There’s nothing quite like a sweeping, dramatic orchestral piece to send shivers down your spine. The music of the Final Fantasy games has always been regarded as some of the highest caliber in the industry, even when it relied on 8-bit sounds and relatively simple melodies. Theatrhythm serves as a “Greatest Hits” compilation for every numbered Final Fantasy game of the last 25 years, wrapped up in totally addictive gameplay with tons of polish.
Theatryhthm is a music/rhythm game exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS. It has you tapping, swiping, holding and letting go of the bottom screen to the beat of over 70 Final Fantasy tracks. That’s literally all there is to do, and it’s ridiculously fun. Final Fantasy I to XIII is represented in the game’s Series mode, the easiest way to play through all of the songs and unlock them in Challenge mode. In this mode, you can take on the songs all over again with the more entertaining Expert difficulty or the nigh-impossible Ultimate score.
Even better still is the Chaos Shrine, where you can play through random pairings of songs called Dark Notes, obtained by beating previous songs and/or trading them via StreetPass. Even though you’ll encounter the same song numerous times, the arrangement of notes is different so the experience always changes. And some tracks, like the Ending Movie from Final Fantasy XII and Saber’s Edge from Final Fantasy XIII, never get old. The game really shines when it requires you to tap on the offbeats and keep up with unorthodox time signatures, which really only happens on the higher difficulties.
There are 99 Dark Notes to be had, so there’s no shortage of gameplay here. It took me about three hours to complete the easy Series mode and two additional hours obtain enough Rythmia (the points you obtain based on your performance in songs) to watch the credits roll. After that is when the fun begins; going back through every track on higher difficulties and obtaining crystal shards to unlock new characters will keep you busy for countless hours.
There’s also an RPG element to Theatryhthm, but it really serves no purpose. Sure, you can spend time outfitting your party of adorable little Final Fantasy characters with stat-boosting abilities and items, but it’s smarter to unequip everything and net the 2,000,000-point Stoic bonus after every song.
The visuals are simple but effective, relying on cutesy character and enemy designs. What goes on in the background is rarely seen anyway; tons of detail and visual panache would have only distracted from the important note track. This is the first game that I’ve actually kept the 3D on for more than five minutes, since it makes two very distinct areas on the screen and makes it easy to focus completely on the foreground where the musical cues are constantly flowing.
The great thing about rhythm games is that they’re never really “beaten”. You can (and will) always revisit the tracks and try to better your score, or even just use the music player to listen to them without any distractions The clean visual style and surprisingly high-quality audio of Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy ensures that any fan of the seminal game series and the powerful music behind it will fall in love.