Small Improvments Add Up To Make This The Best Performance
I adore both rhythm games and the Final Fantasy series, so when Final Fantasy: Theatrhythm came out back in 2012 I was brimming with excitement, but the lack of songs and subpar multiplayer modes really hindered the experience. Now, with the release of Curtain Call, Square Enix has addressed quite literally every single complaint I had with the original title and also boost the library to a colossal 200+ songs, pre-DLC (downloadable content). It is everything the first game should have been, and more.
Getting right down to it, if you are not a fan of Final Fantasy or the music of the series then there is nothing for you here. The Theatrhythm series of games are pure unadulterated fan-service, they were made to celebrate the 27 year long franchise, and all of its music. For me, being able to go back to Final Fantasy I and reliving my nostalgia of the original battle theme hit a personal cord (ba-dum-tish) that few games in this vain are able to hit.
Just like in the first game there are three different song modes. BMS which has your party members battling against fiends from across the FF universe, FMS where your party tries to travel the longest distance possible in the length of the song, and EMS which let you play along to one of the famous cutscenes from each game. All three game modes are the same at their core, which is trying to get the highest score possible by hitting all the swipe, hold and regular notes with the best timing, but the way they present the notes to you is a much needed change when playing the game for long periods.
All that is nothing new in terms of gameplay in comparison to the first game, but what is new are the options you have to play the songs. Curtain Call allows you, in addition to the touch screen, use the 3DS buttons to tap along to your favourite songs. The face buttons are used for regular and hold notes while the analog stick can be used for the swipe notes. Or if you’re a crazy person you can use a combination of the touch screen and buttons. I should note that sometimes I have problems using the analog stick to hit swipe notes just due to it not registering, but I don’t know if that’s a fault of my 3DS or the game. This may sound like a small addition but it adds a lot in terms of gameplay and being able to play the game how you want.
Along with the regular pick a song mode, Music Stages, Curtain Call gets rid of the Chaos Shrine mode in favour of a new mode called Quest Medleys. In this mode you’ll be choosing a quest either obtained through regular progression in the mode or through Street Passes. Each quest has a length of Short, Medium, and Long while also having a recommended minimum level associated with it. Then you take your party down a series of branching paths, completing songs with the ultimate goal of defeating the final boss in the dungeon. It is a lot more involved than the old Chaos Shrine, also one of the best things about this mode is the fact that your scores you get on songs in this mode get recorded into the Music Stages library. Something that didn’t happen with Chaos Shrine. Quest Medleys is able to capture the spirit of a JRPG and translate it to a rhythm game.
Finally there is the new multiplayer mode. Where you, AI, or a friend battle it out with your own parties in a song duel to the death. Your party level really matters here, because you’ll be doing more damage with each hit the stronger you are. But there is an element of randomness to this mode because sometimes your “friend” Moogle will dole out some gameplay tweaks, like notes coming at the player faster, or the swipe notes will spin so you don’t know what direction it will be until the last second. With this the multiplayer actually feels like a fully fleshed out mode that I actually enjoy playing even just against AI, rather than a last minute addition.
While you are defeating fiends and completing all the songs you’re also gaining experience for your party. The game is littered with all of your favourite characters spanning all the 13 plus Final Fantasy games. They even have characters and songs from more obscure games like Mystic Quest. The unique style to the characters and fiends is very adorable and being able to make a dream party with all of the characters is fun in and of itself. Each one of your members also come with their own unique set of skills and stat growth rates. These will allow you to dominate fiends faster, travel farther in FMS mode and let you miss more notes before you fail a song. It allows you to min-max your party and come up with the most efficient combinations for the different song types, and what is a Final Fantasy game without min-maxing.
You’ve probably noticed by now that Curtain Call is the same game as the original but with a bunch of tiny improvements here and there, along with the new quest mode. But all those little additions, like having every difficult available from the get go, or the fact that after you play 4 songs it unlocks 95% of the 200+ songs in the game all at once make for a better and smoother experience than the previous game. It improves on an already great game and makes it into an utterly flawless rhythm game. A must own for fans of Final Fantasy.