If you like JRPGs, it is likely that you have played a Final Fantasy and its music remains in your memory. It is normal to remember a battle theme or some melody that accompanies a forceful moment in Square-Enix titles, since the potential of the music of so many composers has served as an accompaniment for many years. Something interesting is that, in addition, these compositions have been protagonists in the Theatrhythm saga: a rhythm game with RPG elements that was released for 3DS more than 10 years ago and that took advantage of the laptop’s touch screen. After a long tour, it seems that the concert will close the curtain after one last movement in what promises to be a great event. In addition to bringing together more than 385 songs, Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line offers changes to its control scheme and some new features, but without changing the formula. Is it really a farewell letter? I’ll tell you in this review.
The first thing you should know is that Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line lacks a story. It’s natural to think that the game can explore a narrative similar to Dissidia: Final Fantasy, but that’s not the case. At the beginning there is little content available, so the first step is to enter the main mode to unlock the songs. In Series Missions mode, all games are grouped together, but only some will be available from the start. To unlock the rest you need to beat the songs in each block and along the way you will find a key to unlock another game. This process is mandatory to get all the songs, so if you have a favorite saga it is advisable to start there. Take into account that you will need a long time if you want to release all the content, since you have to finish the list of each title.
When starting a series you receive characters to integrate your team; each warrior has their own stats and will level up as you play, just like in a classic JRPG. By gaining experience and leveling up they will learn new skills and become stronger. You will be able to customize them, as well as the invocation that accompanies you and other aesthetic details. If you want to keep things simple, there is an option to automatically equip the best.
It should be clarified that organizing your party is not the main thing because it is not a proper role-playing game, the important thing here is your skill with your hands. Either way, customizing your team is one of Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line’s strong cards because you can choose your favorite characters no matter where they come from, so I fulfilled my dream of having Cloud, Vincent, Noctis and Vivi in one same group. You can save various combinations and use your favorite team whenever you want.
Build your dream team
RPG elements are out of your control and are activated based on hits, as well as other factors in battles. Everything happens automatically and its function is to try to meet objectives that are stipulated at the beginning of the game. For example, if you’re in a Final Fantasy IX song, they’ll ask you to beat it with Zidane or Vivi, but if it’s a less specific goal like beating the boss or avoiding healing, it’s enough to have strong characters with good skills, a good summon or avoid including a healer like Aeris. Fulfilling these missions will force you to pay attention before starting each song to have an extra. I must confess that there are some melodies that I don’t like so much in games like Final Fantasy VIII, so I preferred to overcome them and leave the objectives to not complicate my life. If you decide to pass without completing them you will not receive a penalty, it will simply be marked as “passed” instead of showing off the “completed” badge and you can continue on your way.
If you complete the mission you will get some items that will make you gain more experience or improve some statistic. In some cases you will receive Collecta Cards, a kind of interchangeable cards that will fill a special album. Most are character images in Theatrhythm’s minimalist style, but there are also memorable images from the original games. The Collecta Cards are a way to motivate those who are not interested in perfecting their records on all songs and are looking to complete the game 100%. Of course, the images that are seen in Museum mode after getting them are somewhat small. I would have liked that, as in other games, they could be seen in detail and, incidentally, they would give some interesting information about each game. The cards are also prizes for when you play online, as I will detail later.
Now, the most important thing: the rhythm and the music. As I was telling you, Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line includes 385 songs in the base game. The majority, in their complete versions, but there are some with several versions and different durations. After choosing a song and preparing your team, you start playing with a system that combines elements of Osu! with some Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA. You will have to press any button and follow the routes, in case the screen indicates it. The important thing is to be precise so that the attacks are critical and make long chains to avoid damage. This system seems simple, especially since you no longer have to press the screen with a stylus, but it requires attention and skill with your fingers. The transition to controls is very good, and if you have played previous titles you will be very satisfied.
It can be as complicated as you want
Something that made me very happy is that all the songs have something unique in their pattern. For example, some require you to move the stick up and down, making wavy shapes, or to press some direction with both sticks. These badges help rhythm games feel like you’re playing something different with each song and make playing a song more enjoyable. After so much playing Overworld it is certain that you will become a master and look for new challenges. With this in mind, Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line includes an online multiplayer mode. Here you will test your power against 3 players, because in addition to taking care of your movements, you must be aware of the traps that are placed in front of you. As long as you follow your critical chain and get hits you will be rewarded with traps that will place ghost buttons, objects that cover the vision of your rivals or make changes in the speed of the notes. This mode is a good way to give yourself a breather but that’s about it. By winning you will rank up and receive some Collecta Cards, nothing more.
It is also worth talking about the difficulty. In short, it is adequate and adjustable at various levels; There are 3 main difficulties and you can change them without restrictions. Some objectives will ask you for one in a specific way and naturally you will receive more points when a song is more difficult; the good news is that the game doesn’t force you to play overly complicated songs to get ahead. This is not to say that it is a walk in the park, since the challenge is the best part of rhythm games and Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line more than fulfills this section. Feeling that you improve your speed and precision in each song is very satisfying.
In addition to its controls, this rhythm game stands out for its minimalist design that gives the franchise its identity. Theatrhythm’s concept is based on staging with scenarios where a play comes to life. The protagonists tell a different story in each act and, although they are not faithful to the heroes of the original stories, some distinctive ones can be identified. It is almost as if they were puppets that can change costumes as the case may be, but their emblematic movements go further. You will be able to see it if you look away from the patterns that appear on the screen and watch your characters fight against enemies. By the way, there is a minor detail that can be confusing, since normally each song is themed and takes advantage of the enemies of each game. For example, if it’s Final Fantasy VI, you’ll come across Kefka, but when you eliminate him, Ifrit or Shiva may appear, who don’t belong to that universe. This does not affect the game, but it is curious.
There’s a lot to choose from
The list of songs consents to those of us who have followed Final Fantasy since its origins. If you have a favorite song, chances are you’ll find it here, whether it’s the main line or a spin-off. Of course, it is likely that you will not find some versions; for example, some theme with arrangements of The Black Mages. Also note that songs from other Square-Enix franchises are not included in the base game, but can be purchased as paid DLC. Bundles include The World Ends With You, Chrono Trigger, NieR, and Octopath Traveler, among others. The packages will be arriving little by little and you will be able to purchase them all in the digital deluxe version or separately.
Although the saturation of paid content is evident, the songs included with the base game are enough to entertain you for hours. By the way, there is a great absentee that will not reach Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line; It’s a pity that Kingdom Hearts won’t be part of the game because it has its own musical title… I mean Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory.
Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line’s performance on the Nintendo Switch version (which I played for this review) is good. In the dock and portable mode I was able to play it without complications; in fact, it seems to me that it is more enjoyable in its take-away version. The game was originally designed for portable consoles and its arcade-style format is ideal to play at any time. It is clear that the game is undemanding due to its presentation, but it is important that it does not present problems due to precision issues. Finally, the sound section is essential and the background music is combined with some effects and the sounds of the battle without dirtying the melodies.
Music becomes the protagonist in Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line
Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line is the highest point in a saga aimed at music lovers and those looking to test their skills. At first glance, this potential farewell card is a great package that Final Fantasy fans will appreciate, but it also holds a high status as a rhythm game with well-designed gameplay. Theatrhythm fans may miss the touchscreen format, but the changes are easy to get used to. In addition to these changes, you will find few surprises because it is clear that they wanted to deliver a compilation rather than a different formula. The arcade format makes the main mode and multiplayer feel like an accompaniment due to its simplicity and lack of incentive for casual gamers. On the other hand, if you love Final Fantasy and it’s your thing to test yourself, Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line will give you hours of fun.
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