Game: Final Fantasy: Theatrhythm
Released: Square-Enix, July 3, 2012
System: Nintendo 3DS
Game started: July 5th, 2012/January 25th, 2013
Amount completed: (Chip) Played every song in the Series Mode, currently at 30,000 Rhythmia, already downloaded songs from the DLC Store, generally obsessed. (Laura) Just finished Final Fantasy I through VII, quite done with this for now.
Whenever I hear a classic song from a video game, I will have a sort of flashback; a recollection of the happy times spent playing those games. I come down with a chronic case of the warm fuzzies, and my mood brightens as a result. Many longstanding game series rely on this nostalgia effect to interest and hold the attention of veteran game-players. But can a developer hope to make an entire game based around tapping into these happy memories?
At first glance, this is exactly what Square-Enix hopes to accomplish with Final Fantasy Theatrhythm. The player is presented with a sampler pack of the best (read: most popular) music from Final Fantasy I through XIII. Every title initially features three songs to play, each of a different game type: Field Music, Battle Songs, and Event Pieces. A visual cue from the parent game accompanies each type of song, which serves to enhance the nostalgia effect. For example, as you cry your eyes out (admit it) to “Celes Theme” from FFVI, classic scenes from the in-game opera will play in the background.
Beneath all of the rampant fan-service lies a solid rhythm game rather similar to Elite Beat Agents in gameplay, but with a fun RPG twist. Before playing any of the songs, the player constructs a party of four heroes, composed of characters from across the Final Fantasy universe. As you rhythmically tap away at your 3DS, your heroes level up, unlock new abilities to succeed at higher difficulties, find new items while traveling, and earn Rhythmia points to unlock new characters and songs. That’s right kids, now you can level-grind in a rhythm game, yay!
Back in July 2010, Laura and I attended a concert known as Distant Worlds at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA. The show was performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, and featured most of the music that is included in Theatrhythm. Since I had grown up playing the Final Fantasy series, I was sure to love the show. But Laura had not played any of these games before FFXIII, so I was eager to share this experience with her. Thanks to a set list overflowing with classic tunes, and a stirring vocal performance of the Opera from FFVI, we had a wonderful night, save for the hell of trying to get out of the Wolf Trap parking lot.
Since that time, I have not had the chance to expose Laura to any more of the Final Fantasy series, so I am eager to hear her thoughts on Theatrhythm. What must it be like to play a game that relies on strong and happy memories when the player has no experience from which to draw?
Final Fantasy was not part of my childhood. I didn’t come into the series until Final Fantasy XIII and I’ll be honest, I didn’t even get very far. So it shouldn’t surprise you that I don’t really value the music as much as my friends do. At concerts when Final Fantasy music is covered (and dammit are there a lot of Final Fantasy covers), my friends listen teary-eyed and enraptured by the songs of their youth, while I wait patiently for the artists to play anything else.
I’ll be honest, this game (while super-cute) didn’t exactly unearth some long-hidden love for Final Fantasy music that I had simply repressed and buried all these years. If you don’t like the music to begin with, this game won’t change that. The ballads are still the worst, and they aren’t improved by the Event levels. But the battle music and walking songs are nice, and the little sprites are ADORABLE. It is certainly a fun game and I definitely recommend it.
The real strength of this game is that each level can serve as an extremely condensed version of the game it represents. So, if you have been dying to share the story of your favorite game in the series, go ahead and foist this game upon your loved ones. Let them play the levels for your beloved games. With a bit of encouragement and a bit of insight and you may stand a chance of getting them to play their longer counterparts.