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Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

21:4714/10/2014Posted by Charles Etheridge-Nunn4 Comments

There’s a genre of rhythm games on the DS and 3DS which have been mainly seen in Japan with the Ossu Tatakae Ouendan series which were sadly never imported over here and with the fantastic Elite Beat Agents. The Final Fantasy Theatrhythm series are the closest we’re getting to these amazing games on the 3DS system. As someone who had grown weary of the ponderous teens suffering a vague existential crisis while wandering around and hitting monsters, I went into the original expecting very little and loved it. I had managed to defend the Final Fantasy series to vehemently that I realised I hated all that I had played, becoming loyal to a brand and deluded into saying I loved a series which I’d grown annoyed with. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy brought back all my love of the series in a way which wasn’t as odious as the eternal corridor fights of Final Fantasy XIII.

The question now is, can the sequel expand on the joy and innovation of the first game? Would any differences to the original help or hinder it and would more be better this time round?

The basic structure of Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call is the same as the previous game. You have three game modes which all feature your favourite pointy-haired teens wandering, fighting or watching a cutscene. The graphics of Final Fantasy games being pretty is a fairly modern trait, but even before that the score of the games was always amazing. This game takes around two hundred tracks from all of the Final Fantasy series (and a bunch of spin-offs) and uses them to frame these levels.

In field mode you have one character at a time wandering through forests, caves, towns and weird lightning-filled fields of nothing but pain from Final Fantasy X (not that I’m bitter at the Thunder Plains or anything). The notes fly across the screen, requiring you to tap the lower part of screen in rhythm with them. Of prominence here are the sustained notes where you keep the stylus on the screen and wave it up or down like you’re almost conducting the hillside you’re travelling through.

In event mode you’re watching a video from the Final Fantasy games and like the previous version of this game, the graphical quality of these cutscenes is impressive, but it doesn’t really feature much to do with your characters.

The best mode of the three is battle mode. In this one you have your selection of four heroes in a line, just like with most of the series. You have four tracks the little held, tapped or swiped gems run down, matching up with the characters. When you tap, your character hits an enemy. The closer you are to it being spot on, the more damage you do. Fairly easy and very compulsive when you see a plan come together and monsters fall under your guns, blades or gunblades.

The game is prettier than the previous one, with a greater amount of villains to fight and locations to wander through. There are also many more musical tracks than the original which is great but also enough to drown in sometimes. Even in my fandom of it, I had played maybe half the Final Fantasy games as of number 13, so I’m unfamiliar with a lot of the music here. Looking at the vast menus rather than a small selection which would gradually expand, it was easy to go through the best moments and then feel like I didn’t know what to do next. There are two solutions to this, a random song selector which showed me some of my new favourites, or an all-new mode for Curtain Call.

In Quest Medley, your selection of characters travel a map not dissimilar to that from Streetpass Quest. This world map gives you the occasional choice of different locations and different songs to play, culminating in a dungeon and a boss. They have vague combinations of names like, “A close tower and the shadowclad” or “A thrilling greenery and the raptor”. Without special abilities you don’t know what you’re getting into with a lot of maps but you can see some of the rewards you’ll get. For accumulating XP for your characters, earning them extra abilities and getting treasure which will help you unlock more of the massive cast, it’s fantastic. This is possibly the best feature of the game, creating a very basic narrative to follow, helping you earn loot and progress with your chosen characters. You gain more of these through Streetpass, allowing accumulation of several different maps and selections of quests, or the ability to go back to the same one and clear it out if you so choose.

There is a Versus mode which works better than expected for a rhythm game. Both players, (you either versus an AI or a human player) will try to get through a battle map, scoring as much as you can and having each ‘critical’ hit of a gem boost up a meter which will eventually spew forth a random ‘attack’ on an enemy. This is also repeated in higher difficulties of boss battles in the quest mode, too. This still feels a bit like single player, but with some added puzzle elements, whereby the game will hide the gem you’re tapping until the last moment or keep changing the directions you’re swiping the stylus in.

Finally, there is DLC, but it’s not anywhere near as egregious as Square’s normal tactics with their mobile games. With over 200 tracks anyway, you may not need more music but the individual tracks are fairly well-priced and now there are characters who you’ll get a lot of use out of like an alternate Cloud from Advent Children or Yuffie from FF7. My only problem was the lack of previews or demos for the tracks as it meant resorting to YouTube to view what they were like.

As a whole, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call is a very good game, a definite improvement on the original and like that, it gives me teary-eyed nostalgia towards a license I’ve grown tired of the main games of. It’s a great way to play a Final Fantasy-style game on a handheld, the character mechanics are deeper than expected and the music will stay in your head for days, especially the damn Chocobo themes.

Reviewed on 3DS; game was purchased by the reviewer

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