Let’s go on an adventure…through music…

It has had its highs, it has had its lows. Fans stare starry eyed at past iterations, and fall one by one should they stand by recent offerings. The Final Fantasy series is one that has had a shaky reception these days thanks to a fanbase that spoons ‘better times’ so fondly. Each player stands by their favourite iteration yet many don’t celebrate the diversity of such titles. One element that has stayed thoroughly exceptional throughout the 25 years the series has constantly provided some of the most sterling music to grace our ears, and in celebration of that, rather than laud us with a petty ‘Best of’ compilation disc Square have treated us with a cartridge of tracks to conduct our way through in Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy.

Set in the same universe as the PSP’s Dissidia, Theatrhythm…well…the plot honestly is given slight look in at the beginning with a prologue describing how harmony has been lost throughout battles of Cosmos and Chaos. That’s the gist and it’s all you’re going to get. Theatrhythm’s undeniable charms don’t come from extensive and vibrant storytelling, but from its simple tune tapping gameplay and wuvable aesthetics.

Don’t worry, we may be in music rhythm game territory, but you won’t be forced to purchase oodles of attachments to stack into every available orifice on the 3DS until it looks like a VTech hadron collider. Theatrhythm steers clear of the Guitar Hero theory of fun where coloured plastic is key to a good time, and instead looks upon Elite Beat Agents for guidance in such funky fields. Baton like stylus in hand, it’s up to you to conduct business and make every train journey a magical fairytale ride.

Theatrhythm isn’t simply a quick knock off homage to boost the ego of the entire Final Fantasy series. Rather than offering a handful of its greatest tracks to tap your way through, each title clubs together a variety of its best tunes to form a greatest hits package, merged with a casual RPG of sorts. All 13 main games make an appearance, and each instalment comes equipped with three tracks from its tuneful roster and a hero to add to your team of 4 to take on this musical journey. Each title flaunts its wares with classic tunes from a different facet from the games. To make you recall your favourite segments of each game, Theatrhythm reminisces on the entire series’ musical landmarks. Players can conduct FMV music to the cutscenes that inspired them, sway their characters through field music that’s rooted so deep in the membrane that no amount of whistling can force it out and lead their party to battle, in a bid to groove their way through monsters.

There’s no real journey to follow here…you just play. It’s a mash-up that really doesn’t take itself too seriously despite bookending your playtime with prologues and epilogues, and doesn’t really need to. Theatrhythm is concerned with making you a master maestro. It lulls you into a casual realm of note plucking, entertaining you with its surprisingly engaging fashion before thwacking your intrigue straight in the face with a battalion of arrows that you’ll need a whip to tame rather than a stylus.

Hours of commute killing fun Aesthetically Theatrhythm is built to please on every level and graces your brain like a cat doing that weird self massage rub they do. Whilst some may be disheartened by the fact that some of their personal favourite tracks are DLC, the game still features an incredibly strong roster of great music. While cutscene based challenges play out to slightly blurry FMV’s or just in-game footage in the case of the earlier titles, the rest uses much cuter visuals to whisk your eyes into a game as vivid as a world made of dolly mixtures. Each character and monster has been bopped on the head with a Chibi wand, giving even the cold hearted Cloud eyes so big they’re trying to invade his face and monotone Lightning a mouth like that little kitten emoticon. If you’re a die-hard fan, you’ll probably scream bloody murder about such a design decision, but it’s all so pleasantly cute you’ll most likely die from a mass patting on the head from the majority who giggle at its universally cute style.

Once you’ve decimated one series’ pieces boasting SSS ranks as you go, another difficulty soon opens up jamming thousands more arrows, jingles and beats your way. Settle down to play one game’s songs will soon turn into a career as you attempt to perfect each and every note that comes your way. And should you really want to get the most out of Theatrhythm, you can train your characters in the methods of funk to level 99.

Being a stat obsessed freak who’d rather watch numbers improve than actually better myself in any facet regarding skill, the return of Dissidia’s EXP and CP system should really enthral me. As your team of four legends from the selection of thirteen jump from series to series, they level up, boost their stats and generally flex their mathematical muscles. Levelling up also grants more CP, a fuel that allows you to add more and more abilities to the roster of skills at your rhythmic dispense. Whilst you can utilise abilities to save you should you become orchestrally overwhelmed, there’s really no other benefit to levelling up your cast. Each level your characters reach only really serves as a boost to the ego of the odd procrastinator. The game blags using strength based characters in fights to boost your chances of slaying monsters quicker and using high speed characters whilst fumbling to field music to muster up items faster. Problem is, it just builds an inconsequential pile of oddities that never really come into their own, making you look like some kind of freakish hoarder.

The main reason why you would want to boost your teams stats? For bragging rights. ‘Proficards’ hold rather basic info on team levels and the amount of songs cleared perfectly on the back of their personalised hides, Should you find charitable people or are one of those soul filled ones wourself, you’ll find Dark Notes, a series of challenges designed to truly test your capabilities. Complete them and you get new items that can potentially bolster your team before spreading it further like an STD you don’t want to cure. It’s certainly doesn’t take advantage of everything Spotpass has to offer. These cards are rather passive and don’t lust for a competitive nature that I feel the game sometimes needs. This feature would’ve benefitted if players could claim a high score and then send it off to see if the next person could beat it on Dark Notes, but nevertheless, browsing through the cards of others like some kind of bizarre wallet snatcher will no doubt enhance the experience for the competitive.

Theatrhythmis a blissful homage to the most consistently brilliant aspects of the Final Fantasy franchise, and is a swell little package to boot. It’s very, very clear who this game is aimed at, and with loads of classic FF tracks, plenty to unlock and tons of difficulties to gracefully plough your way through, it’s certainly a spin-off that will draw you in time and time again. Chances are you weren’t looking for a testament to the franchise in such a bizarre format, but fans of both Final Fantasy and rhythm games alike will delve into its whimsical aesthetics and find hours of commute killing fun.

The Good: Wonderful audio and graphical charms, Clean interface with cute characters never tearing attention away from gameplay, A massive challenge to those who ask for it

The Bad: Spotpass system feels a little underwhelming, Some personal favorite tracks are DLC, RPG aspects aren’t as extensive as you’d wish

Gameplay: Gameplay - 8 out of 10 8
Graphics:   Graphics - 8 out of 10 8
Sound:      Sound - 9 out of 10 9
Overall:     Overall - 8 out of 10 8

Silver Y Award

Silver Y Award