Tapping Our Way Down Memory Lane
We all have our favorites. Whether it's "Aerith's Theme" or "Defiers Of Fate", no other video game series connects on an audible level the way Final Fantasy does. You might hate the gameplay in XII or dislike the voice acting in X, but one constant remains true throughout the twenty five year history of this giant franchise...the music stays with you. Nearly thirteen years after beating Final Fantasy VIII, I can still, on cue, hum the battle victory theme. It only makes sense then, for Square Enix to pay homage to the franchise's music and to celebrate these tracks in a very non traditional new Final Fantasy game.
Theatrhythm ()pronounced Theater-Rhythm), is an fun RPG lite, rhythm game that features over 60 of the series' greatest songs. The initial introduction to the game has you picking a team of four Chibi styled characters from the series first twelve games. Heroes like Cecil, Lightning, Tidus and Squall each have slightly different stats ranging from stronger attacks to more health points, all very simple RPG elements that truly don't have any affect on the game early on. Your four adorable chilbis are then taken through a wonderful little trip down memory lane. Picking a specific Final Fantasy title, you are then thrown into that game's world, complete with authentic background visuals, battle scenes, movie events and of course, the music. The game is played by tapping and dragging your stylus over colored spheres which represent select beat and melodies throughout each song. "Field" music challenges are based on the over world segments from each Final Fantasy. These involve your characters traveling from one end of the field to the other while tapping along with the music. If you are successful at chaining together enough consecutive notes, you might be rewarded with a prize, usually a potion or other RPG item to take with you into the next phase of the game. "Battle" challenges are reminiscent of the old school, 2D battles in Final Fantasy 1-9, Your team of four engages enemies, trading blows by successfully hitting the correct notes. Miss a note and your team takes damage, hit a note and your party attacks the enemy. There are even adorable chibi style Summons characters that appear when enough special notes are successfully performed. The gameplay here is fresh and upbeat and on higher difficulties, provides a great test to even the most musical/rhythm oriented minds. The last part of each chapter is an "Event" challenge which usually features the same note tapping/dragging mechanic while classic cutscenes from each game are shown underneath. Unforgettable moments like Squall and Rinoa's waltz from Final Fantasy VIII play out beautifully while you tap your way through the lush orchestral score.
As you progress through each chapter, more difficult challenge stages open up as well an intense Chaos Shrine mode which pits your team against harder, randomized combinations of songs. The RPG elements of the game come into full focus here as you level your characters up in order to gain new abilities/powers and most importantly, health in order to survive the faster, more intricate game battles.
Theatrhythm is a wonderful homage to some of the most unforgettable music in all of video gaming history. There were at least a dozen times during my first play through where I smiled and thought "Oh man! I remember that!!!" after hearing a long lost song from my youth. The simple yet challenging gameplay, coupled with the adorable cast of characters makes this truly one of the first must have games for Nintendo's new 3DS system. It's great in short bursts or if your like me, an entire weekend under the sun.