cheeky. Actually playing the songs comes in one of four varieties, the most common of which are the Field Music Sequence (FMS) and Battle Music Sequence (BMS). FMS stages have your party leader travelling from right to left across an overworld or through dungeons while you tap and slide your stylus to the rhythm, hitting notes keeps your hit points up where at missing them causes you to take damage and swap characters out to keep going, with the goal being to reach the end and meet another character holding a treasure chest; or if you’re lucky a fat chocobo. BMS stages feature your entire party and four rhythm tracks, where hitting the notes causes your characters to fight and damage spawning enemies, the more enemies you kill the higher your score, providing you don’t get wiped out. The other two modes are Airship Field Music, a variation on FMS but speeding along in an airship with the notes coming towards you in 3D, and Event Music Sequences (EMS), which feature full motion video playing in the background while you swipe and tap your stylus to hit notes features on top. I’ve mentioned the stylus a few times now, but truthfully I hardly used it this time ‘round, as unlike the first game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call gives you the option of using the face buttons and circle pad as a control method, and I *much* preferred this – it works great!!
Playing the standard game mode means that you have early access to pretty much all the songs, with only the EMS stages taking a while to unlock fully, and it’s supremely entertaining to just jump into your favourite tracks and play them to earn ‘rhythmia’ as well as the coveted extra characters with which to build up your party. If you use characters in your party that match the game you’re playing a song from then you get point bonus at the end, which you also get for playing the “Daily Feature” songs that are cycled in and out each day and keep you trying different things outside your comfort zone. For a longer and more structured game you can also play through one of the many quests in the Quest Medley mode, which plays a bit like a light-RPG, with keys to dungeons, overworlds, mini-bosses and final bosses to fight and earn guaranteed rewards. You can use the shorter quests to grind for new characters, and the longer ones are *really* long providing an hour or so entertainment at a time. As if this all wasn’t enough there is even now also a multiplayer Versus Mode in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call that you can play again AI or real-life opponents. I didn’t dabble in this too much as I don’t personally know anyone else with the game, but it certainly looked interesting.
The final nails in the coffin that Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call throws the first Theatrhythm game into are made with the additions and refinements it makes to an already entertaining formula. Critical hits are perfectly struck notes, which when hit deliver more damage to enemies in BMS stages or speed up your character to cover more distance in FMS songs; there is also the EX Burst Gauge which is kind of like a “limit break”, as well as the improvements made to the control scheme, increased song list and plethora of customisable options for sound effects. This really is a complete and excellent package.
|Gorgeous presentation, a great selection of tracks, different game modes, customisation galore, multiplayer… Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is a top quality game, perhaps too slight an experience in terms of plot and eventually the excitement does fizzle out, but this is a *great* videogame and worth picking up on Nintendo 3DS.|