Weekly Roundup 07/15/2012

If you like quirky rhythm games and Final Fantasy, Theatrhythm is pretty sweet.

This has been a good week for games. After my vacation I came back to all sorts of fun new releases, and despite a slow start getting back into the swing of things, I’ve enjoyed juggling a handful of new games during the week. The game I’ve been playing the most is Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, which almost feels tailor made for me and my crazy tastes. I love both Elite Beat Agents (and quirky rhythm games in general) and Final Fantasy music, and Theatrhythm is in a lot of ways a combination of the two. The base mechanics have you tap, slide and swipe the stylus in time with the music, all of which is pulled from the core Final Fantasy games. The selection of music isn’t always perfect, but it’s pretty darn close. A lot of my favorites are in there, and there’s a healthy selection of songs (39) available right off the bat. Then there’s unlockable songs, and even DLC if you want to go down that road (I probably won’t). Still, I could see there being 100+ available songs when all’s said and done.

The important thing is not so much the music by itself, but how the mechanics back it up. Elite Beat Agents was so amazing to me because it took a few simple touch screen commands and did a whole lot with them. The result was an intuitive, responsive rhythm game that was easy to learn, but still offered a stiff challenge that made it hard to master. Theatrhythm is similar in a lot of ways, even if it doesn’t always feel quite as responsive as Elite Beat Agents did (but it’s very close). This is mainly with regards to the swipes, especially the ones that aren’t in the four primary cardinal directions. There have been a few times where I swear I’m hitting them right, and it’s not working. Maybe it’s all in my head, who knows? Otherwise the interface for Theatrhythm is fantastic, and makes tapping along with all these great songs a lot of fun.

The intense battle themes make for the game's most exciting moments.

In addition to the rhythm part of the package, Theatrhythm has some light RPG elements sprinkled on top. I’ve only recently started fiddling with them, after playing through every song once without them, and they don’t seem to make that much of a difference. I imagine they’ll be more meaningful on the highest difficulty, so I’ll update on that later. There are also all sorts of other additional modes and goodies that I haven’t touched yet. There’s a surprising amount of content stuffed away here; much more than I can digest in a mere week. What I’ve done so far is play through every song on Normal and Expert difficulties, both in series and challenge mode. If I have one big gripe with the game at the moment it’s that I wish I could have skipped Normal difficulty. I found it way too easy, and given the sheer number of songs in the game it took longer than I would have liked to play them all on normal. I’m not sure what harm there would have been in letting me start on Expert if I wanted, but oh well. That’s not a big deal in the long run. Now that I’ve been playing on Expert for a while, however, I’m loving it even more. It’s a good middle ground difficulty, and some of the songs, primarily the battle themes, are just super fast paced and exciting. I’m really curious to see what happens when I bump it up to Ultimate difficulty, which I’m about ready to do. I feel like shit’s about to get real. So yeah, Theatrhythm’s awesome, and comes highly recommended to any fan of rhythm games who also likes Final Fantasy music.

One of the other things I did this week was check out the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut, and I liked what it did to the ending (I won’t spoil anything). Unlike seemingly everyone else, I was never opposed to the direction of Mass Effect 3’s original ending; any problems I had with it were purely due to poor execution. I feel like the Extended Cut addresses those issues without changing what was already there. It’s a shame that this wasn’t the original ending back in March, as I suspect this will be too little, too late for most. But I still appreciate how it clarifies the ending without rewriting it, and I come away from it wholly satisfied with the conclusion to my Commander Shepard’s story.

Episode 2 only raises the stakes.

The final noteworthy thing I played this week was Episode 2 of The Walking Dead, which I also really liked (told you it was a good week!). If I didn’t feel like Episode 1 gave me quite enough to get invested in the characters and their stories, then Episode 2 certainly did. It does a great job at building on the great writing and characters introduced in that first episode, and manages to raise the stakes in every way. The choices in particular felt weightier, and more genuinely dire and grey in a way that made me actually pause and debate with myself a few times. If I have one substantial complaint it’s that the game doesn’t always let me take the action I really want to take. It’s at those times that I’m reminded that this is a video game, and that I’m still limited by their preset choices. The fact that I feel that way, however, shows just how good of a job the game has done at giving me substantial agency over the story in the first place. The Walking Dead is starting to show a lot of potential as an interactive storytelling experience, and I’m more excited than ever to see what the next episode has in store.

I also played a little bit of Civilization V: Gods & Kings yesterday, but I’ll save that for next week after I’ve played more of it (early prognosis: I like it a lot), and also because I’ve rambled enough today already. The coming week will probably involve mostly that and more Theatrhythm, and maybe another game to be determined if I can work it in. But that’s all for now, until next time!

Currently playing: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Civilization V: Gods & Kings

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Posted by MajorMitch
If you like quirky rhythm games and Final Fantasy, Theatrhythm is pretty sweet.

This has been a good week for games. After my vacation I came back to all sorts of fun new releases, and despite a slow start getting back into the swing of things, I’ve enjoyed juggling a handful of new games during the week. The game I’ve been playing the most is Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, which almost feels tailor made for me and my crazy tastes. I love both Elite Beat Agents (and quirky rhythm games in general) and Final Fantasy music, and Theatrhythm is in a lot of ways a combination of the two. The base mechanics have you tap, slide and swipe the stylus in time with the music, all of which is pulled from the core Final Fantasy games. The selection of music isn’t always perfect, but it’s pretty darn close. A lot of my favorites are in there, and there’s a healthy selection of songs (39) available right off the bat. Then there’s unlockable songs, and even DLC if you want to go down that road (I probably won’t). Still, I could see there being 100+ available songs when all’s said and done.

The important thing is not so much the music by itself, but how the mechanics back it up. Elite Beat Agents was so amazing to me because it took a few simple touch screen commands and did a whole lot with them. The result was an intuitive, responsive rhythm game that was easy to learn, but still offered a stiff challenge that made it hard to master. Theatrhythm is similar in a lot of ways, even if it doesn’t always feel quite as responsive as Elite Beat Agents did (but it’s very close). This is mainly with regards to the swipes, especially the ones that aren’t in the four primary cardinal directions. There have been a few times where I swear I’m hitting them right, and it’s not working. Maybe it’s all in my head, who knows? Otherwise the interface for Theatrhythm is fantastic, and makes tapping along with all these great songs a lot of fun.

The intense battle themes make for the game's most exciting moments.

In addition to the rhythm part of the package, Theatrhythm has some light RPG elements sprinkled on top. I’ve only recently started fiddling with them, after playing through every song once without them, and they don’t seem to make that much of a difference. I imagine they’ll be more meaningful on the highest difficulty, so I’ll update on that later. There are also all sorts of other additional modes and goodies that I haven’t touched yet. There’s a surprising amount of content stuffed away here; much more than I can digest in a mere week. What I’ve done so far is play through every song on Normal and Expert difficulties, both in series and challenge mode. If I have one big gripe with the game at the moment it’s that I wish I could have skipped Normal difficulty. I found it way too easy, and given the sheer number of songs in the game it took longer than I would have liked to play them all on normal. I’m not sure what harm there would have been in letting me start on Expert if I wanted, but oh well. That’s not a big deal in the long run. Now that I’ve been playing on Expert for a while, however, I’m loving it even more. It’s a good middle ground difficulty, and some of the songs, primarily the battle themes, are just super fast paced and exciting. I’m really curious to see what happens when I bump it up to Ultimate difficulty, which I’m about ready to do. I feel like shit’s about to get real. So yeah, Theatrhythm’s awesome, and comes highly recommended to any fan of rhythm games who also likes Final Fantasy music.

One of the other things I did this week was check out the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut, and I liked what it did to the ending (I won’t spoil anything). Unlike seemingly everyone else, I was never opposed to the direction of Mass Effect 3’s original ending; any problems I had with it were purely due to poor execution. I feel like the Extended Cut addresses those issues without changing what was already there. It’s a shame that this wasn’t the original ending back in March, as I suspect this will be too little, too late for most. But I still appreciate how it clarifies the ending without rewriting it, and I come away from it wholly satisfied with the conclusion to my Commander Shepard’s story.

Episode 2 only raises the stakes.

The final noteworthy thing I played this week was Episode 2 of The Walking Dead, which I also really liked (told you it was a good week!). If I didn’t feel like Episode 1 gave me quite enough to get invested in the characters and their stories, then Episode 2 certainly did. It does a great job at building on the great writing and characters introduced in that first episode, and manages to raise the stakes in every way. The choices in particular felt weightier, and more genuinely dire and grey in a way that made me actually pause and debate with myself a few times. If I have one substantial complaint it’s that the game doesn’t always let me take the action I really want to take. It’s at those times that I’m reminded that this is a video game, and that I’m still limited by their preset choices. The fact that I feel that way, however, shows just how good of a job the game has done at giving me substantial agency over the story in the first place. The Walking Dead is starting to show a lot of potential as an interactive storytelling experience, and I’m more excited than ever to see what the next episode has in store.

I also played a little bit of Civilization V: Gods & Kings yesterday, but I’ll save that for next week after I’ve played more of it (early prognosis: I like it a lot), and also because I’ve rambled enough today already. The coming week will probably involve mostly that and more Theatrhythm, and maybe another game to be determined if I can work it in. But that’s all for now, until next time!

Currently playing: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Civilization V: Gods & Kings

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Good write-up. I'd like to pick up Theatrhythm when it comes up on sale or drops in price, as it looks like it's not only worth it for nostalgia's sake, but for playability too. Gotta admit I didn't think much of it from the previews, but from what you and everyone else has been saying, it looks like a pretty sweet game.

Gods and Kings is fantastic. I've sunk about 40-50 hours into playing as the Ethiopians and... hmmm... I want to say the Mayans, but I'm not sure that's right. Bah, doesn't matter. The point is, the reintroduction of religion adds a ton of depth and flavor to the mid and late game, and espionage is just icing on the cake. Doesn't hurt either that most of the new civs are intriguing as all hell.

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Posted by MajorMitch

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Thanks! I was a little wary of Theatrhythm when I first saw it too, but it turned out pretty well methinks. I'm enjoying it at least :)

I played some Gods & Kings this weekend as well, as Byzantium, and I'm definitely digging religion being back. It works differently than it did in Civ IV, but I think this way fits very well with Civ V's systems. Certainly adds another interesting (and potentially powerful) wrinkle! I haven't gotten far enough to fiddle much with espionage, but so far it seems neat too. Definitely wanting to play more of it!

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

With certain, non-expansive civs like Ethiopia, religion makes a cultural victory a powerful, powerful option with the right combination of religions abilities. I used it in a three city victory with Ethiopia, focusing on rapid religious expansion and religious buildings, and it worked wonders to help rapidly boost my early game. And once you get to the point where you can purchase artists with religious points through the right culture tree, it's practically game over by that point. In any case, enjoy it!

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Edited by radaxian

Hey just found your blog (via your Top Spin 4 review as it happens) and have really enjoyed going back and reading some of your weekly roundup posts. Good reading and is the sort of thing I need to start doing. Plus our taste in games seems roughly on par. Keep it up. Thanks - John

Posted by MajorMitch

@radaxian: Thanks duder! I feel like it's an simple but effective way to kind of express my random video game related thoughts. I like doing it at least. Interesting that Top Spin 4 brought you here. That game is rad, but not super popular. Have you played it?

Posted by radaxian

@MajorMitch: Nah I haven't played it. The idea of a decent tennis game appeals to me as I haven't played one since Andre Agassi Tennis on the Sega Master System in the early 1990s. I was actually searching around for feedback on the PS Move support in the game as I was given a Move and haven't found any games that appeal. Looks like the Move support is average sadly.