Out of all the wonderful traits the Final Fantasy series brings to the gaming world, its music is quite arguably its most influential. From the menacing beats of Final Fantasy VII’s One-Winged Angel to Final Fantasy V’s carefree Mambo de Chocobo, the franchise has always used an emotion-rich soundtrack to seat players close to each instalment’s protagonists.
While Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call might not be the first to use these songs to create a rhythm game that draws in series fans, it is certainly the title that’s done it best.
Curtain Call is the second (and last, according to producer Ichiro Hazama) Theatrhythm to grace the Nintendo 3DS screen, as the first title dropped in 2012 to mark Final Fantasy’s 25th anniversary. The premise is simple enough, in that it has the player assemble a team of their four favorite FF characters in order to collect enough “rhythmia” to stop the evil forces of Chaos, a villain who made his debut in the Dissidia franchise. The only way to earn this mysterious power comes from playing and beating the songs in the game, which originate from well-known FF titles like Final Fantasy VII all the way to lesser-known iterations like *gasp* Final Fantasy Mystic Quest.
Songs are played by tapping the screen with a stylus to the beat of each song and on-screen indicators will tell you how to groove. You have to perform either a tap, slide, or hold the stylus to the screen. After you understand and are comfortable with the basics of performing the actions, you can start effortlessly collecting rhythmia. Even if you’re not that great, players of all skill levels can join in as basic, advanced and ultimate difficulties cater to all skill levels while still engaging each crowd.
Not only does rhythmia help you rid the world of evil, but it also allows you to level up your characters, obtain rare items and unlock more songs and characters. It’s basically a big game of win-win situations, as not only are the songs incredible and a blast to play, but they also give you the tools to make your experience infinitely more enjoyable.
The more you level up characters, the more enemies you’ll be able to defeat in each song, which yields better item drops. These items act the same as they would in any FF game, as they can heal, teach abilities to and multiply experience for your characters. It’s a nearly never-ending cycle of entertainment, as even when your characters reach level 99, they can have their level reset in exchange for more points to equip better abilities. If that’s not good enough for you, the option to throw together a new team of all-stars to level up is a great way to experience the game in a new way.
However, even if the combat becomes stale, players are still able to experience songs in two other ways. Songs are broken up into three categories: battle music sequence, or BMS, is the most common and has the player squaring off against recognisable baddies. Event music sequences show cutscenes of the game the song represents, and are the rarest in the game. Field music sequences, meanwhile, show one character in the party traversing FF terrains, gaining speed and finding treasure in line with how well the song is performed. While BMS and FMS yield treasure, rhythmia and experience, EMS only gives the latter two.
In this, Theatrhythm creates a sturdy base that will keep players furiously tapping away on their screens for hours. Curtain Call, however, takes this addictive idea miles further. Not only does it bring more songs, enemies, items, playable characters, environments and general content to the table, but it adds a much needed wifi multiplayer feature and quest mode. Wifi mode is great as it allows Curtain Call tappers from across the globe to face off against each other with their best teams and exchange information. It also allows players to give each other “inherited” maps which can be then played in the single player portion.
This brings up quest mode. In quest mode, the same four-man squads will travel across a map populated by different songs to eventually beat a final boss. The maps vary in size, difficulty and rarity of treasure drops. So, if you found a map that had you fighting a specific type of enemy that dropped a rare item, you could then transfer the same map to a friend who was in desperate need of said item. This is a great way to bring together players not only for competitive, but cooperative reasons as well.
Without spoiling too many of the game’s surprises, there is a ton of content packed into this $40 game. Theatrhythmers (I had to try) can customize their team, abilities, online profile and even the sound their taps make when they touch the screen. So much was upgraded from the first instalment that it’s very obvious Square Enix listened to the fans when they made Curtain Call. Songs can even be played differently as the title offers the use of the buttons, joystick and left shoulder button without having to switch any type of control settings. There’s a one-handed mode for players bold enough to text and tap; no idea was left on the cutting board for this one.
All returning players will be happy to know that there are several more characters to choose from and almost three times the amount of songs there was in the first game, from around 70 to more than 220 in Curtain Call. The only downside to this is that some DLC songs from the original Theatrhythm come free in this game, so it will leave a somewhat sour taste in the mouth of those who potentially ponied up an additional $40 in the original game, only to realize the exclusive songs they bought now come at no extra charge. DLC options have also expanded in this game, with already 50 songs and seven characters released to Japan so far. There are even songs from outside of Final Fantasy, such as the four from the Romancing Saga series.
The only semi-complaint I could muster up is that songs are somewhat quiet coming out of the 3DS’s speakers when there is any type of outside noise. This can make accurate tapping a bit of a pain, but nothing that a pair of headphones can’t solve.
Bottom line is, if you’ve never touched this franchise, download the demo and give it a try. If you like it to any degree, you’ll love Curtain Call in its entirety. If you owned the first Theatrhythm and liked it, you probably already have the sequel and agree with most—if not all—of what I’ve written. If not, for the love of Mog, go pick it up! This is the complete and total fan service package from Square Enix; don’t let it pass you by.