Theatrhythm Final Bar Line Review

Remember when Final Fantasy 7’s Aerith and Sephiroth teamed up with Final Fantasy X’s Yuna and Seymour Guado to fight Gilgamesh and Kefka from Final Fantasy 5 and 6? Although this may sound ridiculous, you can make it happen in Theatrhythm Final Bar Line thanks to the power of music. Square Enix’s latest rhythm series had me tapping both my feet and my toes as I beat-matched along with 35 years of my favorite Final Fantasy songs with very light RPG gameplay. It’s a colorful and enjoyable journey and I had a hard time putting it down.

The Theatrhythm series has always been about gathering a party of four recognizable RPG characters to tap, drag and hold buttons to music, cranking them up as you go. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the first time it’s made the jump from handheld to home console, and its impressive 385 songs from 29 different Final Fantasy games sets a new bar that will be hard to top in the future. Each song can be completed by yourself, against other players, or in Co-op Pair mode, where each player is responsible for half the notes. There’s also the simple mode, which turns everything into one-button inputs, making it the most accessible game in the series to jump into yet.

Including the two to three hours I spent upgrading or customizing my party and retrying failed songs, it took me about 40 hours to clear all the songs. These are divided by game into 29 different series, some of which take much longer than others, with most having somewhere between 10 and 20 songs to unlock, with one outlier having 32 – I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy XIV. That said, they’re all worth picking up, as the soundtrack is fantastic and has plenty of custom medleys and new special covers featuring the most notable songs in the Final Fantasy catalog. This inclusive approach means it’s also great to see lesser-known characters like Benjamin from Final Fantasy Mystic Quest and Wol from Mobius Final Fantasy get a chance to shine, although I was annoyed by my favorite, Ronso Kimahri since Final Fantasy X, it didn’t make it. the cut.

Every song was a joy to jump to.

Each song was a treat to go through and see how the developers arranged the various buttons. Pushing the right buttons to the beat of Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball or dragging the analog sticks to match the beat of Final Fantasy 7’s One Winged Angel is immensely satisfying when you manage to link your inputs together. The DS and 3DS versions of Theatrhythm were limited to single prompts due to the nature of their touch controls, but the jump to consoles allows for another level of complexity: Final Bar Line adds new two-button prompts, or combinations between hold, tap and slide to raise beautifully the difficulty. Some combos were hard to figure out at first, as I had to adjust which buttons to press based on the variant. However, once I did, the later stages spooked me again, adding triple and quadruple combos of prompts, or tweaks like super-fast prompts, to keep things interesting.

Final Bar Line contains three main modes: Series Quests, which is the closest thing it has to a campaign, Music Stages, which is just a free-to-play mode, and Multi Battle, which houses the multiplayer options. Completing a song for the first time in Series Quest mode will add it to your ever-growing list of Music Stages to revisit or use in Multi Battle, while completing quests attached to each song will earn your party rewards such as potions, stat- and items that boost exposure, and Collectacards that boost various stats.

Theatrhythm has always incorporated RPG mechanics to help you get to the finish line.

Theatrhythm has always incorporated RPG mechanics to help you get to the finish line, even if your rhythm skills are lacking. Building a party of your favorite Final Fantasy heroes and villains with the right abilities can be the difference between success and failure. Characters fall into various categories, each with unique strengths mid-song. Some will help you defeat enemies in stages, others will reduce damage when you lose notes or restore your HP, and some will help you collect more rewards or boost other characters. Upgrading characters is critical as it will improve their stats and drastically boost your chances of success. For example, clearing a difficult song is much easier with the 2700 HP Lightning gives you at level 99 versus 550 HP when it’s level 18.

Physical and magical types like FF7’s Sephiroth and FF 6’s Terra (respectively) will help you defeat enemies in battles, defense types like FF1 Warrior of Light will reduce damage done when missing notes, and healing types like FF13’s Vanille will restore lost HP. Meanwhile, Hunter-types like FF 9’s Zidane will improve the chance of item drops from defeated enemies, Summon-types like FFX’s Yuna will boost the advantage of Phoenix summoning and all other summons, and Support-types like Chocobo will boost stats or lower ally requirements to activate their abilities.

There is no story or anything beyond the music itself to keep you hooked.

The only disappointment of the Series Quest mode is that aside from unlocking songs and characters for other modes, there is no story or anything beyond the music itself to keep you hooked. Chasing higher scores can be a lot of fun, but it still feels like a wasted opportunity. There’s an Endless mode that unlocks after you’ve completed all 29 rows, but ultimately it’s more of the same, with the only difference being that you’re challenged to complete as many songs in a row before you lose your three lives from failing a song or its quest.

After completing all the Series Quests, I spent some time in Multi Battle mode competing with my favorite characters for the highest score against a friend online – although the low pre-launch server population meant I wasn’t able to thoroughly playtest the multiplayer players as I would like. That being said, the returning burst mechanic helped keep each match interesting and would allow new players to compete with more experienced ones, allowing them to unleash disadvantages on their opponents. I saw my buttons shrink to half their size, requiring more precise timing, fake button messages seeming to hide the button I was supposed to press, and fat chocobos taking up 75% of my screen, giving me less time to react. It reminded me of the chaos of clearing multiple lines in Tetris or unleashing special attacks in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Unlike in single player mode, running out of health in multiplayer is smartly not game over. you’ll just lose a large number of points, which can quickly change the outcome of a match without bringing it to a screeching halt.

The returning burst mechanic helped keep every match interesting.

This is where party dynamics come into play. Learning what each character can do and tailoring your party will have a profound effect on whether you win or lose. Having a character like Final Fantasy V’s Lenna, who can cast the Arise spell to revive you at 70% HP without penalty, is sure to make her and other healers a popular choice. Competing with opponents earns your character exp and all the items you earn during the song, you are also rewarded with valuable Collectacards after each match to strengthen your team.

Additionally, after each battle, you’ll trade profile cards with an opponent, who gives away a copy of the summoning stone you’ve equipped. It’s hard to say whether multiplayer will capture the hearts of online rhythm fans for years to come like Rock Band or fade away like Fuser based on my limited time with it, but it certainly has potential.

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