Theatrhythm Final Bar Line – Game Review


Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

(available for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, Switch version used for the review)

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the new entry in the franchise celebrating Square Enix Music through a music rhythm game. It also celebrates Final Fantasy’s 35th anniversary by creating a collection of songs that is massive and spread throughout the entire franchise’s history.

The game has moved from Nintendo DS to the bigger consoles, but has lost the touchscreen aspect; everything is now done using the trigger buttons, the A button in the Switch version and the analogue stick for directions. It’s a very basic rhythm game, you get more points depending on how on-beat the note you’re meant to be hitting lands, but in this case in the backdrop of several caricatures of various Final Fantasy characters that you unlock throughout the game and can level up to increase their strength and magic abilities as well as other stats. This will also be useful during online multiplayer when you are battling other people.

The battles are done in the background for the most part, and the speed at which you can defeat several opponents is dependent on how you level up your characters. Several abilities will come in handy, particularly ones that will help when you’re struggling with some songs. I recommend levelling up Prompto from FFXV since he comes with an ability that heals your party when you’re at 15% health. While you will have access to traditional FF items like potions etc, that ability will come in very useful when you’re playing some songs on hard difficulty.

The game doesn’t punish you if you want to play it on lower difficulties. It doesn’t lock any songs or characters behind certain difficulties. If you’re doing a series quest and want to lower the difficulty for one song, you absolutely can. That being said, there are many ways to unlock all of the songs. You can play series quests which see you play the songs in the order that they appear in the games, the backdrops often change for each of the songs depending on what the scenario in the game was.

If you’re like me and are a massive fan of Square Enix franchises and Final Fantasy, this game is a dream come true as it is a massive celebration of the music and franchises as a whole. It’s an absolutely excellent selection of songs and the gameplay is really good fun too.

PROS

  • Gameplay

I already explained how the basic gameplay works, notes are hit using your choice of the left or right trigger buttons as well as either the D-pad or the A button depending on your console. You also have to occasionally hold a note which requires having another hand free to hit other notes simultaneously. You’ll gain a letter rank depending on how well you do on each song, from F being the weakest to A, the highest rank possible being SSS, which usually requires getting a perfect chain which requires missing no notes and hitting the notes on perfect beat. I only had a couple of SSS-ranked songs during my playthrough, the only major one I got was the theme of Final Fantasy 12.

The gameplay itself is a genuinely good single-player game. I lost a lot of time trying to improve my score with several of my favourite songs, and getting through all of the series quests was really good fun, especially because I was unlocking more and more characters along the way.

It was really nice rediscovering these games through the music. I don’t know how the game worked at launch and whether you could pick any series quest from the start since I purchased the demo version which only came with some music from FF2, 5, 7, 13, 14, and 15. It did save my progress when I started the main game but I wasn’t able to immediately go and play FF9 music like I wanted to (I’m a big FF9 fan and it has probably my favourite music in the entire series) since I had to complete other series quests before I coil unlock those. You won’t have to complete series quests all of the time in order to get more songs, you get a key to unlock another series every time you can beat 3 songs in a series quest, and you can immediately duck out of that series quest to start another one.

Series quests also add an extra level of challenge, for example, beating a song without using healing items or taking damage. It kind of varies but you can easily figure out how you’re going to achieve this since the challenge doesn’t vary depending on which difficulty you’re playing at.

It’s also not the only way to unlock songs, you can also just play songs on the music stage and when you’re done the game comes up with recommendations of other songs to play – if you see one with an exclamation mark, you can pick that song which is one that you haven’t played before and is random. If you beat that song without failing you will unlock it to play at any time.

On top of that, you will also unlock songs whilst playing multiplayer. When I played some multiplayer with my friend from America we ended up unlocking songs for each other by playing songs that the other one had picked. I got a lot of FF14 songs unlocked because my friend had played those during his playthrough.

The multiplayer is also excellent because it comes with several options, you can play with Mario Kart style items in the mix to even up the mix or you can see who gets the best score. You can also tell what the rooms are depending on difficulty and whether items are on and off. You’ll have to look out for rage-quitters closing the entire room; if the original host leaves the room it will automatically hand over to a new host to wait for other players. Multiplayer has been good fun, my only issue has been that some people duck out way too soon. I personally prefer playing the game with items on, since it won me a few games at the last minute.

Multiplayer functions really well, I’ve been playing with people in America and Japan and the game has run very smoothly, considering the type of game that this is it really needed to work.

  • Song selection

I love the song selection in this game. Almost no game has been left unaccounted for, and some of the most obscure games are featured here! I never thought that Square Enix would include F|inal Fantasy Mystic Quest, but here we are. Almost all of the major songs from each game are featured. There are very few misses from each franchise. No matter what game you like, your favourite song should be here. I also like the fact that not only are there lots of songs here, but there’s lots of different remixes too. There are three versions of One-Winged Angel here: the original, the advent children version, and the one from the remake.

The remake being here actually surprised me considering that all of the songs are just remade versions from FF7.

What puzzles me slightly is some of the choices for songs that were included in the deluxe version. I get that you’d need to deal with licensing issues for some songs like Eyes on Me and Melodies of Life; but why is the Zanarkand Theme from FF10 locked behind a paywall? That’s just wrong considering how unimportant a song to FF10 is.

MIXED

  • Completionism

If you want to go for 100% in this game it will mean that you have an excuse to play all of those songs all over again. You have to get all of the trading cards as well as all of the airships etc. Fortunately, there are no microtransactions in this game, which is brilliant. You can make up your mind about the summons considering that they come in different varieties, and I would not go out of your way to make a checklist of every single summon and every single rarity, if you’re going to 100%, just get one of each.

While you can do some series quests to get certain items, it’s mostly just random. This is particularly the case with trading cards. The most efficient way to get them is through the multiplayer since you get one after every single match- but if you want one in particular, the onus is on your opponents not picking the card before you, especially if you didn’t beat them in that song. For example, if I need the gold Vivi card for my collection and I didn’t come first in that song, it’s on the other person who beat me to not pick that card or else I have to wait for it to come around again.

The completionist aspect does give a good reason for replay, but the random aspect to it means that it might be a bit of a nightmare trying to go for 100%.

  • Video Stages

The videos that you can unlock in this are cool and celebrate the history of Final Fantasy very well, and they replicate the team’s previous efforts with the Kingdom Hearts game Melody of Memories which used footage of Kingdom Hearts 3 as an overlay for the songs in that game since the Nintendo Switch wasn’t powerful enough to render models used in that game.

They did that for this game but most of the songs and videos for this game I found were ones that you could get in the gameplay normally. There’s nothing really wrong with the gameplay style used for this game, but you won’t really want to be playing a rhythm game while trying to watch a music video simultaneously. Fortunately, all of the videos are unlocked and are in the gallery, so you can view them at any time.

CONS

  • Missing songs

I said that the song selection is great, and it is, especially considering that they will be adding more as DLC, we’ve already seen it on launch day as songs from Romancing Saga were added as well as Live a Live songs too, and songs from The World Ends With You coming down the line also, which you’ll get automatically on launch day if you’ve bought the premium version.

However, there are some missing songs which made me go, you’ve put this much effort into including these, why not go a little further? I wasn’t expecting some songs to show up here like the Florence and the Machine version of Stand By Me (which is the theme of Final Fantasy 15) since that would have been tied up in so much licencing that it wouldn’t have been worth it, but there are a few songs that I wish were here and I don’t think are going to show up in future updates. One of my favourite songs in FF9 is Eternal Harvest is missing, which really sucks.

There are also not many remixes or versions of the Chocobo theme, they included the FF2 version which, yes, for historical purposes it’s a great one to put in since it’s the first one, but it’s the worst version of the theme!

There are no songs from Chocobo GP which is one of the most recent spin-off games, which is very perplexing considering the game only came out only a year ago and they must still have that music lying around, plus it had some really good remixes!

I also don’t like the fact that the song selection is cut in half for online multiplayer. The game is split into battle songs and traversing songs. Traversing songs are not too different, the only difference is that at some point you’re going to be holding notes whilst moving the analogue stick up and down depending on the direction of how the note is taking you. All of those songs are cut from online multiplayer! If you want to play the Golden Saucer theme then too bad because it’s single-player only. If you paid a lot of money to get Melodies of Life in the deluxe version, too bad! Melodies of Life is a travel song and you won’t be able to play it.

The song selection is also bad for people with online multiplayer. For example, say you didn’t want to buy the deluxe version right now but your friend has. You can’t then play the songs that they have on that version, which means that if you want to hear Reel of Motion from FF10 you have to put in the money for the deluxe.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line has some issues but man, did I enjoy it. This has been one of my favourite rhythm games that I have enjoyed in recent memory, the gameplay is excellent and I love the selection of music that it brings. I wish that the song selection wasn’t cut in half for online multiplayer, and it’s a little too random with its collectables.

Despite the fact that it isn’t the best-looking game, it’s a game that I enjoyed playing. I didn’t talk about the art style but I think that the puppet-like versions of the characters have a real charm to them. If you love Final Fantasy, you owe it to yourself to get this game. It’s only going to get better as the year goes on. This is a game where I nearly missed stops on my train journeys because I was so into it, and I think this will be another one of my general relaxing games for my downtime.

Final Score: 9.1/10

Calvin
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.

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The Next Axia10th July 2024
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