If there’s one thing Square Enix knows how to do, it’s create a mouthful of a name for a game title. (Final Fantasy XIV 2.0: A Realm Reborn, anyone?) Oh, and create an addicting rhythm game that will occupy far too many hours of your life.
Obviously, I am something of a Final Fantasy addict. When the new Theatrhythm game was announced, I had it pre-ordered and was awaiting the day I would receive it. Due to some shipping technicalities, I received it a week late. A week of complete agony. If you’re wondering on how to pronounce that name, by the way, it’s ‘theater-rhythm’.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is the sequel to 2012’s Theatrhythm, both for the 3DS. The gameplay stays about the same between both titles. You have three modes of gameplay: BMS (Battle Music), FMS (Field/Overworld Music), and EMS (Event/Dramatic Music). In BMS stages, it is a simple tap-fest as your characters battle enemies. FMS involves your Leader walking across the overworld map/field of the song’s game, with the tap-fest adding in waves that the player must rise or fall with. EMS is the bane of my existence, with the cursor traveling along an intricate design while a cutscene plays in the background. The timing is trickier on the EMS stages compared to the BMS and FMS.
By the way, when I say EMS is the bane of my existence, I’m not spinning a tall tale. Too many times I have wanted to just sit there and watch the cutscene in the background, or struggled to get the timing down after a fast-paced BMS. Luckily, the Museum mode allows players to watch the cutscenes they unlock by beating the EMS stages.
The game has a great range of difficulty for all players. The tutorial is a bit long, but guides players through the different stages and slowly eases them into playing the full game. I would say the tutorial takes only one, maybe two hours at most, depending on how much practice you want, or how distracted you are by the initial songs you have to play. You have three different modes to try: Basic, Expert, and Ultimate.
Beyond just playing the typical Music Stages – where players choose a song and play it through – other play styles are available. Quest Medleys return, allowing players to undertake a Chaos Map adventure in a style similar to the Dissidia games: You move one node on the map at a time, duke it out in a battle, and reap the rewards. Completing a Chaos Map allows players to unlock another, harder Chaos Map, as well as other rewards, such as Crystal Shards.
But the real challenge comes from the Versus Mode. New to Curtain Call, Versus Mode allows players to challenge friends online, locally, or just duke it out with the AI. The battle starts off fairly typical in BMS style, but quickly devolves into a frenzied challenge, even on the easiest stages. Filling up your EX Burst bar in Versus Mode allows you to unleash a crippling attack on your opponent, ranging from speeding up the notes, to making the arrows spin in order to confuse the player on which way to swipe, and even to the dreaded Judgement, which turns all notes that aren’t a Critical hit into a Bad. Against the AI, you rank up through a Class. The higher you advance, the more skilled your opponent.
Battling against the AI is tough enough. Battling against others? Well, when a friend of mine mourned that he had yet to win an online battle, he wasn’t exaggerating. The online battles are tough, but well worth the challenge if the normal gameplay is too easy for your liking. The character abilities really come into play, as a well placed Cure from characters like Y’shtola, or Blink from Zidane, can be a lifesaver.
Another new feature is the Daily Top Hit. Every day, songs are chosen at random. Upon completion, these dailies grant 1.5 the normal Rhythmia, giving players an incentive to check back daily.
As far as music and characters go, be prepared for an utter nerdgasm. Curtain Call boasts 221 songs right off the bat, and 60 characters. Not all of these songs or characters are available immediately, requiring to be unlocked. Characters, songs, and stages are unlocked by advancing through the game and acquiring Rhythmia. I’m twelve hours in, with over 14,000 Rhythmia, and still the game says I’m only about 30% of the way through. Characters are unlocked by gathering Crystal Shards of various colors. (Purple, Orange, Turquoise.. I’ll save you some pain and tell you that Sephiroth is under the Black Shards, of which I’ve only found one so far.) These shards can be gained by completing Chaos Maps and gathering Rhythmia.
Expect to have something unlocked every 250-500 points of Rhythmia, whether it’s a set of shards for a new character, new songs, a new EMS stage, or more customization for your ProfiCard, the card represented to others on StreetPass. Be sure to keep your 3DS on you, as you can collect ProfiCards from others and gain new Chaos Maps, and new chances for treasure. The constant rewards give great gratification, while not feeling overwhelming.
There’s very little to complain about. While it is a Square Enix game and DLC is already being made available, there’s still plenty of content that I don’t feel the need to purchase said DLC in order to keep the game fresh. I’m constantly finding a challenge, whether it’s trying out an Expert or Ultimate score, a new Chaos map, or battling others on Versus Mode. Really the only frustration was how the stylus sometimes doesn’t seem to connect. Maybe once every five songs, a note that I knew I hit and held wouldn’t connect, and I’d be left there sitting awkwardly as the game decided I failed to hit one of the press-and-hold notes.
The other nuisance was the Class leveling in Versus Mode against the AI. If you lose one battle, you aren’t demoted a rank, you have to start from the very beginning again. Rather frustrating, to say the least.
Still, the game is incredibly accessible. Even casual players who have never played a Final Fantasy game, or have only played a couple, will be entranced by this title. Being the brat I am, I went over to my neighbor, who had only ever played ‘a bit of Final Fantasy VII‘ (his own words), and made him take my girly pink 3DS to try it out. By the end of the song, he had died but was laughing and stated it was a game he could easily see himself spending hours enjoying. I repeated the experiment on my non-gamer roommate, with the same reaction, although she at least lived and received a decent score.
The bottom line is, if you’re a fan of Final Fantasy, this is a game you’ll want to pick up. Songs, characters, and cutscenes are available from the very first Final Fantasy all the way to recent titles like Lightning Returns. Side titles like Advent Children, Dissidia, Type-0, Crystal Chronicles, Mystic Quest, and others even appear for that extra dose of nostalgia. The game is beautiful and smooth on the 3DS (even if it seems pixelated in screen shots), the music is crisp and clear, and there’s always something more to unlock. It’s a great game to pick up any time of the day, whether at home, work, or even traveling with the family.
Kayla Swenson is an aspiring author and former DJ from Seattle, WA that procrastinates far too much with video games to get a book out. When she’s not gaming until carpal tunnel sets in, she’s working on dreams of being a voice actor as well as a published writer. Fond of RPGs, she will happily disappear into the void to tackle whatever bad voice acting awaits. Contact her at the email above, or on all major systems/networks as Beltravi.