Well, it took a while, but the 3DS has finally produced that magical moment that literally had me in tears. I can’t believe it took so long for Square Enix to realise the raw power of the Final Fantasy music and turn it into a rhythm game.
The demo of Theatrythm had just two songs on it – and not even the best songs in the Final Fantasy music library, but it had me shivering in expectation for the full release of the game.
What impressed me most about the game, though, is how well it plays to its strengths. As a rhythm game it naturally needed to use the touch screen, and under normal circumstances this would draw the player’s attention away from the top screen. But not here. Here the touch screen controls are designed in such a way that you don’t need to be looking at the dull bottom screen. Instead you can focus on the touch screen which is filled with Final Fantasy goodness. There was summons, there are Chocobos and Moogles. Every few seconds in the demo something happened that made me want to laugh along with the fan service.
Much like the Dissidia games, Theatrhythm understands the heritage and prestiege of the Final Fantasy games. Where Dissidia focused on the characters, which many people have developed an emotional attachment to through playing the games, Theatrhythm relies on something far more primal – the emotional impact of the music.
This is a game you don’t need to necessarily know the Final Fantasy games to enjoy (though it certainly helps). It’s a testament to the enduring nature of the music compositions that they hold up so well as standalone music tracks all these years later. Turning that into a game? A masterstroke.
Hats off to Square Enix for also understanding that people aren’t necessarily playing this game to be challenged. That’s not to say it’s easy – failure on the highest difficulty level is quite likely until you learn the song – but the simple swipes and screen taps in this game are a far less intense experience than something like Rhythm Heaven, and it’s again because the game wants you focusing on the music collection than the actual game. To me, Theatrhythm is more an experience than a game, and it’s the better for it.
The only disappointment is that the game is exclusive to Final Fantasy music, and I would have loved for it to include some music from other classic Square Enix games (Nier especially). That said, the fact the full version of this game will be DLC-supported means there should be plenty of longevity to it regardless.
I really can’t wait for the full version of this game. It gets all the small details right and it’s focused on the emotional core of one of the most beloved series of games in gaming history. I can’t think of a better concept for a game. As far as I'm concerned, this is the 3DS' killer app.