As a long-time lover of the Japanese gaming scene, I have no problem nor hesitation in making this next statement: Japan comes up with some bizarre game concepts sometimes. Even still, there are still times when a newly-announced game can throw me for a loop, as was the case with THEATRHYTHM Final Fantasy. So, a new Final Fantasy game, but it’s a music/rhythm game, and it adds in some RPG elements? Uhm, okay.
Through no fault other than having a lot on my mind in what I was sure I wanted to keep track of, I really hadn’t paid THEATRHYTHM much attention since its announcement. That is, until today, while checking out Square Enix’s private gameplay room in one of the hotels next to the Tokyo Game Show. At one table sat a bright-red 3DS attached to a stand, where a fellow journalist was engrossed in some sort of game. Asking what it was, I was told THEATRHYTHM. “It’s amazing,” the editor told me (or something very similar to those words) as he finished whatever he had just been doing in the game. “You really need to try it.”
So, I did.
First, let me tell you what THEATRHYTHM is, at least as best as I can. Each of the main Final Fantasy titles will be represented, and for each, one song was chosen for each of three categories: battle theme, world theme, and cinematic theme. For example, the two options we were given for Final Fantasy VI were “The Decisive Battle” for the battle theme, and “Terra’s Theme” for the world theme.
Once starting a song, a selection of Final Fantasy characters are picked—seemingly at random—with the exact amount depending on the theme. For most stages I played, my party consisted of four heroes; one time, however, I only had one. Each hero has a circle marker in front of them (or positionally centrally on the screen when needed), and from the left-hand side of the screen various note icons stream in. Standard notes are red, and for those, you just tap the 3DS’ lower screen once the marker and the circle meet. Yellow markers have an arrow in them, where, when the two meet, you must swipe the stylus on the touch screen in the appropriate direction. Finally, green notes are hold notes, where you tap the screen once the first of two circles connects with a marker, but then hold that touch until the second one hits the same spot. Missing notes means that your life depletes some, and if you reach 0hp, it’s game over.
Though only a small selection of songs were available for play at the event, I can tell you this: I loved my time with THEATRHYTHM, and walked away absolutely wanting more. I’ve long been a fan of rhythm games—from DDR to Um Jammy Lammy, from Guitaroo Man to Elite Beat Agents—and THEATRHYTHM no only has a great amount of charm from its artwork and its connections to the Final Fantasy series, but it’s also a really fun game. The concepts for hitting notes are simple, yet they work really well, and I played a few stages where the difficulty presented was no joke. I think what also makes the game work is that it’s pulling from a library of music—the overall Final Fantasy soundtrack archive—that has so many great pieces in it. Another compliment I have to give the game is that it looks great in 3D—the arty style and layering used helps make THEATRHYTHM‘s graphics pop when in 3D without being over-bearing or annoying.
Really, THEATRHYTHM Final Fantasy is one of my favorite games that I’ve played so far at Tokyo Game Show 2011. If you’re a 3DS owner (or a fan of the rhythm/music genre) and it isn’t on your radar yet, it absolutely should be.
THEATRHYTHM Final Fantasy will be released in Japan for Nintendo 3DS this Winter. No North American released date has been announced yet.