Tag Archives: rhythm game

Final Fantasy: Theatrhythm

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.

Chip’s Thoughts

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?

FFTheatrhythmAt 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.

LockeBeneath 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!

DistantWorldsBack 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?

Laura’s Thoughts

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.


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Puma, Gitaroo!

Let me fill you in on a little secret: I hate listening to the radio.  I am honestly surprised that in our world of super accessible music, public radio has not died out as a media form.  Outside of tuning in to NPR or a sports broadcast, I see no reason to waste your time listening to the same 15 minutes of overplayed crap interspersed between a barrage of obnoxious commercials and humorless DJs.  It is due to my disdain of the radio that I have grown to rely on the magic of mix tapes to fill the silence.

GitarooFlyingOOver the course of my life, I have made over 51 different CD mixes, all of which I have retained in some format.  These discs of joy now serve as a catalog of my eclectic taste as it evolved from “music my parents enjoy” to “rebellious punk banter” to “heavy metal anger” to “whatever noise appeals to my aging ears.”  Along the way, I have discovered that Nick Hornby was right; there is an exact science to the ebb and flow of a mix.  One cannot just throw songs together on a compact disc and call it a day.  The same delicate method should be applied when crafting the soundtrack to a rhythm game.

GuitarHeroSetlistThe common path of a rhythm game is to allow the player to unlock increasingly difficult bundles of songs as he/she completes a previous tier to satisfaction.  In video game circles, this is a tried and true method of game progression.  A player should not feel overwhelmed by the options, and the game difficulty should rise as the player’s skill increases over time.  But the rhythm game is a special creature, a wonderful mix of music and game that should stand somewhere between the two media; a hybrid of forms with all of the joy and none of the fluff.

Since many of the newer rhythm games rely on previously released music for the soundtrack, it is difficult to establish the proper “mix tape flow” while offering the player enough content to remain engaged in the fantasy of being a rock/dance star.  Older rhythm games often miss the flow by trying to fit the music around a story, or by limiting the soundtrack to one musical genre.  But one strange little game came along in 2001 that managed to present an interesting plot with a solid soundtrack that makes for a great mix tape.

GitarooManGuitar?Gitaroo Man tells the story of U-1, a young boy who despite his best efforts to impress the opposite sex, is constantly berated by his peers and barely even noticed by his dream girl.  The boy’s luck dramatically changes when he discovers that not only can his dog speak, his canine companion is actually a robot who is housing the Last Gitaroo, a musical artifact from a distant planet.  The boy and his dog travel to the Planet Gitaroo and use the power of music to liberate the planet’s citizens from an evil tyrant.  Within this very odd coming-of-age story lies the recipe for a perfect mix.  Click along with the tracks and observe:

1st Track: Start off with some kind of an intro; a bit of a heads-up as to what sort of commitment the listener is getting into.  A movie quote or piece of dialogue often works well.

2nd Track: Time to tap into the nostalgia fountain.  Classic rock is great here – a catchy riff with memorable lyrics with which to sing along.  This song should ease the listener into the mix.

3rd Track: Upbeat and fast paced music to get the blood pumping.  A fun and odd song with high tempo, maybe some J-Pop or Euro-Techno; the sort of music to which one can exercise.

4th Track: Hmm, might have gone too far with the last track, time to scale things back a bit.  Drop some funky jazz on the listener.  A song with soul to calm the nerves.

5th Track: By now, they should be hooked, so toss in a throw-away song.  Maybe some experimental house music or electronic reggae to mix things up.  Chances are the listener will skip this track, so don’t agonize over the selection.

6th Track: The listener may be craving something deeper, more profound, so here comes the ballad.  A wistful song, with the sort of vague emotion and ambiguous meaning that could be applied to any transitional period of life.  Probably full of acoustic guitar.

7th Track: This should be the apex of the mix.  A powerhouse song with a beat that will infect the listener’s every movement with a slight rhythm until he/she has no choice but to dance their heart out.

8th Track: Keep the dial on eleven as you drop in with a heavy metal powerhouse.  Something over the top and filled with complexity that the listener will be left in awe of the raw talent on display.

9th Track: This may be the most difficult selection of the entire mix.  You need to somehow tie together all of the emotion the listener has experienced, but present something new at the same time.  Maybe a more empowered song from an earlier artist, to provide familiarity with a twist.

10th Track: The second to last song needs to be very intense; a sort of crescendo to the entire mix.  Rapid guitar solos, rolling lyrics, maybe even overwhelming notes should be the focus of this track.

11th Track: The final track can be handled in two fashions.  You can play a very wistful and emotive song to leave the listener in a contemplative mood.  These sorts of songs are very dependent on the mood of the listener; end on a dour note and he/she may never want to hear the mix again.  But if you close with a light-hearted tune, the kind of song that would be ideal at the end of a movie from the 90s, the listener will leave on a positive note, wanting to return to the mix for more joy in the future.

Now you know the secret recipe to creating the perfect mix tape.  Go forth and spread the good news: you no longer have to suffer under the tyranny of public radio.  Gitaroo Man has once again saved the day!

(Many thanks to Youtube user BeanyOne for these excellent Gitaroo Man videos.)

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Touch Screen Beats

DJMAX Technika (arcade)

IMG_2392I did not like this game. Don’t misunderstand, it’s worth playing. It isn’t a bad game. I’m just a very sore loser. In my defense, this game is significantly harder and more complex than it looked. I think there is a vast network of complexity to DJMAX Technika that I was not able to experience because I couldn’t make it through even one song properly. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but it is overwhelming.

The game uses two HD displays: A lower touch screen which you, the player, uses to play the game, and an upper screen, which is there for spectators to view your humiliation. There are various mixing modes, which affect the difficulty and how many songs the player can access. Basically, the song plays and a timeline moves across the touch screen and the player taps the screen accordingly. The note system is pretty simple:


    • Note: Tap the note once when the crosses the center of the note.
    • Long Note [Holding]: Touch note and hold until the end.
    • Long Note [Dragging]: Touch and drag the circular note along the path while keep pace with the timeline.
    • Chain Note: Hit all notes when the line passes over them.
    • Repeat Note: Press the note and hold. Tap again when the line crosses the arrows.

This doesn’t seem quite so daunting until the notes are all there at once and the tempo is set to “hummingbird heartbeat”. The mode I played might have been set too high. Yup. That’s it.

Reflec Beat (iOS and Android)
IMG_7128A game I would more happily recommend is Reflec Beat. One, it’s portable. Two, it’s free (kind of). The game uses a similar note system to DJ Technika. In many ways, these are the same game, but in many more ways they are not. For starters, Reflec Beat is a bit more forgiving to first-time users. Second, it’s a competitive game so you can get another person in on the action, to help bolster your self-esteem. Unlike the former, where the goal is to show off and rack up a high score, the objective of Reflec Beat is to attack your opponent and deflect their attacks. It takes some getting used to, but it does become very fun, very quickly.

  • Gold Note: bounces to the opposite direction if it is touched on the line.
  • Black Note disappears when touched.
  • Long Note: touch and hold until the note is finished.
  • Chain Note: Just like DJMAX Technika’s “Chain Note”. Tap
  • 2TOP Note [MEDIUM and HARD difficulty]: tap note when it overlaps the receptors on the side of the screen.

I won’t lie– I only know all of this because I just looked it up on Wikipedia. I don’t really bother with the strategy of the game; I just frantically tap the iPad like a cat at a goldfish tank. But Reflec Beat such an interesting take on the classic rhythm game that I definitely recommend at least trying it. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

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