In case you’re not up to snuff with your urban dictionary terms, an earworm is “a song that sticks in your mind, and will not leave no matter how much you try.” This can be either a good or bad thing, depending on who you are. For me and for Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, it’s a delightful problem to have right now. To hammer home this point, let me inform you that I haven’t missed a single daily Rhythmia bonus–extra points alloted to those that play every consecutive day–since I bought it on release day, way back on July 3, 2012. Mm-hmm.
But what is Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy? It’s a good question, and one nobody should be afraid to ask. The answer is both simple and strange: it is a music rhythm game à la Elite Beat Agents, as well as a “thank you” to fans of the Final Fantasy series.
For the rhythm part, you tap the touchscreen via three different on-screen prompts to the beat of a song: a single tap, a tap and hold, or a directional swipe. Sequences vary in difficulty, and you play them across three different types of scenarios. The most enjoyable for me are Field Music Scenarios (FMS), which has the leader of your party of four strolling across the screen from right to left while you handle all the prompts. The other two are Battle Music Scenarios (BMS) and Event Music Scenarios (EMS), both of which are enjoyable, but can be distracting due to too much happening outside of the button prompts. For the EMS, you’re basically tapping over a movie playing, and it can be hard to not focus on Zidane chasing after Garnet, especially for a fanboy like myself.
Speaking of that, the other half of Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy is all about the fans. Whether you think Final Fantasy IV is the best or still can’t get over your nostalgia and claim that nothing beats Final Fantasy VII or are somehow head over heels with the latest hall-walker Final Fantasy XIII…all the mainstay games from the series are represented here. Each game seems to get three songs (with each song getting three different difficulty ranks), and for your party of four, you can pick some recognizable people, all with their own skill sets. And this is where rhythm game and RPG fuse, letting your team level up, earn items, and unlock spells to cast during events. My team of four–all now around level 50 or so–has been like so since the get-go: Zidane (leader), Squall, Vaan, and Terra.
At first, the game seems to be limited on things to do, but after just a bit you’ll have opened up new levels of difficulty, as well as Dark Notes and CollectaCards and music not tied to a specific game. And those Dark Notes…oh man. They are basically randomly generated levels, each containing a FMS and a BMS, but you won’t know which ones until you try it out. Often, they are extremely tough and really challenge your response time, but clearing them successfully is an exhilarating feeling. When you beat one, you unlock another, which is always a higher difficulty. However, there is plenty of reason to replay Dark Notes as you fight one of three potential bosses, and they all have a chance to drop rare items or colored shards, which you use to unlock new characters. Right now, I’m working my way towards getting Vivi on my team–see ya, Squall! I know, you’re surprised.
So, it’s a surprising game, and might not be for everyone, but I’m enjoying it a lot. Not enough to consider buying DLC at $1.00 a song though, as I think there’s plenty of tunes here for my enjoyment, but yeah. For those curious, my favorite songs to play are “Mambo de Chocobo”, “Terra’s Theme”, and “Over the Hills”. What’s your favorite Final Fantasy song? You are not allowed to answer with “One-Winged Angel” by the way.
All right, back to it. The music, it’s a-calling…