Theatrhythm Final Bar Line
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 5 (also configurable for PS4, and Nintendo Switch)
Release Date: 16/02/2023
Price: £ 49.99
A code was provided for review purposes
It’s not often that I pick up a demo for a game. I don’t know why. The idea of just playing a teaser feels more frustrating than enjoyable to me. However, I was pulled so heavily towards Theatrhythm Final Bar Line that I just couldn’t help myself. I sunk a lot of hours into the demo – on my Switch – and leapt at the chance to review the game proper.
Final Fantasy has long been a strange series for me. I’ve listened to the soundtracks, and I’ve watched people playing the games, yet, the only title I have ever played was FFXV. So that was naturally where my Theatrhythm Final Bar Line journey began.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the third in a series of Final Fantasy rhythm games. Not including the arcade title that was released in 2016. The previous two versions launched for the Nintendo 3DS and, from what I have seen, followed a very similar course.
The Sounds of a Generation
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is, as the name suggests, a rhythm game set to the various songs from EVERY Final Fantasy game. This game packs so many great songs into its selection that it almost feels wrong. There are 365 songs in the base game and over 90 titles scheduled for DLC, touching on other great Square Enix titles, including Dragon Quest and Live a Live.
Whether you have played the games or not, as gamers, you have invariably encountered a Final Fantasy soundtrack or two through the years. Their songs have a distinct yet varied sound, and playing this game instantly teleports you away into a place of unbridled imagination. There was something special about jamming away to Fight On! (the boss battle music from FF VII). This was the first song I tried on all possible difficulty settings. Likewise, I instantly fell into the rhythm of Apocalypsis Noctis from FFXV.
As a music lover, this game brought everything I could have hoped for and more.
Amazing Visuals That Complimented the Sounds
The main gameplay element in a game like Final Fantasy Final Bar Line is, of course, hitting triggers in time with the beat. However, that hasn’t stopped the dev team from investing time and effort into stunning visuals.
The different final fantasy games have gone through many different art styles over the years, and rather than try to mimic each one, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line adopts a chibi art style that looks great and fits the fun and light nature of the game.
The only sad part is that because you’re so focused on hitting the triggers, you rarely get to sit back and enjoy the actual animations. Thank you, Twitch and Let’s Players.
In fact, the background noise, including fight animations and your summon attacks, can, at times, work against you, providing such a visual distraction you lose focus and, with it, your timing. However, I am fully confident this is an intentional part of the design.
Adjustable Gameplay Kept Things Interesting
One thing I really enjoyed with Theatrhythm Final Bar Line was the way you could adjust the difficulty from track to track. Each track comes with multiple difficulties that really ramp up and test your trigger fingers.
I won’t lie, I played for a while on the basic difficulty, but once I got the hang of things, I enjoyed the challenge of the faster-paced medium levels. I even pushed myself to try the hardest difficulties on some tracks. There was a real sense of enjoyment and achievement in seeing the rainbow-coloured ‘Critical’ flash up when I got a trigger just right.
Interestingly, while the harder difficulties were, at times, impossible – for me – I never felt frustrated by them. When you fail in Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, you know it’s your fault. There are no excuses or anything of the like. Every trigger hit is down to you.
Theoretically, you play each Final Fantasy game in Theatrhythm Final Bar Line. In every FF game, you find a key. This key allows you to unlock another game. Each FF title has a difficulty rating. However, you can play them in any order.
I played FFXV first, as I have the greatest affinity with that title. From there, with my team of Noctis and his battle-hardened buddies, I took on FFVII. Noctis and Cloud were mainstays in my team throughout my playthrough for his review.
Each FF title you play in Theatrhythm Final Bar Line has multiple stages. Each stage is a particular song from that title. Now, my FF knowledge is not fantastic, so I can only assume the songs are in a similar order to the game they came from. Hence why I feel you play each title in the game.
Essentially, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is a game of minigames, as there is no gameplay between stages. Everything is about hitting the triggers in time with the beat. It’s simple and repetitive, yet it never feels that way. At no stage in the game did I think, wow, I’m getting bored now. Every song was different, and once I thought I had it mastered, upping the difficulty delivered a whole new experience.
With 365 songs, and each having at least three difficulties means, there are over 1,000 different experiences. That doesn’t even include the different party configurations and movesets you can equip.
Build the Ultimate Damage Dealing Team
Another thing I loved about playing Theatrhythm Final Bar Line was the ability to play around with my team. You take on each song with a four-man team. Levelling them up as you go. XP is gained for hitting the right triggers with better trigger accuracy rewarding you with more XP.
Starting a new title unlocks new characters associated with that title. However, existing characters carry over. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just keeping your OG group because they have higher levels and deal more damage as a result. Yet, the deeper you go into the game, the more you come to realize that each character brings something different.
Early on,I had great success just going all-out attack. I had four fighting characters and was dealing damage like a savage. However, at the higher difficulties, you really do need diversity. A healer to help when you miss any triggers, a tank unit to absorb the damage and a combination of fighter and magic users.
Additionally, each character has up to four move slots and new moves that unlock every 10 XP levels before they max out at level 99.
Power Up Characters in Different Game Modes
One thing I did find useful was whenever I wanted to introduce a new character to my parts, I would leave the ‘game mode’ or ‘series quests’ and play the ‘music stages’ mode. This mode allows you to play any of the songs you have completed in series quest mode and level up your characters. Music stages were also where I spent a lot of time trying new character combinations and the harder game difficulties.
Collectables for Days!
For those fans of collectables and completionists, this game has a staggering amount of content. I think I am still truly trying to get my head around it.
Alongside the 1000+ song options (including difficulty variations), you have 1225 collectable cards to earn by playing the game. There are also 100 feats that you can achieve – many but not aloof these equate to trophy achievements also.
Online Play For those Brave Enough
I won’t lie; I haven’t played the online mode of Theatrhythm Final Bar Line yet. I am not the biggest fan of online gaming, and given my often random schedule, it doesn’t fit with aligning with others. Also, I am under no illusion that my rhythm skills are any good, and I want to keep a little concept of pride intact. However, it does look like a fun mode, and for those so inclined, it should offer another great wealth of gaming fun.
Final Fantasies about Theatrhythm
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is a blast. There’s no better word to describe it. On its easiest levels, it’s a fun way to spend some time lost in great music. Your reflexes are still tested, and you can enjoy everything the title has to offer. Harder difficulties became an insane button-hammering descent into joyous insanity.
Honestly, I cannot get enough of this game, and I make sure to play at least a few songs every day. Whether you’re a die-hard FF fan, love this genre, love the FF music or are simply looking for a fun new game to try, Theatrhythm Final Bar Line delivers everything you could ask for.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can buy your copy of Theatrhythm Final Bar Line from the PlayStore today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.