I’m in the middle of writing a review for Theatrhythm for Otaku Gaming, but I feel compelled to write about it here as well, because, frankly, this game has restored my faith in gaming.
That faith had been waning – to me, the games industry has lost a great deal of its magic. When I was a child, there were two things that were “magic” to me; Disney, and the games industry via Nintendo and Square Enix. Those three companies, specifically, were able to delight my imagination like nothing else.
I was fortunate enough that when I was in Japan a few years back I went to both Disneyland (and Disney Sea), the Square Enix shop and even Ludia’s Bar – the Dragon Quest-themed pub. The difference between the two experiences my relationship to them was shocking. I had a lot of fun wandering around the Square Enix shop, and I bought a whole heap of stuff. Meanwhile, while mainstream Disney has lost a lot of its appeal to me, jumping on board the “It’s a Small World” ride, and watching the evening light parade was a genuine nostalgic trip back to my childhood.
I came back to Australia with a lot of stuff from the Square Enix shop, but the Disney experience impacted me far more.
And I think that’s been the essential failing of the games industry for me – it’s become too transaction-based. I still enjoy games, some (like Square Enix’s own Nier) I absolutely love, but it still feels like a business deal – those guys are making a game to sell to me so I can be entertained.
The recent E3 conference just backed that impression up for me. Here is an industry that is not so much interested in making great games, but in selling great games. Everything in development (in the AAA-grade game space) is being made to hit significant numbers, and so the experiences are conforming to formulas and safe, proven ideas.
It’s still entertaining, but it lacks soul. And so in turn, by-and-large the industry is also one that I (obviously) am entertained by, but it lacks “the magic.”
Then I started playing Theatrhythm.
The first Final Fantasy game I ever played was IV, so my first point of call was the music from that game. I had shivers of nostalgia. Then I headed over to Final Fantasy X’s music, which included the hauntingly-beautiful pool scene, and I’ll not lie, I teared up. Final Fantasy XIII’s music reminded me that even at its weakest, the Final Fantasy series stays true to production values.
And I remembered why games can be magical. Music is a primal force, and this series of games has been a part of my life for a good 15 years now. To be experiencing a game that is built from ground-up to showcase nothing but the music is heart warming.
But, more importantly, as fan service goes, Theatrhythm is one of those rare games that is a love letter to the fans. It’s not a big-budget game, it’s filled with subtle, cute, references to the games in the series, and it’s not even much of a game – it’s rather easy and the RPG elements are more to humour the fans than to add anything to the game. This is a game to be experienced and charmed by, not to play.
|Chocobo > Moogle. Let the flame wars begin!|
With no violence, no sex, no bad language, and something as simple as 70 pieces or orchestral music, Square Enix has brought the magic back to gaming.
So, thank you, Square Enix.
I agree that something has been lost as of late when it comes to making great games for the sake of greatness alone and making great games with features that will make them more marketable. That's probably what's attracted me to the whole "indie games scene" the most, simply because I enjoy when developers make a game for themselves. The same goes for movies–I love Aardman and Chris Nolan because they make awesome movies because that's what they love, not because that's what they hope the world will love enough for them to get rich.
Anyway, this turned out to be kind of rant-y, but I agree with your points for the most part and am glad that you found a game to remind you of the good old days.
I'm not saying this is a bad game, or a great game, but isn't it just a rhythm game in the end, from an extremely popular series (one I still haven't played, but have multiple games from the series in our house!).
Isn't a rhythm game, just using a cookie cutter of other games from the genre that have been done before though, and as somebody once wrote, "so the experiences are conforming to formulas and safe, proven ideas. "?
"… frankly, this game has restored my faith in gaming." It's a shame the entire games industry is about to collapse though, taking these type of games with it and developers. 🙁
Alright, alright…sarcasm and joking aside (though, the cookie cutter point I think is valid maybe?)! If I had a 3DS system, I would probably buy this game for my wife, because she has been a big fan of the Final Fantasy games over the years, and played through many of them. She' the reason we have Final Fantasy games in our house, and perhaps it's time I give one a try…
I don't know of any other rhythm games that use orchestral music. Given that music is 90% of what a rhythm game is about, I would suggest that being the only game to do that makes it pretty innovative.
I also don't know of any other rhythm games that cover 25 years of a game series history. The nostalgia value alone puts this game in a very different category to its peers.
You're right, the mechanics don't do much to break away from the norm (though I guess the RPG elements are fairly fresh for this genre), but the mechanics honestly don't matter much. They work, great, now get on with enjoying the music.
I hope that helps clarify. I'm a fan of music games, and I can honestly say I've never played one like this. Nor been so emotionally attached to a game for years.
And, if you're a fan of Final Fantasy, this is essential – well worth getting a 3DS for.
Again though, just because it uses a different type of music, and is from a popular game franchise, doesn't mean it's different. Sure, if you're a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I would hope you get enjoyment from the game…but if you are a fan of rhythm games in general, you would probably enjoy it all the same.
Which is why I don't really understand the, "…
this game has restored my faith in gaming. "
I could see it as perhaps "the game has restored my faith in the Final Fantasy series.", but I mean everything I know of this game is exactly what your supposed problem with the "AAA" titles is…"the experiences are conforming to formulas and safe, proven ideas. "
lts experience is based off of a proven idea, rhythm games, and uses the safe formula of the Final Fantasy name and music from existing games in the series. Did they go and created an entire new orchestral set for the game or something?
And, again, when music is 90 per cent of the game, the fact that the music is fundamentally different from every other music game means this one is original.
I'm not sure why you're bringing up the point, though – I never said in my article that this game was an innovative game.
This game is more than just a "rhythm" game to me. The way all the elements came together means it has the "magic" that I was speaking to in my article. It's more than just a game.
The "safe, proven" ideas I was talking about in this piece has nothing to do with gameplay (why do people get so hung up about gameplay in games?) I was talking about concepts – and specifically, "dark themes" and "violence." Those are proven in the market, so we end up with an E3 inundated with dark themes and violence.
And, even when you've got someone like Nintendo making a game that isn't darkly violent, Nintendo is trying to push new ideas and ever-more in-depth. What I'm getting with here is that to me, gaming has lost its purity and innocence. Innovation is a proven selling point, dark violence is a proven selling point.
To make a game that is so simple in execution is a creative risk, in my opinion.
If any of that makes sense, then great – it is incredibly difficult to define what makes a game "magic" when another is not.
I never said in my article that this game was an innovative game." No, but you said, "
Everything in development (in the AAA-grade game space) is being made to hit significant numbers, and so the experiences are conforming to formulas and safe, proven ideas.
It’s still entertaining, but it lacks soul."
Which is what I didn't understand, based on the fact that this game uses a formula and a safe, proven name from a very well established series. It's not like they went out and paid an orchestra to create new songs (did they?), create new cut-scenes, and create a new IP and release it as such. The Final Fantasy name is very much established these days, and has a big following.
I can understand being a fan of a game/series/tv show/movie/book series/band or anything of the like, and being "WOWED" by it in a new scenario, but I didn't see how AAA games using proven, safe formulas "lack soul".
"The "safe, proven" ideas I was talking about in this piece has nothing to do with gameplay…"
I didn't say gameplay either, I said, "lts experience is based off of a proven idea, rhythm games, and uses the safe formula of the Final Fantasy name and music from existing games in the series."
It's using already existing music, from a well established series, and putting it into the rhythm genre which has been around for a while. It's not like it was a new genre.
"What I'm getting with here is that to me, gaming has lost its purity and innocence."
I'm not really sure how. I mean, if all you look at is "Mature" games, and only visit the larger sites, I guess that could be the problem?
I mean, I did a data post on Go Vacation, and that game got a lot of positive feedback, and I don't think that falls into "dark violence".
"Innovation is a proven selling point, dark violence is a proven selling point."
Don't forget to add "Final Fantasy's name is a proven selling point."
I just don't follow the whole, "Everything in development (in the AAA-grade game space) is being made to hit significant numbers, and so the experiences are conforming to formulas and safe, proven ideas.
It’s still entertaining, but it lacks soul. And so in turn, by-and-large the industry is also one that I (obviously) am entertained by, but it lacks 'the magic.'"
But, Coffee, this is nothing like a Final Fantasy game. It has no plot whatsoever for starters.
It's not trying to be a game, even. It's simply taking the Final Fantasy music, and giving people the tools to tap along to that music. It's what I consider a pure idea – my honest impression from the game is that it's not trying to sell itself in any way.
It's a very different direction for the Final Fantasy series – and this is from someone who has played them all. This is a series that has always gone for feature overload and lengthy stories. To scale things right back to an interactive soundtrack? This is clearly a game that was never meant to be anything more than a "thank you" to fans.