You Need To Play the Cutest Rhythm Game Ever ASAP
A Final Fantasy festival.
From the vibrant symphonic opening cutscene, it’s clear that Theatryhthm Final Bar Line celebrates the legacy of the Final Fantasy series, and boy does it do that well. Final Bar Line is absolutely stuffed with content to play through, and it’s all accentuated by an adorable art style that practically makes the game pop off the screen. Your mileage with the game will obviously vary depending on how much nostalgia you have for Final Fantasy, but even if you’re simply a fan of rhythm games, Final Bar Line is easily one of the most ambitious ever made.
Final Bar Line is technically the fifth Theatrhythm game, following two entries on the 3DS, a Dragon Quest spinoff, and a Japan-only arcade game in 2016. It’s hard to imagine the series going anywhere from here, however, as Final Bar Line essentially perfects the formula to a high sheen.
Like most rhythm games, the core gameplay of Theatrhythm revolves around hitting buttons in time to the music, as icons run along a track. Previous games in the series used control schemes entirely based around touch controls, but Final Bar Line switches things up to a button interface, and it by and large feels great. The controls take a bit of getting used to, but before long you’ll be using the control sticks to hit slide notes and directionals without a second thought. Square Enix has clearly put a lot of thought into how Final Bar Line plays with a controller, and there are a wealth of customization options for players of all skill sets.
Each song has three or four different difficulty modes that control the number of notes you’ll need to hit, and there are three control options on top of that. Pair lets two players do the same song with two controllers, single simplifies things to where you only use a single button, and Standard is just what it sounds like. All of these options let you fine-tune the difficulty to be as hard or easy as you want, so you never feel the pressure of not being good enough at rhythm.
The number of songs offered in Final Bar Line clocks in at a staggering 385, split across all of the mainline entries and a handful of spinoffs. It’s a tremendous offering that can keep you busy for hours on end, but you won’t have everything unlocked at the start.
Final Bar Line’s main new mode is Series Quests, where you play through each series and “relive” the game through their music. It can initially be a little disappointing that you don’t have everything unlocked from the beginning, but Final Bar Line’s incredible attention to detail more than makes up for it.
Music is broken up into Field Tracks which see your cute little chibi characters running across the world, and Battle Tracks, which have your party fighting a series of enemies. Remarkably every single Battle Track features a different background environment from its game and typically has unique enemies from the said game as well. Field Tracks occasionally reuse environments but still bring a lot of visual variety as well. The sheer visual variety is astounding, and it’s great fun to see all these iconic areas from across the Final Fantasy series.
Equally impressive is the thought put into your chibi characters, all of which feel exceptionally detailed and different. Playing through cheery music while Squall moodily scowls is hilarious, especially when you put Seifer and his cocky grin behind him. Characters gain experience from songs and unlock abilities they can use, all of which are themed to their respective games. Leveling them up high enough unlocks flashy special attacks like Cloud’s Omnislash or Noctis’ Armiger. There are over 100 characters to choose from, each with their own special moves, which creates a second sense of progression alongside unlocking new songs.
Past that each of your pre-selected parties can equip a summon, airship, and moogle, and you’ll unlock more of these as you gain Rythmia points from playing songs. All of these little cosmetics add a ton of charm to the visual experience of Theatrhythm, and each character has taglines they throw out occasionally, which can lead to some hilarious moments.
For example, I finished playing a cheery Chocobo theme just to have Vincent from Final Fantasy VII exclaim “Let me sleep...” Another moment saw Noctis launch his special move right as the song ended, with my Vivi then throwing out an awkward “Um...” as if he was commenting on the timing. Whether intentional or not, these lines lead to some great emergent humor.
Final Bar Line also features a brand-new mode called Multi Battle, where you face off against another player. In this mode, you have a gauge that fills as you do well and, when full, is used to unleash special attacks against your opponent, like filling their screen with Fat Chocobos that make it hard to see. This multiplayer mode ups the chaos of some already intense songs, and creates a fun spin on the core formula of Theatrhythm.
What’s truly impressive about Final Bar Line is the thought and care put into each aspect. Gameplay has been tuned to appeal to newcomers and veterans, and Final Fantasy fans will find countless little references and nods from across the series. The amount of detail put into songs even from newer games, like Stranger of Paradise, is impressive, and it ultimately creates one of the most robust rhythm game experiences ever made. Everything about Theatrythm Final Bar Line creates a joyful experience that could melt the heart of even the most staunch cynics.
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